Posts Tagged ‘Giveaways’

Menace & Shrinking Island Giveaway…And Robert Morse

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

The publication date of The Menace by Mickey Spillane and myself (from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press) is August 27 (Wednesday of this week, as I write). To jump-start some reviews of this and of The Shrinking Island (the collection of Mickey three YA adventure novels), I am announcing right now a book giveaway. Winners agree to write an Amazon review; other reviews are also encouraged.

M.A.C. holding copies of The Menace and The Shrinking Island

I have five copies of The Menace and five copies of The Shrinking Island for the first ten who request a book by writing me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Tell me which book you prefer, but if your choice is gone, the other will be sent. You must include your snail mail address, even if you’re entered before. These will go fast.

As usual, USA only.

The Menace is a special book. It is unusual in several respects. The Mike Hammer novels under the Spillane/Collins byline reflect me finishing books of Mickey’s in progress or put aside at the time of his death in 2006, or novels developed from synopses he left behind. I’ve also done from partial Spillane manuscripts two non-Hammer novels – The Consummata (with Morgan the Raider from The Delta Factor) and a standalone (Dead Street), with a very Hammer-like protagonist.

The Menace was developed from an unproduced screenplay in the Spillane files. It was apparently written shortly before or around the time he and I became friends in 1981, and he spoke to me of it frequently. He seemed to have an independent production in mind; he was friendly with South Carolina indie producer, Earl Owensby, who had his own studio, and the two had explored doing projects together. Nothing came of it, but The Menace indicates something might have.

But the screenplay was short – around 40 pages – and seems either to be a condensed version designed to attract investors or a version that could have been a pilot for a one-hour anthology series, probably with Mickey hosting. (In the forthcoming Mysterious Press biography by Jim Traylor and me, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, we explore Mickey’s efforts to put a mystery/crime anthology on the air with himself as the on-camera Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock).

What is particularly interesting about The Menace is the genre – while one foot is in a crime/mystery story, the other is in horror. Elements of horror were a part of Spillane’s novels from the beginning – he brought the horrors of graphic violence to his post-war crime fiction – the endings of Kiss Me, Deadly and My Gun Is Quick come to mind – and flirted with horror themes in The Twisted Thing and his last Hammer-in-progress, The Goliath Bone.

But The Menace is specifically Mickey reacting to the success of Stephen King. I go into this in my intro to The Menace, and will only say here that it was a Spillane reaction to King’s enormous success as a writer who became a media star and who carved out his own new niche in popular fiction. It’s fair to say that King has been imitated in much the same way Mickey was in his heyday.

Spillane did not, however, like the supernatural aspect of King and that other huge success, The Exorcist (book and film). As a Jehovah’s Witness, he took demons and the devil very seriously and did not consider them appropriate subject matter for fiction. He didn’t cry out for censorship, and in fact called King “a great writer”; but that type of horror was not for him.

The novel I’ve fashioned from his compact screenplay is unusual in its crime/mystery aspect having no Mike Hammer substitute at its center, though a tough small-town police chief is one of the two protagonists. The story is about a family where the husband (a self-made-man doctor) and wife (an artist from a wealthy family) have been driven apart by their disagreement over how to raise their ten-year-old “special needs” son. During much of the action, the estranged couple and their boy are in a big old spooky house, the grounds behind walls, which becomes the setting for a siege of sorts involving an Aztec mummy who may or may not still be breathing and a creature who may or may not be human. And at its heart is the story of a family coming back together in adversity.

Not typical Spillane elements, but typically compelling Spillane storytelling. Like the adventure stories he wrote in his last decade – The Shrinking Island, Something’s Down There and The Last StandThe Menace indicates an author trying to break away from Mike Hammer and flex other storytelling muscles.

I am very proud of the book and think it shows a whole other side to Mickey Spillane. It’s a relatively short novel – 40,000-words – but we have included as a bonus the original, previously unpublished version of the short story “The Duke Alexander” and a rare non-fiction crime story by Mickey, “The Too-Careful Killer,” unseen since 1952.

* * *

Yet another of my heroes has left the planet. As if losing Norm Macdonald and Gilbert Gottfried weren’t enough, a selfish God has taken Robert Morse away. Granted, Bobby Morse had a 90 year-run, and I admit when Barb and I screened How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in his honor over the weekend, we could not mourn. We could only get caught up again in the joy of experiencing the magical, shamelessly mugging musical comedy performance that is Robert Morse playing J. Pierpont Finch.

