Posts Tagged ‘Seduction of the Innocent book’

Bloody House

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
IMPA 2013

In Des Moines over the weekend, Barb and I attended the 22nd annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards banquet. My screenplay “House of Blood” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Unproduced), and won the Award of Excellence.

The IMPA is an organization I was extremely active in from the mid-90s until maybe five years ago. I am a three-time president, and Barb and I ran the award shows (with me hosting and Barb giving out the awards) for maybe half a dozen years. I was on the IMPA board for ten or twelve years, and this required a monthly drive (about a three-hour one) into Des Moines, which finally wore us down. But I made a lot of friends there, some of whom I got to see at the Saturday night event – we had the fun of sharing a table with screenwriter Shirley Long, the “godmother” of the IMPA, and documentarian Kent Newman, also a multiple past prez of the organization. The evening of course brought to mind my late friend and prized collaborator, Mike Cornelison, who won numerous IMPA awards himself. A number of people spoke to me about Mike. Being on his home turf brings the loss sharply into focus.

The organization has hit some rough patches in recent years, reflecting the film industry in Iowa getting tarnished when an ambitious tax-credit program went belly up in a haze of scandal and buck-passing. I don’t know what really went on, but I do know this multi-million dollar program was run by one man in an OFFICE SPACE-style cubicle at the Department of Economic Development. This was a huge government bungle, and is responsible for me having to seek doing my indie film work in Illiniois and Louisiana (and California, of course). There is talk, among some legislators, of the industry making a comeback in this area, and a new Film Office chair person will be named soon. I am guardedly hopeful.

The “House of Blood” screenplay that won was the feature film version. It now looks like I will be converting the script into a one-hour TV anthology format, bringing it back closer to its original form as a 45-minute Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories radio play. Serious talk is afoot for both a series, which I’d be heavily involved in, and a slate of four movies, which I have been told would include two M.A.C. properties, possibly with me directing. I’ll keep you informed.

The keynote speakers – very informal and funny – were Darryl and Darryl from Newhart – Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad. I spoke to John and he was a very sweet guy, and a fan of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was one of the many great comic actors in one of our family’s favorites, STRIPES.

On the way to and from Des Moines, Barb and I listened to the Brilliance audio of THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS. That novel, which I was quite proud of at the time, received little attention when originally published, and has received some harsh reviews at Amazon and particularly Amazon UK. So I was a little gun shy about listening to it. But I was pleasantly surprised – I think I did just fine, writing a true-crime story set in the UK with Agatha Christie as the detective, even if some of the Brits at Amazon UK think I was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. My credibility takes a huge jump thanks to the reader, British actress Anne Flosnik, who does an incredible job. To my ears, she really brought Agatha and the book to life. After hearing her (and Simon Vance on THE HINDENBURG MURDERS), I would be tempted to have all of my books read by actors with English accents. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a better Nate Heller than Dan John Miller. (Unfortunately, Brilliance won’t be doing the forthcoming ASK NOT – another company will be, TBA – but I will certainly recommend Dan.)

If you are a longtime reader of my work, I think you might have a really good time revisiting my novels in audio form. Brilliance has done a fantastic job with the Hellers, the “disaster” novels, the Mallorys (Dan John Miller again), and assorted others (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL, MIDNIGHT HAUL).

Speaking of Amazon reviews, let me remind readers that a great way to support the writers you enjoy is to write and post a review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other sites. A two- or three-line positive review at Amazon, and nice high star rating, takes little time and is most helpful to authors. There are some dumb readers out there, and nasty ones, who do authors damage, and you can help. I speak not just for myself, but for any author whose work you enjoy. Those star ratings are important, because they are averaged. And so often the bad ratings are not for the book, but for perceived bad service, or in my case now and then, a reader angry that ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI: SERIAL turned out to a “comic book.”

End of telethon, although your continued contributions would be appreciated.

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Here’s a nice SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review from Blogcritics, which got lots of play on the Net.

And another one from BookSteve’s Library. The reviewer has some problems with the front end of the novel, because he’s so familiar with the history already, but gets on board when the mystery kicks in. It’s been interesting to see how many readers really love the front end of the book, with its fairly detailed account of the comic-book witch hunt, and how many others prefer the mystery portion that kicks in half-way. This reviewer falls into a small but distinct category of readers who are a little bored by encountering history they’re already familiar with.

