Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

This Week at the Podunk Playhouse

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Supreme Justice

We are a week past Amazon’s promotional campaign for SUPREME JUSTICE, which means the novel’s selling well at its regular price ($11.99 for a real book, $4.99 on Kindle). We have topped 1000 reviews – incredibly enough – and remain in the upper reaches of the Kindle bestsellers list (#1 in political and legal thrillers). That means, for a week anyway, the Amazon push kept us going strong past the promo. I continue to monitor the reader reviews and it’s been something of a revelation – there are a lot of different kinds of readers out there, and some are (frankly) not that bright. We have conservatives who hate the book (and stop reading) because the hero is a liberal. We have liberals who hate the book (and stop reading) because the first chapter is in the point of view of a conservative. We have people revealing the identity of the perpetrator (sans SPOILER ALERT). We have reviewers who complain about my bad writing who are barely literate. We have prudes whose eyes begin to bleed at the sight of a profanity in print (I have been termed a “liberal libertine” – cool!). A certain minority of readers can’t figure out that the book takes place in the future and accuse me of not knowing the age of a certain ball player or when JFK was killed. But we also have mostly smart readers, who give the book a well-reasoned three or four or five stars.

Revelation may be the wrong word – how about “reminder.” This has been a reminder of a basic tenet about reading any book (but especially fiction) that is rarely mentioned much less discussed. Simply, reading a book is a collaborative process. Nobody out there is experiencing a novel of mine the same as somebody else. In a way, it’s my play being cast and staged in the theater of somebody else’s mind. Sometimes I play Broadway, and sometimes I play the Podunk Community Playhouse. Getting back to the collaborative notion, sometimes I have a brilliant collaborator, most times just a damn good one, and now and then a really lousy one.

Elmore Leonard preached leaving all the boring stuff out. He was a genius of sorts but became a lazy writer, leaving so very much to his collaborators. If you wonder (as sometimes reviewers…usually amateur ones…do) why I describe clothing and the exteriors and interiors of homes and buildings and include the weather and various other sights and sounds and smells, it’s because I know if I don’t, you will.

Ironically, the people who really like my books could do that just fine. But it’s a struggle for the Podunk Community Players, and I’m the kind of artist (there, I said it) who wants to control the audience’s experience as much as possible. Knowing that every reader will have a different experience, I want to limit the parameters of that experience so that, for a majority of readers, it’s at least a similar one.

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My son Nate’s new manga is out. I haven’t read it yet, but he will post info on where and how to get it for me here…right, Nate?

[Nate] Right!

Battle Royale: Angels' Border

First, from my editor: “The infamous BATTLE ROYALE lighthouse scene depicted in the film and novel shocked and mesmerized audiences as the girls experienced their own microcosm of joy, love, betrayal and ultimately death. BATTLE ROYALE: ANGELS’ BORDER is author Koushun Takami’s first new work since the publication of his groundbreaking and controversial novel more than a decade ago. It notably expands the BATTLE ROYALE saga in a new way with the story of Yukie Utsumi and the other girls, whose distinct personalities and tragic nature of their deaths made such an indelible impression in the original story.”

As a longtime fan of the original novel and movie (I delighted in showing the latter to my unwitting classmates in high school) (and anyone who survived that got hit with MEET THE FEEBLES), I did a double-take when I saw ANGELS’ BORDER on a “New Release” table in a Japanese bookstore. After almost fifteen years, Koushun Takami was back! I knew I had to translate it and get it to English-speaking fans. Two years later, I landed the gig for Haikasoru’s new translation of the original novel, and the time was right for ANGELS’ BORDER. When I reached out to editorial, they were already thinking the same thing.

This is my first manga translation, and Viz took a real chance by allowing a newcomer (at least in this medium) to steward such a high profile title, but they recognized that by having the same translator handle the novel and the manga, the two works would have a stylistic continuity. I’m admittedly biased, but I think their gamble paid off.

