Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Antiques Frame Just Published

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

This week Antiques Frame, the latest “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery by Barb and me (writing as Barbara Allan), goes on sale. There’s also an audio book, which we’ve sampled but haven’t listened to all the way through, though the narrator this time is much more to our liking.

I realize that certain of my readers may not be inclined to pick up a “cozy” mystery, but some reviewers have realized that the series is in part a tongue-in-cheek send-up of that genre, and also that the novels have a certain edge, even if they aren’t Mike Hammer or Nate Heller or Quarry.

This particular novel has special meaning for me – not because it’s my favorite in the series (that might be Antiques Fate, just out in mass market paperback) but because it represented a real breakthrough for me. Antiques Frame was the first book I (co-)wrote after my open-heart surgery and the stroke I had, just for fun, on the operating table. As regular readers here may recall, I woke up in the hospital to a right arm and, to some degree, right side that were as useful as a broken hinge.

At the hospital I had both physical therapy and occupational therapy, and was helped by a number of terrific people in those disciplines. My right side came back within days – I was walking well and able to do the exercises asked of me, from riding stationery bikes to going up and down stairs. But my right hand remained feeble. The idea of typing with it again seemed abstract. The most disheartening thing was that I had lost my signature.

The doctors and therapists assured me I would get my right hand back, and the doctors especially implied the use would just back on its own. Not true. I had to work hard at it, with exercises ranging from rubber band contraptions to just flat out trying to write my name over and over again.

For a writer, the loss of his or her signature is a blow to the ego, to the very idea of identity. I was determined to get it back. But my biggest fear was losing the ability to type with both hands. Fortunately, almost immediately, I had some ability to use the hand – weak as hell, though. At home I soon found that a computer keyboard is sensitive enough that very faint pressure is all that’s required. My typing style is two-fisted, having trained on (and for a long time using) manual typewriters.

So my left hand was typically strong and my right weak as a kitten. This required backing off on my left. I began writing e-mails and this weekly blog. Very soon I was able to type passably well, and the first project I tackled – still spending time with physical and occupational therapy, for several weeks here at home before going to a facility – was my draft of Antiques Frame.

Again, if you’re a regular visitor here you may know how Barb and I operate on these books. We come up with a title and a basic plot, and sometimes plot the books together and sometimes our plotting session has been good enough that Barb can break down the chapters in an outline of sorts herself. She also does character lists and time lines. The book had been plotted, roughly, before my hospital stay.

She writes a rough draft, usually 200 to 250 pages. I then write my draft of 300 to 325 pages, mostly adding jokes and polishing, plus expanding dialogue. This time she wrote a good deal of her draft in my hospital room on a laptop. As the books are humorous mysteries, I’m not sure how she managed that.

When I began working on the book, I discovered that she had (not surprisingly) done a fine job, but (somewhat surprisingly) the humor quotient was typically high. In my diminished state, I hoped I could keep the thing funny, too. Frankly, I was hoping it would just be in English. But the effort went well, and working on a “Barbara Allan” was the perfect way for me to get back up on the writing horse and write/ride.

My right hand came back within a couple of months, pretty much strong as ever. And several more months later, when the galley proofs arrived of Antiques Frame, I swallowed hard and sat down to read them. I was amazed to find out the book was not only in English, but a solid and very funny entry in the series. It’s a reminder that writers live chiefly in their heads – their physical state is something they have to deal with, obviously, but as long as the mental engine is firing on all cylinders, the rest is incidental.

The other thing I learned is how good my wife has gotten at writing, and how generally wonderful a woman she is – actually, I already knew, but the experience of taking my pass on Antiques Frame was sweet confirmation.

* * *

Barb and I are preparing for our NYC trip for the Edgar awards and my receiving the Grand Master award. That’s on Thursday evening. For those of you in the New York area, here’s the line-up for the Wednesday Edgar-week symposium, which includes Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime interviewing me.
Symposium Schedule

Cost: $95 members; $125 non-members – with a $15 retroactive discount for those who join MWA within 30 days after.

