Posts Tagged ‘The Wrong Quarry’

Cover Story

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Supreme Justice

Over the last two weeks, Matt Clemens and I have been going over potential covers for the upcoming SUPREME JUSTICE, coming out June 1.

Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s mystery/suspense line, has been very good about making me – and Matt, because he contributed so mightily to both novels – part of the book cover process for both WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER and SUPREME JUSTICE. This is hardly common in publishing – in fact, it’s the opposite of common.

What often happens is that I’m asked for my opinion – in the context of how important that opinion might be, given my background in visual arts like comics and film – but rarely has my input been given much if any consideration.

That’s been improving in recent years. Our editor at Kensington always asks Barb and me for ideas for the covers of the ANTIQUES books, and those ideas have been used for the most part.

Titan is careful to run covers past me, and I had considerable input on the Mike Hammer mass market editions, where initially the depiction of Hammer was wrong. The publisher of Titan himself, Nick Landau, enthusiastically presented the hardcover Hammer dust-jacket art over drinks at San Diego Con a few years ago.

At Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai often discusses what artists might be available for my next book – obviously the first thing out of my mouth is, “How about McGinnis?” But I essentially chose the cover artists for THE WRONG QUARRY (Tyler Jacobsen) out of three or four Charles showed me examples by. And THE WRONG QUARRY seems to be universally regarded as one of (if not the) strongest of my Hard Case covers.

As I may have mentioned here before, those covers are usually done before I’ve written the novel, with just a paragraph precise of the unwritten book for the artist to go by. That means I often have to work to get the cover image into the book.

On the other hand, I provided Forge with lots of input into BYE BYE, BABY’s hardcover jacket that was eventually ignored, due to worries that the Monroe estate would sue. I hate that cover (though the mass market paperback is much better). Where both TARGET LANCER and ASK NOT were concerned, however, I was given the opportunity to give my two cents, and was listened to. Often I write the cover copy, even the front “reading lines” (blurbs), when what is submitted to me seems weak.

So it has improved a lot. I’ve come a long way from when I received BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY in the mail in December 1972 and found fairly terrible photo covers and my name changed from Allan Collins to Max Collins, and my character Nolan given an unwanted first name (“Frank”) which to this day dogs both Nolan and me. Then there’s the day I opened a package and saw that my novel QUARRY and its sequel HIT LIST were now THE BROKER and THE BROKER’S WIFE, the latter title a spoiler for a major plot turn…again, with photo covers, though slightly better ones.

But now Thomas & Mercer has given me a chance not only to suggest cover images, but provides me with half a dozen to choose from, and does tweaks on the art that I’ve suggested. I wish I could include the SUPREME JUSTICE rejects here, because they were strong, too. But I don’t know the legality of that.

Maybe next time I do a book for them, I can put the proposed covers up here and seek your input.

For now, I am delighted with the cover for SUPREME JUSTICE.

* * *

Brief movie report.

We liked MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, me more than Barb. It captured the Jay Ward cartoons well and was very smart in its storytelling – a little long, though. See it in 3-D.

NON-STOP was a good thriller, somewhat stupid in the motivation of the villains, but a ride worth taking.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is better than the original, and is a rousing battle picture with an eye-popping sex scene (see that in 3-D, too). But it’s fairly numbing in its more-and-more-of-the-same gory action, and at heart is a very brain-dead right-wing screed. Still, I dug it. I am, as should be evident by now, a sucker for anything in 3-D that doesn’t outright suck.

Speaking of sucking, we walked out of DIVERGENT about half an hour in. I’d read some promising reviews, but this is a really poorly thought-out imitation of HUNGER GAMES (which is a poorly thought-out imitation of BATTLE ROYALE). Really, really dumb, and also dreary and dull. We bailed when some recruits in the Dauntless faction (don’t ask) said, “Let’s do something fun! Let’s get tattoos!”

* * *

Let’s wind up this update with a link to a very nice WRONG QUARRY review from Blog Critics.

Books, Wonderful Books

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Two wonderful new books by writers who should be of interest to readers of these updates are respectively about to come out and already out.

BATTLE ROYALE REMASTERED

Coming soon is my son’s terrific translation of the modern Japanese classic, BATTLE ROYALE. He’s very happy right now, because – as you can see – the book had been blessed with an outstanding cover. The book itself was the basis of a very popular film, but also is the obvious inspiration for a little thing called HUNGER GAMES.

http://amzn.to/1g3vlWN

Jane Spillane’s memoir MY LIFE WITH MICKEY has been published and it’s a delight. Jane’s gift at storytelling is something that would make Mickey smile. It’s warm, funny and frank, and the design of the book – and the pictures throughout – are as charming as the memoir itself. No Spillane fan should miss this.

http://amzn.to/1cstJuN

The links I’ve provided above are Amazon ones, but other online retailers will certainly have BATTLE ROYALE, and the MY LIFE WITH MICKEY link takes you to the only place where you can get the regionally-published book.

