Posts Tagged ‘The Titanic Murders’

100 Reasons to Love Mickey Spillane

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Spillane 100

How about an advance look at what’s planned for Mickey Spillane’s 100th birthday next year?

Two books will share centerstage – The Last Stand and Killing Town. Both are really special. The Last Stand will feature two novels – a short one circa early ‘50s, A Bullet for Satisfaction, which I co-authored from an unedited rough draft; and a full-length one, entitled (appropriately enough) The Last Stand.

The latter novel is the last book Mickey completed. My contribution has been to give it an edit, based upon comments Mickey made to me when he and I discussed the book shortly after I read it. This was probably around two weeks before he passed. Mickey was working on The Last Stand and two other novels simultaneously, The Goliath Bone and Dead Street (both of which I completed for him).

With his wife Jane Spillane’s permission, I held back The Last Stand until now for several reasons. First, it’s not a typical Spillane novel – it’s more of an adventure novel along the lines of Something’s Down There, the last book published during his lifetime. While we discussed having it published as the first book after his death, ultimately we decided to set it aside, probably for the centenary. I felt it was better to make the Mike Hammer novels a priority – to get them finished and out there. I’ve obviously been doing that, as well as completing (for publication by Hard Case Crime) Dead Street and The Consummata, both crime novels in keeping with a typical Spillane approach.

The Last Stand is a fun novel, a modern-day western and a disguised rumination on the tough guy entering old age, and readers will be very entertained. But I thought for those who might be confused by a lack of certain expected Spillane elements, including the more typical A Bullet for Satisfaction would make for a nicely balanced volume. Satisfaction is a rogue cop revenge tale with lots of sex and violence (the hero’s name is Rod Dexter).

Hard Case Crime will be doing the book in both hardcover and paperback, something they only do occasionally. Publisher Charles Ardai also brought a loving hand in the edit.

So we have the final Spillane novel.

And we have the first Mike Hammer novel.

Wait, what…?

Killing Town is another manuscript I salted away with the centenary in mind. It’s a substantial manuscript, longer than those I’ve been dealing with of late, and it represents Mickey’s first go at doing Mike Hammer, probably circa 1945…predating I, the Jury. I will tell more of the story behind it later, but it’s a novel that takes place in an industrial town in upstate New York with Mike Hammer running a dangerous errand for an army buddy. It could not be more typically vintage Spillane in tone and approach. Titan is publishing in hardcover.

I have not begun my work yet, but it’s the next big project.

We will also in 2018 have the mass market edition of The Will to Kill, the paperback of the Caleb York novel The Bloody Spur, various new audios, and more.

Those of you with blogs might want to think about doing a Spillane piece for 2018. (His birthday is March 9.) I will be writing something for Mystery Scene, and hope to complete a non-Hammer short story for The Strand.

* * *

Here’s a nice piece on Hard Case Crime with an emphasis on comics.

Publisher’s Weekly includes Quarry’s Climax in upcoming books they’re showcasing.

Here’s an audiobook review of The Titanic Murders.

And finally here’s a NSFW link that shows a reader enjoying an advance look at Quarry’s Climax.

M.A.C.

The Happy Together Tour

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
Happy Together Tour

Saturday evening, Barb and I went to see this year’s edition of the Happy Together Tour, mounted as always by Flo and Eddie of the Turtles. The acts on the bill were the Buckinghams, the Cowsills, the Grass Roots, the Association, Mark Lindsay, and of course the Turtles. My band the Daybreakers opened for the Buckinghams in the late ‘60s, and my ongoing band, Crusin’, opened for the Grass Roots and Turtles twice. So I was really curious and pumped to see the concert.

The Association were the big draw for Barb and me, because they were a shared favorite band going back to the earliest days of our going together. We’ve seen them over the years in concert probably six or seven times.

The show was a good one, the format including a top-notch band that travels with the tour and backs up two or three members of the original groups. This works out better in some cases than others. The Buckinghams had two original members but not the distinctive lead singer, Dennis Tufano. Of course, what I remember vividly when we played with the Buckinghams was how skillfully the keyboard player could mimic Tufano’s voice.

The venue, at Riverside Casino (in Riverside, Iowa, eventual birthplace of James T. Kirk), was at times not helpful. The casino/resort is most impressive, and Crusin’ has played their lounge four times, and that’s a wonderful venue. But concerts are held in an “event center” (i.e., ballroom) and not a theater, so you’re in chairs close together on one level (the size of most Baby Boomers makes that a real drawback). The acoustics were, shall we say, problematic. The Buckinghams, opening the concert, first, delivered vocals barely heard.

Later, the Grass Roots – minus late lead singer, Rob Grill – suffered similar vocal problems, specifically a lead singer difficult to hear who was not really the band’s lead singer.

The Association, represented by three members (two of them Jim Yester and Jules Alexander, both founding members and incredible talents), did well, in part thanks to the vocal skills of their back-up band. But even they suffered because most of their big hits were sung by Russ Giguere, who has apparently retired from touring.

Still, the show was very entertaining and fast-moving, with scant time between “bands” (really, just bringing out the two or three original members of each group, sharing the tour band), with everybody limited to five songs. And that meant the really big hits.

