Posts Tagged ‘Target Lancer’

You Say Hello, I Say Bye Bye

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The mass market paperback of the latest Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, is out today, with a cover I much prefer over the hardcover edition’s. I also made a few corrections to the text, so completists may wish to double dip to get the final version.

Speaking of covers, here is the revised cover of the next Heller, TARGET LANCER. The version on Amazon has yellow lettering that I found nauseating, and my editor went to bat for me and got this big improvement.

Bye Bye Baby
Target Lancer

Something happened yesterday that was not a big deal but demonstrates the odd position I find myself in at times. A guy called at 8:30 Sunday morning, leaving a message that I should call him – a stranger. Now maybe 8:30 Sunday morning is late for you. For us, it’s early, very damn early (while we live in Iowa, we are not farmers), particularly when I get in at 3 a.m. after a band job. In addition, the ringing phone woke my wife, who does not always have the gentle disposition you might imagine.

Fifteen minutes later, he called again – 8:45 a.m., finding us up and awake (thanks to him). He was calling Sunday morning because he was writing a book about the Irish in Iowa and thought I would like to help him. He was not in particular a fan, although he was familiar with ROAD TO PERDITION (which takes place in Illinois, not Iowa). I tried not to be rude – he seemed friendly and good-natured – but I told him his project was not in my wheelhouse, but that I could give him one useful piece of advice: don’t call strangers at 8:30 Sunday morning.

Writers have a lot of trouble with this kind of thing. Most of us don’t have unlisted numbers, because we want to be accessible as freelancers. A controversial essay has bounced around the net by a successful screenwriter who says (I’m quoting from memory here), “No, I will not read you f**king screenplay. I will also not ask you to clean my f**king house, or wash my f**king car.” Professional scribes are always having people – seldom anyone close to them – expect them to read manuscripts and help them on their way to a successful career.

And it gets awkward. I often have reviewers with blogs ask for blurbs for books they’ve written. This reeks, not so vaguely, as of tit for tat. They’ve given me good reviews, now I’m expected to do likewise for them. It’s harder when a fan, particularly one you’ve corresponded with or know from frequent book signings, wants you to read a manuscript or a self-published book. I get it – they want my approval, on one level, and on another they, too, have a vague sense of having supported me, so I should support them.

When I decline – or worse, say yes, and the book goes on a pile of things I intend to get to, but never do – I feel guilty. I was once a fan who approached Don Westlake, after all – although in fairness, I don’t recall ever asking him to read my stuff (although my first agent, knowing Don and I were friendly, did). And I should note that by the time Mickey Spillane and I became friends, I was about a decade into my career.

For me the greater problem is time – I am reading research all of the time. I am working on my own fiction all of the time. And I avoid reading fiction while I’m writing it, because I don’t want to be stylistically influenced. What little recreational reading I did is, frankly, in the bathroom. I recently finished Rick Harrison’s excellent book on his show “Pawn Stars” (don’t remember the title). I read something else light before that, but I don’t remember what.

Further complicating this is that I am frequently asked to blurb books by other authors. Often directly or through editors, sometimes my own editors, who I don’t want to alienate. And I am put in a position of having to ask other writers to blurb me, a spot editors put writers in constantly. So this makes me a hypocrite and, possibly justifiably, a rude jerk, if I say no.

On the other hand, if you are interested in cleaning my house or washing my car, let me know.

* * *

The cyber tour for LADY, GO DIE! seems to have wrapped up, and the fruits of my labors are blossoming all over the web.

Here’s a fun write-up by Jedidiah Ayres who picks his top five M.A.C. projects.

And here’s a well-done interview with me, about my continuing the Spillane legacy.

The interviewer above takes an in-depth look at the Spillane films here, and follows with a nice review of LADY, GO DIE! (although like a lot of critics who like the book, he seems ashamed of himself).

I was asked to pick my top ten films noir by Film School Rejects. I expected lots of heat (big heat) on my picks, but so far my choices have not been unduly attacked.

This very good interview/article appeared in the Oklahoman and got picked up all over the place.

Here’s an excellent LADY, GO DIE! review at Comic Attack.

Another UK response to LADY, GO DIE! is a tad condescending, but on the whole smart and positive.

A really nice review here, though the comments show what Mickey remains up against.

Here’s a brief, basically very nice review of TRIPLE PLAY. But it demonstrates how odd internet blog reviews can be. The reviewer complains that the language is “dated” (before admitting it’s appropriate to the time frame of the tales) and then claims these stories lack suspense because they are about some of the major crimes of the 20th Century – arguably, the Lipstick Killer is a well-known crime, but the other two are obscure.


Eliot Ness, Pat Chambers, R.I.P.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Someone on my Facebook page suggested that at my age I shouldn’t be surprised by the passings of friends. But I have lost two of my best friends, both artistic collaborators, in under a week. It feels like the Apocalypse, one drop at a time. We joined Chuck Bunn’s family and friends Sunday afternoon for a celebration of his life…a lovely event, really, but for me it was in the shadow of a second death, the day before.

