Posts Tagged ‘Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market’

Not Just Yet, Bobby

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Actor Robert Forster died last Friday at age 78. He was a terrific actor, probably best known for Jackie Brown (for which he received an Oscar nomination), but more recently he appeared in both Breaking Bad and the latest iteration of Twin Peaks. I met him once and got to spend a little time with him.

I ask your patience while I establish a little context for what follows.

Some of you may know I wrote a movie called The Expert (1994), which wound up an HBO World Premiere. How I came to write it (and the slings and arrows that followed) is worth its own entry here. But suffice to say I made several trips to L.A. to work with director William Lustig on what was, initially, meant to be a remake of Jules Dassin’s great prison picture, Brute Force.

I got this opportunity because Lustig and his producing partner, Andy Garoni, optioned my Nolan and Quarry novels with an eye on having me do the screenplays. They knew I had never written for the screen before but they liked the books, found me knowledgeable about film, and I talked a good game. So I was invited onto their latest project, then still called Brute Force. As it happened, I needed a lot of help, and Lustig became my teacher, with Garoni assisting.

Lustig, who I got along with very well, was a brutal taskmaster but also a coddling parent. I would put in several hours at Lustig’s place; between sessions, he would take me to either a deli-style restaurant for a meal (corn beef, pastrami, swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw on rye please) or to somewhere I could slake my laser disc addiction. Bill had the same laser disc jones, and once took me to a laser disc store famously frequented by film directors (Lustig being one, but also people like Brian DePalma and Joe Dante). I didn’t buy much there because it was full retail, but Lustig also helped me hit several Tower Records (R.I.P.) and I scored mightily.

Bill was friends with Forster, who had appeared in several Lustig-directed pictures, including Vigilante and Maniac Cop 3, and – as a treat for me – he invited his pal Bob to have lunch with us at an excellent deli, the name of which escapes me.

I was a fan. Robert Forster had been a big-league movie star out of the gate (Reflections in a Golden Eye and Medium Cool) and then became a TV lead on Nakia and Banyon – the latter was a pioneering period private eye show, with Forster’s Banyon inhabiting a Bradbury Building office prior to both Jake Axminster and Nate Heller (but not Mike Hammer). And for several decades Forster was a top network TV guest star.

To say Robert Forster was warm and down-to-earth, at our luncheon, would be an understatement. He was appearing in a play and, as I recall, he had to drive a distance to the theater – he was doing a friend a favor when another actor had to drop out. But he lingered with us, chatting as long as he dared without risking being late for curtain. He came prepared to meet a fan, bringing gifts for me – a lovely black globe-shaped paperweight, which I still have and display, and a VHS copy of his private eye movie, Hollywood Harry.

What I remember most vividly from the lunch is an anecdote Forster shared, clearly intended to help me on my own learning adventure in film, which I was attempting under Lustig’s guidance.

The actor told me how intimidated he was, when he landed his first film role in a very big-time production, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). He’d be co-starring with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, and directed by John Huston. He’d been spotted on Broadway, and Huston gave him the role after an audition.

Thus began, over several months, a process in which Forster asked the director, “Mr. Huston, do you have any special instructions for me?” Huston would always reply, “Not just yet, Bobby. Not just yet.” At every encounter with the crustily friendly legendary director, Forster would ask again. Not just yet, Bobby. After the table read of the script – not just yet, Bobby. After the wardrobe fitting – not just yet, Bobby. After make-up tests – not just yet. Half a dozen times or more – any special instructions? Not just yet, Bobby.

Finally the time came to shoot the first scene, the lighting ready, the camera in place, Forster about to make his on-screen debut in the company of Taylor and Brando. This time Forster didn’t ask, but Huston said, “Bobby? Now.” Yes, Mr. Huston. The director walked him over to the big 35mm camera aimed at the empty set, slipped an arm around his young star and eased him close, so that Forster could look right into the viewfinder at the Panavision rectangle.

“Fill that with something interesting,” Huston said.

Great advice.

My pal Leonard Maltin wrote his own reminiscence about his good friend and you should check it out.

