Posts Tagged ‘Trash ‘n’ Treasures’

Centuries & Sleuths Signing

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

As I’ve mentioned here, Barb and I are doing precious few signings these days, but this Sunday (September 14) we will be at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois, at 2 p.m. for a discussion and signing. This is a very cool bookstore and ideal for us – it’s a mix of mystery and history, and owner Augie Aleksy is one of the sweetest, most knowledgeable book store guys you could ever hope to meet. The area the store nestles in is full of fun shops (lots of antiquing – like I said, perfect for us) and restaurants.

Here’s the address: 7419 Madision Street, and the phone number is 708-771-7243. For those outside the Chicago area, I’m sure you could order books through Augie and have them signed at the event. Not sure exactly what he’s got on hand, but it’ll likely be: SUPREME JUSTICE, KING OF THE WEEDS, THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON.

Speaking of things I used to do all the time but do only infrequently now (get your mind out of the gutter), Crusin’ did one of its remaining two 2014 gigs this past Saturday. We appeared at Fruitland Fun Days in Fruitland, Iowa, and did 2 ½ hours with just a short break. Glamourous show biz stuff: playing on a truck flatbed with the park bathrooms behind us.

Fruitland Fun Days

Appearing after us was Jake McVey, a rising country star whose stuff I actually like, very rock ‘n’ roll – amazingly nice guy, and his bandmates were extremely complimentary.

In fact, Jake said he thought we’d be perfect for the Midwestern casino circuit and offered his recommendation and networking help. Twenty years ago, maybe even ten, that would have been tempting – casino money tends to be terrific. But we are winding down. Guitar player Jim Van Winkle is probably moving soon – not far away, but far enough to make gigging very occasional – and drummer Steve Kundel has school age kids (and concerts and games to go to). We will always be available for Bouchercon, though.

Fruitland Fun Days

Since my Hollywood trip, things are heating up on that front, and it makes Crusin’ a luxury I dare not indulge in. At least not much. For example, the day after a gig I am so sore, tired and often hoarse that I can’t work (and I am frequently on deadlines that require at least six days a week).

For those of you wondering what we’re working on, Barb is doing her draft of the third of three ANTIQUES Christmas novellas for the e-book trade. We do hope to collect these eventually, likely with a fourth novellas exclusive to the collection. I’ll be getting to my draft (it’s called ANTIQUES ST. NICKED) later this week.

I am working on a TV script – my first – for a top-secret project. I was given two weeks and delivered it in one week. Got notes on Friday. Today I will turn in the second draft on the day the first draft was due. Am I showing off? Not really. Maybe a little. But I like to demonstrate, when I have a deadline-driven new assignment, that I can deliver.

I am convinced that’s how I got the DICK TRACY gig back in 1977. I got the phone call to participate as one of several writers doing try-out scripts, and that same day I wrote it. They had it in lightning speed (at least the “Special Delivery” variety, since this was way before FAXing, e-mail and even Fed-Ex). And they called off the competition and hired me.

Of course, they eventually fired me with lightning speed in 1993….

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I am pleased (maybe even a little bit thrilled) have J. Kingston Pierce – one of our best, smartest crime fiction reviewers – place one of my novels on his all-time favorite list. Jeff has selected the sometimes overlooked ANGEL IN BLACK, the “Black Dahlia” Nate Heller, which is among my personal favorites.

Here the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION is #2 on a list of the five best movies based on graphic novels. Nice things are said about the original book, as well.

M.A.C.

Farewell Tour(ing)?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Books-A-Million Signing August 2014
Barbara Collins, M.A.C. and Matthew Clemens at the Davenport BAM!

We had some nice people stop by our two signings in Davenport this weekend, both new readers and old. But the turn-out was modest, even though we’d scored major publicity in the Quad Cities area, like this article in the Quad City Times.

It was enough for us (Barb and me) to admit that signings just aren’t effective any more. Oh, there are exceptions. If an indie bookstore owner is really a first-rate retailer – like Augie at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, where we will continue to sign now and then, or the remarkable Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona – really knows their onions (and carrots and peas), a signing can be highly successful and worthwhile for the author. Lots of people there, lots of books sold. Enough to justify flying to Arizona? Well, that’s up to the publisher.

But publishers are funding fewer and fewer tours these days, and if you aren’t a superstar author or superstar period (Hillary Clinton, say, whose own book tour was pretty rough actually), a tour is hard to justify. For many years, we alternated funding our own tours with publisher-funded ones. Recently we scaled back to Midwestern tours, typically hitting Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Chicago and Milwaukee. More lately we cut back to just Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Chicago. But Cedar Rapids’ Mystery Cat (where the signings were extremely successful) is closing at the end of this month.

