Posts Tagged ‘Reeder & Rogers’

Political Correctness

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

“Politically correct” is a term I wouldn’t mind seeing junked. Also the concept. What makes it worthless is that both the right and the left are abusing it.

Take Donald Trump (please). He is making a political campaign out of saying outrageous, offensive things and then hiding behind the notion that being politically incorrect is an attribute. Many voters who are lining up with him see the Donald as a straight-talker who is not afraid to offend. He tells it as he sees it and doesn’t care what you, or the facts, or human decency, might think.

How did we get to a place where being against political correctness could be seen as a plus? Whose fault is it that political incorrectness has become a badge of honor? I know whose fault, since you asked – the left. Right?

At a time when major political candidates are gaining followers by putting down minorities, women, the afflicted, and any religion that isn’t Christianity, many on the left spend their time complaining about people who say the wrong things. Who have the “wrong” attitudes. How many celebrities or other public figures have had to “walk back” innocuous things they said because they’ve been taken to task by the self-appointed arbiters of what is and isn’t acceptable? God help us if any of us are offended by the opinions or remarks of others. It’s now our responsibility to make sure the Facebook posts and Tweets of the famous reflect only what we consider proper and, well, nice.

Since this is the Christmas season, I want to spread the joy around, so I’ll point out that the right can gang up on somebody for trivial, stupid reasons, too, such as the tempest in a teapot over the holiday coffee cup at Starbuck’s. It’s the war on Christmas! Some people really, really need a hobby. Ironically, of course, Starbucks was just trying not offend anybody. Good luck with that.

I have run into this kind of thing in reviews – both professional and amateur – for many, many years. In my case, it’s mostly a byproduct of writing historical fiction. More times than you’d think, when a character in one of my period pieces uses a word like “colored” to describe a black person, or “girl” in reference to a grown woman, I have been taken to task.

It’s a tricky position for a writer to be in, as when I’m dealing with Mike Hammer in a manuscript I’m completing that was begun by Mickey Spillane in the late ‘40s, ‘50s or ‘60s. Attitudes toward homosexuals, for example, are a bitch to deal with. I usually sort of split the difference, and have the character reflect attitudes of his or her times but not emphasize them, and avoid words (like “faggot”) that come off as painfully harsh to modern ears.

But modern ears need to cut a writer of historical fiction some slack. When I write about Nathan Heller, the format is an old man writing his memoirs about things that happened a long, long time ago. He should not be expected to reflect current attitudes. In fact, if he does to much of an extent, I’m doing a bad job as his Boswell.

Would you like to know what offends me? Thanks for asking. I’m in the odd and somewhat enviable position of having my older novels come back into print. These date as far back as the early ‘70s. Recently (as you probably know) Hard Case Crime has been doing new editions of the original five Quarry novels, four of which were published in 1976 and 1977 (the first novel, QUARRY, was started around ‘72 and completed in ‘74). This week I got a lovely review of that novel, one that pleased and even flattered me. I want to make that clear right now, because this reviewer was not only complimentary, but also very smart in discussing the anti-hero aspects of the character.

But he raised a point that frankly made me close my eyes and count to ten (incidentally, about the extent of my math abilities). Here is what the reviewer said:

“Unfortunately, the book does suffer from its age, specifically when it comes to homosexuality. Boyd is a homosexual, and this fact is brought up several times during the story. While Quarry insists that he doesn’t have a problem with Boyd’s sexual orientation, the fact that he constantly brings it up puts his assertions into question. Now, I don’t think that Collins is homophobic, or even that Quarry was, but it does definitely stand out and is out of place with modern sensibilities.”

A couple of things. That in a novel written in the early ‘70s, I chose to give Quarry a gay partner, and that Quarry himself had no problem with that, is something I’m proud of (and that other modern reviewers, looking at this decades-old book, have commented favorably upon, as something fairly innovative and forward-thinking). But more troubling is the notion that a book written over forty years ago has a responsibility not to offend “modern sensibilities.”

When the early Quarry novels were being prepared for re-publication, Hard Case editor Charles Ardai gave me the opportunity to revise any passages that might offend the delicate ears of today. I declined to take advantage of the opportunity, because the books are the books. They were written when they were written, and I’m not going to spend the rest of this lifetime updating them to please the opinions of new generations.

This reflects a special aspect of political correctness that I would guess drive any writers who’ve been around long enough to see early works of theirs described in the present say as “dated.” I think, in the critical lexicon, the word “dated” should be stricken or at least used very carefully. Of course my novel QUARRY is dated. Read the first few chapters of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and check out Marlowe’s now racist attitudes and vocabulary. All books that weren’t written yesterday are “dated.” Shakespeare is so dated, his language so difficult to penetrate, that he’s considered to be the greatest poetic playwright of all time.

