Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Hey Kids – There’s a Prize in the Serial Box!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

I try to stay away from politics here, but the latest wrinkle in the immigration story calls for an exception. I think the Onion covered it best.

But I would ask my Christian friends on the Right to consider that when Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” He didn’t mean He wanted little children to suffer.

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This may be as good a time as any for me to talk about Facebook, which is the only social media platform I use. I’m so out of touch I don’t even know if “platform” is the right word.

For a long time, I read the daily feed or whatever-the-hell you call it, and would get very upset about the political nonsense I saw posted – a surprising amount of it dark and nasty and often racist. Plus stupid. Did I mention stupid?

Because I am a reactive wise-ass at heart (and everywhere else), I would weigh in, often sarcastically, and bad things would transpire. I lost several good friends.

A while back I started only rarely checking in on the daily feed, and instead checked posts from a bunch of groups (not sure what Facebook calls them) that give me stuff about things I’m interested in, like paperback collecting, illustration and comic art, cult movies, pin-ups and so on. I have dropped one of these (about oddball LP covers) because the members of the group often made stupid, cruel, “funny” comments – imagine MST3K with morons.

But mostly these groups are fun.

I mention this to explain why you may have made a friend request to me that I have not accepted. My policy for several years was to accept any friend request because that represented a current or potential reader (or customer, as Mickey would put it). So many, even most, of the names were ones I didn’t recognize.

I mean, hey – who doesn’t want more friends?

But then I started seeing the far-right nastiness, the lies, the racism, the stupidity, and I just couldn’t take it any more. Plus, it tempted me into getting into fights with those very readers I was courting!

So I retreated into the posts about books and movies and art and pretty girls.

I do still post this update every week, and respond to responses to them. But only once a week (at most) do I see what the daily feed is feeding on.

And I haven’t accepted a friend request from someone I don’t already know in a very long time.

No offense! You may not be a moronic fascist, but I just can’t take the chance….

* * *

Barb and I spent a delightful weekend in St. Louis with son Nate, our daughter-in-law Abby and grandson Sam. It was in part celebration of Father’s Day but also of Barb’s birthday (today, as I write this – June 18).

Sam is extremely funny, sometimes on purpose. He won’t be three till September, but his verbal skills already suggest he will be a better writer than Nate, Barb and me. Building a slide out of piled pillows, and considering the small mattress he would have to pile on top of them, breathing hard, he turned to Barb and said, “Now…here’s the hard part….”

Wonderful child.

My son is pretty wonderful, too, giving me for Father’s Day an expensive book about Audie Murphy’s co-stars in movies and television. Again, not a book about Audie Murphy, but a book about people he worked with. Nate did this, admitting that no one in his generation had any idea who Audie Murphy was.

My wife is also wonderful, and feel free to skip this paragraph, because it’s going to be more sentimental slop along the lines of my previous two updates. I failed to mention, when I wrote about our 50th Anniversary, that I fall in love with this woman at least once every day. It’s chiefly her smile. But I also remember how she came to spend the day with me, every day, for my entire time on all three of my hospital stays, which added up to probably nearly a month. As you may imagine, I was not always an ideal patient. But she was a great life’s partner for every second of it. She has caught up with me in numerical age (she’s three months younger) but I won’t remind anyone of the year involved. But no one would ever guess it. Here she is with her birthday roses.

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I have received my copies of the Quarry’s War graphic novel and am very pleased. Though we changed artists between issue #1 and #2 (the original artist didn’t like me telling him what to draw), it’s fairly seamless. I am burying the lead here, but I will offer ten copies to any readers who will write an Amazon (and/or other) review. [Update: All copies have been given away. Thank you for your support!]

You should write me at ****, and you must include your snail-mail address. USA only. I would greatly prefer that those who request a copy are readers who don’t usually read comics or graphic novels, because I want to make it clear to non-comics-fan Quarry readers that this is a genuine and even important entry in the series.

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Here’s a very nice discussion of film noir, all the better because I am quoted and Ms. Tree is cited.

