Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

You Screen, I Screen, We All Scream for…

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Last time here I pretty much just hawked a bunch of books. Seems like it’s time I blessed you with opinions about movies and TV series that Barb and I have viewed lately.

The third season of Fargo arrived on DVD, and I am well and truly pissed that FX has not released this on Blu-ray, after issuing the previous two seasons that way. They are doing the same with Archer. As if I weren’t pissed enough that they didn’t pick up Heller for TV, though they did pay through the nose for my script.


Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor in Fargo Season 3.

Anyway, Fargo Season 3 is wonderful. It certainly deserves a Blu-ray release, because visually it’s unique – the director has dialed down the blue despite the winter time frame, and has created a singular mood. Where do I start? The story has two major threads – a Russian takeover of a parking lot business with strip-mining it in mind; and the rivalry between two brothers (both played by Ewan McGregor) over which of them got the better of their late father’s belongings. The dumb brother took the Corvette, the smart one a valuable stamp collection, the former becoming a parole officer whose charges piss all over his shoes as he collects urine for drug testing, the latter building a fortune around that aforementioned parking lot business. Add into this the underestimated small-town local cop (a staple of Fargo, whether movie or TV show, this time Carrie Coon) who says, “Okay, then,” a lot, and a villain (David Thewliss) as a guy who makes Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo of Season One seem like St. Francis of Assisi. Other elements include the dumb brother’s squeeze, parolee Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a whiz at bridge, looking to tourneys to build a better future (she came in third once); a dead grandpa who turns out to have been a briefly famous science-fiction writer, somewhat in the vein of Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout; a benign and occasionally meddling Jehovah by way of beloved Twin Peaks actor Ray Wise; the return of a character who appeared in both previous series; and some particularly nasty Russian thugs. Also Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by Billy Bob, and an animated version of one of the dead grandpa’s s-f tales.

In short, it’s sublime. Unlike that sorta genius filmmaker David Lynch, who has only presented a straight story once (The Straight Story), Noah Hawley can include quirky elements while still spinning a well-structured, coherent narrative. He also knows how to assemble a cast, which has been true of all three seasons. The standout this time is Winstead, who played Joni in the unaired pilot of Quarry. In a beautifully acted series filled with world-class actors, she nonetheless tucks Fargo Season 3 under her arm and steals it. She is now my personal choice for Ms. Tree, if Hollywood ever comes back around to that property (and its senses).

Well, that took a while, so here are some shorter looks, first at TV.

The Tunnel 3: Vengeance turns out to be the concluding season of the British/French version of the Nordic noir, The Bridge. It tells a brazenly over-the-top tale of a couple of activists who punish people they deem bad, particularly Internet trollers; they, shall we say, take things a bit too far. What’s best about this good season of a terrific show is the secondary theme (vengeance being the first) of the effect the loss of a child has on a parent and of a lost parent on a child. Yet another theme explores how the team of compassionate Brit detective Karl Roebuck and his French counterpart, autistic Elise Wassermann (played by Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy, respectively) make bad decisions when the partner isn’t around as a counterbalance. Both actors are excellent. For fans of The Bridge (there was also a pretty good American version from FX – damn them – which paired American and Mexican cops), a real benefit is that – after the first season, which every version has done more or less the same – new stories appear. The Tunnel series has a shocking but ultimately satisfying conclusion. I got this from the UK – it won’t show up here for a while.

Looking for good British series, we tried Shetland, The Loch (shown as Loch Ness here), and Hinterland. We didn’t make it through Hinterland, which was humorless and bleak, and The Loch was passable but nothing more. Shetland, of these somewhat similar series with their barren, beautiful settings, is easily the best, with Douglas Henshall a standout as the central detective. None of these, though, are as good as the Nordic thrillers they somewhat ape – like The Killing, Wallander and Varg Veum.

Victoria‘s second season is very short on murders, but it’s a veddy enjoyable Brit soap opera, with a high standard of acting from a cast that, surprisingly enough, seems largely drawn from the UK.