I started thinking about what I was going to say about How to Succeed and Morse, but thought I should check on what I’d said on the subject in this space before. And I discovered that in a post in 2017, I had already said the things that my mind was putting together for me to share now. So I’m going to do something I don’t believe I ever have here – I am going to rerun my response to seeing the Twilight Time Blu-ray edition of How to Success in Business Without Really Trying.

* * *
As you may have gathered, if you’ve stopped by here at all frequently, I am a collector of movies on Blu-ray and DVD. Many of my favorite films have made it onto Blu-ray, like Kiss Me Deadly and Gun Crazy (though I had to get that from Germany). And a fairly short list of my favorites remain on DVD only, like the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes, and the great film version of the Broadway musical, Li’l Abner.

One of my favorites, poorly represented with a terrible transfer on DVD, has finally made it to Blu-ray, in a limited edition of 3000, from Twilight Time, the boutique label that has brought us any number of terrific films, from The Big Heat to the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles, from a Sinatra Tony Rome double feature to Pretty Poison.

But this time – and my birthday month yet – they have given me (and Barb and for that matter son Nate, who also loves it) a film I could watch once a week – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

There are those who can find reasons not to like this movie, just as there are people who can find a reason not to like ice cream. They are to be pitied. How to Succeed features a brilliant, witty, acid but not hateful score by the brilliant Frank Loesser. A Pulitzer Prize-winning musical (yes, Pulizter Prize-winning musical) in 1961, the Broadway version skewered the shallowness of big business in an up-to-the-moment manner. Unfortunately, the timing of the film’s release – 1967 – made How to Succeed’s cutting-edge satire seem dated, a lot having happened since ‘61.

Fortunately, time has been kind to this early ‘60s musical, with its bright Batman TV colors and cartoon images come to life (cartoonist Virgil Partch – VIP – was a consultant) and Bob Fosse choreography that is as witty and biting as the original play itself. (Fosse is not the actual choreographer of the film, but he’s credited as the source.)

A number of players from the Broadway show are retained, including Michelle Lee (who was the second Rosemary Pilkington in the original cast), the very funny Rudy Vallee, Ruth Kobart, and Sammy Smith, with Charles Nelson Reilly’s Bud Frump M.I.A., though decently replaced by Anthony Teague. Maureen Arthur – a live-action Little Annie Fannie – was in the national company of the musical and joined the Broadway run later.

I saw the national company in Chicago when I was in high school and fell in love with the musical then. The cast included Dick Kallman as Finch (later star of Hank on TV), who was excellent, with the second Great Gildersleeve, Willard Watterman, in the Rudy Vallee role. And of course the eye-popping Maureen Arthur was Hedy LaRue (“O.K. Charlie!”).

Two things make this film one of the best transitions of a Broadway hit to the big screen. First, director/writer David Swift – with credits like Pollyanna and Under the Yum Yum Tree enough to make one doubtful – had the surprising sense to film faithfully a show that had won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The other thing is Robert Morse.

His J. Pierrepont Finch is my favorite performance in any musical film. He shamelessly recreates the Broadway role with only the slightest concession to movie technique. He understands, as does the rest of the cast (though not on this level), that he’s appearing in a cartoon. His character, who climbs from window washer to the chairman of the board in a few days, following a self-help book that provides the film’s narration – should be unsympathetic. He’s manipulative and dissembling and is never seen really working (not really trying, remember?); but the boyishness of Morse himself smooths the edge off.

Morse brings a remarkable energy to his songs and his loose-limbed dancing brings James Cagney to mind. In the ensemble, “Brotherhood of Man,” in the midst of a sea of Bob Fosse choreography, brilliant scene-stealer Morse knows just how to draw the viewer’s eye, chiefly by lagging like a jazz player behind the melody just enough to seem improvisional among all the precise dancers. He alone seems spontaneous.

Does he mug? Almost constantly. His performance is basically Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School. Somehow, playing a ladder-climbing nogoodnik, he seems joyful – the perfect conveyer of Loesser’s lyrics, with their hidden dark side.

Famously, the big hit love song from How to Succeed is sung by Morse’s Finch…to himself in a mirror. Few scores rival this one, though like Sondheim, Loesser writes to the story. The songs that were left out (“Paris Original,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm”) are the weakest in the show. The only loss, besides Charles Nelson Reilly, is the great “Coffee Break,” which was filmed but cut for time. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have survived to be a special feature.

