Archive for the ‘Message from M.A.C.’ Category

Caleb York Nominated

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek cover
Hardcover: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
Paperback: Indiebound Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook Libro.fm Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

I’m pleased to say that my Caleb York novel – Shoot-out at Sugar Creek – has been nominated for a Scribe award.

Original Novel — General
Patient Zero, Amanda Bridgeman (Aconyte)
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Kensington)
Debonair in Death, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley)

Winners will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con July 22, 2022. A full list of nominees in all categories is at the IAMTW.

This is a bittersweet but much appreciated honor. For whatever reason, neither the Spur nor Peacemaker Awards from the Western Writers of America and the Western Fictioneers respectively have ever honored the Caleb York novels. (I should say we did get a Best Novel nomination for The Legend of Caleb York from the Fictioneers, but nothing since.)

I would imagine I’m viewed as an interloper, a mystery/crime novelist moving in on their territory. It’s been a fun ride nonetheless. Kensington has not asked for more Caleb York novels, and I am making no approaches to other publishers, though the York sales have been strong enough to make that possible. It’s just that my goal for Caleb York was to fashion a novel from Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Saga of Cali York, written for John Wayne. I only did more novels because Kensington requested them, and, hey, who am I to turn down work?

But at this stage of the game, I’m starting to question that question. I am embarking on what may be the final Nate Heller novel, the potentially massive Too Many Bullets, and will likely be spending most of the rest of this year on it. My health is fine, considering the underlying factors, but I am particular about what projects I take on at this point.

It’s hard for me to walk away from a series. I really loved writing Caleb York, as I’ve been a fan of movie and TV westerns since early childhood – admittedly less so of western fiction. But those six novels satisfied a creative itch and I’m pleased to go out on a Scribe nomination. The paperback of it is coming in October.

The Scribes honor writers of movie novelizations and TV tie-ins, as well as authors continuing characters begun by famous writers like Robert B. Parker, Edgar Rice Burroughs and, yup, Mickey Spillane. This is the first time I’ve submitted a Caleb York novel to the Scribes, as members are limited to one submission in a category, and previously I submitted Mike Hammer novels to the General Fiction category (winning several times, I’m pleased to say).

Those keeping score may recall that Lee Goldberg and I founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) a decade and a half ago. Lee, having more class than me, never submitted his work to the awards given by an organization he co-founded. I, of course, having no shame, have been a frequent nominee and occasional winner.

The reason why I have no shame is that the real shame goes to the writing organizations (you know who you are) that have ignored tie-in writing throughout their existence, as if the talented writers creating novels and short stories in their respective fields (science fiction, mystery fiction, horror, western) didn’t exist at all.

I know from the mail I’ve received over the years (snail and e-) that most readers don’t make that distinction. The role that Star Trek and Star Wars novels played in keeping those franchises alive during periods when Hollywood’s versions lay fallow cannot be overestimated. My publishers frequently mention that I am the author of Saving Private Ryan and Air Force One (among others) without bothering to mention they are novelizations. Until the recent Reeder & Rogers political trilogy came along, my CSI novels (written, like that trilogy, with my gifted co-writer Matthew Clemens) were my bestselling mystery/crime novels…and introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to my work.

So I am proud to be co-founder of the IAMTW, and will bear up under the shame of participating in their awards.

* * *
Sam Elliot in 1883

Speaking of westerns, among the streaming series Barb and I have been watching is 1883, which is supposedly a prequel to the very popular Yellowstone. We tried the latter and somewhere in the second season got irritated with it, so we avoided the prequel for a while. We shouldn’t have.

My love for Sam Elliot as perhaps our last great western icon in the Hollywood sense finally prompted us to watch, and it’s a fine show – tough, heart-felt, and more historically accurate than most. (Really it should be set at least ten years earlier, but apparently that would screw up its prequel-to-Yellowstone timeline.) Everyone on this series is good, but Elliot seems to sense this is a career-capper and his rock-hard surface hiding tender humanity – he is sort of the ultimate “tough love” advocate – sums up everything we admire about his work.

