Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Shameless Self-Promotion in my Stocking

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

I’ve had some nice notices of late, showing up like early stocking stuffers. I am going to rather brazenly and completely self-servingly turning this update into a look at the best and most fun of some of these.

I am particularly happy with this starred review of the forthcoming new Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, from Publisher’s Weekly:

MWA Grand Master Collins’s Zelig-like PI, Nate Heller, who’s tackled most of 20th-century America’s greatest unsolved mysteries, gets involved in the Sam Sheppard murder case in his superior 17th outing (after 2016’s Better Dead). When the Cleveland doctor reported having found his wife, Marilyn, bludgeoned to death in their bedroom in 1954, Heller happened to be in the city, spending time with his old friend Eliot Ness, who invited him along to the crime scene to help determine whether the killing was the work of the serial killer whom the two men had been chasing for years. The m.o. established that another murderer was responsible, but Heller noted multiple oddities, including the failure to preserve the crime scene and indications that Sheppard’s family was covering up his guilt. The doctor was eventually convicted of the crime, a verdict many felt the evidence didn’t support. Three years later, Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner asks Heller to reassess the case, a request that leads to a creative solution of the notorious mystery. This is a superior and inventive effort that shows the series still has plenty of life.

I’ve had my share of good reviews from PW (and some not-so-good ones too), but just a handful of starred reviews, which is really kind of a big deal. As I’ve noted here before, entries in long-running series find it difficult to get reviewed at all in the publishing-industry trades (PW, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist).

So this one feels good and comes at a good time, because Do No Harm is the last Heller novel on my current contract, and I want to do more. The novel, which is about the Sam Sheppard murder case, comes out in March, but can be pre-ordered now.

Another nice surprise was to learn that BestThrillers.com selected Supreme Justice as one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century (so far). That’s particularly interesting because I thought it was a political thriller, but I guess when the murder victims are Supreme Court justices, it qualifies. Here’s the listing:

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
A blend of political and legal thriller, this story about the politics of the Supreme Court of the United States feels ahead of its time.

Secret Service agent Joseph Reeder heroically took a bullet for a president, but he’s been speaking out against that president for stacking the SCOTUS with ultra-conservative judges.

He’s paired with FBI agent Patti Rogers on a task force to investigate the death of Justice Henry Venter.

Reeder discovers the death was murder and not a robbery-gone-wrong, and soon the pair realizes it’s a conspiracy to replace the conservative judges with liberals—one that will also endanger Reeder’s family.

And here’s where you can check out the entire list.

My co-author Matt Clemens (who gets cover credit with me on the two other novels in the trilogy) and I get asked all the time why we don’t do another Reeder and Rogers thriller. He and I have discussed that endlessly, but the problem is the current political situation/climate. We were attacked for being “libtards” just because protagonist Joe Reeder was a center-left liberal (protecting right-wing justices!), and this was back when Obama was President. And how can you come up with a wild political thriller plot when every day the news has four or five of those?

For those who came in late, Supreme Justice is about a serial killer targeting conservative justices; Fate of the Union is about a kazillionaire running as a populist for President; and Executive Order has a plot within the government attempting a coup.


Blu-ray reversible inner sleeve

Last time I announced the Blu-ray of Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day. Here’s a nice advance review with lots of info.

Jerry’s House of Everything is a fun review site by Jerry House (get it?). He spends some time lauding the unfortunately little-written about Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer graphic novel, The Night I Died, published by Titan as part of the Spillane 100th birthday celebration.

Finally, here’s some nice love for Paul Newman in Road to Perdition from the UK’s Telegraph.

M.A.C.

Killing Quarry (Again), Doctor Sleep and More

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

I spoke too soon.

Last week I mentioned that – while reviews have been uniformly splendid for Killing Quarry on the web – none of the publishing industry’s trade publications had weighed in on the latest Quarry novel. As you may recall, I said I was not surprised, because entries in long-running series are often overlooked by PW, Kirkus, Booklist and Library Journal.