Here’s a very nice and flattering review of the new edition of NO CURE FOR DEATH, from a Kindle site. This was my second novel (well, third if you count MOURN THE LIVING) and it’s a relief to see a reviewer liking it at this late date.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Bill Crider (himself a helluva writer).

M.A.C.

Go Go Gone

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As predicted, Barb and I wrapped up the eighth “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery, ANTIQUES A GO GO, last week. It took through Thursday to finish it – I always take a couple of days to go over a manuscript and do a final tweak before sending it off. Still seems strange not to be packaging up an actual manuscript and instead just sending an attachment to an editor.

The book is something of a change of pace, as it takes Brandy and her mother to Manhattan, but I won’t dwell on that book, since the new one – ANTIQUES CHOP – is about to come out. I think CHOP may be my favorite of the series (the new one is too fresh in my mind for any kind of judgment beyond, “Whew! Glad to get that outa here!”). For those of my readers fearful of trying a “cozy,” this one has axe murders in it. So put on a bib and dig in.

I’ve alluded to a Kickstarter project here that would take one of my Dreadtime Stories radio plays into low-budget feature-film territory. We had a lot of great things in our favor, among them the participation of Danielle from AMERICAN PICKERS, my longtime cinematic collaborator Phil Dingeldein (a d.p. on PICKERS), Malcolm McDowell as narrator, and of course the Fangoria brand-name. But at the very last minute (we were going to meet on Sunday afternoon, with my son Nate coming in from St. Louis for Kickstarter consulting), a different Fangoria deal interceded to make ours untenable. The good news is that Phil and I will likely be involved in some aspect of this new direction. I’m hopeful we can involve Danielle, too. We’d spent a lot of time (including me doing three or four drafts of “House of Blood” as a screenplay) gearing up for the Kickstarter effort with producer Carl Amari, so there’s disappointment in the mix, but also the promise of filmmaking to come.

Speaking of films, I can recommend OBLIVION, a very smart s-f adventure with Tom Cruise. The reviews are mixed on this one, but I am solidly in the plus column. The art direction alone is worthy of your attention, but the screenplay has some nice surprises, and it’s a well-directed film in general, though a big shoot-‘em gun battle seems out of place and maybe patched-in to satisfy studio execs.

This weekend my band Crusin’ played two nights in a row – a real oddity for us, because I try very hard to avoid that. It’s more like twice a month I’m after. And I will freely admit that on Sunday, I felt like I’d fallen down a flight of stairs (I’m writing this on Monday and feel only marginally better). I continue to enjoy the band, but sometimes it’s starting to feel like that moment in the action movies where the old star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit!” You know, right before a helicopter blows up?

This week I am looking at galley proofs of THE WRONG QUARRY and ASK NOT.

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The three-part look at the Nolan series by Dan Luft over at the Violent World of Parker has wrapped up with a discussion mostly about SPREE. This is a nice series of articles, and with some smart commentary. Occasionally, though, Dan misses the mark fairly wide – he’s about the only reader I’ve ever encountered who disliked the use of the Comfort family in SPREE. He claims to really like the book, except for the Comforts, which is kind of like loving everything about JURASSIC PARK except the dinosaurs.

Here’s a really nice COMPLEX 90 review. Coming up soon, by the way!

This BLOOD MONEY review is basically positive, but it’s a little odd, albeit in an interesting way. It continues to be weird reading reviews of stuff I wrote forty years ago.

Here’s a very good TRUE DETECTIVE review. It’s amazing how resilient that book has been. Published thirty years ago, it sold more copies in the last year (e-book format) than in its first several.

Mel Odom, himself a hell of a writer, has some interesting things to say about BYE BYE, BABY, the first book in the Nathan Heller JFK Trilogy.

Finally, here’s yet another positive look at SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Wertham).

M.A.C.

Lady, Go Die! Nominated

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

LADY, GO DIE!, last year’s Mike Hammer, has been nominated for the Scribe Award presented by the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers. As you may recall, KISS HER GOODBYE won this award last year.

It’s a tough category this year, with science-fiction/fantasy and mystery bundled together, and more submissions in a single category than ever before in the organization’s history. Mystery and other “general” fiction will be broken back out into their own category next year. It may be a cliche to say it’s an honor just to be nominated, but with competition like this, it’s the truth.

Here is the organization’s press release, which anyone out there is welcome to cut and paste into their own blog or web site.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the Scribe Award nominees for 2013.

