Posts Tagged ‘True Detective’

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.

* * *

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.

February Kindle Sale: TRUE DETECIVE and BOMBSHELL $2.99 Each!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Nate here again with a quick word on a sale before letting Al take over with his regularly scheduled update (below). All February long, Amazon is featuring Nathan Heller novel True Detective and Barbara Allan collaboration Bombshell for $2.99 each on the Kindle storefront. If you already got ’em, skip on down. Otherwise, mandatory reading:

True Detective is the first Nathan Heller and a great, natural entry point into the series for new readers (although really, you can start with any of the Hellers and skip around). The 1984 Shamus Award Winner for Best P.I. Hardcover, True Detective earned some very impressive raves:

“There’s a special energy that powers True Detective, the raw brawling energy of 1933 Chicago. Collins’ Chicago is perfectly convincing, and so is his detective, Nate Heller. A fine piece of craftsmanship and a deeply satisfying read.” —Laurence Block

“I knew Chicago during Prohibition was supposed to be both dangerous and exciting, and now I know why. . . . A terrific read.” —Donald E. Westlake

“One of the best stories I have ever read.” —Mickey Spillane

True Detective succeeds on several levels, where other novels have failed on a single one. It is not only a fine private eye novel, but a damned good mystery, and interesting historical novel, and a well-crafted suspense novel.” —Robert Randisi

And Bombshell is a Barbara and Max Allan Collins collab freshly back in print under their joint pseudonym, Barbara Allan. I highly recommend this to Heller fans who want more Marilyn after reading Bye Bye, Baby, or to Trash ‘n’ Treasures fans looking for more Barbara Allan while they wait for Antiques Chop to hit the shelves. And if you’re not really either of those? Well, how’s this sound for a plot:

In an attempt to soothe growing Cold War tensions between America and Russia, Premier Nikita Khrushchev visits the US to see all that his “enemy” has to offer. Top of his to-do list? A trip to Disneyland and an introduction to sexual icon Marilyn Monroe.

Thanks to the impossible security requirements, Disneyland is out of the question. Marilyn, on the other hand, jumps at the chance to put on a show for the Russian official. During her appearance, she overhears the details of an assassination plot designed to spark an atomic holocaust and devastate both superpowers. When the Secret Service refuses to believe her, Marilyn risks everything to whisk Khrushchev away to safety—in the happiest place on earth.

With US agents and the KGB hot on their trail, Marilyn and Khrushchev enjoy the thrills of the amusement park while fighting to stay one step ahead of the assassins and prevent the horrors of an unprecedented war that would annihilate millions.

“[Barbara Allan has] taken an event based in history—Khruschev’s U.S. visit—and shaped it with wonderful characterizations (Nikki and Marilyn have never been more interesting) to re-create an era within the context of a delightful comic adventure (a cold-war variation on Roman Holiday).” —Booklist

“Fanciful conjecture indeed, but told with warmth, attention to historical detail, and serious tone.” —Library Journal

Don’t forget that these books are also available in handsome physical editions at all major online retailers as well as your local bookseller through indiebound.org. Stay tuned below for your regularly scheduled update.

True Detective on Amazon

Bombshell on Amazon

Short and Sweet

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Very brief update today. Barb and I are still in St. Louis (on Monday) and will be heading back to Muscatine today. Nate and Abby’s wedding (and the entire wedding weekend) went beautifully and was hugely fun. We will have pics next week. Other than a couple of links I want to share, I’m giving Nate the week off from Update type duties.

Here’s a fun “Skin” review. If you’re a Spillane fan, don’t miss this short story.

And here’s a mostly good TRUE DETECTIVE review. Check out the comments, because the blogger and I have a discussion about the pros and cons of the second chapter (the historical background of Heller and his family).

M.A.C.

Antiques Chop Talk

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Right now I am in the home stretch of my draft of ANTIQUES CHOP, the seventh “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery that Barb and I have collaborated upon. I should finish this week (and I better, because April 1st is the deadline) (no fooling). Nate suggested that, while I’m in the midst of it, I provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process.

Barb and I begin with a succession of business lunches where we first come up with the basic concept, and usually tie it to a title. The pattern of the titles are to have the word ANTIQUES followed by a punning word, and we have a list of these (continually growing). This time the title ANTIQUES CHOP sparked the premise (sometimes it’s the other way around), leading to the mystery revolving around an ax murder, an unusually gruesome crime for a supposed “cozy.”

