Posts Tagged ‘So Long Chief’

21 Years Later—A Third Shamus!

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I’m afraid my long streak of losing the Shamus has been broken – “So Long, Chief,” the Spillane/Collins story that appeared in the Strand magazine and was nominated for an Edgar – won the Shamus Best Short Story award Friday night at the PWA banquet in Long Beach. Very gratifying to have the Spillane/Collins collaboration receive this kind of validation.

Bouchercon 2014
MAC Receiving 2014 Shamus Best Short Story for “So Long, Chief”

All the winners are at this link.

Bouchercon 2014
Left to right: Grant Bywaters, Sue Grafton, Brad Parks, Lachlan Smith, M. Ruth Myers, M.A.C.

The event was well-attended – over one hundred in a packed room at Gladstone’s restaurant – and the reviews were generally very good. Barb and I filled in for usual hosts Bob Randisi and Christine Matthews, as Bob is recovering from eye surgery and not able to travel. The food was quite good, and the service too, and the waterfront setting nicely noir; but the venue wasn’t ideal – poor sound system and rather crowded, with a cramped presentation area. But a certain sense of intimacy was created.

Bouchercon 2014
Barb and S.J. Rozan, who is about to present the Best Paperback Award

Speeches were short and to the point, and warm memories of Jerry Healy and Marty Meyers, both of whom we lost this year, made for a somewhat bittersweet mood (as did the absence of Bob and Christine). The two big names in female P.I. fiction made a rare joint appearance, as Sara Paretsky presented the Best Novel Award, and Sue Grafton picked up the “Hammer” award for her character Kinsey Millhone – that award, named for Mike Hammer, goes to a character that has had a big impact on the genre as well as longevity.

Bouchercon 2014
Barb presenting the Hammer Award to Sue Grafton

For me – beyond the highlight of winning a Shamus after a 21-year dry spell, what the Private Eye Writers of America banquet meant was the end of a rewarding if punishing first full day at Bouchercon.

Bouchercon 2014
Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton, agent Dominick Abel, and Barbara Collins

It began with a breakfast with my TOR/Forge editor, the funny and very smart Claire Eddy, as we discussed Nate Heller’s future (which is of course in the past). At eleven I did a two-hour interview (with a full camera crew) for Thomas & Mercer, creating material for a new Kindle mystery site. Then back to the convention hotel (the modernistic and rather unfinished-looking Hyatt) for an hour-and-a-half signing of ASK NOT at a TOR-sponsored hospitality suite event. From there came a 3:00 panel on obscure but worthwhile mystery writers (I did Ennis Willie, Horace McCoy and Roy Huggins, as well as made a case for Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series as a hardboiled private eye series of comparable stature to Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane). Always fun to be on a panel with the great Gary Phillips, and audience members were taking notes like a bunch of court reporters.

Bouchercon 2014
Left to right: Sarah Weinman, M.A.C., Gary Phillips, Charles Kelly, Sara J. Henry, Peter Rozovsky

Immediately thereafter, I appeared on a panel on screenwriting and adapting books to film – well-attended and pretty good, but a little “inside” – after which Barb and I ran over to the restaurant to put the PWA banquet in motion.

First thing Saturday, Barb was on a terrific panel – one I frankly had figured would be pretty thin (pets in mysteries) – where she really knocked it out of the park. The other panelists were also very strong and (almost) as funny as Barb. After that, we did our only Con-sponsored signing, as there had been no time the day before to sign after my two panels. Immodestly I will say that we had a huge line and I signed non-stop for an hour and a half, during much of which Barb was signing, too. Such great people, such enthusiastic readers. What a joy.

More meetings followed, with editors from Thomas & Mercer and Kensington, all positive and fun. T & M presented me with a plaque for selling 175,000 copies of SUPREME JUSTICE in June 2014 alone. Our friend and editor Michaela Hamilton (whose guy Eugene George generously provided some of the pics here) talked to Barb and me about the ANTIQUES series, and some Caleb York brainstorming went on as well.

