Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Writer’s Work is Never Done

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

When a writer finishes a novel and sends it in to a waiting editor/publisher, a feeling of relief is greater than any sense of accomplishment. What all of us forget, however, is that sending in the “finished” book is only the beginning.

First, there comes an editorial letter, often asking for revisions, followed by a line-edited manuscript, then a copy-edited manuscript and finally galley proofs. For a prolific writer like me, all of these turn up unexpectedly, often at terrible times, and always with a note to get the manuscript or galleys back in something like three days.

Editors don’t care if you’re on deadline with some other book, usually (though not always) for some other publisher. Every editor (rightly) considers the book of yours that is theirs to be the only book.

I also have the problem of not wanting to do any revisions that aren’t absolutely necessary – i.e., a plot point that I haven’t dealt with, or sentences and/or paragraphs that have proved confusing. I rarely agree to elaborate rewrites. Hardly ever. I also am notorious for becoming furious with copy editors. Not all copy editors: just those who have appointed themselves collaborators. About one in three times at bat, I encounter one of these creatures intent upon “improving” my work.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. The only shit fit that Mickey Spillane ever threw in front of me was in response to a copy-edited version of one of his novels. The fury of Mike Hammer at his kill-craziest was unleashed.

But it is the collision of books that can make a writer dizzy.

Last week, after completing QUARRY’S CHOICE, I was immediately thrust into dealing with the galley proofs of the very different SUPREME JUSTICE. Now, because Hard Case editor Charles Ardai is lightning fast, I am already facing the copy-edited manuscript of CHOICE!, before the literary paint is dry. I am grateful and impressed with Charles’ speed, but fear I lack enough distance from the book to effectively work with the copy-edit so soon.

Much of what a professional fiction writer does is little-known or even unknown by readers.

Ahead in the immediate week or two ahead are finishing a TV pitch for a potential Nate Heller TV series, which will require me re-reading STOLEN AWAY and much of TRUE DETECTIVE, taking notes as I go; writing my draft of a “Barbara Allan” Christmas novella called ANTIQUES FRUITCAKE, not due for a while but necessary to deal with now, because of scheduling issues; and getting ready to write a western novel based on an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay. The latter prep will include spending many hours with that screenplay, looking at western reference books, and reading some ‘50s western novels by the likes of Jonas Ward and Harry Whittington, to help get the right flavor.

Not complaining, mind you. This beats my other paying jobs (sacking groceries, bussing tables) by some distance.

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Eliot Ness
Eliot Ness

Be sure to check out the Huffington Post piece on Eliot Ness that Brad Schwartz and I put together to defend the Untouchable from attacks from Jonathan Eig (Get Capone) and others, in reaction to the proposal that a new ATF building be named for him.

My pal and collaborator Matt Clemens visited the Twin Cities recently to read one of our short stories at Noir at the Bar.

Speaking of Matt, here’s a great review of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, which – like SUPREME JUSTICE – is a book Matt contributed mightily to.

Check out this very good article on cozy mysteries dealing with antiques. Barbara Allan gets some very nice attention here.

Still haven’t picked up THE WRONG QUARRY? Here’s an excerpt.

Here’s a great WRONG QUARRY review, demonstrating that members of my favorite sex (hint: not male) can relate to Quarry just fine.

And finally a review of QUARRY – the first book in the series. How odd and oddly sweet to see a novel that I began writing in 1972 at the U of Iowa Writers Workshop getting reviewed in 2014.

M.A.C.

Edgar Nom and Life with Mickey

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

I am pleased, and a little astonished, that “So Long, Chief,” a short story by Mickey Spillane and me that appeared in the Strand magazine, has been nominated for an Edgar. The story is one of around five I’ve done so far with an eye on developing a Hammer short story collection, utilizing the shorter fragments in Mickey’s files.

I’ve been nominated a bunch of times for Edgars, but this is only my second for fiction (the previous one was for the Ms. Tree prose short story, “Louise”). Nate Heller has never rated a nomination; Quarry either. ROAD TO PERDITION wasn’t eligible in any category because it’s a graphic novel.

This nomination rights an embarrassing wrong: while he was named a Grand Master Edgar by the MWA (thanks to the efforts of Don Westlake, Otto Penzler and others), this is Mickey Spillane’s first Edgar nomination.

Barb and I have not decided whether we’ll attend the awards ceremony in New York. If I go, I may jinx it, and we already have trips planned this year for San Diego Con and Bouchercon. And I have a lot of work on my plate. We’ll see.

