Posts Tagged ‘Target Lancer’

Embarrassing Media Performance

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I couldn’t stomach much of the media coverage last week, for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Am I supposed to care what Angelina Jolie thinks of Kennedy? Or where a tearful Jane Fonda was when she heard? Hand me the air sickness bag, please.

The shameful media emphasis on Oswald as lone gunman and conspiracy theorists as fools came to a surprising head Friday night when Bill Maher, of all people, shrugged the assassination off as “shit happens.”

That’s the standard take of the pro-lone nut crowd – people like me just can’t accept that a great man like JFK could be taken down by a little nobody. Hearing the ridiculous Warren Commission findings taken seriously while the later HSCA  finding for conspiracy are ignored shows just how all-pervasive this new whitewash is.

It doesn’t come from the government. It comes from my fellow liberals wanting to deify Kennedy, to make him a marble figure on a statue like Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, how many people out there think John Wilkes Booth was a lone nut “like Oswald”? That will come as a surprise to Booth’s co-conspirators, who swung from ropes.

I’m an admirer of JFK, but also a realist. I understand that a president who sanctions assassinations of other heads of state might just trip over a whole lot of karma. I understand that when you team the CIA up with the Mob (not a theory – an historical fact) to bump off Castro, some nasty ramifications might ensue.

On Maher’s REAL TIME panel, Paul Begala stated that his fellow George magazine founder John F. Kennedy Jr. made a point of saying their new magazine wouldn’t be looking into the assassination. JFK Jr. reportedly said he could spend his whole life doing that, and had decided to move on. The implication was, we should all do the same.

Maher accepted this strained logic – if a son doesn’t give a shit who killed his old man, why should we? But the Kennedy family has always kept a tight control over assassination documents – they knew the dirty laundry that would come out. RFK’s first reaction to hearing about the shooting was that Chicago had done it, and he used his own Rackets Committee veteran investigators to do a sub rosa inquiry (part of the basis for Heller’s activities in ASK NOT).

Let’s keep this very simple. The problem with dismissing as a fool or a crank anyone who thinks a conspiracy took down JFK is this: it only takes two to make a conspiracy, and in this case we have at least two – Oswald and Ruby.

Or let’s look at it this way – to believe Oswald was a lone nut who shot JFK, you also have to accept Ruby as a lone nut who shot Oswald. So the media/Maher theory isn’t the Lone Nut Theory – it’s the Two Lone Nuts theory…which is particularly ludicrous when you consider that Ruby was a mobbed-up guy from Chicago with ties all the way back to Capone and a history in Cuba with the Marcello crowd.

I’m generally a Maher fan. He’s a smug prick, but he’s funny and smart. But he can also be glib and shallow, and this is one of those times. Him and the rest of the media.

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The ASK NOT signing went very well at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, Iowa, Saturday afternoon. Big bookstore chain signings often suck, but at this one – despite a Hawkeye game (even my collaborator Matt Clemens didn’t attend the signing) – we had a steady flow. A good stack of ASK NOT sold, quite a few TARGET LANCER paperbacks, plus a whole lot of ANTIQUES books, which Barb and I signed.

Speaking of ANTIQUES, three of the paperback reprints are going back to press – ANTIQUES ROADKILL, ANTIQUES DISPOSAL and ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF – which reflects just how well this series continues to do. If you’re a hardboiled M.A.C. fan and haven’t tried one, now’s as good a time as any, and the current ANTIQUES CHOP is one of our best.

As for ASK NOT, we had some nice attention last week, although with so many JFK books out there, mine got a little lost in the shuffle. An appearance on Paula Sands Live on KWQC-TV Davenport no doubt boosted the Barnes & Noble appearance. Paula is so great – some of you will remember her from her acting stint (as herself!) in MOMMY’S DAY.

The reviews for ASK NOT at Amazon are generally raves, but we only have around a dozen at this point. If you’ve read and liked the book, could you please post a short review? If you didn’t like the book, keep in mind that I don’t come to where you work and criticize you.

My “WHY I WRITE” piece for Publisher’s Weekly was picked up by two of the best blogs in mystery fiction: Ed Gorman’s and Bill Crider’s.

The other non-Gorman Ed’s Blog posted a nice ASK NOT review here.

One of several radio interviews I did last week is available at this link.

My old pal David Burke at the Quad Cities Times did this short but sweet interview/write-up, promoting the Barnes & Noble signing.

Tony Isabella, great guy/terrific writer, gave his blog followers a nice heads up about the forthcoming WRONG QUARRY.

And here’s a fun review (read the comments, too) of THE GIRL HUNTERS. By the way, a blu-ray is coming and I will likely be involved.


