Processing Spillane and Heller

November 23rd, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

I should probably dispense with asking you to buy and then Amazon-review both Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (co-written by the great Dave Thomas). I won’t even remind you what wonderful Christmas gifts they would make.

I just have too much class for that.

Instead, I’ll talk about process this week. Who doesn’t love process? A few weeks ago I touched on the challenges and difficulties of Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, co-written with James L. Traylor. We are waiting with anticipation for the editorial notes to come back, which will require tweaking but I hope nothing major, as I am very proud of my draft, and Jim likes it, too.

What surprised me was reading all the material about Mickey I’d gathered going back to my junior high days – I literally used the scrapbook I kept, because it had various articles and reviews pasted in among my carbons of indignant letters to anti-Spillane reviewers and my cartoony portraits of Mickey. What I hadn’t anticipated was the picture all of that material would paint when, for the first time, I read it all at once…not just in dribs and drabs as articles and such first appeared.

I feel like I put together pieces of the Spillane puzzle that had eluded me, despite my close personal relationship with the man for the last 25 years of his life. Many assumptions I’d made – and had cockily presented as fact in various pieces and introductions about Mickey and his work over the recent years – proved short-sighted…not wrong exactly, but lacking nuance.

For example, I no longer think his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses had anything much to do with the near decade-long respite he took from novel writing. I do think his style shifted, and the violence and sex were both more restrained; but not absent. Re-reading The Deep recently, I saw how he used the threat of impending violence to create a story about a tough hero who really only kills once, and then in self-defense. In The Girl Hunters, Hammer kills nary a soul, though he does trick the “evil one” (as Traylor puts it) into self-destruction.

This probably had as much to do with his attempt to develop as a writer and to respond through his work to the incredibly unfair and even vicious attacks upon him throughout the 1950s. Other than perhaps Elvis Presley, no figure in popular culture had ever seen so much success and, simultaneously, so much condemnation. But the bio will, for the first time, reveal the major reason he stopped writing novels at his popular peak.

Writing about Eliot Ness with Brad Schwartz was a similar experience for me. So often Ness had been presented as a glory hound when the research showed he was primarily responding to pressure from above to get positive press. Additionally, things routinely dismissed by the Ness naysayers – including events reported in his autobiographical The Untouchables (mostly ghosted by sportswriter Oscar Fraley) – turned out to have really happened. It shouldn’t have been surprising to learn that Eliot Ness was actually Eliot Ness, but it was.

The Big Bundle Cover, Without text
The Big Bundle (Cover Sneak Peak)

And now, for the first time in several years, I am digging into the research for the upcoming Nathan Heller novel, The Big Bundle (for Hard Case Crime). The case I’m dealing with – the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping of 1953 – is not as famous as most of those I’ve examined; it was at the time, but today it seems mostly forgotten. What gives it the needed household-name-crime aspect that a Heller novel requires is a sinister connection to Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. It is, in fact, the first of two novels about Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy, although this first one focuses primarily on the Greenlease case.

The Heller process is an odd one. First I have to select the true crime that seems appropriate for Nate’s attention (and mine, and yours). Second, I have to familiarize myself enough with the crime to write a proposal to be submitted to an editor/publisher, who must first sign on before I start serious work. Once we’re at that stage, I have to dig into the research, where the proposal was just a superficial look at the case. The approach has always been to look at the subject as if I were preparing to write the definitive non-fiction treatment of the case and then write a private eye novel instead.

A real problem with the proposal stage is that I am only guessing what the book will be about. The in-depth research (you will not be surprised, many of you, that I am in touch with George Hagenauer right now) is what reveals the book to me. And it always surprises me.

Here’s a small example. In True Detective, in what is essentially the origin of Nate Heller, Heller sells out to the Chicago Outfit to get promoted from uniform to plainclothes – to become a detective. He fingers the fall guy (who is playing along) to get somebody blamed and put away for the publicity-attracting murder of reporter Jake Lingle. The willing patsy, very minor in all of this but a seminal part of Heller’s story, is a real-life low-level mob guy named Leo Vincent Brothers.