See the full list of short story nominees, and my stiff competition, here.

In other Spillane news, there’s a Mickey book that I didn’t write that’s about to come out: MY LIFE WITH MICKEY by the effervescent Jane Spillane. I can’t wait to read this myself. Mickey’s lovely widow has attracted lots of press, particularly in the South. Check this wonderful piece out.

I should note that the journalist got one bit a little wrong – Jane found a section of the climax of THE GOLIATH BONE in Mickey’s pick-up, complete with post-it’s…not LADY, GO DIE! To order MY LIFE WITH MICKEY, go here.

I have wrapped up QUARRY’S CHOICE. It went out yesterday to editor Charles Ardai, and was one of the harder Quarry novels for me. First, I had the potential TV series hanging over my head (still no news); and second, in the midst of much reviewer love for the hitman-killing-hitmen aspect of recent Quarry novels, CHOICE is only the third novel to deal with Quarry when he was working for the Broker. (There’s also a short story.) There’s a lot of sex in this one. How much? Well, Barb said I’m now officially a dirty old man.

She’s kidding, of course (aren’t you, honey?) but it touches upon the reaction some reviewers and readers have to the sex in my novels, particularly Quarry ones. Are these scenes gratuitous? Well, a book as dark and violent as any Quarry novel is inherently gratuitous. But I try to use sex scenes for characterization purposes. In THE WRONG QUARRY, a casual, nasty bit of back alley sex shows Quarry and the woman at a sort of low moral ebb; but a later, tender sexual encounter between them reveals they have stirred better impulses in each other. Similarly, an over-the-top sex scene involving a barely legal wild child means to demonstrate its relative emptiness compared to conventional but loving sex with a much older woman. Anyway, that’s what I hope those scenes do.

Scenes of violence in Quarry novels tend to be either very understated (“I got out the wrench”) or go into gory Spillane-style excessive description. A flat scene of violence can indicate the protagonist’s emotional numbness to such carnage; a highly descriptive depiction of that carnage can remind you of the actual physical and human toll.

I share these thoughts with you, because a good number of the reviews – and I mean the positive ones – of THE WRONG QUARRY talk about the book as pulpy fun, and I hope that’s the case, because as I said here last week, I consider the books to be black comedies. But in my novels – in any good fiction dealing with sex and violence – such scenes do not occur in a vacuum. They intend to reveal character.

The reviews of THE WRONG QUARRY continue to roll in. This is one of my most-reviewed books of recent years, and really only one of them (probably numbering close to 35 by now) could be called mixed or negative. (Guess which review I fixate upon.)

I was thrilled to get this glowing notice from one of the key reviewers in contemporary mystery/crime fiction, J. Kingston Pierce at the Rap Sheet.

Careful reading this fun review – there’s a major spoiler (I had to ask the reviewer to attach a SPOILER WARNING before the paragraph in question, which she graciously did).

Here’s another good one.

And another.

Finally, here’s yet another did-you-know-it-was-a-comic-book rewrite about ROAD TO PERDITION, book and film.

M.A.C.

Right Time for “The Wrong Quarry”

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Today is the pub date for THE WRONG QUARRY. So you should be able to find it in your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, and it’s certainly available on line from the usual suspects.

This also means that those of you who received one of the fourteen advance copies I sent out can now post your review at Amazon (they don’t let advance reviews go up unless written by certain approved reviewers). And your reviews are encouraged at Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and other sites.

I can’t emphasize enough how important the Amazon reviews are, even those of a line or two. WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER has 80 reviews and that constantly increasing stream of reviews keeps the book selling. It has done considerably better, which may surprise you, than the new Heller, ASK NOT, which has only 21 reviews. Please support all of the books you like (not just mine) with Amazon and other reviews. It’s a textbook grassroots way of helping out the authors you enjoy.

Also available, or will be soon, is an audio book of THE WRONG QUARRY. I just found out the delightful news that Dan John Miller (the voice of Nate Heller) has read THE WRONG QUARRY. This is from Audible, and is a download only. Audible has also done the first five QUARRY novels, as well, although with another reader. I haven’t heard any of these yet, but Barb and I will be listening to them over this year on various car trips to Chicago, Des Moines and St. Louis. Dan John Miller is my preferred reader for all my work. (He did a great job on WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER as well as the Mallorys and several of the “disaster” series.)