Killer Covers looks at artist Ron Lesser, showcasing his Quarry in the Middle cover.

Bargain hunters! Get the Girl Hunters blu-ray with my commentary here for a new price – $14.95.

Here are ten great comic book movies that aren’t about superheroes – and guess what’s number one!!!

M.A.C.

The Original Max Allan Collins

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

I had many lovely responses to my shameless Golden Anniversary tribute to my lovely wife, Barb. Several people inquired about where the photo of us was taken: that was on May 31 on our anniversary overnight getaway to Galena, at our favorite Italian restaurant there, Vinny Vanucchi’s.

We stayed at the Irish Cottage (which is not a cottage, of course, but a very nice hotel on the outer outskirts of Galena). We dined at our other favorites – Otto’s Place, a breakfast spot on the Galena River across from the old, restored train station, and the Log Cabin, a restaurant that’s been there since the ‘30s and is a classic steakhouse that has the look and feel of somewhere the Rat Pack would hang out. We took a trolley tour of the town (though we’d been there many times) and soaked up some history and saw lots of Painted Ladies (i.e., Victorian mansions and homes).

This was in part research, because I have agreed to do a follow-up to The Girl Most Likely, a thriller set in Galena that I delivered to Thomas & Mercer last year for publication later this year. The police chief there, Lori Huntington, has been most helpful. But we were mostly having fun – the downtown shopping, half-a-mile of it, is gift shops and antiques shops and two wonderful used bookstores. We also visited (by appointment) Main Street Fine Books, which gave up its Main Street location some time ago and is now on the lower level of a beautiful modern home. Bill Butts and his wife Yolanda welcomed us, and Bill had set aside a first edition of Audie Murphy’s To Hell and Back for me.

You know, Barb and I talked about going somewhere special – like Ireland or France or England – but instead settled on doing what we wanted to do, as opposed to what was expected of us. We went to Galena, a place we love, and chose the Irish Cottage over Ireland.

On June 2nd, still celebrating, we dined at our favorite Muscatine restaurant, DaBeet’s, where I’d arranged for chef Awad Dabit to prepare Barb’s favorite, Dover Sole. Earlier that day was a nostalic trip for both us, at the Muscatine Art Center, a wonderful museum in the historic Musser mansion. How wonderful? They display works by Renoir, Chagall, O’Keefe, Picasso, and Grant Wood, among many others.

But Barb and I were there to see the Elks Chanters exhibit. The Chanters was a male chorus that my father, Max A. Collins Sr., directed for fifty years, up to his passing in 2000. The original Max Collins was a remarkable guy. He went to Simpson College on a combined music and athletics scholarship. He was an incredible singer, who turned down offers to pursue professional opera, and a high school music teacher whose students racked up record wins at state music contests. He also put on the first high school productions of Oklahoma and Carousel – in the nation. When he left teaching after ten years for a better-paying job at HON Industries, the office furniture company, he kept his musical hand in with church choirs and, in particular, the Chanters.

How good were the Chanters? Well, in the fifties they entered the national Elks chorus competition and won, beating men’s choruses from the biggest cities in America. The next year they won again. The year after that they won yet again, although other choruses tried to block them, claiming the Muscatine outfit was clearly professional. They weren’t, but after that year, the competition was ended and the Chanters were made the permanent national champs.

Dad took his group all over the state and various parts of the country, including of course Muscatine, to schools and nursing homes; they also put on an annual Christmas concert. Every year around June they presented an elaborate show, with a concert portion divided between religious and popular works, and a Broadway-style revue with costumes, dancing, and the wives and kids of the Chanters participating. Each revue had a theme my father had been working on all year – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Legends of Popular Music, Grand Ole Opry and on and on.


Small part of Museum Art Center exhibit

His chorus had a uniquely masculine sound and he created it from everyday guys in all walks of life here in Muscatine. The Muscatine Art Center, thanks to Donna Reed (whose late husband Morrie Reed was one of Dad’s stars), has mounted an impressive display of Chanters memorabilia and has a big-screen TV showing the Chanters (and my Dad) in action. The exhibit goes through mid-August.

