Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s War’

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.

* * *

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.


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.


The Year in Movies

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Okay, here are my annual movie awards. I have generously given awards this time to just about every movie I saw. Now, I will see a few more, probably, before year’s end and will likely comment on them. But for now…

Best film in a series I have no excuse for liking:

Best film in another series I have no excuse for liking:

Best film I’m mentioned in the end credits of:

Best sequel of the year:

Worst film starring Matt Damon:

Worst film we didn’t walk out of:

Best horror film of the year:

Most overrated sequel of the year:

Movie we walked out on but other people liked:

Worst movie I didn’t see:

Series most wearing out its welcome:

Series least wearing out its welcome:

Most disappointing sequel:

Best superhero movie (okay, heroine):

Best movie in proposed series that will never happen:

Worst movie in proposed series that will never happen:

Best crime movie:

Best movie that will have Kevin Spacey in it for a long, long time:

Second best superhero movie:

Most satisfying series entry:

Best historical film:

Another movie we walked out on that some people liked:

Stephen King movie that sucks a little less than people say:

Best movie of the year:

Sequel better than the original but still no great shakes:

Movie we walked out on featuring cute nuns and Samuel Jackson:

Best crime film that isn’t BABY DRIVER:

Best thriller nobody saw:

Best Stephen King movie and not at all sucky:

Half good, half bad movie of the year:

Sorta true movie the critics should have liked more:

Movie we walked out on that you have no excuse liking:

Second-best horror movie of the year:

Best GROUNDHOG DAY rip-off:

Movie I almost went to and then I read the reviews:

Second-best superhero movie of the year:

Best remake but still not as good as the original:

Best historical movie viewed through rose-colored glasses:

Worst superhero movie (in which Lois Lane tells Superman he smells good after he’s been dead and buried for a while):

Best actress in a terrific DC movie and also best actress in a terrible DC movie:

Best Christmas movie (and pretty good other days too):

Movie I really, really hated but didn’t see:

* * *

Here’s a very nice review of Quarry’s War issue #1.

Check out this nice write-up on the film Road to Perdition with a lot of stuff about the graphic novel, too.


Hey Kids! Comics!

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

The first of the four-issue serialization of Quarry’s War, the character’s first graphic novel appearance, goes on sale November 29. There are three alternate covers, designed to fleece you, er, give you an opportunity to choose the one you like best.

This link will take you to all of the covers plus a five-page preview.

The four issues will be collected as a trade paperback, though I don’t know when – sometime next year. To some degree, this project happened because of the TV show, and since Cinemax did not take Quarry past the first season, I can’t be sure there will be another graphic novel.

What this did provide me with was an opportunity to explore Quarry’s back story more thoroughly and do something about his Vietnam experiences. The first three issues are evenly divided between Vietnam and a post-Vietnam assignment from the Broker. The fourth issue kind of pulls both story lines together.

The graphic novel was, in part, a response to the Cinemax series with its Vietnam emphasis. But mostly the visual format of comics made it the perfect place to show what Quarry’s life was like overseas, as well as explore his beginnings from boot camp to the Broker first knocking on his door.

Also, his restrained response to the guy who’d been cheating with Quarry’s Joni.

* * *

I am two chapters in on Do No Harm and, while it’s a pleasure to be with Nate Heller again, brother is it hard. I kidded myself thinking this would be an “easy” Heller. The case is complex and I have a time-hopping structure that may make me (but I hope not you) dizzy.

I managed to get a little work done over Thanksgiving and the long weekend. But with Nathan, Abby and two-year-old Sam visiting, that wasn’t always easy – also, I was busy falling off my stay-away-from-sugar-and-starch diet, eating the equivalent of an entire pecan pie over a three-day period. In my defense, Barb makes the best pecan pie anywhere. Ask Nate.

Also, I am embarrassed to report that there is sad news for the rest of you: none of you have children or grandchildren as cute and smart as Sam Collins. My apologies.

* * *

A very nice Big Showdown review by that fine writer James Reasoner can be found here. Mr. Reasoner has forgotten more about writing westerns than I will ever know, so this one felt especially good.

And speaking of the late/great Quarry TV series, this blog concludes with a look at the episode I wrote.

Full confession: my work on the Quarry series was stretched out over two episodes (the next one after the one reviewed here). The other writer and I were each assigned a solo writing credit for one episode for reasons I’m not entirely clear on. I also wrote (and was paid for) an episode for season two, which of course was never filmed.