So I’m researching The Big Bundle yesterday. For reasons I won’t go into right now, a taxi cab company run by a St. Louis racketeer named Joe Costello is instrumental in the story. I went in familiar with Costello in, again, only a superficial way – his name came up in the preliminary research and got him on my radar. So now, reading a book called A Grave For Bobby by James Deakin, I learn that Joe Costello’s partner in the taxi cab company…wait for it…was Leo Vincent Brothers.

This kind of thing always sits me on my ass. This tiny fact isn’t key to the story – it’s just an odd resonance, and a reminder that Heller’s life is just one long story, not really a succession of novels. Another name turned up yesterday, a Chicago thug with ties to the JFK assassination.

It would help if I had a steel-trap mind. But I don’t. I didn’t in my thirties and I really, really don’t in my seventies. So such discoveries send me scrambling back into the research.

In the meantime, I am looking for a way to insert Nate Heller into this narrative in a meaningful, credible way.

Wish me luck.

* * *

Two brief Blu-ray recommendations.

Jack Irish Season 3, Blu-ray

Jack Irish Season 3 is out from Acorn. It’s the final season of this series (there are actually five seasons, but the first two were movie-length episodes) and it’s a four-hour movie, essentially – one story, wrapping up the series in a smart, thoughtful way. I will go so far as to say it’s one of the best wrap-ups of a series, certainly one of the most satisfying, I’ve ever seen.

Guy Pearce plays a solid modern version of a private eye in this Australian neo-noir with all the surviving regulars back. Three years have passed since the preceding series and the passage of time and the need to learn, grow and move on is the central theme.

Great series.

Speaking of great, Eddie Muller has delivered one of the best Blu-rays of the year in the Flicker Alley presentation of The Beast Must Die (La Bestia Debe Morir), a 1952 Argentinian noir based on the Nicholas Blake novel, The Beast Must Die. Blake was really Cecil Day-Lewis, a UK poet laureate who is also the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

While it’s a bit pricey, the blu-ray is essential for noir enthusiasts, and if you spring for it, be sure to watch Muller’s introduction, which provides context and more, including how-to-watch Spanish-language melodrama of this period, i.e., the acting tends not to be subtle.

You can get it directly from Flicker Alley here.

The Beast Must Die Blu-Ray
The Beast Must Die Theatrical Poster
* * *

Check out this lovely review of Fancy Anders Goes to War.

Here’s a Ms. Tree: The Cold Dish preview with info.

Also here.

I did a Mike Hammer interview for what, uh, appears to be an interesting magazine….

M.A.C.

Ms. Tree #3, Some Shameless Begging & Two Great Movies

November 16th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins
Ms. Tree: The Cold Dish cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
E-Book:

The third Ms. Tree collection is out today from Titan. It goes back to the beginning, including Ms. Tree’s first black-and-white origin tale from Eclipse Monthly, and continues on with the full color Eclipse issues that follow. Read about it here.

The latest book giveaway is now over and ten copies each of Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton are in the mail to the winners. Thanks to everyone who participated in this last MAC giveaway of 2021.

For those of you who are considering picking up copies of either Fancy or Jimmy – and I hope you will try them both – here’s a gentle reminder: you won’t find them in a brick-and-mortar store. These are, for now at least, exclusively available on Amazon.

Reasonably priced, I should add: Fancy is $2.99 on Kindle and $6.99 as a physical book; Jimmy is $3.99 on Kindle and a mere $8.99 as a physical book. Both are nice-looking books, too, with lovely Fay Dalton covers. Right now Fancy is sitting at Amazon at 7 reviews (and 24 ratings) with a 4.4 average. Jimmy has a mere three ratings and two reviews, although the rating is five stars.

I’m a little flummoxed by the lack-luster number of ratings for Jimmy, particularly after Dave Thomas and I have done so many podcasts and online interviews in support of it. A possible problem is that the interviewers (understandably) use the opportunity to talk to Dave about SCTV.

