Posts Tagged ‘The Legend of Caleb York’

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.

This Just In…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Not much to say at the moment other than I am thrilled and flabbergasted.

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2017 Grand Masters
Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart
Plus 2017 Raven and Ellery Queen Award Winners

November 29, 2016 – New York, NY – Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart have been chosen as the 2017 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Mr. Collins and Ms. Hart will receive their awards at the 71st Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

When told of being named a Grand Master, Collins said, “To be in the company of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Mickey Spillane is both thrilling and humbling.  This is an honor second to none in the art of mystery and suspense fiction.”

Max Allan Collins sold his first two novels in 1972 while a student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.  More than one hundred novels have followed, including his award-winning and groundbreaking Nathan Heller historical series, starting with True Detective (1983). His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) is the basis of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks.  His other comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree"; and "Batman.”  For the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, he wrote ten novels selling millions of copies worldwide, and his movie novels include Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster.

Upon learning that she was named a Grand Master, Hart said. “A writer's stock-in-trade is imagination.  I’ve always felt mine was pretty good, but never in a million years did I ever think winning the MWA Grand Master award was a possibility.  I’m stunned, grateful, and profoundly honored.”

Ellen Hart is the author of thirty-two crime novels.  She is the six-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, the four-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, and the three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award for mystery.  Ellen has taught crime writing for seventeen years through the Loft Literary Center, the largest independent writing community in the nation.

Previous Grand Masters include Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Dru Ann Love will receive the 2017 Raven Award.

Dru Ann Love is owner/editor of dru’s book musings (https://drusbookmusing.com/), a blog where characters give a glimpse into a day in their life, as well as her musings. Her musings also appear in Crimespree Magazine. She is also a guest blogger at the Stiletto Gang. Dru Ann is an avid reader, writes poetry, quilts, and loves attending reader/fan conventions. Dru Ann’s blog was nominated for a 2015 Anthony Award for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. She also serves on the Bouchercon standing committee.

When told that she would receive the Raven Award, Love said, “I’m so thrilled and honored to be awarded the Raven. The mystery community is like a big family and I’m so proud that they have embraced me with open arms. Thanks to the nominating committee for selecting me and a big thanks to the authors—without them, this would not be possible.”

Previous Raven winners include Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry”. This year the Board chose to honor Neil Nyren.

On learning he would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Nyren said, “I’ve spent most of my life with crime and suspense fiction, both as a fan and a professional, but I never imagined this. It’s an enormous honor even being mentioned in the same breath as such legendary previous Ellery Queen Award winners as Joan Kahn, Ed Gorman, Jacques Barzun, Otto Penzler, and Eleanor Sullivan (just to name a few!).”

Neil Nyren is the Executive VP, associate publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House. He has been at Putnam for over 32 years, and before that, at E.P. Dutton, Little Brown, Random House, Arbor House, and Atheneum.

Among his current authors of crime and suspense are Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, C.J. Box, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, and Todd Moss. He has also worked with such writers as Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva, Martha Grimes, Ed McBain, Thomas H. Cook, and Thomas Perry, and he was the first to publish books by Carl Hiaasen, Jonathan Kellerman, Gerald Seymour, Garrison Keillor, and Ian McEwan.

Among his nonfiction authors: A. Scott Berg, Maureen Dowd, James A. Baker III, Dave Barry, Joe McGinniss, Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, Jeff Greenfield, Senator Harry Reid, General Tony Zinni, Abba Eban, John McEnroe, Pat Riley, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky.

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

The Edgar Awards, or "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after MWA's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

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When I was discussing the up’s and down’s of 2016 last time, I neglected two major “up’s.”

Among the blessings for me in the vale of tears that was 2016 was having a Quarry TV series…and a good one, at that. Considering I created Quarry in 1971 at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, this blessing took a while to pay off…but pay off it did. Many of you have had nice things to say about show. A few wish it were more like the books, and I’ve discussed that here. But for me it was a major blessing.

Soon I will be starting a new novel, Quarry’s Climax, and beginning work on a graphic novel, Quarry’s War, which will be serialized as comic books by Titan’s new Hard Case Crime comics.

The other major blessing, overlooked last time, was being able to play some band jobs this year. In 2015, I had to cancel all but one gig for Crusin’ because of my heart condition – I don’t remember ever cancelling a gig before in the five decades I’ve been playing, and I hated doing so. I’m strictly a show-must-go-on kind of guy. This year we were able to do half a dozen gigs, and I hope more will follow in 2017. My guitar player, the incredible Jim Van Winkle, and I have been together for over a decade. Drummer Steve Kundel has been with the band, off and on, since the ‘90s, and is truly world-class. “New kid” Brian Van Winkle, Jim’s brother, took over bass when Chuck Bunn passed away a few years ago – Brian is one of the coolest guys you could ever hope to meet, and an excellent bass player.


Crusin’ at Muscatine High School 50th class reunion, left to right, M.A.C., Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel, guest Joe McClean, and Brian Van Winkle.