Very strong was Mark Lindsay, doing mostly Paul Revere stuff (“Kicks” was outstanding), still handsome, energetic, a real rock star prowling the stage. And of course the Turtles were wonderful, if at times too hip for the room. They are extremely loose and funny and off-the-wall, and yet still touch the required bases of their hits.

I got to know Flo and Eddie – Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan – a little bit when we opened for them in what must have been an early version of their Happy Together tour that included Crusin’ on the Moline, Illinois, bill. We shared a green room (a tent – it was an outdoor concert) with them, and both were friendly and down-to-earth. When they learned I was the writer of DICK TRACY – this was around 1986, I’m guessing – both were impressed. Mark called me a few times to discuss the possibility of us doing a mystery novel together, but it never went anywhere. I doubt he remembers me.

My group of poker-playing guys in high school loved the Turtles, loved their first album – they were a scruffier rock group pre-“Happy Together,” with “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Let Me Be.” But we always wondered, seeing the group lip sync on “Where the Action Is” and other such shows, what the hell Volman’s function was. He was just this curly-haired pudgy guy who played tambourine. What was that about?

Then, around 1967, I saw them in concert. Good lord, Volman was the best showman I ever saw on a rock stage, bounding around, doing crazy tricks with his tambourine, and singing perfect harmony with Kaylan in a voice that mirrored the lead singer. Like the Buckinghams, the Turtles made use of vocal similarity to great effect.

But Volman’s function appeared to be to disguise the stiffness of great singer Kaylan, who just stood there, as if frozen with stage fright. So back in ‘67, I went in wondering why they kept the apparently useless Volman around, and came out realizing he was one of the two essential members – as the continued partnership of Volman and Kaylan demonstrates.

And over the years Kaylan has turned into just as loose and wild an entertainer as Volman, the opposite of stiff. I appreciate the way they taunt and to a degree make fun of an audience, which was always the style of Crusin’, although not everyone appreciates that.

But the real surprise was the Cowsills.

I never really cared for them. I knew they sang and played well, but the whole family-as-a-rock-act-that-included-mom-and-a-seven-year-old-sister thing turned my rock and roller’s stomach, as I’m sure it did many other such stomachs. The group inspired the Partridge Family (“inspired” being a euphemism for “got screwed over by the creators and producers of”) and after four or five monster hits, dropped off the charts and eventually disbanded.

When I told Barb about this concert, the one downside was that the Cowsills were on the bill. We both made superior-human “yucchs” from the very start. Now here’s the punchline.

They killed.

Bob, Paul and Susan Cowsill were the outstanding act of the night. Even the poor acoustics didn’t touch them. Their vocals were loud and strong and as beautifully harmonic as Abba at its best, only punchy. They were funny and fluid and had a wonderful time. I went in a detractor and came out a Cowsills fan.

(My Turtles and Cowsills stories demonstrate just how much you can change your mind about a rock act when you’ve seen them in concert. It can also work in the reverse, lowering you opinion drastically.)

At the merch table (isn’t “merch” a shitty slang word?) I bought a DVD of the documentary on the Cowsills, which I’d heard was good. Additionally, it was signed by the band, and I am a sucker for signed stuff. I watched it last night and it’s excellent. Spoiler alert: their Dad was an evil asshole.

Seeing what a rough ride these kids from a seemingly idyllic background suffered over the decades made it even more impressive that the two Cowsills brothers and their sister delivered such an energetic, joyful performance. It indicated the healing powers of rock ‘n’ roll. It may be temporary healing, lasting only as long as a gig lasts, but we’ll take what we can get.

* * *

Today I hope to write the final chapter of the new Mike Hammer, DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU.

In the meantime, check out some interesting stuff on the Net pertaining to my favorite subject (me).

I am honored and thrilled that J. Kingston Pierce, among the best and most important reviewers in contemporary mystery fiction, has singled out Nate Heller as his favorite character. Check it out here.

Here’s a swell review of THE TITANIC MURDERS.

Col’s Criminal Library continues its march through the Nolan series with this terrific write-up on HARD CASH.

Here’s another of those “movies you didn’t know came from a comic book” pieces featuring ROAD TO PERDITION.

Finally, here’s top scribe Ron Fortier’s nice review of the Dover reprint of STRIP FOR MURDER.

M.A.C.

Ask for “Ask Not”

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Hardcover:
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.

M.A.C.

Complex 90 Out Today

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
COMPLEX 90 Audiobook

Hardcover:

E-Book:

Audio CD:

Audio MP3 CD:

Actually, COMPLEX 90 – the new Mike Hammer novel – will be published tomorrow, since I write these blog posts a day in advance. The cover we’re showing off here is the Blackstone audio version, read by Stacy Keach. I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s one of the greatest joys of my career to listen to Stacy reading these Spillane/Collins novels on audio.

This is, I think, one of the strongest of the collaborative Hammers, as it answers a lot of questions about Mike and Velda’s relationship, and it’s a sequel to perhaps the Mickey’s best book of the ‘60s – THE GIRL HUNTERS. Yes, the Dragon (the surviving half) is back. What great fun, writing about Mike Hammer in his espionage agent mode in a book begun by Mickey at the height of the James Bond spy craze. Fun, too, imagining Mickey as Mike in a movie playing in your demented brain. Well, my demented brain, anyway.

