Posts Tagged ‘The Last Lullaby’

Antiques Christmas

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Antiques St. Nicked

For those of you who follow the ANTIQUES series (a.k.a. the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries) – written by Barb and myself, as Barbara Allan – you may be interested to know that we again have a Christmas-themed novella available as an e-book.

The new one is ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, but the previous two – ANTIQUES SLAY RIDE and ANTIQUES FRUITCAKE – remain available. Right now these are not available in “real” book form, though we hope someday a collection of them might be published (nothing in the works, though).

These are, as I mentioned above, novellas – not mere short stories. As such, they are challenging to write. Our usual brainstorming session must come up not only with a mystery that involves antiques in some fashion, but also a Christmas theme. Beyond that, each story can’t resemble any of the others. And as a novella is by definition a short novel, a lot more work goes into it than a short story.

ST. NICKED has a rather serious story beneath the holiday tinsel (not to mention a dead Santa Claus), and is perhaps the scariest of any of the ANTIQUES tales. FRUITCAKE focuses on a local theatrical production in which Mother is of course involved. And SLAY RIDE centers around Christmas collectibles.

Another Christmas story, not by Barbara Allan, can be found in Otto Penzler’s generous BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES. The “big” part of that title is well-deserved, as I am one of 59 stories (sharing space with the likes of Rex Stout, Agatha Christie and Ed McBain!). The book came out in 2013 but has already become a Christmas staple. My story – one of my favorites among my short stories – is “A Wreath for Marley.” (Some may recall that I developed a film script version called BLUE CHRISTMAS that has yet to be made.) “Marley” is a cross between (obviously) A CHRISTMAS CAROL and THE MALTESE FALCON.

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Speaking of Christmas, here’s a replay from 2014 of my list of the Best Five Christmas Movies:

1. SCROOGE (1951). Alistair Sim is the definitive Scrooge in the definitive filming of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Faithful, scary, funny, unsentimental, sentiment-filled, flawless (except for a cameraman turning up in a mirror). Accept no substitutes, although the Albert Finney musical is pretty good.

2. MIRACLE ON 34th Street (1947). Hollywood filmmaking at its best, with lots of location shooting in New York. Edmund Gwen is the definitive, real Santa Claus; Natalie Wood gives her greatest child performance; John Payne reminds us that he should have been a major star; and Maureen O’Sullivan is a smart, strong career woman/working mother who could not be more glamorous. Admit to preferring the remake at your own risk.

3. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). Heartwarming but harrowing, this film is home to one of James Stewart’s bravest performances and happens to be Frank Capra’s best film. Have you noticed it’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL from Bob Cratchit’s point of view?

4. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). The great Jean Shepherd’s great movie that has turned, somewhat uncomfortably, into a cottage industry of leg lamps, Christmas decorations and action figures. Shepherd’s first-person narration has the snap and humor of Raymond Chandler, and the mix of cynicism and warmth is uniquely his. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie with Mike Hammer and Carl Kolchak in it.

5. CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) continues to grow in reputation, possibly surpassing the original film. Somehow the John Hughes-scripted third VACATION go-round manages to uncover every Christmas horror possible when families get together and Daddy tries too hard. It’s rare that a comedy can get go this broad, this over the top, and still maintain a sense that we’re watching a documentary about everything than can go wrong at Christmas.

This year I have no new Christmas movie finds to recommend (with one exception – stay tuned). A BILL MURRAY CHRISTMAS, essentially a movie (not a Christmas special as advertised), reunites him with director Sofia Coppola, whose LOST IN TRANSLATION helped send Murray into many a depressed middle-ager roles. Though it has occasional rewards, the film is glum and sad, and Murray sings many, many songs and wears out the gag of his over-the-top, off-pitch lounge singer. Basically, A BILL MURRAY CHRISTMAS is about a bunch of people stranded in a bar, doing karaoke, during a snowstorm. My son Nate – whose favorite movie is GROUNDHOG DAY (which is high on my list as well) – did not make it through this one. Proof positive that Murray, for all his protestations, was much, much better served by the late great Harold Ramis than by Coppola and even Wes Anderson.

You may recall, on my recent year-end movie wrap-up, that I listed THE NIGHT BEFORE as a film Barb and I walked out of. I suppose it’s possible that it redeemed itself in later reels, but I doubt it – like the MURRAY CHRISTMAS, this seems to be largely about people going from bar to bar and singing karaoke and drinking. Add in drug-taking, which leads to very unfunny sub-Cheech-and-Chong stuff, and it’s like being forced to drag yourself along with the worst friends in your life as they work very hard to have fun, and don’t. I am a Seth Rogen fan going back to FREAKS AND GEEKS – hell, I even like THE GREEN HORNET – but this is an embarrassing Yuletide misstep.

