Posts Tagged ‘Spillane’

Girl Most Likely & Halloween Pushback

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

One of the best things about working with Thomas and Mercer, Amazon’s crime/mystery line, is the way they encourage authors to contribute ideas to, and opinions about, the covers of that author’s books. Girl Most Likely (which will be published on April 1, 2019) (no fooling) went through perhaps half a dozen cover concepts that were executed more or less completely, with many stages of development of the image you see here.

I find this a very strong cover, and appropriate for the novel, which is the first of at least two about Krista and Keith Larson. I hope to do several more, if readers take to the concept, which has a young (late twenties) police chief in tourist-town Galena, Illinois, teamed with her widower father (late fifties), who is a retired homicide detective.

Galena is of course real, and is virtually a character in the novel (and will be in any subsequent ones). Yes, I am pandering after an audience that likes “Girl” in the title, but this is appropriate, as it’s about a ten-year high school reunion and the homicidal designs of a maniac on the successful young woman who was indeed voted “Most Likely to Succeed” of her high school class. The young female sheriff is a classmate who becomes the person carrying out the criminal investigation.

I’ll talk about this novel more as the publication date draws near, but it’s an attempt on my part to do something neither hardboiled nor cozy. While it has its noir aspects – the murderer is a very bad dude, although good at providing creepy, scary moments – I did not depict a traditional tough-guy (or tough-gal) protagonist. Both Krista and Keith are portrayed as real people, decent and working through a personal loss – the fairly recent death of Keith’s wife who is of course Krista’s mom.

While Girl Most Likely is something of a departure for me, my readers (you know who you are) should have no trouble getting onboard.

* * *

A few of you have asked about the status of my partnership with writer Matthew Clemens. Matt was a co-writer on the previous four books I did for Thomas & Mercer, initially credited inside, but the final two Reeder and Rogers novels give him cover credit. Matt and I also wrote two J.C. Harrow thrillers for Kensington, and worked together on many, many tie-in novels, specifically CSI, Dark Angel, and Criminal Minds. He is not, however, co-writing the Krista and Keith Larson novels.

The team has not broken up. We are still writing short stories together (we had two out recently) and are developing a horror noir anthology, to which we’ll contribute at least one story. Later I’ll provide a link to a Publisher’s Weekly review of the antho Pop the Clutch, which singles out our latest story. If we do another novel together, it will likely be developed from one of the two short stories we did this year (the other was for Jonathan Maberry’s Hardboiled Horror).

We have also discussed doing a fourth Reeder and Rogers political thriller, although that series was conceived as a trilogy, each novel focusing on a branch of government. We have brainstormed perhaps half a dozen times, in search of a fourth book about the duo. But the current bizarre political climate makes doing a thriller in that genre, well, problematic.

The thing is, I decided a while back not to seek tie-in work beyond my ongoing role with the Spillane estate. It has to do with my heart surgery and other medical fun and games conspiring to remind me that life is finite. So writing somebody else’s characters (with the exception of Mike Hammer, where Mickey arranged for me to be a full collaborator) just doesn’t seem like a good use of my time. And tie-ins are the area where Matt helped me, doing research and writing story treatments that were essentially rough drafts for me to revise and flesh out. (Matt did not work with me on any of the movie novelizations.)

In the third act of my career (and you only get three), I want to focus on projects that are meaningful to me and aren’t just a matter of bread-and-butter. So while Matt remains one of my best friends and a valued collaborator, I think most of my novels – apart from “Barbara Allan” and Spillane – will be solo, from here on out.

Also, Brad Schwartz and I have signed to do a follow-up Ness/Capone book, and Jim Traylor and I have a non-fiction Spillane project in the works. So I obviously am not turning my back on collaboration.

* * *

I’ve had some pushback on my Halloween review. A lot of people like the movie. Those who read my take on the film should have noticed I didn’t say it was bad – just that it wasn’t good. But it does make me want to share a few more thoughts on it, and moviegoing in general.

The new Halloween finds its defenders focusing on the Jamie Lee Curtis aspect, which is fairly well served by the filmmakers – depicting her almost as a survivalist, viewed as a loon even by members of her own family, but – in a strong last act – asserting herself in a booby-trapped fortress of a home, where she has prepared for decades for Michael Myers to make another assault on her (and perhaps her family).

