Posts Tagged ‘Krista and Keith Larson’

Short Cuts

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I came to short stories late in my career. I had written a good number as a teenager and, in the Writers Workshop format at the University of Iowa, writing short stories was expected. But I didn’t submit anything professionally until the mid-1980s, and then almost always when I was invited. I believe the first professionally published short story was “The Strawberry Teardrop” (a Heller story) for a PWA anthology. I did allow several early things to be published in Hardboiled, back when my pal Wayne Dundee was the editor, but I don’t recall the exact time frame.

The limited number of markets discouraged me, and they still do. I tried Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine with “A Wreath for Marley,” but the editor turned it down as too long (and it’s a novella, so that’s valid) although claimed to like it. I sold a Heller story to them later – don’t recall which one – and since then, on the rare occasions I submit to EQMM, they haven’t turned anything down. This to me is a real honor. I’ve never submitted anything to Alfred Hitchcock, their sister magazine, simply because I have a good relationship with the editor at EQMM.

The response there to my submissions of Spillane/Collins short stories has been favorable – I did both “A Killer is on the Loose!” (from an unproduced Spillane radio play) and “The Big Run” (from an unproduced TV script by Mickey, done for Suspense). And now, for the first time, a Mike Hammer story appears in EQMM (the March/April 2021 issue) and the Spillane & Collins team has made the cover. [Amazon Link]

This, frankly, delights me.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine March/April 2021

We are the issue’s Black Mask Department story, and are the lead story, which is a thrill. And here is what editor Janet Hutchings says by way of introducing “Killer’s Alley,” adapted by me from a short Hammer film script:

“Although Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer stepped onto the crime-fiction scene in 1947, just six years after EQMM was founded, he’s never appeared in our pages. As we celebrated the magazine’s 80th year, it’s high time he joined EQMM’s panoply of iconic characters.”

One of the joys of being the keeper of the Spillane literary keys is to see how warmly he is now regarded. This is, frankly, a big deal, getting the EQMM seal of approval. Folks my age (and a few of us are still kicking) know how less than warm the reception was to Mickey and his success in the early ‘50s from a lot of critics and writers who should have known better, but were seized by a fit of jealousy.

Short stories have been on my mind of late, because I’ve been dealing with going over the galley proofs of two new collections of my short fiction, Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and the forthcoming Suspense – His and Hers: Tales of Love and Murder. The latter, due out in September, is a follow-up to Murder – His and Hers, and again collects stories written individually by Barb and me, and together.

Assembling these has not been without speed bumps. Wolfpack has been incredibly supportive, bringing out much of my remaining back list – the four Eliot Ness novels, the two Mommy novels, and Shoot the Moon, though I haven’t seen a physical copy of that yet. They will be bringing out Regeneration and Bombshell by Barb and me, stand-alone novels.

Already they have Murderlized (by Matt Clemens and me, a new collection I’ve very proud of) and the existing collections, Blue Christmas and Murder – His and Hers. Barb’s Too Many Tomcats is out, too, with an intro and a co-written story by me.

Again, there have been problems. I think Wolfpack’s covers are great, but I’ve had copy-editing problems; but editor Paul Bishop has been patient with my fussiness with both Reincarnal and Suspense – His and Hers. Not every problem can be blamed on copy editors, though. These stories span something like 37 years, and each tale is a file, sometimes going back to (ready for this?) WordStar days. So what we delivered sometimes had glitches I hadn’t caught. A typical problem was that, for a long time, editors wanted italics indicated by underlining; maybe a decade ago, they switched to wanting italics indicated by, yes, italics.

And Wolfpack had to get a bunch of my books out all at once. Reincarnal has a problem that a number of you have pointed out – the table of contents page is messed up. One story is not included and the numbering is wrong. I missed this. I frankly never thought to check the table of contents.

The nice thing about the e-book age is that we can correct things like that. So anyone ordering Reincarnal now, whether e-book or physical book, will have a corrected table of contents. The rest of you – well, what do you know? You own a collector’s item!

