Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Thanksgiving 2016

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

In a year like the one I’ve experienced, it might seem tough to be thankful.

Those of you follow these updates know that I’ve had some health issues. The year began with carotid surgery preceding open-heart surgery, during which I had a stroke. While not major, the stroke left me with a fairly useless right hand – couldn’t type, didn’t even have a signature. And a writer losing his or her signature has lost a key piece of identity.

What followed was a lot of work getting my hand functional again and recovering from the surgery with physical and occupational therapy. Also, in the run-up to the heart surgery, something growing in my lower right lung lobe made itself known, requiring keeping an eye on. Eventually I was scheduled to go in for surgery that would probably be just a closer look, but might result in more serious surgery.

While all of this was going on, my son Nate’s bride Abby gave birth to Sam Collins, a preemie who fought a brave battle for life. Nate and Abby practically lived in the hospital for a month while this little tadpole of a kid fought to be a baby. We visited as often as we could, though this was going on concurrent with my heart condition stuff, and that limited us some.

Then both Barb and I managed to get pertussis, which is to say whooping cough. I got mine in August and she got hers a few weeks later, and we are still coughing (the hundred-day cough, they call it). My adventures, recounted in detail in previous updates, included rushing back from New Orleans the moment I landed because Barb’s pertussis had sent her to the emergency room; and having my lung surgery postponed for a month to allow me to get over my bout with the stuff.

The surgery wound up being more serious. A baseball-size thingie was taken out of my lower right lobe. It’s now been diagnosed as MALT-lymphoma, which has nothing to do with old Pop Jenkins down at the soda shop.

Then, while I was recovering from the lung surgery, glued to the TV, I witnessed Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.

So what the hell do I have to be thankful for?

Almost everything (except for the Trump part).

We can start with this career that has allowed me to concoct stories and get paid for it for four decades. We can move from there to my wife Barb, whose love and support got me through all of the bullshit above – she always knows when I need a tender shoulder and also when I need a kick in the pants. She is not a self-pity fan.

From there we can move to my great son and his equally great wife, who gave me this wonderful grandson who has overcome all of the obstacles and is now smart and healthy and very funny. You may have a baby or a baby grandkid who seems pretty cool, but can yours do an evil maniacal laugh at sixteen months?

As for my travails, I was typing almost immediately when I got home from the hospital. Initially all I could move was the mouse, and for some weeks the sensitivity of the computer keyboard was how my weak right hand was able to register anything. But two weeks home after my three-week hospital stay (two of it in O.T. and P.T.), I was working on my draft of Antiques Frame. Before long I was writing The Will to Kill, the new Mike Hammer, and Executive Order with my pal Matt Clemens. Throughout every stage of various recoveries, I have found that my writing has been unimpeded, that it is a place I can go and think of nothing but the story at hand.

Every day I filled at least a full notebook page with my signature, and within a month I had it back. If you ever need an M.A.C signature, my wife can tear one of out the notebook I filled with them. (Ask for one from a later page.)

The pertussis Barb and I shared brought us even closer together, because we were dealing with it at the same time. I won’t pretend it didn’t suck, but something odd happens when you are sick and have a reasonable expectation to get well – you start to really, really appreciate normal, everyday life. To look forward to the most trivial damn things – a meal out, a movie, a walk on an autumn day.

As for the lung thing, I am in a wait-and-see mode, and have a few more tests to take, but I am assured this is a treatable, very survivable condition…and I may have no recurrence. At this point there’s been no talk of chemo or radiation.

If that comes, rest assured I will do everything I can to keep writing, and taking advantage of the support and friendship my readers, editors and my great agent Dominick Abel have always provided. Do not worry about me. I am fine, and I am blessed.

Thanks.

* * *

Here’s the Brash Books blog with stuff about Road to Perdition the novel and Quarry as well.

Here’s a nice latterday review of Kill Your Darlings, though oddly the Bouchercon aspect of the story (usually the favorite aspect of readers) is not so favored here.

Finally, here’s a cool review of Dan John Miller reading Better Dead.

M.A.C.

Quarry’s Daddy on the TV Series

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

So what’s my opinion of the QUARRY TV series?

It’s a first-rate show. The finale (like the opening episode) is a feature-length crime story worthy of release as an indie film. The Vietnamese war sequence – one long take – is as remarkable a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen in some time, capturing the feel and pressure and insanity of battle. The cast has been stellar, as well, and the cinematography, art direction, location work, music selection, those elements and more, have been damn near flawless. Greg Yaitanes directed all eight episodes, meaning he pulled off a sustained nine-hour movie, an amazing feat.

Yet I get e-mails and comments from some readers bemoaning that the show isn’t like the books, and in some cases I have been criticized for essentially selling out, letting a bunch of Hollywood punks run roughshod over my creation. Well, first of all, if somebody wants to give me money to make a movie or TV show out of my stuff, and the price is right, they can star a sock monkey and set the show on Venus for all I care. As James M. Cain said (slightly paraphrasing here), “Hollywood hasn’t done anything to my books – they’re right here on the shelf.”