Buy your copy here:
Amazon | BAM! | RightStuf! | B & N

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After an absence of several weeks, the excellent book review site Bookgasm (with editor Rod Lott) is back. A really terrific and very smart ANTIQUES CON review just went up there.

Last week Bookgasm posted this very positive review of KING OF THE WEEDS.

A number of book review blogs are looking at SUPREME JUSTICE, as in this nice write-up at Bilbliotica.com.

Check out this SUPREME review at Author Exposure.

And finally here’s a delightful review of THE WRONG QUARRY.

M.A.C.

A “New” Writer Reflects

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As I write this, SUPREME JUSTICE has hit 548 reviews and maintains a four-star average. This is a testament to Amazon’s marketing ability, and has taught this old dog some new things, if not tricks.

I continue to be surprised by the confidence of readers who are quite sure that I’m imitating writers who I’ve never read. Any number have scolded me for trying to do Jack Reacher, and are particularly annoyed that my character Reeder’s name is so similar.

Those of you who have followed these updates for a while know that I am notoriously unfamiliar with the work of other suspense/mystery writers of my time. I am strictly a Hammett/Chandler/Cain/Spillane guy. The last hardcover mystery I bought and read was the final 87th Precinct novel. My idea of a new mystery writer is Donald E. Westlake.

I did the original synopsis of SUPREME JUSTICE – and this pre-dates Matt Clemens’ involvement – seven years ago. I’d never heard of Jack Reacher, and frankly my first familiarity with the character was the Tom Cruise movie – I obviously go to a lot of those. Reeder’s name had nothing to do with Reacher. I’ve never read Tom Clancy either, though I’ve seen most of the Jack Ryan movies.

But Amazon reviewers are confident in this case, and many others, that I’m doing Lee Child or Clancy or Grisham or Sandford or any number of writers I’ve never read. By the way, I mean no insult to them or any writer. I have stated here numerous times that (a) my reading time is largely taken up by research, and (b) I am a natural mimic and avoid reading other suspense fiction for that reason.

There’s another reason, and it goes something like this…other people’s mystery novels fall into one of three categories: worse than me, about the same as me, better than me. Why would I want to read something worse than my stuff? Why should I bother reading something that I could write myself just as well? As for those better than me, well, screw them!

Yes, I’m kidding, sort of, and I do occasionally read contemporary crime fiction, as when I’m on an Edgar or Shamus committee, or when one of my writer friends has something out. Thankfully my writer friends are very good – people like Ed Gorman, Steve Mertz, Bob Goldsborough, Bill Crider, Bob Randisi, John Lutz, and half a dozen more.

And I know that a lot of writers continue to read voraciously in their own fields, so this is probably a weakness on my part. But I mention this chiefly to make the point that if I’m setting out to work in another writer’s wheelhouse, it’s more likely to be Mickey Spillane or Rex Stout than John Grisham or Lee Child.

But there’s something else odd – and frankly disturbing, and certainly humbling – that turns up in a good number of these Amazon reader reviews. A lot of these readers think I’m a “new” writer; a fair amount of ‘em go out of their way to say they’ve never heard of me.

I realize I’m not John Grisham or Lee Child, but while I have not read either of those very popular writers, I am aware of their existence. As someone who spends plenty of time wandering in bookstores, and studying the section where my work is shelved, I have a strong awareness (without reading them) of scores of writers in my genre. I read Mystery Scene, Crimespree, The Strand, Deadly Pleasures, always read the review column in EQMM, and attend Bouchercons frequently. So I know who my contemporaries are.

Yet these mystery fans, writing Amazon reviews…some of them, anyway…haven’t noticed I’m alive during this forty-year career of mine. Haven’t noticed my byline on ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI or the Spillane collaborations or…anything. It’s as if they know only the authors whose names they’ve encountered in airport gift shops.

So when I see SUPREME JUSTICE with 500-plus Amazon reviews, and, for example, KING OF THE WEEDS sitting at 21 reviews, I am as disappointed about the latter as I am thrilled about the former.