Anyway, I can use your help on both of these, as NeoText is a new and unconventional company, with its emphasis on e-books and developing properties that have movie and TV potential. So if you’ve read and liked either or both of these novels, please at least stop by Amazon and provide a rating, and better yet a review, however brief. If you like my work, NeoText provides a venue that seems particularly nurturing.

Wolfpack is similarly a very positive venue for me. They have some fun things coming where the John Sand series by Matt Clemens and me is concerned, and are going to be a big part of the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer with a new (non-Hammer) novel by me from a Spillane screenplay and a collection of Mickey’s three middle-grade (kid) novels, including one previously unpublished. And there may be a collection of his crime novellas as well.

Yes, I know I harp on it. But buying these NeoText and Wolfpack books, and rating/reviewing them, will greatly impact how much – and whether – I can continue to bring you my brand of crime/mystery entertainment, which many of you are nice enough to say you enjoy.

* * *

Something else I frequently harp on (this will not be a harangue, I promise) are reviewers and readers who complain about my detailed descriptions of clothing and settings – and descriptive passages in general. The peculiar thing about such complaints is that I am often complimented on my fiction being lean and fast-paced, which seems at odds with this other view.

Here’s the thing: I see myself as creating films on paper. I don’t mean, necessarily, that I’m trying to create something that can become a movie, although that’s fine with me – I can always use the money. I simply consider what I do to mirror filmmaking – and this view has become more pronounced since my time working as an indie filmmaker.

The obvious parallel might seem to be “director,” and that holds up in the sense that a film director (good ones, anyway) pull everything together, both before, during and after production. As Stephen King said (I paraphrase), “Movies are the least efficient way to tell a story known to man. Also the coolest.”

I don’t see myself as the director of a novel, however, but as the everything of a novel – wardrobe, lighting, location, casting, acting, and oh yes script. This relates to my obsession with controlling the narrative and to make the reader not an equal collaborator in the process. Some fiction writers desire a major level of collaboration from readers. That’s fine – perfectly okay. But my goal is to give readers – much as filmgoers at a movie – a shared experience. For them to “see” the same novel that I did.

Obviously that’s impossible – readers are by definition collaborators. They have to be. But, as I’ve said, sometimes my play (moving from film to theater in my tortured analogy) is performed on Broadway and sometimes at the Three Mile Island Community Playhouse.

This is, improbably, leading up to a brief discussion of two of my favorite movies – two terrific movies that I watched over the weekend because I had purchased new 4K Blu-rays of them: The Sting (1973) and (my favorite film) Vertigo (1958).

What The Sting and Vertigo have in common is Edith Head, costume designer. The costumes in both films are carefully designed to reflect the characters who wear them – no, not just “carefully,” but “brilliantly.” The Sting makes that point overtly as the complicated ruse the con men stage is essentially a play they mount, right down to costumes and characterizations (and props and sets). The production designer on The Sting used only a few real locations (in Chicago and Los Angeles) and instead mostly utilized the Universal backlot where the look could be controlled. The music, wrong by several decades but absolutely perfect, was used as mood-setting connective tissue under mostly silent scenes, often with establishing shots – much as descriptive opening paragraphs in novels function.

In Vertigo’s pre-production, Kim Novak – about to deliver a great performance that idiot critics in the ‘50s couldn’t discern – was upset about having to wear gray, pale make-up and such an near-platinum hair color. She didn’t understand that her director – Alfred Hitchcock – wanted to make a ghost out of her, a dreamy presence emerging from San Francisco fog. Edith Head went to Hitch with a list of Kim’s preferred colors, and Hitch said, “She may wear any color she likes as long as it’s gray.”

Kim Novak in Vertigo

The director also saw to it that the color green – the other color associated with Novak’s Madeline persona – be used throughout the film, often subtly. At times this is in Novak’s wardrobe, and even the color of her car. But also in an inquest’s dreary setting, where a few touches of green intrude significantly. In the scenes in Midge’s studio, where Scotty goes for comfort and friendly mothering, the many items representing the inhabitant’s artistic interests include a ghostly green mask of a beautiful woman, facing away from the room. It’s just a touch. You can watch the film five times and not notice it. But it’s there.