The books are the books. They have existed and will exist, strictly on my terms. Certain aspects of the novels just do not translate to film (this includes the Quarry-derived film THE LAST LULLABY, which I co-wrote). The QUARRY novels are almost entirely dependent on the first-person voice of Quarry himself – his sense of humor, his personal philosophy, the very sound of the things he says, the irony, the black humor. That’s lost in any QUARRY adaptation, unless you use voiceover, which is just not the same (and usually clumsy).

Additionally, the books are short, compact narratives depicting the jobs that Quarry goes on – none of them individually would sustain a season of television. Once the decision was made to do long-form narrative like MAD MEN or BREAKING BAD, the near novella form of the novels had to be dropped. The approach of the novels is what TV folks call “procedural.” Cinemax wanted a cast of recurring characters with their own evolving storylines – the novels are lone-wolf affairs, with few if any recurring characters.

Nonetheless, I have been impressed from the beginning that writers Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy have been able to draw upon the novels in resourceful, respectful ways that guarantee that my DNA stays in the mix. The eight-episode season that just concluded draws heavily upon the first novel, QUARRY (1976), which presents Quarry five years into doing hits for the Broker. The backstory of that novel – Quarry coming home to find his wife having an affair, followed by Quarry killing the guy – is depicted in the first episode right down to how the cheater dies. As director Yaitanes has made clear, the TV series is an origin story, a prequel to the novel series. And Mike and Graham understood, from the start, that Quarry was a PTSD vet (though the term wasn’t around when I wrote the early novels) and that the Vietnam War was very much an underlying theme. I was very pleased when they agreed with me that the show be set in early ‘70s period.

The Broker remains very much my character, and the way he insinuates himself into Quarry’s life on the show is clever and satisfying. In the 1976 novel, Quarry discovers the Broker is involved in heroin trafficking and this initiates the deterioration of their relationship – that aspect is present in the series in a major way. Also, Quarry in that first novel is working with a gay partner who is losing his focus – also a major aspect of the series. Quarry’s self-hating annoyance at the Broker’s various proteges comes from the 1976 novel as well.

Don’t be confused by my Executive Producer credit – that’s doesn’t mean I have control of anything. The TV series is the vision of Fuller and Gordy (as executed by Yaitanes), and when I write an episode, I am following their lead. It’s their baby. And of course when I’m writing a QUARRY novel, it’s all mine. Nobody gets near that crib but me.

What is important is that the original novels get some nice attention drawn to them, because of the quality TV series the books have spawned. It means more sales. More readers. More money. Much as I love my work, this is not a hobby – I’m trying to make a living here. When something like the QUARRY TV series happens that I can be proud of, so much the better.

Haven’t watched Wild Dog on ARROW yet, by the way. Is he played by a sock monkey? Just wondering.

* * *

The extended battle sequence I mention above is discussed by director Yaitanes here.

Here’s a short, sweet review of the new expanded version of the ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel. It was picked up by AP and has had wide coverage on the Net.

Finally, here are “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Wild Dog.”

M.A.C.

A Brash Preview

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Brash Books, who have brought the complete version of my ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel into print for the first time, has put together a terrific trailer for You Tube.

Brash will also be doing ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE, and the two Patrick Culhane-bylined titles of mine now under my own name: BLACK HATS and USS POWDERKEG (previously RED SKY IN MORNING).

Two more movies we walked out of:

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – we barely made it fifteen minutes into this travesty. Everything that made the original work, from the one-ups-manship chemistry between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen to the theme of the West leaving the gunfighter behind is sadly M.I.A. The opening is stupidly melodramatic with the villain a wimp (the woefully miscast Peter Sarsgaard) and the action over-blown. The introduction of Denzel Washington’s character is silly (people scurry like roaches in fear of him) and Chris Pratt’s character is so poorly drawn, he’s actually given three introductory scenes (none of which work). The art direction, in its would-be Italian Western-ness, is as precious as a Hummel. We went home and watched the original.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is the kind of unfunny movie that makes you question your previously high opinion of the topline cast members. Zach Galifianakis has nothing to do in the role of a normal suburban spouse/father, and John Hamm looks like Don Draper, half-in-the-bag, wandering onto the wrong set. It’s the wheeze about normal folks wondering what their sophisticated new neighbors are doing in this dull neighborhood (of course that neighborhood exists only in the imagination of Hollywood, as we have a combination of hick types living in very expensive houses supported by jobs they could never hold). Isla Fisher, for example, who channels Debbie Reynolds in her 1960s mode, is some kind of interior designer currently working on a urinal for her “funny” neighbor. How does this shit get made?

* * *

Here’s an okay but patronizing QUARRY IN THE BLACK review. It’s tough to take criticism from somebody who calls The Broker “The Booker.”

For my taste, more on target, here is this great write-up from Ron Fortier, first-rate scribe his own self.

