Posts Tagged ‘Trash ‘n’ Treasures’

A Fair Hearing

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Barb and I visited our son Nate, his bride Abby and our new grandson (still unnamed at this writing) over the weekend in St. Louis. The little guy – he was early, and truly is little – is doing fine, and so are his parents. It was a fun visit and heartwarming, and I’ll stop right there before everybody gets sick.

I mentioned last time that there’s a new audio out of my 2008 X-FILES movie novelization, I WANT TO BELIEVE. We listened to it on the ride down and back, and enjoyed it – the narrator, Patrick Lawlor, did a good job. I rarely revisit a movie novelization, and this proved interesting for a number of reasons.

First, as often happens when I listen to an audio of my work, I am in a best-of-times-worst-of-times mode. I usually have forgotten enough about the plot (whether my own or some screenwriter’s) to enjoy the novel as a narrative. But I also cringe at things that I will never get the chance to fix. In writing a novelization of a film, the work often goes fast and has to be handed in on a near-impossible deadline, and I WANT TO BELIEVE could definitely have benefitted from another pass where I tweaked and fixed things. On the whole, though, it came out pretty good. Or as Larry David would say, “Pretty, pretty good.”

When we got home, I decided to look at the film itself. I had it on blu-ray but hadn’t watched it since I saw it in the theater. I haven’t done a movie novelization in a long time (I WANT TO BELIEVE was one of the last), but my most vivid memory of those days is that seeing the film in a theater was always a weird experience for me. I had spent enough time writing the novel that the narrative on hand seemed my own (a delusion). A fact of life for the writer of a movie novel is that you work from a screenplay and do not get access to the film itself, though you are expected to mirror that film. Now and then, you get a few clips and the X-FILES people were generous with wardrobe sheets and cast lists, and were always there to answer questions (“What kind of car does Scully drive?” “What color?”). But mostly you’re flying blind, as screenplays are notoriously bare bones.

Seeing the movie after having just heard the novelization made me feel good about what I’d accomplished. I had definitely imagined, and recorded, a movie from that screenplay that tallied well the actual film. The biggest difference was an odd one. The main villain was described in the screenplay as having black stringy hair and craggy ugly features, and was frequently linked to the Russian madman, Rasputin. In the film itself, blond, rather handsome actor Callum Keith Rennie – who was a good guy co-star on one of my favorite TV series, DUE SOUTH – was the bad guy. So that change was startling.

Others were very minor. A couch turned into a folded-out day bed; bone marrow cancer became lung cancer. Otherwise, I pretty much conjured up the same movie, albeit on paper. Some of the character names – no doubt forced by the legal department on the filmmakers – I disliked. One tough African-American FBI agent was called “Wesley Drummy.” Horrible name, not at all suited to the character. In the film it gets used once or twice; in the book I had to use it all the time. A number of awkward character names made the book seem klutzy at times – this is not at all uncommon in the novelization game. You’re stuck with these stupid names.

I liked the film, which remains much maligned. I do think the X-FILES folks made a major mistake in having Scully and Mulder at odds and separated through much of the story. Nothing wrong with that story, but a crucial creative meeting was skipped – the one where everybody sat down and asked each other, “What do X-FILES fans want to see?” Not Dana Scully turning her back on the FBI and Mulder to tend to a little kid with a brain tumor.

The experience of hearing my books on audio is always gratifying and frustrating. I careen between thinking, “That was a really nice scene/line/description,” to, “Jesus, I wish I could fix that!” And you are the captive of the audio-book reader. I’ve had some great ones, quite a few good ones, and some terrible ones. One guy read DAMNED IN PARADISE in a bad Bogart impression. (I gave my freebie copies to friends as gag gifts.) On the other hand, the Hellers have all been read in recent years by the excellent Dan John Miller, who has virtually become Nate’s voice.

