Archive for October, 2021

Jimmy Leighton Lives!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021
The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, without text, trimmed
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link

The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me goes on sale today in both Kindle and physical book form. It’s quite reasonably priced – on sale at $3.99 for the e-book and $8.99 for the “real” book.

As I am still working on the Spillane biography, I am again making the Jimmy Leighton/Dave Thomas entry in my literary memoir, A Life in Crime, the major piece this time around. Link to it here.

For reasons not entirely clear – I believe the technical term is “screw up” – the physical book went on sale a couple of weeks early. Because of that I’ve had some nice e-mails from people praising the book – completely unbiased types like Terry Beatty – and I’m starting to feel a warm fuzzy glow about it.

Now I will get down on my figurative knees and beg (can’t pull that off easily with my literal knees these days): if you read and like this book, please give it an Amazon rating and write at least a brief review. We’re starting to get some nice media attention – Dave and I are recording Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast this evening – but the book will almost certainly be ignored by the mainstream publishing trades (Publisher’s Weekly and so on). We did not make the necessary three- to six-month lead time to get review copies to them. (See explanation of technical term above.)

So, more than ever we need your reviews. The physical book is only available at Amazon – not in bookstores and not even at the Barnes & Noble site, at least not yet. And the e-book is strictly for Kindle. I hope to do a book giveaway soon to prime the review pump, but don’t have copies in hand yet.

This book – I mentioned this last week – is not a novella, like Fancy Anders Goes to War. It’s a 90,000-word novel, a contemporary crime novel/s-f hybrid. We had originally signed up with Neo Text to publish it in three novella-length parts. But – and here is where Dave and I did our part to help screw things up – at the last minute we decided we preferred it to be published in a single volume.

I really love The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton. It’s a type of story I’ve long wanted to tell – in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, Ground Hog Day, Here Comes Mr. Jordan and A Christmas Carol. The closest I’ve come previously is the novella “A Wreath for Marley.” If you generally like my work, I would be astonished if you didn’t like this. In fact, I guarantee that will you like – stopping short of the “your money back” part.

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Dune Promo Photo

Dune is the first new movie we’ve streamed at home that Barb and I kinda wish we’d seen in a theater. I almost like the wacky David Lynch version of this material, but found it mostly silly. I was surprised to like this serious take on the s-f classic so much; Barb liked it, too. Even in an age where we take CGI for granted, this one is visually stunning, transporting you to a world unlike our own (except for the politics).

It’s not called Dune, actually – it’s Dune and then, in the kind of fine print usually reserved for contracts they don’t want you to really read, Part One. Lynch had squeezed the whole book into a couple of hours and change, which is partly why it’s such a rough ride (inherently quirky, Dune hardly needed David Lynch to make it more so).

Be forewarned: the new and improved Dunecomes out of the gate slow, or anyway leisurely. There’s a lot to process and time is spent grounding the viewer. Lynch did an endless opening narration that had your head spinning before the film really started.

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A Return to Salem's Lot Blu-Ray Cover

I’ll make a Halloween recommendation.

I had never seen writer/director Larry Cohen’s A Return to Salem’s Lot(1987). At the time, the barely released, sort of sequel to the Salem’s Lot mini-series (Cohen did a script for that but it was rejected) was savaged by most critics. But Cohen is consistent about only one thing in his filmmaking: he doesn’t care what you think. This is his version of Our Town but with vampires.

It has one of the oddest and in my view coolest casts ever, starting with Michael Moriarty, who combines sincerity and confusion in a unique mix, his seriousness as an actor relieved by a puckish sense of humor. Playing rather ancient vampires are (get ready) Evelyn Keyes (from Here Comes Mr. Jordan!) and June Havoc (“Baby June,” Gypsy’s sister!), with Andrew Duggan (Bourbon Street Beat) as the folksy town patriarch. Playing a sort of senior-citizen sideick to Moriarty is Samuel Fuller – you heard me! The great director, cigar in his mouth, charges into the last third of the movie and just takes over; it’s an incredible, fearless performance. Also featured are lots of blood, gnarly special events and some of the least convincing rubber monster masks ever committed to film. It’s the kind of film that just skips narrative steps and plants exposition in the mouths of characters to apply spackle over your questions. When it bothers to.

