Posts Tagged ‘Mallory’

From The Basement It Arises

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
The Comedy Is Finished

A lost Donald E. Westlake novel, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED, has been announced by editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime. My involvement was played down in the news release, but it came about when I told Charles about the existence of an early ‘80s Westlake manuscript in my possession. Don had pulled it from the market when publishers asked him to make it “funnier,” not understanding it was not meant to be a “funny” Westlake. He shared it with me and we were discussing some revision notions; the plan, as I remember it, was to take it out to market under a shared pen name. We were in the early stages of this when the film “The King of Comedy” emerged and shared the novel’s premise (accidentally, I think, although Don did do some things with Martin Scorcese). At this point, Don killed the project.

When Hard Case announced MEMORY as the final unpublished Westlake novel, I scurried down to my basement and found the moldy carbon copy in a drawer of Westlake materials. Re-reading it, I didn’t feel it needed my input at all – a terrific book, but not a funny one (wasn’t meant to be, obviously). I told Charles about it, he responded eagerly and had me send him a photocopy. I was supposed to write an after word for the book, discussing the novel’s origins and my relationship with Don. Since then, I’ve been told that Don’s representation prefers that the book stand on its own, and I respect and understand that. The media releases on this novel won’t tell the full story, because the public might misunderstand and think this was a novel that Don hadn’t been able to sell – no, it’s a fine novel that Don wasn’t willing to revise into a comic one. I’m proud that I had something to do with bringing one of Don’s novels into publication – he was a great friend, mentor and inspiration to me. Here’s how the public was informed, last week, of this rediscovered unpublished novel.

There’s a brief but nice Stacy Keach interview about KISS HER GOODBYE and other Mike Hammer audios here.

I have the idea that YOU CAN’T STOP ME is doing better on e-book than as a “real” book – this week Matt Clemens and I got a great review for the novel at a Kindle blog.

Mallory continues to receive more love, with another brief but nice write-up for the series in general and NICE WEEKEND FOR A MURDER in particular.

A while back I quoted from Dick Lochte’s terrific Mystery Scene review of the audio novel THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOL. 3: ENCORE FOR MURDER. Here is the full text (you will see a rejected cover for the release for your trouble).

You might enjoy this very interesting review of the film “Slightly Scarlet” from James M. Cain’s LOVE’S LOVELY COUNTERFEIT. It begins my referencing my commentary track from the VCI DVD release.

I will be going off to Hollywood for several days of meetings on various film/TV projects later this week. Wish me luck, or break a leg or whatever.

M.A.C.

Thrilled to be Nominated

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

A very pleasant surprise last week (actually, two of them): the International Thriller Writers have nominated YOU CAN’T STOP ME for Best Paperback and the Mike Hammer “Long Time Dead” for Best Short Story.

Matt Clemens and I had been told that YOU CAN’T STOP ME had made the short list of ten for the ITW honor, but we were nonetheless blown away by the actual nomination. This comes at a very good time for us because, frankly, the current Harrow book isn’t burning up the bookstands, and we are (in TV terms) “on the bubble” with the fledgling series.

If you have not read either Harrow – YOU CAN’T STOP ME and the current NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU – maybe this news will be enough to get ya off the dime. I believe the Kindle prices on both books are very low – under five bucks each last time I checked.

And of course it’s very, very rewarding to have a Spillane/Collins collaboration singled out. Some people dismiss the posthumous Spillane material, without even a read, citing “purist” notions about not wanting to subject themselves to a work started by one writer and completed by another. Apparently they never read Ellery Queen.

Anyway, here is the full list of the nominees:

http://www.thebigthrill.org/2011/04/2011-thriller-awards-nominees/

As I’ve said before, one of the cool surprises the net can serve up is a new review for an old book. Here’s a nice one about the Mallory novel, NICE WEEKEND FOR A MURDER. Mallory has been getting a little love lately, out in cyberspace, so maybe one of these days we’ll get him back into print.

OurTop Suspense Group anthology keeps getting great reviews, like this one. There are occasional complaints about typos and inconsistencies story-to-story, and we’re cleaning those up as we can – it’s a home-made effort by pros, understand. You can get it in actual book form now, and it’s really a beautiful-looking book. Reads good, too.

KISS HER GOODBYE keeps racking up nice reviews – this one is from somebody who I frankly think is getting jaded (he likes GOLIATH BONE and BIG BANG better – most reviewers and readers…including Jane Spillane…think KISS HER is the best of the trio), but overall it’s another good one.

Last week Barb and I wrapped up ANTIQUES DISPOSAL and got it shipped (well, e-mailed) to Kensington. We took two days off for a getaway (to Des Moines – yes, our life is a glittering, glorious, glamorous Jet Set fantasy) and came back for a nice weekend (not for murder) with son Nate, his girl Abby and our granddog, the supremely insane Australian Blue Heeler, Toaster. Also got in a really good Crusin’ gig at the local Eagles Lodge Hall, for Eagles pooh-bahs from all over the grand state of Iowa.