But I was wrong, and am delighted to be. I am providing excerpts because links to the full reviews would probably require you to subscribe to the services.

Anyway, this is from Publisher’s Weekly:

“Irresistible … It’s Lu’s presence, and the dash of romance she brings, that really energizes this entry … Collins maintains a tension between the two that’s resolved only on the final page. One of the book’s great pleasures is the humorless Quarry’s deadpan narration, whether he’s describing a pragmatic sexual encounter or exactly how a carefully planned hit can suddenly go off the rails. Newcomers and established fans alike will be happily drawn into Quarry’s cold-blooded criminal world.”

Okay, actually I’d read this earlier and forgotten about it; it’s a fine review but for the bewildering “humorless Quarry” reference, since the book is pretty much wall-to-wall sick humor, most of it tumbling from Quarry’s (yes) dead-pan lips.

On to Booklist and that fine reviewer, Bill Ott (I define “fine reviewer” as any critic with the sense to like my stuff):

“A thoroughly entertaining pas de deux, evoking Richard Condon’s classic Prizzi’s Honor (1982), in which Quarry and Lu come together as lovers and co-conspirators, despite neither one being sure who will try to kill the other first. The seventies backdrop, complete with cavorting and bloodletting at a former Playboy resort, only adds to the time-capsule ambience of this pulpy pleasure trip.”

For you less worldly readers, a pas de deux is a dance between a man and a woman (all right, I admit it – I had to look it up…je m’excuse.)


Cover Art for Killing Quarry
by Paul Mann

Last week I also hyped the audio of Killing Quarry read by Stefan Rudnicki even though I hadn’t heard it yet. Since then Barb and I took a day trip to Des Moines for shopping and food and maintaining our sanity, and the five-hour round trip allowed us to listen to Stefan narrating Killing Quarry (the new Quarry novel – have I mentioned that?).

Stefan does a fantastic job on the book. I will admit that the first time I heard him read a Quarry I wondered if his deep, resonant voice, that of a mature male, was right for my eternally boyish killer. I was soon won over, because Stefan gets every nuance of what I’m up to. He has lately been narrating the Mike Hammer novels (Murder, My Love and the forthcoming Masquerade for Murder), and stepping in for Stacy Keach in that regard is a daunting task, but what a fine job Stefan’s doing of it.

Dan John Miller has become, for me (and for Barb), the voice of Nate Heller. He has done all of the Heller novels including Better Dead, as well as the novellas (Triple Play) and short stories (Chicago Lightning), and I hope (if I land an audio book) he’ll read Do No Harm. In just that way, Stefan has become the voice of Quarry for me, and the male maturity he brings indicates that the notion of Quarry writing these memoirs later in life (much as Nate Heller does) is the right one.

Quarry is on hiatus at the moment, because the next novel for Hard Case Crime will be a Nolan – Skim Deep. More about that later.

* * *

While in Des Moines I caught the film Doctor Sleep, which seems not to be staying in theaters long. That’s a pity because it’s a fine Stephen King adaptation, and director/screenwriter Mike Flanagan pulls off a feat that I would have thought impossible – managing to make the film simultaneously an effective sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining and King’s The Shining. To do this, he had to get past both Stanley Kubrick’s estate and Stephen King, who notoriously hates the Kubrick film (he’s wrong) to the annoyance of the late director’s estate (they’re right, unless King didn’t cash the check).

I have a lot of respect for Stephen King, by the way. I discovered him via the novel Carrie, a copy of which my wife’s then-teenage sister was reading. It’s a great book, and I followed his work for a while, but couldn’t keep up with his output (look who’s talking) and also found his prose increasingly self-indulgent, after he got so famous he could no longer be edited. Was anybody really looking forward to a longer “cut” of The Stand?

