Posts Tagged ‘Fancy Anders Goes to War’

Reassessing Priorities & Fancy Anders Sounds Great

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

For the first time in four or five months, my band Crusin’ played a gig. Generally we haven’t played during the winter months for the past several years, but this was a private party for a 60th wedding anniversary for a couple who had employed us for their 50th (back when Andy Landers and Jim Van Winkle were in the band). Also, they are clients of our drummer, Steve Kundel, who is an attorney (when I introduce the band members on a gig, I usually mention Steve being a lawyer, saying we find it wise to travel with in-house counsel).

Anyway, like Steve McQueen said in The Magnificent Seven, it seemed like a good idea at the time (it was not yet winter when I booked the gig). Now as the job approached, it was clear Covid was kicking back in, and the job was in Iowa City (forty miles away) and a snow storm was predicted. We did not, however, cancel.

The snow arrived but was not such that we couldn’t make the trip with relative safety. We arrived at the Iowa City Eagles and were pleased to find it a very nice venue. None of us were crazy about playing a job in a college town, particularly so soon after the holidays, with Omicron (which sounds like a bad science-fiction movie) running rampant. But we wore masks loading in. Barb accompanied me and helped a great deal, both in setting up and making several key suggestions about what songs to perform (for example, advising me to open with a slow song and have the celebrating couple start the festivities alone, then asking the rest of the guests to join in).

Crusin' at the Iowa City Eagles, January 15 2022

The people were as warm as the night was not and there was dancing and a nice receptive response to our foolishness. A wonderful time was had by all. We’d only had two rehearsals to go back over the list and, surprisingly, we were pretty darn good. My bandmates, drummer Steve and guitarist Bill Anson and his son Scott Anson, who took over on bass when Brian Van Winkle passed, are fun to be around – very good company. At the rehearsals the absence of Brian’s sunny personality was keenly felt. Over the years the loss of bandmates – I’ve been playing rock ‘n’ roll since 1965 – is a wound that never really heals. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about my musical collaborator Paul Thomas.

I’ve had enough health problems that Barb has really been pitching in to help me set my stuff up and tear it down. I’ve talked here before about how the performances themselves are not any way burdensome, but loading up, setting up, tearing down, and loading back in will probably determine when I stop doing this. Musician friends have written me insisting that I should employ roadies, and these are mostly musicians who are getting paid the kind of money that allows that.

It occurred to both Barb and me, as we were driving up and back to the gig, that this might be my last performance with the band. Certainly it’s doubtful I would do more than one more summer season – last year, just four gigs. I would like to do a farewell appearance, and I’ve hoped to do one last CD – we were already working up originals and even playing them on the job when Covid hit and we lost over a year.

By the way, as you may have already noted if you follow these update/blogs, Barb is the best wife anybody ever had. She is smart, funny, thoughtful and beautiful. She does not, however, cut me undue slack – she knows just when I need to be cut down to size and reminded of reality. Which is of course frequent. But my God I am a lucky man.

My 74th birthday is approaching soon – March 3rd – and I find myself reassessing priorities. Last year I was crazily prolific, in part because I was doing my own fiction writing as well as putting the Mike Hammer 75th anniversary into motion. Adding in a 100,000-word biography to an already busy writing schedule took it out of me.

So while you may look to me to keep working as long as my noodle is functioning and I am above-ground, the pace is going to slow. I had to ask for an extension on the deadline for the new Nate Heller, The Big Bundle, after the unanticipated and most unwelcome return of kidney stones, which hadn’t reared their nasty, spiky little heads since 1998.

I have now begun The Big Bundle – one whole chapter is written (but also the research completed and the book worked up in chapter outline) – which is the first of a two-book RFK/Hoffa cycle (overall completing the Kennedy cycle begun by Bye Bye, Baby). Will these be the last Heller novels? Maybe. Right now my job is to complete these two. The Big Bundle will appear late this year, if all goes well.

