Posts Tagged ‘Articles’

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.

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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.


Quarry in Feb, Fancy Anders Coming, and Billy Bob Thornton

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

News flashes hot off the wires….

If you have pre-ordered Quarry’s Blood, be advised that due to printing, shipping and customs delays, the new Quarry novel from Hard Case Crime won’t be arriving in stores until February 2022.

The publication of Fancy Anders Goes to War is imminent, and both the Kindle e-book and the physical book can be pre-ordered now. I will probably not see the latter until right around publication date, but I am very pleased (obviously) with Fay Dalton’s great cover and the general layout of the book.

Again, the e-book of Fancy will have full color illos (a few are mostly black-and-white with dabs of color) while the “real” book will have the illos in black-and-white. The hope is that after the other two Fancy novellas appear (Fancy Anders For the Boys and Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood, which also feature Fay Dalton covers and illustrations), all three will be gathered in a single book with the illos in color and likely in a larger format.

You can order Fancy Anders Goes to War right here. (E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link, Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link) You can only find it on line, not in brick-and-mortar stores.

Also, over the weekend Dave Thomas, publisher John Schoenfelder and I decided that there would be two covers for NeoText’s also fairly imminent The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton. Fay Dalton has already completed her stunner, and another is being put together from roughs by Dave (with my input) for an alternate cover. You will be able to choose which cover will adorn your copy of the book. (Jimmy is not yet available for pre-order on Amazon, but its publication is soon – October 25).

All ten copies of the Wolfpack edition of Bombshell by Barb and me are now spoken for, so the book giveaway for that title is over. Books will go out within the week. Barb and I will sign them all.

Again, the meat of the sandwich this week is the next installment my ongoing memoir, A Life in Crime, at the great NeoText web site. This week it’s the story of how Road to Perdition came to be and is again lavishly illustrated. I’d like to acknowledge Al Guthrie of NeoText who has been putting these together beautifully.

Next week will be part seven and focus on Fancy Anders on the very week of Fancy Anders Goes to War being published. Coincidence or evil plan? You tell me.

Initially, this was to end this run of A Life in Crime for now, with appropriate installments to be written and appearing in support of future books. But I decided to keep going with this essays right up to the publication of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, so three more installments are (as they delicately say) in the can.

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Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath

Billy Bob Thornton is one of my favorite actors – one of my favorite creative people, period.

Sling Blade (1996) is a masterpiece of indie filmmaking and proof that story and performance are more important than cinematic flash. Thornton’s limited budget made it necessary to shoot his film almost entirely in master shots (wide shots). Despite its lack of moody lighting effects and camera angles, it’s a solid example of film noir.

And I can never find Thornton in that performance. He has disappeared into Karl so thoroughly, the character seems to exist apart from the actor.

Like Orson Welles and John Cassavetes, Thornton has alternated parts in more commercial films with artier fare and the ability to record and perform with his rock band, Boxmasters. Along the way he has starred in some films I like very much – the two Bad Santa movies and the Coen Brothers’ James M. Cain pastiche, The Man Who Wasn’t There – and he knocked the ball out of the park in the first season of the FX miniseries Fargo as Lorne Malvo, a hitman who might be a physical manifestation of the devil.

I mention my like of Thornton primarily to recommend his series Goliath on Amazon Prime. Barb and I are half-way through the fourth and announced final season of this series about a once very successful attorney now an alcoholic shambles of his former self who nonetheless is able to pull himself together to play David against various corporate Goliaths. I’m not sure you need to watch the previous seasons to enjoy this final one. Each season has its own flavor and the second season, although I liked it, soured some viewers.

But overall it’s a great series, in a streaming world where we are hit with so many choices it’s easy to miss some of the really good things. And this fourth season, as far as I’ve seen at least, is outstanding. Thornton directs the first episode with the kind of noir-ish flare that is missing from Sling Blade (although frankly it might have ruined the effect of that low-key classic).

