Posts Tagged ‘Mallory’

Celebrating the Release of the Mad Butcher

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher
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Today is the publication date of the non-fiction tome Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and myself. I am celebrating this by giving away ten copies.

As usual, write me directly at macphilms@hotmail.com. United States only, and you must include your snail mail address, even if you’ve won books in these giveaways before. The book is in exchange for a review at Amazon with reviews encouraged at Barnes & Noble and your own blogs or review sites as well.

The four Eliot Ness novels covering his Cleveland years – a quartet that eventually led to both the play/film Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life and the two non-fiction works, Scarface and the Untouchable and the new Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher – are available at Amazon from Wolfpack as An Eliot Ness Mystery Omnibus for $2.99. Even with my meager math skills, I can tell that’s a penny under three bucks for four novels.

While we hope to offer new print versions of the novels (perhaps in two-novels-to-a-volume form), right now they are Kindle e-books only. So no giveaways are in the cards for now. But if you have already read the novels – any of them – and liked them, reviews of the Eliot Ness Omnibus would be much appreciated. Right now we have a paltry two reviews at Amazon and that doesn’t go very far at getting the Omnibus noticed. Even if you haven’t bought the books in this new form, don’t hesitate about reviewing them under the Omnibus listing.

Since I’ll be talking about Eliot Ness this week, I’ll remind you that Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is available on Blu-ray now at Amazon.

It’s also available on DVD for $9.99.

Reviews for Untouchable Life at Amazon are also appreciated. We only have two at the moment, and no one has specifically talked about the Blu-ray.

Also, the entire five-book Mallory series will be available for 99-cents each as Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals from now through the end of August. Included in the sale will be the thriller Regeneration by Barb and me (as “Barbara Allan”), also at 99-cents.

The Mallory titles are: No Cure for Death; The Baby Blue Rip-off; Kill Your Darlings; A Shroud for Aquarius; and Nice Weekend for a Murder.

* * *

Is it undignified to celebrate the career of a law enforcement icon who could not be bribed by offering a giveaway, and hawking various titles pertaining to him? I don’t really care, since I never claimed to be untouchable myself.

But Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (it has a subtitle but I decline to use it, because I dislike it intensely) marks the final stage of an interest in the real-life lawman that reaches back into my childhood. My interest in such things begins even before the first Untouchables of two installments on Desilu Playhouse aired on April 20, 1959. The Dick Tracy comic strip (by way of comic book reprints) had ignited that interest; but, in fairness, since Ness was the real-life basis of Chester Gould’s Tracy, the Untouchable was already in the mix.

There’s no question that Tracy and Ness got me interested in stories about detectives, but more significantly The Untouchables TV series (and the autobiographical book that spawned it) got me interested in the factual material that generated so much of the guns-and-gangster pulp fiction I adored. My novel True Detective (1983), after all, deals with the same crime – the assassination of Mayor Cermak – as a two-part Untouchables episode I saw as a kid. Granted, that two-parter only nodded at history, but that nod was enough to get my attention.

Ness became the Pat Chambers to Nathan Heller’s Mike Hammer in a number of the Heller novels. At the request of an editor at Bantam, I spun Ness off into the four novels that dealt with his Cleveland years (previously explored, somewhat inaccurately, in Oscar Fraley’s Untouchables follow-up, Four Against the Mob, but otherwise little written about).

Two things are, I think, significant about those novels, including that they represent the first time actual cases of this real-life American detective had been the basis of stories about him (excluding the initial two-part telefilm). More importantly, the writing of the books led to research by myself and George Hagenauer that uncovered new (or at least forgotten) information about Ness.

In addition to his occasional role in the Nathan Heller saga, Ness appeared in my graphic novel Road to Perdition (drawn by the great Richard Piers Rayner) and in my prose sequel, Road to Purgatory (available from Brash Books). The latter, to some degree, dealt with Ness’s little-known role in fighting venereal disease on military bases and elsewhere during World War II.

For unknown reasons, Ness was not depicted in the film version of Road to Perdition, but that nonetheless led to the play (and 2007 video production of) Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. Initially, actor Michael Cornelison and I were planning to do a one-man show about Perdition antagonist John Looney. We intended to mount it in Rock Island (where Looney had been the local crime boss in the early Twentieth Century) and shoot the film in one of the two existing houses were Looney had lived.

Somewhere along the line, one of us – it may have been Mike – suggested that Ness would have greater appeal to a wider national audience. Also, over the years I had heard from editors and readers that I should do a non-fiction treatment of Ness, since I had done so much research into and about him. Much of what George and I uncovered about Ness was making its way into the accounts of non-fiction writers (fiction writers, too) without credit.