Here’s another fine review of QUARRY IN THE BLACK, although somehow the reviewer mistakes St. Louis for New York City. A Brit, maybe?

The QUARRY TV show gets more love.

And Wild Dog is getting back into the comic books (I wasn’t invited).

More Wild Dog here.

Finally, here’s info on the excellent QUARRY IN THE BLACK audio read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

M.A.C.

3 Movies We Made it Through

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Now that Barb and I are feeling a little better after our bout with pertussis – and are not contagious – we’ve started going out to movies again. As regular readers of these updates should recall, she and I have walked out of an inordinate number of movies this year – on one occasion, two in one day.

So I am pleased – make that relieved – that the last three movies we’ve seen found us making it through the entire presentation, even when the pop, popcorn, and Milk Duds had run out. Here’s a brief rundown:

MASTERMINDS is an odd one that has left some reviewers cold, but both of us liked this one quite a bit. It’s a true-crime film that is also an over-the-top comedy. Here’s the cast: Zach Galifianakis; Kristen Wiig; Kate McKinnon; Jason Sudeikis; Owen Wilson; Leslie Jones; and Ken Marino. With four of the principals veterans of Saturday Night Live (Wiig, McKinnon, Sudeikis, Jones), and another from The State (Marino), and with SNL’s Lorne Michaels one of the producers, you should have some sense of how this differs from, say, IN COLD BLOOD.

The odd thing of it for us is that as we watched, we began to slowly realize the true incident being loosely depicted was one Barb and I had considered turning into a novel ourselves, a few years ago (the clipped newspaper articles remain in our story files); we just couldn’t figure out how to handle this unlikely, goofy story of a crew of trailer-park “masterminds” who pulled off a $17 million Loomis Fargo robbery. The slapstick nature of the real crime makes great fodder for the improv style of the cast, though (as I say) some found this marriage of true-crime and comedy off-putting. We howled.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – I almost passed on this one, since the screenplay was by Taylor Sheridan, whose SICARIO I despised. But the high Rotten Tomatoes rating got us there, and both Barb and I loved this throwback to the character-driven crime films of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, with its strong nod toward BONNIE AND CLYDE. Sheridan and director David Mackenzie follow two sympathetic pairs – Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, Texas Rangers, and Chris Pine and Ben Foster, bank robbers – on a course of inevitable, tragic confrontation. Criminal Pine comes across as an antihero of sorts, and Foster pulls off the very tricky role of Pine’s somewhat unhinged, borderline sociopathic brother, bringing to it unlikely charm. Bridges is the almost crotchety Texas Ranger just days from retirement who needles his Native American partner unmercifully in politically incorrect ways that create nervous laughter. The points of view of both sides of these teams are understandable, and it’s increasingly uncomfortable knowing collision is coming. When it does, no punches are pulled. The cinematography is striking in its depiction of a barren, even ravaged modernday Texas, and echoes of the Wild West past of outlaws and lawmen lurk on the fringes of this melancholy but always entertaining film. Best of the year so far.

GIRL ON THE TRAIN – We didn’t walk out of it, but this one barely eked out our attention. For a more compelling melodrama, try watching a snail crawl across a patio. All of the characters are unsympathetic, and – possibly explaining the sleep-inducing pace – there’s about a short story’s worth of plot here, stretched out and arranged in two hours of pointless flashbacks that don’t announce when they’re over (including some flashbacks within flashbacks, depictions of false memories, and flashbacks remembered by people who weren’t there). The screenwriter is female and so is the author of the novel, and if a man wrote a novel hating women as much as this film hates men, he would be dismissed as a sexist boor. Worst movie we didn’t walk out of in recent memory. Slight compensation: the performances of Emily Blunt (though she’s mostly playing drunk) and Allison Janney as a cop (who ought to be more on top of things).

* * *

Stacy Keach is a nominee for best narrator of a crime & thriller audiobook for MURDER NEVER KNOCKS by Spillane & Collins. Stacy does a fantastic job on his readings of the novels, and if you’re a Mike Hammer fan, you shouldn’t miss any of them.

Another top narrator, Stefan Rudnicki, has done QUARRY IN THE BLACK on audio. I’ve not heard this yet, but Stefan always does a good job. He has a deep voice that suggests the older Quarry (of, say, THE LAST QUARRY) ruminating about the adventures of his younger days.

Speaking of QUARRY IN THE BLACK, the positive reviews keep coming, like this one from Criminal Element.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

From Australia comes this great review of the QUARRY TV show, with lots of references to the original books.

Here’s a review of the early novel in the series, QUARRY’S DEAL.

And finally, in German (but you may have a Google translator or something), is a career piece on me the likes of which nobody in the USA has ever done. It comes from the very knowledgeable Martin Compart, who was my editor at several publishing houses in Germany. Martin, the epitome of cool, was an early advocate of both Quarry and Nate Heller. Scroll down the article and you’ll see a great picture of him, next to some young punk.

M.A.C.