This mini-rant was sparked by the paragraph I quoted (in which the word “dated” does not appear), but in fact this reviewer is very smart and generous, and you should read the other things he had to say here.

Speaking of Quarry, I am delighted to report that J. Kingston Pierce has selected QUARRY’S CHOICE as one of his ten favorite crime novels of 2015. As always, I deplore such lists unless I am on them.

And I’m pleased to say reviews for FATE OF THE UNION (what a wonderful Christmas present a copy of that would be for your family and friends!) have been rolling in. Check out this terrific one.

Finally, as a sort of sidebar to this week’s discussion of political correctness, here is a mini-review from a conservative reviewer who has no problem with the hero’s “leftish politics.” Those of you who remember how some conservative Amazon reviewers objected to SUPREME JUSTICE will understand why I’m so gratified by this write-up.


What, Me Retro?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

I was watching the pilot of the Cinemax QUARRY with my wife, son and daughter-in-law (don’t tell HBO), and Barb turned to me when the character the Broker first entered and nudged me and smiled and said: “You did that.”

Well, I did, but a long, long time ago. About 43 years. At the Writers Workshop in Iowa City, where the instructor didn’t like the opening chapters I’d written very much, and most of the class wasn’t wild about it either.

At 67, I suddenly find myself aware of how very long I’ve been doing this, and am gratified that suddenly a lot of what I’d thought to be ephemeral works of mine are turning back up in print, and getting on the radar of a new generation or two of readers. Some of what I’ve written has almost by definition been ephemeral – specifically the movie novelizations and TV tie-in’s – though SAVING PRIVATE RYAN remains in print and a publisher is seeking permission from DreamWorks to do a hardcover edition.

But almost everything else with my byline is available again or soon will be, much of it from Thomas & Mercer, but also such boutique publishers as Perfect Crime, Speaking Volumes and Brash Books.

For these weekly updates, I routinely do a Google search to see what reviews and such have popped up on the Net, for me to provide links here. More and more I am surprised to find write-ups about older books of mine. It’s almost jarring, because often the reviewers are more familiar with the work than I now am.

Of course, the new Hard Case Crime editions of the first five Quarry novels have sparked interest, and in particular QUARRY (the first novel) has received some gratifying attention. Here’s one such write-up.

And here’s another.

And one more.

Fairly regularly, somebody comes along and praises either the entire “Disaster Series” or singles out one of the books in particular, like this piece that focuses on THE LUSITANIA MURDERS.

So many of these reviews of older work of mine just seem to appear out of the blue, like this look at the Eliot Ness novel BULLET PROOF.

But nothing could prepare me for this article specifically focusing on the musical side of my years on the planet, discussing both the Daybreakers and Crusin’.

Here, dealing with a somewhat more recent novel, is a nice review of the Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER.

Coming full circle, the just published FATE OF THE UNION is pulling in some nice reviews, like this lovely one from Bill Crider, a writer I much admire.

Finally, my pal Ed Gorman brought in Ben Boulden of Gravetapping to review FATE OF THE UNION on Ed’s terrific blog, also a positive review.


James Bond And Me

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Fate of the Union

Audio MP3 CD:

Before we get to James Bond, I need to mention that FATE OF THE UNION’s pub date is today. Over the weekend, Barb and I took a day trip to Des Moines and listened in the car to the audio version, read by the always terrific Dan John Miller.

This really seems like a good one to me, whether you read it or Dan reads it to you, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

* * *

We tend to think of the pop-culture British Invasion as beginning with the Beatles. But I doubt the Beatles would have hit quite so hard if secret agent James Bond hadn’t softened up American teenagers first.

I was thirteen or fourteen when I first read Ian Fleming. I was in the eighth grade, and in complete Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer thrall. But Mickey wasn’t writing much – his first novel in almost a decade, THE DEEP (1961), was not a Hammer – and I was in the market for something to tide me over until Spillane got around to writing something again. But I’d already plowed through all the Richard S. Prather/Shell Scott novels and a lot more (and Chandler and Hammett, of course).

Then came James Bond.

Ian Fleming, on the first round of Signet paperback Bond reprints (significantly, Mickey’s paperback publisher), was blurbed as the British Spillane, and Bond the Brit Hammer. This wasn’t hard to do, since many reviews pointed out Spillane as a Fleming source, and Signet even used Hammer cover artist Barye Phillips. Despite Fleming’s third-person approach, and the civil servant aspect of the character, Bond was nonetheless very similar to Hammer – a killer who got a lot of sex, to put it bluntly. Calling Bond a Hammer imitation would not be going too far.

