Posts Tagged ‘Wild Dog’

Dinner With Perry and Della

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Barbara Hale is gone.

She was 94, so it’s not exactly a tragedy, but it still hurts. Few actresses have done more with so underwritten a part as Ms. Hale did with Della Street on Perry Mason. She brought humor and intelligence to the role, and her genuine connection with both Raymond Burr and William Hopper brought a sense of reality to a fairly ridiculous if enormously entertaining concept – the defense attorney who (almost) never loses a case.

I was lucky enough to meet Barbara Hale and spend some time with her. Here’s what happened.

Back in the late ‘80s, I got the chance to collaborate on a project with Raymond Burr. Now, coincidentally, I had for some time been collecting the old Mason shows on VHS, and reading the Erle Stanley Gardner novels as crime-fiction comfort food, even collecting Mason first editions. Barb was a fan of the TV show, too, so it was a mutual enthusiasm, which is always nice for husband and wife.

Getting the chance to meet Burr, and work with him, was a dream come true. I made three trips to Denver, where the Mason TV-movies were being shot, and spent a lot of time with Raymond (he preferred that to “Ray”). He was an interesting guy, warm and generous and puckishly funny. The high-end hotel where I was staying had a residential wing where Burr lived during production of the films. I went to his suite, knocked on the door, and he answered, wearing a railroad engineer’s cap and coveralls – he had an elaborate model railroad set-up that threaded through the various rooms of the apartment. And the trains were a rollin’!

He and I got along fine. The first trip we didn’t work – we just got to know each other, and he regaled me with tales of his long and fascinating, much-travelled life. I heard about the Ballets Russes, where his career had begun, and of such world figures as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, as well as his experiences touring with the USO in Vietnam. I told him we should just skip the idea of doing a thriller and put together his autobiography. But he was adamant that he would never write that book, after spending hours convincing me it would be important and fascinating. His bisexuality, which he fairly openly referred to in our conversations – his frankness was part of my acceptance as a friend – was something he never wished to discuss in public.

On the other two Denver trips, we worked – plotting an espionage thriller in the morning and over lunch, with me working several hours in the mid-afternoon in my hotel room to put our thoughts on paper, joining him again an hour or two before supper. Every meal I had on these trips was with Raymond.

One meal was particularly memorable. Barbara Hale was arriving to shoot the next Mason TV movie, which was about to begin production. Raymond asked me if I would like to meet her and go out with them for dinner at the best steakhouse in Denver. I would have gone to the worst diner in Paducah for a chance to do that. I called Barb and said, “Guess who I’m going out to dinner with tonight? Perry and Della!” She said she hated me, but sounded sweet saying so.

Barbara Hale would have been 66 at the time – two years younger than I am now – but I remember being almost startled by how lovely and young she seemed to me, and, frankly, sexy. She came across older on television in the Mason movies. There was a genuine chemistry between us, and the fact that I could make Della Street smile so easily was just about as good as it gets.

We definitely hit it off, and she was impressed that I knew about her career right down to her appearing in small roles in various RKO movies of the ‘40s, like The Great Gildersleeve entries. In the limo on the way to the steakhouse, sitting between her and Raymond like their overgrown child, I told Barbara how much I loved her in Jolson Sings Again. Raymond, with his ever-present twinkle, said, “Oh, I agree. She was wonderful getting down on her knees in blackface.” She giggled and batted his arm and he giggled back. These two loved each other. Was I really here?

At the steakhouse – where actor Tom Bosley (filming the Father Dowling mysteries in Denver) stopped by to pay his respects – we had a long dinner during which I questioned Raymond and Barbara incessantly about the original Mason show. I had brought along the hardcover first edition of a Mason novel that had Barbara and Raymond pictured together on the back cover – I got this signed by both of them. They had a great time reminiscing about the original show and I only wish I’d secretly recorded all of it.

The TV movie they were shooting, The Case of the Musical Murder, had Debbie Reynolds as a guest star, but she wasn’t around while I was. I did get to go on set several times and watch scenes being shot, and also had several nice conversations with William R. Moses, who had just begun playing Mason’s young assistant on the show. For the first nine movies, Barbara Hale’s son, William Katt, had played Paul Drake, Jr., and Moses was essentially replacing him. I didn’t know why and was tactful enough not to ask.

But I did, at our steakhouse dinner, tell Barbara in front of Raymond what a great job I thought her son had done in that role. She beamed at that. The next day, when Raymond and I picked her up at her suite for lunch, she took me aside and gave me a hug, and whispered, “Thank you for what you said about my son.” Katt, it turned out, had left the Mason movies for a (short-lived) series of his own, and apparently Raymond was not happy about it.

Still, the affection between the two performers was obvious. Raymond told me over lunch one day that he planned to end the series of movies with one in which Mason and Della finally got married. The films began to include genuine expressions of love between the characters, even a kiss or two (the original series had been much more coy about what was an obvious long ongoing relationship between boss and secretary).

