Posts Tagged ‘Scarface and the Untouchable’

Your New Year’s Resolution

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

Here’s a sad story with which almost any professional writer can identify, as something like it has undoubtedly happened to every one of us.

At the last San Diego con, several personnel from Titan waved me over at breakfast to meet the man from Barnes & Noble who buys graphic novels for the chain. He was a big fan – clearly thrilled to meet me. I was the Beatles and he was Eddie Deezen in I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I sat and we chatted and I told him about the upcoming graphic novels from Titan, Quarry’s War and Mike Hammer: The Night I Died. He couldn’t wait!

Cut to recently when I looked at Barnes & Noble’s graphic novel sections in Davenport, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa; and various Chicago B & N’s. Not a copy of either graphic novel was available at any of them.

Hey! I know! They had all sold out!

Or not.

A smaller sad story is the lousy one- and two-star Amazon reviews for both graphic novels from buyers who are angry that they accidentally bought a comic book. One of these reviewers hates graphic novels and considers them the downfall of literacy in America. Yes, these are idiotic cranks, but neither graphic novel has received enough reviews to weather such boneheaded ones (Quarry’s War does benefit from reviews some of you fine humans have contributed). The Mike Hammer has only one review – a two-star bummer from the aforementioned graphic novel hater.

So.

Here is your New Year’s Resolution. If you have already read either of these – whether in the four comic books collected in each graphic novel, or by way of the graphic novel itself – you will ASAP write a brief Amazon review, unless you have already done so. I do not specify that these reviews have to be raves. But I do request that you not post a review complaining that a graphic novel turned out to be (shudder! horrors!) a graphic novel.

Or…if you haven’t bought either book, and are not among those who despise the comics form, please acquire these gems (unbiased opinion). Maybe you’ll find them at a Barnes & Noble. But don’t count on it. B & N will have it on-line, as Amazon does. I have spotted Quarry’s War at a Books-a-Million, but not Mike Hammer yet. Maybe you have gift cards you haven’t used yet – what are you waiting for?

Okay, I’m whining again. Sorry. But judging by the stealth existence of these two graphic novels, the writer of Road to Perdition…which is on many “best graphic novels of all time” lists…won’t ever get to write a graphic novel again.



In the meantime, let me remind you what’s coming out in the first half of this year, with not a graphic novel in sight. I apologize there’s so much of mine to read, but (a) I can’t control dates of publication, and (b) if I don’t write, nobody sends money to my house.

Here is what is coming up.


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

USS Powderkeg is a trade paperback (and e-book) from Brash Books on February 1st. This is the revised edition of the novel Red Sky in Morning, with the penname “Patrick Culhane” banished to the cornfield in favor of my actual byline (Max Allan Collins, remember?). I am very excited about this, and so very grateful to Brash to putting my preferred title on the book and, of course, my preferred byline. It’s a personal novel to me, based as it is (in part) on my late father’s experiences in the Navy in World War Two as one of a handful of white officers on an ammunition ship manned by black sailors.


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

The Goliath Bone by Mickey Spillane and me will receive a mass market paperback, in the Titan format, in late February.


Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo
Audiobook: Kobo

Murder, My Love by Mickey and me is the new Mike Hammer hardcover from Titan, out in mid-March. Published simultaneously on audio from Skyboat Media, available from Audible. This is the first Hammer written solely by me, but from a Spillane synopsis.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon Audio CD: Amazon

Girl Most Likely is a trade paperback and e-book from Thomas and Mercer, out on April 1, no fooling. This I’m particularly excited about because it’s a thriller that charts new territory for me – I would call it an American take on nordic noir. More about this closer to pub date.

Toward the end of May comes Last Stage to Hell Junction, the new Caleb York western from Kensington, a hardcover. It’s bylined Spillane/Collins, but it’s a Collins novel using characters and situations created by Spillane.

Toward the end of April comes Antiques Ravin’ by Barbara Allan, again from Kensington. Barb and her husband wrote it. Very funny and a darker mystery than you’ll encounter in most cozys. Of course, Jon Breen says we’re a subversive cozy series.