And sadly convinced that marketing is king.

Here I thought it was writing. What a schmuck!

* * *

Speaking of EQMM, reviewer Steve Steinbock has nice things to say this month about THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON, and other projects of mine. Here’s where you can see it on line; the reviews in question are toward the end.

A very cool new Facebook page dedicated to Mike Hammer and Stacy Keach is here.

The SUPREME JUSTICE reviews on the Net are starting to hit, like this one from Crimespree’s site.

Here’s another…

and another[Note from Nate: This one's got a drawing for a free copy too!]

and another.

ROAD TO PERDITION continues to make best comics-to-movies lists.

Finally, here’s a very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review from Nerdspan.

M.A.C.

Royal Reviews for KING OF THE WEEDS

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Majestic reviews have been pouring in for the new Mike Hammer, KING OF THE WEEDS (I’ll share some of them below).

Barb and I drove to St. Louis for Mother’s Day weekend with son Nate and his bride Abby (see pic taken on Sunday at the Wildflower restaurant, site of their wedding in 2012). On the way there and back, we listened to Stacy Keach’s reading of KING OF THE WEEDS.

Mothers Day 2014

It’s impossible for me to overstate what a thrill it is for me to hear Stacy read these Spillane/Collins collaborations. He’s done an incredible job on all of them, but perhaps because of the vaguely melancholy nature of this tale of an older Hammer, he brought something very special to it.

The book itself was a tricky and challenging one, because Mickey had taken several passes at it, combining chapters from one draft into another. There are three major plot elements – the mob billions from BLACK ALLEY, the mysterious deaths of police officers by seeming accident, and the release of a man convicted of a notorious series of slayings forty years ago (Pat Chambers’ first major arrest). In various versions, Mickey would abandon one or more of these elements, and I determined – in part to use as much of his work as possible – to make all three weave together in a credible and interesting manner. I actually put off the writing of KING OF THE WEEDS till last among the major manuscripts, because I knew it would be a bear, and I feared it might be the weakest of the six. But I feel it turned out very well indeed – thanks in large part to the genius of Mickey Spillane – and reviewers and readers are agreeing, a number singling it out as the best of all six.

I was asked to write about the process of collaborating with the late great author by the first-rate UK site, Crimetime. Check out my article here.

Before we move on to the KING OF THE WEEDS reviews, I need to share a surprisingly tardy but extremely good review of THE WRONG QUARRY from Publisher’s Weekly this week:

Collins’s 10th noir featuring John Quarry (after 2010′s Quarry’s Ex) is easily his best—a sharp-edged thriller with more than one logical but surprising twist. Quarry used to work as a hit man on assignments arranged for him by a middleman known as the Broker, but that work ended when Quarry had to take him out. Making use of the Broker’s records, he has begun a new phase in his killing career. He identifies the targets of other hit men, and then, for a price, offers to take them out on behalf of the intended victims. And, for an extra fee, Quarry removes the threat entirely by killing the person who ordered the hit. The early 1980s find Quarry doing exactly that in the “Little Vacationland” of Stockwell, Mo. He learns that the local dance instructor, Roger Vale, is to be killed because he’s suspected of murdering a teenage girl, and offers to save his life, for a price. The lean prose, brisk pacing, and clever plotting are a winning combination.

Back to KING OF THE WEEDS. The October Country site has this fine review from a first-time Hammer reader.

The Book Reporter has these nice things to say about KING OF THE WEEDS.

My pal Ed Gorman, one of my generation’s best mystery writers, wrote this brief but fun salute to KING OF THE WEEDS.

You’ll have to scroll down to see it, but Comic Book Resources has good things to say about Mike Hammer’s latest at their site.

The UK’s Bookbag reviews the previous Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, a very good review of the “I’m-Embarrassed-But-I-Really-Like-This” school.

