Posts Tagged ‘The Wrong Quarry’

Go Go Gone

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

As predicted, Barb and I wrapped up the eighth “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery, ANTIQUES A GO GO, last week. It took through Thursday to finish it – I always take a couple of days to go over a manuscript and do a final tweak before sending it off. Still seems strange not to be packaging up an actual manuscript and instead just sending an attachment to an editor.

The book is something of a change of pace, as it takes Brandy and her mother to Manhattan, but I won’t dwell on that book, since the new one – ANTIQUES CHOP – is about to come out. I think CHOP may be my favorite of the series (the new one is too fresh in my mind for any kind of judgment beyond, “Whew! Glad to get that outa here!”). For those of my readers fearful of trying a “cozy,” this one has axe murders in it. So put on a bib and dig in.

I’ve alluded to a Kickstarter project here that would take one of my Dreadtime Stories radio plays into low-budget feature-film territory. We had a lot of great things in our favor, among them the participation of Danielle from AMERICAN PICKERS, my longtime cinematic collaborator Phil Dingeldein (a d.p. on PICKERS), Malcolm McDowell as narrator, and of course the Fangoria brand-name. But at the very last minute (we were going to meet on Sunday afternoon, with my son Nate coming in from St. Louis for Kickstarter consulting), a different Fangoria deal interceded to make ours untenable. The good news is that Phil and I will likely be involved in some aspect of this new direction. I’m hopeful we can involve Danielle, too. We’d spent a lot of time (including me doing three or four drafts of “House of Blood” as a screenplay) gearing up for the Kickstarter effort with producer Carl Amari, so there’s disappointment in the mix, but also the promise of filmmaking to come.

Speaking of films, I can recommend OBLIVION, a very smart s-f adventure with Tom Cruise. The reviews are mixed on this one, but I am solidly in the plus column. The art direction alone is worthy of your attention, but the screenplay has some nice surprises, and it’s a well-directed film in general, though a big shoot-‘em gun battle seems out of place and maybe patched-in to satisfy studio execs.

This weekend my band Crusin’ played two nights in a row – a real oddity for us, because I try very hard to avoid that. It’s more like twice a month I’m after. And I will freely admit that on Sunday, I felt like I’d fallen down a flight of stairs (I’m writing this on Monday and feel only marginally better). I continue to enjoy the band, but sometimes it’s starting to feel like that moment in the action movies where the old star says, “I’m getting too old for this shit!” You know, right before a helicopter blows up?

This week I am looking at galley proofs of THE WRONG QUARRY and ASK NOT.

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The three-part look at the Nolan series by Dan Luft over at the Violent World of Parker has wrapped up with a discussion mostly about SPREE. This is a nice series of articles, and with some smart commentary. Occasionally, though, Dan misses the mark fairly wide – he’s about the only reader I’ve ever encountered who disliked the use of the Comfort family in SPREE. He claims to really like the book, except for the Comforts, which is kind of like loving everything about JURASSIC PARK except the dinosaurs.

Here’s a really nice COMPLEX 90 review. Coming up soon, by the way!

This BLOOD MONEY review is basically positive, but it’s a little odd, albeit in an interesting way. It continues to be weird reading reviews of stuff I wrote forty years ago.

Here’s a very good TRUE DETECTIVE review. It’s amazing how resilient that book has been. Published thirty years ago, it sold more copies in the last year (e-book format) than in its first several.

Mel Odom, himself a hell of a writer, has some interesting things to say about BYE BYE, BABY, the first book in the Nathan Heller JFK Trilogy.

Finally, here’s yet another positive look at SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Wertham).

M.A.C.

Tom Arnold, Paul Williams and More

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

To celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY, I took Barb to Cedar Rapids to Penguin’s Comedy Club to see Tom Arnold. Yes, I am a romantic devil. Actually, my friend Dwayne Clark – a very funny, smart comedian from Des Moines – was the opening act, and he got us tickets for the event.


M.A.C. with Dwayne Clark

I’ve always liked Arnold, consider him an amusing quirky presence who has enlivened any number of movies, including the recent HIT AND RUN, which I’ve extolled here several times. (I will watch anything with Kristen Bell in it, even the fairly awful HOUSE OF LIES on Showtime.) Dwayne as the opening act was his usual funny, wry self, the perfect laidback warm-up for the energetic Arnold, who was something of a revelation.

He was absolutely great. Tom is an Iowa boy and he relates to an Iowa audience in a special way. He is extremely fast, frank and funny as hell. Both Barb and I were mightily impressed. Beyond just his autobiographical humor and his nimble ease interacting with the audience, he proved to be a genuinely nice guy. Between packed shows, he made himself available to anyone who wanted a picture or to have anything signed. The only merch he brought to hawk was t-shirts helping to support his camp for kids with cancer. Great guy.