I couldn’t have had a better time.

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This is a rather wonderful dual interview with Dave Thomas and me that ran in the Edmonton Journal, conducted by the sublimely named Fish Griwkowsky.

Here’s one of those announcement type posts about Jimmy Leighton, with a great look at Fay Dalton’s wonderful cover art.


Collaboration and the Greatest Songs

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

A great collection of Jack Kamen-drawn EC crime stories, Three for the Money, has just been published by Fantagraphics, and I wrote the intro for it. You will like this. Buy it here.

This week the major event of this update is a link to the second-to-the-last (for now) installment of my literary memoir, A Life In Crime, which this time talks about collaboration with an emphasis on the story behind my ongoing partnership with Matthew V. Clemens.

For reasons I don’t understand, the print version of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me is already on sale at Amazon although the Kindle version won’t be available till Oct. 26. So all of you Baby Boomer and other physical media types can order it right now.

I think Dave and I will likely be doing some podcasts and dual interviews on blogs as such – and Dave has already done Entertainment Tonight Canada, so other bigtime appearances may be in the works…sometimes with Dave alone, since I never appeared on SCTV or teamed with Rick Moranis. Anyway, heads up, and I’ll do my best to let you know about such things and stuff right here.

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Channeling Bob and Doug, the topic this week is Rolling Stone, eh, and why I feel out of step.

It’s not just a feeling – I am out of step. I have continued to subscribe to Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly in a sad old-man attempt to know what’s going on in popular culture. But I suspect those magazines are out of touch themselves, perhaps with reality.

Let’s look at the October 2021 issue of Rolling Stone, shall we?

The cover is of Dave Grohl, and I know who he is and I like his music. But buried in the upper lefthand corner is a small: CHARLIE WATTS 1941 – 2021. Now when the death of the drummer in the second-most-important rock band of all time, in a magazine in part named after that band, gets pushed into the corner for a musician alive and available for a subsequent cover, I have to question somebody’s sanity and, for once, not my own.

Never mind.

An article on James Bond includes the following phrase: “The movies barely had time to get going before they inspired brilliant parodies like James Coburn’s Our Man Flint and Dean Martin’s The Silencers.” That must be “brilliant” in the British sense, like how was your Macdonald’s lunch? “Brilliant!”

Let’s move on to the topic of the issue: THE GREATEST SONGS OF ALL TIME.

Now first let me express an opinion that I don’t consider at all controversial – there is a difference between a song and a recording. This list appears to be about the “greatest” recorded songs “of all time.” So we’re off to a rocky start. By the way, there’s nothing by Cole Porter or Frank Loesser or Rodgers & Hammerstein or Rodgers & Hart or Stephen Sondheim on this list…but never mind.

Number 1 is “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Okay, great record. But few of us have ever hummed “Respect,” which makes it less than the greatest song of all time. Still, not a crazy, absurd choice.

But Number 2 is “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. A real toe tapper; just can’t get that melody out of my head, can you? Now what I’m about to say probably is controversial: no rap or hip hop recording is a “song.” It is a performance and it can be art. It can be valid and it can achieve excellence. But can it be a song? No. Yet predictably there are plenty of these on this list. A list that has “Be My Baby” at 22 and “God Only Knows” at 11.

There are wonderful songs here – like (at 72) “Yesterday.” Before you call me racist because of what I say about “Fight the Power,” let me point out that “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles is (drum roll please) number 80, and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green is at 84. “In My Life” is at 98. A really great Aretha Franklin song is at 90 – “You Make Me feel Like a Natural Woman” (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin – actual songwriters).

And while Charlie Watts didn’t get the cover, Rolling Stone is self-indulgent enough to rate “Like a Rolling Stone” at 4, which is at least a goddamn song.

Tons of good stuff on the list, though. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is number 3. But “Get Your Freak On” is 8. “Imagine” is 19 and “Satisfaction” has to wait till 31. Oh, good – Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is at 25…

…no, it’s not Del Shannon, it’s something by Kanye West.

