Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Climax’

Cowboy Christmas

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

As Christmas miracles go, the finale of the following is decidedly minor, although the whole experience felt major, with some nice surprises along the way.

For the past three years or so, as long as I’ve been involved in getting the Spillane/Collins “Caleb York” series up and running, I have been pestering my PR contact at Kensington Books about trying to get me into True West magazine. There are only two major magazines about the old west (and western movies), True West and Wild West. Both are quite good, and both do some book reviewing. True West seems to lean somewhat more to pop culture-type material, which is my own leaning obviously, and they do a monthly last-page-of-the-issue with various people (actors, authors, musicians and assorted friends of the real and reel west). That interview slot seemed like a great place to introduce myself as a western writer to a big audience – a long shot, but why not try?

I brought this up to Karen, my hard-working PR person at Kensington, who agreed that this was a long shot but worth trying. As the months passed, we didn’t get anywhere. When Barb and I went to Killer Nashville, we had a couple of nice meals with Karen, and I really, really pushed for True West. She would try. But we did know it was a long shot, right?

Finally True West expresses interest – huzzah and hooray! One of the editors wants to interview me – in person. Where do I have to go? Utah? Montana? New Mexico? Arizona? Texas? No, the editor wants to come to me. This sounds incredibly ambitious of him, until I learn he lives in Iowa City. About thirty-five miles away.

All this time one of True West’s editors has been in my backyard! Has been living in the town where both Nate and I went to college (not at the same time), and where Barb and I routinely travel once a month or so for a nice meal at one of any number of terrific restaurants, and for me to drop by Daydreams comic book shop and one of the best bookstores anywhere, Prairie Lights, where I’ve done readings half a dozen times over the years.

I offer to go to him, but editor Stuart Rosebrook wants to come to me. Wants to get a look at Muscatine. We meet at Elly’s, a soup/sandwich/salad place (very good) with a wonderful view of the Mississippi. Stuart and I hit it off immediately – we talk movies and books and Wyatt Earp for several hours, and even manage to eat lunch in the process. I am also interviewed, but mostly we just luxuriate in our mutual interests.

Turns out Stuart is, among other things, the book editor at True West, and the guy who does the monthly back-of-the-issue interview, which is what I’m going to get (yipee!). We spend so much time talking about our shared enthusiasms that he has to follow up with e-mail questions.

Perhaps most interesting is that Stuart’s father turns out to be Jeb Rosebrook, a very successful screenwriter for movies and TV. Among many other things, he wrote Junior Bonner, which starred Steve McQueen and was directed by Sam Peckinpah, no less. He wrote the s-f cult favorite, The Black Hole, for Disney, and his TV writing credits include The Waltons and The Yellow Rose TV series with his friend Sam Elliott (he also produced). His many TV movies include I Will Fight No More Forever (Emmy nominated), Hobo’s Christmas, Mystic Warrior, The Gambler II and The Gambler III. In recent years he’s returned to writing novels, his previous one (Saturday) being decades ago and predating his film and TV work.

At our first meeting, Stuart says his father and mother are coming for a visit over the Christmas holidays. He suggests we get together, so I can meet his dad. The idea of sitting down with a real pro – a guy who wrote for Sam Peckinpah, worked any number of times with Sam Elliott, and wrote dialogue for Jack Kelly’s Bart Maverick (!) in the second Gambler movie, well…it’s enough to make me temporarily put aside my hermit-like ways.

As a nice cherry on the sundae, when Stuart tells his dad about me, turns out Jeb has read my work, and liked it!

So, as the photo that accompanies this piece will indicate, we got together. We had a lovely Christmas Eve eve feast at Peking Restaurant in Muscatine with Stuart and his wife Julie, 21-year-old son (also named) Jeb, 16-year-old daughter Kristina, as well as Jeb and his wife Dorothy. Turns out I’m not the only writer who married a beautiful blonde.


(L to R) M.A.C., Jeb Rosebrook, Stuart Rosebrook

The evening was really a delight, and I hit it off with both Jebs and really everyone at the table – even Barb! Sitting between Stuart and his father, I had a conversation that covered so many topics of interest to me that my head is still spinning. Jeb, who at 82 is younger than you are, is at work on a trilogy of novels (the first two are available now from Amazon, The Charlemagne Trilogy). He has been reading Nate Heller, so I brought him Better Dead, but also Road to Purgatory.

