Posts Tagged ‘Girl Can’t Help It’

Music Is the Best Medicine

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020


Digital Audiobook: Google Play Kobo iTunes

I’m going to discuss audio today, specifically (but not exclusively) music.

I have been blessed with having some incredible narrators read the audio versions of my novels, with “the voice of Nate Heller,” Dan John Miller, out right now with Do No Harm. Also current is Masquerade for Murder read by Stefan Rudnicki, whose Quarry readings have been favorites of mine and many of you. Jack Garrett, who did a fine job on Last Stage to Hell Junction, has Hot Lead, Cold Justice coming this month.

Our habit is to listen to the audio books of our stuff in the car. So we have yet to adjust to listening at home. Since we are liable to be sheltering in place (in some form or another) until a vaccine arrives, that will probably change.

I depend on habit – on routine – to keep me sane in what I cheerfully think of as the random terror of the chaos that is life. Just this weekend, I finished writing the new Caleb York, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, although I have not done the final read-through in search of typos, inconsistencies and the need for occasional tweaks. That’s a process that takes a couple of days. Barb enters the corrections and changes for me. More habit. More routine.

When I finish my draft (final but for what I mentioned above), I clean my work space. I begin projects with a pristine office and by the end of a project, my office has had a nervous breakdown. Perhaps it’s the historical nature of so much of what I write, but books and other research materials, and discarded drafts of pages and even chapters, are flung and scattered on a floor increasingly difficult to traverse.

When I clean the office, which takes a day or so, I listen to music. Right now, that’s about the only time I do listen to music, despite a CD collection as voluminous as my DVD/Blu-Ray library. As with audio books, music has been relegated to listening in the car. Which means it, like audio books, is hampered by not much driving happening.

And another habit, another part of our routine, is to take a day or two or even three off at the end of a project and do a getaway. No, not to some exotic vacation spot – just to Galena, Des Moines or suburban Chicago (trips to St. Louis were part of that, for the years when Nate and Abby and son Sam, and later daughter Lucy, were living there). Nothing elaborate – just dining and shopping and maybe a movie. Another habit is to take a day off during the writing process – working six days a week – to either Iowa City/Cedar Rapids or Davenport. More audio in the car gets listened to on those days.

Days not happening right now.

So the audios of our books are piling up. A year from now or so, if a vaccine or other credible treatment has emerged, and we can emerge too, we’ll have plenty to listen in the car. Including the new Weezer CD I just ordered.

And yet music has been an important part of how I’ve settled into the new routine here in Corona-ville. (This score just in – Corona 19, Trump zero).

You may recall – if you’re bored enough or perhaps masochistic enough to follow these update/blogs regularly – that I have resumed my ‘90s and early ‘00s obsession with collecting laserdiscs. I had dumped many of my discs, cheap, since I’d upgraded to DVD and Blu-ray on most of them, and hung onto only the things not available in those later formats.

But laserdiscs look terrible on flat screen TVs, so I invested in a 19″ CRT and bought a used laserdisc player from e-bay and set it up in my office. And, much to my wife’s dismay, I started buying laserdiscs again (through e-bay). Sometimes these are movie titles otherwise unavailable; but mostly they are music – a lot of stuff from the ‘80s and early ‘90s isn’t available elsewhere, as well as things from the ‘50s and ‘60s that got laserdisc-only releases (usually collections, like Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Greatest Years).

I won’t bore you with details, but Japan put out of lot of laserdiscs with clips from the UK’s Beat Club and the USA’s Shindig and other sources that were rarely available here, except on the gray market. These laserdiscs look and sound particularly good. And I eventually had to replace my player with a cool silver one made in Japan, which is superior to our models.

The Japanese in particular put out collections of British invasion material, including discs dedicated to single groups, sometimes with interview and documentary footage. Wonderful discs include some of my favorite bands, like the Animals, the Yardbirds, and the Dave Clark Five. Artists of the mid-‘60s through the early ‘70s are represented in collections with incredible performances, like the Vanilla Fudge doing “Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Shotgun,” and Dusty Springfield doing…well, anything.

