Posts Tagged ‘Mommy’s Day’

Wolfpack Announces “Mommy” Duo

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

I have had a very positive response to my announcement of signing a deal with Wolfpack Publishing. The readers who think enough of my work to check in here are happy to know that the door is open for me to revive and continue various series (or write sequels to standalones) that would otherwise be of no interest to my other publishers.

But let me assure all of you that, for now at least, I am still aligned with a number of mainstream publishers. Mike Hammer is still attached to Titan, who have been incredibly supportive of my efforts to complete (not continue) Mickey’s work. Under the Titan umbrella, but very much its own entity, Hard Case Crime – under the able leadership of Charles Ardai – continues to support Quarry and other work of mine. The Antiques series is no longer at Kensington, but is moving elsewhere (to be announced), though Caleb York will stay at that house as long they want him (and me).

These are early days at Wolfpack, but I can safely say that all of the original titles – including the novel I just delivered – will be published as physical books as well as e-books. This will include the new short story collections, and I hope the same will be true of the reprinted collections. (The Ness Omnibus is too large to be published as one book, but we are discussing the individual novels coming out in physical form.)

By the way, I do intend to continue my regular book giveaways with the original Wolfpack titles, to generate much-needed reviews. (Speaking of which, if you “owe” me reviews from past giveaways, better late than never.)

Coming soon – I don’t have a date to share just yet – will be a book collecting both Mommy novels. They will appear as a single e-book, but also as a “real” book, the first time both have been gathered together, which is something I always hoped for. Always intended.

Mommy Mommy's Day: A Suspense Duo cover

I am sharing the cover with you this week, because I think it’s terrific. I find it very amusing because it plays off a line I came up with early on, in not only promoting Mommy as a home video release, but in putting together the investor proposal that raised the funds for the first feature’s production back in 1994. Specifically, I described the Mommy character as “June Cleaver with a cleaver,” and the art for this cover pictures her just that way (the reflection design is incredibly cool, in my opinion). Now, Mommy doesn’t actually wield a cleaver in either novel. Readers will have to accept that image as metaphorical, settling for the neck-breaking, electrocutions, shootings, and butcher-knife stabbings (among other things) that appear in the two novels.

Mommy and Mommy’s Day were originally published by Leisure Books in the late ‘90s. They were essentially tie-in’s to the DVD release of the movies (which came out on VHS in 1995 and 1997 respectively, and had a few theatrical screenings). The two books were novelizations of my screenplays, written during that period of my career when writing movie tie-in novels was a major part of how I supported myself as a freelance writer.

I had contracts for Nate Heller and other original work of mine with major mainstream publishers at the time, but those publishers – concerned about my selfishly prolific ways, crassly designed that I might make a living – did not want me to publish more than a couple of books a year, or better still just one. It wasn’t that I was being paid poorly, just that a paycheck for, say, $20,000, wasn’t something my family and I could live on for a year.

Because the Dick Tracy novelization (1990) – written strictly because I was then the scripter of the comic strip and had a proprietary attitude toward the property – was a success, I was able a few years later, post-Tracy, to offer myself as a writer of tie-ins. I loved doing the movie novels, because I was able to write all kinds of different genres and really flex my muscles, pursue interests beyond suspense, and learn new techniques. After all, I did Tom Clancy style techo-thrillers (Air Force One), war novels (Saving Private Ryan), westerns (Maverick), science fiction (Waterworld), sword and sorcery (Scorpion King), horror (The Mummy), espionage (I Spy), humor (The Pink Panther), and much more. Doing the novel for the second X-Files film was a real kick, as I was (and am) a big fan of the series. Eventually I was able to write original novels for such TV shows as NYPD Blue and (with Matt Clemens aiding and abetting) CSI, Dark Angel and Criminal Minds.

So it was natural for me to novelize my own two movies. I approached Leisure Books because one of their specialties was horror, and Mommy was psychological horror, often assumed to be an unofficial sequel to the classic The Bad Seed (I considered it more an homage).

Those two books are the most unusual novelizations I ever wrote, with the exception of Road to Perdition, where I was novelizing someone else’s version of my own work. What made the Mommy novels unusual was how different the process was from the usual novelization approach.