1883 is on Paramount-Plus, and I’m finding it the best of the handful of streaming services of which I partake. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to honor the memory and approach of Roddenberry while updating it. Barb and I glance at each other every episode and at some point one of us says, “Can you believe it’s 2022 and we’re watching new Star Trek?”

And real Star Trek at that.

The Offer wrapped up very well. Having read a bit about the actual filming of The Godfather, I am aware a certain amount of sugarcoating, not to mention artistic license, is afoot here. But I was shocked by the swells of emotion I felt in the knowledge that the characters have achieved their goals and were about to go on with their lives without me. For me, Miles Teller is the standout in a cast that I would have to say is flawless (well, the Sinatra guy could have been better).

Also viewed streaming (it’s available a couple of places) is a three-and-a-half-hour Bollywood movie my son badgered me to watch – RRR. It is an absolutely bonkers action spectacle that makes Raiders of the Lost Arc look like a documentary about archeology. They fight, they sing, they dance, they romance, they make sure we know the Brits were stinkers. It’s absurd and childish and sophisticated and three hours and a half just blow by. I cannot do RRR justice, other than to say – don’t leave the planet before you’ve experienced it. (My favorite scene had to do with the massive cages of wild beasts being unleashed on a British nighttime garden party.)

You’re welcome.

* * *

One of the things about writing a weekly blog, with a specific deadline, is that everything else can get in the way.

Today I have to prep for the commentary I’m doing tomorrow morning (at Phil Dingeldein’s studio in Rock Island) for the ClassicFlix 4K Blu-ray (and 3-D) release of the 1953 I, the Jury, something I had only dreamed might one day happen. But the prep will not be easy, as there is much to discuss.

Last week I was in a foul mood and did not feel well, and dragged myself through this bloggy process. And if it showed, well, you’re not paying anything for this. Don’t bitch.

However. I performed the kind of screw-up I am well-known among my friends and associates (not mutually exclusive groups) for performing: I posted the four gigs of my band Crusin’ this summer and managed to leave out one of those dates, while thoughtfully including the times and places. You can’t have everything.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

Before I present the revised schedule, I’ll mention that Crusin’ appeared last Friday night (June 24) at Ardon Creek Winery. It’s a lovely outdoor venue, and we were pretty good. The crowd was even better, numbering in the hundreds. A taco truck fed their tummies, and we fed their souls. It was fun, and I felt good throughout, relieved that my age had not dulled my rock ‘n’ roll skills appreciably since last year.

We had not appeared at Ardon Creek, one of our favorite venues, since pre-Covid, so it felt like a reunion. Barb was there – she helps me set up and tear down – and my son Nate, his wife Abby and their two kids Sam and Lucy came and capered on the surrounding green landscape that makes this particular venue so special.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

I know these updates go out to readers, fans and friends all over the country, all over the world really, and what follows is strictly for Eastern Iowa and thereabouts. But here’s the rest of Crusin’s season:

Saturday July 2 we’re at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 p.m. On the patio, inside in case of rain.

Sunday August 14 it’s the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s indoors, weather allowing outside in the parking lot. 6 to 8 p.m.

Sunday Aug 21 2022 – the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, 1 till 4 p.m. 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

* * *

Here’s a nice John Sand review.

This piece looks at Road to Perdition on Netflix.

You have to scroll down a ways, but this is an in depth look at several of the Nolan novels, including the recent Skim Deep. [Note: the link is a PDF-format Internet magazine. The homepage is here.—Nate] The writer is very self-confident, smart and talky, but careless (my middle name is “Allen” in the first piece, and Richard Stark, it seems, writes about “Porter”). But it’s a deeper dive (a current term I despise) than Nolan is usually given.

Here’s a Spillane WW 2-era comic book story I didn’t know about!

M.A.C.