The day I’m writing this, Dan is in the studio reading FATE OF THE UNION. He did a fantastic job on the first book in the Reeder and Rogers series, SUPREME JUSTICE, and both Matt Clemens and I are thrilled to have him back for FATE. Dan also did a great job on THE WRONG QUARRY, but the new Quarry audio book publisher, Skyboat, features the QUARRY novels as read by the excellent Stefan Rudnicki. Rudnicki is an older, huskier Quarry, a deeper voice than the character usually receives but an excellent, expressive reader. He knocked the ball out of the park on QUARRY’S CHOICE.

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My friend Mike Dennis campaigned long and hard to get to record an audio of I, THE JURY. Check out his story here.

And, finally, here’s a good if somewhat patronizing review of ANTIQUES SWAP.

M.A.C.

Shamus Nay, Scribes Yay

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

The Private Eye Writers of America announced their nominees for the Shamus awards and, alas and alack, my entries (the novel KING OF THE WEEDS and the short story “It’s in the Book”) were not among them. My congratulations to the nominees, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for lists I’m not on.

Better news for the same two titles comes by way of the Scribe awards. This is a trifle late, having been announced elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, but here goes just the same:

The Ninth Annual Scribe Awards

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the Scribe Award Nominees for 2015.

Acknowledging excellence in this very competitive field, IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes. Gunsmoke, Ghost Whisperer, CSI, Star Trek, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Underworld, Man from UNCLE, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, these represent just a few.

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. The exact day, time and location of the Scribes Panel including the award ceremony will be announced shortly.

IAMTW congratulates the following nominees:

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL
24: Deadline by James Swallow
Murder She Wrote: Death of a Blue Blood by Don Bain
Mike Hammer: King of the Weeds by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Homeland: Saul’s Game by Andrew Kaplan
The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – SPECULATIVE
Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Grimm: Chopping Block by John Passarella
Star Trek: Disavowed by David Mack
Star Trek: Foul Deeds Will Rise by Greg Cox
Grimm: The Killing Time by Tim Waggoner
Pathfinder: The Redemption Engine by James Sutter
Fringe: Sins of the Father by Christa Faust

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL AND SPECULATIVE
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Alex Irvine
Noah by Mark Morris
War of the Worlds: Goliath by Adam Whitlach

YOUNG ADULT – ALL GENRES, ORIGINAL AND ADAPTED
Spirit Animals: Blood Ties by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Battletech: The Nellus Academy Incident by Jennifer Brozak
Penguins of Madagascar by Tracey West

SHORT STORIES
Pathfinder: Hunter’s Folly by Josh Vogt
Mike Hammer: It’s in the Book by Max Collins and Mickey Spillane
Stargate: Perceptions by Diana Botsford
Pathfinder: Queen Sacrifice by Steven Savile
Tales of Valdemar: Written in the Wind by Jennifer Brozek

AUDIO
Dark Shadows: The Darkest Shadow by Nev Fountain
Dark Shadows: The Devil Cat by Mark Thomas Passmore
Blake’s 7: Fortuitis by George Mann
Doctor Who: Iterations of I by John Dorney
Pathfinder Legends: The Skinsaw Murders by Cavan Scott

The awards will once again be presented at San Diego Comic-Con International. And there will be a 40th anniversary of Quarry panel at the con, as well – details for both are forthcoming.

Here’s a nice little article about Barbara Allan and ANTIQUES SWAP.

And here’s a good take on SWAP from Not the Baseball Pitcher.

Finally, here’s a so-so review from Library Journal of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK – always good to get reviewed in the trades.

M.A.C.

On The Quarry Set — And A Giveaway!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

The handful of pictures here will give you an idea of how great a time Barb and I had on the QUARRY set in New Orleans.

