Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Cut’

Heart and Soul: Bonus Features

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Here’s a special treat that none of you have been asking for: brief reviews of every movie I watched while I was hospitalized.

Early on, when I learned open-heart surgery was in the cards, I bought a small portable Blu-ray player. Beyond its obvious use, during the upcoming hospital stay, I knew it would be cool to have on trips where early-to-bedder Barb could go to sleep in our hotel room while I watched something on the Blu-ray player, listening through headphones and not bothering her. Getting that Blu-ray portable was smart of me.

Here’s where I was dumb. Instead of picking DVDs and Blu-rays (from my stupidly large collection) that were either old favorites or which had a lot of potential, I filled a little CD case with oddball stuff I hadn’t got around to yet, and that I was pretty sure Barb would have no interest in.

But it was Barb who soon realized I was making my hospital time even worse by torturing myself with crap movies. I guess when you almost die, you have less patience for spending time pointlessly. So here’s a rundown on a bunch of movies that you should avoid. I’m using the Leonard Maltin four-star system, just don’t look for any four-stars. I usually am loathe to write bad reviews of movies. But since I loathed these movies, I’ll make these exceptions.

SMART GIRLS DON’T TALK (1948) – * ½. Pitiful excuse for a film noir with Virginia Mayo (her character all over the good-girl/bad-girl map) supported by Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton, two of the dullest leading men on record.

CHRISTMAS EVE (1947) – * ½. Two of my favorite (if limited) actors, Randolph Scott and George Raft, in a sort of anthology movie that is among the dreariest Christmas movies ever made. After this contemporary misfire, Scott made only westerns. Good choice!

THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953) – *. Worst John Ford movie ever. A personal favorite of his, and the pits – cornball smalltown humor, sentimental slop, and incredibly racist attitudes even for its era (Stepin Fetchit co-stars). A remake of a much earlier Ford starring Will Rogers. Full disclosure: the only one of these terrible movies I didn’t make it through.

CAPTAIN CAREY U.S.A. (1950). 1 ½ *. Incredibly dull, slow-moving Alan Ladd almost-noir. Don’t believe the “U.S.A.” – it takes place in a studio-created Italy. Somebody betrayed Ladd during the war and he wants to get even. I watched the thing and I’d like to get even myself.

THE CROOKED WAY (1949) – 1 ½ *. I’m a fan of John Payne, whose MIRACLE ON 34th STREET performance is pitch-perfect. Here he’s earning a paycheck as an amnesiac in a rote would-be noir that remembers only to hit every cliche, hard. I wish I could forget it.

YOU AND ME (1938) **. Probably the most interesting of these movies, but nonetheless an oddball misfire from director Fritz Lang. It’s a musical starring George Raft! Neither Raft nor co-star Sylvia Sidney sing. A Greek chorus of lowlifes, courtesy of Kurt Weill, recalls THREEPENNY OPERA, but nothing here was worth Bobby Darin covering. Bob Cummings plays a gangster!

MAN IN THE SHADOW (1957) 1 ½ *. Brain-numbingly predictable modern-day western in which the whole town stands up against a sheriff (Jeff Chandler) who wants to stand up against the rich guy who owns the place. That the rich guy is Orson Welles in a fake nose somehow only makes it worse. Written by STAR TREK scripter Gene L. Coon, who should have known better.

ASSAULT ON A QUEEN (1966) **. Conceived as a nautical take on OCEAN’S 11, and based on a Jack Finney novel, this one has Frank Sinatra very much in TONY ROME mode. Fine, but then the plot turns out to be about using a recovered Nazi sub to rob the Queen Mary. Sinatra participates because he likes the way Virna Lisi looks. I don’t disagree with that, but I wouldn’t try to knock over the Queen Mary for her, particularly in the company of an unbearable Tony Franciosa.

