Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Book Giveaway, an Award Nomination, and Three Fond Farewells

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

I have ten finished copies each of the new Nate Heller, Do No Harm, and the second Krista Larson, Girl Can’t Help It, available first-come-first-served, in return for Amazon and or other reviews, including blogs.

[Note from Nate: The giveaway is over. Thank you for your participation! Keep an eye out for more to come.]

I am counting on your support because, as I mentioned last week, I am in the unhappy situation of having three books published by three publishers simultaneously. This may sound like an embarrassment of riches, but really it limits buyers and reviewers for all three titles.

If you have a blog or review site of some kind, you can request a book without being part of the giveaway. Just state that you are a reviewer.

I can’t emphasize enough how much reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and elsewhere – including blogs – impact sales. So if you have purchased either of these books, please consider reviewing them. Reviews at booksellers like Amazon do not have to be lengthy. The number of stars you give a book is as important as the review itself.

And this doesn’t apply just to me, obviously, but to any author whose book you enjoy, particularly authors you follow regularly.

Keep in mind, too, that the latest book in a mystery series – like Heller – seldom gets much publisher promo. Thomas & Mercer gave The Girl Most Likely a big push, just as they did Supreme Justice. But after a series has been launched, books depend on authors for D.I.Y. promotion.

I don’t have copies of the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, yet; but hope to have enough on hand to do a giveaway for that one, as well, in the next few weeks.

* * *

I’m pleased and honored to say Killing Quarry has been nominated for a Barry Award for Best Paperback. You can see the complete nomination lists here. The Barry Awards are presented by the editors of Deadly Pleasures, and is named after fan/reviewer, the late Barry Gardner.

It’s been very gratifying to see Killing Quarry so warmly received – the reviews have been flattering, to say the least.

By the way, for those keeping track: I have completed the first Nolan in 33 years – Skim Deep – and it will go out to Hard Case Crime by Wednesday at the latest. All that remains is one last read and the minor tweaking that will entail…unless I screwed something up, in which case all bets are off.

* * *

I will be 72 in March, and one of the bad things about surviving this long is having to see friends and heroes go on ahead of you. Three passings this week were especially hard to take.

Mary Higgins Clark, in addition to being a hugely successful author and the creator of a whole style of thriller focusing on female protagonists, was a kind, sweet, generous human being. Barb and I were on a cruise with her – one of those mystery cruises with a whodunit game part of the activities – and she and her daughter Carol made wonderful company. Mary was warm and displayed a lovely sense of humor. Carol, who was also a delight, has gone on to her own great success as a suspense novelist.

Orson Bean died at 91, hit by a car (two cars actually) jaywalking to get to a play. The absurdity of that – and that theater was a part of it – shows fate in a fitting but cruel mood. Bean was a whimsical, wry stand-up comic early on, a comic actor of charm and skill on stage and (large and small) screen, and a particularly popular, adept and (of course) funny game show participant. He also has a small but key role in Anatomy of a Murder. Bean had a searching mind as several of his books display – Me and the Orgone, Too Much Is Not Enough, and M@il for Mikey (not a typo).

He was also the star of an obscure but wonderful shot-on-video version of the time-travel play The Star Wagon by Maxwell Anderson, with a pre-Graduate Dustin Hoffman as his sidekick. It was shot in 1967 for PBS and is available at Amazon on DVD.

In January a man few of you have heard of passed away in Muscatine. Howard Rowe was a chiropractor, my chiro for many years. He and I disagreed on much – he was conservative, very religious, and a home-schooler, none of which I am, and yet we never argued. He supported my work, and was an enthusiastic fan of the movies we made here in Muscatine. His life was a reminder of how to be individualistic with strong opinions and yet still be a pleasure to be around. When I picture him, he’s smiling. Always. Most of you never met him, and some who did meet him considered him an oddball. He was, I suppose. But a glorious one.

* * *

Rue Morgue, the major newsstand magazine on horror films, interviewed me online not long ago, and did a very good, gracious job of it. Now a Rue Morgue review of the Mommy/Mommy2 Blu-ray has appeared and it, too, is positive.

The Flick Attack website has given Mommy’s Day (as part of the above-mentioned Blu-ray) a very nice write-up. Check it out.

Earlier Flick Attack talked about Mommy, in a mostly favorable manner, here.

With the release of Girl Can’t Help It imminent, seeing a favorable review of Girl Most Likely by Ron Fortier feels like a good omen.

So does this solid Girl Most Likely review.

Ask Not with Nate Heller is still on sale as an e-book for $2.99 right here.

