Posts Tagged ‘Covers’

Wolfpack Announces “Mommy” Duo

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

I have had a very positive response to my announcement of signing a deal with Wolfpack Publishing. The readers who think enough of my work to check in here are happy to know that the door is open for me to revive and continue various series (or write sequels to standalones) that would otherwise be of no interest to my other publishers.

But let me assure all of you that, for now at least, I am still aligned with a number of mainstream publishers. Mike Hammer is still attached to Titan, who have been incredibly supportive of my efforts to complete (not continue) Mickey’s work. Under the Titan umbrella, but very much its own entity, Hard Case Crime – under the able leadership of Charles Ardai – continues to support Quarry and other work of mine. The Antiques series is no longer at Kensington, but is moving elsewhere (to be announced), though Caleb York will stay at that house as long they want him (and me).

These are early days at Wolfpack, but I can safely say that all of the original titles – including the novel I just delivered – will be published as physical books as well as e-books. This will include the new short story collections, and I hope the same will be three of the reprinted collections. (The Ness Omnibus is too large to be published as one book, but we are discussing the individual novels coming out in physical form.)

By the way, I do intend to continue my regular book giveaways with the original Wolfpack titles, to generate much-needed reviews. (Speaking of which, if you “owe” me reviews from past giveaways, better late than never.)

Coming soon – I don’t have a date to share just yet – will be a book collecting both Mommy novels. They will appear as a single e-book, but also as a “real” book, the first time both have been gathered together, which is something I always hoped for. Always intended.

Mommy Mommy's Day: A Suspense Duo cover

I am sharing the cover with you this week, because I think it’s terrific. I find it very amusing because it plays off a line I came up with early on, in not only promoting Mommy as a home video release, but in putting together the investor proposal that raised the funds for the first feature’s production back in 1994. Specifically, I described the Mommy character as “June Cleaver with a cleaver,” and the art for this cover pictures her just that way (the reflection design is incredibly cool, in my opinion). Now, Mommy doesn’t actually wield a cleaver in either novel. Readers will have to accept that image as metaphorical, settling for the neck-breaking, electrocutions, shootings, and butcher-knife stabbings (among other things) that appear in the two novels.

Mommy and Mommy’s Day were originally published by Leisure Books in the late ‘90s. They were essentially tie-in’s to the DVD release of the movies (which came out on VHS in 1995 and 1997 respectively, and had a few theatrical screenings). The two books were novelizations of my screenplays, written during that period of my career when writing movie tie-in novels was a major part of how I supported myself as a freelance writer.

I had contracts for Nate Heller and other original work of mine with major mainstream publishers at the time, but those publishers – concerned about my selfishly prolific ways, crassly designed that I might make a living – did not want me to publish more than a couple of books a year, or better still just one. It wasn’t that I was being paid poorly, just that a paycheck for, say, $20,000, wasn’t something my family and I could live on for a year.

Because the Dick Tracy novelization (1990) – written strictly because I was then the scripter of the comic strip and had a proprietary attitude toward the property – was a success, I was able a few years later, post-Tracy, to offer myself as a writer of tie-ins. I loved doing the movie novels, because I was able to write all kinds of different genres and really flex my muscles, pursue interests beyond suspense, and learn new techniques. After all, I did Tom Clancy style techo-thrillers (Air Force One), war novels (Saving Private Ryan), westerns (Maverick), science fiction (Waterworld), sword and sorcery (Scorpion King), horror (The Mummy), espionage (I Spy), humor (The Pink Panther), and much more. Doing the novel for the second X-Files film was a real kick, as I was (and am) a big fan of the series. Eventually I was able to write original novels for such TV shows as NYPD Blue and (with Matt Clemens aiding and abetting) CSI, Dark Angel and Criminal Minds.

So it was natural for me to novelize my own two movies. I approached Leisure Books because one of their specialties was horror, and Mommy was psychological horror, often assumed to be an unofficial sequel to the classic The Bad Seed (I considered it more an homage).

Those two books are the most unusual novelizations I ever wrote, with the exception of Road to Perdition, where I was novelizing someone else’s version of my own work. What made the Mommy novels unusual was how different the process was from the usual novelization approach.

I have a feeling that many, if not most, readers assume that the novelizer of a film has seen – or perhaps has been provided a DVD (or back in the day, VHS) of the movie – for reference. That is never the case (almost never, as I will explain). Generally speaking, the film is being shot at the same time the book is written. The writer works from a script. I would make a novel out of the script from which the director was simultaneously making a movie. In surprisingly rare cases, the writer sees stills from the set, and even more rare a “sizzle” real designed for merchandising. A couple of times I saw the saw footage for films that fast food chains were viewing to decided whether to make a Happy Meal.