The con flew by, obviously, and since we’re having nasty Iowa weather (it’s 12 degrees as I write this), that California sun (and Ocean breeze) (and palm trees) were tough to leave behind. It was gratifying to meet and talk to so many fans, but unfortunately a lot of them were surprised to find us there. Both Barb and I were left out of the program book, though we had submitted mini-bios and pics as requested; and my name was spelled inconsistently in the schedule of panels and on my name tag (lots of “Allen”). It’s a byproduct of Bouchercon being a fan-run con – though that is part of its charm – because the tastes of local fans can lead to some sloppy handling of authors attending.

Bouchercon 2014
Phoef Sutton, M.A.C., Lee Child, and Lee Goldberg

SPOILER ALERT: Bitch session follows.

I will present my personal award for general crappiness to American Airlines. Sunday was a nightmare getting home. American Airline neglected to inform us that the last leg of our flight home (Moline) had been cancelled – we only found out semi-accidentally, getting ready to board a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth when we volunteered to check our carry on items. At that point the counter guy stumbled onto the info that we couldn’t get home from Dallas today. So we didn’t board and sought out the customer service area, where a long line of displaced customers stood like Titanic passengers hoping to find room in a life boat. There one chatty employee was blithely handling everybody in an I-have-all-the-time-in-the-world manner.

I had better luck with an AA 800 line rep, although much of the news was bad – even if we went to Dallas/Ft. Worth and got a hotel room, there were no Moline flights out the next day. Our Long Beach Bouchercon trip seemed about to include two days (minimum) in Dallas. Finally I re-routed to Chicago, where there were also no Moline flights available, but with some difficulty I was able to line up a rental car for us to drive home. Again, no help from AA – they seized just about everybody-on-the-flight’s carry-on bags (ours had already been sized and deemed well within bounds by AA staff on entry of the terminal), and sent them to baggage claim, dooming us all to lost time. Then, to top off their service from hell, they gave us the wrong baggage claim carousel number – I just happened to spot what looked like our carry-ons down at another carousel, where they were taking a ride to oblivion. So AA cost us yet more time, when it was already 11 p.m. The Enterprise rental car outfit was terrific, however, as was National, the sister company through whose 800 number I was able to find a car to get us home.

At 3:15 a.m.

So farewell, American Airlines! Allow me to middle-finger salute you as you fly into that so richly deserved oblivion where you dispatched the carry-ons that you had so feverishly wrested from our grasp.

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Here’s a terrific review of ASK NOT at I Love a Mystery. Full disclosure: it’s by Larry Coven, who appeared in my films MOMMY’S DAY and REAL TIME: SEIGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET.

And check out this nice DEADLY BELOVED review at the Just a Guy That Likes to Read blog.


Shamus Times Two

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Seduction of the Innocent

I’m very pleased to have two Shamus nominations this time around, for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT in Best Paperback and the Spillane/Collins “So Long, Chief” in Best Short Story. I was a little surprised that SEDUCTION got nominated, and disappointed ASK NOT didn’t. But you never know about these things, and I would be especially thrilled if “So Long, Chief” won (it lost the Edgar) because it would be a nice honor for the Spillane/Collins collaborations.

This makes, I believe (math is involved, so…), 21 Shamus nominations. There are other writers who have won more times than my two, but nobody, and I mean nobody, has lost the Shamus as many times as I have. That will be me, somewhere mid-crowd the night of the awards, waving a giant rubber “We’re #1” hand.

SUPREME JUSTICE continues to do very well on Amazon. It’s #3 overall among all e-books, and #1 in both political thrillers and crime. The reviews have hit 315 as I write this, fairly astonishing when you consider that QUARRY’S EX has 14 reader reviews. We continue to get a lot of nice four- and five-star write-ups, with continued sniping from conservatives offended by what I consider to be the very mild political content. I received copies of the finished book today and it looks very nice (unfortunately, the infamous “Glock” mistake was not corrected in time – boy, do the gun guys hammer us on that one).