Sand Sale, Perdition, Hammer Theme, Spillane, Crusin’

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

There is another John Sand bargain this week – I believe it goes to the 15th of next month (July) – for the audio of To Live and Spy in Berlin. For only 99 cents! Brian J. Gill reads this (and the other two Sand novels) in a nice English accent that suits the material; really a great job.

To Live and Spy in Berlin Audiobook
* * *

Several friends and fans wrote me about a Daily Atlantic newsletter essay that selected Road to Perdition as an ideal Father’s Day movie. I liked the piece, even though it neglected to mention me, and was touched that the photo running with the article was from the sequence directly based on my first driving lesson with my late father. No bank robberies were involved in real life, however. I also like John Rooney being based on John Looney got a mention.

Here it is:

‘He Was My Father’

Sometimes at the Daily we step back at the end of the week’s blizzard of news and current events and suggest something for your leisure time. It’s Father’s Day weekend, and so I want to recommend to you one of my favorite movies, a meditation on generations and fatherhood and loyalty and duty, a warm, nostalgic look at families during a simpler time, starring two of America’s most beloved actors.

I am talking, of course, about Road to Perdition.

If you have not seen it, Road to Perdition (based on the graphic novel of the same name, and widely available to stream) is a 2002 film about Irish gangsters in the 1930s. But it’s really about fathers and sons. A mob leg-breaker named Mike Sullivan, played by a bulked-up Tom Hanks, is fiercely loyal to his boss, John Rooney (played, in his last role, against type and with regal Hibernian menace by Paul Newman); indeed, Sullivan and Rooney have a father-son relationship.

But Rooney already has a son, played by Daniel Craig, and that son is a murderous psychopath. (People wonder why I had a hard time accepting Craig as James Bond. It’s because I saw Road to Perdition first.) Without giving away too much, Sullivan and his own young son, Michael, have to go on the lam. It’s a father-son road-trip movie, except with tommy guns and stone killers.

You may find this an unusual recommendation. Bear with me.

When Father’s Day rolls around, I naturally think of my own father. I have never been able to relate to all those Hallmark-card, Ward Cleaver images. My dad was a complicated man, which is what sons say when we mean “He was terribly flawed in a lot of ways, but he loved me.” He bore a lot of sins and had a lot of shortcomings, but he had a consistent code of ethics in dealing with others and he was known for it. He kept his word, paid his debts, and treated others with respect. He was the kind of man who would walk into a local bar and his peers would call him Nick but younger men would unfailingly refer to him as “Mr. Nichols.” Even our younger neighbors called him “Mr. Nichols,” with great affection. (When he died, I sold his house to one of the children who’d grown up next door to him.)

I think most of us had fathers who weren’t perfect. Mine wasn’t, and yet he taught me important things: Do an honest day’s work. Love your country. Do things you have to do even if they’re unpleasant. Never back down if you know you’re right. Be courteous in public.

He also taught me how to gamble and showed me how to spot someone dealing off the bottom of a deck of cards.

He wasn’t the blueprint for a good husband or father, and he knew it. When I was in my 30s, he admitted to my mother that he thought I’d grown up to be a better man than he was. This is a hard thing to learn about your father, a source of both pride and sadness. (I will have more to say about fathers, and the men I knew growing up, over on my Peacefield newsletter this weekend.)

Which brings me back to Road to Perdition. When Sullivan has to go on the run with Michael (played by a young Tyler Hoechlin), the son finally learns what the father he idolizes actually does for a living. He also learns that Rooney—based on the real-life Irish godfather John Patrick Looney—is not a kindly grandfather but a cold-blooded killer. These men (and this is very much a man’s movie) are scoundrels, but they have a code, and their obedience to that code leads them to tragic choices.

The last line of the movie (again, without spoiling anything) is what ties it all to my memories of my own boyhood. Young Michael reminisces, and says: “When people ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all, I always give the same answer. I just tell them: He was my father.”