8:30 – 8:50: Registration

8:55 – 9:00: Welcome – MWA’s Executive Vice President – Donna Andrews

9:00 – 9:50: Meet the Class of 2017 – Best First Novel Nominees
Moderator: STEFANIE PINTOFF, 2010 Best First Edgar Winner (City on Edge, Bantam)
Panelists: Flynn Berry (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Under the Harrow, Penguin Books)
Bill Beverly (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dodgers, Crown Publishing)
Joe Ide (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – IQ, Little, Brown & Co – Mulholland Books)
Nick Petrie (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Drifter – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Lili Wright (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dancing with the Tiger – Marian Wood/Putnam)
Heather Young (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Lost Girls – William Morrow)

10:00 – 10:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 1
Grand Master Max Allan Collins interviewed by Charles Ardai

11:00 – 11:50: Just the Facts – If you’re not writing what you know, you’re writing what you want to know – and today’s savvy reader will send you a note if you get it wrong, How do writers of fiction and nonfiction crime approach research? When do they know they’ve researched enough?
Moderator: LAURIE R. KING, MWA NorCal Chapter President (Murder of Mary Russell – Bantam)
Panelists: Ruth Franklin (2017 Best Critical/Bio Nominee – Shirley Jackson – W.W. Norton)
Laurence Leamer (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Lynching – William Morrow)
Kate Summerscale (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Wicked Boy – Penguin Press)
Caroline (Charles) Todd (2017 MHC Award Nominee – The Shattered Tree – William Morrow)
James Ziskin (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Heart of Stone – Seventh Street Books)

11:50 – 1:00 Lunch Break (On Your Own)

1:00 – 1:50: Nursery Noir – Writers of mysteries for young readers may have the toughest audience of all. How do dark stories translate for the teen and tween set? How do adult writers get into the minds – and hearts – of kid readers?
Moderator: LORI RADER-DAY, MWA Midwest Chapter President (The Day I Died – William Morrow)
Panelists: Brent Hartinger (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Three Truths and a Lie – Simon Pulse)
April Henry (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – The Girl I Used to Be – Christy Ottaviano Books)
Sarah Lariviere (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – The Bad Kid – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
James Ponti (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Framed! – Aladdin)
Billy Taylor (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Thieving Weasels – Penguin YR – Dial Books)
Susan Vaught (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry – Paula Wiseman Books)

2:00 – 2:50 Liars Club – Liars, cheats, thieves, murderers – and, sometimes, those are the protagonists. How do writers create characters that keep readers up at night? How do they create empathy in characters who make bad guys look pretty good?
Moderator: JEFFERY DEAVER, 2017 MWA President (The Burial Hour – Grand Central Publishing)
Panelists: Laura Benedict (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “A Paler Shade of Death” – St. Louis Noir)
Alafair Burke (2017 Best Novel Nominee – The Ex – HarperCollins)
Robert Dugoni (2017 Best PBO Nominee – The 7th Canon – Thomas & Mercer)
Lyndsay Faye (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Jane Steele – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Alison Gaylin (2017 Best Novel Nominee – What Remains of Me – William Morrow)
Martha Hillier (2017 Best TV Episode Nominee – “Dark Road” – Vera)

3:00 – 3:50: #AuthorLife – There’s no one way to be a crime writer. Agent/no agent. Small press/big five. Plotter/pantser forever. How did these authors get into the life of crime – and what advice do they have for aspiring writers taking a stab at mystery?
Moderator: MARK STEVENS, MWA Rocky Mtn Chapter President (Lake of Fire – Midnight Ink)
Panelists: Megan Abbott (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “Oxford Girl” – Mississippi Noir)
Patricia Abbott (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Shot in Detroit – Polis Books)
Reed Farrel Coleman (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Where it Hurts – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Tyler Dilts (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Come Twilight – Thomas & Mercer)
Adrian McKinty (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Rain Dogs – Seventh Street Books)
Wendy Corsi Staub (2017 MHC Award Nominee – Blue Moon – William Morrow)

4:00 – 4:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 2
Grand Master Ellen Hart – Interviewed by Oline Cogdill

* * *

All the books have been mailed out on our “free books” offer. Just about everyone who requested one got one.