As an independent filmmaker, looking for productions that could be produced cheaply but well, I found a one-man show appealing. I also had the possibility of a grant from Humanities Iowa, for whom I’d made an appearance at a University of Iowa event with editorial cartoonist, Paul Conrad. We mounted the play at the Des Moines Playhouse, where we shot the film between performances. My eventual co-author Brad Schwartz saw the play and that sparked our collaboration.

I had intended An Untouchable Life to be my final statement on Ness. While it is written from Ness’s point of view, skewed to his own memories and perceptions of his life, and some dramatic liberties were taken (by both Ness and me!), the play represents the most accurate depiction of Ness on screen to date.

Eventually, however, Brad convinced me to join him in writing the definitive biography of Ness. We embarked on doing that only to discover another, apparently major Ness biography was about to come out. I had once considered doing a massive, Godfather-style novel on both Capone and Ness, cutting back and forth between their stories. Now I suggested we follow that approach, but in a strictly non-fiction fashion. That would set us apart from any Ness bio or Capone bio, for that matter.

Obviously that approach – particularly since we intended to do cradle-to-grave accounts of both men – turned out to be too big for one book. Now we have a two-volume work that I feel confident is the definite treatment of the life of Eliot Ness. The research George and I did for the novels has been greatly enhanced by further research, much of it by my co-author, who crisscrossed the country in his efforts, even talking to surviving friends and associates of the long-deceased lawman.

It must be said that I have written about several different Eliot Nesses. The Ness of the Heller books serves a specific function – he is Heller’s conscience, the Jiminy Cricket to his Pinocchio. The portrayal darkens in Angel in Black and Do No Harm. The Eliot Ness Omnibus of Cleveland novels is a basically accurate but somewhat romanticized version of Ness – far closer to reality than Robert Stack, but splitting the difference between them. The same is true of Ness in Road to Perdition and Road to Purgatory. Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is only slightly romanticized, and (in my view at least) portrays him as he saw himself.

The real Ness can be found in Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (and Scarface and the Untouchable). My co-author and I did not always agree on what – or who – the research added up to. We wrestled our way into a joint presentation that is probably more accurate than if either of us had been turned loose alone.

I can look at these two works and feel that, at last, I have done right by this complex real-life Dick Tracy. With the publication of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, with the recent publication of Do No Harm (which ends Ness’s story in the world of Nate Heller), and with the four Ness-in-Cleveland novels gathered into Omnibus form, I feel I’ve come full circle.

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Here’s a great Wall Street Journal review. Here is the link, but it requires a subscription to read.

‘Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher’: An Untouchable Second Act

After helping to put Al Capone behind bars, lawman Eliot Ness came to Cleveland, where he did battle with a vicious killer.

Moviegoers of a certain age will remember Eliot Ness—the upright law-enforcement figure who battled corruption and organized crime from the 1920s to the ’40s—as portrayed by a tough-talking Kevin Costner in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables.” Television viewers from an even earlier era will recall Ness depicted by the stern-faced Robert Stack in the ABC series (1959-63) of the same name. But the real-life Ness, as revealed in Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz’s “Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher,” was less the hard-boiled hero of popular culture than a humane and forward-thinking lawman as interested in preventing crime as in punishing it.

The Chicago-born Ness (1903-57) came to prominence as a Prohibition agent in the Windy City, doing battle with Al Capone and other bootleggers as head of his own hand-picked squad of agents. His men were dubbed the “Untouchables” for their refusal to accept payoffs or gratuities. As a friend observed of the incorruptible lawman: “Honesty amounted to almost a fetish.”

The government put Capone behind bars in 1932 via the prosecution of a tax-evasion case, but the work of Ness and his men was central to establishing the extent of the mobster’s criminal activities. With Capone out of the picture, the Untouchables were disbanded, and Prohibition ended soon after. Ness, a nationally known figure (his physical and professional image inspired Chester Gould’s comic-strip police hero Dick Tracy), looked beyond Chicago for new opportunity. He found it in Cleveland, the site of his next significant successes—but also of the disturbing case that gives Messrs. Collins and Schwartz’s book its title.

Ness was named Cleveland’s director of public safety in 1935 and was put in charge of the city’s police and fire departments. He found the cops to be sloppy, uncooperative and demoralized. Once more he formed his own discrete unit of Untouchables to weed out incompetent and corrupt officers and hire smart new ones. “Intelligence,” he counseled, “must supplant brutality.”