M.A.C. with Tom Arnold

As those of you who may recall how high PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE ranks on my favorite movie list, you may not be surprised to learn that I am a Paul Williams fan. While he was very funny on talk shows in the ‘70s, he will be remembered as one of the great songwriters of the late Twentieth Century. Sometimes he’s written with collaborators, other times alone (as on PHANTOM), but few tunesmiths tap into love and loneliness better, certainly not of his generation. So I was looking forward to the documentary, PAUL WILLIAMS – STILL ALIVE, and while it’s a challenging, even confrontational work, I was not disappointed.

Filmmaker Stephen Kessler (VEGAS VACATION) essentially makes a documentary about making a documentary, often making himself look bad in the process. This is intentional, as it charts the perils of the doc maker who goes into a project with preconceived notions and then tries to impose them on the film – having done two documentaries myself, I can report that you shoot first and determine the point you wish to make in the editing process. It’s an at times uncomfortable viewing experience, particularly early on, as you feel (and share) Williams’ discomfort and even irritation with Kessler. But it’s worth the trip, and you come away with a good picture of (and good feeling about) the subject. I will be surprised if Terry Beatty, my fellow PHANTOM freak (we saw the film together maybe ten times in theaters way back when), doesn’t find this film fascinating. It’s available on DVD – I spotted it at a Best Buy in their paltry documentary section.

Today I embark on dealing with the copy-edited manuscript of THE WRONG QUARRY – editor Charles Ardai is very fast, which is great, but it does rob me of the usual distance I have when dealing with edits on a work finished months before (as opposed to days). I hate being edited. I despise the copy-editing process. I realize every book needs some editing, but I do not like having an unrequested collaborator on my work. Charles is a very aggressive editor who likes to be part of the process – he has said in print that he wants to be involved with every sentence in a novel he publishes. So our editing sessions are always…interesting. But he is smart, so I can’t just ignore him (I did a fairly elaborate rewrite on SEDUCTION, at his bidding, which is beyond rare for me). Barb knows I will be dealing with copy edits today and has already said she will be steering me a wide path.

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Steve Steinbock, who has the not enviable job of following the great Jon L. Breen as the book reviewer for ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, has been doing a great job. And I say that at least in part because he seems to like my books. In the current issue, March/April, he praises both LADY, GO DIE! (“Collins has the ear – and the chops – to bring Spillane’s hero to life”) and TARGET LANCER, which he rates as a four-star read. Here’s his conclusion: “While being so unapologetically hardboiled you can crack a tooth on it, TARGET LANCER is also an intricately plotted thriller and a unique epic historical adventure.”

Here’s another fine TARGET LANCER review, this one from the Historical Novel Society.

And the SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reviews keep streaming on in, like this fine one from the UK site Crime Fiction Lover.

And Geek Girl loves her some SEDUCTION, too.

Plus these nice words from Porno Kitsch.

Keep an eye on the web over these next few weeks (I will do my best to help out). I am about to undertake a “blog tour,” which means I will be doing a dozen or more interviews and articles about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. The interviews seem to come from younger readers. Here’s a typical question: “Who the hell are you?”

M.A.C.

Write and Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I will be tweaking THE WRONG QUARRY today, doing final rewrites, and I hope “shipping it” (i.e., e-mailing it) to editor Charles Ardai) today. It was written largely in two frenzied weeks, although my fourteen-day-no-day-off stay in the bunker was preceded by a week of prep and plotting, and now a day (or two) of tweaks and rewrites.

A writer my age should probably not undertake to write a novel in this fashion, working till 1:30 a.m., rising at 7:30 a.m. and starting in again, before going down for orange juice and English muffin. But I have always written Quarry novels in two to three weeks (with the exception of the first one, which took six months) because they are stream-of-consciousness affairs that require me to live inside the story (and Quarry’s head) for the duration.

The story is set in the early ‘80s, and falls into the Quarry sub-category of our hero helping the target of a hit contract. It takes place in a small town in Missouri, during the off-season of its tourist industry. This may sound like a fairly ordinary Quarry set-up, but I assure you it’s wilder than Mr. Toad’s ride. In fact, Barb gave me the best Quarry review ever: “Who is this twisted man I’ve been sharing my bed with?”

This will be, since I obviously have work to do, a brief update. Barb and I saw SIDE EFFECTS, the Steven Sonderbergh thriller starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara (American GIRL WITH THE DRAGON etc.), and Catherine Zeta Jones. Very good twisty piece of work, sort of like ‘70s DePalma but slightly less overt in the sex, violence and style department. Like PARKER, a throwback to kind of grown-up genre piece that the theaters used to regularly offer.