But the guy is a hell of a storyteller, with a wonderful imagination and a devotion to exploring his own obsessions and concerns via prose fiction. Good for him. Who else do you know, who is still walking the planet, who created a section of every bookstore to accommodate the genre he popularized? “Horror” didn’t get its own shelves till King came along.

So I usually go to the movies based on his work and this is a good one, rivaling the two It films. As someone who’s written his share of sequels, I was impressed by how both the filmmaker and the source material explored a wholly different tale but then wound back up at the Overlook Hotel to tie a bloody bow on the proceedings. I particularly relished the bad guys, hippies living in a caravan of Winnebagos, riding under the radar of the world – deadly Dead Heads.

Star Ewan McGregor is fine as the adult Danny Torrance and a very good Kyliegh Curran is the preteen gifted (and plagued by) a “shining” of psychic abilities. An astonishing Rebecca Ferguson is the chief evil hippie woman, and if you’re wondering who might be able to play Ms. Tree effectively, take a look at her.

I’d also like to recommend several ongoing TV series I’ve seen of late, the kind of eight-or-ten-episodes-per-season unfolding novels-on-screen that make binge-watching such a delirious drug.

Danny McBride has already done two of my favorite examples of that form by way of Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, both among the best dark comedies I’ve ever seen. McBride is relentless in making the characters he plays un-self-aware assholes, and yet somehow appealing and even displaying unlikely redemptive moments. He has topped himself in the epic Righteous Gemstones, an acid yet oddly affectionate look at a family who have taken right-wing Christianity to ridiculous yet believable low heights of show biz carnyism. McBride’s trick (and that word is not really fair) is exposing his characters, and this time the whole family surrounding his character, as fairly terrible human beings, then gradually revealing their humanity, which – damnit – makes us care about them. This is my favorite American drama, although really it’s a satirical melodrama, but let’s not carp. An HBO show.

A close second is Goliath, the Billy Bob Thorton drama (again, it’s melodrama, but nobody but me seems to make that distinction anymore) about a lawyer who rose and fell and (sort of) rose again. He’s the David who battles one Goliath per season, fighting the powers of political and economic corruption. The first season is among the best of its kind, the second season slightly faltering by going over the top sexually (and that’s me complaining, remember) but mostly by failing to show Billy Bob in court – part of the effectiveness of the series is its depiction of the main character as something of a shambling alcoholic with a seemingly inexplicable big reputation, the reason for which is only revealed in the courtroom. The third season, which is kind of a sideways modernday take on Chinatown, is back on point, with Billy Bob back in court, alienating a crooked judge. It streams on Amazon Prime.

I would also recommend Wentworth, the re-imagining of the classic Prisoner Cell Block H. Barb and I just watched season seven of this terrific women-in-prison show, which is very much a soap opera but an incredible one, with a primarily female cast who just kill it. This streams on Netflix, but we watched it on a Blu-ray from the UK.

* * *

For those of you wanting signed copies of Killing Quarry, VJ Books has it on sale here at around 40% off.

The unstoppable J. Kingston Pierce has listed (by year) the best books of the decade, and two are mine (Quarry’s Choice and Better Dead).

Charles Ardai, bless him, has given Geeks A Go Go (love it) a great interview about Quarry in general and Killing Quarry in particular.

Another fine Killing Quarry review is here from Criminal Element.

Crime Fiction Lover loves it, too.

But enough about Quarry. Here’s somebody who considers Road to Perdition one of the great gangster films.

M.A.C.

Killing Quarry and an Unlikely Movie Trilogy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Audible: Audible

Killing Quarry from Hard Case Crime is available now, both at brick-and-mortar venues (you remember them – “stores”) and online from the usual suspects.

I’m happy to say that the reviews have been very good so far, and I’ll share links to some at the end of this update. Nothing from the trades yet – Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and Library Journal – and we may not get any, either, as entries in long-running series are often overlooked.

