Ms. Tree Collected, A Royale Review and Boo to Halloween

October 23rd, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

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The Ms. Tree prose short story, “Louise,” an Edgar nominee, is featured in editor Otto Penzler’s new anthology, The Big Book of Female Detectives.

This seems as good a time as any to confirm that Titan will be bringing out (in five or six volumes) the complete Ms. Tree comics, organized into graphic novel form. This is of course long overdue. I will likely be doing new intros, although it’s doubtful Terry Beatty will contribute new covers – the plan right now is to draw from his many outstanding covers for the comic books themselves.

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Two more brief movie reviews…

Barb and I took in Bad Times at the El Royale, a ‘70s noir with an excellent cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson and Chris Hemsworth. It’s written and directed by Drew Goddard, who wrote for Buffy on TV and did the screenplays for The Martian, Cloverfield and World War Z, among others. El Royale resonates with me in part because it’s a take-off on Cal Neva, the resort straddling California and Nevada that figures in my novels Bye Bye, Baby and Road to Paradise.

I’m sure some critics are comparing El Royale to Tarantino, and its novelistic approach (both the way it’s organized and its attention to character) is in that same ballpark. But El Royale has its own feel, and does not suffer the Tarantino habit of all the characters talking like the writer. I won’t say much about the plot, other than a central element is money from a robbery long-hidden in one of the rooms of a hotel that has become a faded relic of Rat Pack days, having lost its gambling license.

The screenplay draws upon a Spillane novella, “Tomorrow I Die!” (title tale of an anthology of Spillane short fiction I edited) that was adapted into one of the best films from Mickey’s work, an episode of Showtime’s Perfect Crimes. (Mickey’s story was his take on The Petrified Forest.) It also draws upon someone I wrote about here a while back, who was a war hero and a movie star (paying attention?).

Anyway, it’s a terrific film. You’ll feel like you’re spending the evening at the El Royale, though you’ll be having a better time than most of the characters.

We also saw the new take on Halloween, which is getting a lot of good reviews. Most of those reviews focus on Jamie Lee Curtis and her empowered if psychotic take on the older Laurie Strode. What rewards the film has are tied up in Curtis/Strode. I was amped for the film because I’m a horror fan, plus the screenplay is co-written by Danny McBride, of whom I’m also a fan. But the movie isn’t good. It’s not exactly bad, either, but there are almost no scares, merely unpleasantness and gore. It has a low-budget feel, and not in a good way, and even the John Carpenter music feels forced. One plot twist having to do with the substitute shrink for the Loomis (Donald Pleasance) character is meant to be a shocking surprise and just plays dumb and unconvincing.

After recently seeing the excellent Insidious films, and revisiting the very good Truth or Dare (all of these are Blumhouse productions, as is this new Halloween), the return of Michael Meyers fell flat for both Barb and me.

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For those keeping track, I have delivered Murder, My Love, the new Mike Hammer. This one is based on a Spillane synopsis, but is the first of the novels with no Mickey prose woven in. I think it came out well, but it raises the question of whether I should continue Hammer when I run out of Spillane source material.

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My novel of In the Line of Fire gets a latterday review! Positive, too.

Finally, here’s a Road to Perdition piece that discussed both the graphic novel and the film. Sorta likes both. Sorta.


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7 Responses to “Ms. Tree Collected, A Royale Review and Boo to Halloween”

  1. stephen borer says:

    A raised glass of beverage and a tip of the fedora to the folks at Titan for the decision to reprint the Ms. Tree comics !

  2. Todd Gray says:

    I have been waiting for Ms. Tree to be collected for decades. Ever since I made a rather regrettable and stupid decision to sell/trade half of my collection before moving across states. I’ve slowly managed to track down about half of the single issues, but I still have a good 20-25 issues to go. Collected editions are a welcome addition to my collection. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  3. Tim Field says:

    Since you raise the question of whether you should continue Hammer novels once you run out of Spillane source material, put me firmly in the camp of an emphatic YES!

  4. Ray Cuthbert says:

    I hope that if they are collecting the MS. TREE stories they will also collect all Terry Beatty’s covers! Although Max’s stories ensured my coming back, it was Terry’s covers that sucked me in in the first place – and then I had to track down the earlier issues i was missing…! Then I faithfully followed all that Max had written and Terry has drawn ever since!

  5. Jacob Dzik says:

    I really loved the new Halloween. I thought the story was great and I also thought Jamie Lee Curtis was fantastic in it. I really liked how the script chose to let the audience know it was 40 years later and thought of us as smart enough to know they did away with all the other movies after the original. However, I can see how it would not be for everyone and why people couldn’t get into it. Anyway love your books. Was just planning to reread “The Wrong Quarry” as that is my favorite of your novels.

  6. Mike Doran says:

    The Ms. Tree/Titan deal is apparently a reality, so congratulations on making me have to buy an upgraded edition of something I already have in deteriorating funnybook form. (A book on a shelf is always more impressive than a pile of aging paper, isn’t it?)

    I might see that El Royale movie, even though it’s $10 just to get in and at least that much more for “refreshments” just at a Saturday matinee (Fixed-income retirement is No Fun At All).

    I note from last week that you voted early in Iowa; good on you.
    My local polling place is a middle-school gym, a couple of blocks from where I live.
    Although I live in a (supposedly) safe Democratic district, I’ll still be interested to see if there’s a good-sized turnout on The Day.
    As to The Night, I think I’ll follow my usual procedure of not watching any returns until late at night.
    Up to that point, I’ll be watching DVDs in my BVDs.
    In the meantime, God Bless/Help/Save/Forgive All Of Us!
    (I’m considering agnosticism, but somehow I just can’t decide …)

  7. Neal Alhadeff says:

    Great news about Ms. Tree! I’ve been hoping for this for a while!!

    I hope you continue to write Mike Hammer books. Mickey Spillane stays with us thanks to your efforts!