Posts Tagged ‘Caleb York’

Sand Number Three and Wild Dog Goes Number Two

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021
To Live and Spy in Berlin cover
Paperback: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
E-Book: Amazon

The third in the John Sand Trilogy – To Live and Spy In Berlin – comes out tomorrow, Wednesday July 14.

Both my co-author Matthew Clemens and I consider this the best of the three, although we are proud of each one individually and more so collectively.

As Matt and I have often expressed, the John Sand novels reflect our love of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels and the movies they spawned, particularly the first six (five of which starred Sean Connery). There’s been some confusion from people thinking we’re doing spoofs when homage is more like it. Possibly pastiche, although I think we go beyond that.

The books imagine John Sand as the “real-life” spy the world’s most famous fictional spy was based upon. Sand has a new wife, Stacey, and is working for a new international espionage organization. We put him – them – in an historical context, so a few famous faces turn up in each novel. And in the first three, John F. Kennedy has chosen Sand as his go-to spy.

We pulled this off in a short period of time, and while we hope to do more Sand novels, we admit to being bushed. We plot them together, share the research, stay in constant communication while Matt writes a rough draft, after which I write my draft, still staying in touch with my co-author. It is as genuine a collaboration as you are likely to find, rivaled only by Barb and me on the Antiques series.

I refer to this as the John Sand Trilogy because whether it goes beyond that number of entries is wholly in your hands – yours and whatever readers otherwise stumble onto what we think is a very entertaining series.

No book giveaway yet, but stayed tuned.

* * *

My panel on Ms. Tree, Mike Hammer and Nolan for the virtual San Diego Comic Con is at 12 PM to 1 PM on Friday, July 23. Info here.

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Some of you may be aware of the fuss regarding Wild Dog that was splashed all over the Internet last week (and still going). This is how CBR.com related it, relying on Bleeding Cool:

Wild Dog co-creator Terry Beatty slammed DC Comics for its upcoming Suicide Squad: Get Joker series, which depicts Wild Dog as being one of the insurrectionist who took part in the January 6th Capitol Insurrection.

Bleeding Cool posted a number of panels from the upcoming Brian Azzarello and Alex Maleev project, which shows the Suicide Squad paired with Red Hood to hunt down the Joker to finally make him pay for his crimes, and Wild Dog is available to be part of the Suicide Squad because he was in prison after being arrested during the Capitol Insurrection.

In the leaked panels, Wild Dog even brags about defecating on the desk of the Speaker of the House. He also says stuff like, “Garbage that’s been happenin’ in this country…it’s all fucking lawless…all the while we’re being regulated to think.”

Beatty, who co-created Wild Dog with writer Max Allan Collins, shared his displeasure with this new take on his creation on his Facebook page, “This is not the Wild Dog Max Allan Collins and I created. We are both angered and appalled at this offensive and out of character reworking of our hero. Yes, he was a vigilante. Yes, he was a gun nut.* But he wasn’t a conspiracy theory idiot or leader of a mob. This blatant disregard and disrespect for the creators’ intent is a slap in the face to both of us.”

Beatty referenced the CW version of Wild Dog, portrayed by Hispanic actor, Rick Gonzalez, as being a reason the artist thinks that this is a particularly bad idea, “It seems additionally insulting, considering the positive portrayal of Wild Dog as a POC on the CW ARROW TV series. To now make him the leader of a mob of racist, violent, moronic goons pretty much destroys any possibility of future use of him as an actual hero — vigilante or not.”

Wild Dog was introduced by Beatty and Collins in a miniseries for DC in 1987, as an urban vigilante who takes on the mob after his girlfriend is murdered. He later appeared in a series of stories by Collins and Beatty in Action Comics Weekly.

Beatty ended his missive by noting, “As the co-creator of Wild Dog, I need to say loud and clear, that what DC and Azzarello are currently presenting is not my Wild Dog, and neither Max nor I approve.”