But even Ness was stumped trying to apprehend the “torso murderer” responsible for a series of ghoulish killings, in which parts of dismembered and beheaded corpses were strewn about the woods and dumpsites of Kingsbury Run, one of the city’s poorest areas. “The mystery of the headless dead” drew national and international attention. In Germany, the Nazi press mocked America’s inability to apprehend the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.” With no witnesses and sometimes no way even to identify victims—and with advanced forensics techniques far in the future—police were stymied.

By 1938, the authors write, “the Butcher had become the subject of the largest manhunt in Cleveland’s history.” Thousands of citizens wrote and called the cops with worthless tips. “The investigators, after years of fruitless searching, grew desperate, pursuing ever more eccentric lines of inquiry.” At last a few tantalizing leads brought an alcoholic and mentally disturbed doctor named Francis Sweeney to the attention of the detectives.

Ness and his crew subjected the 44-year-old Sweeney—who had shown signs of psychosis and had been verbally and physically cruel—to judicially inadmissible polygraph examinations that convinced all present of his guilt. Still, despite an abundance of circumstantial indicators, Ness had no hard evidence. Complicating matters was the man’s being a cousin of a local congressman, a vocal Ness critic. Prosecution was not an option. Ness handled the matter privately, helping to arrange Sweeney’s commitment to a mental hospital. Sweeney, who was institutionalized for much of the rest of his life, sent a series of bizarre and taunting postcards to Ness through the mid-1950s.

Though Ness was sure that the killer had been caught and dealt with, he couldn’t officially close the case and so swore himself and his men to secrecy. The public was left with the impression that the culprit might still be at large. The case of the Mad Butcher, with its unsatisfying non-finale, fits a bit awkwardly into Messrs. Collins and Schwartz’s wider narrative. In the latter stages of their book, the authors ably follow Ness through an unsuccessful foray into city politics and a disappointing business career. But given this work’s title and its subtitle—“Hunting America’s Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology”—one sometimes gets the feeling of two different books uneasily hitched.

That said, the authors have done Ness justice. It’s discouraging to learn that a man who refused a fortune in bribes died $9,000 in debt. Shortly before his fatal heart attack at the age of 54, he finished work on the memoir that would revive and romanticize his reputation and bring his third wife and their adopted son a modicum of income.

Messrs. Collins and Schwartz, in this, their second deeply researched book about Ness, don’t gloss over their subject’s failings and blind spots, but they do show that he tried harder than many to leave the world a better place. His “signature achievements in Cleveland—fighting juvenile delinquency, reorganizing the police department, promoting traffic safety—stemmed from a deep well of humanity and compassion,” they write. Now more than ever, the authors conclude, Ness’s name “should remind us of the rigorous standards he brought to law enforcement—professionalism, competence, honor, and decency—and a determination to make everyone safer by addressing the systemic root causes of crime.”

Review by Tom Nolan.

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My favorite Jeopardy! question popped up again on a rerun this week:

MAC on Jeopardy!

Here’s a great interview with my buddy Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime. He mentions me several times, bless him.

Check out this wonderful review of The First Quarry.

M.A.C.

My Birthday Is, Apparently, Super

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Before we get to my birthday, here’s a present for you: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, running now through 3/31/2020, including Girl Most Likely at $1.99, and the following at 99 cents each: (links go to Amazon)

What Doesn’t Kill Her

Mallory Series:
The Baby Blue Rip-Off
No Cure for Death
Kill Your Darlings
A Shroud for Aquarius
Nice Weekend for a Murder

Disaster Series:
The Titanic Murders
The Hindenburg Murders
The Pearl Harbor Murders
The Lusitania Murders
The London Blitz Murders
War of the Worlds Murder

Midnight Haul

[Note from Nate:] Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago is also on sale at Amazon for $1.99! I don’t know how long this sale lasts. The deal also seems to be available at other eBook retailers. Click here to go to the book page, where I have links to different sellers.

Now here’s a present those of you attending Bouchercon this year you can give me that doesn’t cost you anything. Anthony Ballots for Bouchercon attendees went out over the weekend. Votes for Antiques Ravin’ (Barbara Allan) and Murder My, Love (Spillane and Collins) are appreciated in Best Novel. Votes for Killing Quarry and Girl Most Likely in Best Paperback Original are also appreciated.

* * *

Today is indeed my birthday, and reaching 72 years after some of what I’ve been through with various health issues feels rather momentous, but you people didn’t have to go to the trouble of calling this Super Tuesday. I mean, I’m touched, but that’s a little over the top.