We spent one full day on set and another half day. Those days are long – they work twelve hours – but that was not a surprise. The indies I’ve worked on ran the same kind of schedule. The set-up was reminiscent of ROAD TO PERDITION – giant warehouse space (PERDITION actually used an armory) turned into a studio. There were a trio of these massive adjacent warehouses, one a studio, the other a workshop, the last an enormous prop room with stuff from various decades that you might see in 1972 (Coke machines, lamps, phones, phone booths, TVs, record players, kitchen tables, etc.).

I spent minimal but pleasant time with director Greg Yaitanes, who was a little busy (he’s directing all eight episodes as one big movie). Barb and I watched in one of several “video villages” as half a dozen scenes were shot. Several of the actors – notably Logan Marshall-Green and Nikki Amuka-Bird – recognized Barb and me from the pilot shoot in Nashville in the summer of 2013, and greeted us warmly. Both of these actors are terrific as pros and people.


Logan Marshall-Green, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Max Allan Collins

I’m sure Quarry fans want to know how I feel about Logan in the part – well, he’s spot on. He gets the dark humor, he has screen presence to burn and conveys the deadly side of our man effortlessly. What will be disconcerting to the more literal-minded is Quarry’s Southern drawl. And in fact, the entire switch of settings to the south from the midwest will trouble some. But it lends great flavor and mood to the proceedings.

I can’t talk about the specifics of the season – that, as they used to say on THE PRISONER, would be telling – but it’s fair to say that this is an expanded, in-depth look at Quarry’s origin.

I also spent about half an hour talking to Damon Herriman, who plays Buddy, Quarry’s gay hitman partner. In the novels, Buddy is called Boyd, but the name was changed because of the well-known Boyd character in the great JUSTIFIED. Here’s the irony – Damon was, as they say, a fan favorite on that very series, playing the sublimely hapless Dewey Crowe. As I gushed over how great he was as Dewey Crowe (one of those names that require both halves when spoken), Damon at one point went into some Dewey Crowe speechifyin’. Startling to have this articulate Australian suddenly burst into Kentucky patois. And so very cool to sit there and hear. A sweet man capable of depicting bitter darkness.


Max Allan Collins, Damon Herriman

Matching the time I spent with these terrific actors (and I met several others, each a delight) was the lengthy session I had with the two writers who believed in bringing Quarry to TV, Graham Gordy and Michael Fuller. We mostly just made each other laugh, but also discussed possibilities for a second QUARRY season, should that come to pass. In that case, I would again be writing one of the eight scripts. I shared my thoughts on where a second season might go.

For a source writer, the most impressive thing about a set visit is seeing the size of a production like this. It’s mindboggling to think that something I cooked up in college in 1972, just trying to out-crook Don Westlake’s third-person thief with my own first-person hitman, could lead over forty years later to this mammoth assemblage of humans and machines, an army battling to entertain.

Still, as with my PERDITION set visit, I am always reassured that the process is the same as on my little indies. Some writers are ill at ease and bored on a film set.

I’m home.

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It’s a tad late to be doing this, but we have come up with four Advanced Reading Copies of ANTIQUES SWAP and four more of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. They are available first-come-first-served by writing to me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Ask for one or the other, and indicate if you’d settle for either. IMPORTANT: include your mailing address. And sorry, but US residents only please.

As I say, this is free, and like everything that’s free, there’s a price: a review at Amazon and/or other similar sites, including your own web site. No strings.

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Here’s an interesting review of QUARRY’S CHOICE.

And another here.

Finally, Just a Guy That Likes to Read likes to read both Mike Hammer (COMPLEX 90) and Quarry (THE LAST QUARRY).

M.A.C.

Antiques Swap — Collect it!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Antiques Swap
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The latest entry in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (usually referred to as the ANTIQUES series) hit the bookstores last week. Barb and I (the co-authors, as “Barbara Allan”) spotted ANTIQUES SWAP nicely displayed in the Davenport Barnes and Noble.

This one begins at a swap meet but actually touches upon other, more risque meanings of “swap,” in a plotline we feared might be frowned upon by our editor, though we got away it. Cozies are supposed to be…cozy. The murders are supposed to be…nice. But for all the humor we put into the books – and we put a lot in – we try not to take homicide too lightly.