Since then Terry has had more to say on his Facebook page (some of which has been quoted elsewhere). I was asked for my take on the matter by Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston.

Here’s what I wrote (with a title that was not used):

DOG POOP
Max Allan Collins

My first reaction at discovering Wild Dog had been recruited into the Suicide Squad as the leader of the Jan. 6 Insurrection as a defecating Proud Boy-style seditionist was bewildered shock. Basically, “Huh?”

That quickly grew to rage, expressed mostly as, “Fuck DC,” and “Fuck the writer.” I shared these sentiments with Wild Dog’s artist/co-creator, Terry Beatty, and he basically tried to calm me down. But, obviously, it gradually worked him into a rabid lather, too.

For me, it’s settled into disappointment and disgust. Wild Dog was conceived as a home-grown costumed hero. No cape, no cowl, just what could be put together out of such items as a hockey mask (with its Jason resonance) and body armor and real-world stuff from a hardware store and a home workshop. The usual “what if” all fiction writers operate from – “what if” somebody decided to actually be a costumed hero?

The results were not always beneficial. When Wild Dog found himself confronted by a would-be Bucky to his Captain America, despite our hero’s best efforts to discourage the Pup’s participation, the child is nearly killed. Terry and I pursued this with Ms. Tree – she was a vigilante, too, but wound up both in jail and in a mental institution. I might add in the Ms. Tree feature, Terry and I explored such then-current (and still current, unfortunately) topics as date rape, abortion clinic bombings, and gay bashing.

Some defenders of what we see as a perverted use of our creation dismiss it on the grounds that Wild Dog is a minor, forgotten character. Well, tell that to DC, who have used the character in at least three other comics, most recently as a cast member of the Cave Carson comic book, and to the CW network, where Wild Dog was a recurring character on Arrow.

Wild Dog debuted in a four-issue mini-series, had a regular slot in Action Weekly, and a “Special” double-length one-shot. In addition Terry is an Eisner-winning Batman artist, and we were Eisner nominees for our Ms. Tree work at DC. I wrote a year of Batman as well as two Batman graphic novels and was the initial writer of the Tim Burton-era Batman newspaper strip. My graphic novel (with Richard Piers Rayner), Road to Perdition, generated an Academy Award-winning film that is often cited as one of the best comic book movies ever made, and the graphic novel itself appears on many “Best of” lists. As recently as 2011 Terry and I did Return to Perdition for DC.

So what?

So Terry and I both have long relationships with DC and might have expected better where one of our creations is concerned. Yes, DC owns the rights to the character, but simple courtesy and common decency might suggest going down this path with Wild Dog was ill-advised – and that at least the creators should be warned. After all, invoking the Jan. 6 riot was bound to attract attention and controversy – shock value was the point, after all.

Of course we weren’t informed, just as we were not told about Wild Dog being used on the Arrow TV show. We weren’t paid for that (one of the few things our contract gave us) until that fact went public. I have worked with many terrific people at DC, but DC itself remains what it’s always been – a corporation built on the bones of two Cleveland teenagers.

As for Brian Azzarello, who I have never met, I have to wonder what kind of writer uses the creation of another writer in such a reckless, disrespectful manner. Azzarello is one of a generation of comics writers who owe a certain debt to our Ms. Tree, the first successful crime comic book in decades when it appeared in 1981. Still the longest running private eye comic book of all time (50 issues plus specials), it paved the way for everything that followed. We might have expected better thanks than this.

DC owning Wild Dog doesn’t stop it being characterized as my work – the fame of Road to Perdition guarantees I will be mentioned in the context of a character who is tied to a political movement I abhor.

But a modicum of consideration from the publisher, and some respect from the writer, is too much to expect from the company and talent who ignore Bill Finger’s Batman in favor of Batman fingering Catwoman.