Morse and Reilly, by the way, were so successful on Broadway that they made an album together, “A Jolly Theatrical Season,” in 1963.

If the name Robert Morse seems vaguely familiar to smart younger people, he played Bertram Cooper on Mad Men, a role he was cast in, in tribute to his star turn in How to Succeed. Toward the end of Mad Men’s run, Morse was given a lovely song-and-dance farewell.

Morse’s career on Broadway was a stellar one, particularly his roles in Sugar and his one-man play, Tru, in which he played Truman Capote, winning his second Tony. But his film legacy is, largely, How to Succeed. No other film caught his magic, and a few really did him no favors – Honeymoon Hotel; Quick, Before It Melts – though The Loved One and Guide for the Married Man are worthy credits. I used to feel sad that this great talent had only one film to do him justice.

But with How to Succeed finally on Blu-ray, and with Mad Men as a wonderful, Emmy-nominated coda, I can only smile.

Nice modern-day (separate) interviews with Morse and Michelle Lee are special features. No “Coffee Break,” alas.

Buy it here.

* * *

UPDATE: The Twilight Time Blu-ray is still available but is pricey from some sources, although Screen Archives still has it at $20.

Let me add a few thoughts. Morse, who I describe above as “Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School,” shared with Lewis an inability to move from boyishness into anything else. It took the heavy make-up of his Truman Capone one-man show to briefly change that – he won a second Tony for it, after all – but he remained a boyish persona.

His rise to success (and Succeed) came from a string of stand-out youthful Broadway roles that culminated in J. Pierpont Finch being designed as a star vehicle for him. Two Broadway revivals have not shown their popular stars able to make their performances anything but reminders of how good Morse was.

He worked. He had a career. For a while he remained hot on Broadway, with Sugar (the musical version of Some Like It Hot) in 1972 a particular highlight. But mostly it was episodic TV and TV movies (he played Grandpa Munster in one), Pringle commercials and lots of cartoon voiceovers (Teen Titans, toward the end) – not what his dazzling How to performance promised.

That he had Mad Men as a last act is wonderful. But he deserved more. And we deserved more Morse.

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Richard Piers Rayner’s phenomenal work on Road to Perdition gets some nice notice here in a piece on movies that recreated panels from the comic books they were based on.

M.A.C.

Nate Heller, Chuck Berry, and Five Free Books!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022
No Time to Spy Cover
E-Book: Amazon
Paperback: Amazon

Finally, our book giveaway of No Time to Spy, the massive collection of the John Sand trilogy, has arrived. We have only five (5) copies to give away. As usual, you agree to write an Amazon review (and/or at any other review site, like Barnes & Noble, Good Reads, your own blog, etc.). [All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! — Nate]

We really need the reviews, as No Time to Spy has stalled out at a meager 18 ratings. By way of contrast, the new Quarry’s Blood already has 34 (and thank you for that!). Now, I understand John Sand and Quarry are two different animals, but the individual titles in the Sand series have fared very well (229 ratings for Come Spy with Me for an average of four stars).

If you have read the trilogy as it came out, novel by novel, and liked what you read, please consider reviewing the collection at Amazon to help build up interest. Right now it’s looking like the fourth Sand, resolving a hell of a cliffhanger (if Matt Clemens and I may be so bold to suggest), will never be written.

On this subject – and I think I’ve made this clear before – I am well aware that not everything I write appeals to the same group of readers. Right now I’m working on The Big Bundle, the new Nate Heller novel (about 2/3’s in), and am cognizant of the fact that what some readers relate to in my work is my first-person voice. That’s not just one voice, of course – Mike Hammer and Quarry and Heller are not the same voice, but they are variations on my voice and reflect whatever facility I may have in first person. Some readers may not relate as well to a third-person voice, as used in John Sand, Nolan, the Perdition prose novels and more.

And some people who like, say, Quarry like to lambast me when I write anything else. But I need to stay fresh and nimble and that requires writing different things, although mostly I work in suspense/mystery. But I get it. I have writers whose work I like who occasionally throw me a curve I can’t catch. One of my favorite writers is Mark Harris – his baseball trilogy (The Southpaw is the first, Bang the Drum Slowly is the most famous) is to me a marvel of first-person storytelling.