If Public Enemy is number 2, then how is “Walk on By” by Dionne Warrick number 51? Hold it, there’s “One” by Three Dog Night! Great! Oh…it’s the “One” by U2.

Okay. I guess.

I need to chill out. I need to be feeling those “Good Vibrations.” At 53. 42 “greatest songs” below “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

Look, I know these “greatest” and “best of” lists are all bullshit. But this is insulting, revisionist bullshit, from people whose sense of history is maybe last Tuesday, proving all such lists that don’t include a single song by the Zombies are invalid. Ditto for Weezer. Bobby Darin. The Association. Blondie. Elvis Costello.

Over to you.

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Finally, here’s another Fancy Anders Goes to War (and more) interview by the very cool Comic Book Couples Counseling.


Leighton, Jimmy Leighton

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021
The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton

Here’s a first glimpse at the stunning Fay Dalton cover of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me (both Fay and her cover are stunning, by the way). You can pre-order it here either on Kindle ($3.99) or as a physical media thingie, which I like to call a “book” ($8.99). The price points of both are excellent, obviously, but the physical media thingie is something of a steal.

The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton is not a novella, like Fancy Anders Goes to War, but a full-length 90,000-word novel. Yes, my co-author indeed is the Dave Thomas from SCTV and much else. I’ll talk about it at more length later, but it’s a hybrid of s-f and crime novel, contemporary not futuristic.

And if you haven’t tried Fancy Anders Goes to War yet, it’s $2.99 on Kindle and a paltry $6.99 for a physical media thingie. It’s also going to be released as an audio book by Sky Boat, but more about that another time.

Once again, the meat of the sandwich this week is another chapter in my literary memoir, A Life in Crime, the first of three entries that will discuss collaboration, leading up to a piece on how Dave and I came to write Jimmy Leighton together. This week it’s how Barb and I work on the Antiques novels and other fiction projects.

* * *

We made a rare excursion to a movie theater on Sunday morning, choosing the time because it would likely be slow, which it was. Our son Nate came with us and it was his first pandemic era trip to the flicks. We bought an extra seat to protect ourselves. Why the effort?

I was determined to see the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die. In my entire strange life, I have never not seen the new James Bond movie within a day or two of its release. I won’t discuss No Time to Die in detail because it has many surprises and nice moments that should be experienced and not spoiler-ed for you.

Having worked with Matt Clemens on the three John Sand novels (an exciting announcement coming about those soon), I was particularly attuned to what the Bond producers were up to on this fifth Daniel Craig entry. Let’s get this out of the way: I loved it. It is long – two hours and 43 minutes – but the only reason that was a problem was how tired we got sitting through 45 minutes of mostly commercials and a few previews. Clearly movie theaters are scrambling for income, so I understand why money from advertisers helps staunch the bleeding. But with a film this long, it’s like being forced to read an endlessly long ransom note.

Don’t let the running time put you off. It’s mostly earned. You may want to do what Barb and I did – we binged on the previous four Daniel Craig episodes, one per night, over four nights. This cycle of Bond films is unique because it really does have a through line – is, in a way, one story.

Daniel Craig has risen to the number two Bond spot for me – there is still only one real Bond, James Bond and that’s Connery, Sean Connery – and edging past Timothy Dalton. Craig could have phoned it in but instead gives the best performance of his run. These five films telling one episodic narrative gives them a special place and unusual power in the Bond film canon.

Daniel Craig in No Time to Die

I met Daniel Craig at a Road to Perdition pre-premiere party in London. I chatted with him about the real Connor Looney (Rooney in the film) and he was charming and had a lovely sense of humor. Yes, I am name-dropping. I only wish I’d known at the time I was meeting the next James Bond.

Barb and I watched the four Craig films on 4K HD Blu-rays and they were eye-popping. We are now watching the first four Star Trek movies on that same glorious format, and I am tempted to say I knew Leonard Nimoy a little, but that would be obnoxious. Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett, too. Walter (a longtime friend) was almost in Mommy and Majel was.