* * *

A benefit of the Iowa City band job was that Barb and I were able to finish listening to the audio book of Fancy Anders Goes to War from Skyboat Media. (You can read about it here)

I’ve been blessed by having mostly really good readers of my books on audio. The head honcho at Skyboat, Stefan Rudnicki, has been doing both Quarry and Mike Hammer and knocking the ball out of the park; recently he’s embarked on Nolan, in his usual stellar manner. When we submitted Fancy Anders to Stefan, however, I requested that he use a female narrator, specifically Gabrielle de Cuir. He and she came through for me, and how.

If you haven’t read Fancy Anders Goes to War yet, this is an excellent way to do so. If you have read it, it’s still well worth the ride (and the price of admission), because Skyboat has done a fantastic job. They’ve used music and sound effects to really create Fancy’s world. Gabrielle does a lovely job, superbly differentiating the characters and (unlike some male narrators with female characters) nails the men, as well.

Skyboat will be doing the next two Fancy Anders books, as well – Fancy Anders For the Boys and Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood. Both are written (Fay Dalton is almost finished with the second book’s illustrations) and should be out next year as e-books, book-books, and audios.

* * *

Speaking of Fancy Anders Goes to War, here’s a great review of it at the Mostly Old Books and Rust review blog.

And the great James Reasoner likes Fancy, too – check this out!

Quarry’s Blood, not quite out yet, is already getting some swell reviews at Goodreads.

Finally, here’s a great look at the Nolan series.

M.A.C.

Happy Birthday, Mike Hammer – All Year!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

So it’s 2022 and that makes it the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer.

More specifically, it’s the 75th anniversary of the publication of I, the Jury (1947), the first Hammer novel. The character, arguably, begins with Mike Lancer, who appeared in one story written by Spillane and drawn by Harry Sahle, “Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death,” in Harvey’s Green Hornet comic in 1942. Lancer became Mike Danger, although none of the comics stories were published till 1954.

Kill Me If You Can cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

If you’ve been following this update/blog, you may recall that we have a lot of special things in store this year for the Hammer birthday celebration. I have used several unproduced TV scripts by Mickey to write the 2022 novel, Kill Me If You Can, available in August (and for pre-order now). The book is the prequel to The Girl Hunters (1962) and deals with the missing period between it and Kiss Me, Deadly (1952), showing how Hammer dealt with Velda’s disappearance and apparent demise. (Hint: not well.)

But wait, there’s more: in addition to the full-length novel, we are including five short stories written by me from unpublished Spillane material; this includes two Hammer stories and three others in the Hammer-verse. These stories have appeared in The Strand, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Mystery Tribune, and are collected here for the first time. I am very grateful to Titan publishers Vivian Cheung and Nick Landau and editor Andrew Sumner for giving me this opportunity to make the 2022 Mike Hammer book something really special.

Again, if you’ve been following these updates at all, you’re aware that Jim Traylor and I have completed Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, the long-in-the-works biography of Mickey. It’s in the hands of Mysterious Press publisher Otto Penzler who, after some tweaks and minor rewrites, has sent the book into copyediting. In recent weeks I’ve compiled the photos for the book and written captions, all of which have been approved by Jim and which are now in the hands of my son Nate to prepare them for the book designer.

I don’t have an official pub date yet, but the idea is for the biography to be out toward the end of this birthday year.

Additionally, I am working with Wolfpack editors Paul Bishop and James Reasoner, as well as publisher Mike Bray, to bring out several major Spillane books during this celebratory year. First, a collection of Mickey’s YA adventures novels will for the first time gather all three of those books into one volume, The Shrinking Island, named for the previously unpublished final book in the Josh and Larry trilogy. Hardcore Spillane fans have been waiting for this for a long time.

In addition, I have novelized and expanded Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Menace – the only work of his that was designed as a horror property – into a novel. Wolfpack will be bringing that out this year, possibly under their recently acquired Rough Edges Press imprint.

Finally, I am in the process of putting together a collection of Spillane’s short fiction – not all that short, because mostly this is novellas – plucked from two long out-of-print collections I edited (Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill). This new book – Stand Up and Die! – will excise from previous two collections assorted non-fiction and non-mystery-fiction works and leave only vintage Spillane crime yarns.