Then in early June comes the trade paperback of Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. This is a major work (thanks to Brad) and I’m proud to be its co-author.

So, really, forget all these other writers you usually follow. You have priorities. You have work to do.

For those who need their pump primed – and you know how painful that can be – we’ll have a book giveaway before too long.

* * *

Oh, and Happy New Year, everybody!

We had a lovely holiday with son Nate, daughter-in-law Abby, and grandkids Sam (3 yrs) and Lucy (3 mths). Sam and his grandfather watched a lot of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on Blu-ray. And for those wondering, yes, I did receive a Christmas card from Paul Reubens/Pee-Wee this year. That made it an official Christmas, particularly since both Scrooge with Sim and the original Miracle on 34th Street were watched as well.

* * *

Here’s the first review of Girl Most Likely.

And the Stiletto Gumshoe includes Murder, My Love among the books to read in the winter of 2019. Great site.

M.A.C.

Max Allan Ruins Everything

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

I am about to recommend something you are probably already familiar with; but here goes….

Netflix recently added a sampling of the truTV series Adam Ruins Everything to its roster, and it looked interesting enough for me to try it…and now I am hooked. When I ran through the Netflix batch, I immediately bought the various seasons of the show on Amazon Prime and have watched all but a few episodes.

Adam Ruins Everything is the brainchild of stand-up comic Adam Conover, and (in the words of Wikipedia), “The series aims to debunk misconceptions that pervade U.S. society.” It spins off from Conover’s CollegeHumor web series, which I haven’t seen (yet). But it’s a lot more, being as much a comedy show as an educational one.

Adam Conover portrays himself as an overly helpful nerd, a smarty-pants who doesn’t understand why people don’t love him for correcting them. It’s a funny concept which Conover pulls off fearlessly, surrounding himself with some of the best comedic talent around, including veterans of Mr. Show and Reno 911. Recurring characters and story arcs are threaded through, as well.

Conover and his series skewer historical misconceptions, false beliefs fueled by corporate misinformation, urban legends and just plain stupidity. And, uniquely, sources are posted on-screen, and experts on the various subjects often appear in the context of the imaginative episodes. Though I discovered the well-made, entertaining show just a week ago, Conover and his research staff have already changed my behavior. I have sworn off vitamin supplements and Tylenol PM, for example.

He isn’t always right, and to his credit a later episode focuses on some of his mistakes. (When I say “he,” I refer not to the actual Conover but his television character.) For example, the episode about the real Wild West dismisses Wyatt Earp as a nobody con man who tried to peddle the untrue story of his life to Hollywood, implying he wasn’t a gunfighting heroic lawman at all.

Earp, of course, was a controversial figure, but he was famous during his day and well after, surviving several harrowing gunfights, including the O.K. Corral one (which happened in a vacant lot near the corral), which was even covered as news in the New York Times. The show is at its weakest when it accepts its experts at face value.

The Collins/Schwartz Scarface and the Untouchable, for example, debunks the debunkers who falsely represented Eliot Ness and his career. But I fear if Ness came up in a future episode, the research staff would accept the conventional (and wrong) wisdom about the Untouchables and the IRS investigators. Like the anti-Ness writers, many of the anti-Earp writers posthumously attacked the lawman-gambler-prospector because of the exaggerations of a book published after his death, leading to inflated TV fame.

For me, the the anti-conspiracy theory episode is unfortunate on a show that routinely exposes government and/or corporate conspiracies. It conflates the risible “moon landing was fake” theory with the Kennedy assassination. While my Nathan Heller novels have their fanciful aspects, the extensive research I’ve done (often with the help of George Hagenauer) has often shown the official versions of things are false…something Adam Ruins Everything often does.

Let’s not give conspiracy a bad name. Watergate and its cover-up was a conspiracy. The JFK assassination was almost certainly a conspiracy. Robert Mueller is not a guy in a tin-foil hat.

Also, sometimes conspiracies are not really conspiracies at all. Let me tell you about it! The railroading of Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was nothing engineered, rather a bunch of cops backing each other up, plus some reporters manufacturing evidence, all filtered through a general hatred of Germans post-World War One. These folks didn’t get together in a room and conspire. They just had mutual views/assumptions of who did the crime.