Anyway, Barb and I were reminded how much we love the much unloved Star Trek – The Motion Picture. It’s hard to explain to anyone who didn’t faithfully watch the TV show and long to see it return for about a decade a half what it was like, at the time, to see that film on a great big movie screen. Which Barb and I did four times (and I did five times) (total of five – I’m not a lunatic!). I understand that it plays slow, but for the Trek fan in 1979 every glorious moment of that trip around the exterior of the Enterprise was a religious experience. A very dumb religious experience, I grant you. The story itself is classic Trek.

In all the Trek movies, Shatner does the best Shatner on the planet, and Nimoy’s Spock is one of the great TV/movie recurring characters of all time – it’s really an amazing, smart, nuanced performance. By the way, I love that Shatner is going into space even more than I hate gazillionaires playing rocket man.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is still terrific, decades later. Why does Spock’s death scene work so well even when you know Nimoy was going to make four more movies, not counting the reboot or Next Generation appearances? But it does.

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Here’s another interview on the Fancy Anders virtual tour, featuring looks at Fay Dalton’s art and a preview of Chapter One.

And another interview here.

And here’s one more. I do my best to put different stuff in all of these interviews, though of course I fail miserably.


Fancy This – A “Life in Crime” Link and Farewell to Non-Fiction

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Fancy Anders Goes to War comes out today.

I haven’t seen the print version yet and will report my reaction when I have, but I encourage you to take a risk — the paperback is a modestly priced $6.99 at Amazon and it’s only $2.99 on Kindle. NeoText has been great on this and the forthcoming Dave Thomas project, The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, so I hope you’ll support what is frankly an experiment with your hard-earned dollars.

This week the meat of the update is again an installment of my ongoing literary memoir A Life in Crime, which focuses on Fancy Anders and how it/she came to be written. Additionally the essay/article discusses female detectives of fiction who impacted Fancy’s creation as well as ones I’ve created, including the Borne “girls” of the Antiques series I do with my wife Barb.

There’s also a stunning gallery of Fay Dalton’s artwork, including but not limited to her illos for Fancy Anders.

Illustration from Fancy Anders Goes to War
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link
* * *

All the copies of Bombshell by Barb and me have gone out in the latest book giveaway. If you’ve never read it, this new Wolfpack edition is a very attractive way to do so.

I am currently working on the Mickey Spillane biography with my collaborator James Traylor for Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Press. My office looks like a hurricane hit, a result of my gathering all of my Spillane material – articles in magazines and newspapers, personal correspondence, print-outs of web stuff – in one place. This is an accumulation that began, literally, about 1962 when I was too young to be reading Mickey Spillane.

And because I move fast – this is common with the Heller books, too – material is tossed here and there, hither and yon, and my office becomes a mess that requires a day of cleaning at the end of every project. Yesterday I finished a chapter and decided, though I was at the midpoint not the end of the bio, I would clean my office and get things re-ordered and file away material I wouldn’t need at this point.

In doing so, I ran across a stack of clippings I’d overlooked that gave me information that, if I could motivate myself, could be used to improve the chapter I’d just finished. Make that “finished,” because I bit the bullet and rewrote the chapter.

I have decided I will never write non-fiction again. I haven’t done much, but projects like The History of Mystery, the Elvgren and other pin-up books, the men’s adventure magazine book with George Hagenauer, two previous Spillane non-fiction works with Jim Traylor, and the two Eliot Ness biographies with Brad Schwartz, were just too punishing for me to consider doing non-fiction again at this stage and age. The Spillane bio is going to be something very good, I think, and will make an excellent capper to this niche of my career.

This does not count historical fiction, by the way. Much more of that to come.

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I’ve done several interviews – both print and podcast – in support of Fancy Anders Goes to War, mostly in the comics realm because of the great Fay Dalton artwork. Hoping this doesn’t sound patronizing or ass-kissy, I want to say how pleased I was by the experience – these comics fans are smart and articulate and had done their homework. I was impressed.

In the crime fiction area, however, Crime Reads gives you a sample chapter (the first) and a look at many of those illustrations.

Here’s what strikes me a strong interview from ComicXF.

This Geek Vibes Nation is a good one, too.

Finally, though I was totally incompetent in my Luddite way before we got things figured out, this is a video podcast I really enjoyed doing.