Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Ex’

Sex And Violence

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

When I set out to write hardboiled mystery novels, very much influenced by Mickey Spillane and the Gold Medal writers, I made sure my work was strong on sex and violence. I still do. Not only are these ingredients key to the noir sensibility, they represent (as I’ve said numerous times) the big topics: life and death.

And while my historical novels have an element of education/information in them, the primary purpose is to entertain, and usually in the fashion that I established early on – meaning there will be sex and violence.

Over the years this has been commented on occasionally by reviewers, but not really that often – the subject tends to come up in a more general way, i.e., why is there so much sex and violence in noir fiction?

But in the past several years, I have been getting criticized much more often about the sexual component of the books. I don’t mean to defend myself here or to complain about those reviews – I am just observing that there seems to be something afoot in the culture, something more staid, even more prudish. I graduated high school in 1966, so the sexual revolution was all around me, reflected in popular culture from underground comix to nudity-flung films.

So what’s up lately with this anti-sex scene sentiment? And almost always coming from men. Men who don’t want to read about sex. Which strikes me as bewildering. These comments often come from readers who otherwise like the books. Here’s an excerpt from an Amazon Review of CARNAL HOURS that is otherwise a rave:

“The author seems determined to inject some short, steamy sex episodes in each book. These are gratuitous and serve no purpose other than to establish the ‘ladies man’ reputation of Heller, which could be accomplished without the silly detail. I’m not prudish but each time these short episodes struck me as stupid and juvenile.”

I might wonder why any reader of book with the word “carnal” in the title would be surprised to find sex scenes in that book. But this Amazon reviewer is joined by a handful of professional reviewers who have lately made similar comments. George Easter, for example, in the fine magazine Deadly Pleasures, made that his sole carp in a very positive review of BYE BYE, BABY.

Again, I mention this because I find it odd, not to complain about it or defend myself. I will say this: anyone who considers the sex scenes in Nathan Heller novels to be mere gratuitous porn isn’t really paying attention. I don’t believe there is a single Heller sex scene involving my guy with some casual pick-up in a bar or whatever – there are references to such happenings, but they remain off-stage. The sexual encounters are there for characterization reasons, usually to build emotion and establish a closeness, even a love, between Heller and a woman who is crucial to the tale being told, often tragic romances as in TRUE DETECTIVE, TRUE CRIME, THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND, FLYING BLIND and BYE BYE, BABY. Some of these are real women, like Amelia Earhart, Sally Rand and Evelyn MacClean Walsh, and this gets me nasty letters at times (“How dare you?”). I had death threats over my depiction of Earhart as bisexual. Here’s the thing: Nate Heller didn’t have sex with any of these women, because Nate Heller is a fictional character.

My sex scenes do make people uncomfortable at times, and I’m rather proud of that. A mystery writer pal of mine, when TRUE DETECTIVE came out, was offended (perhaps the term is “grossed out”) that Heller used condoms and he and the lady in question cleaned up after the act. The sex was too real, apparently. An editor talked me into toning down oral sex passages in ANGEL IN BLACK…between Heller and his wife (oral sex was both characterization and a major clue in that novel).

Anyway, if you guys out there want to skip the sex scenes, fine by me. My generation of guys would more likely have underlined them. If this is progress, count me out.

And isn’t it interesting that none of these reviewers have ever complained about the graphic blood-splattering violence in my work?

* * *

We had a very nice review for the upcoming Barbara Allan, ANTIQUES DISPOSAL, in Publisher’s Weekly.

Our good friend and that good writer Ron Fortier wrote a lovely review of ANTIQUES DISPOSAL on his fun Pulp Fiction web site.

Brandywine Books posted yet another fine Heller review, this time looking at TRUE DETECTIVE.

The low price ($2) this month of FLYING BLIND on Kindle e-book caught some nice attention here.

Perfect Crime Books has announced their Nolan reprint series, with all the covers posted.

The quirky and entertaining Temple of Schlock reviewed THE CONSUMMATA, and back on my birthday took an eccentric look at QUARRY’S EX.

