Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Inspiration, Perspiration and Exasperation

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

USS Powderkeg will be available on February 1. You are unlikely to find it in a bookstore, so go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or BAM! iTunes has it, too – read about that here.

Info about the book itself is available at Brash Books.

We have used the cover before, but this book – finally under my preferred title with my revised text – is important to me and will require some effort on your part to lay hands on it. This is the novel based on my late father’s experiences in World War II as one of a handful of white officers on an ammunition ship whose crew was otherwise African-American.

After shrugging off our disappointment at Scarface and the Untouchable not getting nominated for an Edgar – my “shrugging off” included expressing how pissed off I was, on Facebook – my co-author, A. Brad Schwartz and I are digging in to make some corrections and additions to the upcoming trade paperback edition (June 4).

This will include a new preface as well as bonus material (in the style of DVD extras) that will focus on the newly discovered case file of one of the Untouchables, which serves to underscore and further verify our conclusions about Ness and how he and his team have been underestimated and short-changed by history.

We are also prepping for a visit to the Mob Museum in Las Vegas over Valentine’s Day, about which more will appear here next week. Brad has also been out on the stump by himself somewhat, as I have been burrowed in, here in very cold Iowa, working on novels. Yesterday day I completed the new Quarry novel, Killing Quarry – although I will be re-reading it and tweaking it and such for a few days this week.

Anyway, among Brad’s adventures in promoting our book (did I mention the criminal overlooking of this major tome by the MWA true crime committee?) included this fine interview.

Speaking of the MWA committee’s neglect, someone I trust has suggested the intimidating length of the book probably put some or all of the committee members off. I suspect some truth might be found in that opinion. Having served on MWA committees, I know it’s a fact of life that the committee members are swamped with books to read in full. On the other hand, the advance notices (particularly the fine mini-review from Grand Master Sara Paretsky) should have encouraged them to do so, anyway.

What can you do to help make the pain go away? Well, if you attend Bouchercon this year, you can vote for Scarface and the Untouchable in the non-fiction Anthony Awards category.

I know I plan to.

Hey, I realize this is undignified and sour grapes and boo-hoo-hoo. I have a love/hate relationship with awards, anyway (love to be nominated, hate not to be, and also losing). But awards as respected as the Edgars bring new readers to the nominated works and especially those that win. They have importance only in that regard, because otherwise it’s just a bunch of subjective nonsense.

I feel much the same way about reviews. I want good reviews not because I need validation, but because more readers will come to the books. I would be lying if I said bad reviews don’t matter to me, because they do, and not just in the sense that they discourage readers (sometimes, oddly enough, such reviews don’t always work that way). But it hurts to have something you’ve put hard work into savaged and/or dismissed, particularly when a smart reviewer nails you for something you’re guilty of.

What hurts about Scarface and the Untouchable is the work, and the years of research, that went into it. I am less angry about this for myself and more for my co-author, whose research (building on my original research in Heller and Ness novels) has upended conventional wisdom about Capone and his tax woes, and Ness and the lack of respect and credit he gets, from those who resent how Hollywood portrayed him. Brad did a stellar, mind-boggling job.

He deserved better.

* * *

As I mention, I finished Killing Quarry yesterday, and will dig into minor revisions throughout the rest of the week. I have a particularly full plate this year, which is why I have written three novels in four months – Murder, My Love with Mike Hammer; the Caleb York novel, now entitled Hot Lead, Cold Justice (my original title, The Big Die-Off, deemed too obscure); and now Killing Quarry. Very shortly I will begin serious work on Girl Can’t Help It, the prequel to the forthcoming Girl Most Likely, a task for which I’ve allowed several months. This will be followed by my draft of Antiques Fire Sale (Barb’s working on her draft now), which I have allowed another month for.

This is, of course, insane. Why do I work so hard? Why is somebody who has five doctor’s appointments with specialists this month behaving like this? Should I slow down? Barb thinks I should.

But I like doing this. I really do. And – while I feel fine and all my reports so far (the dentist today) have been positive – when you are 70 and in a month or so will be 71, you sense that maybe you don’t have all the time left in the world to tell your stories.

And I came here to tell stories.

All of which is prelude to what I want to discuss today. Would you agree that everybody has bad days? Various kinds of bad days, of course – from the simple out-of-sorts day to the depressed-about-bad-news day (not getting an Edgar nomination for a ground-breaking book, to just pull an example out of the air) to the nothing-is-going-right day to…you get the idea.

Now I’m not talking about a sick day (in my business, cold and flu generally don’t count – open-heart surgery does) or a day when tragedy has struck a loved one or friend. Nothing like that. Your favorite aunt dies? Take the day off with my blessing!