People often ask how I decide what order to do these books in – I had half a dozen substantial (100 pages or more) Spillane “Hammer” manuscripts to choose from. GOLIATH BONE was a no-brainer choice – it was the final book Mickey was working on, and was the longest manuscript (of the Hammers, that is – DEAD STREET was shy only of the last three chapters). Also, it had a 9/11 aspect that threatened to date it. So it was first up.

THE BIG BANG was a great ‘60s novel, with Hammer taking on drug racketeers, and just a great manuscript from Mickey, with one of his most outrageous endings. It won second position as a way to really show off Mike at his best. KISS HER GOODBYE, with its ‘70s setting and themes, was a natural progression. I held back the greatest find – LADY, GO DIE!, the unfinished sequel to I, THE JURY – for the fourth position, because my initial contract was for three books, and I wanted something very strong to launch the second trio, particularly if I had to change publishers…which I did.

COMPLEX 90 needed to be held back a while, because the anti-Commie aspect of it would only court trouble with the Hammer haters. I needed Mike to be back for a while before going there. Also, though Mickey wrote about Russian espionage in ONE LONELY NIGHT and THE GIRL HUNTERS, the Cold War theme is not what Hammer is best known for.

Shortly (yet this month) I will begin work on KING OF THE WEEDS, a novel designed by Mickey as a sequel to BLACK ALLEY and as the final Hammer novel. Mickey set it aside after 9/11 seemed to require Mike Hammer to wade into the war on terror. So these six novels begin with the final Hammer novel (THE GOLIATH BONE), and wind up with what Mickey had intended to be the final novel (KING OF THE WEEDS), making that the penultimate one, I guess.

Is this the end of the Spillane/Collins Hammer stories? Probably not. I am expanding short Hammer fragments into short stories (most recently in The Strand, “So Long, Chief”), and in two or three more stories will have enough for a collection. There’s also the possibility of doing a book that offers prose versions of the two audio plays. And there are three more significant Hammer fragments that I hope to turn into novels. When I say “substantial” unfinished manuscript, I mean that Mickey left behind at least one hundred pages and often plot and character notes.

When I say “significant” unfinished manuscript, I mean at least forty pages and sometimes plot and character notes.

I am hopeful readers and my current publisher will agree that the Mike Hammer canon should be completed. I see no reason for me to do original Hammer stories, not with the wealth of Spillane material at my fingertips. There are even non-Hammer fragments that could be Hammer-ized if need be. If the movie happens, anything is possible.

* * *

Last week was taken up with preparing materials for my producing partner, Ken Levin, to take with him to LA for meetings. Barb and I wrote up a TV proposal for the ANTIQUES series, and I put together an Eliot Ness in Cleveland TV proposal. In addition, I did a full-scale rewrite of “House of Blood,” turning it from an 85-page feature film script into a 58-page TV pilot script.

This week I’ll be meeting with Matt Clemens to work on the plotting of SUPREME JUSTICE, my second Thomas & Mercer novel. My friend Brad Schwartz and I have been working on a Teddy Roosevelt project, and the screen treatment of that will be finished probably today. Then I will be doing articles for Huffington Post and other web sites to promote COMPLEX 90.

Did I mention it’s coming out today?

A lot of Net activity to report and share.

A Minneapolis radio station has Part One of the Gary Sandy-starring version of MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER produced at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, last year. They will post Part Two next week. This is a lot of fun, but the host gives perhaps the most shambling introduction I have ever heard, starting with a discussion of the character “Mickey Spillane” who debuted on radio before the publication of I, THE JURY. You learn something every day….

The great web site Bookgasm had a lively, complimentary review of ANTIQUES CHOP, now a bouncing baby one week old.

Here’s a nice write-up on COMPLEX 90 at the Geek Girl Project.

I haven’t listened to this interview, but I was on the phone a long time, so be forewarned that you may need Red Bull to make it through. The guys interviewing me were great, but I’m afraid I blathered even more than usual.

Here’s a cool Nerds of a Feather write-up of COMPLEX 90 (out today!) (over doing?).

The news about HOUSE OF BLOOD winning that IMPA award was covered neatly at the Fangoria web site.

The SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews are still comin’ in! Check out this cool one at Nerd Bloggers.

I was very pleased by this NO CURE FOR DEATH review – having a smart reviewer approve of a book written forty years ago is kind of amazing. Not as amazing as me writing it when I was six, but amazing.

This is a very intelligent review of THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF from a guy who forgives me for being a liberal. (I’m taking something for it.)

And at this late date, we’re still being told that ROAD TO PERDITION was based on a graphic novel. Who’da thunk it?

THE TITANIC MURDERS gets a very nice write-up here.

And, finally, here’s the review you were all waiting for – of SKIN GAME, the second DARK ANGEL book (not published today…but still in print!). Matt Clemens co-wrote the DARK ANGEL novels with me, and they are among our best collaborations, in both our opinions.

M.A.C.