Seriously, though, folks – if you catch a typo in anything of mine, whichever of my publishers has put it out, let me know at macphilms@hotmail.com. We will at the very least be able to correct the e-book version.

Barb, by the way, has been a natural from the start where short stories are concerned. She grew up on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone and developed a real feel for a compact form with a twist ending. From the start she got great reviews and reactions for her stories, including getting slots in “best of the year” anthologies. For her, novel-writing was a stretch, but she has adapted beautifully. Nonetheless, her touch with the short form remains a strength – we have a story together (conceived by her) in – yes! – an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

* * *
Deadly Anniversaries Ebook Cover

I am pleased to share with you something from another of my favorite newsstand publications, Mystery Scene. The great Jon Breen included Do No Harm in an article about recent legal thrillers; a lovely color reproduction of the cover of this latest Heller novel accompanied it.

“Max Allan Collins’s excellent series about Zelig-like private eye Nate Heller fictionalizes major crimes of the past century. Occasionally, Heller drops in on classic trials, perhaps most notably in Damned in Paradise(1996), featuring a complexly characterized Clarence Darrow appearing for the defense in a 1932 Honolulu rape case. The latest in the series, Do No Harm (Forge), considers the murder of Marilyn Sheppard for which her husband Dr. Sam Sheppard, a Cleveland osteopath, was tried and convicted in 1954 and retried in 1966, this time with famed advocate F. Lee Bailey heading the defense. Both trails are visited in a total of about a dozen pages, the first summarized to Heller by newspaper columnist Flo Kilgore (a transparent pseudonym for Dorothy Kilgallen), the second viewed by Heller and including some well-selected quotes from Bailey’s cross-examinations. All the real people in the cast – Bailey, Kilgore/Kilgallen, Erle Stanley Gardner, Eliot Ness, and especially Sam Sheppard himself – come to life as convincing fictional characters. As usual, Collins’ concluding author’s note provides a bibliographic essay on his sources to make the fact/fiction demarcation clear.”

Getting back to short fiction, a story that I consider one of my best – “Amazing Grace” – appears in the MWA anthology, Deadly Anniversaries. It’s on sale now in e-book form for under two bucks, right here.

Here is an absolutely stellar Come Spy With Me review at Bookgasm.

Here’s a mixed but smart review, mostly favorable, of Skim Deep. But for the last effin time, it’s Nolan, not Frank Nolan. He has never been Frank Nolan. Stop it already.

Finally, here’s a nice if belated (but appreciated) UK review of Girl Most Likely.

M.A.C.

M.A.C. on Noir Alley & Come Spy With Me Mania!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Come Spy With Me will officially be available this Wednesday, Nov. 18, as both an e-book and as a “real” book.

In a week or so, I’ll announce a ten-book giveaway (waiting for my copies, due any moment now).

The first of at least three John Sand novels by Matt Clemens and me, Come Spy With Me is available on Kindle at Amazon and as physical media (i.e., a trade paperback) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line bookstores. But Amazon has it exclusively in the e-book format.

Kiss Me Deadly theatrical poster

Also, on Saturday, November 21, 9:15 PM & Sunday, November 22, 7:00 AM, I will be appearing with the great Eddie Muller as Noir Alley presents Kiss Me Deadly (1955), which TCM describes this way: “In this terrific apocalyptic film noir, a vain and corrupt Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) tries to solve the murder of a beautiful hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman) whom he had picked up one night after she escaped from a mental institution. Mobsters, a corrupt psychiatrist, women, and a mysterious package complicates things for him. Dir. Robert Aldrich.” This is the greatest of all Mike Hammer films, and I’d imagine many of you have already seen it…but I think you’ll get a kick out of watching Eddie and me jaw about it.

Getting back to Come Spy With Me, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the early ‘60s spy craze and how it relates to this new novel, which features the “real-life” espionage agent on which Ian Fleming based James Bond. Now, of course that’s just a literary conceit, but back in the day any number of non-fiction books about real spies who’d inspired Fleming in creating Bond were almost as prevalent on the newsstands as Bond imitations.

