Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Movie Round-Up

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Regular readers of this blog/update may recall that Barb and I see a lot of movies – usually one a week, sometimes more than that; when you work at home, you need the occasional escape. And you’ll know that I at times write about movies here, as I did last time with SPECTRE.

Here are a few quick notes on other movies I’ve seen over the last several months.

GOOSEBUMPS – We saw this in 3-D, perhaps proving my son Nate’s point that I will see anything in 3-D. Not true: I didn’t go to THE WALK, about that guy who did a tightrope act between the Twin Towers. But then I have vertigo (probably given to me by the movie of the same name). Back to GOOSEBUMPS. This is a basically kid friendly movie that is a lot of fun for grown-ups who were “monster kids” themselves (monster kids being those of us who grew up on FAMOUS MONSTERS and other such horror-movie mags). This is a very funny flick in the monster rally vein, featuring Jack Black as R.L. Stine, whose imagination is so strong, his creepy creations come to life, and must stay locked in their respective bound manuscripts or else (or else we have a movie). Black, playing a grumpy-father role that is quite different for him, is nonetheless very funny, particularly when he pronounces the name of the evil ventriloquist’s dummy he’s conjured: “Slaaappy!” The kid leads are appealing enough, too, and the monsters just keep coming.

BRIDGE OF SPIES – Tom Hanks plays insurance lawyer James B. Donovan, who brokered the trade between the USA and Russia of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel for U-2 pilot Gary Powers (note: U-2 is not a rock band in this instance). While I admittedly have a unique point of view here, I see this as something of a companion piece to ROAD TO PERDITION, with Hanks back in a topcoat and hat, a somber period setting, PERDITION producer Spielberg behind the camera, and influential composer Thomas Newman providing music with its many echoes of that previous score. This first-rate film recalls such ‘60s non-Bond movies as FUNERAL IN BERLIN and THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD – the story is essentially a John Le Carre novel in real life – and Hanks quietly carries the equally quiet screenplay (the Coen brothers were involved) on his shoulders.

STEVE JOBS – This apparently bombed at the box office (as did the previous JOBS), but it shouldn’t have. Michael Fassbender is particularly strong in a stellar cast that includes Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Seth Rogen, all beautifully cast in a warts-and-all biopic. Danny Boyle’s direction of what is at heart a stage play opens things up with a drifting camera and the occasional daring effect, as when he uses a wall in a hallway to cast a moving image relating to the topic at hand. But the real star is Aaron Sorkin, whose screenplay represents the best post-WEST WING example of his walk-and-talk approach. Perhaps the people in Sorkin’s world are too witty and too articulate, and would that the world itself had the same problem. Sorkin brilliantly structures the film around three key introductions of new product by Jobs, and Boyle gives each section a distinct look, in part via film stock. I have the math skills of a third-grader, and not a top-notch one at that, but I had no trouble following the tech stuff enough to stay in the game. STEVE JOBS plays really well on the big screen, though its life will largely be on video. A pity.

CRIMSON PEAK – Guillermo Del Toro’s haunted house movie is a near masterpiece swaddled in gothic trappings with steampunk seasoning. It’s as if Stephen King was writing DOWNTON ABBEY – actually, the first act, set in 1880s Boston, exceeds the latter in its time-machine feel. Essentially a gothic romance – think JANE EYRE or even REBECCA – CRIMSON PEAK weds a young, talented woman (Mia Wasikowska) with writerly ambitions to a mysterious, handsome, financially strapped aristocrat (Tom Hiddleston) with a tragic background. She soon finds herself in a magnificent but ramshackle mansion where her husband and his spooky sister (Jessica Chastain) share secrets. This is sumptuous filmmaking, filled with haunting images, like the snowy landscape turned red by the brick-fodder clay beneath.

SICARIO – A crime movie with a fine cast, stylish direction and a compelling score has no excuse to be this disappointing. Emily Blunt as an FBI agent is at the center of the action, but despite her T-shirt and sloppy attire, she is painfully girly, whining and deferring to men and even being saved by one, after she makes a bad dating decision. The script is a mess, illogical and poorly structured, with Blunt disappearing from the twenty-minute climax, which suddenly, jarringly puts Benicio Del Toro in charge of the narrative. And the joint CIA/FBI plot to bring down a drug lord is stunningly stupid. Still, the film has a lot going for it, in particular its unsettling look at crime-ridden Juarez. But the failed FX series, THE BRIDGE (reworking the nordic original), mined similar territory much more effectively, particularly in its second season.