Finally, my old friend Rick Marschall writes about the creators he worked with as an editor in the newspaper comics field, and I’m pleased to say his role in landing me the Dick Tracy job is something he’s proud of.

M.A.C.

Why You Are More Important…

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

…than the trade publication reviewers.

Okay, here we go into the weeds. For the record, there are four trade publications in the publishing industry – Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and Library Journal. These are our version of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

I have nothing bad to say about any individual reviewers who write for those publications. Often I get good reviews, occasionally great ones, now and then bad ones. Recently Girl Can’t Help It got a very good review from Booklist; shortly thereafter, Publisher’s Weekly hated it (apparently the same reviewer who felt the same about Girl Most Likely). And that’s one of my two big complaints about the reviews in the trades – PW and Kirkus publish unsigned reviews. I prefer knowing who hates me, thanks (also who loves me). Booklist and Library Journal have signed reviews.

I also consider the reviewers for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Scene and The Strand to be in a class of their own – these publications clearly love and support the mystery. So do Crimespree and Deadly Pleasures and a few others (don’t mean to leave anybody out). Some web-based review/news columns are also great boons to the genre, including my favorite, The Rap Sheet.

My other complaint about the trade publication reviews is that most contain judgment with no supporting evidence. If you stink, you just stink – no excerpts or examples to prove a point. Same goes if you smell just fine.

But okay. The format is fairly short for all the reviews in these publications, so maybe I’m asking too much that a reviewer support an argument. You can’t expect a limerick to be an epic poem.

Where it gets unfair has to do with the book industry’s publishers and editors. They love it when you get good reviews. They hate it when you get bad ones, and often write or even call authors supportively. Some publishing houses hold bad trade reviews against the authors, though. You may think that’s fair, but stick around….

I have received rave reviews from all four trades on a book, and then had that series almost immediately cancelled. The reviews and a dime wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee. But I have also not received a new contract, at least in part, because the trades reviewed a book of mine unfavorably.

The technical term for this is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So where do you come in?

If you come by here often, you know that now and then I do book giveaways to encourage reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other web sites, and at blogs, where many reviews appear. I do this because I believe those are the reviews that really count – that sell books (and sometimes discourage sales, but that comes with the territory).

This March I will have three books from three different publishers come out almost simultaneously – Do No Harm (Nate Heller), Girl Can’t Help It (Krista and Keith Larson) and Masquerade for Murder (Mike Hammer). This was not planned – it’s sheer accident, and not what I wish were happening.

This feeds into the notion that I write too many books – an editor (who should know better) recently said to me, “Are you still writing six books a year?” I have never written six books in one year. All I’m trying to do here is (a) tell my stories, and (b) make a living (okay, avoid real work, but that’s understood). But this kind of thing feeds into careless reviewers essentially panning me for being prolific and not taking each book on its own terms.

It puts you on the spot, too.

As a reader of my work, how can you be expected to shell out all that dough for three books of mine in the same month? Some of you selfish people seem to want to eat. And three books out at the same time encourages the trades to only review one of them, or none, or praise one and trash the other.

You, ultimately, are more important than the trades where reviewers are concerned. Amazon is the world’s biggest bookstore and reviewing there definitely sells books. Blogs are part of the social media world and that tells real people about books. The love for books and authors that comes through in many such blogs is a gratifying thing to see.

My hunch is that the trades are read by booksellers and libraries, both institutions that already know what their audience buys. If Stephen King gets a bad review, do you think bookstores won’t stock it? Or libraries won’t handle it? That applies to authors who aren’t bestseller types, too. I constantly hear from readers who know and support my work through their local libraries. A stealth good influence for an author like me is the bookstore employee who is a fan and makes sure my stuff is stocked.

You are the valuable reviewers. You read and enjoy books, and don’t get paid to review books you’d rather just throw out the window (like the reviewer who suffered through Girl Can’t Help It).

I’m writing this to encourage reviews for my books, sure, but I want to emphasize that if you are a reader who loves to read – who follows favorite authors – you owe it to yourself to review those authors and their latest books at Amazon and elsewhere. It keeps the books from those authors flowing from them to you.

I recently sent out copies of Girl Can’t Help It and Antiques Fire Sale to readers who requested them when I ran out of advance copies of Killing Quarry. I hope to have more of both titles and Do No Harm soon to do another big book giveaway.

Antiques Fire Sale by Barbara Allan will be out May 1.

Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by M.A.C. and A. Brad Schwartz on Aug. 4.