No Man's Woman

NO MAN’S WOMAN – (1955) *. This by-the-numbers low-end crime melodrama (calling it noir is a stretch) holds a strange fascination by playing like an early PERRY MASON episode, right down to Marie Windsor’s femme fatale racking up an array of suspects in the early reels for after she gets murdered. Just about every actor here appeared on a MASON, but without Raymond Burr, William Hopper and Barbara Hale, the result is lacking somehow.

THE ANGRY HILLS – * (1959). Barb actually brought me this at the hospital (it had arrived in the mail) because she was concerned about the effect lousy movies were having on me. Much looked forward to by me, it’s the rejoining of KISS ME DEADLY’s director (Robert Aldrich) and writer (A.I. Bezzerides). And it stars Robert Mitchum! And it blows!
During World War Two, reporter Mitchum wanders around Europe to deliver a message to somebody. The Warner Archive DVD must be the European cut, because there’s a lengthy topless dancer scene that doesn’t mitigate the agony.

CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN – (1958) **. Slow-moving, unexciting rip-off of THE MUMMY. Standard B schlock from notorious team of director Edward L. Cahn and producer Robert E. Kent. Another STAR TREK writer, Jerome Bixby, shares the guilt. Why do I do this to myself?

BEACHHEAD – (1954) **. Tony Curtis gets out-acted by Frank Lovejoy as they portray two soldiers during World War Two, who openly hate each other, yet are somehow selected to cross enemy territory together to deliver a message (Robert Mitchum wasn’t available). They pick up a cute love interest along the way (Mary Murphy of THE WILD ONE) but I still fell asleep in the middle of it and didn’t bother going back to see what I missed when I woke up.

SPELLBINDER – (1988) **½. Probably my favorite of these movies, which is the faintest of praise. An okay ‘80s horror flick with Timothy Daly doing a nice job as a regular guy who falls for gorgeous coven escapee, Kelly Preston. Think of it as ROSEMARY’S BABE, with a predictably downbeat ending.

A LOVELY WAY TO DIE – (1968) **. A goofy, crazily sexist private eye mystery that is almost enjoyable, thanks to the high energy of Kirk Douglas. But it goes on forever…well, an hour and forty-one minutes, which is long enough. Remember when a helicopter chasing a car was exciting? Me either.

And you thought you’d heard about the worst horrors that greeted me during my hospital stay!

* * *

Here’s a terrific MURDER NEVER KNOCKS review.

Jeff Pierce at the Rap Sheet wrote about the pending publication by Brash Books of my complete ROAD TO PERDITION novel. Scroll down for it.

Here, from Open Book Society, is a review of the recently re-published QUARRY’S CUT.

My pal Bill Crider wrote this great piece about QUARRY’S VOTE, also recently republished.

Finally, here’s a terrific ANTIQUES FATE review from the great Ed Gorman. The book is out soon!


Heart & Soul Pt. 3

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Before we get to the third (and final) episode of my hospital capers, I’d like to share with you the kind of e-mail that makes my days. Here goes (from “R.G.”):

“I recently discovered one of your novels in the new section of the local library. To my surprise it was a Mike Hammer mystery. I have to tell you that I’m now on my third one in the last week. I actually still have all the original paperbacks from Spillane that I purchased for sixty cents many years ago as well as all the Brett Halliday from that era. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have found you. You would swear that Spillane had finished these manuscripts himself. I had already found finished manuscripts from William Johnstone and Robert Parker but the Spillane books are incredible. I can’t wait to read the rest of them. Thank you so much for your talent.”

This kind of response is what makes it all worthwhile.

Now, part three of HEART & SOUL (some links after):

During my hospital stay, and for a week or so after, I had occasional crying jags. I am told there’s a medical term for that, which I don’t remember, though it’s specifically tied to the fact that your heart is physically removed from your body. I wouldn’t call this depression, more like emotions gone generally out of control, and in fact some of the crying was of the “I love you so much” variety (addressed to my wife, not random nurses).