* * *

Road to Perdition is one of Paul Newman’s best films, it says here.

Here’s a lovely Ms. Tree piece.

Road to Perdition is featured in this dubious list which names ten crime movie masterpieces that you’ve probably seen (except you’ve probably seen them all, if you’re reading this).

Here’s a nice review of Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.

A good Ms. Tree review here.

Finally, my brief Batman comic strip run is discussed here. I didn’t really “ghost-write” it though – my name was forced off the strip (like me!) by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate.

M.A.C.

Veronica Mars Attacks

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

This weekend Barb and I went to St. Louis to visit our son Nate (who as you may know runs this site) and his terrific wife, Abby. I finished the Spillane western novel THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK (but for a two-day edit, which will begin today), so I could really use the break. Ditto Barb, who recently finished her draft of ANTIQUES SWAP. But the main reason for the trip was seeing the VERONICA MARS movie.

I am a Kickstarter backer of the movie. You’re welcome. But its limited run (pretty much strictly AMC theaters) did not bring the film to our area, so going to see it in St. Louis made a lot of sense, since we hadn’t seen Nate and Abby in a while, and we could do a late celebration of my birthday – Nate even sprung for the tickets. As a harbinger of senility, I forgot to wear one of the two VERONICA MARS t-shirts I received as a backer, a slip that Nate gleefully reminded me of numerous times.

Nate’s presence, despite his sarcastic nature (which I have no idea where he got), was key because – like Barb – he was a VERONICA MARS fan as well. This was an enthusiasm grown from a binge-watch, because I did not discover the show till I’d seen Kristen Bell in REEFER MADNESS and realized she was a special talent. Yes, and blonde and beautiful, but that’s just petty of you to mention. By way of prep for the film, Barb and I binge re-watched the three seasons in three weeks, and Nate and Abby did pretty much the same, though I believe it took them four weeks…a barely adequate performance, if you ask me.

As for the movie itself, as one of the producers (you’re welcome), I am biased. But all four of us loved it. I can’t be sure, but I think it will work well on moviegoers with a bent toward mystery and specially noir P.I. whether they’ve seen the original series or not. It manages to be at once a movie and a great VERONICA MARS episode. The mystery is not really the thing here – the movie is about its main character making a life/career decision – but the whodunit aspect is typically twisty and twisted in the fashion of the series.

As the co-creator of MS. TREE, I appreciate the way creator Rob Thomas (co-writer and director here) transforms wise-guy PI dialogue – and a tough guy attitude – by placing them in the mouth and body of a lovely young woman. Veronica Mars is slightly off-kilter, at least a little nuts, like Mike Hammer, Jake Axminster and Nate Heller (and Ms. Tree). The film has plenty of call-back references to the show itself, and many, even most, cast members (including non-recurring ones) turn up in a way that will tickle fans but doesn’t get in the way of the appreciation of non-fans. Working on these two levels is terribly tricky, and I admire the screenplay for pulling off something that I feared might be impossible.

Everybody is good, but Bell is remarkable – so badly or unimaginatively used elsewhere (fie on you, HOUSE OF LIES), she has a confidence and ease in this role that indicates she is well aware it’s her signature one. Her father Keith, as played by Enrico Colantoni, is equally good, and remains the heart of VERONICA MARS. Jason Dohring as Veronica’s stormy love interest does a beautiful job of taking his character somewhere new while remaining the same guy…again, not easy. In fact, the entire film and its cast does well by the passage of time, and making a ten year class reunion for Neptune High a major set piece and plot mover here is just another example of how good Rob Thomas is with this property that he clearly loves.

The film, in its limited release, had an impressive opening weekend. It’s a unique release with VOD simultaneous and a Blu-ray/DVD coming very soon. I hope that the film’s success – and it already is a success, just by existing – leads either to more features or a renewed series. As much fun as it is to see VERONICA MARS on a bigger landscape – which Thomas managed to pull off on an under-$6 mil budget – this is a story and world best served by series television.

After all, VERONICA MARS is easily in the top ten private eye shows of all time. And in my top five – at the top.