Wild Dog
* * *

The Bleeding Cool story on Wild Dog, with more Terry Beatty responses and a lot of comments (where I weigh in here and there) can be seen here. Most of the comments are supportive; some are asinine.

Here is a wonderful Mike Hammer write-up with a focus on Complex 90.

Here’s a favorable if slightly patronizing Bookgasm review of the new Antiques Carry On.

Finally, Atomic Junkshop serves up a swell look at the Caleb York series with a great art and wonderful words.

M.A.C.

Wow! Another Book Giveaway! You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021
Double Down cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo Books A Million iTunes

I hear from a lot of readers that they have trouble keeping up with my output. Well, sometimes I have trouble, too – Double Down, the second of the Nolan reprint series from Hard Case Crime (two novels to a book), came out June 8! So, better late than never, ten copies are available in exchange for the promise of a review at Amazon and/or other outlets, including blogs. As usual, if you hate the book you are absolved of your obligation.

Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com. USA only. You must include your full snail-mail address (including name with address to make it easy on me copying it) even if you’ve won books before in these giveaways.

Let’s discuss my rate of output. For one thing, Double Down is two books I wrote decades ago, so you can’t hold that against me. And I don’t mean to sound morbid here, but you may have noticed I’m not as young as I used to be, which means I have an increasingly finite amount of time ahead of me to get my stories told. Yes, this is about making a living, but right now it’s more about getting the work done. And when I’m dead, my output will significantly decrease, and you will have plenty of time to catch up.

To Live and Spy in Berlin by Matt Clemens and me – the third John Sand novel – will be out July 14, but you can order it now. We think the cover is splendid. Will there be more John Sand books? That’s up to you. We have left something of an incredible effing cliffhanger that needs resolving, so it’s on your conscience not ours if sales don’t justify that resolution.

It’s frustrating to hear how many people assume these novels are spoofs (without reading them, of course), though it may be our fault for the tongue-in-cheek titles (Come Spy With Me; Live Fast, Spy Hard). And I provided the tagline, “A Marriage License to Kill.” But we are in the very hardboiled tradition of the original Bond novels and the first four Sean Connery films. Matt and I feel the third John Sand is the best of the bunch.

I have just completed – sent the manuscript to Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop minutes before beginning this update – a novel called The Menace by Mickey Spillane and me. It’s a horror novel based on an unproduced Spillane screenplay. I am hopeful it will do well enough to justify a novel version of another unproduced screenplay of Mickey’s, The Green Woman. If that happens, it will mean all three unproduced screenplays in the Spillane files will have become novels (the first was The Saga of Cali York, which became The Legend of Caleb York).

To Live and Spy in Berlin cover
E-Book: Amazon

In the pleasant wake of being named a recipient of the Faust, the Grand Master award from the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers, I had an interesting revelation about writing novelizations of film scripts. I think I already knew this instinctively, but with The Menace I realized that my approach to turning the script into a novel was very much the same as a director turning a script into a film.

The Menace will likely not be out from Wolfpack till 2022, since I wrote it as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s first appearance in I, the Jury (1947). So I’ll be talking about it more, later.

The nice response the Nolan reprints have been getting brings to mind how Nolan – and frankly my professional life as a writer – began. Specifically, it was with the film Point Blank, based on Richard’s Stark’s novel The Hunter and directed by John Boorman. Stark, of course, was Donald E. Westlake, but it would be a while before I knew that.

This was 1967 and it seemed like one film after another was hitting me hard, and changing many ideas I had about storytelling. Looking back, I’d have to say ‘67 was the best year the movies ever had, or it sure seemed that way when every weekend one or more of the following might happen: The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, You Only Live Twice, The Producers, Bedazzled, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The President’s Analyst. Not to mention (well, hell, let’s mention them) The Dirty Dozen, Tati’s Playtime, In the Heat of the Night, Coolhand Luke, Billion Dollar Brain, Hour of the Gun and Elvis in Clambake. Well, maybe not Elvis in Clambake….