Few commentators discuss it, but the British Invasion of the Beatles and other UK pop groups was intrinsically linked to the success of James Bond (and vice versa). The success of the Sean Connery films was absolutely part of the same pop cultural phenomenon.

Come Spy With Me Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was a fan of Fleming and Bond before they really took off, that is, before the film of Dr. No appeared. Fleming was presented as the British Mickey Spillane and Bond the British Mike Hammer by Mickey’s own publisher, NAL, as well as countless reviewers. The early Bond novels have Spillane touches all over them, particularly Casino Royale and Live and Let Die.

My thirst for Spillane extended to his imitators, of whom Fleming (at least initially) clearly was one, and a damn good one. I gobbled up the NAL Fleming reprints – I was in junior high – and when the film of Dr. No came out, I somehow how talked my parents into driving me out of town to see it – on a school night.

Just as the Beatles opened the flood gates on Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Them, the Zombies and many others, the popularity of Bond led to countless films (none of which caught the flavor of the Bonds) like the truly awful Dean Martin-starring Matt Helm series (a travesty of the Donald Hamilton-penned books), the first-rate Michael Caine-starring Harry Palmer movies, and a number of TV shows, notably the import Secret Agent and the home-grown Man from UNCLE and I Spy. (If you are an Archer fan, you should know that the great animated spy series began a direct parody of Man from UNCLE.)

My friends and I went to the Bond films on opening day and sat through them twice, at least. We also went to the re-release double features, which in those pre-home-video days were the only way to see the films again. We watched every episode of the various spy TV shows, even the bad ones, and The Man from UNCLE got pretty bad fairly quickly, with The Girl from UNCLE a sheer embarrassment.

We didn’t care.

We carried briefcases to school like the one Bond took with him on the train in From Russia With Love. For a while, we carried in those briefcases starter pistols. My friend Jon McRae (partial basis for Quarry) created an elaborate plan, filling a fat notebook, of how we would take over the school and execute teachers we didn’t like.

I’ll let you reflect on that for a moment.

But here’s the thing – times were so innocent, none of that would have raised a single alarm bell. No one, including…especially…those of us with our assignments in Operation Muscatine High School took any of it seriously; it was a big, dark, sick joke, and about as threatening as a letter to Santa Claus.

I do recall the starter pistols got us mildly in trouble. We had purchased them at a place called Mac’s Bargain Mart for maybe five dollars each. That place of business got in some hot water, as did we, but only mildly so.

One of my friends from those days, Mike Lange, passed away recently. He sang with me (and Joyce Courtois and Kathe Bender) in a quartet that went to All-State Chorus every single year of high school – the only such quartet in the state of Iowa to do so. You will not be surprised to learn that this distinction did not get me laid.

Mike was an eccentric, a science-fiction nerd before it became fashionable (much as I was a comic book nerd before it became fashionable). He introduced me to Star Trek and The Prisoner, and wore suits to high school. Got it? In a restaurant, he would say, to a befuddled waitress, “What is the ETA of a tenderloin?”

When we went to All-State in Des Moines, Mike was driving me so crazy I decided I would either have to kill him or become his friend. I opted for the latter. He wasn’t worth going to the chair over. Well, maybe he was, after we became friends. He sang at Barb and my wedding.

Tonight, a sleepless night, I sat down to write this update and learned that another friend of mine going back to high school – actually junior high – had passed away unexpectedly. Suzi Webb was the heart and soul of our class reunions; I based a character on her in Girl Most Likely.

I share this with you, particularly those of you younger than myself, as a kind of warning. This is an ephemeral world. You can turn around and Sean Connery is gone, and so are two of your high school friends.

If there’s somebody you haven’t talked to for a while, from those days? Pick up the phone.

Getting back to Come Spy With Me, I think in this nightmare of sheltering in place and hovering death, going back to the innocence – and as hard-edged as it at times is, it is a return to a kind of innocence – of a spy novel set in the James Bond ‘60s is something that a couple of Baby Boomers called Clemens and Collins got a real kick out of.

Think you will, too.

But leave your starter pistol at home.

