Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Choice’

Quarry Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Last week’s update was written before the news of the HBO/Cinemax pick-up of the QUARRY series (we ran a kind of news bulletin last week).

I have received a lot of public and private congratulations for QUARRY making it to TV. A few people who’ve got in touch are surprised that I’m not jumping up and down in elation, but the truth is that the feeling is more one of relief.

You see, we (I refer to Barb, Nate and me) have known that QUARRY was picked up for series for over six months. At least, I was told it had been picked up, and assured it was picked up, but was also told not to say anything about it in public. I know enough about disappointment in the TV/movie game to realize that until an official announcement is made, anything can happen. And that “anything” is usually bad.

I didn’t tell anybody about ROAD TO PERDITION the movie until Barb and I had been to the set and seen Tom Hanks and Paul Newman standing in front of a 35mm camera.

So it’s been nerve-racking – especially considering that the pilot was shot in August 2013.

The TV project I mentioned (without naming it) a while back was the writing of my script for QUARRY – episode 5, although my understanding is that elements of my script may appear in other episodes. I have done my rewrite and I have been paid. That was when this started feeling really real. The two writers who adapted the novels into a TV format – Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller – have been wonderful to me, and great to work with. Everybody attached to the show has first-rate credentials. QUARRY is in good hands.

Fans of the novels need to understand, however, that the concept of this eight-episode run (this may change if another season comes along) is to look at the start of Quarry’s hitman career. Aspects of Quarry that have been chiefly back story in the novels are the focus of the eight episodes, which start with Quarry’s return home from Vietnam and includes the Broker recruiting him into crime.

Also, the Southern setting – the show takes place in Memphis and will shoot in Louisiana and Tennessee – gives it a flavor of its own. Initially, that setting had more to do with finding an economically feasible location, but that region’s richness (particularly in the world of music) has found its way into the series.

Of the novels, the first one – QUARRY (originally THE BROKER) – seems to have had the greatest impact on the TV series. But that novel charts the ending of Quarry’s personal and working relationship with the Broker, while the TV series explores its beginnings. Those of you who follow the novels likely know that in the more recent Hard Case Crime books, I’ve gone back and explored the Quarry/Broker story in THE FIRST QUARRY and QUARRY’S CHOICE (also the short story, “Quarry’s Luck”).

The most ironic thing about the TV series is also one of the most gratifying: it’s a period piece, concentrating on the Vietnam aspect of Quarry’s background (that Quarry was a PTSD Vietnam vet and a sniper has taken on new resonance, thanks to Clint Eastwood). I say “ironic” because when the series began, it was decidedly contemporary and the Vietnam theme could not have been more current.

For the record, Quarry was created in the fall of 1971 when I was attending the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, where the first several chapters were discussed in class and mostly disliked (though those who liked it really liked it). On December 24, 1971, I got word that the Nolan novel BAIT MONEY had sold, and two weeks later that the Mallory novel NO CURE FOR DEATH had sold (both written at the Workshop, under Richard Yates). I put QUARRY away, at about the half-way point as I recall, and wrote sequels to both those books. I’m fuzzy on when I completed QUARRY – whether I returned to it, after the Nolan sequel (BLOOD MONEY) and the Mallory sequel (THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF) were completed, or if I waited till I’d written three more Nolan novels that were contracted by Curtis Books. But I believe by 1974, it was finished and sold maybe a year later, finally published in 1976. I was again asked for three more books (from Berkley Books) and the first four Quarry novels appeared and disappeared without much notice. (Only EQMM reviewer Jon L. Breen noticed them, and saw potential in their author. He’s been a booster of mine ever since, bless him.)

Then the books began to gather steam as a cult-ish thing, leading to one more novel in the ‘80s (QUARRY’S VOTE, originally PRIMARY TARGET) and three short stories in the ‘90s. So while there hasn’t been a steady stream, Quarry has been active in every decade since his creation.