Now, I don’t have music to underscore things like Hitchcock does – I can mention songs playing in the background of a scene and I suppose that’s as close as I can come; lucky Hitch had Bernard Herrmann to create the single greatest film score of all time. And Hitchcock could choose Saul Bass for the opening credit sequence, whereas only rarely have I had a say in my book covers. Even a powerful director like Hitch couldn’t control exactly what Bass and Herrmann came up with, of course. But Hitchcock knew who he was choosing – knew what he was after.

Hitchcock was controlling. I am no Hitchcock, but I am just as controlling. I believe that wardrobe reveals character; so does where that character lives. Colors invoked are important. So is weather, no matter what Elmore Leonard thought. The things I choose to describe about setting are not random. They intend to create mood, among a dozen other things.

I could talk about Vertigo for hours and some day I may write about it in depth, much as I have Kiss Me Deadly, which is my second favorite film. (Others, as you may recall, include Chinatown, Gun Crazy and Phantom of the Paradise.)

This is not to say that in watching a movie we all have the same, exact experience. But we are exposed to the same data, and the way that data is presented limits the ways it can be interpreted.

* * *

Sad but interesting story about Cinemax with many Quarry references….

Dave Thomas and I talk about The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton here.

M.A.C.

Spillane, Soho & Jimmy Leighton

November 9th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

The last book giveaway of the year – our biggest – is still underway – we have three copies left. If you want either The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me, and Fancy Anders Goes to War with Fay Dalton illustrating my novella, you still have a shot.

As usual, write me at macphilms@hotmail.com and provide your snail-mail address (even if you’ve won before) and your preference between the two books (if you don’t want a specific title, say so please). You pledge to write a review for Amazon – where both books are exclusively available – unless you hate what you read and don’t want to.

Amazon reviews and ratings are always important, but with these NeoText titles – unavailable in brick-and-mortar bookstores, and issued too late for the trade reviewers – they are crucial. If you like one or both of these books, please leave a review (and it can be short, a line or two). You can even rate them without posting reviews.

There are a bunch of links below to interviews Dave Thomas and I did together, but first you may wish to check out these links to sample chapters from The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

And at Crime Reads.

* * *

If you’ve been following these updates of late, you know that I have been deferring somewhat to the serialized chapters of my literary memoir in progress, A Life in Crime at the NeoText site. The first ten chapters have appeared and now the memoir goes into sleep mode. I will post more of these when new books come out that can use some background (and a push).

The plan was two-fold – the chapters allowed me to promote both Jimmy and Fancy, and – as I wrote the chapters well in advance – provide me time to work on the Spillane biography. I have completed that, or will very soon – my co-author Jim Traylor is going over the manuscript now.

It’s a big book and I hope will be perceived as a major one – it’s over 100,000 words, the complete life of Frank Morrison “Mickey” Spillane with all of his novels discussed, as well as the film and TV adaptations. The bio itself is 85,000 words, the remaining 15,000 (“The Spillane Files”) consisting of bibliographic material and odds and ends…sort of deleted scenes, like little essays about Spillane and Ayn Rand, the gangster named Mickey Spillane, and the possibility Mickey wrote as “Frank Morris” for the pulps.

With luck, the book will be out from Mysterious Press in about a year as part of the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer celebration.

This one really is years in the making. Just short of a decade and a half ago, Jim Traylor spent weeks in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, digging through Spillane’s letters and other papers. Over the intervening years he interviewed numerous Spillane friends and family – obviously, Mickey’s contemporaries were getting up there and Jim spoke with any number of them who are now gone. He did several passes on the manuscript over the years. We interrupted the work on the bigger book to do Mickey Spillane On Screen for McFarland in 2012. We’ve worked hard not to repeat ourselves, having done One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer decades ago.