* * *

Come Spy With Me gets a nice mention – actually, more than that – on the great podcast, Paperback Warrior.

Ron Fortier gives Girl Can’t Help It a lovely review here.

M.A.C.

A Wolfpack Book Giveaway and an Adventure in the Wild

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020
Murderlized Cover
Murder: His and Hers Cover

NEWS FLASH! All through October, almost every day, one or another of my novels will be part of the Kindle 99-cent Daily Deal, starting with The War of the Worlds Murder. Throughout this sale, both Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It will get the one-day, 99-cent treatment, as will all the “Disaster” mystery titles and all three Reeder and Rogers titles, including the very appropriate-at-the-moment Supreme Justice. Check every day!

* * *

This week marks the first of several Wolfpack trade paperback giveaways. First up, two short story collections: Murderlized and Murder – His and Hers.

Murderlized collects most of my short story collaborations with Matthew V. Clemens, co-author of the forthcoming Wolfpack release, Come Spy With Me. Matt and I also co-wrote CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, Dark Angel, and Criminal Minds novels, as well as the Reeder & Rogers trilogy (beginning with Supreme Justice), the standalone thriller What Doesn’t Kill Her, and the two J.C. Harrow novels (starting with You Can’t Stop Me). The title story of Murderlized features Moe Howard of the Three Stooges as an amateur sleuth.

Murder – His and Hers, originally published by FiveStar – collects stories co-written by Barb and me as well as a few of our individual stories. Barb is the co-author of the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” series (most recently Antiques Fire Sale) and is also the co-author of our son, Nathan Collins. Two standalone thrillers we wrote together, Regeneration and Bombshell, will be brought out in new editions by Wolfpack soon.

[All copies claimed. Thank you! — Nate]

* * *

This past week I shot the Noir Alley segments with host Eddie Muller that will wraparound the show’s presentations of two of my favorite noir films, Kiss Me Deadly and Born to Kill. Both host and guest were in their respective home offices, joined by a Zoom-like link and with top flight folks at TCM handling the remote logistics and tech.

Actually, on my end, my son Nate was handling the tech, and he was here throughout the several hours it took to prep and shoot the two shows (well, the wraparounds for two shows). I would have been lost without him, as a bunch of new equipment was sent by TCM to bring us up to broadcast standards.

If that sounds like an ordeal, it wasn’t, except maybe for Nate and the TCM folks, because Eddie and I had a blast. We were talking about two movies we both love and, more broadly, the crime/suspense genre that we both love. I believe the segments, when aired, will run something like ten minutes per episode, and we went easily twice as long and could have talked all afternoon. We were like two old pals in a bar catching up and comparing notes and having a hell of a good time, drunk on each other’s enthusiasm.

Eddie is a sweetheart and beyond knowledgeable. He has done more to popularize and explain film noir than anyone on the planet, and his efforts to mount film festivals and work for preservation of this sacred/profane style of cinema are second to none. His book on Gun Crazy, which is in my top five films of any genre, is the best book I’ve ever read about a single film. It’s available here.

I am, no flying shit, honored to be on Noir Alley, and talking about Kiss Me Deadly – a movie who nobody but the French gave a damn about when I first discovered it, around 1961 (in junior high!) – feels like a privilege and a vindication.

It airs on TCM on Nov. 21. Write that down, but I will almost certainly remind you.

* * *

Today (Sunday, Sept. 27 as I write this) Barb and I emerged from our modified sheltering-in-place to undertake an outing. The preparation rivaled D-Day and the execution was only slightly less harrowing. And that’s coming from the author of Saving Private Ryan.

Iowa is a place where a good number of the half of this state who support Donald Trump have decided to express their admiration by not wearing masks, pooh-poohing social distancing, and insisting that the death of over 200,000 Americans is a hoax perpetrated by those pesky libtards.

So stepping out into this shit storm takes a good deal of fortitude laced with foolhardiness.

