Posts Tagged ‘Kiss Her Goodbye’

Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook:

Turns out I make mistakes now and then. Who’d have thunk it.

A reader tells me I mangled an entry in the bibliographic essay at the conclusion of Do No Harm, for example. I will try to correct it in the ebook, when things settle down, but for now it’s all I’ll think about when I look at that book. A small continuity error in Killing Quarry is all I see when I look at the cover of that one (the e-book has been corrected).

For those caring enough to read this weekly update, I made another mistake, although it was not exactly my (or anybody’s) fault. Turns out the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, was published on March 17, the original announced date, and not April 7, having supposedly been postponed to that date. The audio is available, too, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

Now, here’s the surprise Spillane ending: the novel’s release really has been postponed till April 7…in the UK. Which sort of lessens my error, because after all the publisher is Titan, which is a British publishing house.

The bottom line is you lucky Americans can rush out and buy it now…well, you can order it online, anyway. Corona virus is doing nobody any favors – not even Smith Corona Virus. I may or may not do a book giveaway to help promote the book – I need to discuss the logistics of that with Barb.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss the new Hammer book a bit. The title of Masquerade for Murder is in line with the Stacy Keach TV movies of the ‘80s, all of which had “Murder” in their titles. This is fitting because the synopsis Mickey wrote, from which I developed the novel, was likely written for the Keach series, as was the case with Murder, My Love (the previous Hammer novel).

These two novels have in common something uncommon in Mike Hammer novels – the detective has a client in both of them. In Mickey’s famous novels, starting with I, the Jury, Hammer almost always is on a personal crusade, a vengeance hunt usually (a girl hunt in, well, The Girl Hunters). But with a TV series, Hammer couldn’t play vigilante every episode – the Darren McGavin version only has a handful of revenge plots, for example – so it’s natural Mickey might have developed these synopses with TV in mind.

The only TV synopses he wrote that became a novel written solely by him was The Killing Man, and it had Hammer personally motivated. Mickey did not submit that synopsis, by the way, considering the story “too good for TV.” (He apparently developed a synopsis for the terrible Keach-less Hammer TV movie, Come Die With Me, but only his ending was utilized.)

If Mickey was writing these synopses with television in mind, what am I doing developing novels out of them, in the case of Masquerade for Murder and the previous Murder, My Love?

Let me discuss what my procedure has been in creating novels where my famous co-author is deceased.

As I’ve reported numerous times, Mickey’s wife Jane and my wife Barb and I went on a treasure hunt – following Mickey’s directive shortly before his passing – for unfinished material in his three offices at his South Carolina home.

Our discoveries included half a dozen Mike Hammer manuscripts that represented works well in progress. These were usually 100 pages or a little more (double-spaced) and often had character and plot notes, and in a few cases endings.

Mickey had been racing to finish what he intended to be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically, The Goliath Bone, all but a few chapters of which were unfinished, and a roughed-out ending was there, too. But because of the terrible ticking clock he was working under, Mickey’s nearly complete draft was much shorter than usual and required fleshing out. Also, the novel had no murder mystery aspect. I provided the latter (his ending is the basis of the second to the last chapter).

A non-Hammer novel, Dead Street, existed in a nearly complete draft, a little rougher than usual but with almost everything there. Dead Street had been written in a stop-and-start fashion, however, and had some inconsistencies due to being written over a longer span of time than usual. I smoothed things out, and wrote the last several (missing) chapters.

The other five Hammers-in-progress – The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds – all had individual issues for me to deal with. The Big Bang consisted of about a third of the novel in finished form, and Mickey had told me the ending; but no plot and character notes turned up. Kiss Her Goodbye existed in two substantial manuscripts that went in two different directions (different mysteries developing); a lot of plot and character notes existed. I combined the two manuscripts – removing the redundant material – and used both mysteries, weaving them together.