Now what I’m about to say is no revelation, not even to me. But at my age, listening to this music, and seeing the artists performing it, hits me emotionally harder than I expected. I got these discs because I liked the music and the artists. But seeing those artists, back in the day, performing that music, swept me back; memories and feelings surged and swelled.

People talk about music – particularly the pop music you grow up with – being the soundtrack of your life. That’s a cliche, I know, but like all cliches, it has more than a kernel of truth. Nothing takes me back to the ‘70s more fully than seeing Karen Carpenter singing Paul Williams tunes, although Three Dog Night doing Paul Williams comes close.

Barb and I encountered Karen and Richard Carpenter (we didn’t exactly meet them, just exchanged a few pleasantries) in the green room at Good Morning America when I was promoting Dick Tracy in the early ‘80s. Karen was skeletal, probably a few months away from dying, and Barb and I were shocked by the alarming sight of her. Apparently she had low self-esteem (also an observation that is less than revelatory) but it’s so damn tragic to think of that incredible, rich voice living inside that frail, damaged body and soul.

I wasn’t particularly a huge Carpenters fan. I remember liking “Merry Christmas, Darling,” and I was not an imbecile, so I knew a lovely voice when I heard it. But like a lot of us at the time, I dismissed the Carpenters as corny and the production as too slick and a sign that the rougher-edged ‘60s were over. It was Paul Williams and Phantom of the Paradise (still among my favorite movies) that began my reassessment, largely thanks to Jessica Harper’s rich, Karen Carpenter-like singing, and seeing Richard Carpenter’s sister in the disturbing flesh – a victim of her own self-doubt – added a tragic patina.

Likewise seeing Eric Burden or Rick Nelson or Bobby Vee (I already had every scrap of Darin, so little of him has turned up on laserdisc, though a few great “Mack the Knife” renditions are collected here and there) stirred memories specific and general. For me, the funny thing is I’ve always been into nostalgia – but mostly second-hand nostalgia, for the ‘30s and ‘40s of my parents, thanks in part to Warner Bros cartoons and the Three Stooges, and for the ‘50s which I remembered only vaguely from early childhood – my first record was a 78 of Elvis (“Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel”).

But I never really understood – never experienced – nostalgia in a meaningful, personal way until I saw these laserdiscs. I now realize that the best years of my life are indeed over, even as lucky as I am and as happy as I am to still be on this planet, despite a pandemic and a political scene that dismays and discourages daily.

Like Karen Carpenter, Carly Simon is an artist I had taken for granted. Carole King I always valued, as did Barb; but somehow when I thought of Carly Simon, what came to mind was her first album’s jacket with that fetching bra-less photo of her. But what I, in my continuing male wretchedness, failed to appreciate at the time was how many great songs, performed in a warmly personal and open style, this woman gave us. A live laserdisc reminded me – Simon has an incredibly winning awkward grace in performance – and a three-CD boxed set of hers is what I listened to cleaning my office.

Watching Cyndi Lauper on laserdisc, performing wildly and well and with complete abandon to an audience in Paris, reminds me how much I enjoyed the early ‘80s…how fantastic those years were, when both Nate Heller and Nate Collins came into the world, when Barb and I were loving New Wave music and in so many ways coming into our own. And how, now, astonishingly, the ‘80s are suddenly a long time ago. I mean, I already knew the ‘60s and even the ‘70s were a long time ago.

But the ‘80s?

And weren’t the ‘90s last week?

The mingled joy and sadness of revisiting this music – hearing it, seeing it – has helped me adjust to sheltering in place. Hey, I know we’re lucky. I can still work – in fact, I have now hit my stride and thrown off any initial sluggishness and am working pretty much every day. But with a laundry list of underlying health issues, at a ripe old age, I am not going anywhere for a while, except the pharmacy and supermarket.

Even Warren Zevon, faced with cancer’s death sentence, got to see the latest James Bond movie before he passed. And maybe that says it all – that my biggest worry right now is not being able to see the new James Bond movie in a theater.

Music is calming and reassuring and the only method of time travel science has yet come up with. Back in the ‘80s, when I was having a lot of stress on Dick Tracy due to editorial interference, I found the only things that soothed me were Johnny Mathis and Sade records…they were mellow, and mellowed me out. You go to the shrink; I’ll listen to “Chances Are” and “Smooth Operator.”