Okay, since you asked nicely:

VERONICA MARS
CITY OF ANGELS
MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER (McGavin)
A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY
THE ROCKFORD FILES
Runner up: PETER GUNN

* * *

Speaking of movies, a very nice if extremely belated review of REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET market has popped up at the Bookgasm movie spin-off, FLICK ATTACK.

Here’s a nice, smart review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

Finally, here’s a terrific Publisher’s Weekly review for the upcoming ANTIQUES CON:

“In Allan’s humorous eighth whodunit (after 2013’s Antiques Chop), Brandy Borne and her quirky mother, Vivian, travel from quiet Serenity, Iowa, along with their blind, diabetic shih tzu, Sushi, to New York City, where they hope to auction their prized possession—an original Superman drawing—at a comic convention. On arrival at Bufford Con, organized by comic purist Tommy Bufford, the pair soon learn that all is not well. The old comic convention guard are none too pleased about Tommy’s new competing event, which may explain why the prize pen ends up as a murder weapon. Mysterious deaths follow Brandy and Vivian wherever they go, but these two spunky out-of-towners always manage to find crafty ways to avoid sticky situations in the big city. Tips about comics collecting add to the cozy fun. Allan is the pseudonym of Barbara and Max Allan Collins.”

M.A.C.

A Buck-Twenty-Five A Movie

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

If any of you are interested, THE BLACK BOX, the boxed set DVD collection of my indie movies – MOMMY, MOMMY’S DAY, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET and SHADES OF NOIR (which includes the original, longer cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as well as the Brian Keith “Mike Hammer” pilot from 1954) – is on sale at Oldies.com for $4.98. That’s a savings of $30.

I want to thank all of you who sent supportive comments (sometimes as private e-mails) after my post last week, complaining about various aspects of the writer’s life, now that I am officially old enough to be a complaining coot. I am considering putting a rocking chair on the porch and writing further updates there on a laptop.

For the record, it took four work days to put ASK NOT back together (also for the record, my editor at Forge was completely on my side and reinstated everything I requested). To give you an idea of how extreme the ASK NOT copy edit was, I also dealt this week with the copy-edited manuscript of the upcoming thriller WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU from Thomas & Mercer. It took one work day.

Dead Man Down

We saw an interesting crime movie that I am going to recommend, though it is not perfect: DEAD MAN DOWN. It’s directed by Niels Arden Oplev, of the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and stars the “girl” herself, the indelible Noomi Rapace, probably my favorite actress working today. I used to not care for Colin Ferrell, but as his star has faded somewhat, his acting has improved immeasurably – he’s terrific here in a subtle, understated performance as a guy who is anything but subtle and understated. It’s a revenge film, with a great premise, but I sometimes felt the foreign director didn’t entirely understand the English language script – it’s a little too long, and some things don’t quite track. But the central romance between two damaged souls and the outlandish shoot-‘em-up finale are well worth the time of anybody interested in crime movies. It has one of the great screen Mike Hammers, Armand Assante, in a small but pivotal role.

SOTI

The reviews for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT continue to roll in, in a very positive way. Let’s start with something I rarely do – customer reviews at Amazon, which includes one from Bookreporter. By the way, if you want to help out your favorite authors (including, I hope, me), a great, easy way is to post a brief four- or five-star review at Amazon, assuming you like what you’ve read. Those reviews really, really count.

Here’s a cool one from the International House of Geek (the fantastic blog names just keep coming).

And here’s a great one from Mystery People.

A somewhat horror-tinged positive review appears here, at The October Country (R.I.P., Ray Bradbury).

Here’s a patronizing but ultimately positive review from the UK’s Telegraph.

Here’s Comic Buzz on SEDUCTION. I’m very pleased that so many comics blogs have picked up on the book.

And what author doesn’t love getting an A+, as happens here at Fandom Post.

Publisher’s Weekly is getting cranky in its old age, but this review of the upcoming ANTIQUES CHOP is pretty good.