About that. Everybody at the table had done their homework – the night before, Barb and I re-watched Junior Bonner, a charming character study about rodeo life that is quite unlike anything else Peckinpah ever did; and the Rosebrooks watched Road to Perdition. Everybody had good things to say about both films. Kristina, not a regular consumer of R-rated fare, liked Perdition but the violence was a little extreme for her (she better stick with Junior Bonner for her Peckinpah fare!). I brought along (to have them signed) Junior Bonner on Blu-ray and DVDs of The Yellow Rose (complete series), I Will Fight No More Forever, and the collected Gambler TV movies. Barb and I signed an Antiques that Stuart had brought along, and Jeb gave me generously signed copies of three books of his, two of which are in the ongoing trilogy.

Now this is fun. I signed Road to Purgatory to Jeb; he signed his novel Purgatory Road to me. Great minds.

Comes the surprise ending. Stuart had asked to borrow one of my laser disc players because he had a Japanese laser disc of Junior Bonner that he wanted to screen. He has, for some time, been trying to find the original version of Junior Bonner with the song “Arizona Morning” over the opening credits. But the home video release in the United States has (as sometimes happens with such releases) a different song substituted over the opening. If you go to the Amazon reviews of Junior Bonner, you’ll find many fans of the film complaining about the home video release not including the real opening song.

Well, I have three laser disc players, so I just gave one of them to Stuart. He was happy to have it, though neither of us were optimistic about the chances of the Japanese version being the original cut.

The next morning, the Christmas miracle: the Japanese laser disc had the original version with the real opening credits song! Jeb Rosebrook hadn’t heard it for years, and listened to it on the laser disc at least twice. And Stuart was delighted, a Holy Grail found, and that’s the minor but major Christmas miracle.

Another is that Stuart delivered to me an advance copy of the February issue of True West with my back-of-the-book interview. It is perhaps the best single piece on me I’ve ever read. Stuart did a masterful job of distilling and arranging quotes from me into something coherent and informative, from a several hour rambling conversation with me and a few e-mail answers to follow-up questions.

Watch for that issue! Its cover has Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday in the underrated film, Wyatt Earp.

Happy holidays, everybody!

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Looking for a way to spend your Amazon gift cards? Check out Skyboat Media, which has just released the audio of Quarry’s Climax (I’ll talk more about this terrific release soon).

Here’s info about Back Issue #102, which has a wonderful article about Wild Dog. I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming update.

And here’s a nice write-up about Otto Penzler’s Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, which includes my “A Wreath for Marley,” probably my favorite of all my short stories.

M.A.C.

Movies Are Your Best Entertainment!

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Here’s a video I did to promote the prose Perdition saga in the great new Brash Books editions. If you don’t have them, what are you waiting for? A good use for your Amazon gift cards.

And now for Christmas, I thought I would share more opinions about movies with you, all wrapped in a big red bow. You’re welcome.

My son Nate has mentioned frequently my demented taste in film (some of which he shares). When I’m gone, he threatens to mount a web site where every day he will grab one DVD or Blu-Ray or maybe even laser disc at random, and review it. Might be The Big Combo or it could be The Invisible Ghost with Bela Lugosi (both were directed by Joseph Lewis, after all).

To demonstrate what he is talking about, here some movies I’ve watched on home video lately. These include a few movies I saw as awards screeners that I receive as a WGA member. Most I bought. Also, a few theatrical releases are tagged on at the end. All are mini-reviews.

Dolores Claiborne (1995) – really good Stephen King movie with no supernatural aspect, stylishly directed by Taylor Hackford. Great character study and sorta mystery starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh (of Road to Perdition fame).

Death Rides a Horse (1967) – one of my two favorite non-Leone Lee Van Cleef Italian westerns (the other is The Big Gundown). With John Phillip Law as Clint Eastwood. A new, slightly longer Blu-Ray from Kino. Saw it in the theater twice.

T-Men (1947) – excellent noir directed by Anthony Mann about undercover fed Dennis O’Keefe. O’Keefe is way underrated. Black-and-white cinematography by genius John Alton (I, the Jury). Starts with a stilted intro by Elmer Irey, one of the guys who took credit for taking Capone down and dissed Eliot Ness. See him brought to earth next year in Scarface & the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness & the Battle for Chicago.

The Laughing Policeman (1973) – interesting if dreary police procedural with Walter Matthau in a mostly humorless portrayal and Bruce Dern in a rare heroic role, though he’s casually sexist and sadistic, anyway. From a nordic noir novel. 1973 is starting to feel like a long time ago.