Point Blank, as a modern, hard-edged, nearly surrealistic crime film, hit me harder than any (with the possible exception of Bonnie and Clyde). Barb and I saw it at a drive-in. I was still living at my parents’ house and remember vividly going out after dropping Barb off her at her parent’s place and buying Point Blank at an all-night supermarket. I remembered having seen the book there, reprinted by Gold Medal (title-changing The Hunter to Point Blank) as part of a reprint program of the Richard Stark “Parker” novels with covers by Robert McGinnis.

I’d already been reading and loving the Ennis Willie “Sand” novels, which had a similar premise, and within days I had started writing Mourn the Living, the first Nolan novel (although his name initially was Cord).

What I got from the film Point Blank was the modern gloss that could be put on the tough guy novels born of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s that had so consumed me as a young reader. What I got from Richard Stark’s Point Blank (and the other Parker novels) was a third-person approach that taught me strict point of view and interesting ways to shift time.

Without that film (and the book the film led me to) I would not be the writer I am today. I was so entrenched in Spillane technique – which was tied to the 1950s – that it was vital that John Boorman and Richard Stark drag me into the present.

Which, of course, was 1967.

And what ultimately separated me from Richard Stark was my young age and the world I was living in – soon I would be married and going to the University of Iowa on the Iowa City campus, in a world of hippies and rock ‘n’ roll that entered a bemused Nolan’s world immediately, and made me not just a throwback but somebody writing about his new world in an old established way.

I am always fascinated and impressed and even a little overwhelmed by things like this. Like what? Like buying a paperback of Point Blank with a Robert McGinnis cover, and a couple years later creating Quarry, the child Richard Stark and Mickey Spillane bore that came from my loins (ouch!), a character who would appear in two centuries in books of mine with Robert McGinnis covers.

I am a lucky bastard.

Not rich, not quite famous, but damn lucky.

* * *

Speaking of Double Down and Nolan, here is a review/essay from Book Reporter that is so good I might written it myself…or maybe held a gun to the reviewer’s head as encouragement.

The terrific Borg site writes up the best books of the decade, and names Mike Hammer as Best Retro Novel Series (New/Ongoing). The brief write-up is glowing and wonderful.

Finally, here’s another short but fun reaction to Double Down and Nolan.

M.A.C.

Back to the Basement

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

After fourteen months, my band Crusin’ had its first two post-lockdown rehearsals. The accompanying photo illustrating the current line-up was, appropriately, shot in my garage (though we practice in the nearby basement among thousands of books and DVDs).

Crusin' 2021 garage photo
CRUSIN’ 2021, left to right: Collins, Scott Anson, Steve Kundel, Bill Anson

We have three gigs lined up for our “season,” the first being July 4 at the Missipi Brew in the evening leading up to the fireworks. I’ll post the other dates here soon. And another gig or two may come through – we’ll see.

It was great being back with the guys – bittersweet, of course, after the passing of Brian Van Winkle, our longtime bass player. Our guitarist Bill Anson’s son Scott is our new bassist, but not all that new – Brian had stepped away from the band before our last pre-Covid gig, and Scott had been running sound and helping us load in and out for a couple of years. This is the first time we’ve had a father and son in the band, although drummer DeWayne Hopkins (who went on to be mayor of Muscatine) was followed in that role by his son, Jamie.

Both rehearsals went well, although all of us were rusty to a degree – not so much where playing was concerned, but in remembering chords and lyrics and the structure of arrangements. We had spent a lot of time in 2019 working on originals for one last CD, and were playing them on the job, but for now we’re tabling them. Without a CD to promote and sell, playing the originals seemed wrong somehow – we’re a classic rock band (a ‘60s/’70s/’80s variety) and audiences are not there to hear our originals.

We will still do a handful of our own songs this season, but next year we hope to be out there with a CD of original material, and possibly include the original songs from my movie Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, which feature my late, longtime musical accomplice Paul Thomas on guitar, vocals, producing and songwriting.