Nate is heading to Japan for a month on a business vacation. He will still be handling the weekly Updates, but they will likely be a little shorter in the near future. Also, I’m working on ANTIQUES CHOP, which means you may be spared these longer entries until I am finished and Nate returns.

M.A.C.

Raymond Burr Isn’t In It

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
MM9

Nathan has a new book that’s just out from Viz, MM9 – his translation of Hiroshi Yamamoto’s fun novel about Godzilla-style monsters, which I really enjoyed.

Here’s the official description:

“Japan is beset by natural disasters all the time: typhoons, earthquakes, and…giant monster attacks. A special anti-monster unit called the Meteorological Agency Monsterological Measures Department (MMD) has been formed to deal with natural disasters of high “monster magnitude.” The work is challenging, the public is hostile, and the monsters are hungry, but the MMD crew has science, teamwork…and a legendary secret weapon on their side. Together, they can save Japan, and the universe!”

If you like Japanese monster movies, you do not want to miss this.

Here’s a really nice QUARRY’S EX review from Bookhound.

And check out this short but sweet KISS HER GOODBYE review.

Jon L. Breen is a reviewer who has always been kind to me, but really doesn’t care for Mickey Spillane much. But he’s very good to KISS HER GOODBYE in this multiple review article (looking at continuations of famous series) in the Weekly Standard.

Another piece that compares the graphic novel and film versions of ROAD TO PERDITION has popped up, favoring the former. I like the movie myself, but this writer does sort out the relative strengths and weaknesses of both. Worth taking a look.

Vince Keenan has done a nice piece on the posthumously published Don Westlake novel, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED. It talks about my role in bringing this excellent lost book to print, finally.

I am at the half-way mark of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. For those wondering, I’m deep in the bunker and often blow off phone calls and e-mails – Barb does all the driving when I’m in this much of a daze, much more in the world of the novel than the (so-called) real one.

But I will be emerging like a ground hog seeking his shadow this coming Saturday night (January 28) at Ducky’s Lagoon in Andalusia, Illinois (near the Quad Cities). It will mark the first public appearance of the band with new bass player Brian Van Winkle, guitarist Jim’s brother (we have played one private party with Brian). The performance will be dedicated to the memory of founding member, bassist Chuck Bunn.

M.A.C.

On The Road With Vanilla Fudge

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Return to Perdition

The final (chronological) entry in the ROAD TO PERDITION saga, RETURN TO PERDITION, is available now. So are handsome new editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and ROAD TO PERDITION 2: ON THE ROAD.

I’m very pleased with how RETURN TO PERDITION has come out, and my longtime MS. TREE collaborator Terry Beatty has done a great job capturing a ‘70s feel for the final blood-and-sex-drenched chapter in the O’Sullivan saga.

Response so far has been great. Publisher’s Weekly gave us a fine review and so did Ain’t It Cool News.

Craig Clarke has nice, smart things to say, too.

And we’re turning up at various comics (and other pop culture) sites with write-ups like this one at Criminal Complex, this one at Bloody Disgusting, and IGN, too.

THE CONSUMMATA continues to get strong reviews, like this one.

And that talented writer Mike Dennis likes QUARRY’S EX.

The Simon and Kirby CRIME collection I wrote the intro to is getting some attention, as well.

CHICAGO LIGHTNING, the new Heller collection, got a great write-up here, though what I have to do with “faith fiction” is a mystery to me.

And BYE BYE, BABY rates a smug dismissal from a guy at Huffington Post, who spends a lot of time on a book he feels superior to. He starts out saying he can’t understand why anybody would still be interested in Marilyn Monroe, qualifying as an idiot right out of the gate. He claims I don’t give a solution to the mystery of Marilyn’s death, which of course I do, and says my writing – like the sex scenes in my book – are “gratuitous and mechanical.” Okay, well, unless you’re making babies, all sex is gratuitous, and let’s have more of it, sez I. It’s also by definition mechanical, as in INSERT A into B – STIR. He appears to have listened to the audio, not actually the book, and I include this here mostly because he’s smart enough to acknowledge what a great job Dan John Miller is doing reading the new Heller audios.

Vanilla Fudge
Vanilla Fudge on stage at Vipers Alley.

