Posts Tagged ‘Reeder & Rogers’

Cruse Control

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

I realize, as the writer entrusted by Mickey Spillane to complete his Mike Hammer novels-in-progress, that I have a good number of conservative fans. Few if any of them are concerned that my views are too left-leaning for the task – I don’t write my point of view when I’m doing Mike Hammer, I write his.

Also, I try not to indulge in politics here. I don’t want to alienate readers, or collaborators who might hold other opinions.

But I would be remiss not to share an opinion in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. Here it is: you don’t need an assault rifle to kill a deer, unless Bambi has one, too.

* * *

My first Crusin’ gig post-heart-surgery went well, if not perfectly. It was a hot, humid afternoon in Muscatine, Iowa, though a nice breeze rolled in off the river. The event was open to the public, designed as an after-work event for downtown merchants and businesses. Our host, the First National Bank, did a great, fun job creating a 1970s class-reunion vibe. On the slight downside, this tended to make us background music and not the main event.

I was a little frustrated that I had to curtail my showmanship because of my limited stamina – I feel like I’m just playing and singing, and that’s only half of the job. And during the last half hour of the two-hour gig, I seriously ran out of gas. I don’t think it was terribly (if at all noticeable) by the audience, but I knew it and so did Barb. But I made it. It was a start.


Brad Schwartz and M.A.C.

That was Thursday of last week. On Friday and Saturday, Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer – both making considerable treks to join me – met at my house to work on the joint Eliot Ness/Al Capone non-fiction book we are doing. We sold the book, based on a proposal and sample chapter, a year ago, and this was our first face-to-face since. There’s a reason for that.

I learned on the set of QUARRY in New Orleans that we’d made the sale…and the night before I’d suffered congestive heart failure. So it’s taken a while for me to get in shape for such a meeting.

But these two guys know their subject inside/out. We talked strategy and scheduling and much more. We also watched two movies about the Capone case – the embarrassingly lousy SPECIAL AGENT (1935) with Bette Davis and George Brent (and Ricardo Cortez as the Capone figure!), and the very, very good UNDERCOVER MAN (1949) with the always top-notch Glenn Ford, directed by Joseph Lewis of GUN CRAZY fame. The latter film is practically a schematic for THE UNTOUCHABLES TV series, though the hero is not Ness but the over-rated IRS agent, Frank Wilson.

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The Rock and Hall of Fame discussion rolls on. Witness Micheal Tearson’s comment:

As for the R&R Hall, that’s been kind of a bugaboo for me. I had to deal with it constantly while I was working on Sirius/XM’s Deep Tracks channel which was pretty closely aligned with the Hall’s own channel (same administrator for quite a while). It became my view that the Hall has long since lost any focus on R&R as more and more artists with little or nothing to do with rock & roll have been honored. My top omission would be Procol Harum (Love is another). I’d also argue they have been very harsh on prog rock by skipping Moody Blues, Yes and ELP, all of whom have had very influential careers.

And “robbiecube”:

As much as I think the RRHOF is a scam, when acts I dig get ignored as disco & rap acts are inducted, I need to vent. And by vent, I mean list the acts I believe should already be in the hall;

Blue Oyster Cult / Procol Harum / Thin Lizzy / Kate Bush / Rory Gallagher / MC5 / Motorhead / Mose Allison / Grand Funk Railroad / Johnny Rivers / X / XTC / Pretty Things / J. Geils Band / Husker Du / The Jam / Deep Purple.

I think Michael’s remarks show that each generation has its own valid complaints about which acts have been forgotten. I certainly can see his prog rock choices as worthy ones.

As for Robbie, I think the same (slight) generational difference is afoot. But I would certainly be in favor of Kate Bush, XTC, Johnny Rivers and Deep Purple. Personally I find a few of the choices less than worthy – J. Geils, Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk – but that’s just taste. And some are just outside my range of musical knowledge – I have heard of Husker Du, but that’s all, and Procol Harem (mentioned by both correspondents) is only “Whiter Shade of Pale” to me. My bad, as the kids (used) to say.