The newly published Executive Order has received some nice notices, like this one.

And another one here.

This article includes me as a mystery writer doing some TV scripting.

Finally, and I kid you not (as Jack Paar used to say), here’s a review of the 1985 trade paperback, The Files of Ms. Tree Vol. 1.


Hey, Kids! Free Books…Again!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Audio MP3 CD:

Once more, we are going to offer copies of our work – and I’m talking in the editorial “we” to some extent, but also about Barb and me – to the first responders (and not just cops and fireman) among readers who agree to post an Amazon review. Barnes & Noble works, too, and if you have your own blog, that’s great also. But Amazon seems to be where sales get an impact.

As has happened to me too many times to mention, I have a bunch of books coming out more or less at once. So here’s what’s on offer…

The Will to Kill by Mickey Spillane and You Know Who. The new Mike Hammer that I wrote working from Spillane material, and something of a change of pace, with an Agatha Christie-type set-up complete with greedy offsprings in a big remote house.

Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan. Brandy goes to jail accused of murdering the wife of the man she’s been dating for much of the series, and Mother must investigate, including contemplating attracting attention by going “the partial Vivian” (as opposed to the Full Monty). These are funny novels and if they don’t make you laugh, you’re dead from the neck up. Available are a mix of trade paperback advance copies and a few hardcovers.

Antiques Fate by Barbara Allan. This is the paperback reprint of last year’s hardcover. Brandi and her mother go to an English-style village where Vivian will do her one-woman show of “the Scottish play,” and murder most foul will ensue.

The Big Showdown by Mickey Spillane and me. The second Caleb York western, now in paperback. The crazy brothers of somebody Caleb killed in the first book are on the warpath, and they aren’t even Indians. There’s also a mystery growing out of the murder of a recurring character. (Well, not recurring anymore….)

Executive Order by M.A.C. and Matthew V. Clemens. The conclusion to the “Branches of Government” trilogy of political thrillers which are almost as bat-shit crazy as the real world. Have you met Reeder and Rogers yet? If you haven’t tried one of these, what are you waiting for?

Five copies of each are available. Write me at [REDACTED] and list, in order of preference, the books that interest you. You’ll only get one of the titles. If there’s something you already have or aren’t keen on getting, don’t list it.

IMPORTANT: include in your e-mail your snail-mail address. You’ll likely be skipped over if you don’t. Also, this is only for the USA. Canadians must buy the books to read them. Don’t feel bad – Trump isn’t your president.

Okay? Got the rules?

These go fast, but it usually takes at least a few days, so don’t give up without trying.

And if you’re already a paying customer for any of these, picture me on my knees begging: write Amazon reviews of the books of mine/ours you’ve read lately. Post those reviews on your blogs and Facebook pages, but make sure to do so at Amazon. Will to Kill, a novel people really seem to like, is very under-reviewed. Quarry in the Black could also use some love, and the same goes for Better Dead.

Grass roots attention is important. The trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus) are reviewing less and less of my material, apparently because when a series runs a while, they just don’t bother. Or maybe they just think I write too much. Even Mystery Scene and Ellery Queen are spotty – the last Queen review just lumped a bunch of my books together.

This doesn’t go for just me – any writer you like, any writer you follow, will benefit (and stay in business) by you writing an Amazon review and/or a Blog entry. A good place to start? My stuff.

Thank you.

Speaking of reviews, here’s a nifty one of The Will to Kill.

Here’s a piece wondering if there will be a second season of Quarry, wishing there would be. From your lips to Cinemax’s ear.

Some coverage of the Stacy Keach Mike Hammer audios can be found here.