These Davenport signings were at best modestly successful in a way that just doesn’t justify us losing a work (or, frankly, play) day. Last week we lost a day to doing the Times interview and then driving to Davenport to do TV. On the weekend, the signings consumed both Saturday and Sunday. The promo we did for the signings focused on SUPREME JUSTICE and ANTIQUES CON. When got to the Bam! store, we were told they couldn’t get SUPREME JUSTICE, apparently because of the corporate decision not to carry Amazon-published books. No one bothered to call us and inform us of this, and in fact we’d been assured the opposite – I’d called a few days before to see if books were in and was told they were, including SJ. When we arrived, there were stacks of KING OF THE WEEDS (which had not been the focus of our promo), no SUPREME JUSTICE and a handful of ANTIQUES CON. The first customer in the door asked for SUPREME JUSTICE.

The Barnes and Noble did have SUPREME JUSTICE, thanks to the efforts of the hard-working assistant manager who arranged the signing, despite B & N’s corporate attitude toward not carrying a book that has been a bestseller since June (admittedly in the Kindle world).

Barnes & Noble Signing August 2014
Barbara Allan at the Davenport Barnes & Noble Signing

Incidentally, these corporate wars are wearying. I seem to be one of a handful of writers working both sides of this particular street, so I need to keep my opinions to myself, for the safety of my career. But take a look at what my pal Lee Goldberg had to say in response to the New York Times ad signed by lots and lots of writers in protest of Amazon.

All I can say about Amazon is that they – at least their crime fiction publishing arm, Thomas & Mercer – have treated me very well, from involving me in packaging decisions to paying me better royalties than I receive elsewhere. I am frustrated that SUPREME JUSTICE isn’t more readily available as a real book (as opposed to an e-one). But right now we still sit high on several Kindle mystery lists, and have generated a mindboggling 2100-plus reader reviews.

Anyway, touring. Book signings. As I said to Matt Clemens after our Books-a-Million signing for a book the store didn’t stock, “Signings are so ‘90s.” What can we do to replace them?

Well, one of the things is this weekly communication with you. And if you want to get in touch with me, it’s not that hard. Both Barb and I (and for that matter Matt) are happy to sign and return books sent to us, as long as postage and packaging is included. Bookstores are encouraged to send books for us to sign. Barb and I will continue, for the foreseeable future, to do both Bouchercon and San Diego Con. Smaller conventions I will not likely do unless I (or we) are invited as a guest. At 66, I feel no shame at all in suggesting “Guest of Honor” next to my name would feel just fine. (Bouchercon did it back in 1999.)

We love talking to readers. Anybody who hasn’t figured out that I like praise just isn’t paying attention. But our days, our time, is precious to us. I am writing more now than ever, in part because of the sense that time has suddenly become goddamn finite. I still have stories to tell. Barb said, fairly grouchily Sunday evening, “I lost three days I could have been working on the new ANTIQUES novella.”

She’s right.

In the meantime, come see us at Centuries & Sleuths in September. There are exceptions to every rule.

M.A.C.

Davenport Events & Phantom Release

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

This has been such a busy writing year so far, Barb and I did not set up a signing tour. We figured between San Diego Con this summer and Bouchercon in Long Beach this fall, a good number of fans would have access to us. But this coming weekend, we are doing two events in our home area.

First, Barb, Matt Clemens and I will be signing on Saturday, August 9, at Books-a-Million in Davenport, Iowa, 4000 East 53rd Street, from 1 pm till 2:30 (approximately). We’ll be signing SUPREME JUSTICE, ANTIQUES CON and KING OF THE WEEDS. That particular BAM! has a deep shelf of Collins (and Barbara Allan) books going beyond the new releases. Barb, Matt and I have done very few of these joint signings.

Second, the very next day – Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm – I’ll be speaking and then signing at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, 320 W. Kimberly Road. Barnes and Noble has been doing a salute to comics and pop culture over the last few weeks, and my talk will touch on ROAD TO PERDITION going from book to film. Barb will be there. Not sure yet about Matt – it will depend on whether this B & B was able to get copies of SUPREME JUSTICE in (the chain has a policy against stocking Amazon-published titles).

Also, on Paula Sands Live (KWQC TV, Channel 6, 3 PM) this coming Wednesday, August 6, Barb and I will be appearing in support of these events. Some of you outside the Channel 6 viewing area may recall Paula Sands from MOMMY 2: MOMMY’S DAY, where she appeared as herself very good-naturedly kidding her own show. I realize this appearance only means something to our section of the Midwest, but Paula has the highest-rated local show in the region.