THE PEANUTS MOVIE – Okay, it’s in 3-D. You don’t have to see it in 3-D, but why would you not? Do you really want to see Snoopy go after the Red Baron, all two-dimensional? My wife gave me a sideways look when I said I wanted to go to this, but in the theater, she came around quickly when we discovered that the film was a faithful compendium of the great Schulz comic strip, essentially Peanuts’ greatest hits wrapped up in a loose but rewarding narrative. The three-dimensional modeling of the characters is offset by their facial expressions having a drawn-on look.

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Here’s an intelligent review of the first Quarry novel (entitled, as you may recall, QUARRY, recently reprinted with a Robert McGinnis cover). Interestingly, this same reviewer did not like THE WRONG QUARRY, which I consider to be a superior novel. Still, the first book in a series almost always has more integrity than what follows, particularly when that novel wasn’t conceived to be the first in a series.

Check out this brief but interesting look at the forthcoming QUARRY TV series.

Finally, ROAD TO PERDITION gets some decent coverage on this list of worthwhile non-superhero comic-book movies. Scroll down a little and you can vote for your favorite such movie (helpful hint: your favorite such movie is ROAD TO PERDITION).

M.A.C.

Hot Links

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

I’m not going to write much of a piece this week, since I’ve already done one for J. Kingston Pierce’s terrific blog, Killer Covers. Read it here.

On the same topic, here is the best article/appraisal ever written about the Quarry novels, and I don’t say that merely because the author calls me one of the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th Century. Really, the least he could have done is add “and also the first half of the 21st Century.” Seriously, folks, you gotta check this out.

A shorter but also nice piece on just the reprint of the first QUARRY novel (as opposed to the novel THE FIRST QUARRY) is here.

And while we’re basking in the sunshine of that Quarry series appraisal, have a look at a similarly in-depth and flattering look at the entire run of MS. TREE. Thank you to a reader named Terry Beatty, who kindly forwarded this link to me. Your No Prize is in the mail.

Finally – and that’s the end of the links – I’ll report that I’ve seen the first cut of the final episode of the eight-episode run of the Cinemax QUARRY series. Frankly it’s great. For the first time you see Quarry in Vietnam, in an extended series of flashbacks. Again I warn hardcore fans that the series is an extended look at the character’s back story, and often goes its own way, though always with underpinnings of my work.

And I’m told if the series is picked up for a second season, the next batch of episodes will draw heavily on QUARRY’S CHOICE, which is among my personal favorites of the novels.

M.A.C.

Halloween 2015
M.A.C. and his latest work (pumpkin, left, Collins, right)

Quarry On TV – First Look!

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Here’s a first look at Quarry on TV, with a trailer released by HBO/Cinemax. It’s on various sites but we lifted this from Red Carpet Crash, which has a good write-up on the series.

The trailer is getting a very positive response on the Net, and I like it very much myself – great noir-ish mood and a fine evocation of the early ‘70s.

Fans of the novels will need to keep a few things in mind, when the series premieres sometime in the first half of 2016. The first season explores and expands the Quarry back story. We see him come home from Vietnam, and meet his wife Joni and watch the Broker weave a web to pull the young Vietnam vet into the contract killing business. There are new elements, but many, even most, of the characters come from the novels.

The major difference is the Southern setting – the show is set in Memphis and shot there and in New Orleans. While the books are solidly Midwestern, this shift of locale creates mood and color appropriate to Quarry.

One thing you may have noticed in the various publicity materials is that Quarry’s real name is given as Mac Conway. The initial drafts of the pilot script avoided revealing a real name, but it quickly became unwieldy – it was necessary to give the character a “real-life” name, Quarry being (of course) the Broker’s code name for him. Graham Gordy and Michael Fuller, the creators of the TV version, told me the “Mac” was a salute to a certain M.A.C.

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Here’s a write-up about the last straw that caused me to quit the BATMAN comic book, many moons ago.

Check out this lovely piece about my “disaster” series. Nice things are said about me, so clearly the writer has a lot on the ball.

M.A.C.

The Man Who Brought Quarry (Back) To Life

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Quarry
Available October 13
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

No, this week’s update isn’t about me – or not primarily about me. Nor is it entirely about Hard Case Crime editor, Charles Ardai. Rather it’s mostly about the man who is very likely (at 89) our greatest living illustrator.

In fairness to myself – and I work hard at being fair to myself – I’d already revived Quarry somewhat by way of a short film I wrote and co-exec-produced, “A Matter of Principal” (2003), followed by a feature film, “The Last Lullaby” (2008), which I co-wrote. But the latter hadn’t happened yet when my friend Charles Ardai, called to try to talk me into writing a new Quarry novel for his emerging Hard Case Crime line.

I had created Quarry in 1971 or ‘72 at the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The book, and three sequels, was published in the mid-70s, and one more in the mid-‘80s.