Battle Cry (1955) – wonderful Hollywood-ized Raoul Walsh-directed adaptation of the forgotten Leon Uris bestseller. Great soap opera of men training where my dad did in San Diego; an incredible cast – Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Anne Francis James Whitmore, Anne Francis, Van Heflin, Dorothy Malone…did I mention Anne Francis? L.Q. Jones appears under his real name playing a character called L.Q. Jones, which he then took as his stage name. Tons of familiar male actors making early appearances. Final half hour of battle finally arrives and is compelling.

Annie Get Your Gun (1957) – from VAI, a Blu-Ray of Mary Martin and John Raitt in a TV “spectacular” of the famous Broadway show. Great performances from the stars and lots of fun. Native American stuff and male/female interaction that will amuse you, especially if a humorless gal is in the room watchin’ with you. Assuming you survive.

Thieves’ Highway (1949) – gritty noir about trucking written by A.I. Bezzerides (Kiss Me Deadly!) from his novel, Thieves’ Market. Excellent villain performance from Lee J. Cobb, striking female lead in Valentina Cortese, and Richard Conte fine as a nice guy who is dumb enough to make you talk back to the screen. Hey, everybody in the sleazy bar! Look at all the money I just got! Director Jules Dassin tells us how much he hates capitalism, right before he packs his bags and heads overseas.

Since You Went Away (1944) – surprisingly effective home front soaper from producer/scripter David O. Selznick, directed by John Cromwell. Teenage Shirley Temple (disturbingly appealing – I’m pretty sure Roy Moore has this one on his fave flicks list) and Jennifer Jones convincingly go from kids to young women while Claudette Colbert reminds us why she was a movie star. Moving and generally unmanipulative for this kind of thing. Great cast also includes Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley, Robert Walker, Lionel Barrymore and Guy Madison. A Christmas movie, by the way, though that doesn’t come in till the last act.

And now some new things….

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – this is an excellent showcase for both Frances McDormand and especially Sam Rockwell, with nice work from Woody Harrelson, too. The movie is challenging because it keeps shifting, challenging your thinking and assumptions, with none of its characters perfect (except perhaps Harrelson’s) and the resolution of its crime story elusive. Lovely writing and direction from Martin McDonagh. One of the two or three best of the year, topped only by Wind River.

The Post – boy, what a disappointing Mr. Show movie! Though they appear in a number of scenes together, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk just never get truly funny. And the story is quite unbelievable – a crooked United States President who tries to stifle and belittle freedom of the press? Some story ideas, even in a comedy, are too outlandish to pull off – just not funny! Supporting players Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep hog the screen from stars Cross and Odenkirk.

I, Tonya – good, quirky docudrama about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident that ignited interest in women’s competition ice skating. Well done, but star Margot Robbie, though very good, is miscast as Tonya, whose petite figure, not quite pretty face, and white trash aura call for a physically smaller, less overtly attractive, less obviously smart actress. Worth seeing.

Star Wars – The Last Jedi. I am thrilled for Mark Hamill, who knocks it out of the park with a genuine star performance. At its best, this is a wonderful movie and audiences will likely love it, and they should. But it’s way too long and overstuffed with very usual Star Wars plot shenanigans, plus a weak performance or two (Laura Dern, anyone?). But Luke Skywalker shines. This series was launched as The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, you know.

So – these were all viewed over a couple of weeks. That’s how we spend our evenings and the occasional at-the-actual-movies afternoon. This is relaxation in Iowa. If you’re nice to me, I won’t do this to you again.

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Bill Morris says Quarry’s Climax is one of the best books of the year – and he’s right. Read here to find me on a list with Joan Didion.

Here’s a nifty little piece about Quarry’s War issue #1.

M.A.C.

Bill Crider

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Bill and Judy Crider

My friend Bill Crider posted this on his “Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine,” which has been my favorite blog for many years now.

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog. I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care. A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left. The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block’ fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins’ latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and “The Last Stand,” the last thing that Spillane completed. It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.

Bill has been battling cancer for a while now, and has just gone into hospice. He lost his beloved wife Judy a while back, but even then he was a positive voice in the wilderness. The news of his illness, of its severity, has rocked the world of mystery fiction – and that’s not an exaggeration. People love this guy. I love this guy.

Many posts on the Net are going up to recommend books by Bill, and you should indeed seek out his fiction in both the mystery and western fields. He has made for himself a particularly admirable career, as a smoothly professional storyteller, but he has never got his due.

Though he’s well-known in the field, and has attended the occasional convention (lately, Bouchercon, despite his health issues), he has stayed close to his Texas home over the years. As someone who has lived his entire life in Muscatine, Iowa, I can identify with that.

I can identify with so much about Bill (and my apologies if this piece briefly becomes about me).

