Posts Tagged ‘Scarface and the Untouchable’

71 Candles, the Anthony Awards & a Big Thrill

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

If you are attending Bouchercon this year, you probably have already received your ballot for the Anthony Awards nominations. This is your reminder that Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz is eligible in the non-fiction category. Your votes would be much appreciated, as it’s an opportunity for us to strike back at the Edgar snub.

Other things of mine you might wish to consider are Killing Town by Spillane & Collins and Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allan in Best Novel. Also eligible are the two graphic novels, Mike Hammer: The Night I Died and Quarry’s War in Best Paperback Original; and “The Big Run” by Spillane and Collins in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; and “The Punk” by Spillane and Collins in Mystery Tribune are eligible in Best Short Story.

Only Bouchercon attendees can vote, and the ballot that will emerge from these early nominations will be distributed at the convention itself in Dallas, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.

Deadline for returning the ballot (which you can do via e-mail) is Tuesday, April 30.

* * *

Yes, as I write this on March 3, 2019, I have turned seventy-one years old. Considering where I was three years ago – just getting out of the hospital after open-heart surgery and a stroke – I am pleased to be that. I am pleased to be anything.

But I think about the difficulties Harlan Ellison had staying an angry young man after fifty, and realize my boy wonder days are over.

My beautiful wife Barb (my only wife – that kind of sounds like I also have a plain wife and a homely wife stashed away somewhere) showed me a wonderful time today, despite the freezing cold weather. We spent the day in the Quad Cities, having breakfast at the Machine Shed (the best breakfast around), shopped at Barnes & Noble and BAM!, saw a very good black comedy/horror movie (Greta), and had my annual lobster dinner (at Red Lobster). The evening was spent watching episodes of the classic UK crime show The Sweeney, taking time out to watch myself and A. Brad Schwartz on Backstory with Larry Potash on WGN-TV.

It was pretty good. Brad and I come off well, although I am not thrilled that we were left out of a segment about the Eliot Ness scrapbooks at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I mean, I discovered those scrapbooks and their value and pointed them out to Case Western, decades ago, and to Larry Potash, a few months ago.

On the other hand, there was footage of Brad shooting a machine gun. He is clearly having too much fun doing so, which is a joy to see.

Oddly, I’ve been on national TV several times lately. Muscatine and I are featured on Fireball Run, a gumball rally type show whose premise I do not understand – I was interviewed at the Musser Museum and displayed (brought from home) original Chester Gould art and Mickey Spillane manuscript pages, among other precious artifacts. [The series is available on Amazon Prime Video at this link; Season 11, Episode 12: “Max and Me” –Nate]

I was also interviewed for a full half hour show on Fox Nation streaming service. Below is the preview of the episode, but be forewarned that the suggestion – at times the statement – that the episode is based on the Collins/Schwartz book is not the case. And Fox has been so informed, and corrections have been made, but not everywhere. It’s an interview about the book, interspersed with vintage footage and, oddly, a photo identified as Ness and used throughout the episode that isn’t Ness at all.

Such are the vicissitudes of media coverage when you’re out promoting a book or film.

Among the best birthday gifts I received this year was an unintentional one – The Big Thrill e-magazine from the International Thriller Writers put me on their cover and have given me (thanks to writer Alex Segura) a fantastic review of The Girl Most Likely and an article about me drawing upon an interview I gave Alex. The pic shows me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, as preserved at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. And this review/article is required reading.

M.A.C.

I Celebrate My Birthday By Giving You Such a Deal

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Perhaps to celebrate my birthday day next week (March 3rd), Amazon is putting on sale almost all of my novels under their Thomas & Mercer imprint…for 99 cents each! It’s part of their Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Fiction book deals and runs throughout March, starting this Friday.

This includes all but the most recent Nathan Heller novels (the historical P.I. series that I consider my best work); here’s the list:

Also included in the Magical Max Allan Collins Birthday Sale is the entire run of Mallory novels:

Also the “disaster” series:

Plus these:

So if you were wondering what you should get me for my 71st birthday, I am far too selfless to want anything at all. Instead, why don’t you treat yourself to some under-a-buck books by me? It’s possible I will give any royalties to charity.

I mean, it’s possible.

* * *

Here’s a gallery of photos from the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on Feb. 16 when my Scarface and the Untouchable co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, interviewed me before a nice audience about Road to Perdition and Nate Heller, specifically the Vegas-centric Neon Mirage.