But it certainly indicates how the Rock hall has missed the boat on a ton of significant artists.

* * *

Here’s 10 hitman novels everyone should read (oddly, only one of them is a Quarry, making the other nine pretenders).

Here’s a fun, intelligent look at WILD DOG (although the otherwise well-informed writer refers to my DICK TRACY stint as “short” – fifteen years?!?).

SUPREME JUSTICE is on a top ten list of Supreme Court novels.

Finally, here’s an uncomplimentary look at THE EXPERT. Worth a read, and stick around for my comment.

M.A.C.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Risking straining your patience, I thought perhaps I should report in on my health status. I’ll pause here for you to say “Goodie goodie” and clap your little hands.

Anyway, after three and a half months since the open-heart surgery, I seem to be doing well. I have completed both my physical therapy and occupational therapy. I’m told my hand, post-stroke, is at about 90%. I fatigue somewhat easily and usually am pretty wasted by mid-evening, though I stay up till midnight. We’re walking twice a day in our neighborhood (I would jump off a bridge before mall walking).

Work goes well. I reported here that Barb and I completed ANTIQUES FRAME, which I started working on about two weeks after getting out of the hospital. After that, I started working on the new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, and got a third of the way through when I realized the plot needed work. My cohort Matt Clemens has been rewriting his story treatment and I’ll be back at the novel myself in probably a week or two. While Matt did that, I tackled the new Mike Hammer, THE WILL TO KILL. I should finish that this week.

In addition this coming weekend George Hagenauer and Brad Schwartz are coming to Muscatine for an overdue meeting about our joint Ness/Capone biography-in-progress.

A milestone for Barb and me, in several senses, was our trip June 1st and 2nd to scenic Galena, Illinois, a favorite haunt of ours. It involves a lot of walking but also eating (there are 67 restaurants in this town of 3500). We scheduled this trip months ago, figuring I should be in shape to handle it when it rolled around – a fairly long drive and an overnight – and I did fine. We were celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary. What a lucky bastard I am.

Another milestone is coming up – my first Crusin’ band job since the surgery. It’s June 9 outside the First National Bank at Muscatine, open to the public and free. We play 5 to 7 pm. We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit and had a three-hour session Saturday afternoon, which I managed to survive.

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll, I want to deal with two comments that last week’s update elicited, due to my mini-rant on the Zombies, Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s what mystery writer (and audio artist) Mike Dennis had to say:

Max – don’t worry over the Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not making the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s a bullshit outfit, created solely to produce the annual induction TV show, and as a side benefit, snag a few tourists into their building to see Jimi Hendrix’s leather pants or whatever. Other than the expected greats — Elvis, Beatles, Stones, etc — the Hall is straining more and more each year to find someone worthy of induction. In recent years, they’ve stooped to one-hit wonders: Buffalo Springfield, Laura Nyro, and others. Who’s next? Norman Greenbaum? Ronny & the Daytonas?

It’s all bullshit and not worth getting upset about.

There’s much wisdom in what Mike says here, although I think arguments could be made for both Buffalo Springfield (surely one of the most influential ‘60s bands) and Laura Nyro (a great songwriter). But the Hall is indeed bullshit. Trouble is, it’s all rock fans have – it’s our Cooperstown. So we have to make noise about the injustices.

Here’s what my good friend (and former Crusin’ sound man) Charlie Koenigsaecker had to say:

To me the most egregious omission in the Rock HOF would be Love, followed close behind by the Monkees and Zombies.

The MC5 should be in also and I would not look askance at the Fudge. For those who regard the Monkees as a mere vocal group whose musical accomplishments were buoyed by the talents of others, would they have the same reservations regarding the Coasters or the Supremes or the Four Tops or any other group who neither wrote their own material or played on their own records? Plus the Monkees eventually did both write and play on a lot of fine recordings.

I agree with everything Charlie says here, including that the MC5 and Love should be in the Hall.

My point of view here is, I think, one that has a certain amount of credibility. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll. Saw Elvis on Sullivan. Owned a 78 of “Hound Dog.” Went nuts over Bobby Darin. Saw the Beatles on Sullivan (the Fudge too). Played in rock bands at the peak of the ‘60s/early ‘70s and opened for scads of famous acts.