Late in my stay, I had an odd experience with a crying episode. My breakfast arrived, and while it was worth crying over, that wasn’t the trigger. All I’d ordered was a biscuit with grape jelly, orange juice, and orange jello. Shortly after I finished this feast, a nurse came in and said, “You weren’t supposed to eat your breakfast before I checked your blood sugar.” Then she took the blood sample anyway, and shortly I was told that my blood sugar was very high (no kidding) and I’d be getting an insulin shot.

Understand that I hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes. But on several occasions, when my blood sugar registered high (the orange Steak-and-Shake shake I had Barb sneak me may have been one culprit), I was given insulin. This was just one of a pin-cushion parade of blood tests and blood draws and I.V,’s and shots that I was subjected to during my stay.

Well, I kind of flipped. Of course after that breakfast my blood sugar was high! I indignantly refused the insulin. Then, as I was preparing to shower, I started to cry. No doubt part of it was the problem with my hand, which at that point was pretty useless, but mostly I was frustrated with the blood sugar fuck up. One of the Occupational Therapy females arrived to help me with my shower and found me in tears. Megan, her name is, and she was sympathetic beyond words. Really talked me down off the ledge, bless her.

“I can’t take this bureaucratic shit,” I said, sobbing. “I hate bureaucracies in general, but this hospital bureaucracy is crushing me.”

Now, upon reflection, the hospital wasn’t all that bureaucratic. They had a schedule they kept, for giving you meds and drawing blood and so on, and my physical therapy (which I valued) was also structured. So mostly I think I was just riding an emotional roller coaster. I can look at it now and know two things: (a) it was no big deal, and (b) I was shattered anyway.

I believe reporting this incident to Barb convinced her more than ever that I would do better at home. My heart surgeon wanted me to stay for another week of physical therapy, but he had no idea how the endless hospital nights were dragging me down. The doctor who ran fifth-floor rehab approved my dismissal, but asked me to stay another night, to get the paperwork done. Even one more long night was hard to face, but I of course went along.

This gave the O.T. and P.T. females a day to give me final testing, and I did well on the P.T. stuff, although on the O.T. side, my hand was not progressing quickly. I was taken to a faux kitchen area to make sure I could bend down and secure pots and pans and use a microwave. Megan (again) wanted me to show her how the dishwasher worked. I said, “Sure,” and called out to Barb nearby, “Honey? Are these clean?”

Finally one of the O.T. females walked me over to a computer with keyboard and said, “You’re not leaving till you type something.” I typed “ROAD TO PERDITION by Max Allan Collins” and “TRUE DETECTIVE by Max Allan Collins.” You will be proud to hear I did not break into tears.

There were goodbyes with various nurses and nurse’s aides. One aide named Laura had a talented son in high school who got very excited when he learned I was his mom’s patient. Turned out he was a buff on famous disasters like the Titanic and the Hindenburg, so Barb rounded up copies of the entire disaster series for him. That was a nice boost for my ego, or anyway it was till I realized I couldn’t sign them for him. I did read something of his and dictated to Barb my glowing comments.

Suddenly I was in our car, being driven. The oddest thing was being reminded that we were in Rock Island, Illinois, a mere forty miles from home. It had felt like another planet. Or anyway, Chicago.

Home seemed unreal to me, but I was so glad to be there. Barb got a bench for me to sit on while showering, and rented me a claw-foot cane. I slept in my living room recliner and Barb slept on the nearby couch, so she could walk me to the bathroom should I have to get up in the night. As a middle-aged man (and for me to be middle-aged, I’ll have to live to 136), that means only about a half dozen trips per night.

Soon it became clear I needed to use the upstairs guest room, which allowed Barb to sleep in our master bedroom and put the bathroom a few steps away from me. The claw-foot cane became unnecessary at this point.

For several weeks, I had in-house therapy with both O.T. and P.T. professionals – they were great, mostly giving me exercises I could do at home (I‘m still doing them). A nurse came and gave me a medical onceover every couple of days. Oddly, she turned out to be a new neighbor of ours from two doors down.