But we both are lovers of mystery and crime fiction, with a special affection for the mid-last-century variety. He knows a lot more about it than I do, though, and I know plenty. I have a wonderful book collection, but if Bill weren’t such a nice guy, he would laugh at me, knowing what he has gathered in his decades of collecting.

Like Bill, I am of the first generation of fans who became professionals. The writers we most admire were never fans, just professional writers who were trying to make a living, and many of them, along the way, became artists. We both have had health problems in the last several years, and each has encouraged the other. Bill was married a long time to a wonderful woman. When he lost Judy, the thought of ever losing Barb sent a sharp pain cutting through me that only for a moment matched what he’s had to live with.

Enough about me, or us, or whatever.

The blog entry above, which Bill says is likely to be his last, touched me greatly. Going through what he is, his only regret is not reviewing something of mine (or mine and Mickey’s)? That may define, for me, bittersweet. That I figure anywhere in his thoughts about now almost embarrasses me.

Looks like Bill Crider the reviewer is no longer going to review me, and damnit, he likes my stuff. We need more like him, not less!

I had that same selfish thought when Ed Gorman left us. In frankness, Ed and I were closer than Bill and I. That’s unusual, because Ed’s relationships with other writers happened almost exclusively on the phone. But I live in Iowa, and so did Ed, only sixty miles away, so we got together now and then. Even did bookstore appearances together. He was one of my best friends – not just writer friends.

So Bill regrets not reviewing my latest. Well, here is what I regret. I regret that we were not better friends. Does that sound like we aren’t friends? Well, we are. But frankly it’s been in that friendly-acquaintances way, until just the last few years anyway. He was one of the writers I know to speak to at a convention, who I always stand and chat with, and go away thinking, “I wish I lived closer to that guy so we could hang.” And not in the western way.

So Bill and I exchanged e-mails, and maybe a phone call or two. I know I went to him when I was suddenly going to be writing a western. If anybody knew this stuff, it was Bill Crider.

I don’t remember the question, but I remember the answer.

“I have no idea,” he said.

An honest writer. We can’t afford to lose many of those, either.

Bill Crider, I wish we’d been able to hang together. Instead of separately.

* * *

Here’s a nice Quarry’s Climax review.

Quarry’s War is racking up a number of solid reviews, like this one.

And this one.

And finally this one.

M.A.C.

Road to Paradise Just Published

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

The new Brash Books edition of Road to Paradise is out, and if you’re a fan of the trilogy – particularly if you’ve never read my complete version of the Road to Perdition movie novel – I hope you’ll support me and Brash in this fine effort, and buy all three. Brash did a lovely job packaging the books, which look very nice on a shelf together.

Some readers seem flummoxed by the O’Sullivan saga. It starts as a graphic novel (Road to Perdition), becomes a movie of that novel generating a novelization of the screenplay (with me doing a novel based on a screenplay based on my graphic novel), followed by a sort of prequel graphic novel (Road to Perdition 2: On the Road) published in three parts and then collected, with two prose sequels (Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise) and a final graphic novel (Return to Perdition) rounding things out.

Even I’m confused.

How did all that happen? Well, when the movie came along I did not want to see a novelization written by anyone but me. Since at the time I was doing a lot of movie and TV tie-in work, I felt it would be an embarrassment to have someone else do it. I did not predict that my novel would be butchered (and that I would have to do the butchering myself), nor did I predict that many years later a publisher would come along (Brash) to navigate the rocky waters of freeing up novelization rights to a big-budget Hollywood film so that my full version could finally be published.

The weekend Road to Perdition opened and was a hit, I rolled into action (or that is, my agent rolled into action). I was ready with the idea to do the two prose sequels, knowing that my artist – the wonderful Richard Piers Rayner – could not produce graphic novel sequels in a timely enough fashion to take advantage of the moment. But I also knew there was an appetite from publishers for more Road to Perdition in comics form, and indeed both Marvel and DC came looking. Richard was enlisted for the covers (that sort of fell through, an editorial decision I did not control) and several other terrific artists came on board to get Road to Perdition 2 out there quickly.

The coda to the series, Return to Perdition, with my longtime collaborator Terry Beatty coming on board, would have been a prose novel if the publishers of Purgatory and Paradise has been interested – they weren’t, but DC was. So we ended as we began, as a graphic novel.

I do view the graphic novel material as one thing – three graphic novels – and the novels as something else – a prose trilogy. That they fit together is more a bonus than a necessity. The prose trilogy works fine on its own.

That torturous tale – as dull a one as I have ever told – ultimately adds up to my gratitude to Brash Books for bringing the prose trilogy out in a lovely, uniform editions, with special thanks for rescuing the Perdition prose novel from tie-in oblivion.