As it happened, I had my screenplay of what would become “The Last Lullaby” sitting on my desk. Having done any number of novelizations in my time, I figured doing one based on my own script wouldn’t be tough. On the other hand, I had a full plate and didn’t need the work.

So I gave Charles a kind of ultimatum. I would do a Quarry novel for him if he got Robert McGinnis to do the cover. McGinnis was famous for movie posters (including James Bond films) and beloved covers for such private eye series as Shell Scott and Mike Shayne, and had done a number of covers for 1960s Mickey Spillane paperbacks. In mystery fiction fandom, McGinnis was generally considered the master – and I agreed with that assessment. He brought a modern look to the pulp cover that set him way apart, and still does. (Several books, edited by the indefatigable Art Scott, collect many of those incredible images.)

The thing was, Charles – an award-winning writer his own self – had been keeping the McGinnis covers for his own novels. Would he be willing to meet my demand?

As it happens, he was, and once I knew I had a McGinnis cover on the way, I was ready to do just one more Quarry, to be titled THE LAST QUARRY. I’d always felt Quarry was second only to Nate Heller among my creations (all writers sound like God when talking about their work), and relished the idea of writing a final book for the series. Period-at- the-end-of-sentence kind of thing.

As it happened, the cover art was finished before I even started writing the novel (which would become a frequent situation with subsequent Hard Case Crime books of mine). This gave me the chance to write the cover scene, thought up by the great McGinnis, into the novel itself – something many an oldtime pulp writer would do (“Here’s the cover, Ray, flying saucers and shit – come up with a story!”).

Something surprising happened – THE LAST QUARRY did quite well. It had solid sales and garnered incredible reviews. (That didn’t stop the director of “The Last Lullaby” from bringing another writer in and changing things around – which is why I forbade the use of the name “Quarry” in the film itself…though I do quite like the end result). So I began thinking about how to do another Quarry novel. Charles thought that was a good idea, but how could I write another book when the previous series entry was labelled THE LAST QUARRY?

“Because I’m going to write a novel called THE FIRST QUARRY,” I said, detailing my hitman’s first hit, a notion Charles found pretty much delightful.

Since then, as many of you know, I’ve been filling in the blanks between the first four novels and QUARRY’S VOTE (aka PRIMARY TARGET), and the years after that, as well. You know you’re effing old when a series you began as contemporary now requires you to write period pieces.

Only one other Quarry novel has been graced with a McGinnis cover – the recent QUARRY’S CHOICE – though the other HCC covers have been stellar, too. I also had the joy and honor of seeing a McGinnis cover adorn one of my Spillane collaborations, THE CONSUMMATA (also at Hard Case, of course).

And now a QUARRY TV series has completed shooting its first (and I hope not last) season of eight episodes. Think about it: something I created in college in 1972 will be a TV series in 2016.

And without that McGinnis painting, none of it would have happened.

So when Charles and I began discussing doing Hard Case Crime editions of the first five Quarry novels – and publishing them on a fast schedule, to take advantage of the Cinemax series – the need for wonderful covers, right away, came into play. HCC is known first for its fantastic covers, and not the afterthought of writers like me.

I said, “Why not go to Bob McGinnis? See if he has any paintings of beautiful women in his inventory?”

Charles thought this was a splendid idea, but unlikely. He contacted McGinnis and learned the master had five such paintings in his inventory – the exact number we needed!

I was sent the available unpublished images, which I loved, and put each cover painting with an appropriate novel. Several are spookily appropriate. There was also a need for an image of Quarry himself, and Charles chose the Quarry face from…THE LAST QUARRY cover. While the TV series tracks the adventures of a much younger Quarry, the McGinnis version seemed definitive – and also would match up with a McGinnis cover.

When I look at these covers, it’s as if I were spinning a rack of paperbacks at Cohn’s Newsland in 1966 – I see dream-come-true imagery, taking on the look of the old Dell “Mike Shayne” books. Perhaps I am in a LIFE ON MARS type coma, and inventing all of this stuff.

Because this can’t really be happening, can it?

Five vintage books by me re-published in a five-month period…all with Robert McGinnis covers?

And surely it can’t be possible that I’m looking at the original LAST QUARRY cover painting by McGinnis, hanging on my office wall? (The painting that is, not McGinnis.) And in what universe would a sweet guy named McGinnis just send me that original, because I’d been so overjoyed, having him do the cover of one of my novels?

Feel free to hate me. I would. Particularly since I’ve been married, since 1968, to a woman who looks like she stepped out of a McGinnis painting.

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Here’s a nice review of the BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES collection, out now.

And here’s a lovely review of STRIP FOR MURDER, which will soon be available in a new edition from Dover.

M.A.C.