Archive for July, 2016

Con Fab

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

I’m writing this from our hotel room in the Marriott Marina after a fairly exhausting San Diego Comic-Con.

We arrived Wednesday and I attended the preview night. Once upon a time it was limited to professionals, and was a real pleasure. Now it’s kind of a frantic mess, and the best days to get around in the crowded dealer’s hall are Thursday and Sunday.

Because I’m still recovering from heart surgery and a stroke (minor), I took it easy, only going over to the dealer’s area for two hours a day Wednesday thru Friday, and skipping Saturday entirely, because it’s a zoo. Every day at least one nap went down, but on Sunday I had my stamina up and did several long sessions. I made some nice finds (I mostly collect hardcover collections of comics) but bought only one or two per day, because I can’t carry the kind of loads I once did (and fully expect I will again).

But I frankly don’t know if the San Diego Con is for me anymore. The crowds are so huge, and so much of what goes on is outside my areas of interest, I sometimes feel like that moment in a buddy movie starring aging action actors when they say, “I’m getting too old for this shit.” Also a problem is the things I wanted to see – like the Archer panel and the Evil Dead one – required endless waits in line to MAYBE get in. Worst of all, our son Nate and his missus Abby did not come along with us this year, and we missed them terribly.

Were there pleasures? Oh yes. The Scribe Awards went well, thanks to a fine panel of mostly nominees, with my pal Andy Mangels presenting the awards themselves and doing a bang-up job. We were hampered by not enough time (an hour) but everybody got to talk. And I won a Scribe for my Mike Hammer story, “Fallout.”

Left to right, M.A.C., Andy Mangels, Michael A. Black, Adam Christopher, Matt Forbeck, Glenn Hauman, Nancy Holder, R.L. King, Jonathan Maberry, Cavab Scott and Marv Wolfman

Michael A. Black, Adam Christopher, Matt Forbeck, Glenn Hauman, Nancy Holder, R.L. King, Jonathan Maberry, Cavab Scott and Marv Wolfman

Kevin Dillmore, M.A.C., Michael Black, Matt Forbeck, Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holder, Glenn Haumann, Adam Christopher, and Cavan Scott.

We also had dinner with our friends Leonard and Alice Maltin, and their daughter Jesse and her newlywed husband, Scott. Among those I connected with at the con itself were the great Stan Sakai, M.A.C. fan Tom Kenny of Spongebob and Mr. Show fame, and Maggie Thompson, a superstar in the history of comics fandom.

Leonard Maltin and M.A.C.

M.A.C. and Stan Sakai

There was also some excellent food (though some not so excellent, like the hotel’s lousy $27! buffet) (no ordering off the menu either) and we ended Sunday by seeing the terrific new STAR TREK movie (STAR TREK BEYOND). So we kind of fought the con to a draw this time.


SDCC Scribes Room Change

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Quick update:

The San Diego ComicCon Scribes awards at 6pm Friday are now going to be held in Room 28DE.

Comic Con Sked, Quarry News, Movies & More

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Barb and I will be attending Comic Con in San Diego. I will be taking it easy, since I’m still in recovery, but it’s nice to be getting back to normal…not that Comic Con is in any way “normal.”

No signings are scheduled, but if you’re in the hall and spot me, and have something for me to sign, I’ll gladly do so. Usually Mysterious Galaxy’s booth has a decent supply of my most recent novels.

The only event I’m part of is the annual International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers “Scribes” awards. I will be moderating the awards panel (I have two nominations, both for Mike Hammer – the short story “Fallout” and the novel KILL ME, DARLING).

Here are the details:

Friday, July 22
6:00 – 7:00 PM

International Association of Media Tie-in Writers: Scribe Awards — Max Allan Collins(Mike Hammer), co-founder of the IAMTW, will host this year’s Scribe Awards for excellence in tie-in writing, including honoring this year’s Grandmaster Award “Faust” winner, Timothy Zahn (Star Wars) . Join panelists Michael A. Black (Executioner), Adam Christopher (Elementary), Matt Forbeck (HALO), Glenn Hauman (Star Trek), Nancy Holder (Crimson Peak), R.L. King (Shadowrun), Jonathan Maberry (Wolfman), Andy Mangels (X-Files), Cavan Scott (Pathfinder) and Marv Wolfman (Batman) for a freewheeling look at one of the most popular and yet under-appreciated branches of the writing trade. Room 23ABC

Since Nate won’t be along this year, and my activities will be limited, I won’t be posing daily reports from the Con. But there will be a convention wrap-up here next week.