Not all conservative readers have tried to sabotage the book with an unfair rating or review. A good number make some passing comment about the hero’s liberal leanings, but go on to say positive things about the novel. I have to say that Matt Clemens and I never saw this coming. We really thought we’d struck a neutral tone.

But the problem comes from readers assuming the lead character of a novel speaks for the author. If that were true, then I’d be a right-wing vigilante, as the co-author of the Mike Hammer novels, and a sociopath/misanthrope based upon the Quarry novels. (Some who know me well may go along with that last assumption…).

It’s been an interesting ride, and I hope it will continue when June is over and the book is more widely available. I think it’s fair to say this is a more mainstream novel than what I usually do, although I’ve always felt that the Heller novels have mainstream appeal, but no publisher (with the exception of Amazon with the reprints) has ever played that up.

It’s odd to see myself compared to (and sometimes accused of ripping off) novelists I’ve never read, like Grisham and Balducci. Some of my mystery-writer approach seems to throw the thriller readers – Matt and I consciously have injected a mild mystery element into both SUPREME JUSTICE and WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, with surprise villains that aren’t incredibly hard to figure out but do give the narrative a little twist. Most thrillers i.d. the villain up front. Also, some Amazon readers have complained about the “rushed” ending, which to me is just a typical picking up of the pace as we head to the resolution. As Mickey used to say, nobody reads a book to get to the middle.

But I have no intention of leaving out what I’ve learned writing mystery and suspense from any thrillers I may do…as if these labels were anything truly useful.

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My son Nate and Mrs. Nate (Abby) came to visit over Father’s Day weekend. I am still recovering from finishing KILL ME, DARLING (and my back injury), so it was a fairly low-key weekend, although we installed Roku in both my TV viewing areas (living room and office), which was fairly intense and topsy-turvy-making (in a non-Gilbert and Sullivan sense). Thank God for Nathan’s savvy about such things. The electrical hook-up in my office was similar to the one for the Christmas tree in A CHRISTMAS STORY.

We saw a very funny movie, 22 JUMP STREET, which is one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen largely because of its contempt for sequels, and for the “bromance” genre. All of us loved it, and Barb wants to see it again.

A few non-Amazon reader reviews for SUPREME JUSTICE have started to appear on the Net. Here’s one from the intriguingly named 5 Minutes for Mom site.

And here’s another from Night Owl Reviews.

This site describes the SUPREME JUSTICE “blog tour,” which is an advance look at sites where reviews and interviews will be appearing.


Edgar Nom and Life with Mickey

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

I am pleased, and a little astonished, that “So Long, Chief,” a short story by Mickey Spillane and me that appeared in the Strand magazine, has been nominated for an Edgar. The story is one of around five I’ve done so far with an eye on developing a Hammer short story collection, utilizing the shorter fragments in Mickey’s files.

I’ve been nominated a bunch of times for Edgars, but this is only my second for fiction (the previous one was for the Ms. Tree prose short story, “Louise”). Nate Heller has never rated a nomination; Quarry either. ROAD TO PERDITION wasn’t eligible in any category because it’s a graphic novel.

This nomination rights an embarrassing wrong: while he was named a Grand Master Edgar by the MWA (thanks to the efforts of Don Westlake, Otto Penzler and others), this is Mickey Spillane’s first Edgar nomination.

Barb and I have not decided whether we’ll attend the awards ceremony in New York. If I go, I may jinx it, and we already have trips planned this year for San Diego Con and Bouchercon. And I have a lot of work on my plate. We’ll see.

See the full list of short story nominees, and my stiff competition, here.

In other Spillane news, there’s a Mickey book that I didn’t write that’s about to come out: MY LIFE WITH MICKEY by the effervescent Jane Spillane. I can’t wait to read this myself. Mickey’s lovely widow has attracted lots of press, particularly in the South. Check this wonderful piece out.