And when I hear Eric Burden or the Vanilla Fudge or Rick Nelson or so many other artists, I feel the urge to play music again…even though I haven’t touched my organ (get your mind out of the gutter) since the pandemic began. But it does seem that, whenever I tell myself I have hung it up where rock and roll is concerned, something comes on the radio that gets the juices flowing again.

Yesterday I cancelled my band’s July 4 gig. We have only one date this year that I haven’t cancelled – it’s in September. We’ll see.

Never say die.

Also, never say never again.

* * *

Thanks to those of you who participated in the Antiques Fire Sale book giveaway. The books were sent out last week.

Check out this great review of Girl Can’t Help It from Bookgasm.

This is part two of a really nice article/interview about/with me, with an emphasis on Mike Hammer and Masquerade for Murder.

Here’s an essay I wrote about the process of writing the Mike Hammer novels – ground I covered here a while back, but a somewhat different take.

I was asked to write about my five fictional private eyes. Check it out here.

This is a look at my graphic novel (with Kia Asamiya), Batman – Child of Dreams, with a ton of scans.

Finally, here’s a link to the interview Barb and I wrote for Brandy and Vivian Borne to boost Antiques Fire Sale.

M.A.C.

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.

Hey Kids! Free Books! And Corona Virus Stuff, Too!!

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Now in Paperback!

Or…
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Kobo
Audio CD:

And now here’s our first Corona Virus-era book giveaway, waiting for you to request a copy, receive, wipe down, read, and review.

We have ten copies of Masquerade for Murder, the new Mike Hammer, and ten copies of the paperback edition of Antiques Ravin’. Request the book of your choice, and if you’re willing to accept the other option, say so. [Note from Nate: All copies are spoken for. Thank you!]

Be sure you’re willing to review the book at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, and anywhere else appropriate, including a blog. If you absolutely hate the book, I certainly won’t insist you review it; but everybody else I would like to see put in their two cents (or three or four or five stars).

You know who already likes it? Booklist. Check this out:

A man steps off a curb. A roaring Ferrari sends him “tumbling across the hood” and speeds off. A famous PI witnesses the moment and senses it wasn’t an accident. Days later the victim’s father hires the famous PI to find out what happened. By then we know the PI is Mike Hammer, appearing in the latest of Max Allan Collins’ reconstructions of Mickey Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts. This one is relatively free of Spillane’s posturings about women and society that offend today’s readers, and that’s fortunate, as it’s a first-rate noir adventure, set in 1988, and it boasts some excellent writing. Hammer’s examination of an apartment, for example, goes on for pages and is so masterfully, tensely described one scarcely notices that absolutely nothing happens. As Spillane/Collins move to the finale, which puts a remarkable twist on the “things are not as they seem” chestnut, Hammer broods on his own obsolescence. He’s a dinosaur, a being from the world of Milton Berle and Howdy Doody. Doesn’t bother him. — Don Crinklaw

Nice one, huh? Now, I’m going to keep after all of you to post those Amazon reviews, especially for Masquerade for Murder, Do No Harm, and Girl Can’t Help It, even if you actually paid for a copy. We have some nice reviews on everything, a couple of weak ones but mostly stellar, and could use more.

Now that the bribery and groveling is out of the way, I’m going to discuss something more serious. I have tried to keep it light here since the Covid-19 thing kicked in, but I’m going to talk this time about something that I’ve been dealing with, something that’s been on my mind.

When the whole shelter-in-place thing started, I didn’t get depressed or upset or terribly scared, even though at my age with my underlying health issues I should be hiding under the bed (shout out to Bill Barr, the Jabba the Hutt of the Trump Administration).

My thoughts initially were mostly centered on how lucky I am – I have a beautiful wife who treats me well, my son and his family are just up the street (and we are now interacting after some quarantining of both households for different reasons) (see below), and I am swimming in books, DVDs, Blu-rays and CD’s. My late actor friend Mike Cornelison used to say he wanted to take his vacations in my house.