Despite my carping about lack of marketing support from some publishers, and the perils of being perceived as a hack because three books of mine are about to be published essentially simultaneously by three different houses, I am busier than ever, and doing just fine, thank you. In fact I am one lucky son of a bitch.

I have two projects in the works, one of which involves writing three novellas about a new character, with a contract with the publisher already in hand. It’s too early to share much more than that with you, but I will say it’s a private eye series starring a female and is set during World War Two at the home front.

The other project is an ambitious novel co-written with an SCTV star, which exists at this point as a substantial sample of five finished chapters and a complete synopsis. My longtime agent, Dominick Abel, is marketing it. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to jinx it. When we have a sale, I will share everything. But working with one of my heroes in the world of Second City is a wonderful thing indeed. Talk about Happy Birthday!

For those inclined to read between the lines, I will say this is a genuine, working-in-the-trenches project, not a ghost job – plotting together, rewriting each other, the real deal. We have been working on this for several months and I am anxious to share more, but can’t.

Other things in the works that I can discuss only vaguely includes some real potential for a new Mike Hammer TV series. The possibility for TV or movies derived from Scarface and the Untouchable remains real, too. And there’s real interest in the Antiques novels for TV. Streaming is a hungry eye.

Those three books coming out next week aren’t everything, either. The new Mike Hammer novel, Masquerade for Murder, will be also available from Audible read by the great Stefan Rudnicki with Do No Harm read by that other terrific narrator, Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller. The non-fiction follow-up to Scarface and the Untouchable will be out in August – Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and me – and Terry Beatty and I have edited and assembled the complete Pete Morisi Johnny Dynamite for Craig Yoe. A second Ms. Tree collection (Volume Two: Skeleton in the Closet, featuring the rest of the DC graphic novellas) is on the way this year, and so is a new Caleb York, Hot Lead, Cold Justice. The new Trash ‘n’ Treasures by Barbara Allan, Antiques Fire Sale, will be out April 28.

Like many of you, I wonder what this year will bring where this coronavirus is concerned. I am a high risk, having had heart trouble, respiratory problems and being fucking old. My grandson was a premie and has respiratory issues, and so does Nate. My beautiful wife is almost high risk age-wise, though she of course looks like a young trophy wife I managed to bamboozle.

Barb and I look at things like the schedule for Crusin’ to play its summer and early fall gigs and wonder if that is endangered by this threat. We look at various public events we’ve agreed to be part of, like Bouchercon, and others we’ve been considering, like Comic Con, and are scratching our heads. We have bought more canned soup in one trip to the supermarket than we have in the last ten years of supermarket trips. I am beginning to wonder if we will be bunkering in at some point and finally getting these damn Blu-rays and DVDs watched – maybe even read some of the stacks and stacks of books I haven’t gotten to.

Bernie Sanders talks about the need for record turnout in the coming election, but if people are frightened to be out in public for fear of the Andromedia Strain, just how big a turnout will that be? If Joe Biden is the Democrat, will the old people who support him be able to stagger to the polls? If people start dying in droves, will the MAGA crowd still buy this thing as a Democrat “hoax”? Will Bernie and Joe and even Donald Trump all still be alive? They’re in the high risk age range, too.

Come on – you’re thinking about this shit, too! Don’t tell me you aren’t. By the way, here’s a tip – don’t watch the movie Contagion.

In the meantime, happy birthday to me and good luck to all of us on Super Tuesday.

And beyond.

* * *

On March 28, Barb and I will be appearing together at the Des Moines Book Festival, where we’ll be giving a “Master Class.” Info about attending is here.

Speaking of Barb and me, our Antiques Fire Sale has received an outstanding review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Girl Can’t Help It gets some nice attention here.

And don’t forget the Bookreads Book Giveaway of Girl Can’t Help It.

M.A.C.

I Celebrate My Birthday By Giving You Such a Deal

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Perhaps to celebrate my birthday day next week (March 3rd), Amazon is putting on sale almost all of my novels under their Thomas & Mercer imprint…for 99 cents each! It’s part of their Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Fiction book deals and runs throughout March, starting this Friday.

This includes all but the most recent Nathan Heller novels (the historical P.I. series that I consider my best work); here’s the list:

Also included in the Magical Max Allan Collins Birthday Sale is the entire run of Mallory novels:

Also the “disaster” series:

Plus these:

So if you were wondering what you should get me for my 71st birthday, I am far too selfless to want anything at all. Instead, why don’t you treat yourself to some under-a-buck books by me? It’s possible I will give any royalties to charity.