The gigs we played in 2016 were a mixed bag. Actually, every gig went well, but three of them were impacted by my pertussis. Whooping cough does not do a lead singer any favors. The third gig I was getting somewhat back to normal, but it was something of a disappointment because we had originally intended to have a reunion of my original band, the Daybreakers. Illness (not mine for a change!) threw a wrench in the works, although we did add guest artist Joe McClean of the XL’s into the standard Crusin’ mix. The dance went well but I’m afraid a 50th class reunion could not live up to the wild, rockin’ affair of my imagination.

Anyway, 2016 had its highlights, and QUARRY on TV and Crusin’ on stage were chief among them.

Today I am putting finishing touches on the third Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur. That’s the last one on the contract – we’ll see if more follow.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Barb cooked up a storm, and baby Sam Collins was the life of the party. We had our Department 56 Halloween houses up, with lots of movement and scary sounds, and he was fascinated…not frightened in the least.

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J. Kingston Pierce has included Better Dead on his Best 10 list, and has wonderful things to say about it.

Here’s a great review of The Legend of Caleb York.

Mystery Scene magazine has a wonderful Quarry in the Black review by Hank Wagner. Here’s a taste: “…Collins delivers some of the crispest, funniest and most gripping prose of his long career to date. Hardboiled crime fiction at its finest, the Quarry series continues to provide top-notch action, wit and suspense.”

M.A.C.

Fifty Years and Counting

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Cinemax has posted the third episode of QUARRY on You Tube. Enjoy!

QUARRY Episode 3: “A Mouthful of Splinters”

This weekend was Muscatine High’s 50th Class Reunion. Barb and I both were dealing with the pertussis that had dragged us both down of late, but I am out in front of her a week and a half and was in shape to participate in all of the activities on Friday and Saturday night. This included a boat ride on the Mississippi and then a big get-together at the same Legion Hall where I once ate pancakes prepared by Presidential candidate Howard Dean.

In part because I had attended three grade schools locally, I made lots of friendships that extended beyond the tight little group of us who played poker and palled around and got in Leave-it-to-Beaver type “trouble.” So I had the chance to touch bases with many, many friends, and it was pretty great. Several of my best friends were there – Ron Parker and Mike Bloom in particular, names that mean nothing to you but the world to me – and so many others. For instance, Joyce Courtois was the alto in my high school quartet, fantastic singer and wonderful, warm person – together we set a record: three “number one” ratings that put us in the All-State Chorus three years running…only quartet in the state that ever accomplished that. Impressed? I didn’t think so. It certainly didn’t get me laid.


Crusin’ at Geneva Country Club, Muscatine, MHS 50th Reunion; left to right, M.A.C., Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel, Joe McClean, Brian Van Winkle (in back)

Unfortunately, Barb was still having a rough ride with the pertussis, and almost didn’t go at all…but finally she pulled herself together to go to the Saturday night event, which was the big blow-out, including Crusin’ playing for the dance. She looked beautiful despite being sicker than a dog (neither of us is contagious, if you’re wondering) and people were very pleased to see her.

I was supposed to be presenting a reunion of the original Daybreakers for the dance, but health issues worse than mine among the band members made that fall apart. So Crusin’ played, with our good friend Joe McClean of the XL’S as special guest on a dozen songs. The XL’S and the Daybreakers are the only area bands to make it into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Joe is an unparalleled showman and he was warmly received – the XL’S had played our senior prom two years running. (In 1966, the Daybreakers made their debut at an after-prom party.)

I had a rough evening because my cough-ravaged throat was in bad shape, but I got by. We played two one-hour sets that were supposed to be separated by a fifteen-minute break. But I was afraid people of my advanced age would head for home and their jammies if we didn’t keep the party going. So we played a solid two hours – for those of you who are wondering if I’m recovering well from my heart surgery last February.

In honor of the Daybreakers, we played “Psychedelic Siren,” with Joe on bass and our regular bassist, Brian Van Winkle, on siren – an instrument Brian mastered immediately, idiot savant that he is. Discussions about how much is idiot and how much savant are ongoing.

It was a lovely night, all in all. Never skip your high school reunion (and we’re available to play there, by the way).

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I am thrilled and somewhat astonished that PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY has reviewed my expanded ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel and given it a rave – and a rare starred review!

The Mike Hammer collection, A LONG TIME DEAD, continues to get terrific reviews, like this one.

Here’s a lovely LEGEND OF CALEB YORK write-up.

And CALEB is inspiring this discussion group.

Here’s a welcome if not exactly timely SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review.

Check out this excellent interview with QUARRY TV writer, Graham Gordy, although oddly somebody seems to think the Memphis setting came from the books.

This will link you to a local interview I did on Vintage Sound 93.1, Muscatine’s first-rate classic rock station – with the great Tony Tone.

Finally, if you haven’t read BLOOD AND THUNDER, the Nate Heller “Huey Long” novel (and if so, what’s wrong with you?), you can get it on Kindle for 99 cents, as this nice write-up (scroll down) indicates.

M.A.C.