Much of the fourth season takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown, as if to dare you not to make the connections between it and the great film of that name. It also consciously invokes Vertigo, which takes guts. By which I mean balls.

And yet so far, they’re pulling it off.

And it has Bruce Dern in it. If that doesn’t make you smile, we have nothing in common.

Billy Bob has been married six or seven times, has phobias about antique furniture and silverware, is a huge fan of My Little Pony, and much other weirdness. And I don’t care. He’s a national treasure.

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Fancy Anders Goes to War, while not a graphic novel, is attracting a lot of attention in the comics world, thanks largely to artist Fay Dalton’s contribution and maybe a little bit because of my comics connections.

IGN has nice coverage here.

John Siuntres’ Word Balloon podcast has an interview with me, and he’s knowledgeable, which made it a pleasure.

This is an especially lively video podcast with Al Mega and C.V.R. the Bard. I had a great time with this one.

And J. Kingston Pierce at the definitive mystery/crime fiction blog, The Rap Sheet, has taken notice of what we’ve been up to here recently.


Not Another Book Giveaway! Plus Covering Ms. Tree

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021
Bombshell, Wolfpack edition cover
Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

We have ten copies to give away of the lovely new Wolfpack edition of Bombshell by Barbara Collins and me.

[All copies have been claimed! Thank you for participating, and check back soon for more giveaways. –Nate]

Bombshell is the historical espionage thriller in which Marilyn Monroe meets Nikita Khrushchev on his visit to America in 1959. It has been published previously with Barb receiving top billing, and again under our joint “Barbara Allan” pen name. I’ve been given top billing here to bring it in line with my other Wolfpack titles, but frankly Barb deserves more credit than I do – the novel springs from a short story of hers and reflects her long interest in (and expertise about) Marilyn Monroe.

Again, the main event this week is another chapter in my ongoing memoir, A Life in Crime, which I’ve done for NeoText to help promote Fancy Anders Goes to War, which comes out on October 5, with The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (by Dave Thomas and me) coming out October 25.

This week is the story of how Ms. Tree came to be, and includes a fantastic array of Terry Beatty’s cover art (and the covers by guest artists of the DC issues and the current Titan archival collections). It’s right here.

Ms. Tree: The Cold Dish cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
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Norm Macdonald made me laugh harder than anyone I can think of. His deadpan talk-show delivery of corny groaner punchlines after torturous build-ups seemed at odds with his razor-sharp surprising stand-up sardonic observations that shattered the boundaries of political correctness. With quietly self-amused fearlessness he tested what an audience would tolerate, flirting with the ugliness of dark humor yet consumed by a sunny Canadian decency and integrity. The nasty side of his humor was funny in part because he seemed to have an innate sweetness as well as a sense of his own absurdity.

He was at his peak of popularity when he held the news desk at SNL, with two movies on the way, positioning him to be the next Bill Murray or Michael Keaton. But his gambler’s streak kept him from playing it safe, instinctively knowing that what he had to offer was his willingness to go where he shouldn’t like the class clown who faces expulsion but has one last crack to make about the teacher.

So when the boss at NBC, Don Ohlmeyer, ordered Norm to lay off the O.J. Simpson jokes, and the Michael Jackson digs too, Norm simply smiled that small sly smile and upped the ante. My favorite Norm moments were shared by the victim of those moments, prop comic Carrot Top, who showed real class here by sharing with an audience his own skewering.

Norm only topbilled two movies – Dirty Work and Screwed. Neither was loved by critics at the time, but both capture Norm at his best, in particular the dizzingly bad-taste exercise that is Dirty Work (“Note to self: making love to blow-up doll is not as good as advertised”). And Screwed teams Norm with Dave Chappelle, with Elaine Stritch and Danny DeVito offering delightfully unhinged support.

In this humorless, uptight era, the death of Norm Macdonald is the death of comedy.

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This podcast interview with me becomes available today.