Onto movies…

The Shape of Water is as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be. Directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, the film is a celebration – and a cautionary tale – of earlier eras and in particular movies. The art direction and lighting, however, creates a mood unique to this film. The only slightly false note is a dance routine that seems straight out of the dreaded La La Land. Otherwise, it’s bewitching and occasionally scary, with dollops of social comment; actors Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins are especially good. So is Michael Stuhlbarg, who is also among the incredible cast of Fargo Season 3 (did I mention how good that is?). I had read quite a bit about the film in advance and yet it was very different from what I’d gathered. That’s because it’s a special experience, oddly reminiscent of Phantom of the Paradise, which it invokes in its opening narration.

Winchester is an Australian-made haunted house movie that has a nine-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Keep in mind movie critics, particularly the younger ones, often don’t know shit. Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke are just fine in a movie that wants to be a ghost story, with an intriguing historical backdrop, and delivers on its promise. Perhaps because of the Winchester’s lack of over-the-top gore, the filmmakers (Peter and Michael Spierig) were encouraged to include so many jump scares, it becomes absurd – but a good basis for a Halloween drinking game, as long as there’s a designated driver.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – viewed on Blu-ray (like Fargo Season 3 should have been). A compelling if admittedly fanciful take on the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, and the two strong women he lived with. I don’t mind the speculation, but writer/director Angela Robinson shows Marston watching in displeasure and disappointment as kids and their parents burn a bunch of comic books because of urging from Dr. Wertham type critics. Trouble is Marston died in 1947 and the comic book purge was mid-‘50s.

The Snowman – also watched on Blu-ray (fill in Fargo Season 3 bitch here). This seems to me a perfectly serviceable Nordic noir thriller from Jo Nesbø’s novel, though it goes over no new ground and ends somewhat flatly. But the savage reviews indicate the Nordic noir cycle may have run its course.

Marshall – another Blu-ray watch. A solid combination of Civil Rights activism and courtroom drama. Leads Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad and Kate Hudson are fine.

I touched on Den of Thieves and Proud Mary before – both very watchable.

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And here’s a very nice review of Quarry’s War #3, which is out now.

Bloody Book Giveaway!

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018
The Bloody Spur
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

The Bloody Spur, third in the Caleb York series, is now available.

All copies have been given away. Thank you for your support!

To celebrate, I am offering free copies to the first seven of you who write me at [REDACTED], on assurance you will review it at Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble (blogs also welcome). You must be in the United States (no Canada or overseas), and you must include your snail mail address.

The production in Clearwater, Florida, of Encore for Murder (which concluded its run Feb. 3) kicked off the Spillane centenary. Here’s a rundown on everything else (up to now):

The Bloody Spur (A Caleb York Western) Out now!
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Kensington hardcover.

The Will to Kill (Mike Hammer), February 27, 2018 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Hard Case Crime mass market paperback.

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume IV, Mar 6, 2018 by Mickey Spillane introduced by Max Allan Collins (Mickey’s final four Mike Hammer novels) Possibly e-book only.

The Last Stand March 20, 2018 by Mickey Spillane (Spillane’s final solo novel with Max Allan Collins intro & co-written novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction”). Hard Case Crime hardcover.

Killing Town (Mike Hammer), April 17, 2018 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Titan hardcover.

Playboy April 2018, “Killing Town” by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins,” excerpt from novel.

Articles in Publisher’s Weekly, Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and the Wall Street Journal.

New Spillane/Collins short story, “The Big Run,” to be announced. Based on an unproduced 1954 teleplay by Spillane.

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: The Night I Died comic book, in four issues followed by graphic novel collection, debuts Fall 2018, written by Max Allan Collins from Spillane/Collins story.

I have also done as second draft of the follow-up play to Encore for Murder – Mike Hammer: The Little Death, which is likely to be produced in Clearwater in the Fall of ‘18. It uses the same source material as the graphic novel above.

Other work this week included doing the galleys for Killing Town and writing a proposal/sample chapter for a Spillane critical bio by James Traylor and me.

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Here’s a preview of Quarry’s War #3. Releases this Wednesday!

M.A.C.

Hammer on Stage!

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Barb and I are back in Iowa after a lovely sojourn to Florida for five days, where my play Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder was produced at the Murray Theater of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The roster of name artists who have appeared at this venue is mind-boggling – Encore premiered the same night that another stage at the complex featured Jackson Browne. We had a full house of 200. So did Jackson – of 4200.