For the record, when I write a Nathan Heller novel, I go in with an open mind. For JFK, the most outrageous thing I could have done was come to the conclusion that Oswald was the Lone Gunman. For Lindbergh, I’d have been swimming against the tide if I said Hauptmann was guilty; but if that’s where my research led, so be it. When I wrote the Roswell novel, Majic Man, I went in ready to report whatever I came away believing – including the existence of aliens. But my research indicated something else was going on.

With Do No Harm, the Sam Sheppard murder case novel that will be out in a year or so, I had no opinion about who did it…and did not decide till well into the work – not only the research period but the writing one.

So Adam Ruins Everything isn’t perfect. But it’s funny and informative, and – most important – it gets you thinking. It even got me thinking! Also, you need to stop using sleep aids and vitamin supplements.

* * *

I will admit to being disappointed on two fronts by various end-of-the-year “best of” lists.

Both The Last Stand and Killing Town, the final Spillane solo novel and the collaborative first Mike Hammer novel (begun in 1945 by Mickey and completed by me last year), have been pretty much roundly ignored…despite fairly stellar reviews.

One nice exception is this selection of Killing Town as the Best Retro Read of the Year, here.

More disappointing is how Scarface and the Untouchable by A. Brad Schwartz and myself has been overlooked, again despite stellar reviews. The book is a completely new approach to Eliot Ness and his contribution to the downfall of Capone, and the previously unnoticed collaboration between the government and Capone’s fellow mobsters to put the Big Fellow away. I fear the length of the book has scared away reviewers. And I am now officially nervous that we’ll be overlooked by the Edgars.

(But a nice exception is this gift guide from the Entertainment Report.)

If you haven’t tracked down the Titan graphic novel edition of Mike Hammer in The Night I Died, this good review might convince you.

By the way, I signed ten copies of The Night I Died for vj books, available here.

Here’s a nice advance look at Girl Most Likely from Col’s Criminal Library.

This is a mediocre review, but at least it’s a review, of the Quarry graphic novel, Quarry’s War. The reviewer complains about the alternating pages that intersperse the Vietnam war sequence with Quarry during his hitman years, considering what I’m proudest of about the work “annoying.” He complains that Quarry doesn’t open up enough about himself. Sigh.

On the other hand, both Quarry’s War and The Night I Died get nice mentions in this wrap-up of comics in 2018.

This is my first post of 2019, by the way, written in 2018. Happy New Year to all of you.

M.A.C.

Stan Lee, William Goldman, Orson Welles and Much, Much More!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

By the time this appears, Brad Schwartz and I will have made our Chicago appearance at the American Writers Museum. But as I write this, Barb and I haven’t even left Muscatine yet. So any report will have to wait till next time, when I’ll also talk about Thanksgiving with son Nate, daughter-in-law Abby, and grandkids Sam and Lucy.

But there’s plenty to talk about first. Let’s start with two great names in American pop culture, both writers, who met their final deadlines recently.

I interacted with Stan Lee any number of times. Coincidentally, the first and most memorable was at WGN in Chicago, where Brad and I will be taping something the day before this update appears. Brad and I will be doing television, but Stan and I did a radio show, where he fielded questions about Marvel and I did the same about the Dick Tracy strip, which I was writing then. I’m guessing this was early ‘80s. Stan was friendly and everything you’d expect him to be, and we got along fine. In future, I would encounter him at comics conventions, mostly just saying hello. He always seemed to remember me, but I doubt he did.

While I have little interest in Marvel today, and have only written a handful of things for them, I was a big fan in junior high and high school (and even college). I knew of Stan Lee by his byline on pre-superhero monster comics and even Millie the Model (I read lots of different comics). I’m sure it made an impression on me that this was a writer getting a byline on comics without doing any of the drawing. I bought all his early superhero stuff at Cohn’s Newsland in Muscatine, including the first issues of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and The Avengers. I knew of Jack Kirby, too – I subscribed to Challengers of the Unknown in grade school. Kirby was why I was buying monster comic books featuring creatures like “Fin Fang Foom,” “Mechano” and (yes) “Groot” (many Marvel super-hero characters had earlier incarnations as monsters).

