Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Note from the Bunker

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

As I’ve indicated in an earlier update, I am really up against it in the first half of this year. With only about a week’s break after finishing BETTER DEAD (the new Heller), during which a lot of other business was conducted, I got right on the next Quarry novel, QUARRY IN THE BLACK. I am about a third-of-the-way in, writing one chapter a day, final draft. I took one day a week off, generally.

I don’t mind working hard, and I feel my novels – particularly those in first person – benefit from the intensity and speed of the process. Right now two of my collaborators, my lovely bride Barb and my good buddy Matt Clemens, are preparing their rough drafts of the next ANTIQUES and Reeder & Rogers novels. They make my life and my job much easier, and the resulting novels will be better than I could have made them on my own.

But the writing may mean for some scattered and occasionally, well, grouchy updates. This report from the bunker includes a few stray thoughts.

First, few comments have come in about my favorite and least favorite movies of 2014 list. Probably I was too belligerent in presentation. Whenever you sense that in one of these updates, you’ll know the writing is rubbing up against me hard, trying to make a pearl.

Birdman

Second, I have now seen both BIRDMAN and FOXCATCHER. Both are very good (Barb agrees) and I was especially impressed by BIRDMAN, which is the rare film that is as driven by dialogue as it is visuals; the cast is outstanding, especially Michael Keaton and Ed Norton, who is spoofing himself to some degree. BIRDMAN would have gone on my Favorite lists.

FOXCATCHER suffers from a sluggish pace and some poor narrative choices, but it is nonetheless worthwhile with excellent performances from Steve Carrell, Tatum Channing and Mark Ruffalo. It would not be on my favorites list.

Keaton is now my Best Actor “Oscar” pick.

By the way, I never watch the Academy Awards. I find the show dull and embarrassing, and many of the movies being honored do not interest me. Is this like a sports fan skipping the SuperBowl? I wonder. In any case, we always watch a movie instead.

Third, a good number of readers misunderstood my rant about getting hit on for free advice. I was specifically talking about my home town and people who don’t really have an interest in me or my work, other than sucking information out of me at a social occasion. On the other hand, with very rare exceptions, I can’t give blurbs anymore because I don’t have time to read the books. Too much research to plow through, and when I’m writing a book, I tend not to read fiction.

I am pleased to report that QUARRY’S CHOICE is racking up some great reviews. Here’s one.

And it’s a thrill to get reviewed at Bookgasm; here’s their QUARRY’S CHOICE rave.

M.A.C.

Favorite and Least Favorite Films of 2014

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Here’s just what nobody was waiting for – my (sometimes) annual listing of my favorite and least favorite movies, this time for 2014. Among my least favorites are Academy-Awards “Best Picture” nominees, BOYHOOD and SELMA, both of which rate my Emperor’s New Clothes Awards, the former because it’s a gimmick in search of a narrative and the latter because it transforms compelling history into a smeary slow-motion bore. The fuss over the lack of Best Director and various acting nominations for SELMA should be replaced with outrage that it got a politically correct nomination.

The black actor who deserved a nomination – in my opinion, the actor period who deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar – is Chadwick Boseman for his spellbinding portrayal of James Brown in GET ON UP. And Brandon Smith’s snapshot of Little Richard in that same film is easily worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Keeping in mind that I prefer to praise filmmakers and films than condemn them – having some experience in just how terribly hard making a movie is – I am nonetheless sharing the names of the films that made my frequent movie-going a blessing and those that made it curse.

