Mommy Times Two!

August 11th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins
Mommy and Mommy’s Day: A Suspense Duo

Mommy & Mommy’s Day: A Suspense Duo is available on Kindle right now for $2.99.

This is the first time the two Mommy novels have been collected, though it was always my hope to have them combined into one volume. I did not revise Mommy’s Day to exclude any redundant material, preferring to keep the books in their original form. But I believe they will work well as one long narrative.

As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, the novel version of Mommy begins earlier than the film and is a more complete rendition of the narrative, including a good deal more back story. When the late lamented Leisure Books approached me, back in the day, about doing a few horror titles for them, I immediately pitched Mommy (the second film hadn’t happened yet) and they were good enough to bite.

I haven’t hidden the fact that Mommy is an homage to The Bad Seed. The film’s casting of Patty McCormack, the original Rhoda Penmark, as the otherwise unnamed “Mrs. Sterling” (aka Mommy) tied that film to the famous original. But The Bad Seed was also a play by Maxwell Anderson (my favorite playwright) and a (in the beginning) novel by one of my favorite writers, William March. (The police detectives in the Mommy movies are named after Maxwell and March.) So the idea of writing Mommy’s story in novel form was something I had always hoped to do. (There was a “Mommy” short story that predated the film and the novel of the same name, written essentially as a story treatment to sell Patty McCormack on returning to a variation on her signature childhood character.)

Mommy is sometimes called an “unofficial sequel to The Bad Seed. There’s no question it’s a switch on the original, and in some ways an homage to it. And I was vague enough that if you want it to be a Bad Seed sequel, you can imagine it as such…but nothing I write in either the screenplay or novel confirms that.

And of course Mommy’s Day really has nothing to do with the novel, play or film versions of The Bad Seed. I made a point of the sequel not being a rehash of the first film/novel.

Right now you can’t order a print version of Mommy & Mommy’s Day: A Suspense Duo. But that will come from Wolfpack, and when it does, you’ll hear about it here.

Wolfpack is moving quickly on getting some of the titles I licensed to them onto Kindle, coming up with some great covers (I think this Mommy & Mommy’s Day cover is incredible). I am excited about getting a number of new short story collections out there, and Matt Clemens and I have already delivered the first in a new novel series that Wolfpack will be bringing out in October.

Much more about that here in the weeks and months ahead.

* * *

The HBO reboot of Perry Mason is something I’ve been tough on here and elsewhere. But, because its success or failure may impact various projects of mine (TV interest in Heller and Hammer specifically), I have kept an eye on it. If nothing else, they’re working my side of the street.

It has improved. The last three episodes have dropped much of the inappropriate back story and we are finally in the courtroom, where Matthew Rhys has abandoned his Sad Sack characterization for a Mason with spine and courtroom talent. Mostly getting the story into the courtroom has made the difference – these sequences fairly sing – and there’s a fun moment when Hamilton Burger stands up in the gallery and reminds Mason (who is drilling down on someone we know to be a murderer) that nobody ever confesses on the witness stand.

That kind of playing with the source material is legit, as opposed to the nonsense of checking off the contemporary boxes by having Della Street be a lesbian, Hamilton Burger be gay, and Paul Drake black. But the art direction and cinematography are superb – it looks like (literally) millions and millions have been poured into each episode.

My biggest gripe remains the constant f-wording. Now regular readers of Quarry and other series of mine may find that complaint amusing, but it’s strictly a matter of not being anachronistic. Ef words weren’t thrown around to that degree in 1931. And terms and phrases like “throw shade on,” “enablers,” “in a hot minute,” and (this from a farmer) “shell companies” are at odds with the beautifully recreated 1930s Los Angeles.

I still think the score is lousy, but I will give the producers credit for having the sense to finally acknowledge just what sandbox they’re playing in by doing a very moody version of the original Perry Mason theme over the end credits.

It’s been renewed.

* * *

My readers have been great to me over the years, often going above and beyond the call of duty. Posted for some time has been a Nate Heller chronology by the late Michael Kelley.

Bill Slankard created a Nate Heller chronology a while back, and he has been kind enough to update it so that Do No Harm is included.

I am going to share it with you here, but my son Nate will eventually post it here for easy referral.

I am very grateful to Bill. I think this will help Nate Heller’s readers…and I know it will help me! I am talking to a publisher right now about the next home for Nate Heller. Neither he nor I are finished just yet.

* * *

The Strand’s blog features an article I did to promote Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (by A. Brad Schwartz and me) on “10 Additional Surprising Facts About Eliot Ness.

Finally, here’s an excellent review of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher from the New York Journal of Books.


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6 Responses to “Mommy Times Two!”

  1. Gary Bush says:

    I stuck with the show, and I thought it turned out well. I did comment to my wife that the f-word was not thrown around like that with women around. Nor did most women use the word at least “decent” women. Otherwise I like the show and hope to watch it when it returns. I didn’t care that Drake was Black or that Della was a Lesbian.

  2. As I indicated, Gary, I warmed to the show in the last three episodes. But men didn’t throw around the f-words like that in 1931, and it didn’t really creep into the culture till WW 2 usage mostly overseas (you know what SNAFU stands for). At that point men started to be freer about it in their own company, and in the mid-’60s it had gotten common among young men, too, and the effing genie was out of the mother-effing bottle. I find it lazy and wrongheaded for them to use current terms (as I list above) and my problems with the lesbian Della, the black Paul and the gay Hamilton Burger are two-fold: first, it’s nothing Erle Stanley Gardner intended or would have approved; but second, it’s the checking-off-of-the-boxes for diversity that irritates — lesbian, check; black guy, check; gay guy, check. One of those would be less offensive, actually not offensive at all. Paul Drake being black is interesting. Della being a lesbian violates Gardner, who was cute about it but Della and Perry were obviously an item. Burger being gay is fine, too, really, it’s the bloody tokenism of it. I also still think the whole origin aspect was lousy — Perry was a blackmailer in the first episode, and he spent two weeks studying for the bar exam (no law degree, though Gardner didn’t have one and it was different then) by cheating and getting the answers from Burger. But Della believes in him because he has a sense of right and wrong and justice. I think the show has a shot at being good, though. It’s on a better track at the close than the horrible, horrible beginning. At least they finally played the theme, as otherwise the score is bore. Beautifully shot, though. Incredible art direction. I’d kill for it.