Included will be a new edit by me of “The Night I Died,” the Mike Hammer short story that marked the only Hammer collaboration between Mickey and me during his lifetime (we of course worked on the revival of Mike Danger together). It is based on an unproduced radio play Mickey wrote around 1953. I am taking a new look at it because I now feel it was too literally a translation of the script.

The novellas, including the title one and the little-seen “Hot Cat” (aka “The Flier”), are particularly strong. This will be a fine addition to the books published in the Hammer birthday year.

In addition, I am working with Bob Deis, the mastermind behind Men’s Adventure Quarterly, to present a raft of other Spillane novellas in at least one collection including the original men’s adventure magazine illustrations.

We had great success with Mickey’s 100th birthday celebration a few years ago; this represents a new – and perhaps last – bite at the apple. I hope to do a few more Hammer novels for Titan, including Mickey Spillane’s The Time Machine (originally Mike Danger but now Mike Hammer) before wrapping up the saga. And if Wolfpack is successful with the Spillane publications above, I have one more unproduced Mickey screenplay to novelize and half a dozen novels he began that are waiting to be finished.

I’m sorry to report that Kensington has not requested a new Caleb York, but Wolfpack has been very successful with their western line, and – again, depending on how these Spillane titles to for them – we may see Caleb (and me) back in the saddle. I don’t have a pub date, but I think Kensington will still be bringing out Shoot-out at Sugar Creek in a mass market edition as yet another Spillane title in the Hammer anniversary year.

As usual, the success of all this is in your hands.

* * *

Here’s a very smart review of the new Hard Case Comics Ms. Tree collection from Titan, third in the series.

Check out this fabulous review of Fancy Anders Goes to War from Ron Fortier.

Some interesting thoughts about the film version of Road to Perdition here.

This list of the best mysteries of all time includes a number of my titles. Aw shucks, he said. About time, he thought.

M.A.C.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today…

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021
Fancy Anders Goes To War, Audiobook Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link

Our Christmas card from Pee Wee Herman/Paul Reubens arrived today.

Christmas time is officially here!!!

My novella, Fancy Anders Goes to War: Who Killed Rosie the Riveter?, is out on audio from Skyboat and available at Audible. At my request, Skyboat used a female narrator – Gabrielle de Cuir – who did a wonderful job. This is a lovely way to get to know Fancy Anders.

* * *

This update will appear on Tuesday Dec. 21, with Christmas a few days away, and – obviously – Christmas Eve a day sooner than that. For me this year, Christmas Eve is the day that resonates the most. Here’s why.

Fifty years ago, I was in grad school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, studying at the Writers’ Workshop. I had already written two novels there (Bait Money and No Cure for Death) and begun a third (Quarry). I lived in nearby Muscatine with Barb – we’d been married in June 1968 – and she was working at the First National Bank and I was in my first year of teaching at Muscatine Community College. The teaching gig, which I disliked intensely, was part-time; two days a week I drove to Iowa City for Workshop sessions.

A number of good things had happened by this point. The great mainstream writer Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road) had taken me under his wing. Through him, I got my first agent, Knox Burger, the legendary Gold Medal Books editor who now was a one-man literary agency. When Yates wrote him, sending my novel and saying I might be the next Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, Burger wrote back, “No – but W.R. Burnett, maybe.” Yates didn’t understand why I took that as a compliment.

Burger said in the same letter, “I’m afraid young Collins is a blacksmith in an automotive age.” I rather like that line, because it’s probably the most accurate appraisal of me and my work anybody ever made. But the important thing is that Burger took me on as a client.

That had been something like a year and a half before, and neither Bait Money nor No Cure for Death had sold. I’ve written before about how Burger objected to the original ending of Bait Money, in which Nolan was killed; it was downbeat in a very late ‘60s/early ‘70s movie way, and had to do with me writing what I thought was a book about the death of the last American tough guy. It had been rejected seven times, I think, most recently by an editor at Pyramid who had spilled coffee on the manuscript.