It is true, by the way, that Crusin’ will be playing at Bouchercon in St. Louis this fall. We will be having a handful of mystery-writer guests who will join us on a few songs. No instrumental sit-ins (that way lies madness), but we will have some guest vocalists. The first we’ve invited: Bob Randisi. Are you out there, Parnell Hall?

M.A.C.

Collins’ Spillane on Criterion

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

As a home video fanatic – the demented owner of thousands of DVDs, Blu-rays and laser discs – I am in particular a fan of the Criterion Collection, who consistently live up to their promise of putting out the highest quality DVDs and now Blu-rays of “classic and important contemporary films.” I have scores of Criterions in my collection, on all three formats, and as an indie filmmaker, having one of my films available from Criterion would be the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail or maybe that atomic box from KISS ME DEADLY.

Well, I have found the atomic box if not the Holy Grail (Monty Python or otherwise). In June, Criterion is bringing out (on both DVD and Blu-ray) what looks to be the definitive release of Robert Aldrich’s great film noir, KISS ME DEADLY…actually, the official title is MICKEY SPILLANE’S KISS ME DEADLY. I was approached about a month ago by representatives of Criterion wondering if they could use my documentary MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as a special feature on this disc. At first they wanted to just use excerpts, but ultimately they asked if I could do a re-edit on the piece to bring it down from around 48 minutes to half an hour.

Kiss Me Deadly

For those of you unfamiliar with MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, it’s a documentary I did in 1998 with the full participation of Mickey, utilizing all sorts of wonderful interview footage with the likes of Stacy Keach, Shirley Eaton, Lee Meredith, producer Jay Bernstein, Leonard Maltin and a galaxy of mystery writers and experts (Donald E. Westlake, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Otto Penzler, Marty Greenberg, Paul Biship, Joe Gores, Stephen Marlowe, Parnell Hall, Loren Estleman and on and on). It was produced for a company that went out of business and it never saw the light of broadcast day, although it won awards at festivals here and abroad, with a particularly memorable screening at the National Film Theater of London as part of a Spillane film festival (Mickey and I were both guests of the British Film Institute). The doc appeared as the major element of my anthology film SHADES OF NOIR a few years ago – which is only available in the boxed set BLACK BOX from Troma (it’s out of print, I believe, but can be found).

Anyway, I agreed to come up with a new edit expressly for Criterion – they wanted an emphasis on Mickey, Mike Hammer and (not surprisingly) KISS ME DEADLY. This was tricky because I did not have the original elements – I had to edit a new version from the existing version. Anyone who knows anything about film or video editing knows what a nightmare that is – this was a fully scored piece, meaning edits involved music at every point (the score was by my Seduction of the Innocent pal, Chris Christensen). Those who follow this update will not be surprised that I turned to my longtime collaborator, Phil Dingeldein, at dphilms in Rock Island. With his help – and that of editor Ryan Orr – we came up with a 39 minute cut that we have delivered to Criterion. A little longer than they had asked for, but in the ballpark.

In many respects, I like this new cut better. We lost a few really nice moments, but because the documentary was segmented, I was able to cut whole sections, including material on the MIKE DANGER comic book and Mickey’s appearances in my MOMMY movies (both were timely when I did the original doc). Some personal stuff about Mickey’s home life and family went, as well – material that played better when, frankly, Mickey was alive and well and among us. This shorter version acknowledges Mickey’s passing and works better, I think, as a career piece at this shorter length. I’m proud of it, and trust Criterion will indeed use the entire new edit (and not just excerpt it). The presence on their KISS ME DEADLY disc of this documentary – and, frankly, of me – is very important, because film critics have a smug tendency to dismiss and even dis Mickey’s source material in regard to Aldrich’s film. I have not heard the commentary tracks or read the Criterion background booklet, but I can guarantee you that there will be nasty things said about Spillane. And now I will be there to counterattack…er, I mean counterbalance.

Some nice web stuff this week.

The great review column Bookgasm did a fanastic write-up on the Quarry reprints from Perfect Crime.

My first Mallory novel (second published, first written), NO CURE FOR DEATH, got a very nice write-up. There’s a lot about the plot, and I remember almost none of it. In my defense, it was written around 1970.

You can pre-order RETURN TO PERDITION here and/or get a sneak look at the cover art.

And here’s a fun story showing how Mickey Spillane’s feisty widow Jane is keeping her local government honest (they promised to re-name a highway after Mickey, then didn’t follow through – bad idea!).

Finally, here is a mostly B.S. list of the supposed top 111 hardboiled heroes. Nate Heller, Mike Hammer and Dick Tracy make the list, but Quarry doesn’t. Irritating Quarry is almost as dangerous as irritating Jane Spillane.

M.A.C.

Bogus Best Of’s…And Exceptions

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

I despise year’s best lists. They are completely arbitrary and invalid, as the critics cannot have read everything out there. There are exceptions to this rule, however — those exceptions are the lists that include work by me.