I have a feeling that many, if not most, readers assume that the novelizer of a film has seen – or perhaps has been provided a DVD (or back in the day, VHS) of the movie – for reference. That is never the case (almost never, as I will explain). Generally speaking, the film is being shot at the same time the book is written. The writer works from a script. I would make a novel out of the script from which the director was simultaneously making a movie. In surprisingly rare cases, the writer sees stills from the set, and even more rare a “sizzle” real designed for merchandising. A couple of times I saw the footage for films that fast food chains were viewing to decided whether to make a Happy Meal.

Which is an important aspect of explaining this: a novelization of a film is an ephemeral side product, like an action figure or lunch box. Novelizations happen less frequently now because one of their functions, maybe their main function, was to give fans of a movie an opportunity to re-experience it in those dimly remembered days prior to home video.

Often the script the novelizer works from is not the final shooting script – in fact, almost always it isn’t. In the case of I Spy, I was sent the script pages of a new ending that needed to be turned into prose just days before the book was to go into publication. Some studios didn’t care if the book wasn’t consistent with the finished film, which has made some novelizations highly collectible for the glimpses into what might have made it onto the screen, or for fans to experience scenes that had been cut.

Interestingly, many readers – wrongly assuming the novel came first – aren’t bothered by such inconsistencies at all.

The Mommy novels, because I had complete control over them, lacked the usual studio constraints. Both features were completed before novel rights were sold. Of the two, Mommy is probably the most satisfying, because I was able to start the story several months before the action of the film. So the first third or so is not in the movie version.
Mommy’s Day, a somewhat more complex story than its predecessor, filled out the desired number of pages without such extra material.

What made writing both novels unique in the novelization experience was my intimate familiarity with both movies. I was in the editing suite with director of photography/editor Phil Dingeldein every step of the way. While Phil is as expert an editor as I could imagine working with, he and I made each decision together, from which takes and camera angles to utilize to the length of holding shots. I loved the editing process, and eventually essentially edited my second documentary, Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop, at home, by use of freeze frame and time code, making a list for the assembly of edits. (Phil was not on that project.)

The director of a film sees it countless times. I know every frame of both Mommy films, every nuance, every line reading, every facial expression, every pause, every damn thing, so intimately that even today when I watch either film (or any of my films) I remember them in a way that is true of none of my novels or short stories.

So when I sat down to write the novels of the Mommy movies, I was recording them in a way unlike any other novelizations I’d written. At times it was a burden, because I was describing my indelible memories of the expressions on the faces of actors, and their line readings; of the sets, the locations, the lighting.

But it was also an opportunity to correct things I hadn’t been able to control in the editing suite. In editing, you have to deal with what you shot. If you never got exactly the line reading you wanted, but practicality made you move on, you’re stuck with what you settled for. Here I could tweak things further.

In a very real way, Mommy and Mommy’s Day are the only movie novelizations I ever wrote. Everything else was a novelization of a script.

My mantra, where writing movie novels was concerned, was always to make the novelization read like the book the movie was based on. I think I was very good at that. Oddly, making the novelizations of my own movies achieve that goal was trickier than usual. But I’m confident I succeeded.

I am thrilled to have these novels collected into one book – as I said, I always wanted that, always intended it. And, very soon, Wolfpack will make that happen.

* * *

Here’s what DICK TRACY 2 would have been. Gee, wonder if I would have gotten credit….

Finally, though you’ll have to scroll down a bit, here’s a great review of Hot Lead, Cold Justice.

Mommy Streams, Backlist Bubbles, We Binge

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Both Mommy and Mommy’s Day are now streaming on Amazon Prime. (Links: Mommy; Mommy’s Day) How long they will be there I can’t say (Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life has disappeared, though some other streaming services have it). If you’re a Prime member, it’s included.

[Note from Nate: Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is currently on Tubi, free (with ads?)]

So if you haven’t seen both or either of these films, now’s your chance. If you have the earlier full-screen versions, this is an opportunity to see the widescreen versions that Phil Dingeldein and I recently labored to create. I do warn everyone not to expect HD quality (despite being streamed as HD) – the picture (particularly on Mommy) is rather soft. But it’s probably the best either one is going to look.