As a kid, I was in Chanters shows and so was son Nate. But I never joined the group. I had my musical path and Dad had his. I think he understood mine was not a rejection but a recognition that he would be seen as favoring me if he used me in any special way. I had appeared in high school productions (King Arthur in Camelot and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady) and many around town expected me to be a Chanter. But I was busy playing rock ‘n’ roll.


M.A.C., Jr., watching M.A.C., Sr. and his group

Here’s one story about my dad, who was an incredible teacher of vocal music, as this will demonstrate.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the chorus director put me (a tenor) with a bass, an alto and a soprano, as a quartet that would try out for the All-State Chorus – this is roughly the nerd equivalent of All-State sports honors. The director, who was new in town, told us that he would not have time to work with us. That he would be working with several quartets of junior and senior students, who had a chance of winning; but this would be a good opportunity for us to see what we were up against in the future.

I reported this to Dad. He told me to assemble my quartet (Mike Lange, Joyce Courtois and Kathy Bender) and that he would work with us. No one in the history of Iowa schools, at least up to that time, had put more students into the All-State Chorus (winners were sent to Des Moines for a big concert) than my father. Well, Dad worked with us all right. And the three quartets the high school chorus director coached all flamed out.

We won.

We won the next year, too, and the next. And at our final year at Des Moines, when the All-State Chorus was assembled to rehearse for its concert, its director asked the group of several hundred, “Who among you have been here before?” Our hands and some others went up. Then: “Who among have been here for all three years? Please stand.”

We four stood.

No one else did.

Thanks, Pop.

* * *

Barb and I have finished listening to Dan John Miller’s reading of Killing Town. I know some of you (myself included) are sorry to see Stacy Keach retire from the audio series. But Dan really knocks it out of the park.

If you enjoy listening to books on audio, and you like my work and/or Mickey’s, get your hands…which is to say your ears…on this one.

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The graphic novel collection of Quarry’s War is out now! I spotted it in Daydreams, an Iowa City comic book shop. Amazon lists the on-sale date as July 3rd, but apparently comic book shops get it earlier.

I’ll post more on this later.

M.A.C.

Our Audie Murphy Film Festival

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Killing Town, the “lost” first Mike Hammer novel, is now available on audio read by the great Dan John Miller. Read about it here. If you support this audio (and the previous Journalstone Mike Hammer release, The Will to Kill), more will follow!

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I am writing this week’s update on Memorial Day Weekend. It seems like a good time to say a few things about Audie Murphy.

First, let me share with you a part of my prep for writing the Caleb York novels for Kensington (under the Spillane & Collins byline) – essentially, how I get into the mood.

I am about to start the new Caleb, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Whenever I do a York novel, Barb and I have an appropriate western film festival, watching an “oater” each evening. For the first novel, The Legend of Caleb York (from Mickey’s screenplay, which started it all), we watched John Wayne westerns, as Mickey had written the screenplay for Wayne’s Batjac productions, though it had never been produced. My favorites, predictably, are The Searchers, Red River and Rio Bravo.

For The Big Showdown, we watched Randolph Scott, including all of his outstanding Budd Boetticher-directed westerns. For The Bloody Spur, our nightly western was a Joel McRae. And I have been gathering Audie Murphy’s westerns (and his other films) for several years now, with an eye on the festival Barb and I are beginning now.

Audie Murphy, of course, is celebrated as the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II. He received every military combat award, including the Medal of Honor, having – at age 19 – held off by himself an entire company of German soldiers for an hour, then (while wounded) leading a successful counterattack.

Murphy was a Texas boy from sharecropper stock who learned his skills with a rifle by putting food on the table for his six brothers and four sisters, after their father left their mother, who died when Audie was a teen. Murphy lied about his age to get into the U.S. Army, not long after Pearl Harbor (the Marines and Navy having turned him down).