* * *

The announcement of Titan bringing out volumes collecting the complete Ms. Tree got a lot of play on the Internet and even in the print world, via The Hollywood Reporter (their story here).

It’s gratifying that – especially in the comics world – Ms. Tree artist/co-creator Terry Beatty and I received so much cyber-ink on this announcement. I stopped counting at a dozen write-ups! As John Huston as Noah Cross says in Chinatown, “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

There does seem to be some confusion about what exactly this first volume is – is it a re-launch with new material? Is it a “best of”?

No, it’s the complete run, although (at my request) we are starting at the end, with the ten graphic novellas we did for DC Comics in the early ‘90s. Five of them are collected in this first book to make up a graphic novel called One Mean Mother. (My preferred title – Drop Dead, Handsome – was overruled.)

* * *

Scroll down to see a brief but nice review of Killing Town from Steve Steinbock in The Jury Box in EQMM.

Here’s another brief bit from a reader who indicates we’ll be hearing more from her about Quarry and me.

This is a review of Girl Most Likely from a blogger, and it’s essentially good review, but I hate it. The reviewer quotes from an advance copy, which clearly advises against quoting since it’s not the final text, and blames me for the insertion (by an editor) of a “#” (hashtag) in a “MeToo” mention in dialogue. I had already asked the hashtag to be removed. (And I wrote the reviewer complaining about this breach and he did not post my comment.) His general tone is patronizing, and he has no understanding of the use of clothing description for characterization purposes. He complains that a plot avenue isn’t resolved when it is. He says the killer’s identity comes out of left field when another reviewer accused me of making it too overly obvious (as we say in the comics, “Sigh”).

A much better review is scheduled to appear in the next issue of Booklist, which I’ll share next week.

Finally, guess what film based on a graphic novel is on a “best gangster movies of all time” list?

M.A.C.

Prime Eliot Ness! And a Fond Farewell

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

I am pleased to announce that my filmed version of the play Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is now available in HD on Amazon Prime, and included as part of your membership. Here’s a link so you can watch it at your leisure, and I hope you take time to give it a nice rating (as in five star). [Note from Nate: For non-Prime members, rental is $2.99 and you can own the digital HD for $9.99]

As you may recall, the film is a one-man show with my late friend Michael Cornelison bringing Ness back to life. It was made possible by a grant from Humanities Iowa, several airings by Iowa PBS, and a lot of hard work by my buddy Phil Dingeldein and myself (and many others).

This is very gratifying, and of course is the work that led directly to the current non-fiction book, Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, & the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me.

Coincidentally, I got this news while I was in Las Vegas with Brad making two appearances in support of our book at the Mob Museum. The museum itself is a terrific facility, and those who run it are outstanding. I was blown away by how much of what is on display relates to various things I’ve written, from Dick Tracy to the Nathan Heller saga and the four Eliot Ness in Cleveland novels. A wall of photos and descriptions of organized crime killings was virtually a greatest hits of my literary output (Willie Bioff, Mad Sam Destefano, etc.). I will include some highlights by way of photos, including my co-author and me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall as well as with the real machine guns used in that, uh, celebration. More photos may follow.

Because our appearance was in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the massacre, and the seventh anniversary of the Mob Museum opening, the attendance reached record proportions. Both of our appearances were well-attended, as were book signings in the Mob Museum gift shop.

What’s interesting to me is how attitudes in Vegas have shifted on the mob influence that built the modern “sin city.” Back in the ‘80s, researching Neon Mirage – the Nate Heller novel about Ben “Bugsy” Siegel and Vegas – I encountered some resistance to my research into what was then seen by many as an embarrassing aspect of local history. That has definitely changed, as Vegas embraces its colorful past.

Brad did an excellent job, utilizing power point presentations (Baby Boomers – that’s “slide show” to you) and I was frankly not at my best at the first presentation, very tired from travel and a long day. The subsequent presentation, however, found me back on my game and Brad just as good as before. If we get a link to the video of it that the Museum made, I’ll provide it in the next few weeks.

Interestingly, nobody asked me a single question about CSI, which of course was set in Vegas, with my five years as its licensing writer (novels, video games, jigsaw puzzles, graphic novels, often with Matt Clemens) not rating a single inquiry. CSI seems to have retreated into the past, at least the Las Vegas past.

