Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Spillane’

Kindle Deals, a Spillane Nom, A Beck & Woods Blurb, New Reviews of Old Movies, and More!

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024
Supreme Justice cover
What Doesn't Kill Her

Supreme Justice will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 6/1/2024 and running through 6/30/2024. The book (topical as hell right now!) will be offered at 2.99 USD during the promotion period.

What Doesn’t Kill Her will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 6/1/2024 and running through 6/30/2024. The novel will be offered at 1.99 USD during the promotion period.

Both are written by Matt Clemens and me.

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Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction cover

Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction by James L. Traylor and me has been nominated for the Macavity Award in the
Best Mystery-related Nonfiction/Critical category.

The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in five categories.

I am not sure when or where the winners are announced. We were up for the Edgar, and lost, as you might recall; and are up for the Anthony, which will be announced at this year’s Bouchercon (which we will not be attending, as I will be shooting an indie movie then). If you are an eligible voter in the Macavity Awards or the Anthony Awards, please keep us in mind.

Our dashed hopes of winning the Edgar (I never really thought that was a possibility, frankly) have been soothed by the knowledge that we are a thrice-nominated book in our category. If we can just win one, Spillane will be an award-winning book; but even short of that, these multiple nominations are a nice validation of the decades of work by Jim and me that went into a book for which I feel a good deal of pride and accomplishment.

One of my missions in life has been to get Mickey Spillane some of the recognition denied him by the mystery community over these many decades, despite the boost he gave to the genre as a whole. The number of careers in mystery fiction that Mickey made possible with his success is difficult to overstate – the entire genre got a shot in the arm (and elsewhere).

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Barb and I celebrated our 56th wedding anniversary on June 1. We had a nice overnight getaway at Galena, Illinois, a favorite haunt of ours. Here’s Barb and me (with one of us looking radiant and young) (hint: not me) at a restaurant we adore, Vinny Vanucchi’s.

Max Allan and Barbara Collins at Vinny Vanucchi's

Even an overnight trip, however, can be a little daunting these days. We feel much more comfortable at home, the familiar surroundings encouraging both work and play. I have sleep issues that staying in a hotel acerbate. This is why you don’t see us doing book signings, attending conventions, and doing other public appearances very often. As much as we like interacting with readers/fans/friends, it’s a dicey proposition, leaving our little cave.

We are extremely lucky to have our son Nate and his family (wife Abby and grandkids Sam and Lucy) just up the street from us, making the households mutual support systems. As you know, if you follow these updates at all, I even managed to write and direct a movie not long ago – Blue Christmas – which will be distributed on home video by VCI and MVD, who will also be marketing it to streaming services.

We have even received a lovely blurb from Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the talented creators of A Quiet Place: “Collins is a master of noir and activates a deep reservoir of affection for the genre in his latest noir chamber piece.” This is incredibly generous of Beck and Woods, who have been kind enough to single out my frequent cinematic collaborator Phil Dingeldein and me, as mentors.

Exciting (at least exciting to me) news about another indie feature film project will be announced here soon.

Also, the Nathan Heller audio production, True Noir (based on the novel True Detective) written by me and directed by my pal Robert Meyer Burnett, continues apace. I have completed and delivered the ten-episode script of the production to Rob, and the reviews from him and our distinguished cast members (we’ll be revealing more of them soon) have been wonderful. Unfortunately, our announced star Todd Stashwick had to step down, and we are in the process of recasting now.

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Strawberry Blonde poster

It’s no secret that I am as much a film buff as I am a bibliophile. And I have viewed a ridiculously large number of films in my time on Planet Earth, from the worst to the best. But a few classic films have, for no good reason, remained unwatched by me. I caught up with two recently: Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland and Rita Hayworth, directed by Raoul Walsh, written by the Epsteins of Casablanca fame; and Meet John Doe with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck directed by Frank Capra and written by Robert Riskins.

Where to start? Both are 1941 films – in that sweet spot that began around 1939 and continued till World War Two kicked in, where Hollywood seemed to be at its creative zenith. The number of great character actors assembled for these two films is staggering: Jack Carson, Alan Hale and George Tobias, with future Superman George Reeves thrown in for good measure, in Strawberry Blonde; and Edward Arnold, James Gleason, Walter Brennan, Spring Byington, and Gene Lockhart in Meet John Doe. And a lot of others in both.