Harris, who I met and then corresponded with, saw himself as a literary writer and throughout his career he tried all kinds of things. Usually I at least like what he did, at times I loved what he did, but on a few occasions I didn’t connect with him at all. When someone dislikes my work in general, I like to say the reader and I are not a good fit. When someone who likes some of what I do complains about a work that doesn’t work for him or her, I chalk it up similarly – that reader isn’t a good fit with that particular work.

A good example is the Antiques series that Barb and I write together. These are cozy mysteries, albeit somewhat of a subversive take on that sub-genre, told in the first person by two narrators. The novels combine what we think are good solid mysteries with a lot of fairly off-the-wall humor. A surprising number (surprising to me) of readers of noir-ish things of mine like Quarry, Heller and Hammer also like these books. But I completely understand the readers who, despite generally being fans of mine, don’t cotton to Brandy and Vivian Borne.

Writing this new Heller raises a number of issues in my aging mind. I understand that some fans of my Quarry and Nolan and Hammer novels don’t respond to Heller, despite my own feeling that the Heller saga is my signature work. While the Heller books have the violence and sex for which I am known and loved, they also are long books…this one will be 80,000 words and I believe Stolen Away was 125,000 words…and they are more detailed and explore the historical crimes they’re dealing with in depth. The violence and sex stuff is there, but not every other chapter.

The Big Bundle cover

Another factor I’m facing is the degree of difficulty. Even now I can write a Quarry novel in a month. The real-life case I’m dealing with in The Big Bundle is not as complicated (or frankly as famous) as, say, the assassination of Huey Long (Blood and Thunder) or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Flying Blind). But at this age I have to review the research extensively before working on a chapter covered by that material; this includes new research, beyond the several months of reading that preceded the writing, stuff I’m picking up on the fly.

I also find I am re-plotting several times as I go along. That happens with any novel, because I don’t let my synopsis dictate things – if characters want to do something different, I let them. If something occurs to me as an interesting turn to take, I take it.

That’s all well and good, but in a Heller novel I am dealing with history. The first book, True Detective, in the very title established the rules: these would be true stories. I allow myself some liberties – time compression and occasional composite characters are typical elements in a Heller. But mostly it’s just the facts, ma’am, presented in the context of a private eye novel and striving to come up with the truth…most happily (as has been often the case) with a new solution to a controversial real mystery.

What I am up against now is that pesky degree of difficulty. I think I’m writing as well as ever (possibly self-delusion, but it keeps me going). With Heller, however, the amount of time for me to feel I get it right is at odds with the speed at which I was long able to work. I understand that’s a function of old age; but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Just annoying. Frustrating.

I have committed to one more Heller after this one – the two books will complete the cycle of Heller novels involving JFK and RFK. Bobby Kennedy isn’t in The Big Bundle much, but he’s a vital element; next time he will be the focus.

I have been expecting to spend my remaining writing years with a focus on Heller. I am nearing the end of the Hammer manuscripts, and I’ve written and published endings to Nolan and Quarry (two each!). But I question whether I am up to the Heller degree of difficulty in relation to how much time it takes to arrive at what satisfies me.

On top of this are newer projects – like Fancy Anders and John Sand – that interest me. I am extremely proud of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton; it’s one of my best books (thank you Dave Thomas!). Barb and I are developing a standalone thriller, and I’m doing three novellas for Neo-Text on unlikely American heroes. There a few more Spillane/Hammer books left to write.

But Heller is what I’m proudest of. Probably the deciding factor will be if I can’t hit the mark, can’t write about him in a way that pleases me.

One interesting thing about Heller is how writing the books can lead me into rewarding areas that I didn’t anticipate. In Big Bundle, I decided to do a scene in St. Louis at a club where Chuck Berry was playing. Berry isn’t being used as a famous historical character in the novel – it’s just me looking for a fun setting for a scene.

That’s always a problem in private eye novels. The form is basically a series of interviews with witnesses and suspects – look at The Maltese Falcon. So I try in Heller (well, in all novels that touch on the PI form) to use interesting locations. With an historical saga like Heller’s, it’s an opportunity to suggest the times and put the place in context – using famous defunct restaurants, for instance.

Chuck Berry at the Cosmo

I read about the Cosmopolitan Club, where Berry basically put rock ‘n’ roll on stage for the first time, and found that the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987) had refurbished the defunct East St. Louis club for a mini-concert celebrating (and sort of recreating) Berry’s tenure there. I got caught up in the documentary and it got me interested in Berry and his music, which I had frankly (stupidly) taken for granted. On reflection, I was reminded that everything from the Beach Boys to the Beatles came from him, and recalled how many, many songs of his my various bands had played.