In addition to being rusty, I admit to having some problems with my hands, specifically arthritis in my thumbs, which hasn’t impacted my typing (yet) but which did slow me down at the organ keyboard…my brain kept asking my fingers to do things to which my fingers replied, “Are you effing kidding?”

This leads me to suspect that next year – assuming I’m here and so is everyone else in the band (uh, I’m no longer the oldest person in Crusin’) – will be our farewell mini-tour with a CD the jewel (or jewel case, anyway).

Funny thing. I did not personally rehearse at all during those fourteen months. I have a Roland keyboard in my office and I occasionally played it, usually when I was watching a laserdisc of some vintage rock group (New Wave the newest) and wanted to see if I could figure out (or remember) the chords. But I stayed out of the band room in the basement, other than to retrieve a DVD. I had something akin to a mental block about it and I can’t explain why.

That Roland keyboard in my office I had ordered when I was recovering from my heart surgery with my right hand essentially useless after the operating-table stroke I suffered. That keyboard, in addition to Physical Therapy exercises and such, was my savior. Very early in the recovery process I realized I had enough minimal strength in my right hand and fingers to type on a computer keyboard, which can tolerate a very light touch. Hardest thing about that was my usual hammering-away left hand needed to cool it some to have both hands work effectively in tandem.

But it was playing the Roland keyboard that largely got the use of my hand back – muscle memory, I guess. But we had it set on the dining room table like an oddly-shaped meal and I would play it several half hours a day, just doing improv things, like the “Light My Fire” and “Evil Ways” leads.

As for why I didn’t rehearse during those fourteen months, I can’t explain it. I often thought about going downstairs to practice, but I never did. I do know that I have never been one to “jam” – I like the structure of playing a song. My late uncle Mahlon Collins was a terrific trombone player who in his retirement years lived in Los Angeles and played in some big bands out there with top players…people who backed Sinatra-type top players (also with Chris Christensen of Seduction of the Innocent!). And Uncle Mahlon said he was the same way. He admired the soloists but he read charts. He liked structure. Songs.

I’m not exactly that way, because my ability to read music is limited and mostly I know chords – an organ player, not a pianist. And I do solos all the time – a Hammond B-3-style organ is great for improv and for more structured solos, too. If anyone cares, my favorite keyboard players are Rod Argent, Mark Stein and Alan Price. (I play a Nord that works well as a B-3 clone and the new version of the VOX Continental, for combo sounds.)

But just playing to play – again, getting together to jam – is not my…jam. I don’t write songs unless there’s a project – an indie movie of mine that needs songs, a CD we’re doing, even the time my father asked me to write a song for him to dance with my mother at their 50th wedding anniversary (it was called “Patricia,” which was her name, and was a pretty good tune). I wrote a Christmas song for a concert my dad was doing with his men’s chorus one year.

However…without a reason, an assignment, I would never sit down and write a song just for the hell of it, the way real musicians do. My guitar player Bill Anson writes songs all the time and he worked diligently in his home studio rehearsing Crusin’ (and other) material all through those fourteen months. I haven’t written any songs since I wrote my half dozen or so for the CD (the rest will be by Bill, except for one we wrote together, called “Crusin’” for some reason, which we performed at the 2018 induction concert for the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame).

I will say that – other than my arthritic thumbs protesting – I had no problem after fourteen months picking up where we left off. I always say – where my keyboard playing is concerned – I never knew enough to forget much.

* * *

Our first two-part Book Giveaway went very well – Barb and I sent out two boxes of books on Saturday. A few people got two books as we had some Antiques Fire Sale paperbacks left over.

We will probably have another giveaway next week.

I’m not trying to smother you people in pulp, it’s just that I have no control over publication dates. When a book comes out, I do a giveaway. Which means there may be several in the same month or two, or six months or more may pass between ‘em.