Unfortunately, the first two acts are weak. The kills are gory but unsuspenseful, unpleasant and poorly thought out. The podcast aspect is frankly stupid, and for a film co-written by Danny McBride, the whole affair is shockingly free of humor and irony, with writing that barely tries – Laurie’s teen granddaughter’s up-till-now nice guy boy friend turns drunk and throws her cell phone into a gloppy punchbowl, to free her of any ability to phone home? The shrink who has been treating Michael in the nuthouse is obsessed with knowing what it’s like to kill, and puts on Michael’s mask to do so? (Yeah, that was a spoiler, but at this point I don’t care.) When people start wholesale dying, law enforcement (including a guy who was on the original “babysitter murders” case) makes no effort to shut down trick-or-treating?

Even the stronger third act is riddled with stupidity. Laurie keeps the rooms in her house very spare, so that when Michael eventually invades, he will have few if any hiding places…except for a room full of manikins (life-size targets for her shooting range). Laurie’s daughter (played by Archer/Arrested Development’s Judy Greer) is depicted as weak and hysterical, and though she has a rifle (she was trained in childhood by her mother), she reacts in her daughter’s safe-room basement as if coming apart, proclaiming her inability to shoot that rifle and defend herself…but when Michael comes down after her, as she raves and rants in supposed fear, she snaps into kill mode, saying, “Gotcha.” But she doesn’t need to fool Michael, because he’s a killing machine bent on destruction anyway. She can be whimpering or she can be taunting, it doesn’t matter.

So the “gotcha” is only for the audience. That’s who is being “gotten.”

Okay, so I don’t like the movie. I don’t hate it, and it has its moments. But it’s disappointing.

However. There’s an aspect of moviegoing that is rarely discussed, and that’s how the moviegoing experience itself can impact your opinion. Two cases in point.

Halloween, which Barb and I saw at a 4 pm matinee, was attended by a boorish crowd. We had to move to different seats early on because some old people (really old – older than us!) wouldn’t shut up. Also, behind us was a family who gorged on candy and giant buckets of popcorn, between slurping drinks, and who had brought along a six- or seven-year-old kid to this kill fest. Neither Barb nor I could shake the uncomfortable knowledge that a kid that age was being abused.

By the way, this is at least a little hypocritical, because I showed all the Lone Wolf and cub movies to Nate when he was around eight or nine. But Nate is not an idiot, nor (despite some of what you’ve read in this update) am I.

When Barb and moved to new seats, at the end of a row, a teenage girl moved past us, not excusing herself, then stood beside us talking on her cell phone. We requested that she do that in the lobby. She told us to “chill” and kept talking, before signing off, re-entering the row and giving us the kind of dirty look teenagers are famous for.

This is the climate in which we saw Halloween, and the overall negative impact could only have been improved if the teenage girl with the cell phone had become Michael Myers’ next victim.

Second case in point.

Barb and I took an overnight trip to Des Moines in part to plot the next Antiques novel and also just for a getaway, which we often do at the end of a writing project (in the case, the recently completed Mike hammer novel, Murder, My Love). At one point, while Barb shopped at Jordan Creek Mall, I went to a movie by myself. Yes, that is sad.

The movie was Johnny English Strikes Back. I like Rowan Atkinson very much – huge Blackadder fan, and Mr. Bean is wonderful, too, and Maigret is fine – but the previous two Johnny English films were just…okay. They do big business in England, but for this James Bond fan, I found the first two films, as spoofs, were just…I would say, “Meh,” if I didn’t despise it when people say (or even type) that. So my expectations were low.

And I loved it. Strikes Back was always amusing and, as it built, frequently laugh out-loud funny. The small but appreciative (and well-behaved) audience added to the pleasure. The Bond spoof aspect was stronger here, as the movie emphasized how a Bond-style agent (even an incompetent one) is an analogue player in a digital world, the film quietly having fun with how out-of-date and wrong the Bond concept is almost twenty years into the twenty-first century.

So. Was Strikes Back really as good as I came away feeling it to be? I’m honestly not sure. Low expectations may have benefitted it in the way high expectations made Halloween a disappointment.

To me. Your mileage, as my friend Terry Beatty says, may vary.

* * *

Here is the nice PW review of Pop the Clutch, singling out “Mystery Train,” a short story by Matt Clemens and me.