I’ve had some lovely comments – both here and on Facebook – about my birthday post, and several top mystery-fiction bloggers – including Bill Crider and Ed Gorman – picked it up to share with their readers. (My NAKED CITY post was similarly picked up, including by J. Kingston Pierce at the prestigious Rap Sheet.) But I’d also like to share a fun “present” I received first thing, birthday morning.

As you may remember, I was asked to change the title of the Spillane western THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK to something short and punchy. For reasons that I won’t go into (because they get us into spoiler territory), I strongly felt that we needed to stick with the original title, which was Mickey’s own. I wrote a long, impassioned e-mail to my editor that morning, making my case. Kensington is notorious for controlling their titles – for example, neither J.C. Harrow novel had the title that Matt Clemens and I had wanted. But they had a specific kind of title that was considered right for a serial killer thriller, and we went along. I got a similar vibe about westerns at Kensington’s, with a very specific approach to titles (short, punchy, with suggested violence, followed by “A Caleb York Western”).

So I made my Don Quixote type stand, fully believing I would get no where. In five minutes, both my editor Michalea Hamilton – after consulting the resident westerns guru at Kensington – wrote me back to say…they both agreed we me. THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK it would be.

That rare if small victory on the battlefields of publishing was how I started my 66th year. Which makes me think this may be a good one.

Further, my smart, lovely editor then composed and sent me this birthday greeting, which I got permission to share with you:

There once was an outstanding writer,
Whose talents shone brighter and brighter,
In the land of Spillane,
He rekindled the flame,
And brought to life York, the gunfighter!

* * *

Here’s an intelligent review of BYE BYE, BABY, generally positive, where the blogger is not particularly interested in Marilyn Monroe though she has a strong Kennedy fascination. She raises the perhaps troubling point (to me anyway) that the book may only appeal to readers who are either MM or JFK (or both) fanatics. My hope is always that the Heller books work as novels, particularly as private eye thrillers, and that you don’t need a familiarity with, or obsession for, the case at hand. I really hope I’m right and this reviewer isn’t. I liked her reviewing style, which is chatty in a way that seems easy but isn’t.

On a somewhat similar note, this UK reviewer finds all the JFK assassination fuss boring, and he doesn’t care for ASK NOT much, though likes the writing and Heller himself enough to say he’ll try another. Admittedly, ASK NOT is a rough place to start reading the Heller saga. But what troubles me most is the notion that if you’re not from the USA, this subject will be dull (if so, it’s dull with lots of murders!).

Finally, here’s a nice WRONG QUARRY review.

M.A.C.

The Write Quarry

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

It’s very gratifying that THE WRONG QUARRY has generated so much attention, particularly on the Net. This is, after all, the tenth novel in a series begun in 1976. No other book of mine in recent years – including the Heller comeback novels that form the JFK Trilogy – has been so widely reviewed. As I noted a while back, out of what must be around forty write-ups by now, there’s been only one that wasn’t a near rave – and it was mixed.

It appears that a lot of the reviewers and bloggers who dig Quarry are only familiar with the recent five Hard Case Crime novels. I hope that gradually the Perfect Crime reprints, with the cool Terry Beatty covers, will find their way into the hands and minds of these new Quarry fans.

One interesting result of (I presume) younger readers discovering the series through Hard Case is that the premise of Quarry being a hitman who kills other hitmen has been hailed as innovative, and “new” for Quarry specifically and crime novels in general. Of course, many of you who follow these updates (both of you) know that the premise of Quarry using the Broker’s list began back in 1976, in the book now known as (not surprisingly) QUARRY’S LIST. Also, both QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE and QUARRY’S EX from Hard Case are “list” novels.

I’m not complaining. I always thought the “list” concept was innovative myself. I just thought that starting back in ‘76….

* * *
Complex 90

Here’s a nice essay utilizing interview answers from me. The emphasis, not surprisingly, is on Quarry and the current novel.

And, yes, wonderful WRONG QUARRY reviews are still appearing, like this one at Crime Fiction Lover.

Here’s a nice one from Fiction Addict.

On the Mike Hammer front, J. Kingston Pierce at the Rap Sheet has singled out his favorite covers of last year and COMPLEX 90 made the list. He’s giving you the opportunity to vote for your favorite among his. Remember, any vote for Mike Hammer is a vote for America.