Here is some of what’s wrong with the Hall of Fame, mostly flowing from a snobbish, narrow view of the history of rock merged with a politically correct bent that allows rap and country in when many key rock artists are omitted.

Where the hell is Pat Boone? I remember very clearly that he and Elvis were, for a long time, the only games in town. Boone gets shit for covering r & b records, but those original records were banned from mainstream radio and it was Boone who popularized them and opened the doors (and made Little Richard and other black artists a ton of money). The guy sold millions of records, and made rock palatable for White America. It’s called history. Deal with it.

The period between Elvis going into the Army and getting out again (or possibly up to the emergence of the Beatles) is mostly ignored by the Hall. It’s a tough call with the popular likes of Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon and Fabian, who are artistically pretty shaky. But what about Bobby Rydell? Has Jan Wenner ever heard “Wild One”? What about Bobby Vee? So many great records, and a top-notch live performer. He’s in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, by the way (like my band, The Daybreakers).

Charlie’s point about the Monkees being pilloried for not playing on their records is well-taken. During the ‘60s many great bands were not allowed by their bigtime labels to play on their own records (usually after playing on the first album or so) because it was better for those bands to be out touring and more efficient to use studio musicians for the instrumentals on the records…mostly the Wrecking Crew.

Who, incidentally, played on the records of such Hall of Famers as the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

One of those Wrecking Crew-ghosted bands – who played on their own first two albums, and their later ones as well – is the Association. They are often dismissed as a vocal group with a folky California sound (Mamas and Papas anyone?) but “Along Comes Mary” is one of the best, most driving singles of its era, and “Never My Love” is one of the two or three most played-on-radio records of the ‘60s…including the Beatles’ output. Slow songs need love, too.

I could easily build a case for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who inspired so many local garage bands. And laugh if you like, but Gary Lewis and the Playboys made a ton of great records. And, I mean, if you’re going to induct Laura Nyro for writing “Eli’s Comin’,” how about a slot for Three Dog Night? And where the hell are the Turtles/Flo and Eddie?

And that’s just the ‘50s and ‘60s. Don’t get me started about Warren Zevon’s absence.

Snobbishness and no sense of history earns the Rock Hall the “bullshit” label that Mike Dennis gives it. But, again – it’s what we’ve got. It is wonderful to see the Dave Clark Five being honored. It’s a thrill to hear Cat Stevens sing and play again.

But rock deserves better. And so do we. And so do a lot great bands and artists.

M.A.C.

Today’s the Day! (Later is Good, Too.)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
The Big Showdown
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The Legend of Caleb York
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Antiques Fate
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The day this appears (April 26) is the pub date of the second Caleb York novel, THE BIG SHOWDOWN, in hardcover, and also of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK in mass-market paperback (co-bylined with the great Mickey Spillane). On this same big day, the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FATE, appears in hardcover. A week from now (May 3), the new Nate Heller will be out: BETTER DEAD (more about that next week).

These are all books I’m pleased with. I think THE BIG SHOWDOWN has one of the best, moody scenes of action/violence – a shoot-out in a rainstorm – that I’ve ever come up with. ANTIQUES FATE may be my favorite of the Brandy and Vivian Borne novels, with its faux-British setting reminiscent of MIDSOMER MURDERS and Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead. It’s also very funny. No brag, just fact, as we western novelists are wont to say. Or is that want to say?

You may think that novels are flying out of my computer as if it were haunted. Actually, last year was one of my least prolific ones, due to the health problems that turned up in May. The only book I wrote during that period was MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (a Hammer, as usual working from Spillane material), and I also managed to do the short story “A Dangerous Cat,” which appears in the current Strand Magazine. The novel was written in the weeks after the treatment in which my heart was jump-started like an old Buick, to get rid of the irregular heartbeat that had turned up with my condition – for maybe a month I felt a lot better.