Road to Paradise was an especially difficult one to put together, making me flex narrative muscles – characterization depths – that I hadn’t before or since. I think of it as a kind of deadpan tragedy, with some blood-spattered redemption by journey’s end.

Again, you won’t be sorry if you add these to your Max Allan Collins shelf (something each and every American should have!).

* * *

The question I am most often asked – well, the question I’m most often asked is, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Elton John?” – but the next-most-asked-question is, “What do you read?”

I’ve often said that I read little contemporary fiction, and almost no crime or mystery fiction beyond the people I learned from – Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, Cain, Thompson, Stout, Christie, Gardner, etc. What I do read is non-fiction. Right now I am plowing thorough sixteen books related to the Sam Sheppard case for the Heller I’m about to write.

But I find time, here and there – in doctor’s offices and on the can or in the tub (not a pretty thought, but a reality) to read a good deal of non-fiction. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed of late.

Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter is one of the best books that Bear Manor Media has published. Bear Manor Media puts out pop culture titles no one else would, and are to be commended for it, although only a handful display real excellence, like A Maverick Life: The Jack Kelly Story by Linda Alexander, The Matchless Gene Rayburn by Adam Nedeff, and Sandra Grabman’s forthcoming Petrocelli: San Remo Justice, for which I wrote the introduction.

Though Mr. Novak was my favorite TV series during my high school days, it had slipped from my memory somewhat due to the lack of a second-run life of reruns (but for a brief time on TNT). Possibly because it ran only two seasons (although racking up 60 episodes), Mr. Novak never got into syndication. A few years ago I bought a few gray market DVDs with Novak episodes, and found it as compelling now as I had in high school.

The 1963 – 1965 series was a sideways imitation of the then very popular Dr. Kildare, with Richard Chamberlin’s young doctor and Raymond Massey’s wise mentor setting the pattern for James Francisus as idealistic English teacher John Novak and Dean Jagger as the principal who helped him along. The series was generally very well written by (among others) producer/creator E. Jack Neuman, John D.F. Black and Meyer Dolinksy, directed by such luminaries as Richard Donner, Paul Wendkos, and Ida Lupino, with many top actors, including young ones like Beau Bridges, Kim Darby, Terri Garr and in particular Walter Koenig, starring in three episodes (once as a Russian exchange student!), just one of many future Star Trek talents who turn up in front of and behind the camera. The series was earnest, usually intelligent and explored many topics of the day, a surprising number of which still pertain.

Author Harter has gathered every scrap of information about the show imaginable, and the book’s major fault is its cut-and-paste nature, as many articles (including PR flackery) appear in wholesale fashion. But he makes up for it by more contemporary interview excerpts from many actors and creative personnel from the series, for which he provides a smart, lively episode guide. And pictures. Wonderful, wonderful pictures.

I am in particular a fan of Franciscus, who had a fine career and almost broke through as a major film star. But Novak was his signature role, and his dedication to it and the series he helmed came through strong in his performances, which still have a modern, Method-ish feel, despite his hunky good looks. Jagger is predictably excellent, but health concerns and apparently some creative issues – not the least of which was the second season’s impending cancellation – found him exiting early, with an equally compelling Burgess Meredith stepping in as a somewhat unpopular teacher elevated to the principal position.

Harter, for all his love for the series and diligence in telling its story, misses a few steps. He does not mention that Franciscus had a resemblance to John F. Kennedy (he would later play him in the film The Greek Tycoon) that led to a special episode about the death of a teacher. Nor did he notice the in-jokey, unbilled appearance in one episode by Suzanne Pleshette, Franciscus’ co-star in the film Youngblood Hawke (from the Herman Wouk novel).

A DVD release of the first (and superior season) is on the horizon from Warner Archives.

Other books I’ve enjoyed of late include Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero by Nancy Schoenberger, a well-done combination of dual biography and critical film study; You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era by James Bawden and Ron Miller, an interesting follow-up to their Conversations with Classic Film Stars; and From Holmes to Sherlock: the Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom, a fascinating treatment of Doyle’s creation of Holmes and the way in which it became such a popular culture juggernaut, sometimes in spite of Doyle’s descendants.

* * *

Here’s a fun write-up on the best five Logan Marshall-Green bad-ass performances (guess what the top pick is).

Here’s info about the magazine Back Issue #101, devoted to rock ‘n’ roll in comics, featuring a nice article on my band, Seduction of the Innocent.

This terrific look at Quarry concentrates on the most recent novel and the very first one. Don’t miss this.

M.A.C.