How long was I a Marvel fan? As long as Ditko (and then John Romita, Sr.) was drawing Spiderman and Kirby Fantastic Four, I was in.

What I liked about Stan was the humor he brought to his super-hero work, and the way he interacted with fans. I was a charter member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Some have tried to diminish his work by saying he screwed over Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but I know nothing of that and don’t want to know. What I know is he entertained and inspired me, and was friendly to me in person. Excelsior, Stan.

I never met William Goldman, who was a friend of Don Westlake’s – occasionally Don told me stories about his buddy “Bill.” I admired Goldman as a novelist (Soldier in the Rain, Marathon Man), although his screenwriting was where I think he really made an impact. He brought a storytelling touch to the form that made scripts read like, well, stories, not blueprints. He did this to save his sanity and also to make the screenplays compelling to the studio execs and directors who read them.

Goldman is, of course, the man who revealed to the world that the first and only rule about Hollywood is, “Nobody knows anything.” And he gave us the book that became the film Princess Bride. I wrote the novelization of his Maverick, not his best screenplay by a longshot but still good and a pleasure to turn into a novel that some (myself included) consider superior to the film. I like having a small connection to the man.

By any yardstick, William Goldman was a writer who left the world a better place for what he did while he was here. Let’s say it all together now: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

* * *

So Netflix is making theatrical movies now, and streaming those movies even as they are hitting theaters. This is a tragedy, because it almost certainly means I will have to buy an even bigger TV.

So are the movies any good? Having seen two, I may not have enough to go on. But both are worth talking about.

First, Outlaw King. This historical epic is essentially a sequel to Braveheart, although only the dismembered arm of William Wallace appears (apparently not contributed by Mel Gibson). Reviews on this have been mixed, but Barb and I thought it was terrific. Pine was fine (sorry) as Robert the Bruce, the Scottish warrior king who faced seemingly impossible odds in a struggle to win independence from Britain – as an American whose grandparents on my pop’s side were name MacGregor, I can relate. The filmmaking is first-rate, with an opening shot that goes on forever without a cut, just a dazzling piece of work from director, co-screenwriter David Mackenzie. There’s even a decent love story. Barb was happy with Chris Pine’s nudity (me not so much) but the final battle scene was a bloody wonder, making Braveheart look like a garden party. High marks for Netflix on this one.

Then there’s The Other Side of the Wind. Netflix backed this assembly of footage from 96 hours Orson Welles shot between 1970 and 1976. Welles was attempting something new, influenced and I think intimidated by the American wave of young filmmakers that included Dennis Hopper (who appears in the film) as well as Coppola, DePalma and Scorsese.

To call the production troubled is like saying Citizen Kane is pretty good. Cast members came and went, sometimes due to availability; locations meant to suggest California include Arizona, Connecticut, France, the Netherlands, England, Spain, Belgium and sometimes even California. The cast is stellar, to say the least, but the shifting players means nothing really coheres – Peter Bogdanovich plays (not particularly well) a role based on himself that was originally acted by Rich Little, who left the production to meet a prior Vegas gig. Lilli Palmer is in a few scenes (shot in Spain), interacting with almost nobody, though it’s supposed to be her house where the interminable Hollywood party is happening. John Huston reveals how limited his bag of acting tricks is, and does himself nothing but harm.

It’s a mess – something of a glorious mess, and that it works at all is due to editor Bob Murawski somehow stitching it all together. Cuts come quickly, from black-and-white to color and back again, creating an auto accident of a movie about a filmmaker’s (off-stage) auto accident. Much of Wind is a film-within-a-film spoof of pretentious European films of the Antonioni variety (at least I hope it’s meant to be a spoof) starring Welles’ female companion/partner, Oja Kodar, billed as co-writer, who is mostly nude (I did enjoy her nude scenes more than Chris Pine’s).