I felt okay. My incision was bandaged in a Frankenstein’s monster manner, as were the seven incisions on my inner thighs. But I was alive. I never got the “good drugs” everybody said I could look forward to, unless you count Tylenol. The worst thing was a kind of spongy quality to my walk – it was like I was on a diving board, narrow and bouncy. But my hand responded fairly quickly to the exercises. I worked toward getting my signature back and it took only a few days.

The smartest thing I did – with Barb’s blessing – was order the new keyboard (musical not computer) I’d had my eye on prior to going in the hospital. I found immediately that I could play quite a lot, and for an hour or so a day I worked at it. For getting dexterity back, this was a Godsend. I’m still at it.

After the first week or so, Barb and I began taking the occasional meal out. We took very tentative day trips (in part so we could listen to MURDER NEVER KNOCKS read by Stacy Keach) to Davenport and Iowa City. We also went to a few movies. Barb stayed right with me, then as I got some confidence, she finally dropped me off by myself at the Davenport Barnes & Noble while she went to Von Maur to buy a girl friend an Easter present. At B & N, I spent my fifty-buck Christmas gift certificate and did not fall on my ass – a triumph!

From the start, the biggest problem has been getting my stamina and strength back. Just today I started twice-a-week eighty-minute P.T./O.T. out-patient sessions, and they are working me hard. Good things will happen.

As I wind this up, let me make a couple of points. Some of you have understandably expressed concern about me having had a stroke – hey, it was a mild one and I’m recovering quickly. This is the main thing – a little time in the hospital underscores how many people on this planet have it worse than you do.

Let me close by talking about Barb, or rather demonstrating what kind of wife and friend she is. I’d been home about four days, living on the first floor. She announced that we were going up the stairs to my office. I said, “Nothing doing.” She wouldn’t hear of that, knowing damn well I was avoiding it. She walked me into my office and the surroundings of my work life swallowed me and spit me out. She held me as, yes, I had a crying jag.

The last one.

* * *

Here’s an interesting QUARRY’S CUT review.

Lovely review here of CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL specifically and the Heller series in general.

Finally, here’s a splendid review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. Have you read that yet? Have you posted an Amazon review? Get busy!


Heart-Felt Pt. 7

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

[Update Thurs. Feb. 18 @ 3:25 PM CST] Nate here with another quick update — We’re allowed to visit Dad every two hours, and every time he’s a little bit better. We talked with the cardiac surgeon, and so far it looks like they were able to fix everything that needed fixing. They’re gradually getting him off of the machines, and he’s already started on the physical therapy, but there’s a long road to go. Thanks again for all the kind words and support.

[Update Wed. Feb. 17 @ 2:50 PM CST] Nate here: Dad came through the surgery well. It sounds like everything got put back in the right place, and he’s in recovery right now. Thank you everyone for your words and thoughts and prayers of support.

It appears, at long last, that I will be going in for the open-heart surgery – scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, a day after this update is posted. I suppose anything could happen, but right now this seems carved in stone.

I have complained here about the various postponements, but I have to admit that some part of me always relished them. I am scared shitless, frankly. Not afraid to admit that. I think Heller and Quarry would feel the same. But I have great confidence in my surgeon, and as for the aftermath, my wife and son will be there to prove my point that there are no two better examples of those roles.

Barb has been both a soft shoulder and a rock, and everything in between, as needed. I am very, very lucky, as those of you who’ve met her already know. Whenever fans come around to get to know me, and encounter Barb at my side, they go away saying, “What an incredible woman! Max Allan who?”

Now I want to thank you for your patience with this ongoing soap opera/Republic serial. Barb had warned me about posting information about this surgery, rather wisely advising me to wait till after-the-fact. And I didn’t write about it, till I knew the update would appear on the day of the surgery…and then it got postponed again, when I had complications from the initial surgery, an unclogging of a carotid artery.

But the upside is that so many of you – from close friends to acquaintances to fellow writers (many of the latter not knowing me personally at all) – have approached me with support and good wishes, which are gratifying and warmly received. I am something of a loner – only child that I am. Barb is similarly a loner, though she is one of seven. So we are loners together, not terribly social, though I like social situations, if they relate to my work and interests. What I dislike is being at a social event and, once people find out who I am and what I do, having to play performing monkey.