Last Thursday, Barb and I went to a place called Viper’s Alley in Lincolnshire, Illinois (Chicago area) to see my favorite American band from the Sixties, Vanilla Fudge. These guys were incredibly influential, really the fathers of Metal, but what I loved were the over-the-top, melodramatic symphonies they conjured out of songs like “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Shotgun,” “Some Velvet Morning,” and “She’s Not There.” B-3 organist and lead singer Mark Stein was my musical idol back in the day (really, still is), and had an enormous influence on both my singing and keyboard playing.

Vanilla Fudge
Chatting with legendary guitarist Vince Martell.

The Fudge was only together for a few years, and around ‘68-‘69, I missed several opportunities to see them at the Col Ballroom in Davenport because my own band had a conflicting gig. In recent years, the Fudge have begun to appear (and occasionally record) again, at first without Stein, but more recently with him. Great bassist Tim Bogert has stepped down from touring (health problems, I believe) but the other three – Stein, guitarist Vince Martell, and drummer Carmen Appice – are still appearing with a strong fill-in bassist, who does Bogert’s distinctive parts perfectly.

Vanilla Fudge
Chatting with one of rock’s great drummers, Carmen Appice.

Anyway, they were fantastic. The venue was intimate for this kind of thing, and the band was very unpretentious for as wonderfully bombastic as their playing is. They did their entire first album, which has recently gone platinum (“Took long enough,” Stein said) and then selectively material from later albums like “Season of the Witch” from the classic Renaissance and “Dazed and Confused” from their recent Led Zeppelin tribute album (Zeppelin first toured opening for the Fudge). Appice, as rock fans out there know, is one of the three or four greatest drummers in the history of rock, and did an amazing drum solo. And yes, they did all the high harmonies, awash in Stein’s B-3 organ with its Leslie speakers distorting just enough.

Vanilla Fudge
With Mark Stein, the lead singer and keyboard of Vanilla Fudge.

Afterward, I was able to meet the band members and get CD’s autographed. They were gracious and very down-to-earth.

I didn’t get to see Bobby Darin live, or the Beatles, but the other group on that very short list has been finally checked off (I’ve already seen Weezer…twice).

M.A.C.

Nobody Died

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I am pleased to report that none of my friends died this week (Clemens, you can come out of your hidey hole).

If you have Facebook, you can check out this superior audience recording of “Alley Cats” with Mike and Nick Cornelison. You can get pretty much all of the dialogue. Several people have asked me what the requirements were for this competition, and I have frankly forgotten the exact instructions (which I received over the phone). There was a name and job description of one of the characters, the line “That’s gonna leave a mark,” the need to be a “buddy film” situation, the use of a manila envelope, and maybe a couple of other things. The audience knew of these requirements and sometimes ahhhed and even applauded when they were worked smoothly in. Understand, this was an under-the-gun competition – actors and crew waiting for me to quickly turn out a script that they could execute in under a week.

My buddy Parnell Hall has made some fun You Tube song videos about the writing game. Crusin’ and I (and lots of bigtime writers, including Crusin’ guest artists Val McDermid and Bob Randisi) participated in a new e-book-centric vid mostly shot at Bouchercon in St. Louis. (That makes our appearance the last video recording of the band with Chuck Bunn.)

Nice reviews for various M.A.C. stuff continue apace. That fine human and terrific writer Bill Crider contributed a great CONSUMMATA review.

This review from Bookgasm is kind of odd. The reviewer seems to like me and the Quarry series, but mis-reads QUARRY’S EX as a prequel to THE FIRST QUARRY, which I think it clearly isn’t. He doesn’t seem to like Quarry’s encounters with B-movie actors, either, and doesn’t seem to care for (or “get,” in my view) a novel that otherwise has earned glowing reviews. Still, always nice to be noticed by Bookgasm, a really great review site.

On a happier note, renowned comics writer John Ostrander provides a great BYE BYE, BABY review at my pal Mike Gold’s ComicMix site.

For those wondering what I’m up to this week, I am continuing work on a book entitled SPILLANE ON FILM with my ONE LONELY KNIGHT collaborator, Jim Traylor.

M.A.C.