So I sent for another documentary (Chuck Berry, 2018), and several books, and three CD’s. That’s a bonus that comes out of the Heller research – I stumble onto things that are only tangential to the book at hand but that roar into the centerstage of my personal interests.

If you’ve never seen Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, by the way, you haven’t lived till you watch Chuck Berry schooling Keith Richards on how to play rock ‘n’ guitar. One particular sequence is singled out as demonstrating how difficult Chuck could be; but for those of us who’ve played in bands, we know: Chuck was right.

One bittersweet aspect was my realization that I had blown a great opportunity. My son Nate lived in St. Louis for better than half a decade, and during that time Barb and I visited him (and later, Nate and his wife Abby, and later than that, grandson Sam too) often. Meanwhile, hometown boy Chuck Berry was playing once a month at Blueberry Hill, a fantastic club in the Delmar loop. And I – we – didn’t bother to see him.

As Fats Domino would say, “Ain’t that a shame.”

* * *

This Paperback Warrior review of Quarry’s Blood appeared on my birthday, March 3, and I couldn’t ask for a better present.

The New York Times recommended ten books last week, and Quarry’s Blood was one of them.

Finally, Daedalus Books has the hardcover of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher for $6.95.

M.A.C.

Not Another Book Giveaway! Also, Entertain or Impress?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022
Tough Tender Cover
Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
E-Book: Amazon Kindle Purchase Link Google Play Books Purchase Link Nook Purchase Link Books-A-Million eBook Purchase Link Kobo Purchase Link Apple Books Purchase Link

Yes, just one week later and it’s another book giveaway.

Hard Case Crime continues its wonderful (to me, anyway) series of Nolan reprints, with two novels to a volume and terrific, movie poster-ish Mark Eastbrook covers. Tough Tender, including both Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, will be published March 22. I have ten advance copies for readers willing to do a review at Amazon (and/or other Barnes & Noble and other review sites). This is USA only and (IMPORTANT) you must include your snail-mail address, even if you’re entered and won before. [All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support!]

These novels were the last in the original Nolan cycle – all of them (save Scratch Fever) were written for Curtis Books in the early seventies, and later minorly revised when Pinnacle Books picked the series up. Only Bait Money and Blood Money (the first two) saw publication from Curtis Books in 1973. Scratch Fever was written expressly for Pinnacle, and would be the last Nolan until Spree in the eighties. Spree, designed to be the last in the series, has been followed by a “coda” novel, Skim Deep, out last year.

I continue to emphasize the importance of reviews at Amazon in particular. Some of these books – the Hard Case Crime titles and Titan titles – you can find in your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore. But the likes of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (by Dave Thomas and me, and a book I really love), Fancy Anders Goes to War (I love you, too, Fancy!) and No Time to Spy (the new John Sand omnibus by Matt Clemens and me) can only be ordered online – Amazon probably your best bet.

* * *

As I mentioned in recent posts, I’ve decided to slow down my rate of production. In 2021 I amped things up, and you’ll be seeing the results in the coming months, in part due to this year’s 75th anniversary of the debut of Mike Hammer in I, the Jury. I am hopeful that Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction (the biography by Jim Traylor and me) – will get some special notice. An Edgar nomination is the dream, but Mickey Spillane on Screen by Jim and me, which I remain very proud of, was roundly ignored. Skim Deep got great reviews and was mentioned on not a single “Best of 2021 Mysteries” lists.

I talked a bit last time about books like mine that aim to entertain rather than impress. It’s the books that try to impress (and are often no fun at all) that get the acclaim. Frustrating as that can be, I don’t envy my peers who get the accolades. For one thing, I’ve had my share of honors over the years – maybe more than my share. For another, to be jealous of another writer you have to be willing to trade your book for one of theirs. I might like Angel in Black to have the sales and reputation of The Black Dahlia, but I wouldn’t swap it for a box of Edgars and a boxcar of money.

If writing isn’t about the writer, it isn’t about anything at all.

I mention The Black Dahlia only because a genuine frustration I feel comes from the countless times some well-meaning reader says to me, “You are one of two favorite writers. The other is James Ellroy.”