That is the most honest thing most of us can say about our fathers. We love them, and they love us, and that’s enough.

* * *

My Brit pal Andrew Sumner, who edits my Mike Hammer novels at Titan (including the upcoming Kill Me If You Can), sent this great video.

He explains: “Due to my regular attendance at London’s finest jazz clubs, I’ve become friendly with a well-known UK swing/jazz R&B performer called Ray Gelato. Ray leads a band called Ray Gelato and the Giants and they essentially channel the energy of Louis Prima & Louis Jordan – they played Paul McCartney’s wedding, they’ve supported Queen, etc. They’re in a similar wheelhouse to Brian Setzer and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

Andrew was nice enough to request that they play “Harlem Nocturne,” Mike Hammer’s theme in the Keach era, and dedicate it to me. Have a listen and look (or is that a butcher’s hook?).

* * *

If you’re a huge Spillane fan or huge Collins fan or just huge masochist, you may wish to watch this entire ninety-minute interview of me (on the subject of Mickey) by Dan Scheider (he’s very’s good) featuring the great Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective fame and accomplishment.

* * *

On another musical note (or two or three or four), my band Crusin’, 2018 inductees in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, will be playing four dates in Eastern Iowa this summer and early fall.

First up, on Friday June 24 from 6 to 9 p.m., is the Ardon Creek Vineyard in the gently rolling farmland of “76 Township” in Eastern Iowa, approximately 30 minutes southeast of Iowa City, Iowa, 15 minutes southwest of Muscatine, Iowa and 5 miles north of Letts. Here’s the address: 2391 Independence Avenue, Letts, IA 52754. Their phone is (563) 272-0028 and more info’s available here, including a map.

On Saturday July 2 we’ll be at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 pm. We’ll be on the patio unless there’s rain, in which case we’ll be inside. This is a lovely venue, and the patio overlooks the Mississippi.

On Sunday August 14 we’ll again be appearing as part of the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s held indoors and other times, weather allowing, with an outdoor stage in the parking lot. Hours are 6 to 8 p.m.

Finally, we’ll be appearing at the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, which runs from 1 till 4 p.m. (Our times are 1:15 to 2:10 and 3 to 3:45.) 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

Yes, our “season” is short, which is on purpose. Again I wonder if this will be the last year for Crusin’ appearances. And my memory fills with my departed bandmates, including the most recent and cutting loss, bass player Brian Van Winkle. I hope he’s somewhere arguing with Paul Thomas, Chuck Bunn, Bruce Peters, and Terry Beckey who among them gets to play bass if that Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven gig comes through. But knowing Brian, he’d just smile and wait his turn.


Crusin’ at the Moose in January 2022
* * *

Check out this wonderful Quarry’s Blood review at the web’s definitive genre book review site, Bookgasm.

Here’s a nice Goodreads review of the graphic novel, Road to Perdition.

And finally here is The Big Bundle at the Hard Case Crime web site.

M.A.C.

An Essential Noir Blu-Ray, A Spillane Update and Final Episodes

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022
The Guilty/High Tide Blu-Ray Cover from Flicker Alley

My pal Eddie Muller, the guru of all things noir, has outdone himself with the latest Flicker Alley home video release from the Film Noir Foundation. Beautifully restored as usual by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Eddie’s first double feature on Blu-ray/DVD is The Guilty/High Tide, both 1947 releases from (of all people) producer Jack Wrather of early TV’s Lone Ranger and Lassie (!) fame.

What makes the disc a noir fan’s feast are the special features, many of which are the work of film expert Alan K. Rode, including documentaries on Wrather (and his actress wife Bonita Granville, star of The Guilty), Cornell Woolrich, and director John Reinhardt. The standout special feature for me, however, is Lee Tracy: The Fastest Mouth in the West from charming, articulate noir historian Imogen Sara Smith.