One of our favorite little jaunts is to drive the hour and fifteen minutes from Muscatine to Amana, one of the several Amana Colonies. Two restaurants there, serving German-American food (what’s good enough for the Bund is good enough for us!), are among our favorite dining experiences, although their family-style service isn’t, well, perfect for a pandemic.

But workable for carry out, perhaps? We set out in rain summoned by God to dissuade us. He should know by now that we will not be intimidated when it comes to matters of self-indulgence.

We ordered by phone, when we were fifteen minutes out, and the Ronneburg Restaurant (our other fave is the Ox Yolk Inn) was terrific in putting together carry-out cartons for us. The cashier and wait staff were properly masked (traitors!) even if their patrons mostly weren’t, and appeared to be conducting business in a thoughtfully careful way.

We ate our food in the car, like refugees with a Cadillac SUV. I had forgotten the sensation of being so deliriously stuffed to the gills. Caution thrown thoroughly to the winds, we set out for…wait for it…the outlet center at nearby Williamsburg, where for nearly half an hour we took our lives in our hands by shopping at Coach (Barb) and Book Warehouse (me).

In all seriousness (really) (no kidding), we were impressed by the measures the Williamsburg outlet took – masks were required by patrons and employees alike. I can’t speak for Barb at Coach, but Book Warehouse was definitely helped by the size of the place, with its generous aisles, and of course the lack of interest expressed by Americans of all political parties when it comes to reading books. Where would we be without that?

Best not think that one through.

Now, back in Muscatine in this haven of Blu-rays, reading material, and hoarded food products, Barb and I have returned to sheltering in place, warm and well-fed and terrified that we caught something out there.

Can’t wait for the holidays.

* * *

Footnote to the above: on our adventure, we finished listening to Quarry’s Ex as read by Stefan Rudnicki for Skyboat Audio.

Man, does he do a great job with Quarry. He so gets it. At first it may seem like his warm deep baritone is too old for Quarry, whose boyish charm makes the terrible things he does and thinks go down so smoothly. But Stefan really, really understands the character and conveys the humor that the otherwise excellent Cinemax series completely missed.

And, anyway, these are the memoirs of Quarry, written mostly when he was an older man (as old as me, say), which is the way I view the Heller novels, too.

Stefan has also taken over on Mike Hammer for Stacy Keach, with Masquerade for Murder the latest. Haven’t listened to that one yet, as we do our listening in the car and, as this update indicates, we aren’t driving anywhere much. It took two Quad Cities outings and this Amana trip to get through the four CDs of Quarry’s Ex.

Listening to a Quarry novel, when I hadn’t been working on one for a while, brought something home to me – I can see why someone who likes the Quarry books might be confused by Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It.

A writer – like an painter, actor or a musician – has a right, perhaps even an obligation, not to just do the same thing over and over. I am able to stay fresh with Quarry and Nate Heller and Mike Hammer by painting in other colors, speaking in different voices, and performing in different keys, with the likes of the Antiques series, Caleb York westerns, and the Krista and Keith Larson novels. Same is true of the Reeder and Rogers political thrillers I do with Matt.

It’s likely Quarry and Heller and Mike Hammer fans will be comfortable with John Sand, hero of Come Spy With Me, but I can’t guarantee that. I will say only, to readers who only like one thing or another that I do, I have to write more than just a couple of things or I’ll get bored.

In which case, so will you.

* * *

I’m doing a Zoom interview with Russ Colchamiro this Wednesday (September 30) at 8 pm ET.

And here’s a short but sweet look at Hard Case Crime.

M.A.C.

Both Girls Are on Sale, Plus the Perdition Saga

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Some great deals on Kindle this week.


First, Brash Books is offering the complete Perdition saga (novels, not graphic novels), which includes the long suppressed full-length novelization of Road to Perdition, plus my two sequels, Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise. The fine folks at Brash are offering this through Amazon for a mere $9.99.



Girl Can’t Help It is on sale for $1.99 as a Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deal from now through June 30. And Girl Most Likely is just $0.99 in that same sale.