The short story “A Matter of Principal” got a lot of attention, appearing in several anthologies and leading to an award-winning short film of the same name from my screenplay and then the feature film THE LAST LULLABY, which I co-wrote. The novel THE LAST QUARRY reflected my screenplay (minus the co-writer imposed upon it) and was presented as contemporary, with Quarry a man in his fifties. It was intended as the most perverse ending to the series possible: a happy one.

The unexpected success of THE LAST QUARRY led me to head back in time and do what we call in the comics business “continuity inserts”…although I don’t pretend the continuity is flawless. What the hell – Rex Stout couldn’t keep track of Nero Wolfe’s address and phone number.

The last thing I ever expected to be doing was writing a new Quarry novel in 2015, let alone doing that with a Quarry TV show casting its pleasant shadow. I have, incidentally, completed that book, QUARRY IN THE BLACK, which is another story about Quarry in the Broker years. I should say “completed,” because I have to sit down today and probably tomorrow and read it again and do tweaks and catch typos and continuity glitches.

Anyway, to all of you who expressed your thanks and/or delight about this QUARRY series happening, thank you very much.

* * *

The TV news was all over the Internet last week. You don’t have time to read all of the stories and I don’t have the inclination to post all of the links (actually Nate does that, and he won’t have that inclination, either). But here are some of them.

Comics Mix is the rare place that puts the emphasis on the creator of Quarry (you know…me).

Here’s another.

And another.

Here’s a local one from the Quad Cities, which doesn’t even rate as the columnist’s top story (a prophet in his own town kind of thing).

Some, like this one, hit the Vietnam aspect harder.

The AV Club, not surprisingly, gets somewhat snarky about it. I remember when I was young and smart…well, I remember some of it.

The “American Sniper” connections led to this kind of coverage.

And finally…what’s this doing here? A really sweet review of THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND!


Note from the Bunker

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

As I’ve indicated in an earlier update, I am really up against it in the first half of this year. With only about a week’s break after finishing BETTER DEAD (the new Heller), during which a lot of other business was conducted, I got right on the next Quarry novel, QUARRY IN THE BLACK. I am about a third-of-the-way in, writing one chapter a day, final draft. I took one day a week off, generally.

I don’t mind working hard, and I feel my novels – particularly those in first person – benefit from the intensity and speed of the process. Right now two of my collaborators, my lovely bride Barb and my good buddy Matt Clemens, are preparing their rough drafts of the next ANTIQUES and Reeder & Rogers novels. They make my life and my job much easier, and the resulting novels will be better than I could have made them on my own.

But the writing may mean for some scattered and occasionally, well, grouchy updates. This report from the bunker includes a few stray thoughts.

First, few comments have come in about my favorite and least favorite movies of 2014 list. Probably I was too belligerent in presentation. Whenever you sense that in one of these updates, you’ll know the writing is rubbing up against me hard, trying to make a pearl.


Second, I have now seen both BIRDMAN and FOXCATCHER. Both are very good (Barb agrees) and I was especially impressed by BIRDMAN, which is the rare film that is as driven by dialogue as it is visuals; the cast is outstanding, especially Michael Keaton and Ed Norton, who is spoofing himself to some degree. BIRDMAN would have gone on my Favorite lists.

FOXCATCHER suffers from a sluggish pace and some poor narrative choices, but it is nonetheless worthwhile with excellent performances from Steve Carrell, Tatum Channing and Mark Ruffalo. It would not be on my favorites list.

Keaton is now my Best Actor “Oscar” pick.

By the way, I never watch the Academy Awards. I find the show dull and embarrassing, and many of the movies being honored do not interest me. Is this like a sports fan skipping the SuperBowl? I wonder. In any case, we always watch a movie instead.

Third, a good number of readers misunderstood my rant about getting hit on for free advice. I was specifically talking about my home town and people who don’t really have an interest in me or my work, other than sucking information out of me at a social occasion. On the other hand, with very rare exceptions, I can’t give blurbs anymore because I don’t have time to read the books. Too much research to plow through, and when I’m writing a book, I tend not to read fiction.

I am pleased to report that QUARRY’S CHOICE is racking up some great reviews. Here’s one.