Though we’re not doing a tour by any means, Barb and I will also be appearing this coming September 14 at Centuries & Sleuths in Chicago (actually, Forest Park). We have cut way back on book signings, for lots of reasons, but C & S is one of our favorite bookstores. It’s devoted to history and mystery and couldn’t be a better fit for us. Owner/manager Augie Alesky is one great guy – fun, funny and knowledgeable…even if he doesn’t believe in author’s discounts. (More about this signing later).

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Phantom of the Paradise Blu-Ray

The terrific Shout! Factory has released a wonderful blu-ray of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which regular readers of these updates may recall is one of my favorite movies. Here’s what I said about it here a few years ago:

How ironic that that steaming piece of cheese, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, is so popular, and the great rock ‘n’ roll PHANTOM remains a cult item. Paul Williams delivers a fantastic performance and a score equal to it, parodying various rock styles and prescient about several fads to come (a Kiss-style group pre-dates Kiss here). Jessica Harper is charismatic and sings hauntingly well, and William Finley is the perfect sad, crippled, demented Phantom. For a long time Brian De Palma was my favorite contemporary director. He’s had some bad stumbles over the years, but at his best he’s hard to beat. This is the only time, however, that he perfectly merged his comic and melodramatic impulses.

Some day I may write about PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in more depth, as I think it’s a masterpiece and one of the best films of the ‘70s – certainly my favorite film of the ‘70s. The Shout! Factory release is superior to the foreign blu-rays previously snatched up by PHANTOM phans like me, with a great transfer and wonderful special features stretched out over the blu-ray and the DVD version that’s also included. A new Paul Williams interview is particularly good, making me realize that the film is so special in the careers of Williams and De Palma because the two collaborated on this (and only this) film. Williams is revealed as virtually co-director/writer, when you realize how thoroughly he controlled the songs and their presentation. There’s a minor but annoying glitch in the commentary, where Gerrit Graham and Jessica Harper recordings overlap, but Shout! Factory (rating the only “boo” related to this release) is just shrugging that off as minor, not offering replacement discs. Get it anyway.

If you think you don’t like Paul Williams because you consider “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainbow Connection” and so on to be easy-listening fluff, well…two things. First, you’re wrong – he’s always been a great songwriter; his Three Dog Night material alone proves that (“Out in the Country,” “Family of Man,” “Old-Fashioned Love Song”). Second, the genre-hopping/slicing songs in PHANTOM are his greatest, most sophisticated work, and many of them genuinely rock. If you have avoided this film because it’s a musical (I’m talking to you, Matt Clemens), it isn’t, not in the Broadway sense. All songs here are either performed for an audience (the “Paradise” theater of the title) or on the soundtrack.

Williams, having had post-PHANTOM substance problems, cleaned up in a major way and is having a nice third act in a unique career. He is on the very short list of celebrities I’d love to meet. There’s an interesting recent documentary about him (STILL ALIVE).

By the way, I once said here that I’ve never seen a movie more times than I have KISS ME DEADLY. It’s possible I’ve watched PHANTOM more often. Back in the day, Terry Beatty and I (often accompanied by Barb) saw PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in various movie theaters every chance we got. I’m guessing a dozen times, easy. And I’ve owned it on Beta, VHS, laserdisc and three different blu-rays.

If you’ve never seen it, get real, get with it, and you are such a lucky bastard.

A few other quick movie notes: don’t miss LUCY, the best thing Luc Besson (admittedly a wildly uneven filmmaker) has ever done. It’s a cross between a Hong Kong action movie and 2001. Very few of the critics have been smart enough to get this one. Once again, the rule pertains: if you have exposition to deliver, hire Morgan Freeman.

Don’t go near SEX TAPE. I am a Jason Segel fan going back to FREAKS AND GEEKS, but every laugh in this wretchedly written film is in the trailer…and work better in the trailer.

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SUPREME JUSTICE continues to ride the Kindle bestseller charts, and has racked up (as of this writing) a dizzying 1938 reviews and an averaged four-star rating.

Here’s a very favorable SUPREME JUSTICE review from Bookgasm.

Here’s another from Bob’s on Books.

And one from Coastal Breeze News.

And this from Kingdom Books, though you have to dig a little.

For a change of pace, here’s a WRONG QUARRY review from the aptly named Point Blank.

The articles about non-superhero comic-book movies continue, with ROAD TO PERDITION scoring well.