Lady, Go Die! was an early manuscript, an unfinished follow-up to I, the Jury which had a good chunk of manuscript – about sixty pages – but was missing the first chapter. I had set this manuscript aside until I’d completed the first three Hammers, so that I felt comfortable enough to write the first chapter of one without Spillane input – I’d been intimidated, because nobody wrote better first chapters than Mickey Spillane. And I had a Spillane first chapter for another Hammer that seemed to be a 1970s reworking of the much-earlier story, and this I was able to use about half-way through the novel, to put more Spillane content in.

Complex 90 ran around 100 pages, very polished, but also had an issue: in the opening chapter, Hammer reports his harrowing adventures in Russia to some government spooks. I decided to turn that exposition into a flashback taking Hammer to Russia and experiencing all of his exploits first-hand. So that novel is unusual because it’s mostly the middle third that represents Mickey’s work.

King of the Weeds was the most challenging, and I had held it off for last, since my initial goal was to get these six substantial Hammer novels completed (and to complete Dead Street). Mickey conceived King of the Weeds as the final Hammer (changing his mind after the Twin Towers attack, which sparked Goliath Bone). At some point he misplaced the manuscript and – this is typically Mickey – just started over.

So I had two manuscripts to combine, including two very different opening chapters (the ending he had shared with me in a late-night gab session). The other difficult aspect was that Mickey was doing a direct sequel to Black Alley, a book that at that time was out of print. I almost threw out the Black Alley sequel material, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself not to follow Mickey’s wishes. Ironically, King of the Weeds became one of the strongest of the novels.

There was more material in Mickey’s files. I had done Dead Street for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, and now completed for HCC the sequel to The Delta Factor, another 100-page Spillane novel-in-progress that gave the world a second Morgan the Raider yarn.

Titan was anxious for me to continue Hammer. I had about forty or fifty pages of the novel Mickey began after Kiss Me, Deadly – a false start for The Girl Hunters with gangsters not Russian spies as the bad guys. It included Hammer traveling to Miami for an unusual change of scene and I felt had great potential. That became Kill Me, Darling.

A strong opening chapter by Mickey, plus some plot notes and his terrific ending became Murder Never Knocks. Two detailed opening chapters by Mickey became The Will to Kill. And – with Mickey’s 100th birthday in mind – I had held back about sixty pages of Mickey’s first, pre-I, the Jury (unfinished) Mike Hammer novel, Killing Town.

Mickey’s last completed novel, The Last Stand, a non-Mike Hammer, was wonderful but somewhat atypical, and rather short. So I revised an unpublished, very typical early novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” and it became a sort of preamble to Mickey’s final novel, published by Hard Case Crime. Interestingly, The Last Stand is a modern-day western, and another Spillane project of mine has been to develop a novel and then series of books from an unproduced screenplay he wrote for his buddy John Wayne – the script that became The Legend of Caleb York.

And there’s been a collection of eight Hammer short stories (A Long Time Dead) developed from shorter fragments. I have also sold a handful of non-Hammer short stories, which may someday be collected.

Which brings us up to the latest Hammer novels, last year’s Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. Murder, My Love is the only Hammer novel so far with no Spillane prose stirred in – strictly Mickey’s basic plot. The new book, Masquerade for Murder, came from a rather detailed synopsis, and the opening description of NYC is mostly Mickey’s, with a mini-sequence between Pat Chambers and Mike (about Hammer’s propensity for low-tech armament) that is Mickey’s as well. I feel good about how smoothly this material stirred in.

Where to now?

I have proposed three more Hammer novels, all from Spillane material. One combines two non-Hammer (but Hammer-ish) fragments, including a very different take on Dead Street; another will utilize a Hammer story Mickey developed for radio and again for TV, unproduced; and finally another synopsis apparently for a Keach-era Hammer episode.

I know some of you know all of this, but I thought it might be a good idea to get this recorded and in one place. Also, maybe it will inspire you to get hold of Masquerade for Murder, which I think is a damn good entry in this series.

I can’t express what it means to me to look over at the shelf and see Mickey’s Hammer novels residing next to the ones I’ve completed for him…and for me, the teenager in Iowa who wanted more, more, more Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of short stories, Barb and I – writing as Barbara Allan, of course – have sold a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” It’s not an Antiques story, but rather harks back to the kind of nasty little tale my beautiful and talented wife concocted when she was specializing in short stories.