PW also isn’t much impressed with the upcoming Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, considering it more of the same. First of all, if somebody gives you a hot-fudge sundae when you order one, do you complain that it’s more of the same? Second of all, this is the book where Mike Hammer goes to Russia. Not more of the same – one of the most distinctive books in the series, in my opinion, one of Mickey’s most unusual, even unique plots.

Scroll down for a tardy but fantastic review of THE CONSUMMATA.

And finally Pop Cults weighs in with a late but lovely LADY, GO DIE! review.

M.A.C.

Heller Gets Romantic

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Publisher’s Weekly – where a rave review of the upcoming BYE BYE, BABY appeared recently – has just further showcased the new Heller novel with an interview with me in the current issue. Nate Heller is the “Zelig” of mystery fiction, we’re told. For a while he was the Forrest Gump of mystery fiction, but now he’s Zelig again, it would seem. Either way’s cool with me.

Romantic Times – where “Barbara Allan” has frequently received wonderful reviews and where I have never been individually reviewed (before) – has offered a splendid BYE BYE, BABY review. Check this out:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Mystery, Historical

Sharp dialogue, perfect pacing, fascinating characters and the unraveling of a mystery that has always caught the public’s imagination makes for riveting fiction. This is a Hollywood novel that’s more interesting than the true story — if, in fact, it’s not what really happened anyway. Collins’ twist on this American mystery simply can’t be put down until the last page has been read.

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe is being harassed by everyone from her studio to the president and his brother, who want her to disappear almost as much as they want to bed her. Marilyn asks PI Nate Heller to tap her phone so she’ll have a record of the calls. Nate finds out she’s already being tapped — by the CIA, the FBI and the mafia. An icon whose connection to the White House makes her an object of interest for too many parties, Marilyn turns up dead not long after Nate plants the bug — by all accounts either a suicide or an accident. Nate’s not buying it and feels he owes it to her to find out what happened. (FORGE, Aug., 336 pp., $24.99)

Reviewed By: Pat Cooper

Canada’s National Post interviewed me for an article about continuing iconic characters, as I have with Mike Hammer and as Jeff Deaver is doing with James Bond. A nice little article worth checking out.

This article gives us the 13 most infamous Irish gangsters – and the first is Mickey Spillane…not Mike Hammer’s Mickey, but the real-life mob guy with whom our Mickey was frequently confused. Also include is John Looney, who likely would not have made this list without his latterdary ROAD TO PERDITION fame (which rates a mention).

The amazing Paul Bishop has been kind enough to talk up the forthcoming Heller collection, CHICAGO LIGHTNING, at his fun site, as well as the AmazonEncore reprints of the first twelve novels in the saga.

Out of the blue comes a nice little write-up on my years on the DICK TRACY strip. Two quibbles: Flattop is a ‘40s villain, not a ‘30s one; and frankly my years on the strip don’t have many naysayers that I ever heard about.

I was a little shocked, if pleasantly so, to discover this really smart and appreciative review of my 2001 security-cam feature, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET. This is worth a look.

Somebody else out there in the cyberverse has noticed my DVD collection, SHADES OF NOIR – with an emphasis on the Quarrry short film, “A Matter of Principal.” The writer has no idea a novel and film were expanded from that, but it’s a nice write-up, anyway.

Successful novelist Jonathan Maberry has gathered Scribes nominees together for a joint interview, of which I am a part.

And at the Top Suspense blog, we’re still discussing techniques of suspense, with my contribution finally getting posted.

The rave reviews of the Criterion DVD/Blu-ray of KISS ME DEADLY (often with nice mention of my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, a special feature on the disc) keep rolling in.

This KISS ME DEADLY review has lots of information but opinions that seem questionable (though the guy likes my documentary, so he’s not all bad).

And here’s another KISS ME DEADLY review.

And another.

And another – one of the most interesting.

Finally, please check out Ed Gorman’s coverage at his blog of the passing of the great Marty Greenberg. My comments about him as an editor and man are included. If you have been a reader of mystery and/or science-fiction short stories in the past four decades or so, you have been touched by this wonderful man.

M.A.C.