Unfortunately the project with Raymond (and I do apologize for speaking of him so familiarly) did not go anywhere. The New York editor who had put us together wanted a mystery, and even suggested a courtroom-oriented one, with the world-hopping thriller we proposed not doing the trick. The editor clearly wanted something like Perry Mason or Ironside. Raymond Burr, with all his international interests and travels, wanted something wider-ranging and in the espionage field. I later learned that two other writers were put together with Raymond Burr and in each case the actor’s strong personality guided them to espionage, and each time the New York editor bridled.

Of course Perry and Della never got married. Raymond Burr’s death in 1993 pre-empted that.

While I regret I never shared the Burr byline on a book or even series of books, I still relish the memory of the collaboration.

After all, it’s not everybody who gets to spend an evening with Perry and Della.

* * *

Arrow is giving some info about Wild Dog’s origin. Still haven’t watched an episode.

Here’s a fun look at Mike Hammer in the movies and on TV (though the writer, who quotes me occasionally, does not seem to have read Mickey Spillane on Screen by Jim Traylor and me).

Here’s an article about the Quarry books and a discussion about what order to read them in, with several options.

Finally, here’s an essay that thinks Cinemax ought to give Quarry a second season. My bank account agrees!

M.A.C.

A Brash Preview

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Brash Books, who have brought the complete version of my ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel into print for the first time, has put together a terrific trailer for You Tube.

Brash will also be doing ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE, and the two Patrick Culhane-bylined titles of mine now under my own name: BLACK HATS and USS POWDERKEG (previously RED SKY IN MORNING).

Two more movies we walked out of:

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – we barely made it fifteen minutes into this travesty. Everything that made the original work, from the one-ups-manship chemistry between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen to the theme of the West leaving the gunfighter behind is sadly M.I.A. The opening is stupidly melodramatic with the villain a wimp (the woefully miscast Peter Sarsgaard) and the action over-blown. The introduction of Denzel Washington’s character is silly (people scurry like roaches in fear of him) and Chris Pratt’s character is so poorly drawn, he’s actually given three introductory scenes (none of which work). The art direction, in its would-be Italian Western-ness, is as precious as a Hummel. We went home and watched the original.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES is the kind of unfunny movie that makes you question your previously high opinion of the topline cast members. Zach Galifianakis has nothing to do in the role of a normal suburban spouse/father, and John Hamm looks like Don Draper, half-in-the-bag, wandering onto the wrong set. It’s the wheeze about normal folks wondering what their sophisticated new neighbors are doing in this dull neighborhood (of course that neighborhood exists only in the imagination of Hollywood, as we have a combination of hick types living in very expensive houses supported by jobs they could never hold). Isla Fisher, for example, who channels Debbie Reynolds in her 1960s mode, is some kind of interior designer currently working on a urinal for her “funny” neighbor. How does this shit get made?

* * *

Here’s an okay but patronizing QUARRY IN THE BLACK review. It’s tough to take criticism from somebody who calls The Broker “The Booker.”

For my taste, more on target, here is this great write-up from Ron Fortier, first-rate scribe his own self.

Here’s another fine review of QUARRY IN THE BLACK, although somehow the reviewer mistakes St. Louis for New York City. A Brit, maybe?

The QUARRY TV show gets more love.

And Wild Dog is getting back into the comic books (I wasn’t invited).

More Wild Dog here.

Finally, here’s info on the excellent QUARRY IN THE BLACK audio read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

M.A.C.

Wild Dog on CW & Quarry in the Black

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

I haven’t said much about the inclusion on CW’s ARROW TV series of my character Wild Dog (co-created with my longtime pal and collaborator, Terry Beatty, currently tearing it up drawing the Sunday PHANTOM and the weekly REX MORGAN for King Features). The reason is that we are being paid little or nothing, and as yet no one from DC or Warner Bros has even approached us, telling us about this great (if non-remunerative) honor. I do understand that Terry and I are in contention this year for the “Siegel and Shuster Screwed-in-The-Ass Award.”

Still, it’s fun to see screen captures of Terry’s great costume design on an actual human being. Check these out.

Wild Dog on The Arrow

Wild Dog on The Arrow

You can catch glimpses of Wild Dog on ARROW in this trailer, courtesy of AV Club.

The free looks at the first three episodes of QUARRY on You Tube have been taken down. I will pass the baton to my son Nate, who has information on where you can watch the show elsewhere.

Nate here. This all applies to the US; I’m not sure about how it works in other countries. If you have cable, the best option is probably adding Cinemax to your current package. The only way I’ve found to watch QUARRY without a cable subscription is through PlayStation Vue, which is Sony’s streaming platform, accessible through a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Amazon Fire, Roku, as well as iPhone and Android devices. You can subscribe to Cinemax, as a standalone channel without any other package, for $15/month. There is a seven day trial if you want to try it out. For details, click here.

Thank you, son. As for QUARRY in the world of novels, QUARRY IN THE BLACK comes out…today! Oct. 4! In celebration, take a look at this fantastic review from Bookgasm, excerpted at length below:

QUARRY IN THE BLACK
reviewed by Alan Cranis

Max Allan Collins continues to chronicle the career of Quarry, the assassin-for-hire star of Collins’s long-running series (and recently a TV series on Cinemax). The latest title, Hard Case Crime’s QUARRY IN THE BLACK, focuses on the early stage of Quarry’s hit man vocation in the early 1970s. But thanks to the overriding theme Collins make it as applicable as this morning’s headlines.