And Ms. Tree gets some love here, including a podcast (that I haven’t heard yet).



Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Three show business figures passed away recently, and as it happens, I had passing meetings with each.

CHUCK BERRY, 90, I met at an airport where we shared a gate. He was traveling with a guitar in its case, and appeared to be alone. But it was unmistakably him. As a longtime veteran of rock ‘n’ roll, I had to have a moment. I didn’t ask for an autograph, afraid I might start trouble for him, because a lot of people obviously didn’t recognize him.

“I just want to thank you for starting it all,” I said.

He smiled and said you’re welcome, and we shook hands.

I think I said something about having played rock ‘n’ roll for decades, and he said where he was headed, though I’ve forgotten. He was quiet but friendly.

What I said to him was about right. Little Richard and other black artists of the early rock days really were r & b starting to become rock, and Elvis fell in that category as well. But Chuck Berry, with his guitar-driven rock and his teenage subject matter, was not r & b, but at the very forefront of the new genre. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.

He was playing regularly in his home, St. Louis, until very recently.

TONY ROSATO, 62, is one of the unsung heroes of SCTV. He and the great Robin Duke were in the final season of the original incarnation of the show (they both moved to SNL after). His big character on the show was TV chef Marcello Sebastiani, but he was also a fine mimic, playing Lou Costello in a memorable Abbott and Elvis Costello parody.

He had a fine career, with a lot of Canadian TV, but mental health problems took him into a tragic area in later years.

I met him at the SCTV reunion in Chicago several years ago, in a crowded lobby of fans and Second City performers. He was accompanied by a minder of sorts and was obviously feeling a little lost. He was frankly surprised when I recognized him and asked for an autograph, which he gave me, and he smiled when I told him what a big fan I was of his SCTV and SNL work.

ROBERT OSBORNE, 84, the charming and knowledgeable presenter on Turner Classic Movies, I met backstage (actually upstairs somewhere) at a theater in Hollywood. My pal Leonard Maltin was giving me a chance to meet Jane Powell and a few other celebrities at the TCM Film Festival that year. I chatted with Osborne about (this will surprise few) how cool it would be to have a Mickey Spillane film festival on TCM, as they’d already shown The Girl Hunters a few times and Kiss Me Deadly many times. He was friendly and gracious, and exactly the guy you saw on TV.

I thanked him for everything he did for classic films and for sharing his enthusiasm, and knowledge, with viewers. And I’m glad I did.

While I never met him, BILL PAXTON, 61, was a good friend of my pal Bill Mumy and appeared in “Fish Heads” (which he also directed) and other Barnes & Barnes videos. What a terrific actor, and what a devastating loss. If you’ve never watched his HBO series Big Love, you should correct that mistake.

I don’t recall meeting the great cartoonist BERNIE WRIGHTSON, who like me was born in March of 1948, but I loved his work. Decades ago, when I started realizing interesting new things were happening in comics, and that I wasn’t the only one who liked the medium, Bernie Wrightson was at the forefront.

Such passings define bittersweet – we are so lucky to have experienced the art these creators shared with us, and so unlucky to be denied any more.

* * *

For those who suspect I have become a curmudgeon where current movies are concerned, walking out more often than staying to the finish, I am pleased to report Barb and I saw a terrific movie this weekend – Get Out.

Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is a horror movie with darkly satiric overtones and some outright comedy that never dampens a truly creepy tale that might be described as an African-American Stepford Wives…though that doesn’t do it justice.

Remember how lousy I said the script of Kong was? And how I was chastised for expecting a monster movie to have good dialogue? Well, he’s a horror movie on a modest budget with no huge stars (but a strong cast) that not only has sharp dialogue but a well-constructed narrative that pays off everything it sets up, in a most satisfying manner.

This one I’ll be buying on Blu-ray.

* * *

The Will to Kill, the new Spillane/Collins, is getting some lovely reviews. Have you ordered your copy yet? What are you waiting for? You wanna get on Mike Hammer’s bad side? In the meantime, check out this wonderful Criminal Element review.