No, just that typical terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

When you are writing on a six-day-a-week schedule, with a deadline bearing down, you write anyway. Writer’s block is not allowed, and I never have it, anyway. Recently I thought I had finally encountered this mysterious, possibly mythical beast – I could not get a single workable thing on paper. I always start with a rough draft, knowing that I’m creating the clay for me to shape into sculpture. But this time, I couldn’t get anything on paper worth building on.

Why?

Well, turned out I was effing exhausted! Just flat-out fried. So I took a two-hour nap, as elderly folk are wont (and permitted) to do. When I got up from my snooze, the words flowed. Maybe not like wine, but definitely Coca Cola.

During the writing of Killing Quarry, I had perhaps three bad days – one of them Edgar-related, which of course I won’t go into. Ironically, one of that sorry trio was the last day of the process – the day on which the crucial last chapter was written.

Knowing I was facing a key part of my story, I considered taking the day off – it was Sunday, after all – and just letting my batteries recharge. But I hadn’t run this race to goof off just shy of the finish line. Plus, all of the plot stuff was filling my brain and assembled into good order – I knew exactly what needed doing.

So I did it.

It was something of a slog. I usually do three drafts of every chapter, then give it to Barb, who gives me notes, and I make minor corrections and revisions (sometimes they’re major – Barb has great story sense), and I’m done till the final read-through. Yesterday I did three drafts, took an hour nap, then came back and did another draft. Barb did her read-through and I made a few revisions and corrections from her notes. If you’re keeping score, that’s an additional draft or pass on the chapter.

Now, here is the lede I’m burying (why is it spelled “lede” not “lead”?) (and why don’t I just Google that and not bother you about it?): how does inspiration figure into a working fiction writer’s process?

I would imagine all of us have bursts of inspiration, sometimes entire work session-long ones. Maybe some writers feel inspired for days or even weeks – trust me, they don’t feel like that all the way through a project. Everybody has bad days, remember?

There are two kinds of writers – the ones who can only write on their inspired days, and who navel-gaze on their (many) off days; and the writers who are thankful for the inspired days that God or luck or somebody or some thing grants them, and who on their bad days soldier on. March through the mud to victory, or at least the end of the work day.

Now here is the real dirty little secret about inspiration – the inspired work and the struggle-to-get-through-it work are always of the same quality. When you go back and read through your story or novel, and recall the passages that came easily as if by automatic writing, those passages won’t be any better or worse than the stuff that came hard.

Or anyway those passages shouldn’t be.

Inspiration is just the days the work is going well. If you are any good at all as a writer, you will develop standards that you will not allow yourself to fall below, before you press on. You stay at it till the work you had to work hard at reads just as well as the work that came easy.

* * *

This story about Black Panther’s Oscar nominations mentions a certain other comics-derived film that once-upon-a-time received five nominations (hint: Road to Perdition).

A cry goes out to reprint the Marshall Rogers Batman comic strip. Who was it wrote that again? (Hint: me.)

Finally, Scarface and the Untouchable made Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop best of the year list, as chosen by the staff – see “Mike’s Picks” on page three.

M.A.C.

Pop the Clutch!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Hardcover:
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

For those of you who might wonder whatever happened to the Max Allan Collins/Matthew Clemens writing team, this answer is…here’s a new story by us in a great new anthology with a killer line-up of writers.

It’s a visual feast of a book, as the cover itself tells you. But every story has a great illustration, and that includes ours – Steve Chanks did a great job, and I’ve shared it here with you.

Here’s the press release:

Welcome to the cool side of the 1950s, where the fast cars and revved-up movie monsters peel out in the night. Where outlaw vixens and jukebox tramps square off with razorblades and lead pipes. Where rockers rock, cool cats strut, and hot rods roar. Where you howl to the moon as the tiki drums pound and the electric guitar shrieks and that spit-and-holler jamboree ain’t gonna stop for a long, long time . . . maybe never.

This is the ’50s where ghost shows still travel the back roads of the south, and rockabilly has a hold on the nation’s youth; where lucky hearts tell the tale, and maybe that fella in the Shriners’ fez ain’t so square after all. Where exist noir detectives of the supernatural, tattoo artists of another kind, Hollywood fix-it men, and a punk kid with grasshopper arms under his chain-studded jacket and an icy stare on his face.

This is the ’50s of Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror. This is your ticket to the dark side of American kitsch . . . the fun and frightful side!