Heller and York Score

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

J. Kingston Pierce at the excellent Rap Sheet has given BETTER DEAD a splashy rave as this week’s Pierce’s Pick. Also, in honor of Rap Sheet’s ten-year anniversary, Jeff Pierce is giving away five copies of BETTER DEAD and five more of ASK NOT (in hardcover). Read the rave and all about the free copies right here.

Also at Jeff’s terrific second blog, KILLER COVERS, which celebrates paperback covers of the ‘40s through the ‘70s, he has paid tribute to BETTER DEAD with a selection of sexy covers featuring redheads.

My pal Bill Crider has published his own BETTER DEAD rave at one of my favorite web sites, BILL CRIDER’S POP CULTURE MAGAZINE. There’s a fun discussion in which I participate in the comments section about the unlikelihood of Nate Heller being involved in so many famous cases. Take a look.

I am pleased and honored to have THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK (now available in paperback!) nominated for Best Novel by the Western Fictioneers. This link will take you to the entire list of nominees, plus one winner – my great friend Bob Randisi, who is receiving a life achievement award.

Since we seem to be leading off with links this week, check out this excellent review from writer Ron Fortier of QUARRY’S VOTE (the McGinnis-covered Hard Case Crime edition of PRIMARY TARGET).

NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU by Matt Clemens and me is a Kindle Bargain ($1.99), reachable at a link here.

In memoriam of Darwyn Cooke’s untimely passing, and Bobby Darin’s birthday (May 14), COMICS OUGHTA BE FUN prints a condensed version of THE BOBBY DARIN STORY by Terry Beatty and me.

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I think I’ve had it with superhero movies.

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN was long, self-consciously dark and occasionally tedious, but I didn’t hate it, with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg’s vastly misjudged Lex Luther. Superman and Batman retain their charisma, and it was fun seeing Wonder Woman in one of these movies. Otherwise fun was in short supply in this and so many of the genre.

Barb and I walked out of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. We did so well into the movie, probably a couple of hours, but an endless fight scene between the two groups of superheroes warned me that the climax of taking on the super villains was yet to come, so we finally bailed, battered but breathing. So many characters and so little impact. And I think I’m finally bored with Robert Downey Jr.’s oh-so-cool schtick as Tony Stark.

The problem with the Marvel movies is the company’s willingness to scrape the bottom of the costumed hero barrel. Even Iron Man is a second-tier guy; and while Paul Rudd is likable as Antman (and his solo movie pretty good), what pop cultural purchase does that character have? At least Superman and Batman are iconic.

But where is the fucking fun? The first AVENGERS movie had that nicely hip/jokey feel thanks to Joss Whedon, without shortchanging the action. Since then it’s been a combination of flat one-liners, over-wrought seriousness, and mind-numbing battles, plus a continuity as convoluted and corny as five years of DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Take the laughable CIVIL WAR moment when Tony Stark gets flummoxed by the thought of Pepper Potts. Yes, we are expected to remember and care about a character with a silly name who isn’t even in the movie.

When Jack Kirby created Captain America (about whom Mickey Spillane occasionally wrote), Cap was a symbol of cheerful patriotism whose Robin-type sidekick, Bucky, rode a motorcycle, all jaunty and cheerful. Now Bucky still rides a motorcycle, but he has turned into a sullen, serious half-villain, half-good-guy, sturm und drang not slam bang.

Now I’m not completely cured. I bought DEADPOOL on Blu-ray the other day because it’s been so widely praised. Haven’t watched it yet, but will. I am looking forward, guardedly, to the new X-MEN movie. But stuff like DC’s SUICIDE SQUAD leaves me cold, the preview so unpleasant and struggling to be dark, I want to upchuck my popcorn. The Joker as hero (okay, anti-hero)? So wrong. So very wrong.

My problem is that as I age, so does the popular culture, and neither of us are what we used to be. I bought AMAZING FANTASY #15 at Cohn’s Newsland, as well as SPIDERMAN #1, FANTASTIC FOUR #1, AVENGERS #1 and X-MEN #1. To me it was all about Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko – from my perspective, the “new” SPIDERMAN artist is John Romita.

Say what you will about Stan Lee, he wrote fun comic books. He lightly spoofed the genre and seemed to be saying, “Yes, this stuff is inherently silly, but let’s have a good time with it.” So Peter Parker was a nerd who got picked on, and the Fantastic Four got evicted from their penthouse digs because being a superhero didn’t pay so good. And he probably cackled at his typewriter when he typed the name Pepper Potts.

Batman to me will always be cartoonist Dick Sprang’s giant props and a small cast of vivid, recurring villains, most of whom were comical (the Riddler, the Penguin, even the Joker). Wayne Boring’s Superman was never boring, but often funny, from the torturous attempts by Lois Lane to unmask Superman as Clark Kent to the bald super-villain, Lex Luthor, who always failed. And Bizarro! How much fun was that?

Are we having fun yet, at superhero movies? Or are we still suffering under the mantle of seriousness that has so choked a wonderful if inherently juvenile genre? Embrace your inner kid – don’t be ashamed of him.

M.A.C.