I am deep into QUARRY’S CHOICE. It’s a little odd to have so many people talking to me about THE WRONG QUARRY while I am so immersed in CHOICE, which is a change of pace – not a “list” novel, it follows Quarry on a job he’s doing for the Broker. It takes place about a year after THE FIRST QUARRY.

The reviews thus far for THE WRONG QUARRY have been stellar, I am pleased to say.

One of the powerhouses among book review sites, Bookgasm, has posted this terrific WRONG QUARRY review.

Criminal Element has a wonderful WRONG QUARRY review from Doreen Sheridan.

It’s always a thrill when a writer you respect reviews a book of yours favorably. Here is the great Ed Gorman – who has been reading Quarry from the start – with some very insightful commentary on WRONG QUARRY.

Nerdspan likes THE WRONG QUARRY, too.

The much-respected (and deservedly so) UK reviewer Mike Carlson has offered up one of the best and smartest discussions of WRONG QUARRY.

Here’s another cool UK review of WRONG QUARRY.

And here’s a fun one from Curiosity of a Social Misfit, very good but with some typos anyway missing words.

On another note, I am somewhat melancholy at shutting Crusin’ down as a regularly performing bar band. As I’ve said, we are not breaking up, and are accepting event bookings. But the reality is, we are moving from twenty-plus gigs a year to probably three or four.

So there were odd resonances when the Des Moines Register called me – as an Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member – for my reactions to the passing of Phil Evelry of the Everly Brothers of Shenandoah, Iowa. My comments are toward the end of the article. The concert I mention is one I attended with the late Paul Thomas, my longtime musical collaborator.

M.A.C.

Christmas Royale

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Christmas here with son Nate and daughter-in-law Abby was festive fun. We open our presents Christmas Eve, where among the gifts were a MURDER SHE WROTE complete series collection for Abby, a ZATOICHI blu-ray set for Nate, Marilyn Monroe books/blu-rays/calendars for Barb, and the boxed multi-volume Hefner-written PLAYBOY history set from Taschen for me. Very cold here and we went out only a few times, including for a movie on Christmas Day (47 RONIN – more on that below).

Nate and I were both burrowed in working around and even on the holiday. He was wrapping up a BATTLE ROYALE manga translation, and I was working hard to get QUARRY’S CHOICE up and running, after a nasty bout with flu that put me behind deadline.

Nate had only recently completed the biggest (and in my opinion best) translation of his career thus far – he has done a new translation of BATTLE ROYALE, the prose novel, for Viz. It’s an enormous book, and an important one, and he’s done a fantastic job. I was the in-house proof reader and can honestly say (having read an earlier translation) that he has knocked it out of the park.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami, it spawned a film that was a world-wide success everywhere but America, where its plot of junior high students killing each other on an isolated island in a government-sponsored game ran smack into the Columbine tragedy, getting the work essentially banned in the USA. In the meantime, another suspiciously similar work – the HUNGER GAMES novels – came along. Whether coincidence or homage (French for rip-off), HUNGER GAMES sparked interest in BATTLE ROYALE and the BR film (and its lesser sequel) are widely available here now. For a Japanese-to-English translation, BATTLE ROYALE is about as good as it gets. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Here’s a brief rundown of films we saw over the holidays, including quick critical takes: THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is much better than the first entry in the Trilogy, moving much more quickly than that original, which was more slog than Smaug; ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES, a very funny ninety minute movie that is unfortunately over two self-indulgent hours long; 47 RONIN, a much underrated and visually poetic tribute to Asian films of both the samurai and fantasy genres; and SAVING MR. BANKS, a shamelessly manipulative and highly inaccurate infomercial for the dreadful “classic” MARY POPPINS, somewhat redeemed by Tom Hanks’ sincere performance.

I approach New Year’s Eve with mixed emotions: Crusin’ will be making its last regular performance as we end a five-year run of playing bars and clubs on a two- or more times a month schedule. We will be on “hiatus,” during which we will consider only event performances, such as class reunions, weddings, county and state fairs, founder’s day celebrations and the like (mystery cons definitely on that list).

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THE WRONG QUARRY reviews are streaming in, all lovely so far. Here’s one from the Celebrity Café that’s been picked up around the Net.

Here’s Books Are For Squares on THE WRONG QUARRY.

Ron Fortier, a wonderful writer in his own “write,” also likes THE WRONG QUARRY.

And here’s a late entrant among the reviews of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Finally, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is on this list of the best five crime novels of 2013 (that makes three M.A.C. novels this year to make such lists – ASK NOT, COMPLEX 90 and now SEDUCTION).

M.A.C.