In those days publishers would not accept a carbon manuscript and photocopying was strictly a Star Trek kind of thing. Burger said that since I had to re-type it anyway, I might as well put a better ending on it. Specifically he said, “Robin doesn’t leave Batman to die.” And that resonated, and so young sidekick Jon came back and rescued old (48!) Nolan.

That had been the last I heard of it. As I say, I hated my teaching job. I came to like it more, but that first year I was dealing with remedial students – functional illiterates who had somehow been granted high school diplomas, presumably to flush them from the public educational system. I had come home to our little apartment some time in the fall of ‘71 and broke down while Barb held me.

“Is this it for me?” I said. “Am I not going to be a writer?” I’d been writing books and stories since junior high, convinced I would be an author. Teaching had always been something to fall back on. But right now I felt like teaching had fallen on me. And hardly anybody at the Workshop, teacher William Price Fox included, thought much of my book in progress – Quarry.

On December 24, 1971, I received a letter from Knox Burger. I didn’t figure it for a Christmas card, and wondered if he might be dropping me. Instead he was informing me that Curtis Books was buying Bait Money.

You will not be surprised to learn that this was my most joyous Christmas ever. But I recall being a little frightened, too. I had that “Now what?” feeling that comes with getting blindsided by success. Curtis also wanted two more books in a Nolan series!

I called Don Westlake, who had been something of a mentor to me – he was a client of Burger’s too, coincidentally – and shared the news. His response about my learning I’d sold my first book on Christmas Eve was a memorable one: “Sometimes God acts like O. Henry and there’s nothing that can be done about it.”

He also gave me his blessing to write more Nolan books, despite the character being a shameless imitation of his Parker. He felt the Jon sidekick humanized Nolan and, if I kept Jon in the mix, the series could be something of its own. (He did, at times over the years, refer to me as the Jayne Mansfield to his Marilyn Monroe.)

New American Library Bait Money

In the first week or so of 1972, Curtis Books bought No Cure for Death, as well. I am fuzzy about it, but I think I waited to finish Quarry till after I’d written Blood Money, the second Nolan. At any rate, Blood Money was submitted early enough in 1972 for it to be published simultaneously with Bait Money in December 1972 (with a January 1973 publication date).

My comp copies came on Christmas Eve, 1972. God was still in an O. Henry mood, or anyway Knox Burger was.

As it happened, Curtis Books only published those first two novels, though they bought three more Nolans (Fly Paper, Hush Money and Hard Cash) and another Mallory (The Baby Blue Rip-off), before getting swallowed up by Popular Library. All of those books went into Popular Library’s inventory and weren’t published until the rights came back to me years later. That’s how Nolan wound up at Pinnacle Books in the early ‘80s and – around the same time – Mallory at Walker for hardcover and TOR for paperback.

That’s more detail than you need to know. And some of it I’ve shared before. But when it occurred to me that Dec. 24, 2021 would mark fifty years since I sold my first novel, I thought it worthy of mention here.

Fifty years is a long time.

And an eye blink.

The postscript is that Christmas came a little early this year – a few days ago, to be exact. A movie deal has closed on one of my properties.

Nolan.

* * *

If you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas (and I know you are), you can…if you have already read (and liked) the three John Sand novels by Matt Clemens and me…post an overall review at Amazon of the trilogy, which has just been published on Kindle in an omnibus edition called No Time to Spy. The moment the boxed set went up, so did a negative overall review by markh (a fellow Iowan no less), a 600-word condemnation of the novels designed to convince no one to buy it.

I have no idea who markh is, but he’s one of that small, hardy group who profess to have liked my work in the past and are now attempting to make sure no one reads anything by me written in my doddering old age. His objection is chiefly that Matt and I are writing spy yarns in the mode of the early ‘60s James Bond craze, and trying to pass them off as serious espionage novels.

Of course, that’s not the case. The books are very slightly tongue-in-cheek, yes, but are rather tough, violent adventure stories that have everything to do with the Fleming novels, the Connery films, and the less spoofy spy stuff of the early ‘60s – Harry Palmer, Matt Helm (the books not the movies), I Spy, John Drake, first-season Man from UNCLE, etc. Nobody said these were realistic much less inside looks at the world of espionage. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold they ain’t. They are, we hope, fun.