After the war, making the cover of LIFE Magazine for his courageous service, he was taken under the wing of the great James Cagney. From the late forties until his tragic young death in 1971, Murphy was a movie star. Aside from a few A-pictures (like The Red Badge of Courage and The Unforgiven, both directed by John Huston), and several contemporary offerings, Murphy specialized in westerns, as well as a western TV series, Whispering Smith.

But his biggest success was starring as himself (a role he reluctantly accepted) in the film version of his autobiographical war account, To Hell and Back. He was a skilled horseman and a successful songwriter, his work recorded by such stars as Dean Martin, Harry Nillson, Eddy Arnold and Jimmy Dean, among many others. And, not surprisingly, he suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He slept with a .45 automatic under his pillow.

Stopped for speeding, Murphy pulled over and, when the officer noticed the .45 on the seat next to the easily recognizable Audie, the cop smiled and said he was a big fan and wanted an autograph. Murphy provided it. Accosted by a gangster at a horserace, Murphy stared him down and said, “I killed sixty of you bums in Sicily – one more won’t make a difference.” The thug moved on. Many a brawny challenger who figured he’d pick a fight with Murphy was quickly and brutally dispatched by the five-foot-five war hero turned movie star.

Or so go the stories. More easily verified is Murphy’s refusal to do ads for cigarettes or liquor, not wanting to set a bad example for young people. He died in a small plane crash.

My character, Quarry, was in part inspired by Murphy. David Morell told me Rambo had the same source. And Robert Stack said his Ness portrayl was inspired by Murphy.

Around Memorial Day, and all year frankly, Audie’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery is among the most visited. He is probably remembered more for his incredible valor as a teenaged war hero than for his movie career, and while that’s understandable, I’m here to tell you he was a fine actor.

In his day – and still today – his ability to star in a film is perceived as a sort of “talking dog” thing – the dog doesn’t haven’t to say anything impressive to qualify for that distinction. My feeling is the studios (chiefly Universal) often felt they had to pair Murphy with a strong character actor – Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, Barry Sullivan – to carry him.

But anyone at all savvy about film and film-acting can look at Murphy in almost any of his pictures and see how his instinctive, charismatic under-playing seems modern and real while many of the actors around him appear to be shouting and hamming it up. He is present in every scene, quietly reacting, watching, then delivering lines naturally and effectively.

And in scenes of violence, just who this baby-faced boy/man is always comes to the fore. He’s a killer. Real deal. Not a murderer, but a soldier who unflinchingly does what he has to. But he’s not one note: he can be boyish, he can be scary, he can be romantic, he can be funny, he can be tough as hell – as much as I like Randolph Scott (and that’s a lot), Murphy has far more colors to his palette.

We’ve been watching him for a week or so now, and not all of the movies are good – toward the mid-1960s (particularly when he’s not working at Universal), his films are programmers, bottom-bill fodder for drive-ins. But he made some fine westerns, too, and worked with such great genre directors as Don Siegel, Budd Boetticher and Jack Arnold.

My favorite, the latter director’s work, is No Name on the Bullet. Murphy is an assassin who comes to a small western town, quietly checks in at the hotel and minds his own business – only his business is killing someone while he’s in town…but who. Everyone in the community seems to have a secret worth killing for. It’s a very Quarry-like role. The quiet killer side of him is in evidence – the film is thoughtful, a sort of High Noon turned inside out, and Murphy is great. Just great.

In collecting Murphy’s films, I’ve had to order DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world. A few are available here (including No Name on the Bullet), and there’s a nice boxed set from Turner Classic Movies – check it out.

Oddly, Murphy is considered a major star in Germany. Think about that – our decorated hero is revered by the losers, and patronized and even ignored by the winners. This is much odder than Jerry Lewis being lionized in France (though the French are right about Lewis, and they like Murphy, too, for that matter).