* * *

The news that Hard Case Crime, through Titan, is doing a comics line – with me writing a Quarry mini-series for collection as a graphic novel – was all over the Net last week. No artist has been selected, and I probably won’t start writing for two or three months; the graphic novel will likely be called QUARRY’S WAR and will deal more directly with his Vietnam experiences than I’ve ever done in the novels.

I won’t provide the countless links, but this one should do.

Meanwhile, there’s a new Cinemax trailer for the QUARRY series.

* * *

Here are a few brief reviews of movies recently seen by Barb and me.

GHOSTBUSTERS – Despite the talent on display, and in part because of too much special effects work, this reboot is merely okay. At an hour and forty-five minutes, it seems much longer. Losing ten to fifteen minutes would make it funnier and also more suspenseful. The Bill Murray cameo is disappointing, and the other original cast cameos are mostly perfunctory. Why were the original cast members wasted? Why wasn’t there a passing of the torch, with the original actors/characters? The new cast is winning, though, with Kristen Wiig the standout, though Leslie Jones mostly stands around channeling Ernie Hudson.

LEGEND OF TARZAN – This is much better than it’s cracked up to be, and more faithful to Burroughs than any other Tarzan film with the possible exception of GREYSTOKE. This has more plot and action than the latter, and the two leads, Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, are charismatic and have nice chemistry. The landscapes are stunning and the CGI animals work fine, especially the apes. Christoph Waltz is starting to wear out his villain welcome, though.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE – Kevin Hart is amusing but upstaged by the Rock – okay, Dwayne Johnson – who is extremely, unexpectedly funny in the best spy spoof since, well, SPY. I was shocked by how entertaining this was.

DE PALMA – We caught this at Iowa City’s FilmScene, the theater smart enough (or anyway nice enough) to recently book MOMMY. Brian De Palma was, for many years, my favorite director, and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (which back in the day, Terry Beatty and I saw endlessly in theaters around the Midwest) remains in my top ten films…make that top five. But some later missteps of director’s like MISSION TO MARS and SNAKE EYES cooled my enthusiasm for everything but the earlier stuff like SISTERS and OBSESSION. The documentary is a long interview with De Palma made visually arresting by many clips from his own films and the films that influenced him. The result is at once a character study of a kid with a nurturing mother and a distant father whose idea of bonding was taking his son to bloody surgical operations, and a master class in direction in terms of a talented young indie director’s rise to Hollywood fame (and his periodic return to his trademark thrillers, to revitalize himself and his career). Virtually every film of De Palma’s is discussed, and excerpted, and the missteps are explained and put in context. His stories of dealing with Hollywood stars and studio executives are funny and revealing (of both himself and a terrible system), though I strongly disagree with his apparently low opinion of Cliff Robertson’s work in OBSESSION. If De Palma has a flaw as a director – and I’m not referring to misogyny – it’s a tendency to value hammy performances over understated ones. But performances and for that matter characterization are secondary to De Palma, whose visual sense and storytelling via camera is second to none…except maybe Hitchcock, who he unapologetically admits is his model and idol. The film concludes in a bittersweet, even moving manner, with De Palma saying that a director is finished when he can no longer walk, which is juxtaposed with the only non-interview footage of the now-overweight De Palma as he walks unsteadily down a New York street. He also, as the film wraps up, states his opinion that directors do their best work in their thirties, forties and fifties. De Palma is 75.


Wise Words from Elwood P. Dowd and Others

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

I don’t pay much attention to Facebook, generally, other than posts on my author’s page, where I write responses and sporadically provide links to these updates. But because some photos and videos of the recent 4th of July Crusin’ gig began appearing, I started seeing other stuff. A lot of it was harmless, often fun fluff. But some of it was truly hateful. A lot of it exposed an undercurrent of anger in average people.

This is no doubt in part because I tuned in during the fallout on the Dallas police shootings. My longtime collaborator Terry Beatty – these days doing a bang-up job writing and drawing the classic REX MORGAN strip – wrote a Facebook post that I thought was worth sharing.

I’m supposed to be working, but the state of the world has me heartsick. So there’s this running through my head.

Here’s a message for the all the murderers, thieves, rapists and racists — the abusers, molesters, warmongers, zealots, terrorists, dictators, bullies, stalkers, cyberstalkers and snarkers — misogynists, homophobes (hell, anyone living their life afraid of “the other” ) — the willfully ignorant, the well-armed disturbed loners (and their “militia” pals), bent cops, dirty politicians, scammers and hucksters — polluters, career criminals, war criminals and weapons dealers making fortunes from others’ misery — those waving the flag, rattling their swords, using their religion as an excuse, paranoid about sharing bathrooms, gaslighting their partner, abusing their children, destroying historical artifacts, bombing innocents, and generally waving their dicks around: The rest of us are entirely fed up and done with your bullshit.