While a lot of critical ground is covered in the book, I took the approach of making a linear story out of Mickey’s life, which was a colorful one to say the least. I gathered material I had collected on Spillane – magazines, newspaper articles, books – since I was in junior high, and my office floor looked like I was expecting the film crew from Hoarders to arrive any minute.

I considered suggesting the title The Mystery of Mickey Spillane as I began to realize that all of his disparate material provided puzzle pieces that could be assembled into the picture of a man. I knew the man in his later years, but I never met the young or even middle-aged Spillane. Many revelations emerged in the intense three-month process of writing the final draft.

Immodestly I will say I think Jim and I have written a major book on the most interesting figure in mystery fiction. In a year or so, you’ll be able to see if you agree.

* * *

Barb and I, regular filmmgoers (usually once-a-week) for many, many years, have gone out to the movies only rarely since Covid hit. Even though we are now triple-vaxxed, we are still careful – for one thing, our six year-old grandson Sam has asthma and Barb has been sitting with him and his three year-old sister in the afternoons while son Nate and their mother Abby work from home.

Barb is, of course, an amazing human being. She writes in the morning and then afternoons plays with those kids Monday through Thursday at my son and his wife’s house half-a-block up the street, and then we entertain the two kids Friday afternoons here. Sam and I generally watch a 3-D movie together.

Things are changing as Sam’s sister Lucy is now in Day Care, and Sam is going to get his Covid shot this afternoon. In a matter of weeks, he’ll be fully vaccinated and we can return to something more like normal. Or anyway the new normal.

Barb and I have only attended a handful of movies in a theater over these last vaccinated months – I believe Wrath of Man, Black Widow, No Time to Die and now Last Night in Soho are the only cinematic excursions we’ve made. We tend to go at off-times – yesterday, for example, we went to a 5:10 pm show. Only three other people were in the theater.

One Night in SoHo poster

That didn’t surprise me, really, because few people seem to be attending Last Night in Soho, and let me tell you (as Bob Hope used to say) it’s their loss.

I might have waited until this one was streaming if my Ms. Tree co-creator Terry Beatty hadn’t written me to say Last Night in Soho was “the best Brian DePalma movie Brian DePalma never made.” Now, Terry and I were at one time stone DePalma freaks, based upon Sisters, Obsession, Blow Out and especially Phantom of the Paradise. Most early and mid-period DePalma rated high with the Collins/Beatty team.

I lagged, and I think Terry did too (but I can’t speak for him), when the likes of Snake Eyes and Mission to Mars came along. But Terry’s description of Last Night in Soho resonated – I knew I had to see it in a theater.

Also, the writer/director Edgar Wright is sizing up as a major filmmaker. We’re talking Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Baby Driver. And I think Last Night in Soho may be his best work yet, though it’s difficult to discuss without spoiling it, because it takes a number of surprising and yet satisfying turns, delighting here, disturbing there.

Here’s a little bit of plot for you. A shy young woman – beautifully played by Thomasin McKenzie – from the sticks gets accepted into a fashion school in London; she has an affinity for tuneful 1960s music – the soundtrack swims in the stuff – and when the realities of modern Soho disappoint, she finds herself dreaming or fantasizing or possibly even time traveling to the area in the mid-sixties, where she begins to identify with what seems to be a fantasy projection of herself played by the dizzyingly charismatic Anna Taylor-Joy of Queen’s Gambit fame. There are strong hints that this Alice through the looking glass has had mental problems in the past, and we know that her mother was a sensitive, troubled soul who took her own life.

I loved No Time to Die, but it pales next to the thrill of seeing the young woman at the heart of this tale walk into a Soho landscape where a gigantic looming marquee for Thunderball glows in the night like a neon memory. That moment alone is worth seeing Last Night in Soho on a big screen. In a theater.

I’m not sure this movie is for everyone. It helps to have a feel for ‘60s music (anyone who considers what’s been happening for the past twenty years in music, at least in mainstream popular music, may be bewildered by things like an actual melody attached to accessible poetic lyrics). And you have to be willing to take the ride, a ride that doesn’t always go where you expect it to (what an effing pleasure)!