And here’s another great Will to Kill review, this one from the NY Journal of Books.

The new Hard Case Crime edition of Quarry’s Vote inspired this sweet review.

And Publisher’s Weekly likes Antiques Frame, due out in about a month.

Finally, once again my Eliot Ness/Batman graphic novel of some time ago is getting noticed.


A Gig, a Walk-Out, and More

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Saturday night Crusin’ played for a benefit at the River Music Experience in Davenport. The cause was music education in the Muscatine school system. This was our first gig of the year (by choice), having last played in September for my high school 50th class reunion.

It was just an hour but felt good – nice to be back on stage with the guys, and our guitarist Jim Van Winkle’s son, Teddy, played trombone with us on a couple of songs. Teddy is a music major at the University of Iowa and really tore it up. This my first time performing since lung surgery, and I was of course concerned, but had no problems with either stamina or singing.

We have about half a dozen gigs lined up through the summer and fall.

* * *

I am rather astonished to report that Barb and I walked out of a movie again, one we had been looking forward to all week. Kong – Skull Island has a high Rotten Tomatoes rating, and my pal Leonard Maltin loved it. We didn’t. The script was terrible – cringe-worthy dialogue and a ponderous set-up, and a cast that couldn’t overcome either. Tom Hiddleson, with his narrow face and slight build, is presented as some kind of bar brawler, which is unbelievable even without the notion that this makes him vital to a team going out to track monsters. John Goodman has lost so much weight, he looks ill, as if he’s wearing a baggy skin suit, and Samuel Jackson glowering at Kong and Kong glowering back has an uncomfortable racist tinge. Your results may vary, but we gave it fifty minutes before it got so stupid we couldn’t even stay to watch a bunch of characters we hated get killed.

Barb passed on Logan, but I saw it with Nate a weekend ago, and found it okay, with the trio of actors at its center (Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen) strong. Self-importantly dark and almost entirely humorless, Logan also suffers from underwhelming villains in actors Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant, the former silly in his villainy, the latter hammy as an evil scientist. No Ian McKellan or Michael Fassbender in sight.

Some of you are suspecting I don’t like anything any more. But I like lots of things, mostly on TV, including lately Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret (and Michael Gambon’s and Bruno Cremer’s), the fourth season of Endeavor (the Morse prequel) and the Victoria series, though I wish it didn’t want to be Downton Abbey so bad.

* * *

My editor at Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai, is so fast and efficient I sometimes think I’m hallucinating. Less than a week after I turned in Quarry’s Climax, he gave me edits and then galley proofs, and the book is put to bed.

No sign of a second Quarry TV season, though there’s been no official cancellation.

I am working on the non-fiction book Scarface & the Untouchable, the joint Capone/Ness bio. It promises to be major, but brother is it tough. My co-authors Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer have written their rough draft material and gathered research, and now I’m up to bat.

Looks like the manuscript could be in the 1200 – 1500 page range. Like we say in the funnies, gulp.

* * *

Now in Paperback!

If you are going to Bouchercon this year, and have been sent an Anthony ballot, and like my work enough to be reading this, here’s a reminder of what’s eligible:

Road to Perdition: The New Expanded Version, paperback original.
The Nate Heller novel, Better Dead, hardcover.
Quarry in the Black, paperback.
Murder Never Knocks, hardcover.
Antiques Fate, hardcover.
A Dangerous Cat,” Hammer short story in the Strand.

* * *

The Will to Kill is out and I hope some of you have already bought this new Mike Hammer by Mickey and me, and that the rest of you will do so soon. We need reviews at Amazon and elsewhere, including blogs, and your participation would be much appreciated.

Michael Carlson has done a most interesting Will to Kill review in his UK column, Irresistible Targets.

Also out in (mass-market paperback) is Hammer’s last year’s performance, Murder Never Knocks. Here’s a great Ron Fortier review of it.

Finally, here’s a Quarry’s Choice audio review, very nice.