Posts Tagged ‘Seduction of the Innocent’

Pop Culture Clash

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Starting about ten years after I graduated from college, I began having an experience that has repeated itself many times since: I would read some entertainment publication, perhaps Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly, and feel hopelessly out of touch with the popular culture around me. Since I make my living in pop culture, and have been a fan of pop culture since early childhood, this is distressing. I have prided myself, over the years, for being more connected to what was going on in entertainment than the average person of my advanced age (whatever that advanced age happened to be at the time…in this country, all ages past 35 are advanced).

That happened again to me over the weekend, as I sat down to read Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 preview issue. And my recurring problem – shared possibly by other purveyors of popular culture who aren’t in their twenties or early thirties – reasserted itself with a vengeance. I understand that the popular culture is fragmented. We don’t have, and haven’t had for some time, the kind of shared experience we once had – Elvis and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or the premiere episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, or opening week of Thunderball.

There are, obviously, some pop culture experiences of today that rival the shared experiences of the Twentieth Century. The Super Bowl and American Idol, for instance, neither of which I’ve ever seen, but have an awareness of because of their all-pervasiveness. Michael Jackson and Madonna were last gasps of the shared pop culture experience (and even they were not on an Elvis/Beatles level), as they were part of the MTV era that flowed out of the greater cable TV explosion that so fragmented our entertainment experience. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just an undeniable thing. I don’t believe Lady GaGa has a pop cultural resonance on a level with Madonna, just as Madonna doesn’t have a pop cultural resonance on a level with the Beatles. (On the other hand, the Beatles were on a level with Elvis, just as Elvis was with Sinatra before him.)

But for a writer, even one who often deals with historical subjects, to lose touch with the pop culture is death. And at 64, I’ve reached that age the Beatles once sang about in relation to a distant old age, so I know death is also an undeniable thing. Yet somehow it chills to me read an issue of Entertainment Weekly and see so much I know little or nothing about.

What follows are rhetorical questions, and you may post answers if you like, but understand that’s not the nature of these questions.

Who the hell are Niall Horan and One Direction? Must I watch a show called GIRLS on HBO and endure “superawkward sexual encounters”? Why would anyone want a Blu-ray boxed set of the Jackson Five cartoon show? (Not understanding nostalgia may represent a hardening of the arteries in someone as drenched in nostalgia as I am.) Who the hell are Nick Kroll, Hunter Hayues, A$AP Rocky, Conor Maynard, and M83? Who are Campo, Chainz featuring Dolla Boy, and Arcade Fire (the last falls into a category that I would designate as Actually I Have Heard of Them But Have Never Knowingly Heard Their Music). Why are there so many TV stars I am unfamiliar with (Chris Coffer, Monica Potter, Season Kent, Manish Raval, Thomas Golubic)?

The reason I am posing these questions rhetorically is that if they were actual questions, the obvious answer to all of them is: I’m out of touch. But fragmentation is a mitigating factor, as is bad pop culture that a reasonable human shouldn’t be expected to endure. You make decisions, as you trudge through life, about certain things you aren’t going to put up with. For me, Rap/Hip Hop falls into that category, as does country western music. Both pander to our worst instincts, though I am aware that intelligent defenses can be made of various artists and specific works within those fields. Country western music gave us Patsy Cline, so it can’t be all bad. Rap is a travesty, and I refuse to call it “music” since at his core is a lack of melody. I know doggerel when I hear it – I am an English major, after all.

Not that there isn’t plenty in this issue of Entertainment Weekly that I’m familiar with – probably a good share of which would be unfamiliar to a lot of people my age. But this is that moment, which has repeated so many times in my life, where I feel the popular culture is rolling over me, flattening me like a steamroller in an old cartoon.

* * *

This weekend we saw two films, one of which (ZERO DARK THIRTY) will likely be among my favorites this year, and another (GANGSTER SQUAD) which will likely be among my least favorites. Despite the political squabbling (by parties with varying agendas) in the media over the use of torture, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a gritty, involving docu-drama reminiscent at times of the great BBC series SPOOKS (aka MI-5). The real-time Bin Laden raid is stellar filmmaking. By the way, if you lit a match under my foot, I would gladly give you the atomic bomb secrets. So maybe with some weak-willed persons, torture does work.