I mean, it’s possible.

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Here’s a gallery of photos from the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on Feb. 16 when my Scarface and the Untouchable co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, interviewed me before a nice audience about Road to Perdition and Nate Heller, specifically the Vegas-centric Neon Mirage.






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The announcement of Titan bringing out volumes collecting the complete Ms. Tree got a lot of play on the Internet and even in the print world, via The Hollywood Reporter (their story here).

It’s gratifying that – especially in the comics world – Ms. Tree artist/co-creator Terry Beatty and I received so much cyber-ink on this announcement. I stopped counting at a dozen write-ups! As John Huston as Noah Cross says in Chinatown, “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

There does seem to be some confusion about what exactly this first volume is – is it a re-launch with new material? Is it a “best of”?

No, it’s the complete run, although (at my request) we are starting at the end, with the ten graphic novellas we did for DC Comics in the early ‘90s. Five of them are collected in this first book to make up a graphic novel called One Mean Mother. (My preferred title – Drop Dead, Handsome – was overruled.)

* * *

Scroll down to see a brief but nice review of Killing Town from Steve Steinbock in The Jury Box in EQMM.

Here’s another brief bit from a reader who indicates we’ll be hearing more from her about Quarry and me.

This is a review of Girl Most Likely from a blogger, and it’s essentially good review, but I hate it. The reviewer quotes from an advance copy, which clearly advises against quoting since it’s not the final text, and blames me for the insertion (by an editor) of a “#” (hashtag) in a “MeToo” mention in dialogue. I had already asked the hashtag to be removed. (And I wrote the reviewer complaining about this breach and he did not post my comment.) His general tone is patronizing, and he has no understanding of the use of clothing description for characterization purposes. He complains that a plot avenue isn’t resolved when it is. He says the killer’s identity comes out of left field when another reviewer accused me of making it too overly obvious (as we say in the comics, “Sigh”).

A much better review is scheduled to appear in the next issue of Booklist, which I’ll share next week.

Finally, guess what film based on a graphic novel is on a “best gangster movies of all time” list?

M.A.C.

Toe Hold

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

This will be a brief update, because I have just returned from having Cortisone shot into my arthritic big toe. It doesn’t hurt but I am woozier than usual. Yes, after defeating open-heart and lung surgery, not to mention whooping cough (but I guess I did just mention it), I am facing defeat at the hands of a toe.

But it takes more than excruciating pain to stop me from entertaining my public. My wife will, however, tell you that living with when I am not just a pain but am in pain is no effing picnic. Just yesterday she lovingly reminded me that I am more trouble than I’m worth.

I knew that, but an occasional reminder comes in handy.

I’m preparing to get back to writing the new Mike Hammer comic book mini-series (issue #1 delivered) and fighting that just-stepped-off-the-merry-go-round feeling from having shipped Scarface & the Untouchable, co-written by Brad Schwartz. What an incredible collaborator! The level of research into Eliot Ness that Brad pulled off is staggering. Very proud of this – almost 150,000 words, not counting end notes!

A quick note on a movie that you should seek out, either streaming or on Blu-Ray (it’s available cheap, lots of places): Train to Busan, a South Korean film that’s on the list of all-time high-grossers (in several senses) in that country. I avoided this for a while because it’s a zombie movie and I’m kind of zombied out.

But this rivals any zombie movie I’ve ever seen, including Romero ones, and has a lot more going on that just the undead trying to catch a train, or claw their way off one, either. The story is about a business-oriented father and his neglected child, and the theme is our responsibility to each other. It’s always scary as hell. I found it more reminiscent of John Carpenter’s great Assault on Precinct 13 than any zombie film, and that’s high praise indeed.

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For the month of August, Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union, and Executive Order are $1.99 each on the Kindle Store. Check them out at these links:

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That top-notch scribe Ron Fortier likes Murder Never Knockssee what he has to say about it!

Here is JournalStone’s announcement of The Will to Kill on audio.

And here is their announcement for Hardboiled Horror, an anthology of noir horror yarns that includes a new one by me and my frequent cohort in crime, Matt Clemens.

Check out this terrific piece on tie-in writing (from the Atlantic, no less!) that includes sage wisdom from an expert (humility prevents me from saying more).

Here’s a podcast on Wild Dog that I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet.

Finally, here’s a new review of The Baby Blue Rip-Off, which I wrote forty or fifty years ago (the book, not the review….).