The mastermind of this event is legendary Broadway producer Zev Buffman. He is the President and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, and has produced more than 40 Broadway shows. He partnered with Elizabeth Taylor to present her in her Broadway debut, The Little Foxes. He’s also the co-founding General Partner of the NBA Champion Basketball team the Miami Heat.


The set of Encore for Murder with the radio sound effects table and the looming screen that set the scenes — here showing the play’s poster.

In addition to all that and much more, Zev is a wonderful guy with impeccable theater instincts. Encore for Murder was designed to be a play presented in the “old radio” format. But Zev got the idea (which I frankly was not sold on) to open the play up by having the central character (named Mike Hammer – ring a bell?) be played more theatrically, with Hammer off script, a full music score, a looming projector with dozens of scene-setting images somewhat in Sin City style, and with even the radio actors in costume and participating in theatrical blocking and action. Zev’s hybrid – beautifully executed by director Richard Rice with his son Devin providing noir-ish music and a solid mostly local cast supporting consummate pro Gary Sandy – made me a believer. Yes, you heard it here first – I was wrong. The preview and opening night audiences loved it.


Barb was amused and probably a little appalled that within the first fifteen minutes of us arriving at the theater, I began “directing” director Richard Rice.

Gary – who was Lt. Anderson in my film Mommy’s Day (1995) – was a bundle of energy, the engine of the piece, perfectly playing Hammer for tongue-in-cheek humor where appropriate but turning on a dime into tough-guy brutality. This didn’t occur to anybody till I pointed it out, but Gary is the first and only actor to date to play Hammer on stage – all previous Hammer actor portrayals have been in the movies or on radio and TV. (Gary was star of the radio-style production of Encore for Murder in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 2010).


Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer at the start of the play — the trenchcoat and hat go quickly on a coat tree, returning in full only at the close, with the hat returning now and then during the proceedings.

There’s serious talk of the other Hammer radio-style play, The Little Death (which won the Audie), being presented later this year.

What a wonderful way to kick off Mickey’s centenary!


M.A.C. and Gary Sandy (center) and the entire cast of Encore for Murder at the post-preview night panel.

M.A.C. finding Gary Sandy an easy audience at the panel.

The reviews and press coverage in Florida for Encore were terrific. A sample follows, starting with this behind the scenes article.

And here is the same paper’s rave review of opening night.


Producer Zev Buffman, M.A.C., Gary Sandy, director Richard Rice.

Meanwhile, in the rest of my career….

A cry goes out for DC to reprint the comic strip Batman continuity written by me and drawn by Marshall Rogers. I hope this happens, and I hope I get billing – at the time, the warm and wonderful folks at the Tribune syndicate made me take my name off, threatening to sue me if I didn’t and also to fire me (which they anyway a little while later).

This column talks (favorably) about the Quarry comic book mini-series and The Last Stand.

Here’s a nice Quarry write-up.

And finally this piece presents a Spillane cover gallery that even J. Kingston Pierce would envy. (I own one of these covers. Guess which one and win absolutely nothing.)

M.A.C.

Quarry New Year!

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

This has been a significant year for Quarry. Though his series on Cinemax ran only one season, it was well-received, even acclaimed, and a very good, interesting take on an origin story for the character.

I am very pleased with the Quarry comic book (actually serialized graphic novel), Quarry’s War, the second issue of which is out this week with two variant covers. I have a new artist, Edu Menna, who I think does a fine job. In fact, I would rate this single issue among the best comic books ever to bear my name.

Here’s a preview of both covers and the first few pages.

Additionally, for those of you who are into audio books, Stefan Rudnicki does a great job narrating Quarry’s Climax. His voice is gruffly rich and quietly wry. He really “gets” Quarry, and as publisher of Skyboat Media, he’s one of the great friends of this series. Get it here (or directly from Audible).

Quarry also makes an appearance in Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Rogues and Villains. Here’s a review.

This has been a year of incredible highs and a few lows. Quarry on Cinemax was a real treat, and I am particularly proud and humbled (well, not that humble) to be a Mystery Writers of America “Grand Master.” My wife Barb assures me that even though 2017 is over, I am still a Grand Master. She also doesn’t seem terribly impressed about it….

Thanks for all your support – buying the books, cheering me on in my medical adventures, writing comments here…all appreciated.

Finally, Bill Crider – we love you!

M.A.C.