Which is an important aspect of explaining this: a novelization of a film is an ephemeral side product, like an action figure or lunch box. Novelizations happen less frequently now because one of their functions, maybe their main function, was to give fans of a movie an opportunity to re-experience it in those dimly remembered days prior to home video.

Often the script the novelizer works from is not the final shooting script – in fact, almost always it isn’t. In the case of I Spy, I was sent the script pages of a new ending that needed to be turned into prose just days before the book was to go into publication. Some studios didn’t care if the book wasn’t consistent with the finished film, which has made some novelizations highly collectible for the glimpses into what might have made it onto the screen, or for fans to experience scenes that had been cut.

Interestingly, many readers – wrongly assuming the novel came first – aren’t bothered by such inconsistencies at all.

The Mommy novels, because I had complete control over them, lacked the usual studio constraints. Both features were completed before novel rights were sold. Of the two, Mommy is probably the most satisfying, because I was able to start the story several months before the action of the film. So the first third or so is not in the movie version.
Mommy’s Day, a somewhat more complex story than its predecessor, filled out the desired number of pages without such extra material.

What made writing both novels unique in the novelization experience was my intimate familiarity with both movies. I was in the editing suite with director of photography/editor Phil Dingeldein every step of the way. While Phil is as expert an editor as I could imagine working with, he and I made each decision together, from which takes and camera angles to utilize to the length of holding shots. I loved the editing process, and eventually essentially edited my second documentary, Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop, at home, by use of freeze frame and time code, making a list for the assembly of edits. (Phil was not on that project.)

The director of a film sees it countless times. I know every frame of both Mommy films, every nuance, every line reading, every facial expression, every pause, every damn thing, so intimately that even today when I watch either film (or any of my films) I remember them in a way that is true of none of my novels or short stories.

So when I sat down to write the novels of the Mommy movies, I was recording them in a way unlike any other novelizations I’d written. At times it was a burden, because I was describing my indelible memories of the expressions on the faces of actors, and their line readings; of the sets, the locations, the lighting.

But it was also an opportunity to correct things I hadn’t been able to control in the editing suite. In editing, you have to deal with what you shot. If you never got exactly the line reading you wanted, but practicality made you move on, you’re stuck with what you settled for. Here I could tweak things further.

In a very real way, Mommy and Mommy’s Day are the only movie novelizations I ever wrote. Everything else was a novelization of a script.

My mantra, where writing movie novels was concerned, was always to make the novelization read like the book the movie was based on. I think I was very good at that. Oddly, making the novelizations of my own movies achieve that goal was trickier than usual. But I’m confident I succeeded.

I am thrilled to have these novels collected into one book – as I said, I always wanted that, always intended it. And, very soon, Wolfpack will make that happen.

* * *

Here’s what DICK TRACY 2 would have been. Gee, wonder if I would have gotten credit….

Finally, though you’ll have to scroll down a bit, here’s a great review of Hot Lead, Cold Justice.

It’s a Thriller Just to Be Nominated

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Those of you who are nice enough (or possibly deluded enough) to follow these updates know that Girl Most Likely was a book that got some terrible reviews, although the vast majority were good to great. The bad reviews that really stung came from the trades, who beat me up essentially because the novel was not in the noir mode of Nate Heller and/or Quarry.

The same reaction came from self-professed “big fans” of one or both of those series who went out of their way to bemoan what a lousy job I did in their Amazon reviews. The other group (mostly in the UK) seemed to object to an old white male writing about a young white woman, and in particular that young woman have a positive relationship (and accepting help from) her middle-aged widower father.

These are knee-jerk far left complaints, in my view, which is somewhat ironic because Matt Clemens and I had knee-jerk far right complaints about Supreme Justice and its two sequels (for the same publisher as the Girl novels) on their publication.

These pans hurt the book, in spite of very respectable, even pretty damn good sales, and predominantly positive reviews. It’s made launching Girl Can’t Help It, the second book, harder than it should have been, even without the Corona Virus factoring in.

So I am pleased to announce that the Thriller Writers have nominated Girl Most Likely for Best Paperback Novel. Read about it here.