FAVORITE MOVIES

1. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Wes Anderson hitting on all eccentric cylinders. Nothing else I saw last year came close.
2. EDGE OF TOMORROW – Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are first-rate in this wonderful s-f spin on GROUNDHOG DAY.
3. THE RAID 2 – A mindblowing sequel to a mindblowing action film.
4. THE IMITATION GAME – Intellectual thriller both life-affirming and tragic. Benedict Cumberbatch deserves his Oscar nomination and probably should win (but won’t).
5. INTO THE WOODS – Surprisingly good if slightly watered-down film version of Sondheim’s daringly dark take on fairy tales. Haunting music and genius lyrics.
6. THE INTERVIEW – Boldly tasteless but genuinely biting satirical comedy, with both Seth Rogen and James Franco fearlessly self-mocking.
7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Worst trailer for a comic-book movie shockingly turns out to belong to the best comic-book movie of recent years; funny and exciting.
8. 22 JUMP STREET – Inspired self-aware sequel.
9. VERONICA MARS – It exists and therefore appears here. You see, a long time ago we used to be friends.
10. THE JUDGE – Traditional Hollywood storytelling at its old-fashioned best. Critics hate that.

Honorable mention in no special order: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2; THE EQUALIZER; JOHN WICK; DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; EXPENDABLES 3 (surprisingly); NEED FOR SPEED (in 3-D on imported blu-ray); NEIGHBORS; GET ON UP; BIG HERO 6.

LEAST FAVORITES:

1. BOYHOOD – A stunt that does not hold together; no story, flimsy to nonexistent characterization, rife with meandering non-scenes – an endurance test for all but the easily fooled.
2. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB* – Shoddy sequel with (despite a co-scripting credit) no indication of the work of Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, the gifted RENO 911 boys who created the franchise. Shameful, but the place to go for seeing a monkey piss on Ben Stiller.
3. SELMA* – Slow, self-important, unevenly acted, incompetently shot (I suggest a crossing-the-axis drinking game), full of speeches (though none written by MLK). It earns a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes…for liberal guilt.
4. DIVERGENT* – A laughable imitation of THE HUNGER GAMES, itself a laughable imitation of the great BATTLE ROYALE.
5. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2* – Slow, irritating, politically correct sequel to a much better film.
6. BOXTROLLS – Unfunny and unpleasant; makes one long for the elegance of the Garbage Pail Kids.
7. A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 – The original kinda funny spoof of found-footage horror films gives birth to this painfully laugh-free sequel.
8. SEX TAPE – Jason Segel, whose work I usually at least like (he’s a FREAKS & GEEKS cast member, after all), joins a particularly irritating Cameron Diaz in an embarrassing shambles of a supposed comedy; an idea for a movie, not a movie.
9. GONE GIRL – Spoiler alert: the victim is the audience and the culprit is the book author’s interminable screenplay.
10. ANNABELLE – A prequel to the much better THE CONJURING, lacking the leads of that picture…and its chills.

* = means that Barb and I walked out. We always gave the movie at least forty-five minutes and sometimes an hour or more. Also, full disclosure: we walked out of BOYHOOD, two-and-a-half hours in. It felt like we’d seen the whole thing. Twice.

FOR THE RECORD: I have not yet seen BIRDMAN, AMERICAN SNIPER, FOXCATCHER and several other Academy Award-nominated films that might have made one of these lists.

Also, for those of you who are going to write in to point out how wrong I am about this film or that one, you are absolutely invited and even encouraged to do so – but do remember this is not a “best” and “worst” list, but a “favorites” and “least favorites” list.

- – -

Here’s a terrific and very smart review of QUARRY’S CHOICE, with some interesting reader comments.

It’s always cool to receive a good review from the UK for something as inherently American as QUARRY’S CHOICE.

Finally, that first-rate writer Ron Fortier likes QUARRY’S CHOICE. Check it out.

M.A.C.

Choice Stuff

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Skyboat Media is a new audio publisher, working with the venerable Blackstone. They are doing QUARRY’S CHOICE, and they are doing a terrific launch for it (and will be doing new audio versions of most of the Hard Case Crime QUARRY novels, as well).

Here’s the trailer they’ve put together for the book.

And here’s a clip of Stefan Rudnicki, president of Skyboat Media and a longtime Quarry fan who went after all available audio rights to the series so he could narrate them himself.

But wait, there’s more. They have a wonderful blog entry about putting out QUARRY’S CHOICE and you can read about it here.