Let me interrupt myself to say that Barb and I, staying overnight in Galena at the Irish Cottage hotel, tried to watch a pay-for-view movie on the evening of May 31. The film we chose was Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. How might I best describe this movie? Childish nonsense, poorly acted, although Rebecca Hall is actually pretty good, whereas Dan Stevens embarrasses himself and Bryan Tyree Henry is, as an African-American, saddled with a stereotypical role that Mantan Moreland would have rejected as beneath his dignity. We bailed half an hour into this CGI fest in which the best that could be said for the monsters is that they come off as more human than the humans.

Meanwhile, back in 1941, Warner’s is giving us Jimmy Cagney in a charming role that because of his artistry overcomes the character’s boorishness, with Oliva De Havilland etching a modern young woman (at the turn of the Twentieth Century) with humor and deftness, and the comic figures (Alan Hale, George Tobias, Jack Carson) all show considerable humanity and growth. I think I’d avoided this film because of its reputation as an Americana valentine to the “Band Played On” early 1900s; but there’s a lot of skill and surprising depth to what at first seems a nostalgia trifle. What comes across as wistful seemed to me, at a distance, as something saccharine. I was wrong. Warner Arcives has a Blu-ray out of this right now.

Meet John Doe poster

As for Meet John Doe, I had expected to encounter Frank Capra at his most populist excessive, and while I wasn’t entirely wrong, I also encountered a skewering of corporate America and a cynical MAGA-style movement taking advantage of its members shamelessly. The dark side of Meet John Doe is plenty dark, and the artistry of a great cast is plenty great. James Gleason (the unforgettable Corkle of Here Comes Mr. Jordan) does a drunk scene in medium close-up, seen past a mostly silent Gary Cooper, that may be the best single piece of screen acting I’ve ever witnessed. After a few comic moments – not overplayed, but broad as drunk scenes often were in those days – Gleason talks about enlisting to serve in the Great War and how his father enlisted, too. The emotions that play over his face are sublimely, subtlely rendered; and this comes from a character who has, till now, been perhaps the most cynical in the piece.

And Cooper’s character is at times the “yup”/”nope” creature he’s known for, but other times is talkative and even spechifying without betraying the simple roots of his character. He’s remarkable as is Barbara Stanwyck, who – like Gleason – travels from cynicism and self-interest to a realization of how she’s betrayed her journalistic goals, feeling her guilt in what was a terrible, hurtful hoax at heart.

Meet John Doe – which has just become available from Classic Flix on Blu-ray (the people who brought you I, the Jury and The Long Wait on Blu-ray!) in a beautifully restored edition – is a kind of pre-war rough draft of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is definitely a post-war take on the same (or similar) material. People don’t think of Meet John Doe as a Christmas movie, in the manner of It’s a Wonderful Life, but both films use Christmas as a powerful climax to stories that otherwise are not holiday-themed.

For a film buff, seeing a James Cagney picture by a great director with a fabulous supporting cast, or a Frank Capra movie starting Gary Cooper and other legendary supporting players, as if they are brand-new items, is frankly thrilling.

Also depressing, in the wake of such travesties as the Godzilla/King Kong rematch. Stick with the Japanese alternative.

By the way, Furiosa is excellent. And yet it’s the poster child for Hollywood’s inability to get in step with itself.

Get Meet John Doe here.

Get Strawberry Blonde here.

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The Big Bundle, a Nathan Heller novel, is out in trade paperback now. Here’s a nice review.

M.A.C.

Eliot Ness, Quarry, Writing Series Characters and More

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

My YouTube appearances with Heath Holland at his Cereal at Midnight continue, with what I think is the best so far: a discussion of Eliot Ness on screen, kicked off by the current Blu-ray edition of The Scarface Mob from Eureka.

Also on the YouTube front, Robert Meyer Burnett, on his Robservations and Let’s Get Physical Media, continues to provide updates on his audio “movie for the ears” adaptation of my novel True Detective. It’s called True Noir: The Casebooks of Nathan Heller, and I am writing the scripts myself. I have delivered the first seven of ten of what will be a fully immersive audio presentation directed by Rob, with an incredible Hollywood cast, and will run at least five hours.

Todd Stashwick of Picard and Twelve Monkeys (and much else) makes a terrific Nate Heller. If this project resonates with the public, look for three more Heller novels to become movies for the mind, all adapted by Heller’s creator himself.