A lot of movies try to create the feeling of a dream, and this one accomplishes that, including the shifts in time and place and the feeling of being at the center of a dream and watching it at the same time. And yet you sense there’s a grounded story underneath all the questions being raised and the moods being bumped up against each other. But you have to be patient.

Not a movie for stupid people. That’s why you’ll like it.

* * *

Dave Thomas and I have been getting some nice attention for The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

Here Dave and I are on Sci-Fi Talk.

Here’s a wide-ranging, long Jimmy-centric interview with me at Word Balloons.

Here’s Dave on a Canadian news program, starting with his Bob Hope impression and winding up with Jimmy Leighton!

Finally, here’s a great print interview with Dave that really lets you know what Jimmy Leighton is about and talks about how the collaboration came to be.

M.A.C.

Hey Kids – The Last and Biggest Book Giveaway of 2021!

November 2nd, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

This is the last book giveaway of the year – ten copies of Fancy Anders Goes to War and ten copies of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton. Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com with your order of preference. You pledge to write a review at Amazon for these – I specify Amazon because both books are exclusive with Amazon on Kindle and (for now at least) as physical media…you know, books.

If you hate the book, you are released from your pledge to review it, though of course you may anyway. This is a USA only book giveaway. Be sure (IMPORTANT) to include your snail-mail address, even if you’ve won previously.

Here, by the way, is a link to NeoText and their announcement of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, where you can also buy it.

Anybody out there who reads and likes either of these books, your Amazon reviews are vital this time around. As I mentioned last week, neither book went out to the publishing “trades” – Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist. The reason is boring, so try not to let your eyes glaze over: NeoText is an e-book publisher, and fairly late in the game I convinced them (they are good people) to do print versions as well. These are Print-On-Demand books (and they look great). But “late in the game” means we weren’t able to get them to the trade reviewers on time.

Some of the Internet reviewers and a few newsstand magazines will get copies, though. But obviously it’s vital that my fans (both of you) review these books, preferably favorably, and get the word out.

Dave Thomas and I are doing our best to let the world know about Jimmy Leighton. We recorded a two-part Gilbert Gottfried podcast last week, which should “drop” (God I hate that expression) soon. We have done other podcasts together and separately, and some online interviews, too. Some links will follow at the end of this update.

Dave and I have become good friends, which I can hardly believe, stone SCTV freak that I am. He is a great guy, warm and funny but also with a genuine streak of Bill Needle (SCTV fans will understand). While we met a couple of times (unmemorably for Dave) before, during the writing of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton we did not. The plan had been for one of us to travel to the home/locale of the other, before we dug in to the writing – to plot the book, get a synopsis together, in person.

Then Covid came along.

So The Many Lives of Jimmy Lives became a Covid book – developed by Zoom and daily telephone calls (more than once a day, often). Dave did the first pass of each chapter, but called me frequently during the writing – he would read me what he’d written so far, I’d give notes, and we’d kick around where the chapter might go from there. Dave gets bored with just executing the synopsis, so the story became fluid in an interesting and positive way. I have never worked this way, and it was a glimpse into how SCTV and TV writers’ rooms work.

Dave had a bad health scare along the way – not Covid-related, other than the anxiety caused by having to deal with a health crisis when hospitals were overflowing with Covid cases – at a point where we had the first five chapters and a synopsis ready. We had already decided that we would do just that much before taking it out to market.

With Dave in the hospital, quite frankly fighting for his life, I set about to sell our book. I tried a couple of venues where I’ve had some success and got the kind of frustrating responses that longtime pros are used to – glowing enthusiasm and delight leading up to “not right for our list” as the punchline.

I was not prepared for that, though should have been. It is always difficult to sell a genre hybrid, and Jimmy Leighton was exactly that – half contemporary science fiction, half gritty crime novel. I brought my agent on board to try Canadian publishers, because Dave is a national treasure up there – a genuine superstar, as Bob and Doug are among the few Canadian icons. We got nowhere.