It’s a very big deal to get published in EQMM, and we are thrilled.

* * *

With Masquerade for Murder the subject of today’s update, I am pleased to share with you this terrific review of that very novel.

The word is out about Nolan’s somewhat imminent return in Skim Deep. Read about it here.

Also, my friends at Paperback Warrior have a podcast, always interesting, which this week includes some commentary on the Nolan series.

Here’s a wonderful Ron Fortier review of the Brash Books edition of Black Hats.

Guess who’s an Irish comic book character? Michael O’Sullivan, that’s who! Check it out here.

Both yrs truly and Barbara Allan get good play on this discussion of Quad Cities area authors. Hey, what about Matthew V. Clemens?

M.A.C.

Untouchable Letterman

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

The Blu-ray of Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is out now. It’s available at any of the usual suspects among Internet retailers, but Amazon has it for about ten bucks off ($15.69).

I’m very proud of this one, which makes a good companion to Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. It is, in fact, what brought Brad and me together – he went to the play in Des Moines and saw Mike Cornelison perform the one-man show in person.

Mike is gone, for several years now, and I am so grateful that we were able to have this one last, great project with the actor who was the backbone of all of my indie film projects. Mike starred in Mommy, Mommy’s Day and Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market. He narrated my two documentaries, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane and Caveman: V.T. Hamlin and Alley Oop. He starred in two short films, one of which – “An Inconsequential Matter” – is a bonus feature on the Blu-ray. That short film was our last collaboration.

Whether, at my age, in the wake of some health issues, I can ever mount another film production is a question I can’t answer (Barb can – “NO!”). My other frequent collaborator, director of photography/editor Phil Dingeldein, is still raring to go. But I admit not having Mike on the team makes it tough to imagine.

For now, however, we have this fine Blu-ray, thanks to VCI Entertainment.

Treat yourself to this one, and it’s a perfect stocking stuffer….

* * *

For reasons I’ve never really understood, one of the questions I am most asked is, “What are you reading?” And, of course, a more general version: “What do you read?”

Regular readers of this update/blog know that I read little contemporary crime fiction, because of my desire not to be influenced by anyone working currently and also the busman’s holiday nature of it. Barb and I do watch a lot of British crime series, which slakes my thirst for mystery narrative – I generally find Brit TV crime more compelling and just, well, better than the American variety. Recently we watched the third season of The Forgotten and the first season of Bodyguard, and both were outstanding (I buy these from Amazon UK).

I also watch a lot of vintage noir, catching up with things I have never seen that have become suddenly available (the very interesting The Man Who Cheated Himself, for example, now on Blu-ray) and revisiting things I haven’t watched in ages.

My reading tends to be in bed, for a half hour or hour before I attempt sleep (not always a successful endeavor). I usually read books about film or other aspects of pop culture, including biographies. Recently I read a good book on Randolph Scott’s key director, The Films of Budd Boetticher by Robert Knott. I also gobbled up Christmas Movies by Jeremy Arnold (a TCM book), which looks at such movies with nice little well-illustrated articles combining making-of info and critical assessment, including my favorites – It’s a Wonderful Life, the Alastair Sim Scrooge and the original Miracle on 34th Street. (I skipped certain later films that I had no interest in, like Home Alone and Little Women. Not all of the author’s selections seem like real Christmas movies to me. Die Hard?) [note from Nate: It absolutely is!]

The only novel I’ve read lately is Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel, co-author of Seven Days in May. I dug this out of my basement storehouse of old paperbacks when I learned it was now a collector’s item. The subject is a president of the United States who goes mad.

Now and then I read a book that serves to do more than just lull me to sleep in a pleasant way. Such a book is The Last Days of Letterman: The Final 6 Weeks. I would say it’s a book that I enjoyed more than any in my recent memory, and yet I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to pick it up.