You know – me.

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Paperback Warrior posted the cover of the upcoming (it’s a fall release from Hard Case Crime) Quarry’s Return. That was a post on X, which I guess is what they’re calling Twitter now. It’s from Elon Musk, who named a ship after Ms. Tree, then didn’t follow up on his people asking to license the name from Terry Beatty and me. Somehow I’m reminded of the penny-pinching kazillionaires in classic Li’l Abner by Al Capp.

Quarry's Return

But since this cover image is floating around out there, I thought I should share it, though we’re a few months away from the novel’s release. I didn’t expect to be writing another novel about Quarry in his (ahem) later years; but sequels have a way of worming into my brain as if I were a Presidential candidate and then percolating there (that’s what we writer folks call a mixed metaphor).

Now I have a notion for yet another “old Quarry” story that is wormily percolating, and we’ll see. I had thought that The Last Quarry would be the last Quarry; but then a whole slew (past tense of “slay”) of ‘em followed, filling in the blanks of his life and varied career. Then came Quarry’s Blood, which was really designed to be the last, only when it was warmly received for a book about a cold-blooded killer, I changed my mind (again). And now here’s Quarry’s Return, with Quarry again a geriatric retired hitman kicking younger ass.

It isn’t that I was planning to retire the character. I figured I might do the occasional younger Quarry novel while I am still above ground. I am never anxious to retire a character completely, in my imagination anyway. It wasn’t hard at all to bring Nolan and Jon back in Skim Deep something like forty years later. I knocked on their door and they promptly answered, not much the worse for wear.

I think the reason why I’ve stayed with my series characters is that good ones don’t come along that often. The only one I’ve really consciously retired is Mallory, because there really isn’t a premise there to generate more novels, and anyway he’s essentially me and that bores my ass off.

But I will never understand mystery and suspense writers who do a new character each and every time. Most of these scribes, well, many of them are simply hanging a new name on the old character. Also, I am too aware of how unsuccessful some incredible writers have been, trying to create a second series character. You may have noticed, if you’ve been paying very close attention, that I like Mickey Spillane – the man and his writing. But what’s your favorite Spillane series character after Mike Hammer? And Velda and Pat Chambers don’t count. (Velda could carry a novel, and some would say she carried a whole comic book series under a separate name. Hint: Ms. Tree. But can you imagine the sheer snooze factor of a Pat Chambers novel?)

So with apologies to you Tiger Mann fans, Mike Hammer can’t be created twice. Edgar Rice Burroughs came close by writing John Carter of Mars, but that character was no Tarzan (and Carson of Venus wasn’t even Carter). Going back to Mickey, his second greatest series protagonist was Morgan the Raider (The Delta Factor); but I had to finish the only other book that character generated (The Consummata) from a few chapters in Mickey’s files.

Barb, a while back (in the throes of writing an Antiques novel and enduring the suffering that process creates in my talented wife), started talking about ending that series, fed up with the difficulties of generating more stories about Vivian and Brandy Borne. I insisted that she stick with it (not that my insistence carried any particular weight) because the Borne girls are fabulous fictional creations, in my unhumble opinion. They live and breathe on the page, and act of their own volition, as all great series characters do.

Here’s the thing: Rex Stout was a genius. His Nero Wolfe books are among the most readable and re-readable novels of any kind ever written. No other two fictional characters live and breathe like Wolfe and Archie. They are as good as fiction gets in the world of the creation of mystery genre recurring characters. Holmes and Watson never breathed as fully, and before Nero and Archie, they were the top.

And yet Rex Stout’s publisher kept after him to create another series. And of course he was a smashing success with his other incredibly famous character, Tecumseh Fox. Right? Right? Okay, how about Alphabet Hicks? There’s a banger of a character! Or how about giving Inspector Cramer a mystery of his own? Or that famous female PI, Dol Bonner?

Nope. One of the few true geniuses of mystery fiction, Rex Stout, stunk up the place with these more contrived creations. So I’m of the opinion that when a mystery writer stumbles upon a character that resonates with the public, said mystery writer should give the public what they want.

Are there dangers? Yes, artistic ones. For example, what if I’d been hugely successful right out of the gate with Nolan, who was after all an homage to Don Westlake’s Parker (“homage,” as we all know, is French for “rip-off”). I might still be writing nothing but Nolan books. I’d have written, say, 40 or 50 Nolan and Jon novels…selling millions…and writing nothing else.