Finally, here’s where you can get the new, expanded version of Primal Spillane.

M.A.C.

Ms. Tree Collected, A Royale Review and Boo to Halloween

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Softcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The Ms. Tree prose short story, “Louise,” an Edgar nominee, is featured in editor Otto Penzler’s new anthology, The Big Book of Female Detectives.

This seems as good a time as any to confirm that Titan will be bringing out (in five or six volumes) the complete Ms. Tree comics, organized into graphic novel form. This is of course long overdue. I will likely be doing new intros, although it’s doubtful Terry Beatty will contribute new covers – the plan right now is to draw from his many outstanding covers for the comic books themselves.

* * *

Two more brief movie reviews…

Barb and I took in Bad Times at the El Royale, a ‘70s noir with an excellent cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson and Chris Hemsworth. It’s written and directed by Drew Goddard, who wrote for Buffy on TV and did the screenplays for The Martian, Cloverfield and World War Z, among others. El Royale resonates with me in part because it’s a take-off on Cal Neva, the resort straddling California and Nevada that figures in my novels Bye Bye, Baby and Road to Paradise.

I’m sure some critics are comparing El Royale to Tarantino, and its novelistic approach (both the way it’s organized and its attention to character) is in that same ballpark. But El Royale has its own feel, and does not suffer the Tarantino habit of all the characters talking like the writer. I won’t say much about the plot, other than a central element is money from a robbery long-hidden in one of the rooms of a hotel that has become a faded relic of Rat Pack days, having lost its gambling license.

The screenplay draws upon a Spillane novella, “Tomorrow I Die!” (title tale of an anthology of Spillane short fiction I edited) that was adapted into one of the best films from Mickey’s work, an episode of Showtime’s Perfect Crimes. (Mickey’s story was his take on The Petrified Forest.) It also draws upon someone I wrote about here a while back, who was a war hero and a movie star (paying attention?).

Anyway, it’s a terrific film. You’ll feel like you’re spending the evening at the El Royale, though you’ll be having a better time than most of the characters.

We also saw the new take on Halloween, which is getting a lot of good reviews. Most of those reviews focus on Jamie Lee Curtis and her empowered if psychotic take on the older Laurie Strode. What rewards the film has are tied up in Curtis/Strode. I was amped for the film because I’m a horror fan, plus the screenplay is co-written by Danny McBride, of whom I’m also a fan. But the movie isn’t good. It’s not exactly bad, either, but there are almost no scares, merely unpleasantness and gore. It has a low-budget feel, and not in a good way, and even the John Carpenter music feels forced. One plot twist having to do with the substitute shrink for the Loomis (Donald Pleasance) character is meant to be a shocking surprise and just plays dumb and unconvincing.

After recently seeing the excellent Insidious films, and revisiting the very good Truth or Dare (all of these are Blumhouse productions, as is this new Halloween), the return of Michael Meyers fell flat for both Barb and me.

* * *

For those keeping track, I have delivered Murder, My Love, the new Mike Hammer. This one is based on a Spillane synopsis, but is the first of the novels with no Mickey prose woven in. I think it came out well, but it raises the question of whether I should continue Hammer when I run out of Spillane source material.

* * *

My novel of In the Line of Fire gets a latterday review! Positive, too.

Finally, here’s a Road to Perdition piece that discussed both the graphic novel and the film. Sorta likes both. Sorta.

M.A.C.

Crusin’ the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

I’m going to be a little lazy this week, and for the most part just share this complete record of Crusin’s 25-minute set at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert. This is courtesy of my pal Ken Duncan (who did the Steadicam work on Mommy!).

More about that appearance and our honor can be read here in a Voice of Muscatine write-up (although I don’t remember saying we stole the show – we were perhaps in the top three or four bands out of a dozen, but I wouldn’t be so bold as to claim domination).

I have started work on the new Mike Hammer, which is called Murder, My Love. The first two chapters were written in a St. Louis area Drury hotel, while Barb and I were getting to know our granddaughter Lucy, having a great time with three-year-old grandson Sam, and helping out their dad and mom (Nate and Abby) a little bit, too.

