Posts Tagged ‘Fly Paper’

Don’t Bug Me, Baby

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
Crusin' at Proof Social 2021
Crusin’ at Proof Social, l to r, M.A.C., Steve Kundel, Bill Anson, Scott Anson

The gig Saturday, July 3, at Proof Social in Muscatine went very well, especially considering it had been two years since Crusin’s last outing.

This was the first public performance with bass player Scott Anson (our guitar player Bill’s son). Scott filled in for Brian Van Winkle at the last performance – a private function in 2019 – before Covid sidelined us and everybody. He is a terrific bass player and a real asset to the band. Of course, it was bittersweet without Brian, whose premature, unexpected passing remains hard to accept.

We had a number of my fellow classmates of ‘66 Muscatine High School grads who came out for a kind of unofficial 55th reunion. But the performance on the patio outside the club (the same patio where we performed a number of times in past years for the Second Sunday concert series) enjoyed both nice weather and a standing room only crowd reflecting a broad demographic. My old pal from early Crusin’ days, Charlie Koenigsaecker, brought a group down from Iowa City. Charlie ran sound for us for back in the day and is a popular dj with great taste in addition to working at the Iowa City Library.

Another old friend, Doug Kreiger, came up to me and – once we’d kidded each other for a while – thanked me quite sincerely for all the music and stories I’d shared with my hometown (and beyond) over the years. It was a nice moment and an unexpected expression of sentiment.

I do find myself reflecting on all the years of music, knowing that the road ahead is limited in that regard whereas storytelling is less so. The loading in and out – as I mentioned last time – is so onerous that it calls into question whether or not it’s worth the effort. The day after, as I write this, I feel like I was hit by a truck. That was always the case after a band job, for the last three decades anyway, but now it feels like a bigger truck.

Gigs are unpredictable, always, and after a nice evening with weather cooperating, darkness fell and bugs attracted to the lights illuminating the band swarmed us, like Pappy Yokum getting assaulted by hordes of locusts as he tried to protect the turnip crop. These were tiny bugs, unidentifiable but similar to gnats, though they weren’t biting, just turning my keyboards into a gummy, sticky runway and clinging to my exposed flesh the same way. This didn’t happen till the last set, toward the end, and we limped through fifteen minutes of absolute insect invasion…and toward the end the notorious “fish bugs” joined the assault. They tell me fish bugs have only a 34-hour life span, and that’s way too long.

I’ve played in bands since 1965, frequently out of doors, and never had this happen before. And today I spent an hour cleaning the two keyboards of crushed bug carcasses, also a new experience.

Did God send the little devils to tell me I’d been doing this long enough?

* * *

On our recent trip to Minnesota for a family reunion, which centered around the graveside service of Barb’s mom, Barb and I went to a movie in Minneapolis. And I think I may be seriously out of step. I felt the same way this evening when I watched a movie on HBO Max.

In Minneapolis, we went to F9, as it’s being called, and it’s an appropriate title if “F” stands for what it should. I am easy to please with dumb action movies, and have seen every Fast and Furious movie in a theater and had fun. This one is sloppy and stupid, lacking both the Rock and Jason Stratham, but it did mark Barb and me officially getting back in the moviegoing swing – by walking out.

I didn’t walk out on director Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, with a cast so star-studded Matt Damon didn’t bother with getting a billing. But the only reason I didn’t walk out was because I was home. It’s a mess, incomprehensible and pretentious and frequently shot with distorting lenses that call attention to themselves. The great Don Cheadle spends the running time looking like he wished somebody had shown him the script. But the critics love it, so I am probably wrong.

F9 puts me out of step with the public and No Sudden Move puts me out of step with the critics. I’ve got all the bases covered!

* * *

Here’s a great review of Two for the Money (mostly about Bait Money but also the Nolan series in general).

And here’s a spiffy review of both novels collected in Double Down (Fly Paper and Hush Money).

Finally, here’s another Two for the Money review, generally not bad, but apparently the 22 year-old me in the early ‘70s was supposed to have better attitudes than “cringingly archaic” ones about women’s looks and tough guy prowess. You’d think I’d been writing a paperback crime novel with an early ‘70s mostly male readership in mind.

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.