I wrote “A Dangerous Cat” later, feeling fairly shitty actually, but the story needed writing. It represented the last Hammer fragment that I’d set aside for short story purposes, and writing it would give me a Hammer collection (eight stories) – Otto Penzler is publishing it later this year as A LONG TIME DEAD.

The books that are coming out today (if you’re reading this on the day it appears) predate the health problems, and give something of a false impression about my apparently prolific 2015. But I am happy to report that I am back at work here in 2016, and in fact Barb and I have already delivered the next Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FRAME. She had been working on her draft throughout the medical adventures during which she was my incredible support system – the last bits of it were written by her in my hospital room. The rapid comeback my right hand made allowed me to get to work after two or three weeks at home.

Currently I am working on the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller. My cohort Matt Clemens is wrapping up his draft while I start mine. So far it looks like SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION will have solid company. By the way, SUPREME JUSTICE recently hit the 100,000 books-sold mark. This does not count 175,000 books generated in the Kindle First program. Most of those copies were e-books, a fact I have trouble caring about.

Much of this year will be dedicated to getting back on deadline, as much as possible. I have no way to know how quickly the recovery will go, although so far – at nine weeks – I’m told by doctors and physical therapists that I’m doing very well. The biggest obstacle to getting my work done are the essential twice-weekly occupational and physical therapy sessions, which last 80 minutes. Or I should say the biggest obstacle is my reduced stamina and increased fatigue – after the physical therapy, I invariably have needed a nap of an hour or two. Takes a bite out of the writing day.

But things are improving. I had my first band practice (Crusin’) last Tuesday – an hour was about all I could manage, but I managed. We’ll practice again soon and play a two-hour gig in June. This weekend son Nate and his bride Abby visited with our incredible grandson, the criminally cute Sam Collins, in tow. Nate and Abby – currently living in St. Louis – are exploring coming back here to Iowa.

Realtor Suzi Webb (great name) – a good friend from my high school days – arranged a tour for us of half a dozen houses. I went along and, despite a lot of stairs, held up fine. Okay, I took and hour and a half nap after – but just a few weeks ago that adventure would have been out of the question.

For those of you who haven’t stopped reading yet, let me say that I never expected to discuss these health issues here. But my son has always encouraged me to look at behind-the-scenes stuff, and me reporting on how the writing is going seems pretty basic.

* * *

a ten minute interview I did at the last Bouchercon (in Raleigh), specifically focusing on B’Con memories and my general attitude about the annual event.

Here’s a fun review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime omnibus of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

And here’s a list from a lawyer selecting 10 “Great Novels About the Supreme Court.” One of them is SUPREME JUSTICE!

M.A.C.

Antiques Christmas

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Antiques St. Nicked

For those of you who follow the ANTIQUES series (a.k.a. the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries) – written by Barb and myself, as Barbara Allan – you may be interested to know that we again have a Christmas-themed novella available as an e-book.

The new one is ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, but the previous two – ANTIQUES SLAY RIDE and ANTIQUES FRUITCAKE – remain available. Right now these are not available in “real” book form, though we hope someday a collection of them might be published (nothing in the works, though).

These are, as I mentioned above, novellas – not mere short stories. As such, they are challenging to write. Our usual brainstorming session must come up not only with a mystery that involves antiques in some fashion, but also a Christmas theme. Beyond that, each story can’t resemble any of the others. And as a novella is by definition a short novel, a lot more work goes into it than a short story.

ST. NICKED has a rather serious story beneath the holiday tinsel (not to mention a dead Santa Claus), and is perhaps the scariest of any of the ANTIQUES tales. FRUITCAKE focuses on a local theatrical production in which Mother is of course involved. And SLAY RIDE centers around Christmas collectibles.

Another Christmas story, not by Barbara Allan, can be found in Otto Penzler’s generous BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES. The “big” part of that title is well-deserved, as I am one of 59 stories (sharing space with the likes of Rex Stout, Agatha Christie and Ed McBain!). The book came out in 2013 but has already become a Christmas staple. My story – one of my favorites among my short stories – is “A Wreath for Marley.” (Some may recall that I developed a film script version called BLUE CHRISTMAS that has yet to be made.) “Marley” is a cross between (obviously) A CHRISTMAS CAROL and THE MALTESE FALCON.