Also available now is the audio of Killing Quarry, read by the masterful Stefan Rudnicki, who has been narrating Mike Hammer of late, too, and who did a multiple-award-winning job on Scarface and the Untouchable. Barb and I haven’t listened to Killing Quarry yet, as we’re saving it for a next car trip. But I’m sure Stefan did his usual great job.

For those wondering where this fits into the chronology, Killing Quarry is the final “list” book, though I may do that theme again, earlier in the chronology. I jump around a lot. As I prepare to write the follow-up to Spree in what will be the first Nolan novel in decades, I intend to keep it in period much as I have the Quarry books written after The Last Quarry.

If you think you’re confused, imagine how I feel.

* * *

Barb and I went to two movies recently, Midway and Ford V Ferrari, which with Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood to form a kind of trilogy in my mind. I will explain after a few words about those first two.

Midway is a first-rate look at the famous battle and everything that led up to it (Pearl Harbor, Doolittle’s raid on Toyko); all of the characters are based on real people. It’s a film worth seeing on a big screen, and to these eyes – supposedly 20/20 with my glasses on – the CGI is impressive, the scope and the nastiness of the action spelled out, sometimes chillingly. The cast is fine, with Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart and Dennis Quaid standouts, and boy band star Nick Jonas doing well, too – of course, you must factor in that I think Rick Nelson is wonderful in Rio Bravo.

Despite what some of the reviews (particularly the bad ones) say, this Midway is not a remake of the 1976 film of that name, which had an incredibly stellar cast (Henry Fonda, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford and on and on) in a cut-and-paste affair marked by combat photography, stock footage, and rear-projection.

The critical hostility toward Midway almost certainly has to do with its director, Roland Emmerich, who is known for big-budget, visually impressive, but hokey if entertaining fare like Independence Day and White House Down. This film seems solid on its history and does not indulge in the soap opera tactics that torpedoed Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.

It’s worth seeing.

Ford V Ferrari, on the other hand, is essential viewing. The leads, Christian Bale as driving legend Ken Miles and Matt Damon as sports car designer Carroll Shelby, dominate the screen at least as thoroughly as the racing action that makes seeing this in a theatrical setting a must. The friendship of Bale and Damon is the heart of the film, and despite all the speed and thrills, it’s a character study of both Miles and Shelby. Bale is so winningly over-the-top that it’s hard not to love his character, and to be impressed by his performance. Damon, in his quiet way, is just as good.

The plot hangs on a rivalry between the men who ran Ford and Ferrari respectively, and how Henry Ford the Second’s desire to show up Enzo Ferrari had the American auto manufacturer putting together a racing team to do it. Simple as that premise is, director James Mangold and writers Jex Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller create conflicts and humor enough for half a dozen good films. The depiction of Ford II (Tracy Letts) and his staff, including a hilariously sycophantic Josh Lucas (“Have a good dinner, sir!”) and a budding automotive giant named Lee Iacocca, well-played by Jon Bernthal, is painfully familiar to any of us who have ever had to deal with “suits” to realize our dreams.

So what makes a trilogy out of Midway, Ford V Ferrari and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood? Well, Ferrari is almost a companion piece to Hollywood, in its spot on depiction of the ‘60s (albeit slightly earlier) with music and cars and billboards, among much else, putting it over. And Midway similarly takes us on a time machine ride (although, in fairness, Tarantino does the most thorough job of it and, of course, the most stylish).

Taken together, these three films make a point, perhaps intentionally or maybe not. But in the current political climate, they remind us that the only way we can feel good about America right now is to look in the rearview mirror.

* * *

Here are the Killing Quarry reviews, as promised.

First up, this short but sweet (and illustrated!) one from Jessicamap reviews.

Here’s a great one from the UK’s Shots by Mike Stotter.

Geek Hard delivers this beauty.

Here’s a solid one from the Warrendale Detroit Blog.

Finally, here’s a fantastic one from Bookreporter.com.

M.A.C.

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.