Briefly, let me encourage you to order Primal Spillane, a lovely trade paperback from Bold Venture. It’s a much expanded collection of Mickey’s comic-book filler prose stories, written in the early to mid-‘40s, mostly for Timely, the precursor of Marvel. It also has a similar but longer – but never before published story – as a bonus. The shorter version of Primal Spillane was published about ten years ago, put together by Lynn Myers and myself. Publisher Rich Harvey made this possible and did a great job on this definitive edition.


Hardcover: Bold Venture Press
Trade Paperback: Bold Venture Press |
E-Book: Bold Venture Press | Amazon Nook Kobo

I will bury a somewhat political reference here, though I know it irritates some when I do. Sorry. But am I the only one who noticed that the fictionalized name of Brett Kavanaugh in Mark Judge’s memoir of high school and college debauchery – Bart O’Kavanaugh – substitutes one Maverick brother for the other?

Finally, Scarface and the Untouchable gets moving right along. Check out this great review from Brad Schwartz’s hometown paper.

M.A.C.

Did I Mention We Got in the Iowa Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

As promised, here’s a look at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa, perched on the banks of Lake Okoboji. (The photo accompanying this update, however, was taken at Fruitland Fun Days on September 8.) This is mostly about the rock side of my purported talents, so feel free to bail if you have no interest.

Labor Day weekend at Arnold’s Park – and the area surrounding it – is frantic with end-of-summer vacationing, and the traffic that accompanies it. The trip north was both dull and eventful, because Barb and I discovered (on an endless farmland drive best described as a green wasteland) that the credit card we had recently had to cancel and replace got our cell phone service cut off, and at one point got us locked out of our hotel room.

That was the downside. The upside was a weekend that celebrated rock ‘n’ roll, specifically the Iowa variety. The members of Crusin’ all went their own way with their respective families, in this vacation wonderland, but came together for the various band activities. The Sunday morning sound check was not ideal – each group had very limited time, and in truth that led to some problems with monitors that evening. But with a dozen bands performing, that was perhaps to be expected.

In the afternoon a formal induction ceremony was held in a beautiful high school auditorium, and I represented the band with a brief speech, off-the-cuff as usual, which led to me forgetting at first to acknowledge former band member (and Daybreakers founding member) Dennis Maxwell, who only came from Arizona. Sallie Bunn accepted a plaque for her late husband, Chuck – also a member of both Crusin’ and the Daybreakers – and Brian’s brother Jim, who was our guitarist for over a decade, also picked up his award. Other members of the band (there have been fifteen or sixteen of us, over the 43 years) who couldn’t attend should be getting their plaques by mail in a few weeks.

The big event is the Sunday night induction concert, starting at 6 pm and going past midnight, and we had a spot that was at once terrific and terrible – terrific in that we had the ten o’clock slot, which is prime time, and terrible in that we had to follow an All-Star band with some top talent in it…Megadeth bassist David Ellefson sat in for a couple of tunes, for example. The All-Star Band even played two songs that were on our 25-minute set list – “Wild Nights” and “We Gotta Get Outa This Place.”

Now here is where my ridiculous ego comes into play. As we stood waiting in a sort of doorless green room just off stage, I started smiling when both songs were performed…because I knew we did them better. They did another song from our regular list, and I wished we had played that as well.

Understand that in the garage band scene of the mid-60s – at least in my corner of the world – the combos were like street gangs. We were all scrounging after a small number of gigs (sock hops, proms, house parties), and we hated the other bands. Fist fights were not uncommon. There was nothing we liked better than pimping out another group. When we opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock in the late ‘60s, an Iowa City band that we despised closed their set with a limp “Crossroads” – so we opened with our own blistering version. Once when a promoter stiffed us opening for the Kingsmen – saying we were lucky to be opening for a famous band, then instructing us not to play any Kingsmen songs – we opened with “Louie Louie.” (We also played “Money,” which we weren’t getting, though it was what we wanted.)

Meanwhile, back at the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert…

The trouble with All-Star Bands is they are under-rehearsed and they are cluttered with talent. I have no idea how many people were on stage, but there were three lead guitar players alone. And Crusin’ might be a garage band from Muscatine, Iowa, but by God we are a band.

And that was one of the big pleasures of that night. We at least held our own among a dozen bands, some of whom were really, really good and none of whom stunk up the place. I felt we killed, and so did the rest of the guys, but we may be deluded. That’s okay.