My one new recommendation, for those with a sick sense of humor: A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY. This is a wonderful anthology film (though the stories are intercut, not one at a time) with William Shatner as an increasingly inebriated disc jockey who serves as part Jean Shepherd, part Crypt Keeper. This Canadian indie, from some of the ORPHAN BLACK creative team, is superior to the much bigger-budgeted (but not terrible) KRAMPUS. Krampus, the anti-Santa, is a major player in HORROR STORY, by the way.

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Here’s a write-up about THE LAST LULLABY and the news that it’s currently streaming on Hulu.

The great Bookgasm site has posted this joint review of QUARRY and QUARRY’S LIST.

Finally, here’s a brief but nice review of SUPREME JUSTICE from the same conservative reviewer who enjoyed FATE OF THE UNION (though we have to wade through the whole Glocks-don’t-have-safeties controversy.)

M.A.C.

Getting A Big Bang Out Of Quarry

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Big BangThe Big Bang UK edition

Some nice stuff popped up on the M.A.C. front this week on the web.

We’ve had lots of really great reviews for THE BIG BANG, but this one from top UK critic Mike Carlson, who really knows his stuff, is probably my favorite. Mike was not a big fan of THE GOLIATH BONE, so getting this rave from him means a great deal.

Jedidiah Ayres has been reading the new Perfect Crime reprints of the first five QUARRY novels (available on line at Amazon and Barnes & Noble), and he’s talked about them several places. Check out his Barnes and Noble column, and this blog entry.

I am getting great comments from readers about these new QUARRY reprints – everybody seems to find them really handsome books and Terry Beatty’s covers are getting a terrific response. Even if you have the other editions on your shelf, you’ll find these worthwhile. Plus, my new intros are worth the price of admission! Well, not really, but you’ll probably enjoy them….

Jeffrey Goodman, director of the Quarry-based film THE LAST LULLABY, showcased the new Quarry reprints on his blog.

Another of those lists of “great movies that you didn’t know came from comic books” popped up, and had this nice write-up about ROAD TO PERDITION. We seem to be number one on the list.

And THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: VOLUME TWO, THE LITTLE DEATH, has been named one of the best audio books of the year by AudioFile Magazine (in the “Full Cast” category).

Over at the Top Suspense Group web site, we are starting a publication of a round robin story (two 250-word installments each), featuring me, Vicki Hendricks, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Harry Shannon and Dave Zeltserman. Check it out.

M.A.C.

Quarry’s Vote!

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

If you’re attending Bouchercon in San Francisky this coming weekend, you won’t see me there. Barb and I just had too much work and other conflicts to swing it. But if you’re a Bouchercon member, you can still say hi to me by voting for QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE as Best Paperback in the Anthony awards. The book is also up for a Barry.

QuarrySpeaking of Quarry, later this month Perfect Crime will begin its trade paperback reprint series of the first five Quarry novels (PRIMARY TARGET has been renamed QUARRY’S VOTE for consistency sake). We will preview the wonderful new covers by Terry Beatty one-a-week here on my weekly updates. This week, of course, it’s the real first Quarry, QUARRY, as opposed to the other first Quarry, THE FIRST QUARRY. Got that?

A nice write-up on THE LAST LULLABY unfortunately reminds me that we don’t seem to have a distribution deal yet for that good movie. If haven’t already, go ahead and order the DVD from www.thelastlullaby.com. It’s a nice DVD, bare bones but a very solid transfer.

Over on the Violent World of Parker site, they’ve taken notice of the Ennis Willie SAND collection, but they mistakenly call Sand a Parker imitation when the two series were concurrent. I straighten ‘em out in comments below the write-up.

People seem to enjoy hearing what I like and don’t like of current stuff, so I’ll say that Barb and I are really digging Little Steven’s Underground Garage on XM – I hope to hear “Psychedelic Siren” there at some point! We are also loving Kim Wilde’s new CD, COME OUT AND PLAY, which is a German release although I got mine through Amazon UK – she is probably my favorite ‘80s recording artist, and I believe Barb agrees with that assessment, disco vibe but a genuine rocker (her father is Marty Wilde, Brit teen idol who back in the day covered Bobby Darin’s rock hits). Some artists lose their enthusiasm and start to sound, well…old. The ever-beautiful Kim’s pipes sound better than ever, and the songs (some written with her brother Ricky Wilde) are top-notch.

We are also really, really enjoying the ELLERY QUEEN boxed set with Jim Hutton and David Wayne, and scads of guests stars. It’s somehow incredibly cool that Jim Hutton did Queen and his gifted son Tim did Archie Goodwin…I would not want to have to say who is the better actor, and QUEEN and NERO WOLFE as TV shows are about a dead heat (okay, I’d give the nod to WOLFE but these mid-1970s QUEEN episodes, with their 1947 setting, are wonderful).