I loved Letterman’s Late Night at NBC and am fairly sure I never missed an episode. Letterman’s wry, self-deprecating humor resonated with this Midwestern boy, and he peopled his show with guests ranging from oddball to brilliant. I could see Norm Macdonald one night and Andy Kaufmann the next. Pee Wee Herman (my pal Paul Reubens) was often a guest. Band leader Paul Shaffer, with his tongue-in-cheek show biz sensibility, was both funny and hip, an incredible musician who had hung out in Canada with SNL and SCTV stars-to-be. Dave showcased top-notch musical acts. For someone my age, this was the natural next step from Johnny Carson.

And I grew up on Carson, but also Jack Paar and even Steve Allen, the original Tonight Show host. Our house was set up with my bedroom adjacent to where my father watched television; he often fell asleep, while I couldn’t due to the blaring TV and frankly didn’t want to, because I was listening to Allen or Parr or Carson. Sometimes, knowing my dad was likely cutting zee’s, I would go out there and sit on the floor right in front of the tube and watch till he woke up and shooed me back to bed. (I learned to write dialogue listening to old Dragnet episodes that way, as if they were radio shows, and of course they had been – Jack Webb came on at midnight after Carson signed off.)

So late night TV was a part of the fabric of my life. I remember dreaming about being a Carson guest some day – he was a Midwestern boy, too – and later I hoped I might get successful enough to be invited onto Letterman’s Late Show. Didn’t happen. Well, it sort of did. Stay tuned through the rest of this essay.

The Last Days of Letterman, written by Scott Ryan, hit me surprisingly hard. I realized that Letterman, of all the great late-night hosts I’d grown up with, was the most intimately, intricately woven into the aforementioned fabric of my life. He was on air for over thirty years. And for a long time, I never missed a show, including when he moved to CBS with the Late Show. I saw it all, for a long while, from Drew Barrymore dancing topless on Dave’s desk to Stupid Human Tricks, from Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” every year to Chris Elliot’s ongoing insanity. I also met Larry “Bud” Melman, Dave’s mom and her pies, Rupert Jee, Biff Henderson, and so many and so much more. For me a particularly memorable thing about Letterman and Late Show was the host’s love for Warren Zevon’s work and the way he and Zevon dealt with the latter’s oncoming death. Zevon’s advice to the rest of us is something I think of frequently, and did even before I (like Dave) had open-heart surgery: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

But at some point, probably around fifteen years ago, I started missing episodes. It began when a guest was announced – usually a sports figure – that I had no interest in. At some point politics had Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tempting me away, now and then, and finally regularly. Things evolved into my having to know that someone I was a fan of (Elvis Costello, for example) was going to be on Letterman for me to watch. And I would tune back into Dave, and bask in the familiarity of Dave and Paul’s effortless banter, and slip back into that comfy shoe of Late Show.

Funny thing is, what made Letterman and his show so comfy was how uncomfortable Dave himself seemed. He was embarrassed by his success. He always seemed like somebody just waiting to get found out and hauled off the stage. He was anything but comfortable in his skin. In a way Johnny Carson only pretended to be, Dave Letterman was us – particularly Baby Boomer boys like myself.

The genius of Scott Ryan’s book is the writer’s decision to focus on the final six weeks of this long-running show (and, let’s face it, Late Night and Late Show were one show). It gives Ryan a framework to discuss all the frequent guests, the famous show business figures who were indebted to Dave and (to Dave’s embarrassment) loved him. Ryan can look at the Top Ten List and various other running gags and traditions, in between describing each individual episode of those last six weeks and who was on and what happened.

Because the show is coming to its conclusion, there’s a sort of suspense-novel engine at play. How will Dave handle the loss of the thing that has been his life? How will the staff around him deal with the pressures of expectation for one special episode after another? How will Letterman endure the love fest that is being flung at him and smothering him into full-throttle embarrassment? Did anyone in bigtime show business ever deal so poorly with praise?

The second stroke of genius in this fine book is Ryan’s decision to tell the story as an oral history. He gets interviews not from Dave and Paul (who would never cooperate, of course, but Ryan seems not to have bothered approaching them) but to the army those two generals commanded. We hear from the officers – directors and producers – and from the grunts – stagehands and bookers. We experience the war of those last six weeks from the trenches. And it’s fascinating. And strangely moving.