* * *

This coverage of the Blu-ray release of Mommy and Mommy 2 appears on the web site of the major horror magazine, Rue Morgue. It’s a rare interview with me that focuses on my filmmaking. Hope you’ll give it a look.

My editor and friend Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime gives a terrific interview specifically on Killing Quarry and the Quarry series at HCC. Thank you, Charles!

Check out this great review of Killing Quarry at Paperback Warrior.

A very nice review of the Mike Hammer graphic novel The Night I Died appears here.

Here’s an earnest appeal for DC to reprint my continuity for the Batman newspaper strip as drawn by the late, great Marshall Rogers.

A smart and nicely favorable review of Killing Quarry can be read here.

You’ll have to scroll down for it, but here’s a fun review of the Mommy/Mommy 2 Blu-ray.

Same thing here – scroll all the way down for another favorable Mommy Blu-Ray review, although the word “terrible” is involved.

M.A.C.

Mommy Is About to Escape!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

I got some advance copies of the Mommy/Mommy’s Day Blu-rays that will be coming out in a week or so from MVD/VCI. I wanted to share my reactions with you and encourage you to order this three-disc package. It is still on pre-order from Amazon at a reduced price.

My editor/director of photography Phil Dingeldein and I put in many hours getting the materials ready for this release. Back in the day, the two Mommys went out to VHS and on TV as 4:3 (so-called “full screen”) presentations, though we had designed both for widescreen and on laserdisc and DVD it went out that way. But for High Def release, we needed to reframe every shot for 16:9, and that was a lot of work.

Both features had been taken by Phil and me to a place called Woodholly in Hollywood (get it?) for the then much-used “FilmLook” process, which involved frame skipping and other tricks of the trade. This allowed us to get past Lifetime and other markets with a feature shot on high-end video as opposed to film. We were never happy with Mommy after FilmLook, because we had not been informed that the process darkened the image and that we would need to allow for that in shooting (that is, deliver a brighter master than would normally be the case).

In digging through the materials, we found the original output master we had taken to FilmLook – in other words, the original, unFilmLooked version. That’s what we worked with for the Blu-ray release.

The image on the Blu-ray has a soft look, particularly on Mommy, but not unpleasingly so. I adjusted my TV to the “natural” setting (as opposed to “movie”) and liked it better; I hiked the sharpness a little, too.

Mommy’s Day (aka Mommy 2) utilized the high-end video master of the FilmLooked version – we could not find the un-FilmLooked tape, but Mommy’s Day had never bothered us, as we’d allowed for the brightness issue before we took it out to Woodholly (in Hollywood, remember?).

This is a nice 3-disc package. The two features share a Blu-ray, as does a DVD. A second DVD offers up a plethora of bonus features – a vintage “Making of Mommy” documentary, a very gritty behind-the-scenes look; another making of doc from PBS; Leonard Maltin on Entertainment Tonight extolling Mommy; an interview I did with Patty for Mommy’s Day that covers her career; a vintage trailer for Mommy; and a Blooper Reel. Back on the other two discs are new commentaries by Phil and me. Barb looks stunningly beautiful on both documentaries, by the way.

Revisiting these little movies, I remain proud of both, and think Mommy’s Day is the rare sequel that doesn’t just refry the first movie, and in some respects is better than its predecessor. I remain astounded that reviewers and viewers sometimes don’t see both films as the dark comedies they are, but on the whole the reviewers back then (and today) have been positive in their response, and picked up on the intentional humor.

I think anybody interested in my work will find this release worthwhile. Certainly any fan of The Bad Seed should jump right on board.

If you buy the 3-disc package from Amazon, and like what you see, reviews will be appreciated.

* * *

Speaking of reviews, Barb and I will be sending out an enormous mailing today of advance copies of Girl Can’t Help It, Antiques Fire Sale, and Hot Lead, Cold Justice; also a few of the Mommy Blu-rays.

These go to reviewers in some cases, but mostly are me following up on a Killing Quarry book giveaway here a while back by sending Girl Can’t Help It in particular (and sometimes the other two books) to some of you who didn’t get in on the Quarry books. All of these are ARC’s – advance reading copies.

If you receive one of the ARC’s, take note of the publication date. Amazon won’t accept reviews until a book is out, and Girl Can’t Help It won’t be out till March, and the other two later than that.

I regret to report that no ARC’s of Do No Harm, the upcoming Nate Heller, will be available here. My publisher sent them out to the magazine reviewers and the rest were distributed at Bouchercon – they flew out of there. But I have requested copies for an Update giveaway as soon as the finished book is available.

Stay tuned.

* * *

This is a downright wonderful Killing Quarry review that I hope you will take a look at. It’s from the delightfully named site Outright Geekery.