It’s a hateful, ridiculous film, clogged with Welles bitterly attacking Hollywood in general and critic Pauline Kael in particular (via Susan Strasberg, quite good), with side dishes of bile reserved for his supposed friend Bogdanovich, among others. But it is of course fascinating as well, and probably required viewing for any real film buff.

Better than The Other Side of the Wind is They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, a Netflix documentary, itself feature-length, that looks at the making of the beleaguered film.

For all the hoopla surrounding The Other Side of the Wind supposedly having been finished along lines that would have satisfied Welles (who did leave about 45 minutes of the two-hour feature in an edited form), a similar situation with a great French filmmaker has led to a different approach and a much better film than Wind or even the documentary about it.

Available from Arrow on Blu-ray, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is a 2009 documentary by Serge Bromberg that deals with another legendarily unfinished film. Clouzot, the genius who gave the world Diabolique and Wages of Fear among other masterpieces, stumbled in 1964 with his film, Inferno. Similarly to Welles, Clouzot was dealing with changing times and specifically the changing approach to filmmaking represented by the French New Wave. As far as I’m concerned, no New Wave filmmaker can touch him, but filmmakers are human and Clouzot allowed himself to get caught up in fascinating but largely pointless visual experimentation. He landed the leading starlet of the moment, Romy Schnieder, and cast an actor who’d been in a previous film of his, Serge Reggiani, in a story of sexual obsession and jealousy. It’s essentially James M. Cain’s Postman Always Rings Twice, if the older man with a younger wife is only imaging an affair she’s having with a younger man, and is driven mad to the brink of violence.

Working from fifteen reels of film, with most of the soundtrack missing, the documentation assembles the unfinished Inferno into sequences that appear, roughly, in narrative order. But these scenes are interspersed with revealing test films and interviews with cast and crew. Some of the missing scenes (there actually don’t seem to be that many) are staged with actors Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin, who provide dialogue. The imagery, particularly of lovely Schneider, is stunning. Like Welles in Wind, Clouzot shot in both black-and-white and color; but the French auteur had a method to his madness – the color footage, which was processed to have bizarre coloration, represents only the would-be cuckold’s warped imaginings.

Clouzot ultimately crashed with Inferno because his authoritarian treatment of actors drove his leading man to quit, shortly after which the director had a heart attack and production was halted, never to be resumed. (Clouzot did make another film, La Prisonniere, before his death in 1977.)

Unlike Wind, Inferno might have been a great film, had Clouzot (who wrote the script, as usual) been able to finish it. (Claude Chabrol shot the screenplay years later, but I haven’t seen that…yet.)

* * *

And now, my final verdict: Rotten Tomatoes, and the largely rotten reviewers whose opinions it gathers, is officially worthless.

Barb and I were very much looking forward to Widows. We were aware the source material was a two-season 1980s series from the dependable Lynda LaPlante, creator of Prime Suspect (but we had never seen it). The idea of a group of widows who take over for their late heist-artist husbands seemed pretty foolproof. The reviews for Widows are mostly raves. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 91%.

SPOILER ALERT: it stinks. We walked out, but not until we’d been subjected to an hour of poor direction and stupid scripting. Steve McQueen (much better an actor in The Great Escape than a director here) (yes, I know the British McQueen won a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave) co-wrote with Gillian Flynn. I suspect the original LaPlante series was good.

Virtually every sequence of Widows begins with a disorienting shot (for example, a substance that turns out to be hair being teased, when the camera pulls back; and a lengthy pointless sermon by a hypocritical black-church preacher, in close-up forever before revealing his stereotypical congregation). A sadistic diminutive thug (so sadistic he tortures a wheelchair-bound victim – he’s a baaaaaaad man!) constantly does things for no reason other than to shock the audience. Scenes go on endlessly, and are often staged in a ridiculously show-offy manner – how about a conversation between a Chicago candidate for alderman and his Lady Macbeth of a wife entirely from one-locked down angle on a car in motion, with no view of the people talking.