Quarry in the Middle Bookgasm honcho Rod Lott, who chose THE FIRST QUARRY as last year’s best novel (regardless of genre) has honored QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE as one of his top ten for 2009.

By the way, a couple of weeks ago, Bruce Grossman at Bookgasm did a nifty retrospective review of my 1984 Mallory novel, KILL YOUR DARLINGS. He calls it the second in the series, but it’s the third (THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF and NO CURE FOR DEATH precede it, though those two were written in reverse order).

Jeff Pierce at January Magazine has an extended list of Best Crime and Mystery novels of 2009, and QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE made the cut.

The Wildsound site has a top ten comic-book films of the decade, and ROAD TO PERDITION is the top choice.

My band Crusin’ played New Year’s Eve at the West Liberty (Iowa) Country Club, and (following a couple of under-attended gigs) we had the pleasure of a packed house and a very appreciative crowd. Actually, we killed. I had almost forgotten the sheer joy of that kind of response, which was made sweeter by the crowd including a number of people I went to school with. We played four hours with minimal breaks, and my bandmates — Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel and Jim Van Winkle — were in top form. I admit it took me two days to recover from the event, and I look back on when we would play four or even five nights consecutively (sometimes five-hour gigs) and am amazed at what I used to be physically capable of. On the other hand, not many people have been out there playing rock ‘n’ roll in essentially the same band since 1966. By the way, we still have available a handful of the DAYBREAKERS aka CRUSIN’ — THE HALL OF FAME COLLECTION CD’s signed by all five of the original members. [See at the bottom of this post — Nate]

We also have available, in better quantity but also limited, the new SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT live CD. (SEDUCTION is the “all-star comic-book band” that plays occasionally, usually at comic book conventions, and features Bill Mumy, Miguel Ferrer, John “Chris” Christensen, Steve Leialoha, and me.) The notorious cut “Pussy Whipped” from our ‘90s CD, GOLDEN AGE, became a hit at a very popular Iowa radio station in the ‘90s because of my participation (and because it’s a very funny and outrageous tune). It became a kind of shirt-tail hit for Crusin’, because the popularity was such that we had to begin performing it live. We even performed it live on that radio station (KFMH) several times for legendary DJ Steve Bridges (so popular in his prime that he appeared on THE TOMORROW SHOW with Tom Snyder). You can hear a live version of this rude tune on the new SEDUCTION live CD, but I mention this because we have begun to play it at Crusin’ gigs again. Though we are primarily an oldies band, we do pepper in originals from the band’s long (if sporadic) recording history. In SEDUCTION, Miguel Ferrer sings this sad tale of a man who informs us, “I love my wife — she tells me so,” but I take on those duties for the Crusin’ performances. So far nobody has complained about the song’s lyrical content (shall we say), but a lot of people have stared in grinning amazement. When we played at the Brew (in Muscatine), whose audience is younger than our usual demographic, a guy in his late twenties or early thirties came running up after and said, “I remember hearing that on the radio as a kid! I love that song!”

I had a very interesting and fun e-mail exchange with Peter Biegen, the talented co-writer of THE LAST LULLABY. One of the most interesting things is that we’d never had contact before, and we compared notes as to our respective experiences and discovered things about each other’s contributions that we hadn’t known. I was unaware that Peter had written not one but two drafts after my two, for example, and he wasn’t aware of the extent of my notes and conversations with director Jeffrey Goodman at the start of production, which mostly resulted in some significant cuts. As we exchanged our thoughts about the film, it became obvious that we would have collaborated well together, which is one of the unfortunate things about screenwriting — often writers brought in to do another draft are segregated from the original writer (for lots of reasons, but in my opinion few of them valid). It became clear that LULLABY (a film we are both proud of, and like very much) would have been even better had we put our heads together (independently, we both had the same idea for the final violent confrontation — only to have that identical idea passed on by the director). Sometimes Peter’s contributions have been given short shrift because LULLABY is based on my short story and the Quarry character, and I wrote the original two drafts (which became the novel THE LAST QUARRY); plus ROAD TO PERDITION is a marketable thing to emphasize. Let me go on record here to say that he did a terrific job on our co-written screenplay, and in particular made the romance at the heart of the beast more effective.

I continue to work on the third Mike Hammer novel, KISS HER GOODBYE, which is very much its own book, like neither GOLIATH BONE nor the upcoming BIG BANG. This is the lost Mike Hammer ‘70s novel and represents the ten year period where Mickey published no Hammer novels, so it’s an interesting voice and snapshot of the ultimate private eye at a different age and in a different context.

Happy Twenty Ten to all of you. A lot of exciting projects are in the pipeline, and I’ll report to you here every Tuesday morning.

M.A.C.

Seduction of the Innocent: Live @ Comic-Con 1999

Daybreakers Hall of Fame Collection

[2013 EDIT: All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]