Michael Cornelison was my friend. No question. But beyond that, he played such a key role in my adventures in indie filmmaking that it’s hard to imagine ever making another film without him. He co-starred with Patty McCormack in both “Mommy” films (playing two different parts, disappearing into each so completely that few viewers noticed he was in both films…in lead roles!). He was the cop lead in “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.” He starred in three award-winning short films of mine, and he narrated both “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin and Alley Oop” and “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane.” His last stage appearance, earlier this year, co-starring with his talented son Nick, was in a five-minute play I wrote for a Des Moines competition (we were the judges’ pick the first of two nights). He played Captain Pat Chambers to Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer in the Audie-winning “The Little Death” and in this year’s “Encore for Murder.” And of course he was the star of the one-man show “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life,” which Phil Dingeldein and I preserved as an HD film.

That merely speaks to my collaborations with Mike. In the ‘70s and ‘80s he was in Hollywood, where he starred in three pilots, was a guest star on many major shows (including but not limited to HILL STREET BLUES, WHITE SHADOW, BJ AND THE BEAR, DALLAS, REMINGTON STEELE, KNOTS LANDING, HUNTER and, in a recurring role, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO), and appeared in numerous films, notably MY FATHER’S HOUSE with Cliff Robertson, WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM with Bill Murray and LOST IN AMERICA with Albert Brooks. In high school he landed a role in Norman Lear’s COLD TURKEY with Dick Van Dyke, and in his later years was a staple of indie film in Iowa (a nice role in THE FINAL SEASON, for instance) and was damn near the bedrock of Des Moines theater. He essentially discovered writer/director Frank Darabont when they collaborated on the short Stephen King film WOMAN IN THE ROOM, which went to home video as part of the NIGHTSHIFT collection and sparked Darabont’s filmmaking career. Additionally, Mike was one of the movers and shakers (writing, acting, directing) behind the legendary old-fashioned radio drama show out of Des Moines, REJECTION SLIP THEATER, which ran for ten years on WHO and was covered on NBC’s TODAY SHOW.

Mike left a body of work as a working actor that would be impressive even if he hadn’t mostly operated out of his home state. I met him in the mid-‘70s when he was acting opposite my sister-in-law Kathe Mull at Charlie’s Showplace in Des Moines. I had used Charlie’s as a pattern for a theater in QUARRY’S DEAL, and Mike had read that, got a kick out of it, apparently dug my writing, and we became friends. Shortly after that he was off to California for almost a decade. When he returned, he began nudging me toward indie filmmaking. We developed several potential indie films (check out my story “Firecracker Kill” for one of them), way way way ahead of the curve. Finally “Mommy” turned our dreams into reality. He was my right arm as well as my lead actor on all my productions. He was child actress Rachel Lemieux’s dialogue coach, for example, on “Mommy.” But most of all, as Patty McCormack said: “He is such a wonderful actor.”

This does not touch on the many visits and phone calls where we talked not just shop but our abiding love in pop culture. He was a jazz guy and I rock ‘n’ roll, but we coincided everywhere else. We would talk James Bond and MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. We would talk Tarzan and WILD, WILD WEST. We would talk about obscure TV shows of our youth like T.H.E. CAT and JOHNNY STACCATO. He would tell me about his actor friends, mentor Robert Lansing and roommate Peter Weller. I would rhapsodize about Mickey Spillane and he would share his love for Doc Savage.

He lived the life he wanted to live. He had a substance abuse flirtation in Hollywood but threw it off like a coat gone out of fashion (that may be in part why he moved back to Iowa – we never spoke directly of it). He was a “gentleman drinker” (as he put it) until he was told quit or die – he quit, but he continued smoking and his eating habits would have killed me long, long ago. He was at once selfish child and generous grown-up (perhaps that was why we bonded so), and a caring, sweet friend who (again, perhaps why we bonded) operated off of an engine of enthusiasm.

In his prime, he was a leading man (“Mommy” caught that) who should have been very famous and successful. I often told him he was the kind of leading man I most admire – the really good-looking guy who has a twinkle of humor and a wellspring of intelligence, masculine but not macho. Think James Garner or Paul Gross. With a break or two, he could have been so much more than he was, and yet what he accomplished is almost mind-boggling…and mostly from Iowa.

He called me the night he summoned an ambulance. The liver problem that he’d been told meant he’d die in ten years – eighteen years ago – had finally caught up with him. While he waited for the ambulance, he thanked me for my friendship and support and told me he loved me. I told him I loved him, too. We talked for about forty-five minutes.

Then the ambulance came.


This weekend Barb and I attended the GLIBA event in Dearborn, Michigan – Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. I spoke at the Saturday night banquet (as did Christopher Moore and Luis Alberto Urrea, both great guys). I only had fifteen minutes, so I took a risk and just opened it up for questions – with Barb as a shill in the audience to pick up the slack if the audience members were shy. I think it went well. I was there to talk about BYE BYE, BABY and the upcoming TARGET LANCER. Some good if sometimes tense conversations with indie booksellers flowed out of their concerns (and frankly resentment and hostilities) over e-books in general and Amazon in particular, and of course I’m being reprinted by AmazonEncore, so some view me as sleeping with the enemy. But the conversations were constructive, and a step in the right direction.

