Posts Tagged ‘The Big Showdown’

A Showdown and a Ghost

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The mass-market edition of The Big Showdown, the sequel to The Legend of Caleb York, has just come out. It continues with the characters and stories that Mickey Spillane developed in the (unproduced) screenplay he wrote for his friend John Wayne in the late 1950s.

Response to this new series, representing my first westerns (unless you count the movie novelization Maverick and maybe my Wyatt Earp meets Al Capone novel, Black Hats), has been positive. In fact, I’ve completed a third Caleb York story, The Bloody Spur, and have signed to do two more.

The novels are in part mysteries, befitting the two bylines, and are otherwise very old-fashioned westerns in the manner of Randolph Scott and Audie Murphy movies of the fifties and early sixties…but with a higher, more Leone-like level of violence, which is only appropriate with the name Spillane invoked. Mickey’s York screenplay was far more violent than anyone in the western film or novel field was doing at the time. The sexual content was adult for its time, but that time has passed.

The book was one of the last that I completed before I went in for my heart surgery – one of a handful on my docket that I wanted to make sure got done in case…well, you know. I thought it came out well and am particularly proud of the finale, a shoot-out – you might say, a big showdown – in a rainstorm…also typically Spillane.

If you like my crime novels but don’t usually read westerns, give these a try anyway. I’m pretty sure you’ll like them.

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The movie Ghost in the Shell, based on a famous Japanese animated film (which spawned an anime series and many sequels) has been getting a rough time of it. Only 43% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it received a scathing review on Facebook by my pal, Terry Beatty, with whom I rarely disagree on films. He hated it so much that I’d decided not to go, though based on the previews I’d been looking forward to it.

But the workload right now is so brutal, I needed a break, and took a risk. I’d read the positive reviews among the pans and caught hints that I might not agree with Terry. And I didn’t.

Barb and I are becoming infamous for walking out of movies, and we fully expected this to be one of them. Instead we both loved it. Scarlett Johansson is Major, whose human brain has been inserted in a robot body, designed to be the perfect terrorist fighter. She inhabits a world futuristically Asian, influenced by Blade Runner’s city but even more complex in its imagery.

Johansson is very good, much as she was in Lucy, moving with a certain robotic gait though not overstating it, her dialogue delivered in a similar fashion. She has a team of cyber-enhanced soldiers, one of whom is her partner, played by “Pilou” Asbæk, the Swedish actor who was so good in the TV series Borgen, the nordic West Wing. Major is having flashes of memory and humanity that are intruding on her search for an uber-terrorist, but of course everything is not as it seems.

A special treat is the presence of Takeshi Kitano, director/writer/star of Violent Cop and Boiling Point, among other great Japanese crime films. He’s essentially M to Major’s Jane Bond, but he gets out from behind the desk and kicks ass, late in the proceedings.

Themes of identity, family and loyalty are explored, but not to the detriment of well-staged action scenes that don’t indulge in that speeded-up crap. The art direction is stunning throughout, and seldom has CGI been better employed. We saw it in 3-D, which really enhanced the levels of the design work.

I have hesitated till recently to review movies again. I know how hard it is to make one. And I realize that taste is individual, and smart people can disagree. If you skip a movie because I don’t like it, you may be making a mistake. And if you go to one because I did like it, you might also be making a mistake.

But I don’t think so.

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This review of The Big Showdown first appeared last year about this time, but if you’re considering picking up the paperback, you might want to check this out.

M.A.C.

Links and Music

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

I have done several guest blogs/posts of late, and rather than do an elaborate update today, I’m going to shoo you over to those…although for those of you who sit through the credits, there’s a discussion of a few new albums by old artists.

First up is a discussion of the differences between Nate Heller and Mike Hammer, and how Spillane/Hammer had an impact on BETTER DEAD.

Next up is a look at how the Heller books combine the hardboiled detective story and the historical novel, briefly looking at my influences. The main thing, however, is Nate Heller’s love life, particularly as it pertains to the real-life women like Amelia Earhart and Bettie Page. There’s also a book giveaway (three BETTER DEAD copies are up for grabs). You’ll need to scroll down a ways, to get to my piece.

On the reviewing front, my pal Bill Crider – a fine western writer who also writes mysteries – provides a very nice review of THE BIG SHOWDOWN. Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine is my favorite web site, with all kinds of reviews, nostalgic articles and images, funny news clips, and much more, showing off Bill’s wry sense of humor. He’s always adding stuff, and I check back several times every day.

In closing, let me offer a few musical recommendations from somebody clearly stuck in the ‘60s.

The Monkees have their 50th anniversary album out, GOOD TIMES, with a song written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer among many contemporary contributions. There’s even a newly finished song with a vocal by the late Davy Jones. And Mike Nesmith is back.