Here’s an excellent review of THE GOLIATH BONE. There’s also an explanatory comment from me about who-wrote-what.

Finally, here’s an overview of Crime Fiction in Comics and Graphic Novels that includes a nice section on yours truly (I always want to add “Johnny Dollar” to that…).

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Mini-Book Plus Quarry Raves

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

My friend Otto Penzler, who published the first three Spillane/Collins “Mike Hammer” novels at Harcourt, asked me to develop a bibliophile novella for him. He has a series of these small books that are sold exclusively through his Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. The story, called “It’s in the Book,” has Mike Hammer searching for…a book. I think it’s one of best the short stories I’ve developed from Mickey’s shorter Hammer fragments, and you can order it here for $4.95.

There’s also a signed limited hardcover edition for $100, for the more demented among you. You can find it at the Mysterious Bookshop website.

Courtesy of Iowa-based stand-up comic Dwayne Clark (he’s terrific) comes this screen cap of Chris Christie. No political point here, just bragging on how a certain title of mine has gotten into the language.

Road to Contrition

The WRONG QUARRY reviews, mostly raves, keep rolling in. Very good response to this one. It’s been interesting and a little odd to have all this discussion of what is from my perspective the previous Quarry novel while I am working on the current one. It’s especially odd because a lot of the reviews focus on the “list” approach of WRONG QUARRY, whereas QUARRY’S CHOICE takes place while Quarry is still working for the Broker. When he’s a hitman killing citizens and not a hitman killing other hitmen.

One reviewer, generally a fan of my work, has trouble with Quarry himself. That he talks to the reader. That he seems fairly normal. That he is a killer. I get this, and always knew the character would not work for all of my readers. Going back to the character’s creation in the early ‘70s, Quarry is perhaps the first series protagonist with PTSD. He is us, post-Vietnam – numb, less human while still recognizably human. The arc of almost any Quarry novel is the character starting as a cold killer, meeting a good woman, and becoming something more like who he’d been pre-Vietnam. But faced at the conclusion with a decision that could be answered any number of ways (one of them violence), he will always choose violence. Like America, that war ruined him.

I understand that readers who like Mallory or Heller (or the ANTIQUES series!) may find Quarry a hard go. The books are black comedies, and he is not a hero in the traditional sense. He’s not even an anti-hero in the traditional sense. I like it when readers are disturbed or uncomfortable with him and his behavior. When in 1972 I showed the first two chapters of QUARRY to my workshop class at the University of Iowa, many students objected to Quarry killing a man dispassionately in chapter one and screwing a woman dispassionately in chapter two. I just smiled and said, “That was the point – bang bang.”

Also, there are Quarry fans who don’t like Heller and really don’t like Mallory (and would probably puke reading an ANTIQUES novel). I’m okay with that. You don’t have to like everything on the restaurant’s menu. But do keep in mind that I primarily write melodrama, and that I don’t necessarily approve of everything that my protagonists do. Do you really think Mike Hammer and I vote for the same candidates?

Well, that’s unfair. Mike Hammer doesn’t vote.

Not even for Chris Christie.

* * *

Let me share some of these mostly incredible WRONG QUARRY reviews, starting with this rave from Book Reporter.

Another nice one can be seen at the Eloquent Page, though I hardly agree with the reviewer that Quarry is depicted as “a real man’s man, all booze, violence and broads.” Mostly he drinks Cokes, and he doesn’t really think about women in those terms. Violence – okay, you got me there.

As a guy who never served in the military, I love it when a military.com reviewer digs Quarry. (Quarry was, as I mentioned, in part based on my late friend Jon McRae, who served many tours in Vietnam as a Marine.)

The Mystery People folks chose THE WRONG QUARRY as one of their three picks for January.

Here’s a cool one from Nerd Like You. I love it when nerds like my stuff – I was one before it became cool.

Here’s a very intelligent write-up from Mystery Maven.

And another great one from Terry Ambrose.

Geek Hard finds THE WRONG QUARRY righteous.

This brief, positive review prefers Heller and Mallory to Quarry, and recommends Mallory as the place to start with my work. As I mentioned above, I can see that a Mallory fan might struggle with Quarry.

And Nerds of a Feather likes THE WRONG QUARRY, too.

The mixed review I discussed above can be seen here. You have to admire a balanced approach like this – so easy these days to write a rave or a pan.

Finally, on a non-Quarry note, here’s a scan of a BATMAN story courtesy of current fans who like my work on that feature. Bless you, my children!

M.A.C.