As I say, I had not been regularly watching Letterman. I didn’t see the final episode. I think I caught one or two of the shows during that last six weeks. But here’s the thing – as I read about these episodes that I had missed, they nonetheless played in my mind as if I had. I was so familiar, so much a part of the Letterman experience, that a few words could blossom in my imagination into the feeling that I had indeed seen them…or maybe I should say, knew them.

Letterman is my age, more or less. We are Midwestern boys. I’ve had a little success and am not at all embarrassed about it, though mixed in with my egotism is some of that self-deprecation that Letterman – a huge success and extremely embarrassed about it – is so successful at conveying. Again, he also had open-heart surgery. He seemed to like a lot of the same things I did – Elvis Costello, Warren Zevon, Darlene Love – and he introduced me to the pleasures of Norm Macdonald, Chris Elliott, and Amy Sedaris. He also gave us new sides of superstars like Bruce Willis, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Tom Hanks.

Speaking of Tom Hanks.

This is the closest I ever got to being on Letterman, and frankly it was enough. Okay, almost enough. Dave made it clear, usually when Hanks was a guest but other times too, that he loved Road to Perdition. That got my attention. I talked to the TV and raised my hand like a kid in class.

“Dave! I wrote that! Not the movie, but the book – you could ask me what a graphic novel is! You could call it a ‘funny book’ and make me smile in embarrassment, because you are a Midwestern boy! And so am! Dave! I’m right here!”

As it happens, not long after, I began to leave the fold. I decided that watching talk shows (and I don’t watch any now, though I know Colbert, Fallon, Conan and others are worthwhile) was ultimately an ephemeral waste of time. I stopped watching Colbert when, at the Second City reunion, he refused to sign an autograph (I am a petty fucker). And even Stewart faded away for me, when some of his recurring players went off to have careers. I started watching a movie on DVD and later Blu-ray at night, in the talk-show time slot, wanting to catch up with old films noir and various terrible movies for which I have an inexplicable affection.

Reading The Last Days of Letterman gave the Late Show back to me. Those last six weeks, anyway. If you are or ever were a Letterman fan, you are in for a bittersweet treat.

* * *

This review of Scarface and the Untouchable has a peculiar headline, but the piece itself is fine.

Finally, here’s a great review of Kiss Her Goodbye, a Mike Hammer by Mickey and me.

M.A.C.

2015 Movie Round-Up Part Two

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

A while back I gave my “awards” for the movies Barb and I saw in the first half of 2015. Here is the second half of my movie round-up for this year. Multiple entries are in order of excellence or terribleness.

MOVIE WE WALKED OUT ON (JUST THIS WEEKEND):
THE NIGHT BEFORE

MOVIE WE SHOULD HAVE WALKED OUT ON:
THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED

INTERESTING INDIES:
PHOENIX
BEST OF ENEMIES (documentary)

MOVIES THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE:
GOOSEBUMPS
THE PEANUTS MOVIE
HITMAN: AGENT 47

MOVIES THAT WERE WORSE THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE:
PIXELS
SICARIO

BEST SEQUEL:
CREED

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
INSIDE OUT

BEST MOVIE A LOT OF PEOPLE DIDN’T LIKE:
TERMINATOR GENYSIS

BEST SPY FILM EVERYBODY SAW (THAT WASN’T “SPECTRE”):
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION

BEST SPY FILM A FEW PEOPLE SAW:
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

BEST SPY FILM NOBODY SAW:
SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD

MOVIES I HATE THAT I WILL NEVER SEE:
RIKKI AND THE FLASH
MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS
PAN
RIKKI AND THE FLASH
MAGIC MIKE XXL
PITCH PERFECT 2
Did I remember to say RIKKI AND THE FLASH?

