Posts Tagged ‘True Detective’

John Carter: Idiots Need Not Apply

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I’d like to offer a few words about the movie JOHN CARTER – basically, that it’s terrific. The reviewers (whether print or blogosphere) who have savaged this film – particularly those who have gleefully pronounced it a fiasco of HEAVEN’S GATE proportions – are…what is the word I’m looking for? Idiots.

Nate and his girl friend Abby – both in their twenties, and Barb and I, neither in our twenties, none of us idiots – loved this film. For anyone who grew up on the Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pixar director Andrew Stanton has conjured almost literally a dream come true – the characters that previously lived only in the shared imagination of author and reader are alive on screen. We encounter strange, fully delineated creatures and cultures, sometimes humorous, other times horrific, in this heartfelt piece of filmmaking. Epic and intimate, JOHN CARTER is faithful to its influential source material, and despite what you’ve heard, not at all hard to follow…again, unless you’re an idiot.

The Western section alone, with Bryan Cranston as a Custer-style general, is as entertaining an action film as I’ve seen in ages – the introduction of Carter himself, through a series of quickly cut scenes of comically escalating violence, is masterful storytelling. It’s true that between action scenes the characters occasionally talk – an outrageous notion, I realize. Some have said that Carter’s heroic powers (driven by the variant gravity of Mars) are nothing special – after all, they are basically Superman’s…created by Burroughs decades before science-fiction fans Siegel and Shuster, bless ‘em, came up with the guy in the red cape.

Overall, JOHN CARTER possesses a haunting quality that combines the desert spectacle of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA with the fantasy romance of TIME AFTER TIME, even as it reminds us that its classic source inspired such pop culture touchstones as FLASH GORDON, STAR WARS and DUNE.

Some have found the unfortunately named Taylor Kitsch a stiff as John Carter. I found him charismatic and compelling, and would let the guy play Nate Heller any day of the week. Lynn Collins, as Princess Dejah Thoris, is a striking, full-bodied woman who is well up to her swashbuckling task; and she could play Ms. Tree any day of the week. Also, I am fine with any movie that has the sense to cast both Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) and Mark Anthony (James Purefoy) from HBO’s Rome in the same epic picture.

I would imagine that most fans of Burroughs (and his Barsoom and Tarzan) will be in this film’s pocket the moment they realize that Burroughs himself is a major character. As an author, I am thrilled to see a one-hundred year-old novel becoming the source for a big budget 21st Century film. Do not miss this one. Unless, of course, you’re an idiot.

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The first review of LADY GO, DIE! has appeared, and it’s a fine one, from that terrific crime writer, Tom Piccirilli.

Thanks to the Amazon reprints and e-books, TRUE DETECTIVE is getting attention all over again.

And Ennis Willie’s second Sand two-fer, SAND’S WAR, for which I wrote an introduction, got a swell write-up from the always interesting Bookgasm.

See you next week, probably with an inside look at the writing of the currently in progress ANTIQUES CHOP.

M.A.C.

Sex And Violence

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

When I set out to write hardboiled mystery novels, very much influenced by Mickey Spillane and the Gold Medal writers, I made sure my work was strong on sex and violence. I still do. Not only are these ingredients key to the noir sensibility, they represent (as I’ve said numerous times) the big topics: life and death.

And while my historical novels have an element of education/information in them, the primary purpose is to entertain, and usually in the fashion that I established early on – meaning there will be sex and violence.

Over the years this has been commented on occasionally by reviewers, but not really that often – the subject tends to come up in a more general way, i.e., why is there so much sex and violence in noir fiction?

But in the past several years, I have been getting criticized much more often about the sexual component of the books. I don’t mean to defend myself here or to complain about those reviews – I am just observing that there seems to be something afoot in the culture, something more staid, even more prudish. I graduated high school in 1966, so the sexual revolution was all around me, reflected in popular culture from underground comix to nudity-flung films.