Another great one here.

And this one, from Criminal Element, is damn good, too. I’m so happy that this new Quarry is pleasing readers.

Meanwhile, I am just getting started on Skim Deep, the first Nolan and Jon novel in three decades or so.

M.A.C.

Shine On, Shine On

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

I was thrilled to see the great Crime Fiction Lover site has named Killing Quarry one of the best five books of 2019 – it comes in number four (just above someone named Elroy).

And the Borg site has named Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother the Best Comic Reprint Anthology of the year.

The same site calls Murder, My Love as the Best Retro Read of the year.

* * *

In preparation for the 4K Blu-ray release of Doctor Sleep, I decided to watch the 1997 TV mini-series, Stephen King’s The Shining. I did this over a two-day period (it’s three 90-minute episodes). I hadn’t looked at the new 4K disc of The Shining yet, and hadn’t seen the film since its original release, although back then I’d gone several times. So I revisited it after taking in the mini-series.

King famously dislikes (and that’s a mild way of putting it) the Stanley Kubrick film, and used his superstardom as a writer to script and executive produce the mini-series. The history of that mini-series rivals the Overlook Hotel in weirdness. Initially it was well-received – highly rated, getting ten out of ten from TV Guide, winning Emmy awards, and generally considered a big success. But over the years its reputation has fallen and it’s even been rated the worst Stephen King adaptation and termed a “crapfest.” Meanwhile, the Kubrick film has only grown in stature.

Twenty-some years on, the mini-series – directed by frequent King screen adapter Mick Garris – strikes me as a decent job with strong performances from its leads, Steven Weber, Rebecca DeMornay and Courtland Mead. Weber has the unenviable job of taking on what had in ‘97 already become a signature Jack Nicholson performance – sort of like starring in a remake of White Heat in the Cagney role – and he is generally very good, suggesting his character’s gradual breakdown and underlying love for his family that King felt (rightly) had been largely lost from the chilly Kubrick version. DeMornay, cast specifically to be worlds apart from Shelly Duval’s abused wife and mother, is excellent, probably the best thing in the film, exuding strength and of course sex appeal. A lot of people seem to despise cute kid Mead, but he does well, delivering lines credibly that many actors of any age would stumble over.

The first two episodes are quite good, but the final one finds King’s dialogue writing (not always a strong suit in his screenplays) making the tasks of all the actors much more difficult, and the harrowing climax of the Kubrick film haunts the mini-series like another nasty ghost in the Overlook, filmed for TV in the real hotel that had inspired King. The limitations of budget and ‘90s CGI make some of the effects – particularly the poor idea of reverting from Kubrick’s hedge maze back to topiary, with shrubbery beasts coming to life (cue Count Floyd) – a big problem.

Returning to the theatrical Shining, I encountered a film whose surface story – including dialogue, although little or none of the clumsy stuff – right out of King. What differs was the motivation of the Jack Torrance character, who (and King hated this) is clearly at the outset a disturbed human who is a parent at least mildly disgusted by his wife and kid. He’s a rather classic abusive father and husband. Duval is often characterized as whiny and weak, even by fans of the film, but really she never whines and eventually grows a spine in defense of herself and her child. She seems right – just the sort of victim of a wife a prick like Nicholson’s Torrance would choose. Torrance is an alcoholic who, enraged, hurt his son and has been on the wagon for five months, and resents his family for that.

The problem with Kubrick’s version, for me, has always been the puzzling response to it, and not just by King. That response has been characterized by numerous interpretations of what the film means (including a feature-length documentary, Room 237), and what Kubrick is up to. Yet it’s one of the most straightforward horror films imaginable – it’s a deal-with-the-devil yarn, obviously so. Alcoholic Torrance, in a big empty ballroom, seated at the bar, says out loud that he would sell his soul for a drink. A ghostly bartender in a red vest with lapels suggestive of devil horns pops up and pours him a drink. From then on, Jack is both drunk and drinking on the house – “Your money is no good here, Mr. Torrance.”

There is even a suggestion that the contract was signed much earlier, when Torrance agrees to become caretaker of the Outlook, after a conversation with the manager – a guy in red pants. Later Torrance has a conversation with the ghost of the prior caretaker – now a waiter in the Overlook – in a strikingly Kubrick-ian restroom that is wildly, predominantly red.

Red. Get it?

And at the end we see Jack (Nicholson/Torrance) in a photo at a New Year’s Eve party taken in 1921, where he has obviously joined the lost souls in the Hell (or perhaps Purgatory) of the Overlook. Oops – I guess I was supposed to say, “Spoiler Alert.” (In case you missed it, Damn Yankees is also a deal-with-the-devil movie.)