I should note that the journalist got one bit a little wrong – Jane found a section of the climax of THE GOLIATH BONE in Mickey’s pick-up, complete with post-it’s…not LADY, GO DIE! To order MY LIFE WITH MICKEY, go here.

I have wrapped up QUARRY’S CHOICE. It went out yesterday to editor Charles Ardai, and was one of the harder Quarry novels for me. First, I had the potential TV series hanging over my head (still no news); and second, in the midst of much reviewer love for the hitman-killing-hitmen aspect of recent Quarry novels, CHOICE is only the third novel to deal with Quarry when he was working for the Broker. (There’s also a short story.) There’s a lot of sex in this one. How much? Well, Barb said I’m now officially a dirty old man.

She’s kidding, of course (aren’t you, honey?) but it touches upon the reaction some reviewers and readers have to the sex in my novels, particularly Quarry ones. Are these scenes gratuitous? Well, a book as dark and violent as any Quarry novel is inherently gratuitous. But I try to use sex scenes for characterization purposes. In THE WRONG QUARRY, a casual, nasty bit of back alley sex shows Quarry and the woman at a sort of low moral ebb; but a later, tender sexual encounter between them reveals they have stirred better impulses in each other. Similarly, an over-the-top sex scene involving a barely legal wild child means to demonstrate its relative emptiness compared to conventional but loving sex with a much older woman. Anyway, that’s what I hope those scenes do.

Scenes of violence in Quarry novels tend to be either very understated (“I got out the wrench”) or go into gory Spillane-style excessive description. A flat scene of violence can indicate the protagonist’s emotional numbness to such carnage; a highly descriptive depiction of that carnage can remind you of the actual physical and human toll.

I share these thoughts with you, because a good number of the reviews – and I mean the positive ones – of THE WRONG QUARRY talk about the book as pulpy fun, and I hope that’s the case, because as I said here last week, I consider the books to be black comedies. But in my novels – in any good fiction dealing with sex and violence – such scenes do not occur in a vacuum. They intend to reveal character.

The reviews of THE WRONG QUARRY continue to roll in. This is one of my most-reviewed books of recent years, and really only one of them (probably numbering close to 35 by now) could be called mixed or negative. (Guess which review I fixate upon.)

I was thrilled to get this glowing notice from one of the key reviewers in contemporary mystery/crime fiction, J. Kingston Pierce at the Rap Sheet.

Careful reading this fun review – there’s a major spoiler (I had to ask the reviewer to attach a SPOILER WARNING before the paragraph in question, which she graciously did).

Here’s another good one.

And another.

Finally, here’s yet another did-you-know-it-was-a-comic-book rewrite about ROAD TO PERDITION, book and film.


Short and Sweet

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

My son says that I am turning into “that guy at the end of 60 MINUTES” (he wasn’t sure whether that was Mickey Rooney or Andy Rooney), meaning that I am starting to make this update the home of weekly curmudgeonly rants. So this week I’ll devote myself to mostly positive short takes.

Last week was spent writing a long Mike Hammer short story (almost 12,000 words) for Otto Penzler’s series of mini-books with a bibliophile theme. Otto sells these in his legendary Mysterious Bookshop in NY. Otto says he will publish the mini-book, entitled IT’S IN THE BOOK, late summer. We’ll provide a link when the time comes.

Speaking of Mike Hammer short stories, you’ll find “So Long, Chief” in the new issue of The Strand. These Mike Hammer short stories are developed from fragments in Mickey Spillane’s files, usually five or ten pages. I’ve worked up half a dozen short stories so far (two more fragments await) with an eye on an eventual Hammer short story collection.

Last week something delightful happened – Harlan Ellison called to say how much he liked SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Dr. Wertham’s). Harlan is one of my two favorite science-fiction writers (the other being Ray Bradbury) and one of my favorite writers, period. He was a huge influence on me as a young writer. I admire not only his prose but his passion, and his willingness to fight authority. That he likes my work means more than I can say, and that he occasionally takes the time to call me up and say so just flat out amazes me. It’s an honor to be sharing a publisher with him – Hard Case Crime has just brought out a new edition of his first novel, WEB OF THE CITY, which I bought back when it was called RUMBLE. Thank you, Harlan.

