Posts Tagged ‘Seduction of the Innocent book’

Tom Arnold, Paul Williams and More

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

To celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY, I took Barb to Cedar Rapids to Penguin’s Comedy Club to see Tom Arnold. Yes, I am a romantic devil. Actually, my friend Dwayne Clark – a very funny, smart comedian from Des Moines – was the opening act, and he got us tickets for the event.


M.A.C. with Dwayne Clark

I’ve always liked Arnold, consider him an amusing quirky presence who has enlivened any number of movies, including the recent HIT AND RUN, which I’ve extolled here several times. (I will watch anything with Kristen Bell in it, even the fairly awful HOUSE OF LIES on Showtime.) Dwayne as the opening act was his usual funny, wry self, the perfect laidback warm-up for the energetic Arnold, who was something of a revelation.

He was absolutely great. Tom is an Iowa boy and he relates to an Iowa audience in a special way. He is extremely fast, frank and funny as hell. Both Barb and I were mightily impressed. Beyond just his autobiographical humor and his nimble ease interacting with the audience, he proved to be a genuinely nice guy. Between packed shows, he made himself available to anyone who wanted a picture or to have anything signed. The only merch he brought to hawk was t-shirts helping to support his camp for kids with cancer. Great guy.


M.A.C. with Tom Arnold

As those of you who may recall how high PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE ranks on my favorite movie list, you may not be surprised to learn that I am a Paul Williams fan. While he was very funny on talk shows in the ‘70s, he will be remembered as one of the great songwriters of the late Twentieth Century. Sometimes he’s written with collaborators, other times alone (as on PHANTOM), but few tunesmiths tap into love and loneliness better, certainly not of his generation. So I was looking forward to the documentary, PAUL WILLIAMS – STILL ALIVE, and while it’s a challenging, even confrontational work, I was not disappointed.

Filmmaker Stephen Kessler (VEGAS VACATION) essentially makes a documentary about making a documentary, often making himself look bad in the process. This is intentional, as it charts the perils of the doc maker who goes into a project with preconceived notions and then tries to impose them on the film – having done two documentaries myself, I can report that you shoot first and determine the point you wish to make in the editing process. It’s an at times uncomfortable viewing experience, particularly early on, as you feel (and share) Williams’ discomfort and even irritation with Kessler. But it’s worth the trip, and you come away with a good picture of (and good feeling about) the subject. I will be surprised if Terry Beatty, my fellow PHANTOM freak (we saw the film together maybe ten times in theaters way back when), doesn’t find this film fascinating. It’s available on DVD – I spotted it at a Best Buy in their paltry documentary section.

Today I embark on dealing with the copy-edited manuscript of THE WRONG QUARRY – editor Charles Ardai is very fast, which is great, but it does rob me of the usual distance I have when dealing with edits on a work finished months before (as opposed to days). I hate being edited. I despise the copy-editing process. I realize every book needs some editing, but I do not like having an unrequested collaborator on my work. Charles is a very aggressive editor who likes to be part of the process – he has said in print that he wants to be involved with every sentence in a novel he publishes. So our editing sessions are always…interesting. But he is smart, so I can’t just ignore him (I did a fairly elaborate rewrite on SEDUCTION, at his bidding, which is beyond rare for me). Barb knows I will be dealing with copy edits today and has already said she will be steering me a wide path.

* * *

Steve Steinbock, who has the not enviable job of following the great Jon L. Breen as the book reviewer for ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, has been doing a great job. And I say that at least in part because he seems to like my books. In the current issue, March/April, he praises both LADY, GO DIE! (“Collins has the ear – and the chops – to bring Spillane’s hero to life”) and TARGET LANCER, which he rates as a four-star read. Here’s his conclusion: “While being so unapologetically hardboiled you can crack a tooth on it, TARGET LANCER is also an intricately plotted thriller and a unique epic historical adventure.”

Here’s another fine TARGET LANCER review, this one from the Historical Novel Society.

And the SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews keep streaming on in, like this fine one from the UK site Crime Fiction Lover.

And Geek Girl loves her some SEDUCTION, too.

Plus these nice words from Porno Kitsch.

Keep an eye on the web over these next few weeks (I will do my best to help out). I am about to undertake a “blog tour,” which means I will be doing a dozen or more interviews and articles about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. The interviews seem to come from younger readers. Here’s a typical question: “Who the hell are you?”

M.A.C.

Write and Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I will be tweaking THE WRONG QUARRY today, doing final rewrites, and I hope “shipping it” (i.e., e-mailing it) to editor Charles Ardai) today. It was written largely in two frenzied weeks, although my fourteen-day-no-day-off stay in the bunker was preceded by a week of prep and plotting, and now a day (or two) of tweaks and rewrites.