Nicholson’s performance is over the top throughout, but waaaay over once he’s taken that devilish drink. He becomes, at that point, the monster in a monster movie. He is right out of a Nightmare on Elm Street-style horror flick, complete with Freddy Krueger-ish quips – though in fairness, Nightmare came out four years later, so the inspiration probably flowed from the Overlook to Elm Street. In any case, Torrance, chasing his family around the haunted house of a hotel, is right in tune with the slasher craze just then perking.

And I’m fine with that. It seems a valid take on the material, and it demonstrates that movies taken from successful novels don’t have to mirror their subject matter, even thematically, to be good. Would Kiss Me Deadly have been a better movie if it had been rigorously faithful to Mickey Spillane? Absolutely not. I love The Girl Hunters, Mickey’s controlled film of a book of his, in which he himself played Mike Hammer. But no one seriously, credibly, considers The Girl Hunters a better film than Kiss Me Deadly – even though Kiss Me Deadly set out to make a monkey out of Mike Hammer.

Do I wish the film of Road to Perdition had used more of my dialogue, and in particular my ending? You bet. But it’s a great film and I am thrilled and grateful for its existence. Had Stanley Kubrick made a movie out of one of my books and peopled it with sock puppets, I would’ve felt honored.

But Kubrick, who had his faults (much of King’s criticism of the theatrical film is understandable and even correct), is relatively faithful to the source material, even surprisingly so. It’s his take on Torrance that differs. It’s no accident that the most memorable things about the film are not in King – the spooky twins, the tike on a trike going down corridors in pioneering Steadi-cam shots, the elevator cascading blood, the hedge maze, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and even “Here’s Johnny” (which post-Johnny Carson is not working as well as it used to, but…).

Nicholson may have been set loose by Kubrick, who was not an actor-oriented director. Kubrick liked to cast really strong actors – Peter Sellers, Malcolm McDowell, James Mason – and let them go for it. And his best films often benefit from that. Nobody thinks the acting of the leads in 2001 and Barry Lyndon is worthy of high praise.

But Nicholson wasn’t always a ham – his work as Jake Gittes in Chinatown alone is incredibly nuanced. As uncomfortable as it might have made Stephen King, Nicholson in The Shining is right in there with Freddie Krueger, Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees, though none of them were ever at the center of a film so accomplished. And assuming Kubrick left Nicholson to his own manic devices, the director surely did so knowingly.

Circling back to Doctor Sleep, which I’ve discussed here before, what director/writer Mike Flanagan pulls off is something damn near magical: a film that works well as a sequel to both Kubrick and King (who has reportedly warmed to the theatrical film in the context of this one).

But remember – if you are really, really thirsty, and a ghostly bartender in a red jacket with horn lapels shows up, right after you say you’d sell your soul for a drink? Take a pass.

Drinking on New Year’s is for amateurs, anyway.

* * *

This was our first Christmas with our son Nate, his wife Abby and our two grandkids, Sam and Lucy, here in Muscatine, living just up the street. We had a wonderful time and Barb cooked a fine Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner on Christmas Eve that she swears will be her swan song as a holiday chef. We’ll see.

We had the week before gone to visit Barb’s mother (and sister Cindy) in Bowling Brook, Illinois. While in that part of the world, we dined at one of our favorite restaurants, White Fence Farm, who really deck out their already wonderfully eccentric venue for Christmas.

No New Year’s Eve gig this year for Crusin’. First of all, we rarely play during the winter, and second, what had once been a regular gig for musicians is now much less of a one. I will not be sorry to be home with Barbie having champagne while we watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

Next year will be a big one – half a dozen books are coming out, and I’ll get into that next time. I am today writing the introductory essay to The Complete Dick Tracy Volume 28 – one volume left to go, meaning I will have written about the entire Gould run. No word yet whether IDW will continue on with Gould/Fletcher/Collins (and after that Locher/Collins).

I will be starting the new Nolan (!) novel in a few days. First I have to put finishing touches on the Eliot Ness/Butcher non-fiction tome by A. Brad Schwartz and myself. We delivered it a while back but the editor had notes and suggestions. The announced title, The Untouchable and the Butcher, with various subtitles but probably Eliot Ness, the Torso Killer and American Justice, is suddenly in question. We are still lobbying for that, but are also considering (with the same subtitle) Knight in the Dark City and Shadow of the Butcher.

Opinions?

See you next year.

M.A.C.