When I look back, my closest friends have been my bandmates and other writers, and various collaborators of assorted kinds. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of my late friend Paul Thomas, my musical collaborator for decades; or my late friend Michael Cornelison, who was at my side on all of my features and both of my documentaries, as well as my short films. Writers like Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi, and of course my longtime collaborator Matt Clemens, represent friends made through the writing trade, though they are certainly not alone.

But the nature of my business, and my personality, make me a loner. Even the names mentioned above I rarely socialized with – get-togethers tended to be work-related. So it comes as a very nice shock to me to get the support and even love of those whose paths have crossed mine, even in minor ways or sometimes just through the pages of my books and stories.

So thank you, everybody. As I’ve mentioned, I wrote several updates in advance, dealing with upcoming book releases, and they will appear over the early weeks of my convalescence. Nate will post updates here and on Facebook about my progress, and I’ll get back to my weekly updates as soon as possible.

* * *

I’m pleased to share with you this great dual review of QUARRY’S DEAL and QUARRY’S CUT at the review-site-among-review-sites, Bookgasm.

And here’s a nice review at the San Francisco Book Review of QUARRY’S LIST.


Heart-Felt Pt. 5

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
Quarry's Cut

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. The day this is posted I will be getting an out-patient procedure that will determine whether I will finally get my heart surgery, which if so, will likely (pause while I laugh hysterically) be next week. I never dreamed that I would be so eager to get an operation like this, but this has been going on since last June.

I will continue to keep you posted, and either Nate or I will provide updates here and on Facebook (our weekly ones will continue to be posted each Tuesday morning).

My apologies for this unintentional cliffhanger serial – I’m usually not quite this corny – but I continue to appreciate the support from my readers, friends and acquaintances. It’s been a great boost to the spirits.

Perhaps in honor of my inevitable surgery, the Quarry reprint out this month is QUARRY’S CUT. Also coming out this month are mass-market paperbacks of ANTIQUES SWAP and KILL ME, DARLING.

* * *

A piece of good news for longtime readers of my stuff: my complete novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION the movie is due to be published along with reprints of ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. You may recall that my PERDITION novelization was reduced to a pale shadow of itself back in the day – a 40,000 word condensation of the 70,000-word novel is what was foisted upon the public (it even made the New York Times best-seller list). As a great man once said, “Pfui.” But we appear to be on the verge of vindication.

In addition, new editions of BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING are in the works, to be published under my own name for the first time (R.I.P. Patrick Culhane).

All five of these books will be published by Brash Books, which is in part the brainchild of my buddy Lee Goldberg.

I now have in hand all five Hard Case Crime reprints of the first five QUARRY novels, each with a stunning Robert McGinnis cover. Or I do, assuming this isn’t an hallucination, which is kind of what it feels like. This latest publication of QUARRY continues to stir up reviews of a novel that was first published in 1976 – that’s forty years ago – and written a few years before that.

For example, there’s a splashy QUARRY review, featuring the McGinnis cover, in the second issue of the amazingly slick and colorful (and expensive) UK magazine, CRIME SCENE. On your newsstands now. Nice write-up, but one that includes the now-usual complaint about Quarry’s non-PC gender attitudes – again, a forty-year old book is accused of being somewhat “dated.” No one seems to mind that he’s an assassin. I guess some things just never get old.

Check out this QUARRY review from Col’s Criminal Library.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

QUARRY’S DEAL is given a fine review at Everything Noir.

Finally, here are a couple of splendid reviews from Bill Ott at Booklist that you may have missed:

Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 271 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298839).

Originally published in 1976 as The Broker, this first novel in Collins’ series starring the Vietnam-vet-turned-hit-man finds Quarry five years into his career as an assassin for hire, getting his assignments from a middleman called the Broker. Trained to kill in Vietnam, Quarry finds he quite likes the work and has no trouble distancing himself emotionally from what he does. But he doesn’t like complications, and when the Broker adds a wrinkle involving drugs to Quarry’s latest job, the hit man protests. So begins the severing of the Quarry-Broker connection, a relationship that we learn much more about in succeeding novels in the series.