I have no objection to somebody not liking my stuff, but the way markh was lying in wait to post his overall slam on the day No Time to Spy was published, is…what is the word?…creepy. He had already expressed his individual dislike of the books. But apparently, because he refers to my blog in his review, he takes offense that I don’t sit still and shut up when he sets out to convince others not to read me (in a supposed context of being a fan, or shall we say former fan).

But I have a Christmas gift for markh: You no longer have to read my books. You have my permission, my blessing, not to. Let me take it a step farther, in the spirit of giving: don’t read my books. I don’t care to have my words running around in your head where you can scramble them. We are not a good fit, markh.

For the record – at Amazon, Come Spy with Me has an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars, both Live Fast, Spy Hard and To Live and Spy in Berlin an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

But right now No Time To Spy has an average based only on markh’s negative review. Stunting the sales of the omnibus could easily lead to Matt and me not being able to write another John Sand. Which seems to be markh’s goal.

By the way, Amazon now has the paperback edition at $15.99 (I have not seen a copy yet).

* * *

Paperback Warrior, a truly great site for fans of pulp fiction at its best, posted a nice array of Quarry covers recently, and said lovely things about the series. They also provided a link to their various smart reviews of a number of the novels published by Hard Case Crime.

Here’s an interesting piece on movie novelizations (I get a mention).

This is a wonderful article about the little-known comic strip, Mr. Oswald, which incorporates my thoughts of this lost gem.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

M.A.C.

Processing Spillane and Heller

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

I should probably dispense with asking you to buy and then Amazon-review both Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (co-written by the great Dave Thomas). I won’t even remind you what wonderful Christmas gifts they would make.

I just have too much class for that.

Instead, I’ll talk about process this week. Who doesn’t love process? A few weeks ago I touched on the challenges and difficulties of Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, co-written with James L. Traylor. We are waiting with anticipation for the editorial notes to come back, which will require tweaking but I hope nothing major, as I am very proud of my draft, and Jim likes it, too.

What surprised me was reading all the material about Mickey I’d gathered going back to my junior high days – I literally used the scrapbook I kept, because it had various articles and reviews pasted in among my carbons of indignant letters to anti-Spillane reviewers and my cartoony portraits of Mickey. What I hadn’t anticipated was the picture all of that material would paint when, for the first time, I read it all at once…not just in dribs and drabs as articles and such first appeared.

I feel like I put together pieces of the Spillane puzzle that had eluded me, despite my close personal relationship with the man for the last 25 years of his life. Many assumptions I’d made – and had cockily presented as fact in various pieces and introductions about Mickey and his work over the recent years – proved short-sighted…not wrong exactly, but lacking nuance.

For example, I no longer think his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses had anything much to do with the near decade-long respite he took from novel writing. I do think his style shifted, and the violence and sex were both more restrained; but not absent. Re-reading The Deep recently, I saw how he used the threat of impending violence to create a story about a tough hero who really only kills once, and then in self-defense. In The Girl Hunters, Hammer kills nary a soul, though he does trick the “evil one” (as Traylor puts it) into self-destruction.

This probably had as much to do with his attempt to develop as a writer and to respond through his work to the incredibly unfair and even vicious attacks upon him throughout the 1950s. Other than perhaps Elvis Presley, no figure in popular culture had ever seen so much success and, simultaneously, so much condemnation. But the bio will, for the first time, reveal the major reason he stopped writing novels at his popular peak.

Writing about Eliot Ness with Brad Schwartz was a similar experience for me. So often Ness had been presented as a glory hound when the research showed he was primarily responding to pressure from above to get positive press. Additionally, things routinely dismissed by the Ness naysayers – including events reported in his autobiographical The Untouchables (mostly ghosted by sportswriter Oscar Fraley) – turned out to have really happened. It shouldn’t have been surprising to learn that Eliot Ness was actually Eliot Ness, but it was.