It’s been terrific having Quarry out on audio. Last year the great Dan John Miller (of Nathan Heller fame) read THE WRONG QUARRY for Audible, who also put out the first five QUARRY novels, read by Christopher Kipiniak, who does a good job. Speaking Volumes still has Curt Palmer reading QUARRY’S EX; Curt was a very good Quarry, but the earlier Speaking Volumes audios read by him will soon be replaced by these new ones from SkyBoat. Much as I like Curt’s work, I am pumped to hear what Stefan will do, and (unlike the Speaking Volumes versions) these new ones will be available from Audible, where so many people now go to get their audio downloads.

In further QUARRY’S CHOICE news…

There doesn’t seem to be a link to this great BOOKLIST review of QUARRY’S CHOICE, so here it is:

Quarry’s Choice.
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Jan 2015. 256 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783290840). Hard Case Crime, e-book, (97817832890857).
Quarry is a pro. He learned to kill in Vietnam, and thanks to his employer, known only as the Broker, he has found a way to keep doing what he does best. It’s strictly business, of course, killing only those who would be killed anyway, if not by Quarry then by somebody else. In, out, and on to the next job. Naturally, there are sometimes complications, as in his latest assignment: the Broker is not just the middleman this time but also the client. A mobster in Biloxi, Mississippi, has made an attempt on the Broker’s life, and the Broker wants Quarry to kill the would-be killer—with a little help from the vic-to-be’s second in command, who covets the top job. It smells wrong from the start: Quarry doesn’t like to know the client (that’s the whole point of the broker’s brokering), and he sure doesn’t like getting to know the victim, as he must do this time.

Quarry really shouldn’t worry. His creator is also a pro’s pro, one of the best thriller plotters in the business—nothing too elaborate or multifaceted or, God help us, literary; no, just violent, fast-moving, clever storytelling, in the John D. MacDonald and Lawrence Block vein. Collins spins a story in the same no-nonsense way Quarry kills people (seven of them this time around, in the course of about 250 pages): “There’s life in you, and then there isn’t.”
— Bill Ott

This review of QUARRY’S CHOICE is not only good, it’s downright blush-inducing for a wallflower like me.

Some nice attention, if not a review, for QUARRY’S HOICE at Shotsmag UK.

Finally, here’s an enthusiastic overview of the QUARRY series, although the writer thinks Quarry has a first name, John (he doesn’t) and that I’ve had ten Shamus nominations (it’s 22). Small details when you consider what a nice write-up it is.

M.A.C.

Choice Reviews!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Quarry's Choice

QUARRY’S CHOICE comes out this week, and I’ve been a little worried because there hadn’t been a single advance review, despite Hard Case Crime sending out a bunch of ARC’s.

Just recently, though, two of my favorite writers – Ed Gorman and Bill Crider – have posted excellent reviews of the novel, one of which is getting some decent play at other blogs (more about that below). But QUARRY’S CHOICE could still use a boost, so if you’re a Quarry fan, and get and like the book, please consider posting an Amazon review.

Also, if you have a blog or some other place where you review books, contact me at and I’ll try to rustle up a review copy for you. (Please, no one tell Nero Wolfe I used “contact” as a verb.)

I thought THE WRONG QUARRY was about as good a Quarry as I could muster, but I have to admit CHOICE seems to me at least its equal. It’s set very early in Quarry’s career (still working as a hitman for the Broker), so if you haven’t read one, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Meanwhile, I have completed the new Heller – BETTER DEAD – and I feel like I fell out a high window, which is not coincidentally one of the crimes covered in the novel. This one is about the McCarthy era and Bettie Page is in it. Do you suppose Heller gets frisky with her? No, I better not spoil it for you….

When I say I’ve completed the book, I should say “completed,” because I will spend the next couple of days giving it a last read-through, looking for typos and tweaking things, hoping to God it all hangs together. I always feel that I’ve got a solid chapter written before going onto the next, but I also always fear that the pile of chapters will not assemble coherently into a book. This has never happened, but I live in terror of the time it does.