Acknowledging excellence in this very specific skill, IAMTW’s Scribe Awards deal exclusively with licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories
that have appeared in other formats and cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes. Gunsmoke, Murder She Wrote, CSI, Star Trek, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Resident Evil, James Bond, Iron Man – these represent just a few.

The Scribe Awards are presented at ComicCon San Diego.

IAMTW congratulates the following nominees:

ORIGINAL NOVEL
Darksiders: The Abomination Vault Ari Marmell
Pathfinder: City of the Fallen Sky Tim Pratt
Mike Hammer: Lady, Go Die! Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Star Trek: The Persistence of Memory David Mack
Star Trek: Rings of Time Greg Cox
Tannhäuser: Rising Sun, Falling Shadows Robert Jeschonek
Dungeons and Dragons Online: Skein of Shadows Marsheila Rockwell

ADAPTED NOVEL
Poptropica Astroknights Island Tracey West
Clockwork Angels Kevin Anderson

Batman: The Dark Knight Legend Stacia Deutsch

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Greg Cox
AUDIO
Dark Shadows: Dress Me in Dark Dreams Marty Ross
Dark Shadows: The Eternal Actress Nev Fountain
Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: Project Nirvana Cavan Scott/Mark Wright

* * *

My draft of ANTIQUES A GO GO will be completed this week. I have been “in the bunker” (as we say around here), working for two weeks with only one day off. I had intended to take a day off this weekend, but we ran into a plot hole that needed patching, which had a domino effect that Barb and I had to chase through the entire manuscript. The good news is that it improved the book, specifically its mystery aspect.

Barb’s work on the novel has been stellar, from providing a very good 200-page-plus rough draft to packets of information on every New York/New Jersey aspect of the story (it takes place at a comic con in Manhattan with a detour to New Jersey and a strangely familiar strip joint called the Badda-Boom). Taking Brandy and Mother out of Serenity has been tricky and frankly hard, but I think it’s going to be rewarding.

With any luck, the book will go go to our editor in New York around Thursday – assuming our final read-through doesn’t reveal another nasty plot hole that will send the Barbara Allan road crew out with shovels and hot asphalt.

Barb and I did take time off to see 42, the Jackie Robinson bio-pic (we can’t stay away from our new local theater). We almost didn’t go because the previews made us feel like we already knew the story, and that every beat of it was going to be predictable. Well, the latter was sort of true, but the execution of the film, the sharp dialogue, the strong characterization, and the effective acting (Harrison Ford does well in his first character role as pioneering baseball owner Branch Rickey) make this one you should see. There is a majestic score that works too hard at telling us what to feel, but that may be designed to take the edge of the harshness of what Robinson and his wife were put through. The period detail is excellent (although there is the occasional dialogue slip – “We’re on the same page” is not a late ‘40s expression). Small carps. Big rewards. Don’t skip this one.

The Quarry Cinemax pilot continues to get widespread Net coverage, but I won’t bother you with links to any of it, because it’s all been covered before.

But here’s a really nice, actually wonderful review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

And a cool SEDUCTION review at the wonderfully named Trash Mutant.

Yet another SEDUCTION review here.

Here’s a belated A KILLING IN COMICS review, a tad on the patronizing side but okay.

And here’s a brief but very nice tribute to Mickey Spillane.

M.A.C.

Murder Me Quickly

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

No, that’s not the name of a missing Stacy Keach MIKE HAMMER TV movie. It’s what some readers, critics, and editors wish I would provide them with: a murder in the first chapter. Better still, the first page.

Antiques Maul

This is a relatively new phenomenon, at least as pertaining to my work. It first turned up when the editor on the ANTIQUES series (a very good editor at that) was unhappy that the murder in ANTIQUES MAUL didn’t occur until a third of the way into the book. Barb and I did not want to drastically restructure the novel, nor do any elaborate rewrite, so our solution was to begin with the murder and flash back to the events leading up. Our editor put up with that easy fix, but I don’t think she was really happy. (By the way, ANTIQUES MAUL has been long out of print and will be back in paperback, with a new and much better cover, very shortly.)

From time to time, complaints that murders in my mystery novels take too much time to happen began popping up in blog reviews and in Amazon customer comments. SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT has sparked a lot of those, in the midst of mostly highly laudatory responses. You see, the murder victim, the Dr. Frederic Wertham stand-in Dr. Werner Frederick, doesn’t get bumped off till half-way through.