Lee Tracy is a nearly forgotten movie (and stage) star of the 1930s who has long been a favorite of mine. He defined the Hildy Johnson character in The Front Page on Broadway. He didn’t play the role on screen (Pat O’Brien did) but he went on to be the prototypical fast-talking, rule-bending, hard-drinking, sleazy-but-winning media-man of pre-Code Hollywood. He is remembered, if at all, for his most enduring films, Doctor X, Dinner at Eight, and Bombshell. He made a late career comeback on Broadway and in the film version of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (1964), playing a Truman-esque ex-president turned power broker – he got an Academy Award nomination for that. A terrific film, by the way.

His career downfall in the mid-‘30s came when he supposedly urinated from a balcony onto a passing parade of Mexican soldiers (he was making Viva Villa!). He was apparently as hard-living and hard-drinking as the characters he portrayed. For me, he’s a unique figure, fast-talking and oddly charismatic despite a face that looks like a sack of potatoes wearing a sly smile. He is pre-Code Hollywood wrapped up in one balcony-pissing package.

Eddie Muller, who participates in several of the documentaries and delivers his usual fine introduction to the films, is more impressed with The Guilty than with the Lee Tracy-dominant High Tide. The Guilty is definitely worthwhile, an Ulmer-esque exercise in making something out of nothing, budget-wise.

The Guilty is also one of the best translations of the mood of writer Cornell Woolrich to the screen. Rear Window is obviously – I’m no genius pointing this out – superior; but then so is The Window with Ed Gorman’s first cousin Bobby Driscoll and Phantom Lady and on and on. What The Guilty has, besides cannily used shabby sets, is its doomed lead actor, Don Castle – who is also in the Woolrich-based I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (1948) and of course High Tide. Castle rivals Tom Neal for sad irony in his real life, ending a suicide.

I will state, at risk of losing whatever noir credentials I have, that I am not in particular a fan of Woolrich’s writing. He was justifiably famed for his ability to come up with one resonant noir premise after another; but as a writer he did not do much for me. I once was hired to write a screenplay from a novel of his (never made) and was not impressed with the craftsmanship. This is a matter of taste and I acknowledge his importance on a very short list that includes Hammett, Chandler, James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, Mickey Spillane, and Jim Thompson.

The sadness and threadbare nature of Woolrich’s life is well-served by The Guilty, but for this fan of actor Lee Tracy, High Tide (with which I was already familiar) is the gem of this rhinestone-glittering package. Like The Guilty (and I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes) it’s from Monogram. I once had Nate Heller say, “The night was as starless as a movie from Monogram.” But Lee Tracy must have slipped my mind. Typically, in both The Guilty and High Tide, Regis Toomey shows up as essentially the same plainclothes police inspector (he has that role in I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, too, more centrally).

High Tide has a wraparound right out of Double Indemnity and a bigger budget than The Guilty (considering it’s Monogram, nothing to brag about) but it serves as a coda, or even valedictory, for Lee Tracy’s fast-talking, rule-breaking reporter, a figure recognizably American, at once admirable and shameful.

Tracy was no longer A-list in 1947 and hadn’t been for well over a decade; he was making the occasional B picture. He would soon gain a slight, tenuous hold on noir history by way of starring in the first really successful tough private eye series, Martin Kane. Surviving examples of this early ‘50s show are fascinating artifacts of live TV. But in High Tide the actor brings his trademark persona fully into the bleak world of film noir, where leads are played by the doomed likes of Castle and Neal. He fits in well but flies much higher on his way to High Tide’s splash landing.

Thank you, Eddie Muller, Alan Rode, Woolrich documentarian Steven Smith, and especially Imogan Sara Smith, for her wonderful career piece on Lee Tracy.

* * *

In the meantime, I am preparing to do the commentary for ClassicFlix’s I, the Jury release this coming September. It’s going to be really something – a package including 4K, Blu-ray and 3-D. Preparing for my work, I have watched a 3-D advance disc of the 1953 film and was again blown away by John Alton’s cinematography.