I usually don’t comment on other writers, and I won’t here, except to say Ellroy is the rare fellow writer I have at times admitted not caring for (his work – personally, our encounters have always been friendly). It just makes a writer’s brain hurt and maybe explode when fans say their other favorite writer is somebody whose work that writer deplores.

But it makes sense that somebody who likes Ellroy’s fiction might like both his and mine. We work the same side of the 20th Century true-crime street, which is enough to attract the same readers. Sex and violence and traditional hard-boiled themes occur in both of us. What somebody like me has to wrap his head around is this: a reader may have the capacity to like two very different approaches to the same subject matter. In fact, a reader should have the capacity to do that.

Writers, however, often have tunnel vision in this area. For me writing is a trial-and-error process. I don’t mean the plotting or the story selection or any of that. I refer to the actual word-for-word hammering it out, the way sentences are assembled, the way paragraphs get put together. On another level, thematic concerns come into play, albeit often subconsciously – world view.

What I am trying to do, in a perhaps stumbling way, is what I’ve been doing all along: attempting to perfect my approach to storytelling. This is one reason why I don’t read much fiction anymore, especially mystery/crime. I’m no longer interested in being influenced. On some perhaps naive level, I am trying to come up with The Way to Write Crime Fiction.

I should be glad that Ellroy’s approach differs so drastically from mine. I should understand that the reader is somebody who goes along Restaurant Row and sometimes eats Chinese and sometimes Italian, and loves both. Nothing wrong with that.

With Ellroy, I have encountered too many smart people who like his work to dismiss their opinions. I have come to accept that I have had a strong element of envy in my reaction to him, because he is more successful in terms of readership, acclaim, earning power, etc. But where he isn’t more successful (and is in no way trying to be) is as the author of Max Allan Collins novels.

Shakespeare said the play is the thing. From this we extrapolate that the novel is the thing – the fiction (short stories and movie scripts, too) a writer creates is the thing. I congratulate any writer who can manage to make a living doing this throughout a lifetime – even me.

Even James Ellroy.

Smart people’s tastes vary. Here is the sentence many consider to be the best first sentence in private eye fiction; it’s by James Crumley in The Last Good Kiss:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

You may like it very much, and you won’t be the only intelligent human who shares that opinion. I think it’s a lousy first sentence, overloaded and too cute and trying way too hard. Really, just horrible.

We’re both right.

* * *

Speaking of right, here’s a lovely review of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton from Ron Fortier.

Road to Perdition, the graphic novel, has made a list of the best 110 “thriller books.”

The film is highly regarded here.

And here.

M.A.C.

A Free Quarry Book, Plus Why Reviews Do and Don’t Matter

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Here is an interview with me about two upcoming Hard Case Crime titles, Quarry’s Blood and Tough Tender, conducted by the great Andrew Sumner of Titan.

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Quarry's Blood cover
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

And now – the first book giveaway of 2022. I have ten advance copies of Quarry’s Blood available to the first ten interested readers. [All copies have been claimed. Thank your for your support! — Nate]

More book giveaways will follow – I hope to get some copies of No Time To Spy to offer soon, and I have on hand advance copies of Tough Tender (which collects the Nolan novels Hard Cash and Scratch Fever), which will be given out possibly next time.

These reviews are extremely important in an era when I am no longer doing signings and haven’t done a convention since Covid came calling. Even brief reviews are appreciated, particularly since there are a handful of apparent trolls out there who want to make sure I can’t make a living during my dotage.

A No Time to Spy review, by the way, accuses you fine people of laziness, concluding: “And by the way most of the positive comments to the Sand trilogy as of today are copy and paste from the Collins blog.” (Feel free to defend yourself in the comments area under that review, which is by Robert Hölzl, who knows he hates all three Sand novels – would you keep reading a series you dislike? – but does not know how to spell my name.)

Just to clear the palate, here is a wonderful write-up from Facebook that just popped up out of nowhere, from Rick Greene:

I love the Quarry novels. They are all fast reads, masterful page-turners that one completes in one or two sittings, wildly violent, wickedly funny, the ultimate anti-hero. As much as I love Quarry – and the Spillane/Collins Hammer novels – I consider Max Allan Collins’ masterwork to be the Nathan Heller series. I’m just more than halfway through these detective thrillers that take real life crimes and revisit them via a fun house mirror. The Heller’s are NOT fast reads – they are dense, complex, deeply moving stories that often leave the reader emotionally shattered at the finale. You have to pay attention and turn the pages slowly. The Heller’s are books to savor, to immerse one’s self in. I’ve said before that the Quarry books are cake and ice cream where the Heller series are a five course gourmet meal. I love them all for different reasons. Collins is my favorite living author… and I hope he goes right on living and writing for a few more decades. Just imagine if Ian Fleming had lived another twenty years – the unusual and complex places he could have taken James Bond as they both aged together. I can’t wait to read about the true last Quarry adventure and to revisit Heller as much as Collins will indulge us with. Bring it on.