And it’s a thrill to get reviewed at Bookgasm; here’s their QUARRY’S CHOICE rave.


Favorite and Least Favorite Films of 2014

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Here’s just what nobody was waiting for – my (sometimes) annual listing of my favorite and least favorite movies, this time for 2014. Among my least favorites are Academy-Awards “Best Picture” nominees, BOYHOOD and SELMA, both of which rate my Emperor’s New Clothes Awards, the former because it’s a gimmick in search of a narrative and the latter because it transforms compelling history into a smeary slow-motion bore. The fuss over the lack of Best Director and various acting nominations for SELMA should be replaced with outrage that it got a politically correct nomination.

The black actor who deserved a nomination – in my opinion, the actor period who deserves to win the Best Actor Oscar – is Chadwick Boseman for his spellbinding portrayal of James Brown in GET ON UP. And Brandon Smith’s snapshot of Little Richard in that same film is easily worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Keeping in mind that I prefer to praise filmmakers and films than condemn them – having some experience in just how terribly hard making a movie is – I am nonetheless sharing the names of the films that made my frequent movie-going a blessing and those that made it curse.


1. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Wes Anderson hitting on all eccentric cylinders. Nothing else I saw last year came close.
2. EDGE OF TOMORROW – Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are first-rate in this wonderful s-f spin on GROUNDHOG DAY.
3. THE RAID 2 – A mindblowing sequel to a mindblowing action film.
4. THE IMITATION GAME – Intellectual thriller both life-affirming and tragic. Benedict Cumberbatch deserves his Oscar nomination and probably should win (but won’t).
5. INTO THE WOODS – Surprisingly good if slightly watered-down film version of Sondheim’s daringly dark take on fairy tales. Haunting music and genius lyrics.
6. THE INTERVIEW – Boldly tasteless but genuinely biting satirical comedy, with both Seth Rogen and James Franco fearlessly self-mocking.
7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Worst trailer for a comic-book movie shockingly turns out to belong to the best comic-book movie of recent years; funny and exciting.
8. 22 JUMP STREET – Inspired self-aware sequel.
9. VERONICA MARS – It exists and therefore appears here. You see, a long time ago we used to be friends.
10. THE JUDGE – Traditional Hollywood storytelling at its old-fashioned best. Critics hate that.

Honorable mention in no special order: HORRIBLE BOSSES 2; THE EQUALIZER; JOHN WICK; DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; EXPENDABLES 3 (surprisingly); NEED FOR SPEED (in 3-D on imported blu-ray); NEIGHBORS; GET ON UP; BIG HERO 6.


1. BOYHOOD – A stunt that does not hold together; no story, flimsy to nonexistent characterization, rife with meandering non-scenes – an endurance test for all but the easily fooled.
2. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB* – Shoddy sequel with (despite a co-scripting credit) no indication of the work of Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, the gifted RENO 911 boys who created the franchise. Shameful, but the place to go for seeing a monkey piss on Ben Stiller.
3. SELMA* – Slow, self-important, unevenly acted, incompetently shot (I suggest a crossing-the-axis drinking game), full of speeches (though none written by MLK). It earns a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes…for liberal guilt.
4. DIVERGENT* – A laughable imitation of THE HUNGER GAMES, itself a laughable imitation of the great BATTLE ROYALE.
5. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2* – Slow, irritating, politically correct sequel to a much better film.
6. BOXTROLLS – Unfunny and unpleasant; makes one long for the elegance of the Garbage Pail Kids.
7. A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 – The original kinda funny spoof of found-footage horror films gives birth to this painfully laugh-free sequel.
8. SEX TAPE – Jason Segel, whose work I usually at least like (he’s a FREAKS & GEEKS cast member, after all), joins a particularly irritating Cameron Diaz in an embarrassing shambles of a supposed comedy; an idea for a movie, not a movie.
9. GONE GIRL – Spoiler alert: the victim is the audience and the culprit is the book author’s interminable screenplay.
10. ANNABELLE – A prequel to the much better THE CONJURING, lacking the leads of that picture…and its chills.