A writer my age should probably not undertake to write a novel in this fashion, working till 1:30 a.m., rising at 7:30 a.m. and starting in again, before going down for orange juice and English muffin. But I have always written Quarry novels in two to three weeks (with the exception of the first one, which took six months) because they are stream-of-consciousness affairs that require me to live inside the story (and Quarry’s head) for the duration.

The story is set in the early ‘80s, and falls into the Quarry sub-category of our hero helping the target of a hit contract. It takes place in a small town in Missouri, during the off-season of its tourist industry. This may sound like a fairly ordinary Quarry set-up, but I assure you it’s wilder than Mr. Toad’s ride. In fact, Barb gave me the best Quarry review ever: “Who is this twisted man I’ve been sharing my bed with?”

This will be, since I obviously have work to do, a brief update. Barb and I saw SIDE EFFECTS, the Steven Sonderbergh thriller starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara (American GIRL WITH THE DRAGON etc.), and Catherine Zeta Jones. Very good twisty piece of work, sort of like ‘70s DePalma but slightly less overt in the sex, violence and style department. Like PARKER, a throwback to kind of grown-up genre piece that the theaters used to regularly offer.

My anti-Super Bowl rant last week got some interesting comments, particularly Mike Doran aptly pointing out that my lack of interest in pro sports may be related to my living outside a metro area. No big sports franchises in Iowa. Good point. The U of I’s Hawkeyes are worshipped in this state. My father fetishitically bought black-and-gold everything, including a Cadillac once.

Odd postscript to my sports “bloviating” (as one commenter termed it): I often love sports movies and sometimes books. Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggins novels are among my favorite novels. DAMN YANKEES is high on the list of my favorite movie musicals. And I’ve already written here about TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of my favorite shows.

Ah yes, I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If an occasionally bloviating one.

Here’s a terrific early COMPLEX 90 review from Ron Fortier, an excellent writer his own self.

And here’s a terrific review of my new collection (as complete as possible) of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

My friend (and great excellent crime writer) Ed Gorman was kind enough to post this generous review of SPREE, the final Nolan (to date, anyway).

Just in time for the publication of the third Jack and Maggie Starr (SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT), here’s a nice review of the first one, A KILLING IN COMICS.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION from a gaming site.

And to celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY in 2013, here’s a good review of the 1976 Quarry novel, QUARRY’S LIST.

M.A.C.

Downton Abbey Bowl

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

You want to know how secure in my masculinity I am? While other supposedly redblooded American males were watching the Super Bowl Sunday evening, I was watching the last two episodes of the third season of DOWNTON ABBEY on Blu-ray.

DOWNTON ABBEY is much better this year than last, but I am not here to praise that very popular series (actually, not near the top of my UK list but a fun show), but to brag about never having seen a Super Bowl game. I never have enjoyed watching sports, with the exception of boxing, and my interest in that has waned. I can abide basketball, particularly in person with good seats. Baseball to me is Chinese water torture with hot dogs.

I played football in high school. I viewed it as an opportunity for a bookworm with glasses to hide behind a protective helmet and dish out punishment on bigger, dumber kids. I was pretty good at it, and had scholarship offers. I was smart enough not to take them, because I would have been decimated by actual football players.

My point is, I don’t have to watch football. I played it. And I don’t find overblown half-time shows and commercials directed by modern day Caligulas any more entertaining than watching steroid-happy hired goons give each other brain damage. Nor do I relish the thought of guacamole-engorged cholesterol-ridden middle-aged men pursuing their homo-erotic fantasies by watching younger men collide at high speed.

But that’s just me.

I actually understand the bonding men and for that matter women (though most are pretending) share in their enthusiasm for college and professional sports. I have marginally more tolerance for college sports, though the fact that when I was at the University of Iowa there were maybe two guys actually from Iowa (way down on the bench) slightly undercuts whatever rooting interest I might have.

The best I’ve seen this bonding portrayed, in a funny, slightly dark but almost heart-warming manner, is the film SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. I almost envied the father/son bonding and the joy the friends with a similar enthusiasm shared. That’s a really good movie, by the way. I avoided it because I get enough mental illness at home, but it’s a unique and entertaining romantic comedy.

For my readers who are into sports, please know that the above rant was satire. I don’t really believe any of it. I think you guys are absolutely not out of your minds. Really. Honest. So forgive me, would you?

And pass the guacamole?

——

Those who haven’t bailed may be interested in a video interview (an audio version is available) posted here. It’s about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, among other things. Caveat: I couldn’t figure out how to play the video, though I did figure out the audio. Non-Luddites will do better.

Another interview appears here at Comic Book Resources. A decent one, I think.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime combo of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY. Insightful and, when critical, fair. I continue to find it weird seeing forty year-old stuff of mine reviewed currently.

Jeff Pierce at his cool Killer Covers site did a nice write-up on the excellent new Disaster Series covers from Thomas & Mercer.

You might enjoy this lively discussion of Bob Goldsborough’s Nero Wolfe novels – I pitch in, as a fan of Bob’s.