On the other hand, we walked out of SECRETARIAT, in part because the kids running the Muscatine Mall theater couldn’t figure out how to get it in focus. It’s the heartwarming story of a rich Republican woman who abandons her family to race horses (which she inherits, getting even richer). You see, she has to take over from her father (Scott Glenn) who has a disease, the chief symptom of which is sitting in the dark with a bad haircut. You will be shocked to learn that this Disney masterpiece includes a shamelessly hammy performance from the normally so very restrained John Malkovich…he wears funny hats and plaid shorts…and (surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say) there’s also a comic-relief fat lady.

M.A.C.

Con Fusion

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Saner heads have prevailed, and I will not be trying to attend two panels simultaneously. I’m getting a little long in the tooth to do my Basil Fawlty impression.

So I will be reluctantly forgo the Vertigo Panel (though editor Will Dennis promises to give RETURN TO PERDITION a boost), and concentrate on the Scribes/Tie-in Panel. Here’s a reminder:

Friday, July 23:

5:00-6:30 Scribe Awards/Media Tie-in Writers Panel— Presenting the fourth annual International Association of Media-Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) “Scribe” awards, honoring such notable franchises as CSI, Criminal Minds, The X-Files, Star Trek, Stargate, Star Wars, and Dr. Who. Nominees on hand include Alina Adams (As the World Turns), Max Allan Collins (G.I. Joe), Keith R. A. DeCandido (Star Trek), Stacia Deutsch (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Jeff Mariotte (CSI), Nathan Long (Warhammer), and Dayton Ward (Star Trek). With moderator Collins and awards presenter Lee Goldberg (Monk). Room 4

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no autograph session scheduled after the panel. And, throughout the con, I have no autograph sessions set either in the autographing area or at a booth. But there is no panel following the Scribe Awards one, and the panelists listed above – including yours truly – will hang around to sign books you’ve brought. Before the panel, you can buy books by the panelists at Mysterious Galaxy’s booth and elsewhere in the dealer’s hall. Right after the panel, in Room 4 itself – or in the hallway, if we get chased out by officious pratts – all of us will be signing any books and other stuff you haul along.

And I’ve had another panel appearance added (you may not find it in the official con listing – I seem to be among “others” on the panel):

Thursday, July 22:

4:00-5:00 From Screen to Comics— An in-depth look at what it takes to turn big screen action into 32 pages. Join talent creators from across the spectrum, including Max Brooks, Nancy Collins, Peter David, Tony Lee David Tischman, Mike Johnson, Max Allan Collins, and Scott Tipton as they look behind the scenes at some of the biggest properties to come to comics, like True Blood, Doctor Who, The A-Team, TRANSFORMERS, and Star Trek! Room 9

The Iowa City Book Festival was great fun. What a privilege to do a panel with Nick Meyer, one of my heroes (and a fellow University of Iowa grad) and the gifted director/writer who mistakenly confused Iowa and heaven, Phil Alden Robinson. Great guys – funny, knowledgeable, and very nice. I felt very much honored to be in their presence.

The screening of THE LAST LULLABY at the Bijou Theater on Sunday afternoon at the U of Iowa student union was well-attended, and the audience seemed to really like the film. We had a spirited question-and-answer session. Among those attending were such friends and fans as Stephen Borer from Minneapolis, Brad Schwartz from Ann Arbor, and Charlie Koenigsacker from Iowa City. I hadn’t seen the film for maybe six months, and viewing a nice 35mm print was a treat. Jeffrey Goodman reports around a dozen foreign sales for LULLABY – not in the USA yet, though you can still get a copy of the limited edition “screener” DVD at www.thelastlullaby.com.

Speaking of our favorite hitman, two really great advance reviews of QUARRY’S EX have turned up on the net.

Bill Crider loves Quarry almost as much as I love Bill Crider.

And Craig Clarke has made up for not caring for YOU CAN’T STOP ME with a rave review at his excellent SOMEBODY DIES site.

And I gave two interviews that have turned up at two other first-rate sites.

Jeff Pierce of RAP SHEET fame (at his KILLER COVERS site) does a nice write-up (intended for MYSTERY SCENE) on classic gals-and-gats paperback covers, with interview stuff from me, Norman Saunders’ son and somebody called Charles Ardai.

And John Kenyon (also an attendee at the LULLABY screening on Sunday) has posted his recent interview with me at his THINGS I’D RATHER BE DOING site.

See you at the con! Check in here daily starting Thursday morning for brief con updates.

M.A.C.