* = means that Barb and I walked out. We always gave the movie at least forty-five minutes and sometimes an hour or more. Also, full disclosure: we walked out of BOYHOOD, two-and-a-half hours in. It felt like we’d seen the whole thing. Twice.

FOR THE RECORD: I have not yet seen BIRDMAN, AMERICAN SNIPER, FOXCATCHER and several other Academy Award-nominated films that might have made one of these lists.

Also, for those of you who are going to write in to point out how wrong I am about this film or that one, you are absolutely invited and even encouraged to do so – but do remember this is not a “best” and “worst” list, but a “favorites” and “least favorites” list.

– – –

Here’s a terrific and very smart review of QUARRY’S CHOICE, with some interesting reader comments.

It’s always cool to receive a good review from the UK for something as inherently American as QUARRY’S CHOICE.

Finally, that first-rate writer Ron Fortier likes QUARRY’S CHOICE. Check it out.


Choice Stuff

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Skyboat Media is a new audio publisher, working with the venerable Blackstone. They are doing QUARRY’S CHOICE, and they are doing a terrific launch for it (and will be doing new audio versions of most of the Hard Case Crime QUARRY novels, as well).

Here’s the trailer they’ve put together for the book.

And here’s a clip of Stefan Rudnicki, president of Skyboat Media and a longtime Quarry fan who went after all available audio rights to the series so he could narrate them himself.

But wait, there’s more. They have a wonderful blog entry about putting out QUARRY’S CHOICE and you can read about it here.

It’s been terrific having Quarry out on audio. Last year the great Dan John Miller (of Nathan Heller fame) read THE WRONG QUARRY for Audible, who also put out the first five QUARRY novels, read by Christopher Kipiniak, who does a good job. Speaking Volumes still has Curt Palmer reading QUARRY’S EX; Curt was a very good Quarry, but the earlier Speaking Volumes audios read by him will soon be replaced by these new ones from SkyBoat. Much as I like Curt’s work, I am pumped to hear what Stefan will do, and (unlike the Speaking Volumes versions) these new ones will be available from Audible, where so many people now go to get their audio downloads.

In further QUARRY’S CHOICE news…

There doesn’t seem to be a link to this great BOOKLIST review of QUARRY’S CHOICE, so here it is:

Quarry’s Choice.
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Jan 2015. 256 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783290840). Hard Case Crime, e-book, (97817832890857).
Quarry is a pro. He learned to kill in Vietnam, and thanks to his employer, known only as the Broker, he has found a way to keep doing what he does best. It’s strictly business, of course, killing only those who would be killed anyway, if not by Quarry then by somebody else. In, out, and on to the next job. Naturally, there are sometimes complications, as in his latest assignment: the Broker is not just the middleman this time but also the client. A mobster in Biloxi, Mississippi, has made an attempt on the Broker’s life, and the Broker wants Quarry to kill the would-be killer—with a little help from the vic-to-be’s second in command, who covets the top job. It smells wrong from the start: Quarry doesn’t like to know the client (that’s the whole point of the broker’s brokering), and he sure doesn’t like getting to know the victim, as he must do this time.

Quarry really shouldn’t worry. His creator is also a pro’s pro, one of the best thriller plotters in the business—nothing too elaborate or multifaceted or, God help us, literary; no, just violent, fast-moving, clever storytelling, in the John D. MacDonald and Lawrence Block vein. Collins spins a story in the same no-nonsense way Quarry kills people (seven of them this time around, in the course of about 250 pages): “There’s life in you, and then there isn’t.”
— Bill Ott

This review of QUARRY’S CHOICE is not only good, it’s downright blush-inducing for a wallflower like me.

Some nice attention, if not a review, for QUARRY’S HOICE at Shotsmag UK.

Finally, here’s an enthusiastic overview of the QUARRY series, although the writer thinks Quarry has a first name, John (he doesn’t) and that I’ve had ten Shamus nominations (it’s 22). Small details when you consider what a nice write-up it is.