Salute this Texas sharecropper’s son, while Memorial Day is still in the air, won’t you? For his service to his country, by all means. But track down some of his movies. He was a real movie star, and – unlikely as it seems – a fine actor.

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The forthcoming Scarface and the Untouchable is one of the ten summer books Chicago Magazine recommends.

Here’s a fine review of Killing Town.

Check out this advance look at the first issue of the Hammer four-issue comic book mini-series.

The Quarry TV series gets some love here.

Finally, here is a wonderful review of Antiques Wanted by a reviewer who really gets what Barb and I are up to.

M.A.C.

White Man’s Burdon

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

This past Saturday evening, Barb and I headed to Riverside, Iowa (future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk) to the casino resort there for a concert by Eric Burdon and the Animals.

The Riverside Casino and Golf Resort is a great venue that brings in major acts (within half an hour of our home!) and some of them, like this one (and the Happy Together Tour a while back), are top stars of the Baby Boomers’ youth. For example, they have Micky Dolenz and Paul Lindsay coming up on September 29. Crusin’ has appeared on the Riverside Casino’s smaller stage three times, and it’s always a thrill to get to entertain there.

The house for Burdon was packed and enthusiastic…also old. So is Burdon, at 73 a kind of wonderful train wreck, a grizzled, gifted survivor of the British Invasion. He’s a small but formidable man, and the only real Animal on stage – he’s surrounded by kids, relatively speaking, who mostly serve him well. Despite a cold that he apologized for, as it gave his voice even more gravel, he performed well, enthusiastically and long – an hour and a half, no break – giving the crowd most of his hits, the only really major omission being “It’s My Life.”

My only complaint is the current Animals line-up – the bass needs more definition, and the keyboards more balls. I wanted to rush the stage, yelling, “Let a man in!”, when the keyboard guy played piano all through “We Gotta Get Outa This Place.” His piano keyboard is a Nord, and a Nord is one of my two keyboards and a fine instrument…but right behind him was a Hammond B-3!

The Animals’ sound, in its first and most popular incarnation, was driven by organ – either Vox or Hammond, with Alan Price its famous keyboard player. Not bringing that Hammond into full, robust play was a blunder.

Okay, I realize I’m seeing that through my end of the telescope, and I don’t want to indicate the evening in Eric Burdon’s legendary presence wasn’t a wonderful thing, a real privilege. Burdon is the kind of dedicated singer who can bring brand-new passion to a song he’s sung literally hundreds and hundreds of times, every time.

Burdon is as much as anyone – and I include Mick Jagger – responsible for bringing the blues to white America (and the UK), exposing my generation to the joys and rewards of the African-American musical experience, sending us to Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, among many others. Is there a more unlikely smash hit single of the sixties than “House of the Rising Sun”?

Here’s a cool interview with Burdon done just before the Riverside appearance.

And now, because absolutely no one asked for it, here is my list of my 10 Most Influential Albums of the Sixties. These are the actual albums I listened to most, as opposed to my assembling something reflecting what I should be listing, i.e., black artists, female artists, and not just white boys (mostly British). But it was the British Invasion that sent me down a path that would have me still playing rock ‘n’ roll at 70 (thankfully not for a fulltime living).

1. Rubber Soul – the Beatles. 1965 (December). This list could be nothing but Beatles, as their albums and singles were what I listened to most. Rubber Soul is where the group blossoms into something even more special. I am in a minority, but I like least The White Album and everything that follows.

2. Along Comes the Association – The Association. 1966. Still, perhaps, their finest hour, with the possible exception of the follow-up, Renaissance. Includes “Enter the Young,” “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish” and more. Barb and I saw them perform more often than other band of the era, the greatest vocal group that was also a fine rock band.

3. The Zombies – the Zombies. 1965. Their wonderful early material is here in this American release, including my two favorite singles of the ‘60s, “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No.” Colin Blunstone’s breathy, heart-felt singing melds with Rod Argent’s great, inspiring (to me) piano and organ – this is pure pop bliss.