Collins didn’t know Quarry would lead to a series when he was writing it, but he set the table perfectly, even so. Quarry was the first hit-man antihero in crime fiction, and, unlike most of his successors, he remains the most “pure,” in the sense that he isn’t somehow a good guy who only kills those who need killing (Dexter, et al.); no, Quarry kills for money and tells you so. Yes, he has his own sense of justice and will sometimes kill (pro bono) those he feels are on the wrong side of his very personal scales of right and wrong, but he’s still a killer more than a knight errant. And, yes, Collins makes us root for Quarry, or he draws us so completely into Quarry’s world that rooting for anybody becomes beside the point. That, after all, is the real trick to creating a compelling antihero.

Collins also pairs his antihero with a writing style that is perfect for the man and the premise: mainly straightforward, no-nonsense declarative sentences, more Hammett than Chandler, more Spillane than Hammett. Killers shouldn’t be fancy talkers, especially those who work the drab mean streets of places like the Quad Cities, spanning the Mississippi and connecting Illinois and Iowa, where the action in Quarry takes place. And, yet, just to keep us off balance, Collins will occasionally show some Chandlerian chops, as when he describes a cluster of trees “bent over green and graceful in the less than gentle afternoon breeze, like oversize, out-of-shape ballet dancers trying in vain to touch distant toes.” Even hit men can wax poetic now and again.

Although Collins originally saw Quarry as a stand-alone, he did leave his protagonist in a major pickle at the end of the book. The implication seemed to be that Quarry was doomed—a fitting end for a one-off noir—but when an editor asked the author to write more about the character, Collins was happy to find a way to get Quarry out of his pickle. When Hard Case finishes its reissuing of the first five Quarries, there will be a total of 11 pickle jars on the shelf (the original five plus the six Collins has written since he brought back the series in 2006)—and plenty of room for more.

Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 219 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298853).

His relationship with the man known only as the Broker irretrievably broken in Quarry, the first in the series, Collins’ hit-man-for-hire hopes to develop a new business plan. Without the Broker to act as middleman, setting up clients for Quarry and others to kill, it could prove difficult to find marks, but Quarry has grown disenchanted with working through someone else and wants to go another way. But before that can happen, he must deal with the other hit men he knows will be coming for him, as various lethal entrepreneurs vie for the prize of taking over the Broker’s business. Quarry is ready when they come and dispatches a pair of killers with little trouble, but that’s only the beginning. Tracking back to find the man who wants him killed, he falls hard for a blonde in a swimming pool, only to discover that she’s the Broker’s wife and, further, that the man he is hunting is setting up a hit on Mrs. Broker. A plan is forming in Quarry’s mind: the killers in the Broker’s employ will all contract with other brokers eventually and go back to work. If Quarry can find the Broker’s list of killers, he can start his own business by tracking them to their next jobs and hiring himself out to their would-be victims: pay me, and I’ll kill the guy hired to kill you. It’s an ingenious scheme, but there’s lots of preparatory killing to do first.

Hats off to Collins: he needed a scheme to keep his series going, and he found a doozy. As Quarry puts it, “I’d still be killing people, but for the most part it would just be other hit men, like myself, and that seemed a step up somehow.” Originally published in 1976 as The Broker’s Wife, Quarry’s List is being reissued by Hard Case Crime along with the four other early Quarry novels (Collins took a 30-year hiatus from the series before bringing Quarry back in 2006). This one shows Collins developing the storytelling skills that eventually will define his long career as a genre writer. His plots are tricky but never overly so; like the late, great Ross Thomas, he knows how to build a maze but not lose his readers in it before showing them a way out. So it is here, as Quarry must juggle various pieces on a moving chessboard: the list, the widow, the killers, the plan. Fortunately for genre fans, Quarry (and Collins) are up to the challenge.