The second collection of DREADTIME STORIES on Audio is reviewed here. I only have one radio play, “Mercy,” but it’s my favorite of the series.

What I believe is the first COMPLEX 90 review appears here. Pretty good, but it mistakes Titan for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, I will confirm here that I am indeed writing a new Quarry novel, THE WRONG QUARRY. That should help to explain my anti-Super Bowl rant above, but understand I am currently in full Quarry mode. I hope to be able to report exciting news about a potential Quarry TV series for cable. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have to take a call from Bill Maher, who says this week I have gone too far.

M.A.C.

Parker at the Movies

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Most people checking in with me here know that I was a big fan and later friend of Donald E. Westlake. In fact, Don was a mentor who helped me get my first novel, BAIT MONEY, into print. This was especially gracious considering that my Nolan character is so blatantly derived from his Parker.

Parker novels have been the source for a number of films, notably POINT BLANK (a ‘60s classic), THE OUTFIT, THE SPLIT and PAYBACK (in two versions). There have been several foreign adaptations as well, including a Jean Luc Godard travesty. Fans of the novels Don wrote as “Richard Stark” tend to be pretty hard on these films, though POINT BLANK is generally revered. Don never allowed Parker to be called “Parker” in any of the movies (Lee Marvin plays “Walker” in POINT BLANK) to guard against unwanted sequels.

Now, for the first time, a film uses the name Parker – in fact, it’s called PARKER. The title is probably the worst thing about this strong, tough little crime movie. Parker is a cult character and all of the fans of the books couldn’t fill enough theaters to make a ripple. So why would you call the movie PARKER? Maybe for whatever stupid reason that somebody decided to call a movie JACK REACHER. Those aren’t movie titles, they’re suicide notes.

Barb and I love the over-the-top TRANSPORTER and CRANK movies with Jason Statham, but almost nothing else he’s made is worth a damn. PARKER is. It’s very tough, with plenty of action, but also the kind of character bits that represent the oddball humans who (in the novels) often drift into Parker’s orbit (represented here chiefly by a real estate agent, well-played by Jennifer Lopez). Many touches reveal the director and screenwriter are familiar with the Parker novels in general – Parker calls his heist victims by their first names to put them at ease, he is loyal to his girl friend Claire despite temptations otherwise, he operates by a code that is harsh but fair, and he shows little if any emotion. The screenplay is a fairly faithful rendition of the Parker novel FLASHFIRE, with some POINT BLANK elements stirred in. It’s not the classic POINT BLANK that is, though PARKER is ultimately more like the novels than that great film. The only other Parker movie to rival PARKER is THE OUTFIT with Robert Duvall.

However…PARKER was disliked by many critics, and apparently did only mediocre business on its opening weekend (the audience we saw it with loved it, even applauding at the end). And a good share of the hardcore Parker fans are unhappy with the film. Check this out at the Violent World of Parker site, and be sure to read my comments.

Two other quick notes. We also saw HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. Why did we go? I get cabin fever, working on a book (and I have just started THE WRONG QUARRY), and have to get out and do something – in Muscatine, Iowa, a movie is pretty much it. The reviews have been dismal, though seem to have been written by people who either haven’t seen the movie or had already decided their opinion of it before doing so. One of the producers is Will Ferrell, which indicates that a lot of reviewers are not understanding what audiences seem to: it’s spoof. It’s a comedy. Not an unintentional comedy, but a send-up of all these dumb serious “fairy tale” movies like RED HIDING HOOD. It’s a combo of EVIL DEAD and RESIDENT EVIL. If you like either or both of those, you will probably enjoy this one.

A final movie note: I loved (and still do) RUSHMORE by director Wes Anderson. But virtually everything he’s done since has seemed precious and disorganized to me, and I really, really hated THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX. But my son and his smart wife encouraged me to take a look at MOONRISE KINGDOM. I did, and they are right – it is a wonderful movie that would have been high on my best of 2012 list, had I seen it sooner. It is precious – or, as some smarty-pants critics like to say, “twee” – but it’s also charming and a very well-plotted, beautifully characterized story of young love. Funny as hell, too. Also the best boy scout movie ever made – even better than HENRY ALDRICH, BOY SCOUT (and those who know me well will understand that this is not sarcasm, but high praise).

The positive reviews about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT just keep rolling in, I’m pleased to say. Like this one from the always insightful Craig Clarke.

And this short sweet write-up.

Plus this even shorter and sweeter one.

On the other hand, there’s this generally positive, amusingly written but patronizing review. Could we please ban the use of the pretentious term “trope”? But if we do use it, can we please not affix needless adjectives like “well-worn”? And can reviewers quit apologizing for liking something?

Finally, here’s a pleasant surprise – a late review of the first Nate Heller JFK trilogy novel, BYE BYE, BABY.

M.A.C.