The first Fleming novel, CASINO ROYALE – published at the height of worldwide Spillane mania (1953) – was in particular a Hammer-like novel, right down to its violent, sado-masochistic torture-scene climax and its abrupt ending, with the chilling last line of the book not unlike I, THE JURY’S “It was easy.”

While Fleming never replaced Spillane in my pulpy little heart, Bond zoomed into a secure second place behind the world’s toughest private eye. Reading these books in the early ‘60s – though most were published in the ‘50s – Bond seemed a logical next-decade extension of Hammer, particularly through the intermediate step of cool Peter Gunn, the Hammer imitation that sparked the TV private eye fad. The GUNN pre-credits sequences, followed by Mancini’s powerful theme set to abstract animation, is an obvious precursor to the way Bond films begin to this day.

I was alone among my junior-high peers in my enthusiasm for Fleming (a few were into Spillane, though). So when suddenly, in 1963, a film of DR. NO appeared on the pop-culture horizon, I could hardly believe it – had people in England actually made a movie just for me?

As an only child, I occasionally was able to pressure my parents in doing what I wanted. And what I wanted was to see DR. NO the evening it opened in Davenport, Iowa. Trips to the Quad Cities, before improved highways came along, were rare for my family. It took a lot of work to get my parents to take me to the first Bond film, in the middle of the week on a school night.

As someone who had been reading Fleming, I can assure you that Sean Connery’s “Bond, James Bond” all but sent me into a paroxysm of glee. He was perfect, and so was the movie. Soon the disease spread, and within a year all of my friends, particularly, the males, were Bond fanatics. We routinely went to openings at matinees and sat through the films at least twice. In those pre-VCR days, we gobbled up the double feature retreads that appeared a year or so later, as well. Binge watching is nothing new.

My lovely wife Barb also loved the Bond films, and in the early days of going together and well into the early years of our marriage, we would follow that same matinee-then-sit-through-it-again routine. The delight of seeing YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE twice remains a fond, shared memory.

Since then, I have never missed a Bond film on opening weekend – usually opening night. This continued through the hit-and-miss Roger Moore years – as a MAVERICK fan, I was more forgiving than some, since Moore had been Cousin Beau Maverick (and of course the Saint) – and I have a vivid memory of Barb and me seeing LIVE AND LET DIE in a theater in Wichita, Kansas (on our way back from a comic con in Texas). The title song and credit sequence was so great, what followed seemed pretty good, too.

I’ve gone on record here and elsewhere that I consider Timothy Dalton the second-best Bond next to Connery, who in my heart of hearts is the only true Bond. There are Bond movies without Connery, but the only real Bond movies have Connery in them (and I include NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan makes a fine melding of Connery and Moore, and unfairly got the bum’s rush out of a series he helped revitalize.

Now we come to Daniel Craig, who is a fine, tough Bond, if a little rough-hewn for anyone who has read the books – he’s one of those actors who the leading ladies love because the script tells them to. That aside, he may be the finest actor ever to play the role, and CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and SKYFALL are terrific movies, including the second one on that list, even if it does lag behind the other two.

Which brings us to SPECTRE.


First, here’s what I don’t like about the film – Sam Smith’s song. The title sequence is great, but Smith is a second-rate talent with a third-rate song, and Bond films deserve better. They deserve the best.

Second, here’s what I like about the film – everything else. I know reviews have been mixed, but those reviews tend to look at the film in an inappropriate, realistic way, not in the context of the series. They wanted something grittier, and instead got what they dismiss as a formulaic Bond film. Were these naysayers present during the last few scenes of SKYFALL, when the series did a backward reboot with Bond entering the classic Connery-era office?

SPECTRE is what the first three Craig movies were leading up to – a big, sometimes a little dumb, but always exciting James Bond movie much in the manner of DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Virtually all of those films are referenced in SPECTRE, but not in cutesy ways. The villain’s liar is DR. NO and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE; Bond in captivity facing slow death is the laser-beam scene from GOLDFINGER; FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE’S hand-to-hand combat in a train compartment is expanded to every car; and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE is referenced by a snowy mountain retreat and some Alpine violence.

At the same time, modern elements come into play – there’s nothing retro about the way Moneypenny, Q and M are portrayed, and the size of the action scenes rival or probably out-do anything in the BOURNE films. The villain (who also appears in a number of the films mentioned above, but I won’t spoil things by telling you that he’s Blofeld) (whoops) is the Moriarty of the Bond movies. Speaking of Moriarty, the actor who portrays him in the BBC SHERLOCK (Andrew Scott) appears as an adversary of M’s in the muddy bureaucracy of British spydom. Seems the bad guys want to control all the surveillance in the world, including anything pertaining to innocent citizens like you and me – which is about as topical a theme as you could come with.