As I’ve said, compromises were made to be able to afford the wonderful casts.

remain proud of these films, and the Blu-ray double-feature release has received mostly good to great notices. People seem to understand where these little movies were coming from – which is to say blackly humorous melodrama, and a tribute to The Bad Seed and to Patty McCormack herself.

Mommy and Mommy’s Day are streaming on Fandango, too, for a couple of bucks. It may show up elsewhere (I am not kept terribly well in the loop by the distributor). (Links: Mommy; Mommy’s Day)

The novel versions will be coming out again one of these days, part of a package I am negotiating with a major e-book publisher for the seven remaining novels on my backlist (Amazon has most of the rest, Dover has the first two Jack and Maggie Starr novels).

We are also discussing a group of collections of my short fiction (and Barb’s), reprinting Blue Christmas, Too Many Tomcats, and Murder – His and Hers, plus a follow-up to that last title, a collection of my horror stories, and two collections of the stories Matt Clemens and I have done together.

Pulling these stories together has been a big job. They go back to the nineties in many cases, and were written using the word-processing program (wait for it) WordStar, and then converted to now nearly obsolete versions of WordPerfect maybe twenty years ago, and finally to Word. So while I have most of the files in some form, the dizzying array of conversion glitches causes twitches.

For the horror collection I decided to include the radio scripts of “Mercy” and “House of Blood,” written for the Fangoria radio show, Dreadtime Stories. I had adapted a number of my short stories for producer Carl Amari, but had two indie movie ideas I wanted to get up on their feet, and that’s how the two scripts above came to be written. The scripts were in a format (basically a very narrow strip of copy, maybe four inches wide, that required hours of work transforming them into more standard pages of text that wouldn’t bewilder or annoy readers. Fortunately, I have a staff to do such scut work. No, wait – I don’t!

Ultimately, though, it will mean the vast majority of my work will be available in e-book (and real books), with only a handful of things lost to the mists of time.

* * *

What have Barb and I been watching lately? Now that we don’t go to the movies anymore?

We finally got around to Ozark, which had been recommended to me by smart people, who were right. It’s a terrific show, very well-acted and full of twists and turns. Several people had told me that somebody (or somebodies) at the series seemed to be fans of mine or were influenced by me, and I think that might be the case. If so, it’s flattering. If not, it’s not the first time I’ve been deluded.

But there’s a hillbilly family reminiscent of the Comforts from the Nolan novels, a character called Boyd (Quarry’s partner in those novels), and a major villain in the first of the three seasons so far is played by the actor (Peter Mullen) who was the Broker in the Quarry TV series. And the good man doing bad things to keep his family afloat is Road to Perdition 101. Maybe half a dozen times I turned to Barb and said, “At least somebody’s reading me.”

The series itself is obviously something that wouldn’t exist without Breaking Bad, and it challenges you (in a Quarry-like way) to root for and identify with people who are making really poor choices. I don’t mean to overstate any debt anybody owes me, because (a) I owe plenty of debts myself, and (b) I may be full of shit about this.

The Guardian describes Ozark thusly: “Ozark follows the misadventures of Marty Byrde (the perpetually clenched Jason Bateman), a financial adviser forced to relocate from Chicago to Osage Beach, Missouri, where he launders money on a scale that would give Al Capone a cluster migraine.”

Bateman uses his standard glib, slightly put-upon persona to nice comic effect initially, and you are slightly amazed at first by how well that persona works in a dark melodrama. But as that melodrama grows darker, and the consequences ever more dire, Bateman’s performance deepens. Other mesmerizing performances come from Laura Linney, as Bateman’s even more glib wife, whose sunny smile delivers manipulative self-interest in such a “helpful” way; and Julia Garner’s Ruth, the most original and unique character in Ozark, a hillbilly girl with a good heart and a crushed soul, capable of kindness and murder, when either is called for.

I like the series and I think you will, too.

We also have recently enjoyed the surprise gift of a second season of Rick Gervais’ After Life, the touching drama/comedy (you don’t think I could ever type the vile word “dramedy,” do you?) that explores the road back for a husband consumed by grief over the loss of a wonderful wife.

The very special thing about After Life is its signature combination of mean humor and genuine sentiment. It’s a show about a man so depressed that suicide is an understandable option, and it’s often frequently hilarious.

I am a Gervais fan and have been for a long, long time. This little series isn’t much talked about, but it may represent his best work.