Here’s a nice review of the under-seen, under-reviewed FROM THE FILES OF…MIKE HAMMER collection from Hermes Press. I love this book but it’s expensive, so relatively few have seen it (like the McFarland MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN). The reviewer gives nice props to Ed Robbins, but underplays Mickey’s own participation in the strip. Mickey co-plotted all of it and wrote the first two of three Sunday page continuities himself.

Now here’s a peculiar one but gratifying. Despite a painfully politically correct swipe at Mickey Spillane, this reviewer for the Daily Kos has interesting and nice things to say about (ready for this?) THE LUSITANIA MURDERS. Yes, the day KING OF THE WEEDS was published, and a week after ANTIQUES CON came out, the Daily Kos reviewed a book of mine from twelve years ago. But the reviewer likes it, so I’m fine with that.

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Novel Out Today

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
King of the Weeds Hardcover
Hardcover:

E-book:

King of the Weeds Audio
Audio MP3 CD:

KING OF THE WEEDS, the sixth Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novel, is available now. Those of you who received advance copies can post Amazon reviews now. (Thanks to those of you advance ANTIQUES CON readers who’ve gotten around to posting Amazon reviews.)

Also available will be Stacy Keach’s audio reading of the novel, pictured here. I haven’t heard this yet but will be listening to it very soon – hearing perhaps the most famous screen Mike Hammer read these new Mike Hammer books is a very special treat for me.

As you probably know, the Edgar-nominated Mike Hammer short story, “So Long Chief,” did not win. The MWA has always had a tough time with Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane (don’t get me started), so I am not surprised. That’s why I didn’t attend the banquet.

Instead, I stayed home and finished another Hammer story for the same magazine (The Strand), “Fallout,” which deals with Mike Hammer and Pat Chamber getting rockily back on friendly footing after the events of THE GIRL HUNTERS. This the sixth Mike Hammer short story I have developed from shorter Hammer fragments in Mickey’s files. That leaves one left to do. These seven stories, plus “Grave Matters” (a Hammer story I originally wrote as a “Mike Danger” with Mickey’s input) would round out what I hope will be an eventual collection. What’s nice about the fragments is that they are the start of Spillane stories, and nobody every wrote better beginnings in fiction than Mickey.

J. Kingston Pierce of the essential blog The Rap Sheet several years ago did the definitive in-depth interview with me. He has returned with a similarly in-depth follow-up on the occasion of the publication of KING OF THE WEEDS. It’s in the two parts. The first part, which is entirely Hammer-centric, appears at the Kirkus web site.

Part two, which is much wider-ranging, appears at the Rap Sheet.

Here’s a brief but very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review at Singular Points.

The American Airlines in-flight magazine has done an overview of continuations of mystery and thriller characters, including Mike Hammer and a quote from me.

And here’s a better-late-than-never one of THE FIRST QUARRY.

* * *

I had my first band job of the year Saturday night. Crusin’ played for a plus-40 Singles Dance, a perfect crowd for us, and a nice crowd danced every song and applauded after every song, too.

This is part of a “hiatus” year for the band due to our drummer, Steve Kundel, having school age kids who generated lots of concerts, sports events and other literal fun and games that require something once known as “parenting.”

In addition, we were worn down by a fairly rigorous schedule for a bunch of guys with real jobs (if, in my case, writing can be called that). We played 24 times last year. This year I have scheduled five. And no bars.

It felt very good to be with the guys again and out there performing once more. I strongly considered hanging it up at the end of last year, but couldn’t face the thought of having live rock ‘n’ roll performing a thing of my past. All of us – with the exception of our young (44) drummer – are reeling in the years, and the rigor of the last five steady years of playing is best behind us. The playing itself is physically demanding – I refuse to sit down while playing keyboards – and the loading of the equipment remains a delight, if by “delight” you mean waking up the next morning in screaming lower-back pain.

I do think fulltime writers like me need to have some outside activity, and I don’t mean mall-walking. It’s nice to get out in the world and see what’s happening – even if it does include a geezer who comes up to the stage and wonders aloud, “Don’t you people do any waltzes?”

That’s right, girls, he’s single….

M.A.C.