Because last summer, after our very talented guitarist Jim Van Winkle left us, and we had to replace him and come up with three sets of material in about a two-week period, we weren’t really a band. Veteran local musician Bill Anson came on board, just to temporarily help us. But he found out how much fun this group is to be in, and he decided to stick around. We are glad and grateful he did.

Crusin’ had a busy summer – busier than I intended – and most of our gigs were outside in awful weather. Just sucky, humid, shitty weather. And we are not kids anymore. I began talking about making this my last summer of gigs, with the Hall of Fame concert my send-off. We discussed limiting performances to two hours (not the standard three and hell no to four hours) if we did come back.

But what happened at the Hall of Fame concert was that we came together as a band. A real band. Any time you change a member in a four-piece configuration, it’s a new band, and it takes a while to gel (and sometimes you just congeal). I knew we had the makings, because Bill Anson is a strong singer with a very different voice and style from mine, which immediately gave us a boost. As for guitar playing, I’ve liked Bill’s work from day one; but he stands in two big shadows.

First, his brother Dave is a fairly legendary guitarist around here. Second, Jim Van Winkle – his immediate predecessor – is something of a genius with guitar. But guess what? At the induction concert – actually after the sound check – I had three people individually come up and comment on how great our guitar player is. “Where did you find that guy? Wow!” That kind of thing.

Another factor was my purchase this year of a new Vox keyboard to go with my Hammond-style Nord. A Vox keyboard hasn’t been produced in decades, but Korg recently put one out. The authentic ‘60s sound of it got me some great comments at the concert. And it, too, makes us a different band.

So maybe we killed, maybe we didn’t.

But we were, in a way, born. If not to be wild, exactly, wild enough to come back for another summer of this insanity…probably with a CD of new original material.

A word about the venue. We were playing at the Roof Garden, one of the Midwest’s most famous ballrooms. Among those who played there were the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Guess Who, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds, and Bobby Darin. We played to a capacity crowd of 1000. The building (the second in the venue’s history) is being torn down by the time you read this. We performed at the last event prior to the building of a new facility with the old Roof Garden name.

I can almost hear my old bandmate Paul Thomas saying, “We’ve closed down bigger joints….”

* * *

So originally I was supposed to be at Bouchercon in Florida this weekend. But Barb and I decided with the long Labor Day weekend, which included not only the musical responsibilities but a very long drive going and returning, that setting out more or less immediately on another big trip was just nothing we could face. Much as I wanted to see my friends and fellow authors (not mutually exclusive categories), I decided against it. Worst part was not being there to promote Scarface and the Untouchable.

But I am so glad we cancelled.

Why? On our return to Muscatine on Labor Day evening, we discovered our basement was flooded and half of the electricity in our house was out. The latter included the washer and drier, and the TV (cable box fried), though the refrigerator was running (neither of us had the energy to catch it).

We spent all day Tuesday dealing with an electrician, getting electricity back around 5 pm, and the rest of the week was taken up with dealing with our sopped basement.

Miraculously, I had – after years of putting it off – recently turned the hoarder’s nightmare that the basement’s library area had become, bringing in new and additional bookcases and thoroughly sorting and downsizing. So very few books or magazines were destroyed. And the band room had few instruments or amps on the floor, since Crusin’ had been on the road when two torrential rainstorms hit Muscatine.

Today (Sunday the 9th as I write this) we have the basement dried out enough to bring the carpet cleaners in on Thursday.

We would have had to leave for Florida and the Bouchercon on last Thursday morning. Our Tuesday and Wednesday were nightmarish enough, let alone factoring in getting ready for another major trip.

* * *

As the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers’ outgoing president (in the sense of leaving, not being bubbly), I sat for an interview with new president, Jonathan Maberry. You can read it here.

The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine blog has used a piece from me about Mickey Spillane’s 100th.

The Seattle Times gave Scarface and the Untouchable a terrific review. (They don’t like it if you’re blocking ads, though.)

Finally, since this update started out with Crusin’ (and Bouchercon), we’ll finish the same way. Jerry’s House of Everything mentions Crusin’ doing “Incense Peppermints” (by Strawberry Alarm Clock – their second mention this column!) in 2011 at the St. Louis Bouchercon.

Sadly, this was bass player Chuck Bunn’s last gig – he passed away two weeks later. Jerry’s You Tube link didn’t work for me, so here it is again (in a clip put together by the great Eugene George).

M.A.C.