Writers do need to flex their talents. That’s why Robert B. Parker wrote westerns on the side and did his own unsuccessful Dol Bonner-type female private eye novel. So it’s risky, sticking with one series. I do think, with the Antiques books, you have two interacting characters – like Archie and Wolfe – who provide a kind of engine for the story beyond the plot machinations.

Mickey wrote about Mike Hammer throughout his sporadic career. Early on he came to feel he’d characterized Hammer so fully, there wasn’t anything else to say. He compensated by writing Tiger Mann and some standalones, though he drifted back to what was essentially the same protagonist under various names. What kept him artistically sane (not a word used much in relation to Mike Hammer, I grant you) was his decision to make Hammer always reflect where he, Mickey Spillane, was in his life. He allowed Hammer to grow somewhat older (not realistically so, but older) and to allow this indomitable character to have frailties – Hammer went on a seven-year drunk; he was, in several novels (including some I completed) recovering from wounds or otherwise physically impaired. This reflected Spillane’s own advancing years, and the on-and-off nature of his writing career.

Look, every mystery writer – every writer – has to do this his or her own way. I am only suggesting that for me it’s been an interesting, rewarding ride, following my characters through their advancing years (and mine). That was true of Nate Heller in the current Too Many Bullets. It was true of Nolan and Jon in Skim Deep. And Quarry in Quarry’s Blood and Quarry’s Return. And if I ever return to Ms. Tree, you can bet your ass she’ll be in menopause.

* * *

Speaking of Ms. Tree, Terry and I are working on the sixth and final Titan volume of the collected Ms. Tree, which gathers almost everything he and I did with the character and her supporting cast (no The P.I.s, though). She had an impressive dozen-year comics run (1981 – 1993) and represents one of the most gratifying collaborations I’ve ever enjoyed. Terry Beatty and I, I am glad to say, will always be thought of by many comics fans as a team.

Right now Terry is working on helping put together (much as he has on the Titan volumes of collected Ms. Tree) our Dark Horse Johnny Dynamite graphic novel, Underworld, in an improved publication that will happen later this year.

It’s an enduring frustration to me that we both worked on Batman but never together. And that we both did syndicated comic strips (Dick Tracy and Rex Morgan respectively), but not as a team. He’s still doing Rex Morgan, but he doesn’t need me – he writes it himself. I like to think he had a good teacher.

As for Dick Tracy, the VCI Blu-ray collection of the four RKO Tracy feature films – with two new commentaries by me and lots of bonus features – will be out in early August.

Getting back to Ms. Tree, here’s Comic Book Treasury’s best crime comics write-up (it invokes Road to Perdition, but lists Ms. Tree).

And speaking of Collins/Beatty, here’s a look at Wild Dog at Tvtropes. It says: “The series was writted by Max Allan Collins with art by Terry Beatty.” I don’t know who “writted” this otherwise nice piece.

M.A.C.

True Noir News, Another Nomination Plus a Serving of Fudge

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

The crowd-funding effort at Kickstarter for True Noir: The Casebooks of Nathan Heller has been postponed until June (exact date to be shared when I know what it is) because we’d be in conflict with another crowd-funder our star Todd Stashwick is involved with. We don’t want to be competing with somebody in the family. (True Noir is directed by Robert Meyer Burnett and is a fully immersive audio drama. In production now!)

Also, I’m going to be announcing soon the next indie film I’m doing, and I won’t be crowd-funding that, either. But any of you who are interested in contributing to the production will be invited to contact me directly. Associate Producer credits and first edition books of your choice will be in the offing.

* * *

After all the talk about winning and losing awards last week, another nomination has popped up for Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me. I’ve spoken here before about how meaningful this work is to both my co-author and myself – our many decades-long friendship grew out of the need for two Spillane enthusiasts to work together on one Spillane literary bio. We were stymied a bit by Mickey’s insistence that he would cooperate but only in terms of a book about the Mike Hammer/Mickey Spillane by examining his fiction and limiting the biographical material to a short single chapter.