Not the worst bomb shelter in the world to be stuck in.

And I also initially thought that, as a writer, I would get (technical term ahead) shitloads of work done. This would work out great. I could really dig in. Right. That’s what Jack Nicholson thought when he first typed, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

I am working. I am working every day. But I would say my productivity is at about half-speed. I feel sluggish. Most days I stop short of depression, but happiness seems pretty abstract right now…though there are of course moments. But this creative slog surprised me.

Then I started to talk to other writers – book writers and TV/movie writers, all of whom had the same initial thought (“This won’t impact my productivity – I’m going to really get a lot done!”) and ever since have struggled to maintain even half their pace.

Some of it, for me, is specific to our life style. Back in the normal world, Barb and I would take at least one and usually two meals out. Since we both work at home, we have used restaurants as a way to get out, run errands, take a break, and not have to deal with cooking. Now every meal is an event. Often a mini-event, but more goes into it, and energy is expended.

Excursions into the outer world – like grocery shopping and going to the pharmacy – take up an inordinate amount of time. Recently I learned I’d been exposed to the Corona Virus by (engaging in what reckless behavior, you ask?) going to the eye doctor to pick my new glasses up, in a very controlled way – an appointment, answering questions at the door, I was the only patient in the building, and the optometrist assistants numbered two (one of whom had Covid-19 but didn’t know it yet). This meant a somewhat scary quarantine for both Barb and me, and no contact for two weeks with Nate and his up-the-street brood. And we had just waited out two weeks since the grandkids had stopped going to Day Care.

So my two weeks elapse, and the next day Barb has chills, a 101-plus fever, and other suspicious symptoms. An afternoon is spent at Urgent Care. Barb is tested. While we wait for results, we explore how we will sequester her in a separate part of the house, if need be. I go to the supermarket by myself (I love that they play oldies during the hour reserved for senior shoppers, and that when it’s up, immediately nauseating country western begins). I buy a cart of food designed for me to take care of myself and Barb, meaning a life based around the microwave altar.

The cart of food I buy for $144 is something that if you had shown it to me, say, in December and told me I had selected the items, I’d have said you’re out of your effing mind.

Two days later it turns out Barb doesn’t have the virus.

Back to the store to buy better groceries, and look in vain for hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes. (Tip for male shoppers: sanitary napkins are no substitute.)

So, my point – if there is one – is that it’s hard to be creative when you’re having these at least mildly dystopian adventures.

I hesitate to share any of this, because I know I have it easy. This isn’t really bad at all. And yet. And yet.

There will be no band jobs this summer. There will be no store signings for any of my books, even if bookstores re-open, and no appearances at conventions – San Diego would be madness (it is anyway) and while we haven’t cancelled Bouchercon yet…really? Really? Is that something any of us should do?

My point of view, of course, is that of a 72 year-old man who on paper died a couple of years ago. So I tend to be cautious.

And I am writing. I was fast before, and even slowed down, I’m still productive. But this reminds me of 9/11 – writers like me, both in books and TV/movies, found themselves wondering if anybody wanted, oh, crime/murder stories anymore, or comedy or music. Turns out we did, but most of us had a sluggish week or two.

This is more than a week or two. I think we’ll find our pace, our groove. But not yet.

* * *

Here’s another lovely Masquerade for Murder review, this time from that terrific writer, Ron Fortier.

Check out this killer Pinterest array of Mike Hammer covers.

Chicago Lightning, the Nate Heller short story collection, gets a nice mention here.

My Batman’s Robin explained in this comics piece. Topic not covered: do I care?

And Road to Perdition is one of the best 100 movies on Netflix right now, sez here.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

M.A.C.

Things to Do While Sheltering in Place

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I think all of you who take the time to read these updates know that I am always thinking of you. Barb and I are self-quarantining a little more vigorously than usual because a while back I was exposed to somebody who tested positive for Covid-19 (neither Barb nor I have shown any symptoms and the time period will be up soon).

But it just goes to show you (or shows to go you, as Midwestern wits used to say) how selfless it is of me to be thinking about you, and the ways you can fight your potential boredom and particularly cabin fever.

Here are ten tips for things you can do to suffer through this ordeal.