So what’s up lately with this anti-sex scene sentiment? And almost always coming from men. Men who don’t want to read about sex. Which strikes me as bewildering. These comments often come from readers who otherwise like the books. Here’s an excerpt from an Amazon Review of CARNAL HOURS that is otherwise a rave:

“The author seems determined to inject some short, steamy sex episodes in each book. These are gratuitous and serve no purpose other than to establish the ‘ladies man’ reputation of Heller, which could be accomplished without the silly detail. I’m not prudish but each time these short episodes struck me as stupid and juvenile.”

I might wonder why any reader of book with the word “carnal” in the title would be surprised to find sex scenes in that book. But this Amazon reviewer is joined by a handful of professional reviewers who have lately made similar comments. George Easter, for example, in the fine magazine Deadly Pleasures, made that his sole carp in a very positive review of BYE BYE, BABY.

Again, I mention this because I find it odd, not to complain about it or defend myself. I will say this: anyone who considers the sex scenes in Nathan Heller novels to be mere gratuitous porn isn’t really paying attention. I don’t believe there is a single Heller sex scene involving my guy with some casual pick-up in a bar or whatever – there are references to such happenings, but they remain off-stage. The sexual encounters are there for characterization reasons, usually to build emotion and establish a closeness, even a love, between Heller and a woman who is crucial to the tale being told, often tragic romances as in TRUE DETECTIVE, TRUE CRIME, THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND, FLYING BLIND and BYE BYE, BABY. Some of these are real women, like Amelia Earhart, Sally Rand and Evelyn MacClean Walsh, and this gets me nasty letters at times (“How dare you?”). I had death threats over my depiction of Earhart as bisexual. Here’s the thing: Nate Heller didn’t have sex with any of these women, because Nate Heller is a fictional character.

My sex scenes do make people uncomfortable at times, and I’m rather proud of that. A mystery writer pal of mine, when TRUE DETECTIVE came out, was offended (perhaps the term is “grossed out”) that Heller used condoms and he and the lady in question cleaned up after the act. The sex was too real, apparently. An editor talked me into toning down oral sex passages in ANGEL IN BLACK…between Heller and his wife (oral sex was both characterization and a major clue in that novel).

Anyway, if you guys out there want to skip the sex scenes, fine by me. My generation of guys would more likely have underlined them. If this is progress, count me out.

And isn’t it interesting that none of these reviewers have ever complained about the graphic blood-splattering violence in my work?

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We had a very nice review for the upcoming Barbara Allan, ANTIQUES DISPOSAL, in Publisher’s Weekly.

Our good friend and that good writer Ron Fortier wrote a lovely review of ANTIQUES DISPOSAL on his fun Pulp Fiction web site.

Brandywine Books posted yet another fine Heller review, this time looking at TRUE DETECTIVE.

The low price ($2) this month of FLYING BLIND on Kindle e-book caught some nice attention here.

Perfect Crime Books has announced their Nolan reprint series, with all the covers posted.

The quirky and entertaining Temple of Schlock reviewed THE CONSUMMATA, and back on my birthday took an eccentric look at QUARRY’S EX.

Nate is heading to Japan for a month on a business vacation. He will still be handling the weekly Updates, but they will likely be a little shorter in the near future. Also, I’m working on ANTIQUES CHOP, which means you may be spared these longer entries until I am finished and Nate returns.

M.A.C.

True Detective Hits #1

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
True Detective

Last week, Amazon released the trade paperback (and e-book) edition of TRUE DETECTIVE. At the same time, they chose the book as the Kindle Pick of the Day, priced it at 99-cents for 24 hours, and it was at #1 – out of 900,000-some books – by mid-afternoon. The next day the price was back up to around eight bucks, and still it stayed high on the charts. To take advantage of this new Nate Heller interest, Amazon dropped it to $1.99, where it’s still priced as I write this, and the book remains after five days in the upper reaches of the Kindle charts.