We often look at “antique” crimes, which is to say crimes that occurred decades ago but are having latter-day ramifications. So I suggested we make an unsolved Lizzie Border-esque ax murder the centerpiece of the story, and wrote a faux entry about the crime for a non-existent true-crime encyclopedia. From there Barb and I began the back-and-forth process of coming up with a fairly detailed plot. We have to turn in a sample chapter and brief synopsis to our editor at Kensington (and get approval), so we have to have a firm idea of where we’re going before Barb gets started on her draft.

Barb works on that draft for probably six months, although that six months may stretch out to an entire year, because she isn’t always working on it – summers tend to be busy and that keeps her away from the work. Last year, for example, we went on a west coast book tour, plus there’s comic con and other distractions.

As Barb writes, I stay out of her way unless she has a problem or a concern about what she’s up to. Sometimes we discuss a plot point, and oftentimes we discuss it if she feels she has a need to deviate from the plot as originally conceived. Generally, though, I give her all the space she needs.

When Barb delivers her draft, it’s usually about 200 to 225 pages of doubled-spaced copy. My job is to expand and flesh out her draft, providing more dialogue and even more humor and generally apply what I laughingly think of as a more professional gloss. The end result will be 300 to 330 pages. I do my pass in a month or less, working hard and intensely, with Barb editing and suggesting revisions as I go (she reads it, and provides her notes, a chapter at a time). We do a lot of this over business lunches – just yesterday, on what was otherwise a day off, we discussed two plot points that needed shoring up in the chapter I just finished and the one that I will be doing today.

The final step is for me to spend a day or two re-reading the manuscript and marking up a hard copy with revisions, with Barb entering them in the chapter files. Then, common to all writers, we ship it (by e-mail these days) and hold our collective breath, hoping for a delighted response from the editor. On this series, we’ve been lucky to get that response pretty much every time. Occasionally there are rewrites, as on ANTIQUES MAUL where the editor felt the murder occurred too late in the mystery, and we reshaped the book so that it happened virtually on page one and then flashed back.

I said “final step” above, but of course there is much more to do – there will be a copy-edited manuscript to check, and at least one round of galley proofs. We tend to trade off on these assignments, with Barb doing the copy-edited manuscript and me reading the galley proofs. We divide the work that way because (a) I hate the copy-editing stage, since the Moriarty of my career is the Intrusive Copy Editor Who Stalks Me Under Various Names and Guises, and (b) Barb is thoroughly sick of the book by the galley proof stage and is content to leave that step to me.

Do we squabble? Not much. Hardly at all. I may get testy if, as I’m moving forward in my draft, Barb indicates (and she’s always right) that I need to go back and make a few fixes in a chapter that I had considered finished. This occurs, on the rare occasion that it does occur, early in the morning before I have had a chance to become fully human. Let’s just say, first thing in the morning, I’m more Quarry than Mallory.

So there you go. That’s how this particular flavor of sausage is made.

* * *

It’s gratifying to note that I received such a warm reaction to my defense of the film JOHN CARTER – which, let’s face it, was fairly shrill, since the premise of my piece was that anyone who didn’t like the movie was an idiot. Not only did my piece receive more comments than usual, a number of blogs provided links and made favorable comments on my take on this beleaguered film.

I am pleased to say that the early reviews on LADY GO, DIE! are coming in and, so far, are all favorable. The book received a very nice write-up in the often tough Publisher’s Weekly.

And there was a very gratifying (and I think perceptive) review from one of my favorite contemporary crime writers, Bill Crider, at his blog (perhaps the best mystery fiction blog out there).

Similarly, Ron Fortier – another strong contemporary scribe – has written a LADY, GO DIE! review that appears at several blogs, including his own Pulp Fiction Reviews.

The Brandywine site continues to work through the Nate Heller backlist, and this time FLYING BLIND is discussed.

QUARRY’S EX has picked up several, slightly belated (favorable) reviews, like this one at Books Are For Squares and this one at Pulp 300.

Here’s a thoughtful new look at the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION.

And here’s a guy who says he’s addicted to my books. I have to wonder if he discovered Nate Heller through the Amazon reprint series, who essentially gave TRUE DETECTIVE away (for under two bucks) for a while there. You know, the drug dealers really had something with their “first one’s free” approach.

M.A.C.