On the film front, we have watched a lot of British comedies of the late ‘40s and 1950s – such Alastair Sim gems as our perennial favorite, The Belles of St. Trinian’s, but also Laughter in Paradise and School for Scoundrels; and Alec Guinness in All at Sea, The Captain’s Paradise and Last Holiday.

And the most current season of Midsomer Murders, a favorite comfort food of ours, seemed particularly strong after a few missteps the season before.

* * *

Bookgasm, which is a book review site you should be regularly visiting, has posted a wonderful review of Girl Can’t Help It that’s been picked up all over the place, and I provided a link last week. But in case you haven’t seen it, I’m going to share it here, right now:

Notoriously prolific author Max Allan Collins has added a second entry to his Krista Larson series, GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. It’s also a stretch back to Collins’ past (and present) as a rock and roll musician. True! I didn’t know this either but Collins apparently wrote the song “Psychedelic Siren” recorded by The Daybreakers in 1968 (here, watch it on YouTube). In the author’s note, he states this is the first time he has mined his rock and roll experience for a book. Well dang it, more of this please. Mr. Collins.

The first book in the series, Girl Most Likely, features Krista Larson as the Chief of Police in Galena, Illinois. She is assisted by her able staff but also by her father, a retired cop from the Dubuque Police Department who does invaluable detective work. In this second work, Girl Can’t Help It, the Larson duo is back on the job.

The book title refers to a song title recorded by local Galena band Hot Rod & The Pistons. They scored a huge hit with the song in the 80s when retro rockabilly hit big (think Stray Cats). They managed two albums and then faded away. But after their election into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they’re set for a reunion gig and maybe even a little tour. The town of Galena is excited and creates a special musical festival to kick off the whole thing. All well and good.

Until one of the members is found dead of a heart attack in a bathtub. Oh well, old guys do die. But then a second band member commits suicide and his apartment has been ransacked. This hits the Larsons as fishy, and they’re fairly convinced that both deaths are murders.

Of course, we the readers know these are murders because we have chapters written from the point of view of the murderer. The crimes continue to escalate and it’s a battle between the murderer and the police department to see who will come out on top and if the entire lineup of Hot Rod & The Pistons will be killed off one by one.

Everybody knows Max Allan Collins by now. He has multiple series in place, writes another successful series with his wife (the duo goes by Barbara Allan) and is one of the solid bricks in the pyramid of genre writers over the past 40+ years. A lovely, smooth and polished style coupled with a brisk pace makes for quick reading short chapters, believable characters, behaviors and dialogue. If you like any of Collins’ works, you’ll like GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. I think this series has real promise. Recommended. —Mark Rose

Get it at Amazon.

A fun podcast about books, The Inside Flap, was kind enough to give Do No Harm and Nate Heller some attention. The Do No Harm stuff happens a bit after the hour mark. You’ll hear one of the participants wish that I would have Heller solve the JFK assassination (guess what books I sent along to them).

The great blog Paperback Warrior is posting their all-time ten favorite posts, and the one focusing on The First Quarry is #4.

Here’s a great interview with my buddy Charles Ardai, touching on our projects together.

The fantastic Stiletto Gumshoe site talks about Mike Hammer and Masquerade for Murder, and provides some links to things you may have missed.

This nice review of Antiques Fire Sale is a little quirky – doesn’t like all the talking to the reader, and thinks referring to Vivian as “Mother” is disrespectful – but some nice insights are on hand, as well. Loving us is preferred, but liking us is just fine, too.

Finally, check out this terrific Mystery Tribute piece about Mike Hammer and Masquerade for Murder.

M.A.C.

It’s a Thriller Just to Be Nominated

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Those of you who are nice enough (or possibly deluded enough) to follow these updates know that Girl Most Likely was a book that got some terrible reviews, although the vast majority were good to great. The bad reviews that really stung came from the trades, who beat me up essentially because the novel was not in the noir mode of Nate Heller and/or Quarry.

The same reaction came from self-professed “big fans” of one or both of those series who went out of their way to bemoan what a lousy job I did in their Amazon reviews. The other group (mostly in the UK) seemed to object to an old white male writing about a young white woman, and in particular that young woman have a positive relationship (and accepting help from) her middle-aged widower father.