BEST BASED-ON-FACT MOVIES:
STEVE JOBS
TRUMBO
BRIDGE OF SPIES
BLACK MASS

BEST SCIENCE-FICTION FILM IN A WHILE:
THE MARTIAN

BEST HORROR-FANTASY IN A WHILE:
CRIMSON PEAKS

MOVIES THAT SHOULD HAVE SUCKED BUT DIDN’T:
KRAMPUS
SELF/LESS (or: REGENERATION WITHOUT ROYALTIES)
NO ESCAPE

BEST ACTION MOVIE SINCE “MAD MAX: FURY ROAD”:
SPECTRE

BEST COMEDY SINCE “SPY” (SURPRISINGLY):
VACATION

* * *
Quarry's List

For those wondering what I’ve been up to, I spent last week writing a script for the second season of QUARRY. Does that mean the series has been picked up for a second season already? Unfortunately, not – but it’s a very good sign that HBO/Cinemax has ordered up a second season of scripts.

The possible second season is loosely based on QUARRY’S CHOICE, and the formative Quarry (aka Mac Conway) is moving closer to the Quarry of the novels. This makes sense, because the first season is a kind of expanded origin story.

Speaking of Quarry – and this is something I discussed last week – it’s increasingly gratifying if odd to see books I wrote a long time ago being reviewed today. Check out this very nice review in the prestigious PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY for my 1976 novel, QUARRY’S LIST. How I wish they’d noticed me back then!

My buddy (and one of my favorite writers) Ed Gorman has taken a look at SPREE on his blog. I think this is a reworking of an earlier review, but I am pleased to see it. Ed singles out this, the last of the Nolan novels, as a particular favorite of his among my books.

Here’s another review of SPREE that I was happy to read (and a little surprised to see).

I am particularly pleased to see my Mike Hammer collaborations with Mickey getting some space in one of the numerous overviews about the current trend of continuations of classic mystery and spy series. Frankly, we often get left out. What’s fun here is that the great Jon L. Breen (the Anthony Boucher of our time) is not at all a Spillane fan, but still appreciates these continuations. Specifically, he takes a look at KISS HER GOODBYE, and says wonderful things. No idea why he’s about four books behind! Do try to keep up, everybody….

M.A.C.

Trimming the Weeds & a Reprehensible Ranger

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, the final novel created from the six substantial Mike Hammer manuscripts in Mickey Spillane’s files.

This does not mean my collaborations with Mickey are at an end – I hope to fashion three more novels from shorter but still significant manuscripts. There are also short Hammer fragments (five or six pages) that I will continue to flesh out into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, considerably more non-Hammer material awaits in Mickey’s files, including three unproduced screenplays that I hope to turn into novels. Plus, there are short but significant non-Hammer fragments ranging from a chapter to two or three chapters, sometimes with notes, that could possibly be converted into Hammers. In addition, several outlines for Hammer novels remain (like the one I used as the basis for the audio play ENCORE FOR MURDER).

Mickey wrote and published thirteen Mike Hammer novels. I think it would be very cool if I could add another six novels (to the six I’ve completed) plus a short story collection and double that list. On the other hand, I have reached my first and most important goal – to complete the manuscripts on which Mickey had done considerable work. In several cases – like COMPLEX 90 and the Morgan the Raider novel THE CONSUMMATA – the books had even been announced in the publishing trades. I think Mickey truly intended to go back and finish most of these.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be talking with the folks at Titan at San Diego Con about continuing Hammer. I will report when I get back.

Now, while I say I have “completed” KING OF THE WEEDS, I still have work left to do. I have finished the book in the sense that I have reached the end of it. I revise as I go, a minimum of three passes per chapter and often more, with Barb editing along the way – she seeks out inconsistencies, word repetition, missing words, and makes suggestions. I always enter her corrections and deal with any revisions growing out of her edit before I move on.

Today I start the process of reading and revising. I work with red pen on a hard copy, and Barb enters the corrections and revisions as we go. How long this process takes varies book to book – a Quarry novel may take a day or two, whereas a Heller could take a whole week. This Hammer novel, which has a very complicated plot, will take two days minimum. If I hit something that strikes me as problematic, all bets are off – I will go back to the machine and start re-writing any troubled section. This happens seldom, though.