The Big Bundle Cover, Without text
The Big Bundle (Cover Sneak Peak)

And now, for the first time in several years, I am digging into the research for the upcoming Nathan Heller novel, The Big Bundle (for Hard Case Crime). The case I’m dealing with – the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping of 1953 – is not as famous as most of those I’ve examined; it was at the time, but today it seems mostly forgotten. What gives it the needed household-name-crime aspect that a Heller novel requires is a sinister connection to Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. It is, in fact, the first of two novels about Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy, although this first one focuses primarily on the Greenlease case.

The Heller process is an odd one. First I have to select the true crime that seems appropriate for Nate’s attention (and mine, and yours). Second, I have to familiarize myself enough with the crime to write a proposal to be submitted to an editor/publisher, who must first sign on before I start serious work. Once we’re at that stage, I have to dig into the research, where the proposal was just a superficial look at the case. The approach has always been to look at the subject as if I were preparing to write the definitive non-fiction treatment of the case and then write a private eye novel instead.

A real problem with the proposal stage is that I am only guessing what the book will be about. The in-depth research (you will not be surprised, many of you, that I am in touch with George Hagenauer right now) is what reveals the book to me. And it always surprises me.

Here’s a small example. In True Detective, in what is essentially the origin of Nate Heller, Heller sells out to the Chicago Outfit to get promoted from uniform to plainclothes – to become a detective. He fingers the fall guy (who is playing along) to get somebody blamed and put away for the publicity-attracting murder of reporter Jake Lingle. The willing patsy, very minor in all of this but a seminal part of Heller’s story, is a real-life low-level mob guy named Leo Vincent Brothers.

So I’m researching The Big Bundle yesterday. For reasons I won’t go into right now, a taxi cab company run by a St. Louis racketeer named Joe Costello is instrumental in the story. I went in familiar with Costello in, again, only a superficial way – his name came up in the preliminary research and got him on my radar. So now, reading a book called A Grave For Bobby by James Deakin, I learn that Joe Costello’s partner in the taxi cab company…wait for it…was Leo Vincent Brothers.

This kind of thing always sits me on my ass. This tiny fact isn’t key to the story – it’s just an odd resonance, and a reminder that Heller’s life is just one long story, not really a succession of novels. Another name turned up yesterday, a Chicago thug with ties to the JFK assassination.

It would help if I had a steel-trap mind. But I don’t. I didn’t in my thirties and I really, really don’t in my seventies. So such discoveries send me scrambling back into the research.

In the meantime, I am looking for a way to insert Nate Heller into this narrative in a meaningful, credible way.

Wish me luck.

* * *

Two brief Blu-ray recommendations.

Jack Irish Season 3, Blu-ray

Jack Irish Season 3 is out from Acorn. It’s the final season of this series (there are actually five seasons, but the first two were movie-length episodes) and it’s a four-hour movie, essentially – one story, wrapping up the series in a smart, thoughtful way. I will go so far as to say it’s one of the best wrap-ups of a series, certainly one of the most satisfying, I’ve ever seen.

Guy Pearce plays a solid modern version of a private eye in this Australian neo-noir with all the surviving regulars back. Three years have passed since the preceding series and the passage of time and the need to learn, grow and move on is the central theme.

Great series.

Speaking of great, Eddie Muller has delivered one of the best Blu-rays of the year in the Flicker Alley presentation of The Beast Must Die (La Bestia Debe Morir), a 1952 Argentinian noir based on the Nicholas Blake novel, The Beast Must Die. Blake was really Cecil Day-Lewis, a UK poet laureate who is also the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

While it’s a bit pricey, the blu-ray is essential for noir enthusiasts, and if you spring for it, be sure to watch Muller’s introduction, which provides context and more, including how-to-watch Spanish-language melodrama of this period, i.e., the acting tends not to be subtle.

You can get it directly from Flicker Alley here.

The Beast Must Die Blu-Ray
The Beast Must Die Theatrical Poster
* * *

Check out this lovely review of Fancy Anders Goes to War.

Here’s a Ms. Tree: The Cold Dish preview with info.

Also here.

I did a Mike Hammer interview for what, uh, appears to be an interesting magazine….

M.A.C.