All three Reeder and Rogers novels are, too – $1.99 each as Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals through the end of the month – Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order. [Note from Nate: if you purchase or own any of the Girl or Reeder and Rogers books on Kindle, the audiobooks might also be available at a significant discount — I’m seeing them for $1.99.]

Speaking of political intrigue….

This is going to be a little tricky to write, so forgive me.

I belong to a number of writers’ and screenwriters’ organizations. They vary from quite active, guilds for example, to others that serve mainly to be a means of presenting awards in a chosen genre, with all the stops between. All of these approaches seem valid to me.

One of these organizations – please don’t try to guess which, because I do not wish to embarrass or criticize anyone, really – briefly became embroiled in the current, understandably heated conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and the police in America.

I think “Black lives matter” gets fuzzy, because there’s an organized group but also the phrase itself. I can see how someone might have an issue with the group, but not how anyone could really thoughtfully object to the phrase. The “all lives matter” response is glib – of course all lives matter. But pointing out that black lives matter reflects the undeniable reality that a minority has literally been on the firing line for as long as any of us can remember, and a lot longer than that.

Here’s where it gets tricky. A member of the writers group in question is a retired police officer. He objected to some of what was said (or at least implied) about the police, and pointed out that police are also on the firing line and have been stabbed and spit upon in the aftermath of the horrific crime that took the life of George Floyd. He specifically objected to a pro-Black Lives Matter statement from our organization because, as a member, he wasn’t in full agreement with it. (I should say that this exchange took place before the disturbing footage emerged of a seventy-five-year-old man being shoved to the pavement and left to bleed there.)

Many members of our organization responded negatively, a very few getting personal. I tried to pour some water on the fire, but may have inadvertently poured gasoline instead, when I suggested we add a line pointing out that most police officers, a good number of whom are African-Americans, are dedicated public servants.

No one liked that suggestion, and I quickly withdrew it.

Within perhaps an hour and a half of the discussion between members (on line) beginning, the former police officer resigned from our organization.

I have frankly been trying to process this. Part of me thinks, as a writers organization, we should not have waded into politics. And yet is racism really politics? Isn’t it the sin that has stained America from day one, and goes way beyond politics? Doesn’t it go past left and right and into simple humanity?

Of the various writing and filmmaking organizations I belong to, I share membership with writers whose work I admire, but others whose work I dislike. As artists, we don’t always agree – in fact, we often don’t. For me, it’s about storytelling and creativity. I can respect a fellow writer whose writing I don’t admire because that writer is living the writer’s life that I am, with the rewards but also the problems that come with it – chasing the next gig, for example. On a basic level, we’re all just trying to make a living. Professional writers, no matter what they think of each other’s work, have that in common.

I feel our organization should have respected this member and his right to disagree. And if he objected to the statement the organization made, he should have had a better option other than to resign. Anyway, I’m not sure an organization should make a statement that all of its members haven’t signed off on. That statement should probably have included only the names of those members who did. I would have gladly signed. Proudly signed.

This (now ex-)member was a work horse, a dedicated member of the organization, and an award winner. It makes me sad and a little sick that we have lost him. Part of me knows that creative people have to take a stand against something as major as racism, and yet I admit to keeping (mostly) quiet about political figures who seem to me to be blatantly racist because I don’t want to offend any of my readers. That’s probably cowardly, but I have a living to make, and maybe there’s a subversive aspect to my fiction that might make somebody’s thinking change or at least shift a little over time. I don’t know. Really don’t. Maybe I’m just a coward.

On the other hand, Quarry setting fire to a Ku Klux Klan rally in Quarry in the Black may have indicated where I’m coming from.

Limiting freedom of speech within our writing and screenwriting organizations to those who agree with us is antithetical to everything those of us who create for a living are about. And this ex-member’s objections did not reflect racism, but in fact spoke of years of effort to battle against it within the system.

An organization’s mission statement can spell out certain things that won’t be tolerated – racist bile would seem high on that list – but to be intolerant of a reasoned position from another point of view is dangerous. Someone in power whose name I won’t mention is pretty cavalier about the Constitution. Maybe the writing and screenwriting communities should take better care of the First Amendment.

M.A.C.