Most of us, it seems, want to live our lives in peace — raising our kids — doing our work — contributing something. Any forward-thinking person is perfectly fine sharing the planet with people of different cultures, colors and faiths — and reaching out a hand to those who need help. It’s a great big world, and there is still enough room for all of us — but a lot to fix — so, if you’re not willing to try being kind and tolerant, how about all you folks on that list up there go crawl into a hole somewhere and maybe let the people who want to coexist and work on fixing all the shit you broke take over for a while — maybe let those who have no interest in shooting each other run the show?

Please, take your hatred, your intolerance and your ignorance and slink back into the distant past where you belong — the rest of us have a lot to do, and you’re in the way.

Stop destroying. Create.

Now that’s an expression of anger worth sharing.

Here’s something else worth sharing, Elwood P. Dowd’s little speech from the James Stewart film of HARVEY, written by the great Mary Chase. Harvey, for those who don’t know, is a big invisible rabbit, a pooka. As mental-hospital attendant Wilson (played by Jesse White) learns, looking it up in an encyclopedia:

“Pooka – from old Celtic mythology, a fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one, a benign but mischievous creature, very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?…How are you, Mr. Wilson? Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?”

Anyway, here’s Elwood P Dowd on his pooka pal:

Harvey and I sit in the bars…have a drink or two… play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people, they turn toward mine and they smile. And they’re saying, “We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fella.” Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We’ve entered as strangers – soon we have friends. And they come over…and they sit with us…and they drink with us…and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they’ve done and the big wonderful things they’ll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey…and he’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back; but that’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us.

And this from the same source:

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

So, anyway, what this is leading up to is that I wrote a Facebook post myself. Here’s what I had to say:

I see a lot of postings here from friends and also from some of the readers of my books and comics. What strikes me is two things. First, there are many, many posts of daily life — cats, dogs, food, kids, grandkids — the stuff of living that we all share. Along these lines are photos and video clips of concerts, dances and other public events that again tap into so much of what we all share in our blessedly mundane lives. Among my age group we have delightful reminiscences about growing up in the fifties and sixties.

But from some of these same people I see, on occasion, outright hate. Political candidates who are ridiculed by the use of grotesquely unflattering photos. Racist comments about our president and black protesters. Also, positive comments about supporting our police and military, with which I wholeheartedly agree. But so much anger. So many refried talking points from Fox and MSNBC. So many ugly photos with uglier captions.

My request? More cats and dogs and food and kids and music.

I had many positive responses from this, and perhaps more pictures of cats than I could handle. I didn’t know how to break it to them that I was a dog person.

No pooka pics so far.

* * *

Here’s what a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer had to say about the forthcoming Mike Hammer short story collection from Mysterious Press, A LONG TIME DEAD.

Collins (Murder Never Knocks) brings his considerable experience with iconic PI Mike Hammer to these eight formulaic stories adapted from manuscripts that Spillane left incomplete at his death, though the collection is definitely a mixed bag. At his best, Collins captures the feel of a New York City fraught with danger at every turn; at his worst, the prose is purple (an electrocuted man’s eyes are described as “sightless black sockets crying scarlet tears as he cooked in the gravy of his own gore”). The plots are also uneven, including one that enters schlock horror terrain. But others are more down-to-earth and encapsulate Hammer’s somehow-charismatic callousness, such as “A Dangerous Cat,” which has a delightfully wicked ending. Spillane fans will enjoy Collins’s faithful re-creations of Hammer and the violence-prone gumshoe’s supporting cast, including his knockout partner and love interest, Velda, and his one friend on the NYPD, honest cop Pat Chambers. (Sept.)

All in all, this is a pretty decent review – certainly quotable. But I’m irritated anyway. That the reviewer considers these stories “formulaic,” when no two resemble each other structurally, shows a knee-jerk laziness. That the climactic description of death is to the reviewer “purple” – when it is typically Spillane in its purposefully over-the-top way, and intentionally blackly humorous – reveals an annoying smugness on his or her part. And the “schlock horror terrain” of “Grave Matter” is explained in the introduction, where it’s revealed that the story was originally written as a “Mike Danger” yarn, for the publishers of the Danger s-f comic book, and revised further for its horror aspects for inclusion in a Mystery Writers of America horror-themed anthology. That the “schlock horror” aspect is intentional is again revealed in dark humor and, oh yes, the inclusion of a butler at a spooky mansion being clearly Tor Johnson.

Otherwise I liked it fine.