One More Time for Nolan?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Apparently I told an interviewer a while back – a few years ago least – that the Nolan series was complete. That I had no interest in writing another, and wouldn’t under any circumstances write a new Nolan novel.

So, of course, I am preparing to write one. I’ll be spending December and January on Skim Deep, the cover for which (by the wonderful Mark Eastbrook, my personal choice among a bunch of wonderful artists provided as possibilities by editor Charles Ardai) appears with this update.

For those of you who came in late, Nolan was the hero (anti-hero?) of my first published novel, Bait Money, written around 1969 and published in December 1972. Nolan (no first name) is professional thief, who – approaching the ripe old age of fifty – wants to pull one last big job and retire. I teamed him with a young would-be cartoonist, Jon (no last name), whose first heist this would be.

Nolan was (and is) an homage (French for “rip-off”) to Richard Stark’s Parker. For a long time, Nolan died at the end of Bait Money, and until an editor returned the manuscript with coffee spilled on it, I had ignored my then agent Knox Burger’s request to un-kill Nolan, which he thought would help the book sell. I did, and it did.

When the publisher (Curtis Books) asked for more, I suddenly had a series. I asked Don Westlake (who of course was Richard Stark) if it was all right with him for me to do a series so blatantly imitative of his own. Don, who’d been mentoring me by mail, was nice enough to say that Nolan with the addition of the surrogate son, Jon, was different enough from Parker for me to proceed with his blessing.

So Blood Money followed, and later came Fly Paper, Hush Money, Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, and finally in the mid-‘80s, Spree. The publishing history is torturous and I won’t go into here, though I’ve discussed it elsewhere in detail.

There’s also a prequel of sorts called Mourn the Living, which was the first Nolan, unsold and tucked away by me till fanzine editor Wayne Dundee heard about it and requested that I allow him to serialize it. Which I did, and it was eventually published a couple of places.

When, a decade and a half ago or so, Charles Ardai was putting Hard Case Crime together, he was nice enough to want to reprint my novel Blood Money, which for inexplicable reasons was and is a favorite of his. I said yes on the condition that he combine it with Bait Money, to make its sequel Blood Money more coherent, into a single volume. He did this. Hard Case Crime is noted for its terrific retro covers, but the Nolan duo – now titled Two for the Money – was possibly the weakest Hard Case Crime cover ever…the only time dark, mustache Nolan was depicted as looking like blond Nick Nolte.

When Charles came around wanting another M.A.C. reprint, I offered to do a new book – The Last Quarry – instead, for the same reprint money, as long as I could get a Robert McGinnis cover. Also, I wanted a chance to finish that cult-ish series once and for all. While I got my McGinnis cover, the rest of the plan didn’t exactly work out that way, and now – with a bunch of new Quarry novels, a Ms. Tree prose novel, several Spillane projects and a couple of graphic novels under our collective belt – Charles has twisted my arm into doing another Nolan.

Part of what made that attractive to me was Charles bringing all of the Nolan novels back out, in the two-per-book format, so that – like the Quarry novels – the entire canon is under one imprint. Better still, we have new covers…including Two for the Money.

Double Down will include Fly Paper and Hush Money. Tough Tender will include Hard Cash and Scratch Fever (these appeared under that join title before but not at HCC). And Mad Money will have Spree and, as a sort of bonus, Mourn the Living.

What will Skim Deep be about? I haven’t plotted it yet, but the premise has to do with a Vegas honeymoon, casino skimming, and a Comfort or two. If you’ve read the Nolan novels, you understand that last bit.

As with the Quarry novels, I will be doing this one in period – probably within a year of the action in Spree.

Am I looking forward to it? Sort of. I have this nagging feeling that by writing another Nolan, at this age, after all this time, I could be bookending my career. So my ambition is not to fucking die immediately after finishing it (or during it, for that matter). I have other contracts to fill, and miles to go before I sleep.

But it sure is fun to see these new HCC covers. The Van Cleef resemblance (which was part of the Pinnacle covers, to a degree, and very much an element of the Perfect Crime reprints) is mentioned prominently in the novels. I met him once, interviewed him, and he treated me with amusement and at one point got briefly irritated with me. It was unsettling but memorable, being Jon to his Nolan. No guns were involved.

* * *

Here’s a nice essay by my frequent collaborator, Matthew Clemens, on what he learned about suspense writing from the film Jaws.