These are knee-jerk far left complaints, in my view, which is somewhat ironic because Matt Clemens and I had knee-jerk far right complaints about Supreme Justice and its two sequels (for the same publisher as the Girl novels) on their publication.

These pans hurt the book, in spite of very respectable, even pretty damn good sales, and predominantly positive reviews. It’s made launching Girl Can’t Help It, the second book, harder than it should have been, even without the Corona Virus factoring in.

So I am pleased to announce that the Thriller Writers have nominated Girl Most Likely for Best Paperback Novel. Read about it here.

I have no illusions that I’ll win. But I feel I have a right to consider this a certain validation, particularly since it came from my peers. What’s interesting is that those who didn’t like the book often complained that it wasn’t a thriller (apparently multiple murders with a butcher knife just didn’t do it for them).

So thank you, Thriller Writers.

Thank you, actual fans (big and medium and small alike).

As to the rest of you, as Eric Cartman says, “F**k you guys, I’m going home.”

* * *

I am also pleased to see Publisher’s Weekly join in on the general acclaim for the new Mike Hammer. Here is that review:

Masquerade for Murder: A Mike Hammer Novel

Set in 1989, MWA Grand Master Collins’s competent 12th posthumous collaboration with Spillane (after 2019’s Murder, My Love) finds Mike Hammer still operating as a PI when the WWII vet would have been in his late 60s. That touch of realism allows Collins to dial back most of the extreme elements of the early Spillane novels. Outside a Manhattan restaurant, Mike spots Wall Street wunderkind Vincent Colby as he steps into the street and is clipped by a speeding red sports car. He’s only bruised, but is taken to the hospital, and his wealthy dad, Vance, hires Mike to unearth the perpetrator over Vincent’s fierce objections. Mike’s investigation, aided as always by his voluptuous secretary, Velda, soon leads to a trail of bodies, linked only by the bizarre method by which they were dispatched. Spillane fans will be pleased to see how well Collins captures the brash tone but everyman personality of the latter-day Hammer without trying to imitate the character’s infamous vigilante crusades of earlier years. Spillane (1918–2006) would be proud of how well Collins has maintained his legacy.

* * *

I have recently cut a deal with VCI and MVD (who brought out the Blu-ray double-feature of Mommy and Mommy’s Day recently) for distribution of the Mommy movies to streaming services. Mommy seems to have promptly popped up on Amazon Prime Video in some markets, but not all markets yet. Keep an eye peeled, because I think it’s free to Prime members.

* * *

All of the covers for the upcoming new Nolan (Skim Deep) and the reprint series from Hard Case Crime are gathered for your perusal right here…and you don’t even have to click a link

I have received some really fun missives from readers lately that I would like to share.

I’ll start with an actual handwritten letter from a retired police detective here in Muscatine. I will not use his name, but will say that he was the investigator on the case against my former Mommy producer, which came out favorably for us, and he appeared quite convincingly as a uniformed cop in my movie, Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

I am just starting Girl Can’t Help It. If it brings me as much joy as Girl Most Likely did, it will be great. It sent me back to my years as a police detective. The interviews were of most interest. (SPOILER ALERT) I got the feeling after the first one with the teacher, Mr. Stock, that he was much more than a person of interest. The way he said he wanted to mentor Astrid just did not sit right with me. (END SPOILER ALERT)

I have to admit you did a great job of making other persons look good for the murders. Maybe it’s my training or years of police work, but it made me feel good to know I can still see the telltale signs of a perp.

As long as I can read, I will try to get all the books the two of you right into my mental locker. Thanks for your talents when you write. Thanks for the part on the Lucas Street movie. I will always cherish my chance to serve you in the (REDACTED) case.

Here is one from a reader who signs himself RJM and who is actually (wait for it) older than me!

I loved your book (Do No Harm): my Dad was Chief Inspector of the War Department headquartered in the Terminal Tower starting in 1938. He was a Chicago guy and a newly wed navigating greater Cleveland.

In the early ‘80s I worked in the area covering three states for a company that no longer exists. So I thought I knew a lot about the area, but I learned a lot(I’ve never been in the Terminal Tower; I didn’t know about the Flat Iron Café, etc).