I have no illusions that I’ll win. But I feel I have a right to consider this a certain validation, particularly since it came from my peers. What’s interesting is that those who didn’t like the book often complained that it wasn’t a thriller (apparently multiple murders with a butcher knife just didn’t do it for them).

So thank you, Thriller Writers.

Thank you, actual fans (big and medium and small alike).

As to the rest of you, as Eric Cartman says, “F**k you guys, I’m going home.”

* * *

I am also pleased to see Publisher’s Weekly join in on the general acclaim for the new Mike Hammer. Here is that review:

Masquerade for Murder: A Mike Hammer Novel

Set in 1989, MWA Grand Master Collins’s competent 12th posthumous collaboration with Spillane (after 2019’s Murder, My Love) finds Mike Hammer still operating as a PI when the WWII vet would have been in his late 60s. That touch of realism allows Collins to dial back most of the extreme elements of the early Spillane novels. Outside a Manhattan restaurant, Mike spots Wall Street wunderkind Vincent Colby as he steps into the street and is clipped by a speeding red sports car. He’s only bruised, but is taken to the hospital, and his wealthy dad, Vance, hires Mike to unearth the perpetrator over Vincent’s fierce objections. Mike’s investigation, aided as always by his voluptuous secretary, Velda, soon leads to a trail of bodies, linked only by the bizarre method by which they were dispatched. Spillane fans will be pleased to see how well Collins captures the brash tone but everyman personality of the latter-day Hammer without trying to imitate the character’s infamous vigilante crusades of earlier years. Spillane (1918–2006) would be proud of how well Collins has maintained his legacy.

* * *

I have recently cut a deal with VCI and MVD (who brought out the Blu-ray double-feature of Mommy and Mommy’s Day recently) for distribution of the Mommy movies to streaming services. Mommy seems to have promptly popped up on Amazon Prime Video in some markets, but not all markets yet. Keep an eye peeled, because I think it’s free to Prime members.

* * *

All of the covers for the upcoming new Nolan (Skim Deep) and the reprint series from Hard Case Crime are gathered for your perusal right here…and you don’t even have to click a link

I have received some really fun missives from readers lately that I would like to share.

I’ll start with an actual handwritten letter from a retired police detective here in Muscatine. I will not use his name, but will say that he was the investigator on the case against my former Mommy producer, which came out favorably for us, and he appeared quite convincingly as a uniformed cop in my movie, Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

I am just starting Girl Can’t Help It. If it brings me as much joy as Girl Most Likely did, it will be great. It sent me back to my years as a police detective. The interviews were of most interest. (SPOILER ALERT) I got the feeling after the first one with the teacher, Mr. Stock, that he was much more than a person of interest. The way he said he wanted to mentor Astrid just did not sit right with me. (END SPOILER ALERT)

I have to admit you did a great job of making other persons look good for the murders. Maybe it’s my training or years of police work, but it made me feel good to know I can still see the telltale signs of a perp.

As long as I can read, I will try to get all the books the two of you right into my mental locker. Thanks for your talents when you write. Thanks for the part on the Lucas Street movie. I will always cherish my chance to serve you in the (REDACTED) case.

Here is one from a reader who signs himself RJM and who is actually (wait for it) older than me!

I loved your book (Do No Harm): my Dad was Chief Inspector of the War Department headquartered in the Terminal Tower starting in 1938. He was a Chicago guy and a newly wed navigating greater Cleveland.

In the early ‘80s I worked in the area covering three states for a company that no longer exists. So I thought I knew a lot about the area, but I learned a lot(I’ve never been in the Terminal Tower; I didn’t know about the Flat Iron Café, etc).

A great read well researched – I’m ordering True Detective and True Crime from Amazon soon. I’ve been a fan for about thirty years(I love Quarry and Nolan), but I’ve never read a Heller before. I’d love to review your books for Amazon (check out my review of An Eye for a Tooth by Dornford Yates). My only point of disagreement is Heller’s choice of beers – Hamm’s is fine but Cleveland beer in that era to me is always Drewery’s. Drewery’s had an enormous billboard ad just as you got on the highway coming up from the old Cleveland Stadium. As I kid I loved Mounties and horses and Drewery’s had both in their ads. Cleveland was probably Drewery’s largest metropolitan market. Thanks for countless hours of reading fun.

The unstoppable Tom Zappe sent me this:

I have just finished ordering what I call my “Literary Legacy” for my two grandkids aged 4 and 1.5 years respectively. They will not be able to begin to approach these books for another 10 or 12 years yet and I may well have made my trip to the gallows by then, so I’m assembling and delivering it to them and their parents within the next few weeks as they arrive from Amazon.