My anti-Super Bowl rant last week got some interesting comments, particularly Mike Doran aptly pointing out that my lack of interest in pro sports may be related to my living outside a metro area. No big sports franchises in Iowa. Good point. The U of I’s Hawkeyes are worshipped in this state. My father fetishitically bought black-and-gold everything, including a Cadillac once.

Odd postscript to my sports “bloviating” (as one commenter termed it): I often love sports movies and sometimes books. Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggins novels are among my favorite novels. DAMN YANKEES is high on the list of my favorite movie musicals. And I’ve already written here about TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of my favorite shows.

Ah yes, I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If an occasionally bloviating one.

Here’s a terrific early COMPLEX 90 review from Ron Fortier, an excellent writer his own self.

And here’s a terrific review of my new collection (as complete as possible) of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

My friend (and great excellent crime writer) Ed Gorman was kind enough to post this generous review of SPREE, the final Nolan (to date, anyway).

Just in time for the publication of the third Jack and Maggie Starr (SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT), here’s a nice review of the first one, A KILLING IN COMICS.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION from a gaming site.

And to celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY in 2013, here’s a good review of the 1976 Quarry novel, QUARRY’S LIST.

M.A.C.

Downton Abbey Bowl

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

You want to know how secure in my masculinity I am? While other supposedly redblooded American males were watching the Super Bowl Sunday evening, I was watching the last two episodes of the third season of DOWNTON ABBEY on Blu-ray.

DOWNTON ABBEY is much better this year than last, but I am not here to praise that very popular series (actually, not near the top of my UK list but a fun show), but to brag about never having seen a Super Bowl game. I never have enjoyed watching sports, with the exception of boxing, and my interest in that has waned. I can abide basketball, particularly in person with good seats. Baseball to me is Chinese water torture with hot dogs.

I played football in high school. I viewed it as an opportunity for a bookworm with glasses to hide behind a protective helmet and dish out punishment on bigger, dumber kids. I was pretty good at it, and had scholarship offers. I was smart enough not to take them, because I would have been decimated by actual football players.

My point is, I don’t have to watch football. I played it. And I don’t find overblown half-time shows and commercials directed by modern day Caligulas any more entertaining than watching steroid-happy hired goons give each other brain damage. Nor do I relish the thought of guacamole-engorged cholesterol-ridden middle-aged men pursuing their homo-erotic fantasies by watching younger men collide at high speed.

But that’s just me.

I actually understand the bonding men and for that matter women (though most are pretending) share in their enthusiasm for college and professional sports. I have marginally more tolerance for college sports, though the fact that when I was at the University of Iowa there were maybe two guys actually from Iowa (way down on the bench) slightly undercuts whatever rooting interest I might have.

The best I’ve seen this bonding portrayed, in a funny, slightly dark but almost heart-warming manner, is the film SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. I almost envied the father/son bonding and the joy the friends with a similar enthusiasm shared. That’s a really good movie, by the way. I avoided it because I get enough mental illness at home, but it’s a unique and entertaining romantic comedy.

For my readers who are into sports, please know that the above rant was satire. I don’t really believe any of it. I think you guys are absolutely not out of your minds. Really. Honest. So forgive me, would you?

And pass the guacamole?

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Those who haven’t bailed may be interested in a video interview (an audio version is available) posted here. It’s about SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, among other things. Caveat: I couldn’t figure out how to play the video, though I did figure out the audio. Non-Luddites will do better.

Another interview appears here at Comic Book Resources. A decent one, I think.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case Crime combo of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY. Insightful and, when critical, fair. I continue to find it weird seeing forty year-old stuff of mine reviewed currently.

Jeff Pierce at his cool Killer Covers site did a nice write-up on the excellent new Disaster Series covers from Thomas & Mercer.

You might enjoy this lively discussion of Bob Goldsborough’s Nero Wolfe novels – I pitch in, as a fan of Bob’s.

The second collection of DREADTIME STORIES on Audio is reviewed here. I only have one radio play, “Mercy,” but it’s my favorite of the series.

What I believe is the first COMPLEX 90 review appears here. Pretty good, but it mistakes Titan for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, I will confirm here that I am indeed writing a new Quarry novel, THE WRONG QUARRY. That should help to explain my anti-Super Bowl rant above, but understand I am currently in full Quarry mode. I hope to be able to report exciting news about a potential Quarry TV series for cable. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have to take a call from Bill Maher, who says this week I have gone too far.

M.A.C.