  3. Mike Doran says:

    My minority opinion on Perry F****** Mason:
    All through the eight seemingly endless chapters, the mantra reasserted itself:
    This is NOT Perry Mason.
    This is NOT Erle Stanley Gardner.
    These are NOT Della Street, Paul Drake, and Hamilton Burger.
    Hell, this isn’t even Sergeant Holcomb.

    Where is “Speed, situation, and suspense”?
    Nowhere that I could see; Throwing everything up in the air and seeing where it landed isn’t storytelling.

    I watched that “final chapter” again, just to make sure.
    No suspense, no surprise, no conclusion, just endless ugliness
    I’m guessing that the next one will be adding their new Lt. Tragg to the mix; God knows how they’ll handle him.
    As to the use of the classic theme: again arbitrary, and in the context of this hot mess, all wrong.
    (And they might at least mentioned the original composer, Fred Steiner, in the credits.)

    But it all goes back to what I said before:
    If they weren’t going to use the

  4. Mike Doran says:

    Picking up from where the confuser screwed around with me:

    If they weren’t going to use the characters Gardner created, why use the names?

    If you want to do a completely different story with completely different people, go all the way – don’t piggyback on somebody else’s success from the past.

    God only knows what these guys would do with Bertha Cool and Donald Lam …

    Enough already.

    I will be in place to see HBO’s next spasm of Perry F****** Mason, when they get around to it.
    It might be kind of nice if some of the showf******runners here actually read some thing that Erle Stanley Gardner wrote back in the day – you know, just to see how things were actually done back then … (#notbloodylikely)

    The Year of Our Lord 2020 continues to shape up as one that the Lord will want to disavow in toto.
    (At least until November, anyway …)

    Any The Hoo, here’s hoping that things are holding up at your end!

  5. It’s interesting, comparing Gary’s reaction and yours, Mike, to the way PERRY MASON evolved and wound up by episode 8. I am obviously somewhere between. I am a big believer in taking things on their own terms, but this take on Perry (who, as his name tells, was not on attack, but parried and thrusted) challenges that. Indeed — if you’re going to adapt something, at the very least stay true to the spirit.

    I heard the initial director say that they hadn’t done Marlowe or Spade because producer Robert Downey owned the “I.P.” Which says they didn’t care what famous mid-century literary detective they despoiled…I mean, adapted.

  6. Mike Doran says:

    This might be irrelevant, but maybe not:

    Years ago, I read an article by the great Red Smith, in which he told about seeing a ballgame in Finland, called pesopallo, which was purportedly a local version of baseball.

    Red’s Finnish interlocutor tried to explain the changes made by the locals in the rules and layout; the Finn thought he was fluent enough in English, and told Red that his people had taken the rules and, looking for the word “adapted”, had “… uh, mutilated them!”

    I saw this in one of Charles Einstein’s Fireside Books Of Baseball (the third, if memory serves; I don’t follow baseball any more, but I wish I still had them); the article remains one of the funniest things I ever read.

    Looking back at my earlier attempt, it occurs to me that I wasn’t clear enough about what was wrong with the “ending” of PF*M.
    It all goes back to what was wrong about the earlier episodes: everybody in this is completely dishonest, one way or another.
    It’s not like in early Gardner, where everybody is hustling – “catch me if you can”, that sort of thing.
    In PF*M, there aren’t any good guys, even in a comparative way – there’s no one to root for.
    That was always the key to classic Perry Mason: Perry and his team had to get into a situation where somebody was caught up wrongly, and then set it right.
    The Bad Guy (speaking generically) had to be caught out and brought to justice – and that’s exactly what didn’t happen in PF*G.
    Was there a situation in Gardner’s work (in any format) wherein Sergeant Holcomb committed a cold-blooded murder, as he does here?
    I suppose that’s what the showf***ers are setting up for Season F****** Two, however clumsily – and if this is how they’re bringing in Tragg …
    You may call it “evolving”; I would say “mutation”.

    Oh well, the original books are coming back into print, so anyone who cares to can find out what Uncle Erle really had in mind in the ’30s and beyond, so there’s that.
    And of course, the DVDs and reruns are still around, to show any newer generations what filmmaking looked liked in a gentler era, so there’s that.

    Bottom Line:
    Perry Mason, like so many other characters in fiction, is a brand name.
    Over generations, it’s come to mean something to those who’ve taken it up, and who’ve followed it faithfully for generations.
    If you like, you can tweak it a bit: update it, recast the people, smooth out the approach, whatever.
    That’s what CBS tried in ’73 with Monte Markham & Co.; if the network hadn’t chickened out so quickly, they just might have had a shot (I base this on having seen some of the Markham shows on C2C DVDs; they aren’t at all bad).
    Of course, that’s just my opinion; your mileage may vary.

    One last thought:
    I read that Erle Stanley Gardner was cremated, and his ashes scattered in Mexican waters.
    So Uncle Erle won’t be turning over in his grave over HBO’s “adaptation”.

    *Sermon ends here*