This came at a lovely time because (a) the new Quarry book is about to be published, and (b) I have just started writing the new Nate Heller. And the Hellers have always been hard to write, but I find that, at my age, the process may be the same but I am not. I was struggling with the first chapter and then Rick Greene’s nice words came along.

What was really nice about these words is that they were just a heart-felt reader’s outpouring of appreciation – not a review. I feel like I can take Rick’s words to heart whereas it’s dangerous to believe any review, good or bad. And then there’s karma….
Later the same day I read Rick’s celebration of my work, I came upon a current review of (the 39-year-old) True Detective that was patronizing and close to nasty in things it said about my work. I write “bad dialogue,” I’m told, and the reader has to slog through my work, and as a stylist I have all the poetry of the directions on a paint can. I would have shared this condescending thing with you, but I failed when I tried to track it back down via Google.

The review was well-written and not stupid, although – as usual – no proof backing the opinions was provided. How about quoting a few clumsy sentences to make your point, or reprinting a particularly bad patch of dialogue? (By the way, I have been publishing since 1971 and have never before had my dialogue singled out for anything but praise.)

The danger for a writer – and let’s pretend Rick Greene was writing a review and not just a sending me a valentine – is that if you take the good reviews seriously, you have to take the bad ones seriously, too. And doing so will make a real writer – which is to say, a working writer who makes his or her living this way – crazy. I will admit that the day after I read that largely negative True Detective review, I found myself back at work on The Big Bundle, second-guessing every Heller sentence I wrote.

The truth is, many of us in the arts can remember every bad review – can quote from memory reviews dating back decades – whereas the positive ones fly away like tissue paper on the wind. It’s human nature, I guess, but at the same time I know that I have to pay no real attention to any reviews. I am past the point, fifty-one years into my novel writing career, that I can learn much. I do still learn, but it’s incremental, and it comes from trial and effort, not something a reviewer points out or suggests.

The True Detective reviewer clearly considered me a pedestrian stylist. Hey, I think I can turn a pretty fair phrase. But I can guess the writers that this reviewer likes – the ones who are writing to impress, not to entertain. I pick up books at Barnes & Noble or BAM! and read the first paragraphs by writers with reputations as stylists, writers far more celebrated than I ever will be, and what I see is overloaded, overwritten, trying-too-hard bullshit (do not ask for names).

Reviews, as far as my growth is concerned, are irrelevant to a writer who has been working as long as I have. All I know how to do at this stage is write the book I would like to read. Really, I think that should be every novelist’s goal – write a book you wish somebody else would have. Please your own taste and hope enough others out there will have similar enough tastes to keep you in business.

And yet I am doing a book giveaway, soliciting reviews. I don’t do this so that you will tell me how wonderful I am (though feel free to do so). I do it to help sell books, so I can stay in business. To get the word out.

I talk a lot here about how, in recent years, in recent days, I have felt cut off from current popular culture. Today I went over the copy edited manuscript of the second Fancy Anders (Fancy Anders For the Boys) and was told I shouldn’t mention Mantan Moreland or Jap Zeroes. How am I supposed to react to that? As someone who writes about the Twentieth Century, must I clean up that century’s idiosyncrasies and failings? Or do I have a responsibility to depict that century as accurately as my flawed memory will allow?

But the truth is, it’s harder for me now to be accepted in a world of publishing where I am white and old and male. It’s not the marketplace’s fault – it’s just the reality. I am so very, very lucky that publishers like Hard Case Crime, Titan, Neo-Text and Wolfpack still find me a worthwhile addition to their lists. In a world where I have to explain to people who Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer are, I am damn lucky to still be in business at all.

* * *

Some advance readers of Quarry’s Blood have nice things to say about it at Goodreads.

Check out this lovely piece at Crimereads on Marshall Rogers, who illustrated my brief run on the Batman comic strip.

Finally, has it really been twenty years since Road to Perdition was released?

M.A.C.