GANGSTER SQUAD is a handsomely mounted but incredibly dumb supposed look at Mickey Cohen’s reign as a mob boss in post-war LA. I have never seen a more inaccurate “true crime” film, which is essentially a sloppy, riciulously violent re-do of THE UNTOUCHABLES, with Sean Penn’s smirky, sneering one-note performance managing to be even less true to Mickey Cohen’s character than the moronic screenplay. I hate movies like this, because not only do they suck, but they usually flop and make it tough for good period crime movies (say, based on a Nate Heller novel) to happen. Though over the top and obvious, the art direction makes sumptuous eye candy, and Josh Brolin is very good as a Mike Hammer-ish cop. He would make an excellent Hammer. On the other hand, sleepy-eyed, whiny Ryan Gosling remains the opposite of charismatic, a walking void who sucks the life out of any scene he enters.

* * *

I spent the week doing my draft of a 12,000-word novella called “Antiques Slay Ride,” a Christmas-themed e-book being done as a promotion for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. It will appear, not surprisingly, toward the end of this year.

Congrats to Dan John Miller, who was selected as one of AudioFile Magazine’s “Voices of the Year” for his performance of FLYING BLIND. If you’re a Heller fan who listens to audios, I highly recommend Dan’s readings of all of the novels (yes, he’s done them all, and the short story collections, too). He really is Nate Heller.

Some nice Net reviews have rolled in of late, including this one on CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

And here’s a swell TARGET LANCER review.

Short but sweet, this review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT comes from the UK’s Crimetime site.

Speaking of the soon-to-be-published SEDUCTION, here’s some Goodreads reviews of the novel.

Here’s a review of the previous Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, STRIP FOR MURDER, with a fun discussion of Fearless Fosdick.

Finally, check out this perceptive review of BYE BYE, BABY, and you may want to read my comment posted below it.

M.A.C.

The “D” is Silent

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

I have just wrapped up my first original novel for Thomas & Mercer (i.e., Amazon), WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU. It’s a thriller that my Harrow series collaborator Matt Clemens worked on with me – our usual pattern of me coming up with the idea, the two of us co-plotting, and Matt writing a story treatment (sort of a short rough draft) out of which I develop the novel. I was behind deadline, which means I worked through the holidays on it. The story has to do with a Victims of Violent Crimes support group, some of whose members team up to go after the serial killer who targeted all of their families. With its young female lead, it’s at least vaguely an American take on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It’ll be out late this year.

My favorite (and least favorite) movie list got a lot of play on the Net last week, with plenty of people disagreeing with me on the DARK KNIGHT RISES, but otherwise generating quite a bit of agreement. If you’re wondering why DJANGO UNCHAINED didn’t make either list, it’s because I hadn’t seen it yet.

Well, I have now, and it would have rated high among my favorites. It took me a long time to warm to Quentin Tarantino – I found RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION full of themselves, and didn’t like the KILL BILL movies, either. I knew all of the references and cringed when too-familiar music was used in his cobbled together soundtracks (the IRONSIDE theme…really?). But JACKIE BROWN, with the underpinning of a real Elmore Leonard story, was terrific, and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, with its inherent love of film and hatred of Nazis, made me a fan. Now the world’s most famous know-it-all video clerk has hit a grand slam with DJANGO UNCHAINED. As with BASTERDS, the writer/director does better within the confines of period dialogue (not that anachronisms don’t crop up, but unlike the earlier movies, it doesn’t sound like QT is just talking to himself). DJANGO is a witty, wonderfully over-the-top tribute to both the MANDINGO Southern gothic genre and Italian westerns (with the patched-together score working extremely well with this appropriate music, familiar but using the sources not specific enough to distract) with bold jagged red credits, camera zooms and grainy flashbacks, plus many wonderfully familiar faces (Bruce Dern among them). You also get to see QT blow himself up real good (worth the price of admission). This is the first movie in a very long time that I would like to see again on the big screen.

I would also recommend the Danish crime series THE KILLING, the third season of which has just appeared on DVD and blu-ray in England. A great, gritty series with a strong female detective and unusual emphasis on politics as well as the cost of crime upon a victim’s family. Each season explores one case (Barb and I watched the ten-hour third season in one excessive Sunday marathon). This is advertised as the third of a trilogy, though the ending is a cliffhanger of sorts. I have never seen the American version of this show.

Here’s a nice review of TARGET LANCER from Richard Katz of Milwaukee’s great mystery bookstore, Mystery One.

Over at CRIMESPREE magazine, editor Jon Jordan has included TARGET LANCER on his memorable reads of the year list.

Here’s another Best Books of the Year list TARGET LANCER made (ranking high among thrillers).

Jeff Pierce’s indispensable Rap Sheet has a preview of coming attractions that includes both SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT and the forthcoming MIKE HAMMER comic strip collection.