* * *

I’m going to discuss something at the risk of sounding like a total prick. For some, that will mean only the added adjective. But here goes….

I have helped a lot of writers in my time. I taught for twenty-some years at a summer writer’s conference, for example, out of which a good ten published writers emerged from my classes. Matthew Clemens was a student of mine there, and he turned out not half-bad. I also taught a summer program at the University of Iowa a couple of times. The great Hugh Holton was one of my students.

So I am not against helping writers. I probably won’t teach again, but I’ve put in my time, and have nothing to apologize about.

But I keep running into a kind of writer locally – I mean right here in Muscatine, Iowa – who imposes on me in a way that drives me crazy. Or at least, I feel imposed upon – I might be wrong (that’s where the total prick thing comes in). Here are a couple of examples.

On three different occasions in the last few months, the same man – friendly, nice – approached me at various functions…two parties, once a dance my band was playing at (during a break where I needed to catch my breath)…and pumped me hard for writing advice. Well, not writing advice so much as publishing advice. This ranged from where he should send his stuff to how to approach the people he would send it to, etc. I don’t know this man, particularly – he was a friendly acquaintance of my father’s. But he buttonholed me three times and pumped and pumped.

What I suppose makes me feel like this is an imposition is this: not once did he mention anything I’d written, not even saying he’d seen the film of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was not a fan. I sensed he’d either not read me or had and wasn’t impressed. What impressed him was that I was a professional who lived in his hometown who he could utilize.

Not long ago Barb and I went to a fall cook-out down the street. A woman from our neighborhood who I did not recognize came over to the picnic table where I was sitting and handed me a five-page essay she’d written. She was taking some kind of college class and wanted to know why she hadn’t received a better grade. At this social function, with people around me roasting and eating hot dogs and S’mores, I sat and for at least half an hour dealing with her, reading the paper, giving her a critique, showing her the good, the bad. Here’s the ugly: when I was done, she wanted to know if she could e-mail me her future papers for my critiques, apparently to have me check them before she handed them in. I said no, I just didn’t have time. She was offended.

This next example isn’t a writer. It’s a nice guy down the street who comes out and talks to me when Barb and I are out for a walk, and who at neighborhood parties gravitates to me for a talk. Generally I find him pleasant and smart. But he continually talks to me about mystery and suspense writers he’s reading, telling me his opinions, which is mostly how good they are – I know more about Lee Child than most people who have actually read him. He never mentions my work. Never indicates he’s ever read me. Finally I gave him a couple of books of mine. He’s never said a word about either (one was TRUE DETECTIVE).

This strikes me as peculiar. He obviously thinks because I’m a mystery writer that I would like to hear his opinions on the genre. But if he doesn’t read me, or have any interest in my work, why should he care what I think? And why should I listen?

The phenomenon seems to be strictly hometown – I can’t think of a parallel with (let’s call them) real readers who I encounter at a convention or at a bookstore (sometimes an event, sometimes just somebody who recognizes me and stops to say something nice about my work).

Do I have a right to tell somebody looking for free help that I’m at a social event and don’t care to talk shop? Or something? Should I ask my neighbor why he wants to talk to me about mysteries when he doesn’t read or like mine?

Just wondering.

* * *

What a pleasure to read a great, insightful review from a writer you admire. Here are Ed Gorman and Bill Crider reviewing QUARRY’S CHOICE.

KING OF THE WEEDS has made another ten best list!

Check out this lovely review of BYE BYE, BABY.

Here’s a very solid New York Times article on movie and TV tie-ins, in which I am quoted.

Here’s a great look at the Disaster series.

I have written an introduction for a collection of pre-Disney ZORRO comic books for Hermes Press. It’s a lovely book and the stories are great fun. This reviewer isn’t much impressed, but it’s still worth checking his review out.

And finally here’s a very nice write-up about my work in general and Nate Heller in particular.

M.A.C.