By and large these are books that I read [and later re-read] in my teens and later which put a distinct warp into my personality which remains unstraightened to this day. In all there about two dozen. They center mostly around the music, arts and entertainment field as especially found in New York and Hollywood in the Art Deco Era.

They include much biographical and autobiographical materiel of the likes of Mae West, Duke Ellington, Oscar Levant, Lillian Gish, Milton Berle, Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Groucho and Harpo Marx, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong and one of my all time favorites Alexander King who wrote four autobiographies, three of which are well worth reading and re-reading. (Note from MAC: I loved the King bios as a teenager.)

The Mark Twain autobiographies hold a place of special esteem among these works.

Although it’s not strictly about show business, I am also including Scarface and the Untouchable in this menagerie since it so thoroughly captures the era in which so much of this happened. Being able to put things in to the proper context is Paramount [or perhaps Universal]. I sometimes feel that I must have been in Show-Biz in my previous life.

I find it unlikely that we will see the likes of these people anytime again soon. Their style and personalities were [mostly] of their own making even among the Hollywood bunch. They didn’t need a press agent or focus group to tell them who they were.

All your readers have had, I’m sure, similar literary experiences worth passing on to their perhaps yet unborn descendants. This is my approach to seeing that the things I value might yet get a shot.

As a former viola player in the St. Louis Symphony once told me “There is nothing more subversive than a book. It can sit there for years apparently doing nothing, but once opened up it can change your world.”

* * *

Here’s a nice recommendation for volume one of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother. Apparently, however, for all these years, Terry Beatty has been a female….

And we’ll end with this nice look back at the film of Road to Perdition from the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

M.A.C.

The Man Who Brought Quarry (Back) To Life

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
Quarry
Available October 13
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

No, this week’s update isn’t about me – or not primarily about me. Nor is it entirely about Hard Case Crime editor, Charles Ardai. Rather it’s mostly about the man who is very likely (at 89) our greatest living illustrator.

In fairness to myself – and I work hard at being fair to myself – I’d already revived Quarry somewhat by way of a short film I wrote and co-exec-produced, “A Matter of Principal” (2003), followed by a feature film, “The Last Lullaby” (2008), which I co-wrote. But the latter hadn’t happened yet when my friend Charles Ardai, called to try to talk me into writing a new Quarry novel for his emerging Hard Case Crime line.

I had created Quarry in 1971 or ‘72 at the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The book, and three sequels, was published in the mid-70s, and one more in the mid-‘80s.

As it happened, I had my screenplay of what would become “The Last Lullaby” sitting on my desk. Having done any number of novelizations in my time, I figured doing one based on my own script wouldn’t be tough. On the other hand, I had a full plate and didn’t need the work.

So I gave Charles a kind of ultimatum. I would do a Quarry novel for him if he got Robert McGinnis to do the cover. McGinnis was famous for movie posters (including James Bond films) and beloved covers for such private eye series as Shell Scott and Mike Shayne, and had done a number of covers for 1960s Mickey Spillane paperbacks. In mystery fiction fandom, McGinnis was generally considered the master – and I agreed with that assessment. He brought a modern look to the pulp cover that set him way apart, and still does. (Several books, edited by the indefatigable Art Scott, collect many of those incredible images.)

The thing was, Charles – an award-winning writer his own self – had been keeping the McGinnis covers for his own novels. Would he be willing to meet my demand?

As it happens, he was, and once I knew I had a McGinnis cover on the way, I was ready to do just one more Quarry, to be titled THE LAST QUARRY. I’d always felt Quarry was second only to Nate Heller among my creations (all writers sound like God when talking about their work), and relished the idea of writing a final book for the series. Period-at- the-end-of-sentence kind of thing.

As it happened, the cover art was finished before I even started writing the novel (which would become a frequent situation with subsequent Hard Case Crime books of mine). This gave me the chance to write the cover scene, thought up by the great McGinnis, into the novel itself – something many an oldtime pulp writer would do (“Here’s the cover, Ray, flying saucers and shit – come up with a story!”).

Something surprising happened – THE LAST QUARRY did quite well. It had solid sales and garnered incredible reviews. (That didn’t stop the director of “The Last Lullaby” from bringing another writer in and changing things around – which is why I forbade the use of the name “Quarry” in the film itself…though I do quite like the end result). So I began thinking about how to do another Quarry novel. Charles thought that was a good idea, but how could I write another book when the previous series entry was labelled THE LAST QUARRY?