I have always liked this film – it was my first introduction to Mike Hammer, seen on a very small black-and-white TV around 1955 – and I know that some people don’t accept Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer. Mickey didn’t, and he’s not alone. But I find Biff’s take on Hammer as a young, not terribly bright combat veteran, out to avenge the guy who lost an arm to a Japanese bayonet meant for him, both appropriate and effective – burly but not a bully. The flaws in the film mostly have to do with censorship issues – the truncated striptease at the conclusion particularly, but also the lengths the script has to go to, to avoid directly mentioning prostitution and dope dealing.

I will talk more about this later, but anyone interested in Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer…really, any film noir fan…will find the Classicflix I, the Jury on a short list of best Blu-rays of the year, including no doubt The Guilty/High Tide.

* * *

Elsewhere on the Spillane front, I am working on the galley proofs of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, and find myself very pleased. It was a big, hard job – Jim Traylor and I have been seriously working on this project since shortly after Mickey’s passing in 2006 – and I am relieved to find that I like the result. Jim is working on the index of the 350-page book right now.

I am thrilled that Mysterious Press is the publisher. It’s a classy imprimatur that I think this book deserves.

* * *

Our first post-Covid lockdown walk-out on a movie: Jurassic World: Dominion. The dinosaurs were believable, but the people were not. Just a dreadful, dull script with brain-numbing dialogue. I had thought this would be a nice melding of characters from the previous entries in the saga, but (for the hour-plus we witnessed) they rarely interacted.

We saw it in 3D that was barely noticeable (but for the upcharge). I was tempted to stay and watch at least some of the actors get eaten, but Barb was fed up.

I will say I thought the overhead sound conveying the prehistoric creatures grazing and grunting was effective until I realized it was just the other moviegoers.

On a more positive note, several of the limited-run TV series we’ve been watching have wrapped up satisfyingly, particularly Gaslit and (an episode to go) the delightful The Offer (I recommend supplementing the series with the behind-the-scenes Godfather book, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli by Mark Seal). HBO’s The Staircase remained compelling viewing in its final episode, but as it’s credited with being based on the French documentary of the same name, one does wonder where material not seen in the doc came from. Some of it seems unfair to all concerned. Anyway, that owl did it.

* * *

Finally, it’s another article about that Tom Hanks movie that you didn’t realize came from a graphic novel.

M.A.C.

54 Years and Counting! (Really 56.)

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Barb and I took our first post-Covid lockdown overnight trip, celebrating our 54th wedding anniversary last week – specifically, on June 1st, the day of, and returning to Muscatine on June 2nd, the start of year 55.

It was a delightful trip, although two business situations back in the real world came up shortly after we arrived in Galena, Illinois (our favorite getaway spot) and reminded me how nice life was when you didn’t have a cell phone in your pocket.

Things settled down, though, and we shopped and lunched at Vinny Vanucci’s and had a lovely evening, dining at Fritz and Frites and then sharing a quiet, typically Collins evening in our suite at the Irish Cottage – see the photos as evidence.

M.A.C. and Barb at Fritz and Frites
Champagne and The Brain Eaters

You will note that I look almost giddy sharing a table with a beautiful blonde, undeterred by having spent 56 years of my life with her (we started going together in 1966). There are numerous reasons not to like me, even to hate me, but none better than my managing to hornswoggle (one of my late father’s favorite words) her into spending most of her life with me.

Obviously Barb is a beauty. But she is also funny and smart and ridiculously thoughtful. She loves the Three Stooges. She loves the Beatles. She loves the original Star Trek. She loves James Bond. She loves her grandchildren. And she even loves me.

The question we get most often is how we write together and remain married. I’ve seen other writing couples really struggle with that. My answer sounds flip but it’s true: our offices are on separate floors.

Another major factor is that we develop the idea for a story or novel together, often over lunch or on a car ride, and then she works alone on her draft, checking in with me only if she hits a rough patch and wants an opinion (rare). She does not love to write. I try to tell her that no writers really love to write, though many of us are compelled to do so, and all of us love to have written. But she entered the field basically to help me out, editing, and writing the “Mike Mist” feature for Ms. Tree after I burned out on minute mysteries.