The First Comics News blog has Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother on its Christmas gift list.

And here Ms. Tree is on another holiday gift guide, from Previews no less.

M.A.C.

The Guy Who Was Quarry

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
The Wrong Quarry

Writing this on Memorial Day, I am reflecting on how the novel QUARRY (aka THE BROKER) came to be, especially in light of the recent casting of Logan Marshall-Green in the lead of the HBO/Cinemax pilot. Whether this pilot goes to series or not, it’s almost mind-boggling to me that something I created at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop back in 1972 would have such continuing resonance.

Again, because it’s Memorial Day, I am thinking about my late friend Jon McRae, one of the funniest and most troubled guys I ever knew – and often the troubled side of him was very funny. He was very much the inspiration for Quarry, although Quarry himself is much more me than Jon. But like Quarry, Jon did come home from Vietnam to find his wife cheating on him (he did not murder the guy, though I’m sure it occurred to him), and he was the textbook example of a decent Midwestern kid who went into the military to become a hero, and indeed became one…but a fucked-up one.

Jon used to come home and stay with us on his leaves. I noticed he had begun to drink heavily – lots of vodka. He was a machine-gunner in the tail of a chopper, a job with the highest mortality rate in that war; in that circumstance, I would have been into vodka myself. Jon loved my books and would show up on his leave with a bag filled with whatever weapons I had written about lately. He said I needed to handle the guns that my characters used. We would go out to a garbage dump and shoot the place up. It was great fun.

He was a sweet guy, I swear to God. He was a romantic. He was a huge movie buff, particularly ‘30s and ‘40s ones. He was the first among us to bring a James Bond-like briefcase to school (many of us followed suit).

But after he was in the service, everywhere he went, he packed a gun. I was always a little edgy around him. On leave, he would wear a buckskin coat like Sheriff Brennan’s son John in NO CURE FOR DEATH (that character was directly based on him), and also a longhair wig. He would go with the Daybreakers on band jobs, and when we ate at truck stops afterward, he would bait truckers into calling him a hippie and then hurl them against a wall.

He also went to my classes with me at the University of Iowa, no longhair wig there, rather a full-dress uniform, silently daring any anti-war protester to call him a baby killer.

Jon is gone now, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. He stayed in the Marines for a long time, but I believe he was a civilian, somewhere in the Philippines, when he passed, maybe twenty years ago – again, I have no idea what the details are, or even the vague outlines for that matter.

The Quarry novels are all dark comedies, which is to say tragedies played out so absurdly you have to laugh. The idea of Quarry was always that he was me, and us – that he was a decent, intelligent but fairly ordinary young man who was sent off to fight a meaningless war. We have never been the same since that war. Those of us who did not go would watch body bags getting loaded onto choppers (like the one Jon flew) as we ate our evening dinner on TV trays. It made us numb. But that whole war made us numb. It wasn’t a fight against Hitler or even the imperialistic Japanese. To this day, no one really knows what that war was about. And it damaged us all.

But it damaged guys like Jon most. God bless him, and all the other Quarries who fought for us, despite the vagueness of the mission, heroes we did not treat nearly well enough upon their return.

* * *

The COMPLEX 90 reviews keep coming in, and most are very good, even raves. Check out this terrific one from Noir Journal, where it’s the featured book.

Full disclosure: Ed Gorman is one of my best friends. But he’s always one of our greatest living crime-fiction writers, and somebody who (like me) defended Mickey Spillane back when others threw bricks. I’m delighted that he wrote favorably about COMPLEX 90 at this terrific blog.

Now and then we get reviewed at Not the Baseball Pitcher, and I am always impressed with the blogger’s work. He likes COMPLEX 90.

I get a real charge out of seeing positive reactions to the Hammer books from young people who have never read a Spillane or Collins book before. This is a very cool one.

This is an interesting, mostly negative review that I think says more about the UK reviewer than it does about the book, and reminds me of the kind of hysterical attacks (“wish fulfilment wank fantasy for hardened Republicans”) that used to be leveled against Mickey, though oddly the reviewer does credit Spillane for his importance and power. If you haven’t read the book yet, there are spoilers.

Here’s a really nice piece from a comics fan about the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION.

And finally, here’s a fun review of the reprint of the Nolan novel, FLY PAPER.

M.A.C.