My agent was about to take it to other American publishers (only two had seen it) when I mentioned the project to my editor at NeoText, where I had just delivered Fancy Anders Goes to War. He was eager to see the chapters and proposal. The sale came quickly.

The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, without text, trimmed
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link

Fancy Anders was set up to be published as three novellas, and each – although designed to add up to one book – was a stand-alone. We had brought the great Fay Dalton aboard to do elaborate illustrations for the Fancy novellas, so to give her time to accomplish that, we set up a program whereby the publication of the three Fancy novellas would be staggered over six months at least.

Initially we were going to publish Jimmy Leighton the same way. But first Dave – then I – became concerned that the three sections of Jimmy didn’t each stand alone in the way Fancy did. And we had early on abandoned the idea of illustrations for the book, other than the cover art. So – again – fairly late in the game, we lobbied for NeoText to publish Jimmy as a single book. The novel had been written that way and it began to make sense following that path, not the Fancy one.

It’s cost us reviews, which is (as I’ve indicated) where you come in.

I know I harp on this a lot. But the nature of the beast these days is that you nice people who actually still read books need to support the authors you like with reviews online, particularly at Amazon.

I irritated some readers when I complained about self-professed fans of mine who would (in my view) attack novels of mine that didn’t suit what they wanted from me. On artistic grounds, my hopping around from here to there has a lot to do with me staying fresh and also pursuing various interests, which takes me various places, obviously. But on practical grounds, I write a lot to stay in business and bad reviews from people who only like some of my work, and go out of their way to complain about what they don’t like, costs me money. Worse, it can cost me venues.

This is true for all of us telling stories in the very old-fashioned prose fiction way. Support the authors you like. Don’t just write reviews of my stuff, but theirs, too (I’m fine with me being at the top of your list, though). Even a couple of sentient sentences will do, but longer expressions of delight are good also (very Jerry Lewis cadence there)…even balanced, well-reasoned opinions are encouraged. Those numbers – how many reviews and even just star ratings have been logged – are key for the success of a book, and for an author to continue producing.

Novelists are an endangered species, like the spotted owl. Keep us healthy and fed, would you? Spotted owl is delicious, by the way.

* * *

I’ve had some wonderful comments on my ten-part literary memoir, A Life in Crime. I hope to write a few more entries over time, and eventually collect them into a book. Among the things I did not discuss at length in the series are my adventures in indie filmmaking, comics/graphic novel writing, the Spillane novels (Caleb York deserves a chapter of his own), and a bunch of other stuff.

The serialization of A Life in Crime allowed me to focus on the Spillane biography, which I completed my draft of over the weekend. I still have the lengthy “Spillane Files” appendix to work on, although most of that was already put together by Jim Traylor, who has been working on this project literally since Mickey’s passing in 2006.

This will absolutely be the definitive book on Mickey Spillane – the story of his life, and the story of his life’s work. We hope to send it to our publisher, Mysterious Press, this month.

* * *

I was disappointed in Halloween Kills. The same writing/directing team who did the much superior Halloween reboot stumbled here, sacrificing a political allegory about Jan. 6 and the divisiveness in America to a humorless and unpleasant gore fest. I understand this is the second of a trilogy and I liked the first film enough to give the third one a try.

Barb and I watched Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which is flawed but very entertaining and underrated. Halloween Kills could have benefitted from this much unloved non-sequel’s strong but fleeting gore, and heavy-handed but effective satire.

In the Halloween spirit, I showed Nate The Final Girls, the 2015 horror comedy that has a group of current teens getting stuck inside an ‘80s slasher movie. It’s somewhat little known but is well-worth checking out, if you are at all a fan of the Halloween/Friday the 13th genre.

* * *

Here’s a great Fan Base interview with Dave Thomas on our novel, The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

Check out the Dave Thomas Appreciation Page at Facebook.

Finally, here’s the Word Balloon podcast with Dave about the book (and his SCTV adventures).

M.A.C.

aug 19, 2003 visitors since August 19, 2003.