If you don’t like this movie, I’m sorry, but you’re not a James Bond fan. You may be a fan of SKYFALL, you may be a fan of Daniel Craig, but not a Bond fan. And what gives me the right to make such a pronouncement? Well, without me, there would have been no SKYFALL or SPECTRE.

You see, I wrote a little graphic novel called ROAD TO PERDITION, the Sam Mendes-directed movie of which featured Daniel Craig. If I had not written PERDITION, Craig and Mendes would not have (wait for it) bonded.

You’re welcome.

* * *

Please check out one of the coolest reviews I’ve ever received for a Mike Hammer.

This just in: a review of the 1990 paperback, DICK TRACY: THE SECRET FILES.

And here’s a review of the Ms. Tree novel, DEADLY BELOVED.

Check out this splashy display of FATE OF THE UNION with a brief, nice review. (Did I mention this was pub day?)

Library Journal takes a nice look at Titan Books, with a mention or two of yours truly (oddly, though, no Mike Hammer reference).

Finally, here’s a terrific review of THE FIRST QUARRY.


Fate of the Union Approaches

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Fate of the Union

FATE OF THE UNION, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller, will be published November 10. But I have ten advance copies available to the first ten readers who ask for one, on the condition that they post a review at Amazon and/or elsewhere. (If you are a blogger and have a regular review column, let me know and I’ll see that you get a copy from Thomas & Mercer.) The only other condition is that this is for USA residents only – postage overseas and even to Canada has gotten prohibitive.

Request a copy by e-mailing me at . Be sure to include your snail-mail address!

Some of you may not have read the first Reeder and Rogers novel, SUPREME JUSTICE, but if you like anything of mine, you’ll likely enjoy this series. SUPREME JUSTICE, ironically not read by as many of my regular readers as other titles of recent years, is among my bestselling books ever – nearly 300,000 copies are out there. The majority of those readers have come to SUPREME JUSTICE on Kindle.

As I’ve mentioned here before, Matthew Clemens gets cover billing this time, though truth be told he deserved it last time, as well (and on the previous Thomas & Mercer thriller, WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER). I’ve made no secret about the fact that Matt has worked with me on almost two dozen novels, mostly TV tie-ins (CSI, BONES, DARK ANGEL, CRIMINAL MINDS). For the record, I’ve done all the movie novelizations (dreaded term) myself.

Since I’ve moved away from doing tie-in work, I took Matt along for the Amazon thrillers because our collaboration is a comfortable and I think outstanding one. We did two thrillers at Kensington – where Matt shared co-author billing – that have done very well, building sales over the years, particularly on Kindle, due to the success of the Thomas & Mercer-pubbed thrillers. Those books are YOU CAN’T STOP ME and NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU. We also have written many short stories together – almost always with Matt sharing byline – and gathered some of them into a book called MY LOLITA COMPLEX (2006), which has become something of a high-ticket item, though the title story is available from Amazon on Kindle for a mere pittance.

Back to FATE OF THE UNION. Joe Reeder is an ex-Secret Service agent who has his roots in my IN THE LINE OF FIRE novelization and BOMBSHELL by Barb and me (now available under our shared “Barbara Allan” byline), both of which starred tough Secret Service agents. He is partnered with a young FBI agent, Patti Rogers, who is not his love interest. The books are tough and violent, and have been somewhat controversial.
Though I thought I was hitting the ball right down the center in SUPREME JUSTICE, some conservative readers (I should say “readers,” since some seemed to be posting bad reviews at Amazon without actually reading the book) disliked the novel, apparently because Joe Reeder is a Democrat. The book deals with the assassinations of Supreme Court Justices by a bad guy who wants to reconfigure the court into a more leftist manner – how that makes the book anti-conservative is bewildering to me.

Despite the efforts of some politically motivated “readers,” SUPREME JUSTICE has a four-star rating at Amazon, and an astonishing 3440 reviews (last time I checked).

FATE OF THE UNION deals with a multi-millionaire (perhaps billionaire) who decides to run for the presidency; there is an assassination attempt in the midst a string of what appear to be serial killings. The theme is the destructiveness of extremism, no matter what the politics behind it.

This past week Matt was interviewed by a Crimespree reviewer and he deals very effectively and frankly with how our collaboration works. Read it here.

While we’re at it, here’s a fun piece about how and why I quit as writer of the BATMAN comic book.

The same folks revealed why the DICK TRACY novelization doesn’t reveal the bad guy’s identity until the 6th printing.

Finally, here is a really nice article – smart and lengthy – about MS. TREE and her place in the history of crime comics.