The year is 1972, and Quarry gets a visit from his boss, known only as The Broker, at his A-frame house on Paradise Lake. Quarry has only been working for The Broker for two years, so the Broker wants Quarry to know that he is free to turn down this latest assignment, due to its unusual and highly political nature.

(M.A.C.: I am omitting here a lengthy plot synopsis that wanders close into spoiler territory.)

Collins again demonstrates his prodigious research skills by effectively – but unobtrusively – establishing the time frame of the story. Popular TV and movie titles of the period, along with references to fashion styles and current events help solidify the credibility of the period.

Yet in a masterstroke of irony, the theme of racial violence that permeates the plot, along with the inclusion of Ferguson – the location of a recent incident of a potential racially motivated shooting by police – transcends the period of the story and lends the novel an immediate relevance.

This is highly unexpected for a Quarry story, but fortunately – and, again, owing to Collins’s skills as a storyteller – never detracts from the suspense that keeps us moving from chapter to chapter. If anything it adds richness to the reading experience while underscoring the enduring nature of the theme.

Along the way Collins includes a cast of completely believable characters who accompany Quarry in his mission, several scenes of intense violence and action, and unexpected plot twists that few will see coming.

In his author’s note following the conclusion, Collins observes, “An odd and oddly satisfying aspect of writing new Quarry novels for Hard Case Crime has been continuing a series that began as contemporary but is now a period piece.” While not considering these historical novels, with their ’70s and ’80s settings, Collins sees them more as a retelling of his autobiography in installments. Perhaps this is reason for the unexpected but highly enriching relevance of the theme.

Reasons aside, QUARRY IN THE BLACK is highly recommended to both devoted followers of the series and those just discovering it. It is a noteworthy addition to the expanding series, and another triumph for one of crime fiction’s most prolific and creative practitioners.

(M.A.C. again: You can read the entire review here, plot synopsis and all.)

Another great review of QUARRY IN THE BLACK from that top-notch mystery and western writer, Bill Crider, can be read here.

Here’s an interview with TV’s Quarry himself, Logan Marshall-Green.

And, finally, here’s an interview with TV’s Buddy on QUARRY (“Boyd” in the novels).

M.A.C.

I’m on the Tee-Vee!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Actor Rick Gonzalez will play Wild Dog on ARROW

Plenty of people have been congratulating me on the addition of the character WILD DOG, the costumed hero Terry Beatty and I created in 1987, to the CW TV series ARROW. When I was preparing to put this update together, I decided to see how big a splash this news had made on the Internet. I stopped counting at 31 links to that news and to summaries of the WILD DOG comics from DC.

So I thought you might like an inside look at how this works for a creator of a comic book character. For example, you may be wondering how exactly DC informed Terry and me of this exciting news. The answer: they didn’t. You may be wondering how rich Terry and I will get from this wonderful windfall. The answer: we won’t.

Other comics creators in a similar situation have told us we can expect $100 for our trouble. I don’t know if that’s a C-note for each WILD DOG episode, or for his overall use. I also don’t know if Terry and I have to split that C-note.

Maybe we should haul out a Ouija board and see what Siegel and Shuster think.

* * *

Tyler Hoechlin will play Superman on SUPERGIRL

In addition to the WILD DOG news, I’ve been popping up all over the Net due to the casting of Tyler Hoechlin as SUPERMAN on the CW series SUPERGIRL. (I am Trump huuuuuuge on the CW!). Tyler, as many readers of these updates surely know, played Michael Jr. in ROAD TO PERDITION. Many of the write-ups about Tyler’s good news point out that he’s played a comic-book hero before, which is how I managed to worm into a lot of the stories.

I remember vividly meeting Tyler on the set of ROAD. He was a smiling, friendly young man, and he got a kick out of it when I told him, “Don’t mention this to Tom Hanks, but you are the hero of this movie.” He was always a sunny, slightly shy presence at the various premieres of the film, and I am happy for his ever-expanding career.

In slightly related news, I received advance copies of the novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION, the complete book at last, something like 30,000 words longer than the previous paperback, with all of my dialogue and action restored. Brash Books has done a lovely job on it. Look for it in November (I’ll be signing copies at this year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans).

Here’s a link to one of the many “Tyler Hoechlin as Superman stories” that hit the Net this past week.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published this terrific BETTER DEAD review.

By the way, Amazon (and other reviews) of BETTER DEAD, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS and ANTIQUES FATE would be much appreciated it. There’s an amusing BETTER DEAD review at Amazon that accuses Nate Heller and me of being left-wing loons – I’ve gotten a lot of that for SUPREME JUSTICE and FATE OF THE UNION, but this is a Heller first.

Finally, this nice WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER review also popped up, appearing a couple of places.

M.A.C.