All in all, it was a great trip, and there’s a reasonable possibility we’ll be asked back next year to talk about The Untouchable and the Butcher (the sequel to Scarface and the Untouchable, currently in progress) and the new Nate Heller (Do No Harm, the Sam Sheppard murder case, due out in about a year).

* * *

My fellow classmates at Muscatine High School will be saddened to learn of the death of Steve Kochneff, a beloved figure in our collective past and one of my best friends from those years. As had been the case with Jon McCrea (who became the partial basis for Quarry), Steve was someone I stayed in touch with over the years. He spent much of his life in L.A., pursuing the Hollywood dream, and he and I and Barb often got together there, to catch up, meeting usually at the great deli restaurant, Cantor’s.

At MHS, Steve was a genial madman, an eccentric with a unique comic wit, very popular and known for his creativity and his athletic ability. His father had been a much-loved and successful basketball coach, and Steve – who was tall and lanky – was a center on our MHS team, and excelled in that role.

But Steve also was known for mounting crazy comic skits. He and I were collaborators on these. He would come to my house and we’d hole up in my room with me at the typewriter and Steve pacing and throwing around ideas. This was very much like the old Hollywood cliche, short only of Steve puffing on a cigar. At the height of the James Bond craze, we did a Goldfinger take-off skit at a pep rally about a villain called Purple-and-Gold-Finger (purple and gold being our school colors – why the villain bore the school colors is lost to history and my fading memory). The kids loved it.

I was always a little jealous of Steve’s popularity around the school, since we were collaborators and he got the credit, or anyway the love. I was too intense and needy, and Steve was just a big guy with a great laugh and a wide smile, and all that love came pouring in, unbidden. As with so many high school stars, those days were probably the best of his life. In years to come he would be jealous, in a very sweet and even supportive way, of the success I’d achieved in the arts, staying home in Iowa when he had made the Hollywood trek.

I have talked about how I wrote novels in high school and tried to sell them – writing all summer, marketing all year (unsuccessfully), and my career is based on that enthusiastic early obsessive behavior. Only Steve Kochneff was capable of topping me. He wrote a Laugh-In script a year or so after graduation and drove out to Hollywood to deliver it. My memory is fuzzy on this, but I believe he eventually did do some work on the show.

Over the years he had a lot of projects and many were interesting, and I believe some were stolen from him. He created potential shows, with scripts, for a comedy about female wrestlers, a cop show about a motorcycle-riding Hispanic female detective, and an ambitious film script about a cloning of Princess Diana. And much more. His biggest success, perhaps, was his pioneering production company shooting videos of high-ticket homes in Beverly Hills, Bel Air and other exclusive sections.

We talked a number of times about collaborating, and I offered several times to get involved with projects. But he always preferred to go his own way – to talk to me and get input, but make his own mark. Like many talented people in Hollywood, he came close. So close.

He came back to Muscatine from time to time and stayed with us at least once that I can recall. I know he envied my luck in having Barbara as a wife, so beautiful, so supportive, so talented herself. He knew I had really struck gold there, that this was an element that he wished he had in his life. I know he had close relationships with various women in Southern California and also, I think, in Arizona. But he never shared details with me.

I had a phone call from him a few months ago and it was a warm exchange, as always. I gave him a bad time for not coming to the MHS 50th class reunion, and he revealed to me that he was embarrassed to attend. He thought we all knew that he’d gone to prison for a while, apparently on a trumped-up, non-violent charge. But we hadn’t heard, and when he told me – rather haltingly – I said I was in the friendship business, not the judgement one. Typically, he was full of enthusiasm to write a movie script or TV pilot based on his experiences inside. Like any real writer would, Steve viewed incarceration primarily as an opportunity to do research.

Listen, I loved the guy. It broke my heart to learn he had died January 2 in a psychiatric hospital. But I am relieved that his search for fame and success is finally over, because I suspect as the years passed that effort grew only more frustrating and finally painful. I want to assure you that our phone conversation, perhaps two months before he passed, was filled with laughter.

I can hear that laugh right now. One of those distinctive laughs, a combination of glee and embarrassment.

He signed himself Starko, and I didn’t even get into what a terrific artist – in particular cartoonist – he was.

So long, Steve. Damnit. So long.

* * *

Yes, it’s yet another “Films You Didn’t Know Came from Comic Books” write-up in which Road to Perdition is included.