Mickey wanted to write his own biography – that is, autobiography – but he never got around to it. He did cooperate with me (and how) on doing a documentary on his life and work, which became Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1998), which has been expanded by my collaborator Phil Dingeldein and myself into a special edition now available from VCI (and on Amazon, of course). As a bonus feature it includes the 90-minute program (kinda a movie), Mickey Spillane’s Encore For Murder, the radio-style play we mounted here in Muscatine, Iowa, as a fund raiser for the local art museum. My Mommy’s Day star (co-star with Patty McCormack), Gary Sandy (of WKRP in Cincinnati fame) came in to play Mike Hammer. Gary was so terrific that, at the last moment, I decided to record the show (and our little movie version was edited by Chad Bishop and myself from one dress rehearsal and the lone performance).

Some of you will recall a longer radio version of Encore was done for Brilliance (there were two done, both Audie Award nominees and one winning, The Little Death) with Stacy Keach in his iconic role as Mike Hammer. Gary portrayed Hammer for me in two stage productions of Encore, one at Owensboro, Kentucky, another at Clearwater, Florida.

Anyway, the Spillane documentary is available on Blu-ray as mentioned above, with the 90-minute Encore for Murder as a special feature. Encore is also available alone as a DVD.

Some years ago, in its first incarnation, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane won an Award of Excellence from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. And in 2023 I unexpectedly won Best Director from the Iowa Motion Picture awards for the production. So there have been various awards, I’m happy to say, connected to all of these endeavors.

We, of course, lost the Edgar (as I expected to) to a bio of James Elroy (not my favorite author). And now we’re up against that book, and a number of others, nominated for the non-fiction Anthony, the awards named for critic Anthony Boucher given at Bouchercon. I’ve won one of those before, in 2005, for The History of Mystery (written with George Hagenauer). I’m not going to Bouchercon in Nashville, August 28 – September 1, as I’ll be shooting my next indie movie at the time. Because it’s a fan event with the voting going on at the event, it would be a good thing to be there, since that amps up your possibility of winning. And I’ve been to many a Bouchercon, but just can’t make this one.

Which makes this a good time to request that those of you attending Bouchercon 2024, who liked the Spillane book, consider voting for it.

But, as I discussed here last week, I really did and do consider the Edgar nomination a major victory for this biographical study of the genre’s most controversial figure. And I could not be more thrilled by this surprise Anthony nomination – and I know editor Otto Penzler, co-author Jim Traylor and, hell, my agent Dominick Abel are also pleased.

To those of you out there whose votes got us included among the nominees, you have my sincere thanks. Two nominations among the handful of the genre’s major awards (no, it’s not a leg lamp) are nothing to sneeze at. And I ain’t sneezing.

Speaking of awards, I’m going to provide a window onto a January 1968 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show by a rock group that is not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. This may seem like a non sequitur to some, but longtime fans/readers of mine will probably recall that (as is the case with Bobby Darin) I am a huge fan of that particular, incredibly great, historically significant and hugely influential band who have been roundly forgotten by the rock organization that is too busy giving out its awards to Hip Hoppers and country western artists than to recognize true pioneers in the field.

But, as my wife says to me frequently, “At least you’re not bitter.”

M.A.C.

True Noir, Dick Tracy and King Kong

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

The crowd-funding campaign for True Noir: the Nathan Heller Casebooks at KickStarter is set to go live on May 1. I have delivered the first of ten-episode scripts (the production is based on my novel True Detective) and everyone seems pleased. Director Robert Meyer Burnett has started casting. Todd Stashwick of Star Trek: Picard and the 12 Monkeys TV series has been onboard to play Nate Heller for a while now, and in fact you can hear the 12-minute sample starring him – our “proof of concept” – as Nate right now. Right here:

Longtime readers of the Heller saga will recognize this as the beginning of Stolen Away, but that was just chosen as a way to intro newcomers to Heller and to give director Rob Burnett a chance to get the concept on its feet. We’re starting with True Detective, the first novel of course. In addition to Todd, several other notable actors have signed on, including a favorite of mine, Jeffrey Combs of the Re-Animator movies, as Mayor Anton Cermak. The image we’re sharing here is still in progress but you should get a kick out of it.

Jeffrey Combs as Mayor Anton Cermak in True Noir

I am about to dive into the remaining nine scripts (each episode should be in the 35 – 40 minute range) and this is now my current major project. I have a very busy remainder of the year ahead: the last scheduled Mike Hammer novel (Baby, It’s Murder), another Antiques novel (we have just signed to do two more!), and what looks to be the final Heller.