Cross your fingers that this is a new start for Nate Heller. The sale day TRUE DETECTIVE sold 13,000 e-book copies. Keep in mind that the first printing of the book back in 1983 was only 12,000. (The original edition went into a second printing, but we probably sold almost as many e-books in one day as the initial publication did in its two printings.)

If you invested in one, thanks. If you haven’t, what’s stopping you? A big week for Nate Heller and I’m very pleased.

Also a big week for Hard Case Crime. THE CONSUMMATA has received some terrific advance reviews, like this one.

And QUARRY’S EX, which is in bookstores now (I saw it myself in a Barnes & Noble) has been racking up sweet notices, like this one from Craig Clarke.

And here’s more love for QUARRY’S EX from a military web site, getting off on the hitman’s Marine Corps ties.

Here’s one more great QUARRY’S EX notice.

In addition, Charles Ardai has announced Hard Case’s acquisition of the final unpublished James M. Cain novel, THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS. A long while back, I convinced Otto Penzler to publish two of the three unpublished James M. Cain novels remaining in the great author’s files, and he did (CLOUD 9 and THE ENCHANTED ISLAND, at Mysterious Press). Then when Charles looked me up (to reprint the first two Nolan books) in the earliest stages of trying to get Hard Case launched, I told him about the THE COCKTAIL WAITRESS. He tracked it down, but couldn’t convince the Cain estate to let him publish it. I kept after him, cheerleading for one of my favorite authors, and Charles kept in the game, stayed doggedly after the prize. Finally he has pulled it off, and last week the news was all over the internet and elsewhere, too many places for me to provide here. But check out a couple of important ones, like this one at the Huffington Post.

And this one at the New York Times (Charles always gives me credit – thanks, Charles!)

And Ed Gorman was nice enough to write about my upcoming Heller collection, CHICAGO LIGHTNING, commenting on the success of TRUE DETECTIVE on Kindle.

A few days later, Ed reported on a meeting we had in the parking lot at Half-Price Books in Cedar Rapids, where I told him how much I hated the movie DRIVE. He discusses this, then in the comments section I provide an acid little review…read all the way down, though, to get a correction I made.

Finally, here’s a really cool theater-centric review of Barbara Allan’s ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF from a guy. I wrote him with my thanks and it turns out he’s a big M.A.C. fan from way back. I knew you guys are out there – I can hear you breathing!

M.A.C.

Galley Slave

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Flying Blind

I am working on the galleys of the upcoming TRUE DETECTIVE reprint. I am never crazy about reading my old stuff, because I want to rewrite it. I am doing very, very minor tweaks and correcting historical mistakes. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to proofread all of the books myself because (at least as it’s now scheduled), all twelve Hellers are coming out in their new editions in August.

As I write this, it’s July 4th morning, with my son Nate (and girl Abby and dog Toaster) wrapping up a long-weekend visit, and tonight Crusin’ has an outdoor gig overlooking the Mississippi.

In the week or two after I wrap up a big project (like the recently completed JFK Heller, TARGET LANCER), I have smaller projects that I’ve been waiting to get to. One of those is a short story about Damon Runyon, “The Devil’s Face,” that Matt Clemens and I have collaborated on for a Bob Randisi anthology. We’re also doing a write-up on the Spenser TV series for an Otto Penzler project.

Next project – which I will begin very soon – is LADY GO, DIE! That’s the late ‘40s Mike Hammer novel – finishing Mickey’s second Hammer book!

A very nice and insightful review of THE LAST QUARRY popped up recently.

And the first review (although it’s more a plot summary) of THE CONSUMMATA has appeared.

The Criterion KISS ME DEADLY DVD/Blu-ray continues to get rave reviews, often with nice mentions of my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE. There’s a fun one here.

And another here.

And the Mike Hammer novel series gets a write-up here.

Watch for news here soon of my San Diego Comic-on panels (Barb is making her first San Diego panel appearance!) and of our first west coast book tour in many years, which will happen in August. Details to follow.

M.A.C.