1. Order Do No Harm, the new Nathan Heller novel.

2. Read Do No Harm, the new Nathan Heller novel.

3. Write a review (preferably positive, but it takes all kinds of people to make a world) for Amazon and/or other review sites.

4. Order Girl Can’t Help It, the second Krista Larson novel.

5. Read Girl Can’t Help It, the second Krista Larson novel.

6. Write a review (preferably positive, but it takes all kinds of people to make a world) for Amazon and/or other review sites.

7. Order Masquerade for Murder, the new Mike Hammer novel.

8. Read Masquerade for Murder, the new Mike Hammer novel.

9. Write a review (preferably positive, but it takes all kinds of people to make a world) for Amazon and/or other review sites.

10. Take advantage of the sales I’m about to reveal to you.

Starting April 1 (no fooling) (as Midwestern wits ETC.) fifteen Nathan Heller titles will be available for 99-cents each as ebooks for Kindle, a sale running through/including April 30.

The titles are:
Angel in Black
True Crime
Neon Mirage
Majic Man
True Detective
Carnal Hours
Flying Blind
Damned in Paradise
Stolen Away
Blood and Thunder
The Million-Dollar Wound
Chicago Confidential
Triple Play
Chicago Lightning

Beginning 4/1/2020, you will see the promotion here.

For those of you who prefer Nook, Antiques Frame is included on a big sale online at Barnes & Noble. Normally $7.59, for two weeks it’s just $1.99. If you’ve never sampled an Antiques book, this is a cheap way to do so.

By the way, those reviews that I brazenly solicited above are important. Though the “star” averages are very good, the number of reviews so far on the three (!) new novels isn’t impressive (Masquerade for Murderonly has two reviews as I write this). These reviews are vital. Do No Harm, oddly, has a couple of really nasty (and contradictory) reviews, at least one of which strikes me as suspicious (I know it’s hard for you to believe that I could ever have gotten on the bad side of anybody, but it has happened…).

And I want to stress – and I’m not kidding about this – that any author you read regularly, or for that matter any book you read and like by a contemporary author – will benefit greatly from your Amazon/Barnes & Noble reviews. Those reviews can be short and sweet – a line or two – or as detailed as you like.

One of the pleasures of having a new book come out – and Nathan Heller novels seem to generate the most response, in this regard – are the personal emails (and even snail-type letters – remember them?) that don’t discuss the novel so much as recount certain memories and feelings it invoked. A couple of recent missives impressed me quite a bit, and I’d like to share them with you. I asked their authors permission to do so.

This is from Tom Zappe, loyal reader (and musician) from St. Louis:

At just about that same time in June of 1957 that Earl Stanley Gardner was picking up the check for himself and Nate Heller at George Diamond’s in the loop, I was having my very first salad at that famed steakhouse.

I had never experienced any desire to ingest such a large gathering of greens before, but when confronted with those wedges of head lettuce [which along with the occasional potato and some corn on the cob were the only veggies my father ever ate] and the lazy susan of proprietary salad dressings in the middle of the table, I seem to have permanently lost what little self control I had acquired by that time in my life.

I can resist anything but temptation.

My paternal grandfather was a meat cutter from the old country. My mother’s joke was that she married “a son-of-a-butcher”, which was about as racy as she got in those days. Her go to swear words were “APPLE CRAP”.

Steamy.

My father did not limit himself to just eating beef, however. He never met a slab of ribs or what we in St. Louis still call “pork steaks” that he would not gleefully transfer from his grill to his dinner plate. I’m sure he had fish at least 3 or 4 times in his life as well.

Adventurous.

For my above mentioned salad debut he took my mother and me, and my sister and her fiance out to dinner. I know it was on a Friday since my future bother-in-law was studying to become an Episcopal priest. At that time the Church Of Englanders [they were one and the same in those days] in their never ending attempt to prove they were just as good as real Catholics did not permit their flock to feed at the stockyards on Fridays.

George Diamond’s served nothing that couldn’t theoretically walk to market.

Even at that tender age, I figured this was my father’s way of expressing his opinion of the dietary restrictions his future son-in-law was attempting to impose on my sister.