M.A.C.

Collect ‘Em All, Kids!

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Last week, Amazon offered for sale the new Thomas & Mercer trade paperbacks (and corresponding e-books) of fourteen of my novels, including two by Barb and myself appearing for the first time under our “Barbara Allan” byline (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL).

These are outstanding packages, with outstanding covers, really just beautiful. I’m thrilled that these novels – all out of print, some out of print for years – are available again. It’s any author’s dream to have his or her work perpetually available, and one positive aspect of the changing world of publishing is that that dream has come true for many writers, myself included.

The five Mallory novels and the six “disaster” mysteries make up the bulk of the list, with the Barbara Allan titles and the standalone eco-thriller MIDNIGHT HAUL rounding it out. Virtually everything of mine is in print now – Perfect Crime has the Nolan and Quarry series, and Speaking Volumes has Eliot Ness.

The new Thomas & Mercer titles are priced very reasonably, and look for great promo deals from Amazon after the first of the year. I have done interviews on both Mallory and the disaster books, and Barb and I did a “Barbara Allan” interview, and I’ll let you know when and where those are going to show up. [Note from Nate: Click each cover for links to purchase Kindle, trade paperback, and audiobook editions at Amazon, major booksellers, as well as local independent booksellers via Indiebound]

Barb and I appeared at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois, on Sunday. This was a great event – lots of fans, plus we were generously made a part of the Midwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America’s Christmas party. In fact, my Q and A was the entertainment. It was a treat seeing so many wonderful writers, particularly my friends Bob Goldsborough and Raymond Benson, who are with me in the very small club of writers being chosen to continue great series (Nero Wolfe, James Bond and Mike Hammer respectively). Centuries & Sleuths, with its history and mystery theme, is one cool bookstore. The book tour has one last stop, in nearby Davenport’s BAM! on Dec. 22.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, be prepared for books, comic books, video games, rap music, movies, and other popular culture to be served up as a safe, convenient scapegoat. This is a very old, sour tune that our society just can’t get enough of – just like it can’t get enough of violent entertainment. Personally, I would like to see the assault rifle ban reinstated, and a campaign of education to advise people of the risks taken by owning a hand gun in a home where mentally disturbed and/or depressed people live. If you have a troubled loner son, maybe taking him to the shooting range to “learn responsibility” isn’t such a great idea.

The second of three installments of Dan Luft’s in-depth look at the Nolan series has just appeared. Smart stuff.

Take a look at this incredible TARGET LANCER review.

And speaking of censoring pop culture, here’s another nice advance review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

M.A.C.

Bouchercon – Can You Picture It?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Barb with our longtime friend and agent Dominick Abel.


The great suspense writer John Lutz, who presented MAC with the PWA Hammer for Nathan Heller.


Barb moderating her panel (with Allan misspelled on her i.d. placard).


MAC and Barb outside the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (Matthew Clemens hiding his head but little else)


MAC meeting a fan at BOOKS TO DIE FOR signing (also shown: last year’s guest Crusin’ vocalist, Mark Billingham; Reed Coleman; and Michael Connelly).


At BOOKS TO DIE FOR signing, this group called “Murderer’s Row” by our editor’s significant other: Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Reed Coleman, MAC, Michael Connelly, John Connelly.


Staredown contest between MAC and Michaeal Connelly.


Barb presenting PWA “Shamus” for Best Paperback to somebody other than her husband.


MAC accepting the PWA “Hammer” Award for Nate Heller, who couldn’t attend (he’s in a Boca Raton retirement home).


Sara Paretsky, ANTIQUES series editor Michaela Hamilton (cute from any angle) and PWA found/prez, Captain Robert Randisi.

Here’s a lovely review of TARGET LANCER from my pal (and incredible writer) Ed Gorman. The cover, by the way, is the previous version with yellow that I asked to be changed to red (and it was).

MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN by Jim Traylor and me gets some nice attention in both December’s issues of EQMM and ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. On stands now. (Are there still stands?)

Here’s a great write-up describing BOOKS TO DIE FOR, the new volume in which top mystery writers discuss great mystery novels – I take a swing at I, THE JURY (what a shock).

That justly renowned comic book writer, Peter David, posted a column about my other band, Seduction of the Innocent, that you may enjoy. It was written in ‘98 but it remains fresh.

Here’s a fun if belated review of the Mike Hammer novel, THE BIG BANG. [Nate here: HUGE spoiler warning!]

Writer/blogger Mike Dennis has posted his own Bouchercon recap, including a pic with yours truly.

M.A.C.