The great Ronnie Spector has released an album of covers of British Invasion tunes – ENGLISH HEART – and her singing is hypnotic. All the songs have a new, fresh twist to their arrangements. Perhaps the most distinctive voice in rock.

Last year one of my all-time favorite bands, Vanilla Fudge, released SPIRIT OF ‘67. I may have discussed the album here before, but it’s worth another mention: it’s probably the second-best Fudge album after their 1967 debut, and they specifically stuck to tunes from ‘67, as if this were their follow-up album (not the misguided misfire, THE BEAT GOES ON). Mark Stein’s passionate vocals are phenomenal, as is his keyboard playing. The arrangements are that wonderfully over-the-top, psuedo-symphonic approach that admittedly doesn’t work for everybody. These guys belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as the architects of heavy metal.

But then the Monkees aren’t in, either – and only the Beatles and the Stones have more dedicated followers.

Also not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the Zombies. A travesty. Original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent did a strong, crowd-funded CD (you’re welcome), STILL GOT THAT HUNGER, released last October.

If anyone can explain to me why Rap and Country artists are ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not the Monkees, the Fudge and the Zombies, I will listen politely and roll my eyes later.

At least the Ronettes are in.

M.A.C.

Hey Kids! Free Books (2016 Edition)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Before we get to the free book section, I want to invite anyone and everyone in the Iowa City area to come to a special screening of MOMMY at the wonderful indie theater, Film Scene, this coming Wednesday (May 4) at 10:00 p.m. I will be introducing the film and maybe taking a few questions after. We’re part of Film Scene’s Grindhouse series. This is from their Facebook write-up:

Late Shift at the Grindhouse – Wednesdays get weird when Late Shift hosts Ross Meyer, Joe Derderian and Aaron Holmgren dig up low-budget b-movies, horror and gore-fests, and camp classics for your viewing pleasure. Buy your ticket and take a ride in our Time Machine! Punch in and earn a bonus! $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and $2 small popcorn! PLUS– special custom trashy trailer reel curated by Ross with cheap swag and prize giveaways!

MOMMY
She’s pretty, she’s perfect, she’s June Cleaver with a cleaver.
“The Bad Seed grown up… chillingly good!” – Leonard Maltin

“Writer/director Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) has crafted a fun little tribute to The Bad Seed that succeeds despite its ultra-low budget.” – Stacie Ponder, Final Girl

“What must be noted about Mommy is the amazing cast that Max Allan Collins has managed to assemble.” – Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review
Dialogue with writer/director Max AllanCollins in person.
In 1995 mystery writer Max Allan Collins created an indie thriller that scored surprising media attention and killer reviews – an “unofficial” sequel to The Bad Seed (1956) starring that classic film’s Academy Award nominated child star, Patty McCormack, grown into the menacing Mommy.
The scary black comedy also features Jason Miller (The Exorcist), Majel Barrett (Star Trek), scream queen Brinke Stevens and legendary “Mike Hammer” creator, Mickey Spillane, with an award-winning performance by 11-year-old Rachel Lemieux.
Happy Mother’s Day!
co-presented by Bijou Film Board
Free tickets for University of Iowa students. (Free U.I. student tickets will be distributed at 9:00 p.m.)

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Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

The day this update appears (May 3) is the pub date of the new Nathan Heller. As you may recall, a flurry of new M.A.C. books has just hit, so we’ve decided to do what we’ve done occasionally in the past and offer free books in return for a review at Amazon (Barnes & Noble and personal blogs are also good). We will be giving out at least five copies of BETTER DEAD, THE BIG SHOWDOWN (Caleb York) and ANTIQUES FATE. We may go up to as many as ten copies each if demand is strong.

ALL COPIES GONE, THANK YOU!!
We ask the following: e-mail us at REDACTED and make your request for a free book, listing the order of preference. IMPORTANT: include your snail-mail address. Only USA please – foreign postage (even Canada) is a killer. Act now, because within about three days, they’ll be gone.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, we are still very under-reviewed at Amazon. If you’ve written a review at your blog, please post it at Amazon; and if you’ve read and liked it, please take time to write a short review there.

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In honor of the publication of BETTER DEAD, I thought it made sense to share with you this lovely review from the Historical Novel Society:

“Told in two novellas tied together by the unscrupulous Senator Joe McCarthy, Better Dead’s Book One finds Collins’s Nathan Heller hired by writer Dashiell Hammett to try to find anything to clear Ethel and Julius Rosenberg on the eve of their executions. Heller uncovers some discrepancies in the Rosenberg trial, including discovering the missing drop-leaf table. But even in Collins’s world, he can’t change history, and the Rosenbergs still die. In the second book, Heller is retained by McCarthy to try to pry loose any information the CIA might have on him. As Heller digs more deeply, he becomes entrenched in a labyrinthine maze of CIA spooks, LSD-25 experiments on civilians and agents alike, and an unlikely partner in a young Bettie Page.