But I thank all of you who participate in these giveaways and we’re grateful for your reviews.

* * *

For some reason this video, in support of Scarface and the Untouchable by Brad Schwartz and me, has resurfaced. It’s on Fox Nation. [Photosensitivity warning: flashing lights]

Here is a swell review of Two for the Money, the Hard Case Crime combo of the first two Nolan novels, Bait Money and Blood Money.

And finally here is a fantastic review of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek from Bookgasm and Alan Cranis.

M.A.C.

Book Giveaway Part Two – Antiques Carry On and More

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021
Antiques Carry On cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

I have ten copies of Antiques Carry On by Barbara Allan (my wife Barb and me) to give away in exchange for reviews at Amazon (and elsewhere). These are beautiful hardcovers from our new publisher, Severn. Only about half the books on last week’s giveaway are gone, so this is Part Two.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! — Nate]

Another important aspect of these giveaways that I sometimes fail to mention is that Amazon won’t publish a review until a book is available for purchase – until its publication date. And sometimes I am sending advance copies. So don’t try to post something, fail because of this Amazon loophole, and forget about your (don’t mean to sound scolding) obligation. As usual, that obligation becomes optional if you don’t like the book.

* * *

Barb and I ventured into the wild again – a day trip to Cedar Rapids (sixty miles from us) and Iowa City (a little more than half of that). We had a wonderful time, though it got rainy late in the afternoon, as we headed home.

We are simple souls. We listened to Dragnet radio shows in the car, to and fro, and had a nice Italian lunch at Biagi’s in CR. We shopped a little – separately – and wound up in Iowa City for more shopping, a modest amount, and had a pizza at Pagliai’s, probably our favorite pizza anywhere.

A delightful day, but the world is…different. Masks are still in evidence, and various Covid precautions, which is fine by us. We were the first patrons in the door at Biagi’s and it felt a bit like eating in a haunted house. But for some years, the older version of us has sought to eat early and go to movies at off-times, because we find our species better taken in small doses.

Barb, in her clothes shopping, found higher-end merchandise – which I quaintly refer to as designer clothes – in short supply. The amount of sweat pants on display indicates a lifestyle change during the pandemic. More startling were the bookstores, both Half-Price and especially Barnes & Noble, where things were laid out differently. Nothing negative about it – mostly bigger aisles and sometimes areas arranged in a square you entered to shop in – just different. At both Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, the decline of physical media was shockingly apparent. Best Buy’s Blu-rays and DVDs were perhaps a tenth of what they’d been pre-pandemic, areas partitioned off with nothing inside. Barnes & Noble’s music and movie section was a ghost town, perhaps a third empty bins and a dominance of the hipster LPs that have me scratching my head – I guess some people like clicks and pops.

Books and magazines seemed about the same at the CR Barnes & Noble, although rearranged and moved around, sometimes for Covid safety, with perhaps a dollop of having kept the staff occupied with busy work during the pandemic.

At any rate, the notion that we could blink away a year and a half and return to “normal” seems wishful thinking. This feels more like England after World War Two.

Another aspect of this new normal is that Barb and I watched, that evening, Army of the Dead, the new Zack Snyder movie that is in theaters and on Netflix. It’s exactly the kind of movie we’d have gone to see in the theater, pre-Covid. While I won’t review it, I will say we both liked it. I may discuss it in detail later on.

I mentioned Dragnet in passing, and one of these days I’ll go into that in depth, too. I will say the collection we’re listening to – “Get ‘Em” from Radio Spirits – is an outstanding one, including some of the earliest, toughest episodes (from 1949).

In the meantime, Matt Clemens and I have answered the proofreader queries on To Live and Spy in Berlin, which is now safely in the Wolfpack pipeline. And I am about to begin a novel based on an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay (non-Mike Hammer), also for Wolfpack.

So, with your permission, I’ll get to work.

M.A.C.