This was a tough one. I think it turned out well, and my fears have lessened that the older Mike Hammer might not please new readers who know only the wild and woolly private eye of THE BIG BANG, KISS HER GOODBYE, LADY, GO DIE! and COMPLEX 90. But the final chapters are as wild a ride as you’ll find in any of those. And I think the older Mike Hammer, with his career winding down — KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived by Mickey as the last Mike Hammer novel, after all – is very interesting.

Next week, we will be going to the San Diego Comic Con. By “we” I mean Nate, Abby, Barb and me. We will post our schedule (including two panels Nate is on) here next week. Then we will probably post brief daily updates from the con.

* * *

The Fourth of July weekend was a lot of fun with very beautiful weather. The Crusin’ gig at the Brew in Muscatine went extremely well, and lots of locals who hadn’t seen us in a while got to see the current strong line-up – earning us many great comments.

We also spent a good deal of time with my old high school buddy Ron Parker and his very cool wife Vickie, visiting from Florida where they retired after careers in the military. Ron is very smart and funny, but don’t tell him I said so. He is one of the last surviving members of our group of poker-playing pals who went through school together. How far back does this go? Well, we began playing poker together when MAVERICK was airing first-run episodes. Ron and I reminisced about Jon McRae, the basis for the John character in NO CURE FOR DEATH, and our late friend Jan McRoberts, whose mysterious death I fictionally explored in A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS. Jim Hoffmann, who produced the MOMMY movies, was also part of that group, is also gone. Alive and well of the poker players are Mike Bloom, Nee Leau, John Leuck and David Gilfoyle – the latter the funniest of a very witty bunch of guys. Dave was nicknamed “Wheaty,” and you will meet him in my previously unpublished 1974 novel SHOOT THE MOON, if you buy the Perfect Crime collection EARLY CRIMES coming out late this summer.

The Lone Ranger

With Ron and Vickie, Barb and I went to THE LONE RANGER. I don’t like to write negative reviews, but I found the film reprehensible – misguided, misjudged, misbegotten. If we hadn’t have been with friends, we would have walked out. Disney is a company built on family entertainment, and THE LONE RANGER of radio and TV was the most wholesome of western heroes – he used silver bullets so that would not shoot his gun carelessly, and (like Superman) never killed. This LONE RANGER is an unpleasant western filled with stupid violence put together by a gifted director who wanted to pay tribute to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and not the actual source material. The new film’s Lone Ranger is a clumsy goofus and Tonto a nasty lunatic. The tone is uneven to say the least – forced unfunny humor is interspersed with bloody violence. And it’s as slow and long as you’ve heard. Oddly, much of the 2013 LONE RANGER seems culled from the previous disastrous take on this material, the notorious 1981 flop THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, which did not make a star out of Klinton Spilsbury. Remember that one? The producer alienated every baby boomer on the planet by suing the ‘50s TV Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to keep him from doing personal appearances in his mask. LEGEND is a hard film to see – my widescreen copy is from overseas – but it’s actually better than this new RANGER film (faint praise), which lifts from LEGEND such elements as making John Reid (think Clark Kent) a virtuous attorney, turning Butch Cavendish a madman, setting an action set piece on a moving train, mounting a Gatling gun massacre, and showing the Ranger and Tonto dynamiting a bunch of stuff (a bridge in the new picture, a dam in the other).

The 2013 movie actually ends with the Lone Ranger finally uttering his signature line, “Hiyo Silver, away,” and Tonto telling him never to say that again. The Ranger apologizes, of course. The final line of the movie is a reminder that “tonto” means “stupid” in Spanish. These filmmakers are embarrassed by the material they were hired to re-boot, and should be ashamed of themselves. When would Barb and I have walked out had we not been with Ron and Vickie? How about when Tonto, for a cruel gag, drags a barely conscious, wounded Lone Ranger through horse dung? Or maybe when the grand steed Silver drinks beer and belches. RULE NUMBER ONE IN ADAPTING FAMOUS MATERIAL: Do not have contempt for it.

M.A.C.