“Collins’s writing is as electric as the Cold War atmosphere he’s set Heller into. All the characters, both real (McCarthy, Page, the Rosenbergs) and created, are authentic and believably written. There is a coarse, edgy feel to the writing that helps drive a frenetic pace to an ending that has Heller looking back at both cases with a sense of loss and wonder. In his wonderful take on the insanity of the McCarthy Red Scare and the CIA LSD-25 experiments of the 1950s, Collins weaves a fanciful story that honors history yet allows for his usual deft creative styling.”

We have a less enthusiastic but not bad review from Publisher’s Weekly:

“In trying to cover too much ground, Collins dilutes the impact of the main investigation in his 18th historical whodunit featuring PI Nate Heller (after 2013’s Ask Not). In 1953, Sam Spade–creator Dashiell Hammett hires Heller to find whatever evidence he can to secure Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are on death row for treason, a new trial. The investigator adroitly persuades U.S. senator Joe McCarthy, whose Communist witch hunt is at its height, and columnist Drew Pearson, a former McCarthy ally, to help fund his work by promising to reveal anything he finds to them as well. After learning how flimsy the government’s case was against the couple, Heller pursues some leads he gets from a visit to Julius and Ethel in Sing Sing. The truth proves to be more nuanced than any of his employers believes, and Collins again does an effective job of bringing the past to life and making a complex cause célèbre accessible. Recent disclosures about the so-called atomic spies, however, lessen the suspense.”

What both of these refer to is that BETTER DEAD is two stories, Book One and Book Two, that are linked by Senator McCarthy and general Red Scare era themes. I have known from the start that some reviewers, and perhaps readers, will complain that they are getting two short novels instead of one; but that was the best way, in my opinion, to deal with two very interesting McCarthy era cases, neither one of which could quite fill out a full 100,000 word Heller novel. I believe it works as a single novel. But if you view it as two Gold Medal paperbacks about Nate Heller, I am cool with it.

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Reader Kevin Helmsberg wrote a nice e-mail that included a number of questions. I figure it makes sense to answer them here.

1) I was very glad to learn that you’ll finally be publishing Road to Perdition (the novel) as it was meant to be. In one of the early interviews (2002) you said you’d turned in 90,000 words, however in your February 2016 post you mention 70,000 words as the complete version. You pointed out it was essentially the same book as intended in 2002, apart from “some tweaking” and “very little rewriting or additional writing.” So how come there’s a 20,000 words difference?

Also, in one of your interviews, you mentioned a Road to Perdition prequel – any news?

The PERDITION novel is about 70,000 words. I was just estimating when I used 90,000 words in that and other interviews – or maybe it was just hyperbole. Still, when you cut 30,000 words from a book, and replace all the dialogue with lines from the movie, it’s not only shorter, but bad things happen. I am thrilled that Brash Books is bringing out the novel and publishing it as it was intended to be.

2) The graphic novels in the series – Road to Perdition: On the Road (i.e. Oasis, Sanctuary, Detour) and Return to Perdition – is there a slightest chance of producing the prose versions? I’m one of those people who prefer prose fiction to comic books, so would be thrilled if I could enjoy it that way. I read some of your thoughts on the subject, including your love for comic books and some of the advantages in presenting the story, but still it would be great if you considered making real books. You’re a hell of a writer and I have no doubt the final product would be a hit. To quote yourself, “It’s great that I’ve become the poster child for graphic novels… but the fact is for my career, I need to hit a mainstream audience and I won’t by going out and only selling 3000 copies.”

I think it’s doubtful – but not impossible – that I would do a novel based on ON THE ROAD and RETURN. They probably suffice in their present form. The prequel I’m considering would work in either prose or graphic novel; it might be called RETURN FROM PERDITION, as it deals with Michael O’Sullivan Sr. returning from WW 1 to work for John Looney. Whether it’s a graphic novel or prose one might depend on what publisher is interested.

I also at one time considered a story about the Two Jacks and a Queen characters from ON THE ROAD, and I would love to do another project (PERDITION-related or otherwise) with Richard Piers Rayner.

3) In one of your posts, you mentioned that “several goofs in the hardcover of Complex 90 were corrected in the paperback version.” Do you have a list of errata?

Not a long list (references are to the hardcover edition):

On page 130, third line from the bottom:
“Irene Worth” should be “Irene Carroll.”

On page 222, third line from the bottom:
“Marley” should be “Romanos.”

4) Do you have plans to publish the following as ebooks:
– the Road to Perdition series, plus Black Hats and Red Sky in Morning;
– the Quarry stories: “A Matter of Principal,” “Quarry’s Luck,” and “Guest Services”;
– the Sherlock Holmes stories in jigsaw puzzles: “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook,” and the other one you mention in your blog (don’t know the title)?

ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE – along with the full-length, aforementioned movie novel, ROAD TO PERDITION – will be published by Brash Books. BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING will be published by Brash as well, under my real byline (R.I.P., Patrick Culhane). At some point the three Quarry short stories will be published in a format that includes e-book, but no plans are afoot as yet. I doubt the Holmes stories by Matt Clemens and me will be collected anywhere, but it’s possible.

Thanks, Kevin!

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If you need convincing, here’s an except from BETTER DEAD at Criminal Element.

More on MOMMY at Film Scene.

Finally, here’s a lovely review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS from J. Kingston Pierce at the Kirkus blog. I never thought I’d live to see the day I got a positive Kirkus review.

M.A.C.

Today’s the Day! (Later is Good, Too.)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
The Big Showdown
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The Legend of Caleb York
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Antiques Fate
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The day this appears (April 26) is the pub date of the second Caleb York novel, THE BIG SHOWDOWN, in hardcover, and also of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK in mass-market paperback (co-bylined with the great Mickey Spillane). On this same big day, the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FATE, appears in hardcover. A week from now (May 3), the new Nate Heller will be out: BETTER DEAD (more about that next week).

These are all books I’m pleased with. I think THE BIG SHOWDOWN has one of the best, moody scenes of action/violence – a shoot-out in a rainstorm – that I’ve ever come up with. ANTIQUES FATE may be my favorite of the Brandy and Vivian Borne novels, with its faux-British setting reminiscent of MIDSOMER MURDERS and Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead. It’s also very funny. No brag, just fact, as we western novelists are wont to say. Or is that want to say?

You may think that novels are flying out of my computer as if it were haunted. Actually, last year was one of my least prolific ones, due to the health problems that turned up in May. The only book I wrote during that period was MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (a Hammer, as usual working from Spillane material), and I also managed to do the short story “A Dangerous Cat,” which appears in the current Strand Magazine. The novel was written in the weeks after the treatment in which my heart was jump-started like an old Buick, to get rid of the irregular heartbeat that had turned up with my condition – for maybe a month I felt a lot better.

I wrote “A Dangerous Cat” later, feeling fairly shitty actually, but the story needed writing. It represented the last Hammer fragment that I’d set aside for short story purposes, and writing it would give me a Hammer collection (eight stories) – Otto Penzler is publishing it later this year as A LONG TIME DEAD.

The books that are coming out today (if you’re reading this on the day it appears) predate the health problems, and give something of a false impression about my apparently prolific 2015. But I am happy to report that I am back at work here in 2016, and in fact Barb and I have already delivered the next Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery, ANTIQUES FRAME. She had been working on her draft throughout the medical adventures during which she was my incredible support system – the last bits of it were written by her in my hospital room. The rapid comeback my right hand made allowed me to get to work after two or three weeks at home.

Currently I am working on the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller. My cohort Matt Clemens is wrapping up his draft while I start mine. So far it looks like SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION will have solid company. By the way, SUPREME JUSTICE recently hit the 100,000 books-sold mark. This does not count 175,000 books generated in the Kindle First program. Most of those copies were e-books, a fact I have trouble caring about.

Much of this year will be dedicated to getting back on deadline, as much as possible. I have no way to know how quickly the recovery will go, although so far – at nine weeks – I’m told by doctors and physical therapists that I’m doing very well. The biggest obstacle to getting my work done are the essential twice-weekly occupational and physical therapy sessions, which last 80 minutes. Or I should say the biggest obstacle is my reduced stamina and increased fatigue – after the physical therapy, I invariably have needed a nap of an hour or two. Takes a bite out of the writing day.

But things are improving. I had my first band practice (Crusin’) last Tuesday – an hour was about all I could manage, but I managed. We’ll practice again soon and play a two-hour gig in June. This weekend son Nate and his bride Abby visited with our incredible grandson, the criminally cute Sam Collins, in tow. Nate and Abby – currently living in St. Louis – are exploring coming back here to Iowa.

Realtor Suzi Webb (great name) – a good friend from my high school days – arranged a tour for us of half a dozen houses. I went along and, despite a lot of stairs, held up fine. Okay, I took and hour and a half nap after – but just a few weeks ago that adventure would have been out of the question.

For those of you who haven’t stopped reading yet, let me say that I never expected to discuss these health issues here. But my son has always encouraged me to look at behind-the-scenes stuff, and me reporting on how the writing is going seems pretty basic.

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a ten minute interview I did at the last Bouchercon (in Raleigh), specifically focusing on B’Con memories and my general attitude about the annual event.

Here’s a fun review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime omnibus of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

And here’s a list from a lawyer selecting 10 “Great Novels About the Supreme Court.” One of them is SUPREME JUSTICE!

M.A.C.