A great read well researched – I’m ordering True Detective and True Crime from Amazon soon. I’ve been a fan for about thirty years(I love Quarry and Nolan), but I’ve never read a Heller before. I’d love to review your books for Amazon (check out my review of An Eye for a Tooth by Dornford Yates). My only point of disagreement is Heller’s choice of beers – Hamm’s is fine but Cleveland beer in that era to me is always Drewery’s. Drewery’s had an enormous billboard ad just as you got on the highway coming up from the old Cleveland Stadium. As I kid I loved Mounties and horses and Drewery’s had both in their ads. Cleveland was probably Drewery’s largest metropolitan market. Thanks for countless hours of reading fun.

The unstoppable Tom Zappe sent me this:

I have just finished ordering what I call my “Literary Legacy” for my two grandkids aged 4 and 1.5 years respectively. They will not be able to begin to approach these books for another 10 or 12 years yet and I may well have made my trip to the gallows by then, so I’m assembling and delivering it to them and their parents within the next few weeks as they arrive from Amazon.

By and large these are books that I read [and later re-read] in my teens and later which put a distinct warp into my personality which remains unstraightened to this day. In all there about two dozen. They center mostly around the music, arts and entertainment field as especially found in New York and Hollywood in the Art Deco Era.

They include much biographical and autobiographical materiel of the likes of Mae West, Duke Ellington, Oscar Levant, Lillian Gish, Milton Berle, Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Groucho and Harpo Marx, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong and one of my all time favorites Alexander King who wrote four autobiographies, three of which are well worth reading and re-reading. (Note from MAC: I loved the King bios as a teenager.)

The Mark Twain autobiographies hold a place of special esteem among these works.

Although it’s not strictly about show business, I am also including Scarface and the Untouchable in this menagerie since it so thoroughly captures the era in which so much of this happened. Being able to put things in to the proper context is Paramount [or perhaps Universal]. I sometimes feel that I must have been in Show-Biz in my previous life.

I find it unlikely that we will see the likes of these people anytime again soon. Their style and personalities were [mostly] of their own making even among the Hollywood bunch. They didn’t need a press agent or focus group to tell them who they were.

All your readers have had, I’m sure, similar literary experiences worth passing on to their perhaps yet unborn descendants. This is my approach to seeing that the things I value might yet get a shot.

As a former viola player in the St. Louis Symphony once told me “There is nothing more subversive than a book. It can sit there for years apparently doing nothing, but once opened up it can change your world.”

* * *

Here’s a nice recommendation for volume one of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother. Apparently, however, for all these years, Terry Beatty has been a female….

And we’ll end with this nice look back at the film of Road to Perdition from the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

M.A.C.

9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend…

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

…staying home and reading my two new novels, Do No Harm and Girl Can’t Help It. Available in traditional hardcover and trade paperback respectively, and in easy-to-swallow e-book form.

And if you don’t feel you can go safely out to the movies anymore, why not stay in and watch Mommy and Mommy’s Day? I was thrilled to get this review from the top Blu-Ray review site of ‘em all, DVD Beaver (get your mind out of the gutter – it’s a Canadian web site!).

We’re getting some nice reviews on Girl Can’t Help It, with Do No Harm surprisingly not getting much play yet, though the trade reviewers love it. Those of you who received review copies will, I hope, begin posting reviews – some already have, though we’re at only 4 at Amazon at the moment on Do No Harm (three glowing, one anonymously trashing it) and Girl Can’t Help It is at 14, all very good (the worst is three stars and most are five). I’m grateful for this support and interest.

At the bottom of this update are links to some very strong Girl Can’t Help It reviews.

Barb and I (and Nate and Abby and the two grandkids) are taking the corona virus pandemic very seriously, as most of you likely are, too. Our habit (Barb and mine) is to take most meals out, since we work at home; but at present we are essentially in a semi-self-quarantine, going out only on supply runs – food, medicine, some work errands. Right now that’s a once-a-week thing.

We are both High Risk, probably me a little more than Barb, as I have underlying health issues, although all of those seem to be in check. This is a house full of books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and even laserdiscs, so we have plenty to amuse ourselves. And in the meantime work goes on and we may even wind up getting more done than usual.