Finally, here at my pal Lee Goldberg’s site is the full list of Scribe winners. We’re sending out the UK trophies today!

M.A.C.

This Week at the Podunk Playhouse

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Supreme Justice

We are a week past Amazon’s promotional campaign for SUPREME JUSTICE, which means the novel’s selling well at its regular price ($11.99 for a real book, $4.99 on Kindle). We have topped 1000 reviews – incredibly enough – and remain in the upper reaches of the Kindle bestsellers list (#1 in political and legal thrillers). That means, for a week anyway, the Amazon push kept us going strong past the promo. I continue to monitor the reader reviews and it’s been something of a revelation – there are a lot of different kinds of readers out there, and some are (frankly) not that bright. We have conservatives who hate the book (and stop reading) because the hero is a liberal. We have liberals who hate the book (and stop reading) because the first chapter is in the point of view of a conservative. We have people revealing the identity of the perpetrator (sans SPOILER ALERT). We have reviewers who complain about my bad writing who are barely literate. We have prudes whose eyes begin to bleed at the sight of a profanity in print (I have been termed a “liberal libertine” – cool!). A certain minority of readers can’t figure out that the book takes place in the future and accuse me of not knowing the age of a certain ball player or when JFK was killed. But we also have mostly smart readers, who give the book a well-reasoned three or four or five stars.

Revelation may be the wrong word – how about “reminder.” This has been a reminder of a basic tenet about reading any book (but especially fiction) that is rarely mentioned much less discussed. Simply, reading a book is a collaborative process. Nobody out there is experiencing a novel of mine the same as somebody else. In a way, it’s my play being cast and staged in the theater of somebody else’s mind. Sometimes I play Broadway, and sometimes I play the Podunk Community Playhouse. Getting back to the collaborative notion, sometimes I have a brilliant collaborator, most times just a damn good one, and now and then a really lousy one.

Elmore Leonard preached leaving all the boring stuff out. He was a genius of sorts but became a lazy writer, leaving so very much to his collaborators. If you wonder (as sometimes reviewers…usually amateur ones…do) why I describe clothing and the exteriors and interiors of homes and buildings and include the weather and various other sights and sounds and smells, it’s because I know if I don’t, you will.

Ironically, the people who really like my books could do that just fine. But it’s a struggle for the Podunk Community Players, and I’m the kind of artist (there, I said it) who wants to control the audience’s experience as much as possible. Knowing that every reader will have a different experience, I want to limit the parameters of that experience so that, for a majority of readers, it’s at least a similar one.

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My son Nate’s new manga is out. I haven’t read it yet, but he will post info on where and how to get it for me here…right, Nate?

[Nate] Right!

Battle Royale: Angels' Border

First, from my editor: “The infamous BATTLE ROYALE lighthouse scene depicted in the film and novel shocked and mesmerized audiences as the girls experienced their own microcosm of joy, love, betrayal and ultimately death. BATTLE ROYALE: ANGELS’ BORDER is author Koushun Takami’s first new work since the publication of his groundbreaking and controversial novel more than a decade ago. It notably expands the BATTLE ROYALE saga in a new way with the story of Yukie Utsumi and the other girls, whose distinct personalities and tragic nature of their deaths made such an indelible impression in the original story.”

As a longtime fan of the original novel and movie (I delighted in showing the latter to my unwitting classmates in high school) (and anyone who survived that got hit with MEET THE FEEBLES), I did a double-take when I saw ANGELS’ BORDER on a “New Release” table in a Japanese bookstore. After almost fifteen years, Koushun Takami was back! I knew I had to translate it and get it to English-speaking fans. Two years later, I landed the gig for Haikasoru’s new translation of the original novel, and the time was right for ANGELS’ BORDER. When I reached out to editorial, they were already thinking the same thing.

This is my first manga translation, and Viz took a real chance by allowing a newcomer (at least in this medium) to steward such a high profile title, but they recognized that by having the same translator handle the novel and the manga, the two works would have a stylistic continuity. I’m admittedly biased, but I think their gamble paid off.

Buy your copy here:
Amazon | BAM! | RightStuf! | B & N

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After an absence of several weeks, the excellent book review site Bookgasm (with editor Rod Lott) is back. A really terrific and very smart ANTIQUES CON review just went up there.

Last week Bookgasm posted this very positive review of KING OF THE WEEDS.

A number of book review blogs are looking at SUPREME JUSTICE, as in this nice write-up at Bilbliotica.com.

Check out this SUPREME review at Author Exposure.

And finally here’s a delightful review of THE WRONG QUARRY.

M.A.C.