Table of Contents includes:

“The Golden Girls of Fall” by Seanan McGuire
“Sea Lords of the Columbia” by Weston Ochse
“Tremble” by Kasey Lansdale and Joe R. Lansdale
“The Demon of the Track” by Gary Phillips
“Outlawed Ink” by Jason Starr
“We Might Be Giants” by Nancy Holder
“Universal Monster” by Duane Swierczynski
“Draggers” by David J. Schow
“The Starlite Drive-In” by John M. Floyd
“Dr. Morbismo’s InsaniTERRORium Horror Show” by Lisa Morton
“Hot Babe” by Bill Pronzini
“The Prom Tree” by Yvonne Navarro
“I’m with the Band” by Steve Perry
“Mystery Train: An Arcane Investigation” by Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens
“Lab Experiment Turf War” by Jeff Strand
“The She-Creature” by Amelia Beamer
“Fish out of Water” by Will Viharo
“I Was a Teenage Shroom Fiend” by Brian Hodge

* * *

This is one of my shorter updates, because I am working on the new Quarry novel, Killing Quarry, and doing my best to get it done before the upcoming Mob Museum appearance in Vegas by Brad Schwartz and myself, having to do with celebrating a certain day in February (think about it). More, much more, about that very soon.

For now I’d just like to reflect on how interesting it is to me when I see which topics I explore cause a lot reaction and comments, while others – including ones I thought would spark controversy or at least talk – get no reactions at all. At least not in writing.

The two updates that really caught your attention lately were, first, the discussion of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and second, my twelve favorite film directors. I get a real kick out of how my choices of the latter frustrated and irked some of you. As I said in my comments last week, there’s a big difference between a “favorites” list and a “best” list.

I would be remiss not to include, say, Kurosawa and Kubrick (to name a couple K’s) on a best directors list. But I have every right to prefer watching Don Siegel or Joseph H. Lewis movies over theirs. Favorite is personal taste – one would hope somewhat informed taste, but personal. My favorite color is green.

Wanna fight?

* * *

Getting back to Pop the Clutch, here’s a nice review of it.

And here, in addition to Amazon, is where you can order it.

M.A.C.

Your New Year’s Resolution

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Here’s a sad story with which almost any professional writer can identify, as something like it has undoubtedly happened to every one of us.

At the last San Diego con, several personnel from Titan waved me over at breakfast to meet the man from Barnes & Noble who buys graphic novels for the chain. He was a big fan – clearly thrilled to meet me. I was the Beatles and he was Eddie Deezen in I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I sat and we chatted and I told him about the upcoming graphic novels from Titan, Quarry’s War and Mike Hammer: The Night I Died. He couldn’t wait!

Cut to recently when I looked at Barnes & Noble’s graphic novel sections in Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa; and various Chicago B & N’s. Not a copy of either graphic novel was available at any of them.

Hey! I know! They had all sold out!

Or not.

A smaller sad story is the lousy one- and two-star Amazon reviews for both graphic novels from buyers who are angry that they accidentally bought a comic book. One of these reviewers hates graphic novels and considers them the downfall of literacy in America. Yes, these are idiotic cranks, but neither graphic novel has received enough reviews to weather such boneheaded ones (Quarry’s War does benefit from reviews some of you fine humans have contributed). The Mike Hammer has only one review – a two-star bummer from the aforementioned graphic novel hater.

So.

Here is your New Year’s Resolution. If you have already read either of these – whether in the four comic books collected in each graphic novel, or by way of the graphic novel itself – you will ASAP write a brief Amazon review, unless you have already done so. I do not specify that these reviews have to be raves. But I do request that you not post a review complaining that a graphic novel turned out to be (shudder! horrors!) a graphic novel.

Or…if you haven’t bought either book, and are not among those who despise the comics form, please acquire these gems (unbiased opinion). Maybe you’ll find them at a Barnes & Noble. But don’t count on it. B & N will have it on-line, as Amazon does. I have spotted Quarry’s War at a Books-a-Million, but not Mike Hammer yet. Maybe you have gift cards you haven’t used yet – what are you waiting for?

Okay, I’m whining again. Sorry. But judging by the stealth existence of these two graphic novels, the writer of Road to Perdition…which is on many “best graphic novels of all time” lists…won’t ever get to write a graphic novel again.



In the meantime, let me remind you what’s coming out in the first half of this year, with not a graphic novel in sight. I apologize there’s so much of mine to read, but (a) I can’t control dates of publication, and (b) if I don’t write, nobody sends money to my house.

Here is what is coming up.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

USS Powderkeg is a trade paperback (and e-book) from Brash Books on February 1st. This is the revised edition of the novel Red Sky in Morning, with the penname “Patrick Culhane” banished to the cornfield in favor of my actual byline (Max Allan Collins, remember?). I am very excited about this, and so very grateful to Brash to putting my preferred title on the book and, of course, my preferred byline. It’s a personal novel to me, based as it is (in part) on my late father’s experiences in the Navy in World War Two as one of a handful of white officers on an ammunition ship manned by black sailors.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The Goliath Bone by Mickey Spillane and me will receive a mass market paperback, in the Titan format, in late February.


Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo
Audiobook: Kobo

Murder, My Love by Mickey and me is the new Mike Hammer hardcover from Titan, out in mid-March. Published simultaneously on audio from Skyboat Media, available from Audible. This is the first Hammer written solely by me, but from a Spillane synopsis.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon Audio CD: Amazon

Girl Most Likely is a trade paperback and e-book from Thomas and Mercer, out on April 1, no fooling. This I’m particularly excited about because it’s a thriller that charts new territory for me – I would call it an American take on nordic noir. More about this closer to pub date.

Toward the end of May comes Last Stage to Hell Junction, the new Caleb York western from Kensington, a hardcover. It’s bylined Spillane/Collins, but it’s a Collins novel using characters and situations created by Spillane.

Toward the end of April comes Antiques Ravin’ by Barbara Allan, again from Kensington. Barb and her husband wrote it. Very funny and a darker mystery than you’ll encounter in most cozys. Of course, Jon Breen says we’re a subversive cozy series.

Then in early June comes the trade paperback of Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. This is a major work (thanks to Brad) and I’m proud to be its co-author.

So, really, forget all these other writers you usually follow. You have priorities. You have work to do.

For those who need their pump primed – and you know how painful that can be – we’ll have a book giveaway before too long.

* * *

Oh, and Happy New Year, everybody!

We had a lovely holiday with son Nate, daughter-in-law Abby, and grandkids Sam (3 yrs) and Lucy (3 mths). Sam and his grandfather watched a lot of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on Blu-ray. And for those wondering, yes, I did receive a Christmas card from Paul Reubens/Pee-Wee this year. That made it an official Christmas, particularly since both Scrooge with Sim and the original Miracle on 34th Street were watched as well.

* * *

Here’s the first review of Girl Most Likely.

And the Stiletto Gumshoe includes Murder, My Love among the books to read in the winter of 2019. Great site.

M.A.C.

Unbiased Gift-Giving (and Book Collecting) Advice

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Just when I was thinking the last update’s self-aggrandizing gift list suggestions were as far as even I could shamelessly go, along comes an Amazon sale to give me a chance to outdo myself.

Half a dozen of my Nathan Heller books are on sale all throughout the month of December at Amazon. The Kindle e-books are a mere 99 cents, and the physical books (remember those…books you can hold in your hands?) are half-price.

This includes True Crime, True Detective, The Million-Dollar Wound, Neon Mirage, Stolen Away, Angel in Black, Chicago Lightning and Triple Play. The latter two are a short story collection and a trio of short novels (the rest are novels).

You can find them right here.

Earlier I thought that all of the Heller novels prior to the recent batch at Tor Forge were included, but it’s a little more limited than that.

At any rate, if you have holes to fill in your collections, or are looking to turn others on to Nate Heller and me (and by so doing help insure more Heller books will come along in the future), this is the place to make that Christmas miracle come true.

I have other gift suggestions, too, for books I didn’t write. Sounds like the Christmas spirit, huh? Not so fast. I want now to recommend several books that originally appeared in Japanese but were translated by someone calling himself Nathan A. Collins (he claims the “A” stands for “Allan”).

Seriously, though, Nate is a wonderful writer (I said “unbiased”) and these are good books. One of them has a peculiar title – I Want to Eat Your Pancreas () – which is not a horror novel but a very good book about an unusual and oddly touching friendship. It was a bestseller in Japan, which I believe is why the American publisher did not want to change the title.

Nate also translated a thriller that was made into a rather famous anime feature – Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis () – which explores the phenomenon of young female pop stars (rather a creepy if real thing), one of whom attracts a particularly nasty stalker. Nate also translated Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream (), a collection of three stories by the same author on the same subject.

The most famous of Nate’s translations is Battle Royale (), which was the “inspiration” for Hunger Games, and an internationally successful film. That’s been out a while. Most current novel is Zodiac War () (Nate also translated the manga version (). This is a science-fiction/fantasy adventure, a super-hero/villain variation on Battle Royale.

* * *

Some recent things on the Net that you may wish to check out….

This is a fun discussion of movie tie-in novels, and several of mine are included.

Be sure to take in this nice appreciation of the Quarry TV series, which includes a celebration of Quarry’s creator, whose name I’m too modest to mention.

Once again Road to Perdition (the film and the graphic novel) are mentioned prominently on a list called (wait for it)“10 Obscure Comic Books That Were Turned Into Movies.”

Here is an oral history of how I created the new Robin and then DC fans rose up and killed him.

Finally, here’s a very good review of my first Quarry novel, which is called Quarry (and not The First Quarry).

M.A.C.