So when she finishes a draft of a novel, she claims (believably) to be sick of it. She doesn’t care what I do with it. This is basically true, but if my draft wanders too far afield from what she had in mind, she’s very tough-minded about getting me back on track.

We just finished our short novel, Cutout, for Neo-Text. I say “finished,” but we haven’t heard back from the editor, so you never know when rewrites are requested. But it feels good and was very much an idea that came from Barb and a story that she generated. The Antiques novels are fairly loose and it’s not unusual for long stretches to be my work; but in Cutout, her writing was so tight that working on it, trying to improve on it, was like repairing an expensive watch.

So feel free to hate me for being so lucky in having this life partner. I don’t deserve her. But at least I know it.

Frankie Valli Concert 2022

We wrapped up our anniversary celebration with a concert – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Really, it was Frankie Valli and four back-up singers/dancers, but I’m not complaining…it was a great show. Held at the cavernous and unfortunately named TaxSlayer Center in Moline, the concert featured an amazingly spry eighty-eight year-old Valli hitting all the high notes and giving a long, opening-act-free presentation of most of his many hits, without and without the Seasons. A multi-media affair, with a fantastic rocking band, it had a Vegas feel that made other oldies shows I’ve seen look and feel like the cobbled-together affairs they often are.

The event had been postponed twice, and we almost skipped it, having already had a fun but exhausting Galena trip. But we were very, very glad we saw this pop music legend in performance.

* * *
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds poster

Among the list of things Barb loves I listed Star Trek. We loved all the movies, including the one Shatner directed, and the recent J.J. Abrams reboot features, which not everyone does. We are okay with Next Generation, but every other ST series has left us cold – we haven’t ever boarded those vessels, not long-term.

I was once approached to do a Star Trek novel and was thrilled. It was to be about the newest, about-to-debut series, Enterprise, which I was told was a throwback to the original series. I watched the premiere, all revved up – it starred Scott Bakula, from Quantum Leap! But then it turned out to, well, uh…suck. At least in my opinion. And Barb’s.

I tried to get the book gig anyway, but both my tries were rejected because they resembled this episode of that Trek spin-off or that episode of this one.

Now comes Star Trek – Strange New Worlds, and we are both fans. It’s basically the series that Gene Roddenberry first intended to do, as indicated by the pilot (“The Menagerie”) with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, Majel Barrett as Number One, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock.

Strange New Worlds (streaming on Paramount Plus) is a smart, respectful prequel with a great cast. Anson Mount as Pike seems to combine the best of Kirk and Picard, Rebecca Romijn as Number One is a particularly strong presence, and Ethan Peck as Spock channels Nimoy to an eerie degree, particularly the sound and cadence of the original Spock’s voice.

The art design and special effects are stellar (sue me) and the stories so far mostly take place on the stunning Enterprise itself. The major difference is that none of the episodes to date are anything William Shatner would have put up with. Look, I love Shatner. (So does Barb.) He’s a force of nature and his Kirk is definitive. But he would never, never have allowed his episodes to focus so much on its ensemble cast. To Anson Mount’s credit, he holds the show together without flexing his ego.

This is the best Star Trek since…Star Trek.

* * *

Thanks to all of you who took advantage of the week-long 99-cent sale for the Kindle edition of No Time To Spy, which collects the three John Sand novels by Matt Clemens and me.

We did not hit number one on any of the Amazon bestseller lists (The Shrinking Island recently did) but we got into the upper reaches.

For those of you who (like me) prefer physical media, the “real” book of No Time to Spy is a fat thing of beauty.

You can get it here for $15.99.

* * *

Finally, here’s another of those “movies you didn’t know were based on comics” pieces, but not a bad one (on Road to Perdition of course).

M.A.C.