I have cancelled a number of band gigs – leaving some outdoor ones on the books, for down the road. Even just last week when I inquired about whether an early June gig was still a go, the person who hired us seemed bewildered that I even brought it up – the committee hadn’t even discussed the matter…it wasn’t even on the radar.

Maybe now it is.

Just a week ago I declined a doctor’s check-up type visit and the nurse on the phone seemed bewildered at why I might not want to sit in a waiting room with a bunch of sick people. The facility where I get chiropractic and massages seemed mildly offended when I called to cancel my next visit and queried about what steps they were taking – they would call back, I was told. They haven’t.

That was days ago, admittedly. The reaction today might be different, since every day seems a (literal?) lifetime.

My bass player lives in nearby Iowa City, where the bulk of Iowa’s corona virus cases are located presently, so band rehearsal is off for a while. Barb and I have the luxury of already working at home and aren’t depending on regular paychecks to stay afloat on the short term.

She is working on Antiques Carry On (a visit to the UK is part of the plot) and I have just done the finishing touches on the Nolan, Skim Deep, going over the galleys, and have done the copy-edited manuscript of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. On the docket this week is a chapter of the Antiques book (I am revising the first four chapters before we break the rest of the novel down for Barb to do her drafts, while I go off and write the next Caleb York book). I also have an introduction to the second Ms. Tree collection to write for Titan, and Matt Clemens and I are working up a proposal for a new Reeder and Rogers novel (we met several weeks ago but are now operating long-distance, in the telephone sense among others). Last week Dave Thomas and I (also operating long-distance) did a revision on our novel proposal and sample chapters, responding to suggestions from our agent.

That’s one thing about being a professional writer, particularly if you’ve been around a while and have projects in the pipeline – there’s always work to do.

I urge you to stay in (and of course read my books to stay sane) and take whatever steps are necessary to weather this storm. I know some people think some of us are overreacting. I hope we are. The opposite approach is just too dangerous.

* * *

Skim Deep is a rather short novel, about the same length as several of the vintage Nolan books – probably around 55,000 words. So to plump up the physical book a little, and to advertise the forthcoming republication of the rest of the Nolans (in two books per volume format), editor/publisher Charles Ardai included the prologue and first two chapters of Bait Money, written fifty years ago.

I seldom go back and read my stuff – mostly, the last I see of them is when I read the galley proofs. I do like to listen to them as audio books, though I cringe now and then.


UK edition of Bait Money
Courtesy Existential Ennui

As it happens, I did revise Bait Money slightly when it came back out in the early ‘80s, and of any book I ever wrote, I spent more time working on (and re-working) that novel, in part because I was in college at the time and studying with Richard Yates at the Writers Workshop. Also, it was written (and re-written and re-written) on a manual typewriter. So I am familiar with it in a special way.

On the other hand, I had not revisited Bait Money since the early ‘80s. So reading those three chapters was an interesting experience. My takeaway was that in Bait Money I was pretty good at making it seem like I knew what I was doing, as opposed to Skim Deep, in which I really do know.

Stylistically, I am in that first Nolan novel one-third Richard Stark (mostly structure and subject matter), one-third James M. Cain (the ping-pong dialogue), and one-third Mickey Spillane (everything else). I always thought of myself as more of a combination of Stark, Cain, Spillane, Chandler, Hammett, McBain, and Thompson, with my own quirks mixed in to the degree that the influences didn’t stick out awkwardly. I think that’s probably more true of me today, though I would add Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie.

But seeing a Nolan story I have just written juxtaposed with three chapters of the first one (Mourn the Living sort of doesn’t count) was (if not a shock) a revelation. For better of worse, for all my influences, I am writing like Max Allan Collins now.

Bait Money will be available as part of a new edition of Two For the Money (which includes the immediate sequel, Blood Money).

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If you would like a signed copy of Do No Harm, there are some available, still at the pre-order price at VJ Books.

Jolene Grace has a lovely review of Girl Can’t Help It here.

Book Reporter likes Girl Can’t Help It, too. The write-up is mostly a lively plot summary, but the last paragraph is a wonderful mini-review in and of itself.

Always With a Book also likes Girl Can’t Help It.

So does that first-rate writer Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews.

Finally, here’s a nice little interview done with me at the Muscatine Journal on the occasion of the publication of Do No Harm and Girl Can’t Help It.

M.A.C.