Our local Blockbuster went out of business and had a blow-out sale that to this Blu-ray/DVD collector was like Black Friday times ten – the final two days, Blu-rays and DVDs were a buck a piece. I am just starting to plow through my finds ($150 or so of ‘em), but already I have found a real gem, a Jackie Chan movie from 2010 that I’d never heard of: SHINJUKU INCIDENT. Some of you know that I used to have a regular column in Tom Weisser’s great Asian Cult Cinema magazine, and this film would have rated a rave and a full column there. Jackie plays a Japanese illegal in China in the ‘90s, a good-hearted soul shaped by circumstance and necessity into a crime boss. This is unlike any Jackie Chan movie I’ve ever seen, and it really is an Asian take on SCARFACE, as the DVD cover promises, right down to the shocking violence.

On a wholly different note, I have been watching Warners Archives’ new Wheeler and Woolsey collection. I like a lot of vintage comedy teams that other people (like everybody in my family) find irritating and/or revolting. For example, I am a fan of the Ritz Brothers (do you own a sign photo by the team?) and Olsen and Johnson (if you have a signed photo by them, I’ll buy it). But, yes, I also like the more accepted teams, from the Marx Brothers to Abbott and Costello and of course Martin and Lewis. Wheeler and Woolsey arguably belong in this last group. They were very popular (21 films in the late twenties and thirties for RKO) but because of Woolsey’s death in 1938, they were prematurely over…and Wheeler was unable to shape a film career on his own. Woolsey wears horn-rimmed glasses and smokes a constant cigar, sort of a combo of Groucho and George Burns (who lifted much of his schtick from Woolsey), and is a wiseguy con man character, while Wheeler is a lovable simpleton constantly eating an apple or a banana. Neither is the straight man, and both sing and dance, with Wheeler playing the romantic leads, often with Betty Boop-ish cutie Dorothy Lee. They are very much in the Marx Brothers theater of the absurd wheelhouse, and often share that team’s writers (of both scripts and songs). Some of their early movies are very creaky (DIXIEANA is worse than a trip to the dentist), and their later ones range from okay (HIGH FLYERS) to dreadful (SILLY BILLIES). But at their best, they are terrific, as in HIPs, HIPS HOORAY and COCKEYED CAVALIERS (both with Thelma Todd, a onetime Nate Heller squeeze). HIPS is in the Wheeler-Woolsey collection, and so is the very good mystery comedy THE NITWITS, and of the early ones another comedy crime entry, HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, is fun. The collection is mostly good, and on single discs or double features the Archive has such wonderful Wheeler and Woolsey titles as PEACH O-RENO, KENTUCKY KERNELS (with Spanky from Our Gang), and the crazed political satire DIPLOMANIACS (co-written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz). Their pre-code stuff is extremely racy, by the way (when a dish asks Woolsey if he’s looking at her knees, he says, “Oh, I’m above that”).

Barb and I went to the new GI JOE movie at the fancy new theater in town, and it’s entertaining enough, though it makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN look like a Ken Burns documentary. Mostly I’m just glad I didn’t get hired to turn it into a novel. The previous GI JOE was the only time I wrote a movie novel and felt I hadn’t been able to transcend a poor script (as I did with DAYLIGHT and I LOVE TROUBLE, for instance). With GI JOE, I just fought the thing to a draw. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that I haven’t had a movie novelization gig since….

Today I start on my draft of ANTIQUES A GO GO – Brandy, Vivian and Sushi in New York at a comic book convention.

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Bill Crider, whose website is one of my favorites, and who is a terrific writer his own self, has delivered a COMPLEX 90 review that is, in the author’s immodest opinion, spot on. One of my favorite reviews ever.