4. Them Again – Them. 1966 (January). My favorite Van Morrison material almost all dates to his days fronting Them. This second album made not much of a splash in the USA, but it’s great, with “Could You, Would You,” “Call My Name” and “I Can Only Give You Everything” outstanding.

5. Animal Tracks – The Animals. 1965. Their third album (a U.S. mongrel), it features “We Gotta Get Outa This Place,” which was Muscatine High School’s senior class of ‘66 song. As a listener caught up in the pop of the Beatles, the jolt of r & b from Eric Burdon (and also Van Morrison with Them) was the start of an education.

6. It Ain’t Me Babe – the Turtles. Before “Happy Together,” the Turtles were a folk-rock band with an edge, the Byrds but not precious. This album has not only the title track but a pre-Sinatra, rocking “It Was a Very Good Year,” P.F. Sloan’s “Let Me Be,” and some nice Dylan covers. Opening for Flo and Eddie (twice) was a real career highlight for this weathered garage band rocker.

7. Midnight Ride – Paul Revere and the Raiders. 1967. This was the last album that the Raiders – a great bar band from the Pacific Northwest – actually played on, with the famous Wrecking Crew taking over after, so the group could tour and tour and tour. This was their Rubber Soul, with such great tracks as “Kicks,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and “Louie Go Home” (a sequel to “Louie Louie,” their version have been hijacked by another local band).

8. Eighteen Yellow Roses – Bobby Darin. 1963. My obsession with Bobby Darin was not entirely blotted out by the British Invasion. This album has Darin’s hit title track and a bunch of covers, including “On Broadway” and “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.” Not a major album, but I listened to it a lot. Ditto his later (1968) Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto, a singer-songwriter effort of personal folk rock and protest material in his Bob Darin phase. My band played “Long Line Rider.”

9. Younger Than Yesterday– The Byrds. 1967. Such an influential band. I recall playing “Turn, Turn, Turn” at a frat party in Iowa City around ‘68 and the frat brothers having us play it over and over and over. Guitarist Bruce Peters of the Daybreakers had a 12-string Rickenbacker to give it the real McGuinn flavor. That track isn’t on this album, which is the “So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n Roll Star” LP, with such wonderful songs/performances as “Have You Seen Her Face” and “My Back Pages.” This was our late bass player Chuck Bunn’s favorite album.

10. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys. 1966. The great American answer to the question posed by the British Invasion: which of you stateside losers can compete with us? Well, these guys. It’s possibly the best, most beautiful rock album ever written, produced and performed.

Looking at this list – which is in no particular order – I realize how much of it centers around 1966, and just before and just after. Subjectively, it suggests that the music that appeared as I came of age – if 17 or 18 is coming of age – happened to be some of the best popular music ever…or was it just the stuff (objectively speaking) that was out when I was a junior and senior in high school?

Let me mention, too, that if this list continued further, the albums from my college years – everything from the frankly poppy Monkees to the likes of Vanilla Fudge, Cream and Deep Purple – would be on it.

So. Now that you’ve read it…aren’t you glad you didn’t ask?

* * *

Barb and I thoroughly enjoyed Deadpool 2. We had discovered the first DP (so speak) movie on home video, and found it a hoot, if dark. This one isn’t quite as dark, and is even more joke-laden than the previous. There are smart people I know (like Terry Beatty) who hated the first Deadpool and are unlikely to try the second (and probably shouldn’t). But I enjoy the way the Deadpool films send up the super-hero genre while celebrating it – that it points out and revels in the absurdities of the genre (particularly the movie version of superhero comics) and still manages to be a terrific superhero movie. Deadpool 2, for all its smart-ass nastiness, even has a good heart.

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Here’s a fun, quirky review of Quarry’s Climax. I think the reviewer doesn’t quite get Quarry’s view of women (or humanity, actually), but he likes the book, which is what matters. Quarry has contempt for the entire human race, including himself, but he isn’t a dick about it.

And a nice Quarry write-up is here, in this look at post-Vietnam crime novels.

M.A.C.