M.A.C.

Untouchable Vegas!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

My co-author, Brad Schwartz, and I are making two personal appearances at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, next week.

First, we’ll be doing a talk about Scarface and the Untouchable with an emphasis on St. Valentine’s Day. Not surprisingly, that appearance will be February 14 at 7 pm. Here are the details:

Wiseguy Speaker Series and Book Signing: “Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago.”

TIME: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a book signing to follow.
LOCATION: Courtroom on the second floor. Seating is on a first come, first served basis with a maximum occupancy of 120 guests.
DESCRIPTION: Over the decades, the stories of mobster Al Capone and lawman Eliot Ness have been subjected to literacy license and Hollywood exaggeration. This new book from authors Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz peels back the layers of these myths to reveal a deeper narrative of these iconic figures. The event will conclude with a book signing.

Second, on Saturday, Feb. 16, I will be presenting a look at the Road to Perdition in particular as well as at my Nathan Heller novels, in particular Neon Mirage, with its Vegas basis. Interviewing me will be none other than distinguished historian…A. Brad Schwartz! How did we land him? Anyway, here’s the details.

The Road to Perdition
DATE: Saturday, Feb. 16
TIME: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a book signing to follow.
LOCATION: Courtroom on the second floor.
COST: Free
DESCRIPTION: In this special discussion, “Road to Perdition” author Max Allan Collins will be interviewed by fellow author A. Brad Schwartz (“Scarface and the Untouchable”) about the fascinating story behind his acclaimed novel. Set in Chicago during the Great Depression, the graphic novel, “Road to Perdition” tells the story of Michael Sullivan, a Mob enforcer on the hunt for revenge after a failed hit.
Attend and learn about:
The real-life Mob inspiration behind the character of Michael Sullivan.
The Academy Award-winning film adaptation starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Collins’ other novel, “Neon Mirage,” which delves into early Las Vegas and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

The Mob Museum will have other events related to their own seventh anniversary. Here’s a cool article about that and about the Massacre.

Hope to see you folks from the Vegas area there, and any vacationers, too!

* * *

An excellent crime film, Cold Pursuit, is in theaters now. It’s not the typical Liam Neeson revenge thriller that it might seem to be. Reviews are mixed, but the bad ones seem obsessed with Neeson discussing his own irrational rage as a young man and how destructive that was. More about that later.

The film is a black comedy based on another good film, In Order of Disappearance (2014), starring Stellan Skarsgaard, who played the Broker in the never-aired Quarry pilot (how I wish he’d been retained, though his replacement wasn’t bad). Though some nice, mostly American-related touches are added, this is one of the most faithful remakes I’ve ever seen, probably because the same director did both: Hans Petter Moland. New screenwriter Frank Baldwin, however, made some interesting adjustments to the new setting, in particular substituting Native American drug-dealing ring for Serbian gangsters.

As for the Neeson controversy, it’s a fine example of how the left is going to screw up their anti-Trump efforts. I am a liberal, as you probably know, a somewhat left of center one who is probably more an independent but who so often votes Democrat, it’s a moot point. My son thinks I am not nearly progressive enough, but then he’s 35 and I’m 70, and that means I’ve suffered through more reality than he has.

So Neeson, discussing revenge, tells an interviewer that after a friend was raped by an African American, he was filled with rage and wanted to go out and thrash the first “black bastard” that gave him trouble. He spoke of this as a bad thing, something that demonstrated how stupid revenge can be, particularly racially oriented revenge, and how dumb he had been as a troubled young man before he grew older and wiser and came to his senses.

Of course the far left has seized upon his racial comments out of context and made Neeson into a racist. No question in this climate that many really shitty things are going down – I mean, is there any politician in Virginia who didn’t think blackface was funny and okay back in the 1980s? Uh, I was there for the ‘80s, and it wasn’t.

But must we work so hard to ruin people’s careers? Is it really surprising Al Franken put his arm around women who wanted their pictures taken with him while he shared his goofy grin with the camera?

Republicans don’t apologize. That’s not an attribute, but it works better than attacking each other when somebody makes a slip or just says something you don’t agree with. Nuance, people.

Just wait. The Democrats will find a way to blow this. The left will somehow manage to keep Trump in the White House. What the hell – every Liam Neeson movie needs a bad guy.

M.A.C.