And don’t accuse me of neglecting to give you a spoiler alert, because any mystery reader who doesn’t realize in the first chapter or two that Dr. Frederick is going to be the murder victim is a very new and naive mystery reader indeed. The very Golden Age traditional set-up brings most (not all) of the suspects on stage, and spends a good deal of time with Wertham in order to show why people might want to kill him. To my way of thinking, one function of a good murder mystery is to paint a portrait of the murder victim. If the murder victim is just a pawn in the game of Clue, then why not just play a round of friggin’ Clue? The book should, in part, be a character study of the murder victim.

Didn’t any of these readers and reviewers ever read a Perry Mason novel or see the classic TV series? Maybe not. But Erle Stanley Gardner took his sweet time killing the murder victim, whose identity was almost always obvious to the reader. Murders frequently don’t occur till a third of the way – sometimes half of the way – through many great mysteries by the likes of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout.

Since I read precious few contemporary mysteries these days, maybe the world and time have passed me by. Well, here’s me waving them goodbye and not giving a damn.

Is it TV that has trained people to expect the murder victim right away? Most of the mysteries shows I watch are British, and some – like the droll MIDSOMER MURDERS – do tend to dispatch the murder victim quickly…although not until a good number of suspects have been trotted out, and after we have met the murder victim in the flesh, and have seen what it is about him or her that makes them eminently killable. By the way, an hour mystery show is not a 300-page novel.

Part of why our ANTIQUES editor wants the murder to come quickly is the practice of putting a sample chapter from the next book at the end of the current paperback of the previous book. This is good marketing, and I get it, I really do…but that strikes me as a tail wagging a dog (in this case, Sushi) (a reference for readers of the series). To me, the only valid question is, “What is good for the novel?” Writing with an eye on how the book will be marketed is undignified even for a lout like me.

SEDUCTION has received a lot of praise (and maybe a smidgen of criticism) for spending many of its pages on the comics industry in the 1950s. As I’ve mentioned here before, at the suggestion of my editor and my agent, I trimmed perhaps 10,000 words of material on the subject, in an effort to make sure the book wasn’t too “inside baseball.” One much published (and inaccurate) mini-synopsis of the book has Dr. Frederick murdered on his way to testify at the Congressional hearing on comic books and juvenile delinquency. In the book, however, the doc makes it there alive and well; we get both his slanted, unfair testimony and that of the Bill Gaines stand-in, Bob Price, on stage.

I will be goddamned if I will omit something that important – to the novel, and to me – just to get a corpse on stage a few chapters earlier. I am not at all interested in the Short Attention Span Reader.

This is not to say I don’t occasionally kill the victim right away. In the first Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, A KILLING IN COMICS, the murder does happen at the end of the first chapter…but not until after we’ve met a passel of suspects at the cocktail party where the murder occurs.

The point is, if there is one, that I structure each murder mystery as seems best for the successful rendering of said mystery. In SEDUCTION, getting a full picture of Dr. Frederick, as well as a real sense of the state of the comic book industry in 1954, struck me as key. The overwhelmingly positive response to the novel convinces me I was right.

* * *

This weekend Nate was home for some general computer and web site work, and for some preliminary talk about our possible Kickstarter film project (more soon). He, his mom and I went to the new theater (the Palms) here in Muscatine and saw a really big, really dumb action movie called OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, which you’ve probably heard described (accurately) as DIE HARD IN THE WHITE HOUSE. It is absurd and often extremely stupid. It is also enormously entertaining, particularly if you like tough guy stuff that ventures into the brutal. Gerard Butler goes on my short list of potential screen Mike Hammers.

Somebody (not me) posted a nice You Tube vid about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Here’s your chance to get an auditory glimpse of the great audio-book reader Dan John Miller (who has done all of the Heller audios to date) as Jack Starr.

The terrific Film Rejects site did a podcast interview with me here. Might be worth your time.

And the SEDUCTION reviews keep comin’, like this one at Celebrity Cafe.

And this one at Pulp 300.

Here’s a comic-oriented review at Con Sequential.

And a short but sweet one at My Big Honkin’ Blogspot.

And another at Atomic Moo (gotta love these blog titles).

Here we are at Kvlt Kvlture.

And finally a perhaps overly analytical review at Chamber Four.

M.A.C.