Subtle.

Tom was born in 1948, which is a mark of distinction in my book.

The late and lamented George Diamond’s steak house in Chicago holds many special memories for me. My parents took me there on post-Christmas trips starting when I was in junior high and later Barb and I dined there while on our honeymoon trip to Chicago. Years later we took Walter Koenig out to dinner at George Diamond’s and – this was at a Chicago Comics Convention, before any Star Trekcons I believe – traded him a great meal for insider stories from the set.

This missive is from Steve Noah, a relative of Barb’s, who is a nice and remarkable guy known for his work in economic development, politics, international trade and more. Steve grew up in Charles City, Iowa (coincidentally, my late uncle Mahlon taught band there). Steve has done considerable good work in Rwanda.

We were supposed to be flying to Hawaii on Friday but instead I read Girl Can’t Help It on Friday and Do No Harm yesterday. While I am not old enough to remember the original Sheppard trial, I have vivid memories of the Habeas hearings in 1964 and the retrial in 1966.

Much of the discussion in Charles City, or at least in our family, centered around an anti-osteopathic bias in our community. In retrospect it amazes me how intelligent, educated people could have such prejudice not only against osteopaths but also chiropractors and optometrists, and how much clout the AMA had, even in rural Iowa, through at least the mid-1970s.

Your novel triggered memories of reading Bailey’s book, The Defense Never Rests, shortly after it was published in 1971. Interestingly my father warmed to D.O.’s when the son of client came to Charles City to practice and to optometrists when a young optometrist moved to CC and hired Dad to help him purchase a practice. He never did warm to chiropractors.

Both of your Krista Larson novels have been fun to read, partially because of the locations. Someday I must visit the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My thanks to both Tom and Steve for letting me share these reflections, and for those of you come here regularly for whatever it is I do here, many thoughtful comments are posted throughout the week, and I often reply. It’s worth checking back.

While I have been self-quarantining, holed up with my beautiful wife, plenty of food, streaming services, thousands of books, DVDs, Blu-rays and laserdiscs, I’ve had plenty of options of ways to spend my time. So I spent ninety minutes of it revisiting a really terrible movie that you may want to buy.

I actually kind of like this movie, and since one of the symptoms of the corona virus is losing a sense of taste, maybe I have the damn disease. Because I am here to tell you that My Gun Is Quick(1957) has never looked better than it does as a Blu-ray. And it’s on sale (I make absolutely nothing from this recommendation!) at the Kino site for $14.95, not the list price of $24.95.

What will you see in this adaptation of one of Mickey Spillane’s best Mike Hammer novels? Well, the first ten minutes are just like the book. The rest is a community theater version of The Maltese Falcon. The first section has a sort of fun gritty, sleazy feel, with nickel strippers and dime hoodlums, joints and flop houses and shabby penthouses, utilizing sets that defy the existence of art direction. Then comes the most boring car chase I have ever, ever seen. Robert Bray looks like Mike Hammer but he shouts all the time. Suddenly Mike Hammer meets a blonde in a bathing suit who invites him into her cottage for no reason, which has a butler (also for no reason), and then…Mike and this new doll go speed-boating! Endlessly! There’s a French sailor with a hook. A couple of fights with obvious stuntmen. A single moody wordless scene to indicate what the thing could have been, all leading to… no shock ending! Mike just turning the bad girl in to the cops (“We’re goin’ to shore”). It’s horrible.

I’ve seen it maybe ten times.

Hey, it’s Mike Hammer.

* * *

Here’s another one of those movies-you-didn’t-know-from-comics pieces about Road to Perdition– short but sweet.

And here’s a nice little essay by a writer who studied with me one summer.

Finally, I do not mean to make light of what we’re all going through. The three states where I do the most business (and have many, many friends) – New York, California, and Washington – are getting hit really hard right now. Receiving a phone call from my eye doctor telling me I’d been exposed to Covid-19 at a very controlled visit was, well, an eye-opener. For people my age, with underlying health issues, it’s a genuine threat. But healthy people much younger have died from this nightmare.

Stay home and stay safe.

Read a good book.

M.A.C.