I seldom hate a film. I hated this. I knew at once (a real SPOILER ALERT sort of coming) where it was headed when Liam Neeson’s character was killed in the first five minutes (maybe I should saying “apparently killed”). I checked on line to see if I was right. And of course I was (Barb, too).

So Rotten Tomatoes gets a 0% fresh rating from the Collins household.

* * *

Paperback Warrior has posted an excellent review of Quarry’s Choice. This is really a wonderful, smart write-up of what is one of my two favorite books in the series (the other is The Wrong Quarry).

If you want to hear me talk about something that isn’t movies, go to Mystery Tribune for an interview with me on the new Mike Hammer: The Night I Died graphic novel.

Crimespree is giving away Scarface and the Untouchable. But, of course, you’ve already bought a copy.

The new issue of The Strand has the Spillane/Collins short story, “Tonight, My Love.” An important piece of the canon, though brief. It’s the holiday issue and a fine way to end the year in a Spillane centenary fashion. Check it out.

And here is a page with info about the next Caleb York western novel, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Next May, but why not start wanting it now?

M.A.C.

The Max and Brad Show Goes to Chicago

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

My co-author, Brad A. Schwartz, and I will be appearing at the American Writers Museum in Chicago next Monday evening, from 6:30 till 8:30. The address is 180 N. Michigan Avenue, and we will give an informal talk and answer audience questions as well as sign (and, I hope, sell) copies of Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago. For more info go here.

* * *

Paperback:
E-Book:Amazon

You can now advance order the graphic novel version of Mike Hammer: The Night I Died from Amazon. [Note from Nate: I’m also seeing pre-order pages at the usual suspects, and the collection is also available digitally through ComiXology/Kindle. Links are below the cover.]

You may be able to find this at your nearest Barnes & Noble store, but based on Quarry’s War, it looks like they only stock a copy or two. So an Internet order might be worth your trouble.

This is, of course, the collected version of the serialized comic book version that appear in four separate issues not long ago.

* * *

Barb and I have seen three worthwhile movies that you might also enjoy.

Hunter Killer, directed by Donovan Marsh from a screenplay by Arne Schmidt and Jamie Moss (adapted from a novel), is frankly something we settled on when the movie we went out to see wasn’t available yet. We took a chance on this one and it’s a very traditional (and very good) submarine movie crossed with a commando raid flick. The cast is strong – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common (a rapper I assume), Toby Stephens, Linda Cardellini, and in what must be his last role, the great Michael Nyqvist. It’s one of those Tom Clancy-like affairs that are believable enough due to the research to sell you on the ridiculous story itself.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a continuation of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series based on one of the sequels not written by Stieg Larsson, whose death stalled what had been projected as an ongoing series, with a new writer hired to take over when materials Larsson left behind became ensnared in estate battles. The reviews have been fairly terrible, but this is a state-of-the-art action film with Claire Foyle excellent as Lisbeth Salander, for whom a resonant back story is created. The excellent score by Roque Baños and cinematography by Pedro Luque serve director/co-screenwriter Fede Alvarez well in creating a 21st Century James Bond feel. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 44%, which is nonsense. Any suspense/action/espionage fan will enjoy this, and if the reviewers manage to sink this reboot, they should be ashamed.

The weakest – but still worthwhile – of the three films we saw recently is Overlord, which has an 81% score from Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting how poor movie criticism has become in this country. We saw it on Veteran’s Day, which got some dark laughter out of us, because this is a movie about how on D-Day a little ragtag group of GIs made the invasion possible by blowing up the place where a mad Nazi doctor (insane, not pissed) was creating super-soldiers by shooting up French villagers with super-serum. I can always have a good time watching Nazi soldiers get shot up (by bullets), and the GIs were well-portrayed. Beginning with the horror of war and segueing into horror film territory is something I can get behind, and the filmmakers largely pull it off. But there are problems of tone here. The unpleasantness of the violence could have used a touch of dark humor. Evil Dead minus humor is just a gore fest, after all. While I liked this movie with reservations, I came away with the opinion that Rotten Tomatoes has become a worthless resource. They give Hunter Killer a 38% Fresh score, by the way.

M.A.C.