This past week was a busy one. Work on preparing the materials for the VCI/MVD release of Blue Christmas continued, with producer Chad Bishop in the lead. I recorded three (!) Blu-ray commentaries – Chad and I did the Blue Christmas commentary (and he did a great job), and for VCI I recorded commentaries for two mid-‘40s RKO Dick Tracy movies: Dick Tracy Vs. Cueball and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome. These are for an upcoming Blu-ray release of the four RKO features, a boxed set that looks to be a jam-packed affair with multiple commentaries and much more.

I had done commentaries for the other two Tracy films (Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy’s Dilemma) in 1999 for the late Cary Roan, and these are included. Now, a quarter of a century later, I found myself completing the quartet of B movies for Robert Blair at VCI. I’ve always been fond of these films, though the sometimes lauded Gruesome is by far my least favorite, but did not expect to revisit them ever again.

As I have expressed here on occasion, my bitterness over being essentially fired from Dick Tracy – the strip that I had, in my estimation and that of others, saved from cancellation – had been deep and abiding until I was called upon by editor Dean Mullaney (who had first published Ms. Tree) to put on my Big Boy pants (so to speak) and write introductions for the IDW volumes that would collect the complete Chester Gould. I took on that task, spanning a number of years, and reminded myself how much I liked the strip and basically came to terms with the firing that frankly opened the door on much else good that has happened for me. Probably no Road to Perdition, for example, had I still been on Dick Tracy.

This is not to say I don’t retain some bitterness. I was told by a reliable source that the Joe Staton and Mike Curtis team (who’d been approached to take the strip over after Dick Locher’s passing) asked why the Trib wasn’t returning to me. The editor there (a newer one I had never met) reportedly said, “Why would we make the same mistake twice?”

Nonetheless, revisiting Tracy in both the IDW volumes (a long-running series now completed) and again last week by way of those four fun RKO B-features was indeed like Old Home Week. Tracy was my childhood introduction to crime fiction (and comics), and the first big break of my career.

Speaking of Road to Perdition, I was pleased to see the movie version again turning up with some very impressive neighbors — number 17 on Ranker’s list of The 90 Best Mafia Movies Of All Time.

By the way, when I recorded the two Tracy commentaries I did so with my longtime collaborator Phil Dingeldein at my side. Phil is the Director of Photography on most of what I’ve done in the world of indie filmmaking starting with Mommy (1994) and continuing through this year’s Blue Christmas. Between the two recording sessions for the pair of Tracy movies, Phil and I took lunch and discussed the revision I did recently of my script for a proposed film of Road to Purgatory, my prose sequel to Perdition. It’s a low-budget version (not “low” in my usual scrounging sense, but the Hollywood sense) designed for me to be able to direct myself.

That, frankly, is part of why I undertook doing Blue Christmas and am preparing another feature to shoot late this summer – I want to see if the Old Boy still has it in him. And I’m not referring to Phil.

Road to Purgatory has been the dream project for a long, long time. We’ll see if a dream is all it is.

* * *

For several years now I have spent Saturday afternoons with my grandson Sam, watching movies. We began with animation, including classic Warner Bros and the Fleischer Popeye and Superman cartoons. After that it was 3-D Blu-rays that were mostly CGI – Pixar and others – with occasional live action like the Spy Kids movies (some of which are also 3-D – my obsolete 3-D screen got a workout).

In recent months we’ve delved into comedies, in particularly the Pink Panther movies (skipping the first two) and The Great Race, the latter being more of writer/director Blake Edwards at his comic best. I’ve been edging up on some things that I loved as a kid, and Sam’s father Nate also loved (though not Lone Wolf and Cub yet – Sam is just eight!) (of course so was Nate at the time).

So this week we watched the 1933 King Kong. Barb had warned Sam that the first half hour or so was pretty boring, a lot of it on the ship sailing to the island with Skull Mountain. But Sam never wavered. He wanted to see the whole thing. When Kong arrived in all his gorilla glory, I explained stop motion to Sam – that Kong was mostly a puppet recorded incrementally, and that also a giant head and hand had been used. He did not get frightened but he was into it.

At the end I searched YouTube and found a colorized clip of the fight between Kong and the T-Rex. Sam told me to make sure I stayed with it till we saw Kong flapping the defeated dead T-Rex’s jaw, which was his favorite part (mine too).

Then Sam announced that he liked the black-and-white version better.

There is hope for the world.

M.A.C.