We also had a lovely luncheon with my pal Brad Schwartz and his great parents. Brad is a senior in college now and working on a very exciting Orson Welles project – the “Ness kid” has come a long way! Speaking of which, just hours after our luncheon, Brad was the first fan I heard from about the death of Mike Cornelison – he and his parents had driven from Ann Arbor to Des Moines to see the play, “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life.” Brad is a Ness buff and considers Mike’s Ness the best of all. So do I.

Here’s what the Des Moines Register had to say about Mike.

QUARRY’S EX got some major love on the net this week. This particular review has been picked up all over the place.

And here’s a Playlist double-feature review of both QUARRY’S EX and THE CONSUMMATA.

Here’s another fun CONSUMMATA review.

Both QUARRY’S EX and THE CONSUMMATA are reviewed here, the former a rave, the latter less so but not a pan by any means.

Finally, Tom Piccirilli’s blog has some nice things to say about CHICAGO LIGHTNING.


Galley Slave

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Flying Blind

I am working on the galleys of the upcoming TRUE DETECTIVE reprint. I am never crazy about reading my old stuff, because I want to rewrite it. I am doing very, very minor tweaks and correcting historical mistakes. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to proofread all of the books myself because (at least as it’s now scheduled), all twelve Hellers are coming out in their new editions in August.

As I write this, it’s July 4th morning, with my son Nate (and girl Abby and dog Toaster) wrapping up a long-weekend visit, and tonight Crusin’ has an outdoor gig overlooking the Mississippi.

In the week or two after I wrap up a big project (like the recently completed JFK Heller, TARGET LANCER), I have smaller projects that I’ve been waiting to get to. One of those is a short story about Damon Runyon, “The Devil’s Face,” that Matt Clemens and I have collaborated on for a Bob Randisi anthology. We’re also doing a write-up on the Spenser TV series for an Otto Penzler project.

Next project – which I will begin very soon – is LADY GO, DIE! That’s the late ‘40s Mike Hammer novel – finishing Mickey’s second Hammer book!

A very nice and insightful review of THE LAST QUARRY popped up recently.

And the first review (although it’s more a plot summary) of THE CONSUMMATA has appeared.

The Criterion KISS ME DEADLY DVD/Blu-ray continues to get rave reviews, often with nice mentions of my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE. There’s a fun one here.

And another here.

And the Mike Hammer novel series gets a write-up here.

Watch for news here soon of my San Diego Comic-on panels (Barb is making her first San Diego panel appearance!) and of our first west coast book tour in many years, which will happen in August. Details to follow.


Nate Heller Finished?!?!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Big news this week is that I have completed the new Heller, TARGET LANCER, dealing with the JFK assassination in an entirely new way. It was finished last week, and I spent the weekend tweaking it before shipping it this morning. The title refers to the code name the Secret Service gave JFK. There will undoubtedly be revisions and I am sending my research associate George Hagenauer a copy to check for Chicago inaccuracies. But I admit to feeling a huge weight is off my shoulders.

True Detective

Be sure to check out the Amazon listings of the Nathan Heller reprint series. All of them are going for around $10 on pre-order, including the new short story collection, CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

Our illo this week is the new cover for TRUE DETECTIVE, though I believe it may change somewhat. There are possible issues over the Frank Nitti image. But this will give you the idea of the design flavor. I’ve been working closely with AmazonEncore on developing this look – after my dissatisfaction with so many other covers of mine, cooperation/collaboration like this is a real treat.

Over at the Top Suspense blog, we are starting an ongoing conversation on the writing of crime fiction. I have a posting later this week, but check out the conversation from the very start here.

The KISS HER GOODBYE reviews keep coming, and here’s a fun one.

And Audiofile weighs in favorably on Stacy Keach’s wonderful reading of KISS HER GOODBYE.

At the Tor/Forge blog, they are bragging about that starred review BYE BYE, BABY got last week from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY. I was interviewed by PW a few weeks ago, but it hasn’t appeared yet.

The KISS ME DEADLY Blu-ray is getting rave reviews. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY gave it a B+, mentioning the special features as a major plus, and even listed it on their front-of-the-mag MUST LIST. On the web the reviews of this great release are everywhere, and here is a nice example, and another one.

KISS HER GOODBYE has made several of these “Page-Turner” lists, apparently for so-called beach books. Here’s one of them. The overwhelmingly favorable response to the new Mike Hammer novel has been colored by frequent apologies from reviewers, most hilariously represented by the A/V Club review. Nobody apologizes for liking James Bond or Batman or Tarzan, but Hammer still seems to be a guilty pleasure. I don’t really care, as long as I’m able to get these books out there. Many reviewers assume I’m working from plot notes at this point, no matter how many times I state that Mickey left behind substantial manuscripts on six Hammer novels (not to mention DEAD STREET and the forthcoming Morgan the Raider sequel, THE DELTA FACTOR). So far, I have been working from fragments around 100 pages long or more. Usually there are plot and character notes, but not always. CONSUMMATA was around 100 double-spaced pages, without plot and character notes, though I had THE DELTA FACTOR to guide me.