We also realize that our audience may include some readers – possibly you – who don’t regularly read cozy mysteries. After all, the great reviewer Jon Breen has called us a “subversive” take on the form, which he meant as a compliment. When we created the series, and were asked to include certain elements (exotic setting, cute pet, gimmick premise), we did so in an overtly tongue-in-cheek way that we thought would get us rejected.

Obviously we weren’t.

By the way, neither of us love the term “cozy,” and I suspect a lot of mystery writers feel that way. But the term seems to be the reigning one, much as “noir” has supplanted “hardboiled.” Cozy mysteries are more properly called “traditional.”

Ours are definitely in a sub-genre of comic mysteries. We don’t, however, consider ourselves to be spoofing the form or doing satire. Just as we take the murders in the stories seriously, we take our two main characters seriously and follow them through problems and challenges in their lives. Vivian Borne, Serenity’s theatrical diva, may seem larger-than-life, but I’ve met her at various times in various forms. You probably have, too.

Of everything I work on, the ANTIQUES series is the one that maintains the most constant presence. That’s largely because Barb spends almost all of her writing time on it. Of late we’ve been doing a novel and a novella every year, and that keeps her in production all but a few months in the summer. So we’re discussing the stories pretty much year-round.

Also, the nature of the book business is that once you’ve “finished” a book, you’ve just begun – a copy-edited manuscript will roll in unannounced for you to check through (and we both have to do that), and then galley proofs (which we both have to deal with). These never arrive at a good time, and always are due yesterday.

Barb and I had barely finished next year’s ANTIQUES FATE when the upcoming novella, ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, arrived in galley proof form. She’s gone through it already. I haven’t yet.

In the meantime, I continue work on THE BIG SHOWDOWN, the sequel to the current THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. I admit to feeling something of an imposter, as I have read precious few western novels in my time. On the other hand, I love movie westerns and have a huge collection of them on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ve said here many times that MAVERICK was my favorite show in childhood (and still ranks high) and that the episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” is the greatest hour of episodic television ever…an opinion that hasn’t changed.

While working on CALEB, I have subjected Barb to a festival of western movies…but “subjected” really isn’t right, because loves western movies, too. Right now we’re in the midst of a Joel McCrea festival. I rank McCrea in the upper reaches – in the top five western stars (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy and Gary Cooper being the others). Regular readers of mine know I am an Italian western fan, since Nolan was largely based on Lee Van Cleef’s screen persona in those films.

What I find really difficult in the CALEB YORK novels is balancing the myth with the real west. Despite my reputation for historical accuracy with the Nathan Heller novels, I am much more interested in the mythic west than the real thing.

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK seems to be a little tough to find in bookstores, so I recommend you order it online. It’s already in a second printing.

Incidentally, while writing ANTIQUES FATE – which touches upon the British school of mystery writer – we spent our evenings in a festival of UK crime fare, leaning heavily on MIDSOMER MURDERS and the new Blu-rays of the great Joan Hickson as MISS MARPLE.

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This terrific ANTIQUES SWAP review just came in from one of our favorite writers (and favorite people), Bill Crider.

My writer pal Ed Gorman used this review of the Dover reprint of STRIP FOR MURDER at his terrific blog.

The QUARRY series gets great play in this article about Memphis trying to lure the series back there (it’s shooting in New Orleans currently with limited Memphis footage scheduled to be shot later).

A recurring cast member has been added to the QUARRY series.

Here’s another of those articles about movies you didn’t know were based on comics, with ROAD TO PERDITION included. But either I am getting very old or the world is getting very young when such movies include ANNIE and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (!!!).

And finally, of all things, here’s a review of the audio of DEAD STREET, the first Spillane novel I completed (though I took only limited credit for my polish and concluding chapters).

M.A.C.