* * *

Speaking of Christmas, here’s a replay from 2014 of my list of the Best Five Christmas Movies:

1. SCROOGE (1951). Alistair Sim is the definitive Scrooge in the definitive filming of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Faithful, scary, funny, unsentimental, sentiment-filled, flawless (except for a cameraman turning up in a mirror). Accept no substitutes, although the Albert Finney musical is pretty good.

2. MIRACLE ON 34th Street (1947). Hollywood filmmaking at its best, with lots of location shooting in New York. Edmund Gwen is the definitive, real Santa Claus; Natalie Wood gives her greatest child performance; John Payne reminds us that he should have been a major star; and Maureen O’Sullivan is a smart, strong career woman/working mother who could not be more glamorous. Admit to preferring the remake at your own risk.

3. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). Heartwarming but harrowing, this film is home to one of James Stewart’s bravest performances and happens to be Frank Capra’s best film. Have you noticed it’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL from Bob Cratchit’s point of view?

4. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). The great Jean Shepherd’s great movie that has turned, somewhat uncomfortably, into a cottage industry of leg lamps, Christmas decorations and action figures. Shepherd’s first-person narration has the snap and humor of Raymond Chandler, and the mix of cynicism and warmth is uniquely his. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie with Mike Hammer and Carl Kolchak in it.

5. CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) continues to grow in reputation, possibly surpassing the original film. Somehow the John Hughes-scripted third VACATION go-round manages to uncover every Christmas horror possible when families get together and Daddy tries too hard. It’s rare that a comedy can get go this broad, this over the top, and still maintain a sense that we’re watching a documentary about everything than can go wrong at Christmas.

This year I have no new Christmas movie finds to recommend (with one exception – stay tuned). A BILL MURRAY CHRISTMAS, essentially a movie (not a Christmas special as advertised), reunites him with director Sofia Coppola, whose LOST IN TRANSLATION helped send Murray into many a depressed middle-ager roles. Though it has occasional rewards, the film is glum and sad, and Murray sings many, many songs and wears out the gag of his over-the-top, off-pitch lounge singer. Basically, A BILL MURRAY CHRISTMAS is about a bunch of people stranded in a bar, doing karaoke, during a snowstorm. My son Nate – whose favorite movie is GROUNDHOG DAY (which is high on my list as well) – did not make it through this one. Proof positive that Murray, for all his protestations, was much, much better served by the late great Harold Ramis than by Coppola and even Wes Anderson.

You may recall, on my recent year-end movie wrap-up, that I listed THE NIGHT BEFORE as a film Barb and I walked out of. I suppose it’s possible that it redeemed itself in later reels, but I doubt it – like the MURRAY CHRISTMAS, this seems to be largely about people going from bar to bar and singing karaoke and drinking. Add in drug-taking, which leads to very unfunny sub-Cheech-and-Chong stuff, and it’s like being forced to drag yourself along with the worst friends in your life as they work very hard to have fun, and don’t. I am a Seth Rogen fan going back to FREAKS AND GEEKS – hell, I even like THE GREEN HORNET – but this is an embarrassing Yuletide misstep.

My one new recommendation, for those with a sick sense of humor: A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY. This is a wonderful anthology film (though the stories are intercut, not one at a time) with William Shatner as an increasingly inebriated disc jockey who serves as part Jean Shepherd, part Crypt Keeper. This Canadian indie, from some of the ORPHAN BLACK creative team, is superior to the much bigger-budgeted (but not terrible) KRAMPUS. Krampus, the anti-Santa, is a major player in HORROR STORY, by the way.

* * *

Here’s a write-up about THE LAST LULLABY and the news that it’s currently streaming on Hulu.

The great Bookgasm site has posted this joint review of QUARRY and QUARRY’S LIST.

Finally, here’s a brief but nice review of SUPREME JUSTICE from the same conservative reviewer who enjoyed FATE OF THE UNION (though we have to wade through the whole Glocks-don’t-have-safeties controversy.)

M.A.C.