“Because I’m going to write a novel called THE FIRST QUARRY,” I said, detailing my hitman’s first hit, a notion Charles found pretty much delightful.

Since then, as many of you know, I’ve been filling in the blanks between the first four novels and QUARRY’S VOTE (aka PRIMARY TARGET), and the years after that, as well. You know you’re effing old when a series you began as contemporary now requires you to write period pieces.

Only one other Quarry novel has been graced with a McGinnis cover – the recent QUARRY’S CHOICE – though the other HCC covers have been stellar, too. I also had the joy and honor of seeing a McGinnis cover adorn one of my Spillane collaborations, THE CONSUMMATA (also at Hard Case, of course).

And now a QUARRY TV series has completed shooting its first (and I hope not last) season of eight episodes. Think about it: something I created in college in 1972 will be a TV series in 2016.

And without that McGinnis painting, none of it would have happened.

So when Charles and I began discussing doing Hard Case Crime editions of the first five Quarry novels – and publishing them on a fast schedule, to take advantage of the Cinemax series – the need for wonderful covers, right away, came into play. HCC is known first for its fantastic covers, and not the afterthought of writers like me.

I said, “Why not go to Bob McGinnis? See if he has any paintings of beautiful women in his inventory?”

Charles thought this was a splendid idea, but unlikely. He contacted McGinnis and learned the master had five such paintings in his inventory – the exact number we needed!

I was sent the available unpublished images, which I loved, and put each cover painting with an appropriate novel. Several are spookily appropriate. There was also a need for an image of Quarry himself, and Charles chose the Quarry face from…THE LAST QUARRY cover. While the TV series tracks the adventures of a much younger Quarry, the McGinnis version seemed definitive – and also would match up with a McGinnis cover.

When I look at these covers, it’s as if I were spinning a rack of paperbacks at Cohn’s Newsland in 1966 – I see dream-come-true imagery, taking on the look of the old Dell “Mike Shayne” books. Perhaps I am in a LIFE ON MARS type coma, and inventing all of this stuff.

Because this can’t really be happening, can it?

Five vintage books by me re-published in a five-month period…all with Robert McGinnis covers?

And surely it can’t be possible that I’m looking at the original LAST QUARRY cover painting by McGinnis, hanging on my office wall? (The painting that is, not McGinnis.) And in what universe would a sweet guy named McGinnis just send me that original, because I’d been so overjoyed, having him do the cover of one of my novels?

Feel free to hate me. I would. Particularly since I’ve been married, since 1968, to a woman who looks like she stepped out of a McGinnis painting.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of the BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES collection, out now.

And here’s a lovely review of STRIP FOR MURDER, which will soon be available in a new edition from Dover.

M.A.C.

Fate of the Union—Covered

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Fate of the Union

Here’s the cover for FATE OF THE UNION, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller from Thomas & Mercer. The first, SUPREME JUSTICE, was one of my bestselling novels ever, so I’m hopeful this one will do well, too.

Whether it will engender the same kind of political controversy as the first remains to be seen. I can’t see any reason for conservatives to get their panties in a bunch this time around, or progressives either; but you never know.

The cover process at Thomas & Mercer is fascinating – they provide a number of possibilities and give the author great input into the final product. I think this one is very good, and that it makes a nice fit with the SUPREME JUSTICE cover.

You’ll note that Matt Clemens shares byline this time around. That’s only a cosmetic change, because Matt was a collaborator on SUPREME JUSTICE as well, and the previous Thomas & Mercer novel, WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER. I wanted to include him on the byline of those, but was discouraged from doing so, because some people make the unfortunate assumption that when a secondary byline appears with a (fairly) well-known author’s, that means the book was ghosted.

Those of you who follow these updates know that Matt and I are genuine collaborators. Our process is one we have shared openly. I usually come up with the basic premise of a novel, and we then – in several sessions – come up with a plot. We both work on a chapter breakdown/synopsis, and then Matt writes a shortish rough draft, which I polish and expand into a longer novel. It’s a synthesis of two writers, and it’s worked very well for us for a long time. We developed the approach on the very successful CSI novels and have continued it elsewhere.

I’m proud and pleased to share cover credit with Matt.

And this book represents, in both our opinions, our best work together. It comes out next November.

* * *

Check out this terrific review of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK from the great book review site, Bookgasm.

M.A.C.