Supreme Satisfaction

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Matt Clemens and Max Collins, in younger days….

Today I sent out the manuscript of SUPREME JUSTICE to my editor at Thomas & Mercer. It always feels a little odd to e-mail a manuscript after so many years of spending a work day running off copies for the editor, my agent and often my researchers, then wrapping packages and running to the post office or Fed Ex, trying to get there before closing. But done is done, and I’m glad to have that project under my belt.

The writing went very well. The idea was one I’d put together as a proposal probably five years ago, but never sent it around because my plate was too full – it’s an ambitious subject having to do with the Supreme Court. A while back I brought Matt Clemens on board, and together we fleshed the proposal out into a more complete document. SUPREME JUSTICE is now the second novel of a two-book contract for Thomas & Mercer (WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER being the first).

Matt did virtually all of the research, and he and I broke the story down into chapters over one of our typical lunch meetings. His story treatment is essentially a short rough draft and he did a really fine job. The book took longer than it should have because my work got interrupted by several trips, most recently Bouchercon. I hate to travel in the midst of writing – it screws up my momentum terribly.

In some respects, the novel is a departure for me. It probably most resembles the CSI novels that I did with Matt, and our two J.C. Harrow novels for Kensington. But the political subject matter and backdrop is new – well, it is cut out of somewhat the same cloth as my movie tie-ins, AIR FORCE ONE and IN THE LINE OF FIRE – and the book has a very dialogue-driven, fast-paced manner. I don’t want to say anything about the plot, because it’s very much a high concept and I’d just as soon not have somebody “borrow” it.

I will be anxious to see how my editor and agent respond to the book. From this vantage point, SUPREME JUSTICE feels very good. Of course, as the old saying goes, so does your head when you stop beating it against the wall….

ASK NOT is attracting some nice reviews, like this one in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

This is a rare positive Kirkus review for my work, but it’s odd. Really strange. Check it out and see for yourself.

Book Reporter provides an ASK NOT write-up (but not review) here.

Scroll down at Awards Circuit and find a brief but really nice TARGET LANCER review.

And here’s another of those odd but positive Alpha 60 reviews of various Quarry novels, this time THE FIRST QUARRY.


Ask for “Ask Not”

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Today marks the publication date of ASK NOT, the third novel of the Nathan Heller “JFK” trilogy. It’s available right now, so scurry to your favorite bookseller, whether brick-and-mortar or on the net, and improve your life…and mine. Barnes & Noble often only gets in a couple of copies of my new novels, so you may have to ask for it.

If you like the book at all, please review it at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, or blog about it. (As usual, I will remind you to do this for all the authors whose books you enjoy). If you happened to read it in a bound galley, now is the day that Amazon will start posting reader reviews.

The previous JFK Heller novel, TARGET LANCER, has just come out in mass market paperback, so if you’ve been waiting for a popularly priced edition (as they used to say), now’s the time. Reviews at Amazon for that would also be much appreciated. Detailed reviews aren’t necessary – just a line or two about what you thought.

ASK NOT is my “dead witnesses” book just as TARGET LANCER was a novel about the lead-up to the assassination. Getting these two books written, and in print, was a major goal for me. When I first knew that TRUE DETECTIVE would spawn a series, I made the Kennedy assassination my end game. So in a very real sense, I have “finished” the Heller series. Should I get hit by a bus today, the Heller memoirs could be considered complete (unless I survive the accident).

With a new Forge contract, I hope to be doing at least another half dozen Heller novels. As I get older, this gets trickier – neither my researcher George Hagenauer nor I are the energetic kids we used to be. I’m an energetic something, but not a kid. Google has made writing the Hellers somewhat easier – I’m staggered to think that every Heller prior to BYE BYE, BABY was written without benefit of the net (first book I remember using the web for was THE TITANIC MURDERS). But George and I still do an enormous amount of research in old newspapers and vintage true-crime magazines, and read book after book after book.

With subjects like the McCarthy era, the Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, and Watergate on my short list, what lies ahead is somewhat daunting. I hope you’ll stay with me through what I trust will be some of Nathan Heller’s best memoirs.

Speaking of ASK NOT, here’s a terrific review from Criminal Element. What’s really cool is that the author – a female (my favorite sex) – hasn’t read a Heller before, which of course includes the first two books of the trilogy. Yet she really, really dug it.

And speaking of Nate Heller, check out this fantastic and very smart review of THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND (among my personal favorites among my novels) by Kevin Tipple.

Finally, I joined my fellow Top Suspense members to contribute to this list of our favorite noir films.



Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
What Doesn't Kill Her

Barb and I are preparing to attend On the Lam, a conference in Seattle next weekend put on by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery/suspense publisher that’s part of Amazon. The attendees are authors published by T & M, with some fans and writer’s groups in Seattle receiving invites to the Saturday panels.

I’m on one, and the topic is “Building Your Brand.” Usually when I’m on a panel – I’m scheduled for two at this year’s Bouchercon – I frankly give the topic little if any thought. I prefer winging it. But this topic really has me thinking. In fact, it’s giving me fits.

Why? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t have a brand. I think “Barbara Allan” has already developed a brand as a humorous cozy author, and of course that penname for Barb and me was very calculated, from its folk-tune resonance to the female nature of the byline. Otherwise, I have rather stubbornly written almost everything else as by M.A.C.

And, accordingly, I have no overall brand-name. There’s a group of readers that thinks “Max Allan Collins” is a guy who writes movie and TV novels. There’s another that thinks I’m a hardboiled writer. Yet another considers me a historical thriller specialist. Some think I’m a comics writer or maybe graphic novelist. The most successful of my series – Nathan Heller, Quarry, and Mickey’s Mike Hammer – are their own brand names. For stuff I’ve done – like the upcoming WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER – that doesn’t fall conveniently into any of those boxes, I don’t have a brand at all…other than (judging by some of the advance Amazon reader reviews) my historical brand serving to piss some readers off when I do a straight thriller. I started noticing this on the two J.C. Harrow thrillers that Matt Clemens and I did for Kensington.

Thomas & Mercer have done a really good job in packaging my novels to suggest a sort of brand – starting with the Hellers, they have used typeface, photography and overall design to create a look that is less than uniform but still connective. This has extended chiefly to their reprints of the Disaster series, but also Mallory and even the “Barbara Allan” reprints, REGENERATION and BOMBSHELL (the latter an historical thriller). Amusingly, Amazon often lists Mallory novels among “historicals,” due to the books being so firmly entrenched in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

I should note that a few Amazon reviewers, attracted to REGENERATION by the “Barbara Allan” byline of ANTIQUES fame, were outraged at finding themselves stuck with a rather nasty thriller. Was it asking too much for them to read the description and look at the cover, before ordering? Here is where “brand” is a hindrance.

If you are Stephen King or Dean Koontz, and work at least vaguely in the horror/suspense area, you can publish any damn thing you like and your brand holds up. Interestingly, J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous mystery novel sold squat before she was outed, but once exposed, her brand has carried it into bestsellerdom, cushioned and boosted by the way the secret came out.

I’m not sure a writer below King/Koontz level can have a brand, not unless that writer creates stories in a very narrow way. I suppose I could have used pseudonyms for each area I explored, but the one time I was talked into using one – Patrick Culhane – the results were near disastrous.

My wife invokes Bobby Darin here, who many of you know is my favorite pop star and an obsession of mine equal to my Spillane one. Darin was a chameleon, who was (as DOWNBEAT magazine put it) “the only real competition Sinatra ever had,” a rock ‘n’ roller whose “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover” are classics of the form, an exponent of “blue-eyed soul,” a singer-songwriter pioneer in country rock, folk rock, and even a credible protest singer…and an actor whose small body of work includes some incredible performances, like those in PRESSURE POINT and CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). Still, he is often dismissed as dilettante by fans of each of those kinds of music (and largely forgotten as an actor), though I have been pleased to see him in the last decade or so reassert himself in the public consciousness. Often he’s mistakenly referred to as part of the Rat Pack, and it’s clear his big-band vocalist persona is the lasting one (fine by me). If you could choose only one singer/musician to represent popular music in the Twentieth-Century time capsule, Darin is the only logical choice, because only through him would you find excellent examples of just about every kind of pop music that that century provided (such British Invasion groups as Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Seekers covered songs of his). But he will never be a superstar in the way Elvis, Sinatra, the Beatles or even Sammy Davis Jr. or Dean Martin are.

His only brand was talent. Oh, and excellence.

* * *

Bill Crider, that terrific writer who runs my favorite site on the Net, has given WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER a lovely and (in my opinion) insightful review. Check it out.

My work as Mickey’s collaborator is discussed in an article about ghost writers in the AV Club. Worth a look, even if I am not exactly a ghost writer in this case. Scroll down to page 3 (page 4 now) for some comments by me and others.

Ed Gorman, another fine writer with a great blog, has published a short but solid interview with me, discussing the newest publications (including forthcoming ones).

Kevin Burton Smith at Thrilling Detective, the definitive private eye web site, has a Quarry entry up. I consider Quarry a private eye of sorts, so I’m glad to see him included.

I think this great video review of TARGET LANCER has been posted before, but it got a new lease on life recently.

I will report next week on the Seattle trip.