Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Upcoming Titles, A Recommendation & A Couple Warnings

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022
Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction cover

I have received a handful of ARCs of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, the upcoming biography of Mickey by Jim Traylor and me. It’s a thing of beauty! Mysterious Press did an outstanding job with the packaging. I will soon be doing a book giveaway for a few copies (possibly five) of this trade paperback version of what will be available in hardcover on (note new pub date) Feb. 7, 2023.

The new Nate Heller, The Big Bundle, is delayed, a fact that has dismayed some readers. But the book exists and is in fact a December 2022 title…it’s just held up at the UK docks by a strike. It will be available on Dec. 6 on e-book.

Better news for those dying to read something by yours truly – the first Kindle boxed set from Wolfpack of my work, Max Allan Collins Collection Vol. One: Eliot Ness is a Kindle Deal running from Wednesday, November 30 to Wednesday, December 7, 2022. The price will be dropping from $3.99 to $0.99 during that time period. That’s a quarter a book, which is what I used to pay for new paperbacks when I was in junior high. This is all four of the Eliot Ness in Cleveland novels (Nate Heller guests in two of ‘em).

A Big Bundle book giveaway is coming soon, too. Remember, if you get the novel prior to its publication date (some of you received it via NetGalley), your review can’t appear till we hit that date.

I am working now on the final chapters of the next Heller, Too Many Bullets, about the RFK assassination. It’s a big book, on the lines of True Detective, and in a sense it’s the bookend to that first Heller memoir. It’s been very difficult, in part because of my health issues (doing better, thanks) but also because it’s one of the most complicated cases I’ve dealt with. It has required more time compression and composite characters than I usually employ, and I spend a lot of time discussing with Barb what’s fair and what isn’t fair in an historical novel. I’ve been writing those since 1981 and I still wrestle with that question.

Also, there has been replotting, which is not unusual in the final section of a Heller as the need to tighten up the narrative frequently means a sub-plot gets jettisoned, particularly one that doesn’t rear its head till the last hundred pages.

But I’ll tell you what’s really unfair: using Barb as a sounding board when she’s working on her own draft of the next Antiques novel (Antiques Foe).

I am also wrestling with (and I’ve mentioned this before in these updates) how long I should to stay at it with Heller. The degree of difficulty (as I’ve also mentioned before) is tough at this age. Right now I am considering a kind of coda novel (much like Skim Deep for Nolan and Quarry’s Blood for Quarry) that would wrap things up. The Hoffa story still needs a complete telling.

Should I go that direction, and should my health and degree of interest continue on a positive course, I might do an occasional Heller in a somewhat shorter format. Of course, the problem with that is these crimes are always more complex than I think they’re going to be. I thought The Big Bundle would be an ideal lean-and-mean hardboiled PI novel, perfect for Heller’s debut at Hard Case Crime. But the complexities of a real crime like the Greenlease kidnapping tripped me up. On the other hand, the book – probably a third longer than I’d imagined – came out very well. In my view, anyway.

And with Too Many Bullets, I thought the RFK killing would make a kind of envelope around the Hoffa story, maybe a hundred, hundred-fifty pages of material.

Wrong.

* * *

Last week I recorded (with Phil Dingeldein) the commentary of ClassicFlix’s upcoming widescreen release of The Long Wait, based on Mickey Spillane’s 1951 non-Hammer bestseller. I like the commentary better than my I, the Jury one and have been astonished by just how good I think both the film of I, the Jury and The Long Wait are, since I was used to seeing them in cropped, dubby VHS gray-market versions (and because Mickey himself hated them). Widescreen makes all the difference on Long Wait, and Anthony Quinn is a wonderful Spillane hardboiled hero.

I will report here on when the Blu-ray/4K release is scheduled. It won’t be as pricey as I, the Jury because the 3-D factor is absent.

* * *
Millie Bobbie Brown in Enola Holmes 2

Living under a rock as I do, I had somehow missed the fact that the Enola Holmes movies (there are two, one quite recent, both on Netflix) starred the talented Millie Bobbie Brown of Stranger Things. I also got it into my head that these were kid movies. Wrong again!

These are two excellent, quirky Sherlock Holmes movies, with Henry Cavill excellent as the young Holmes, and very tough films despite a light-hearted touch manifested by Enola (Brown, absolutely wonderful) breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. It’s tricky and charming, and reminiscent – but actually kind of superior – to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies.

Do not miss these.

Here’s one you can miss: Lou. A lesser Netflix flick, it stars the excellent Allison Janney and starts fairly well, but devolves into ridiculous plot twists and makes a bait-and-switch out of the entire movie.

Also, I have made it clear here that I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, particularly starting with Inglorious Bastards – prior to that, the self-conscious references to his favorite films were too on the nose for my taste, although I revisited them after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (a masterpiece) and had less trouble.

I don’t usually criticize other writers, but after trying to read his new book I am convinced Tarantino needs to stick to film, where he colors wildly but within the lines.

His Cinema Speculation is opinionated blather about ‘70s and ‘80s films that reminds us that Tarantino once worked at a video store. This is absolutely the kind of stuff a motormouth, know-it-all video clerk used to put us through when we were just trying to rent the damn movie.

* * *

This is a re-edit of an interview I gave to the Des Moines Register back in 2016 (I think). It’s not bad.

And here you can see a much younger me (and Chet Gould and Rick Fletcher) on the occasion of Dick Tracy’s 50th birthday.

M.A.C.

Cancellation, Liquidation & Other Heart-Stopping Adventures

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

Barb and I have had to cancel our Bouchercon registration and we are sad and sorry we won’t be seeing any of our friends and fans who might be in Minneapolis in a few weeks. The reason for this is discussed below, but I wanted to get the word out right now that we won’t be there (we’d been scheduled for several panels).

We’ve had our first review for the upcoming (Oct. 4) Antiques Liquidation. It’s from Publisher’s Weekly, and it’s a good one. Here it is:

Antiques Liquidation

Antiques Liquidation
Barbara Allan. Severn, $29.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5091-1

At the start of Allan’s madcap 16th Trash ’n’ Treasures mystery (after 2021’s Antiques Carry On), flamboyant septuagenarian Vivian Borne – honorary deputy sheriff of Serenity, Iowa, antiques dealer, and magnet for murder – awakens her long-suffering 33-year-old daughter, Brandy, at 2 a.m. for a questionable meeting early that same morning with sleazy auctioneer Conrad Norris to purchase dead stock (aka “old unused new merchandise”) for their shop. Vivian blithely ignores the dangers of entering a decrepit warehouse once owned by Lyle “the Liquidator” Dayton, who mysteriously disappeared years earlier. Vivian uses some dirt she has on Norris to blackmail him into letting her cherry-pick from the stock before he auctions it. When Norris ends up dead atop an elevator after the auction, Vivian is determined to solve the case. With a reluctant Brandy and her fiancé, Tony Cassato, Serenity’s chief of police, Vivian investigates a lengthy list of suspects with reason to kill the double-dealing auctioneer. Can Vivian and Brandy expose the murderer before he permanently liquidates them? Humorous asides and loads of antique lore will please series fans. Allan (the pen name of Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins) delivers the cozy goods. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary. (Oct.)

In addition to this being a nice review, it’s nice to be reviewed at all with an entry in a long-running series. Reviews no longer come automatically from the trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist) for the long-running Mike Hammer and Quarry novels, and we feel lucky for the attention.

In our local area, the news about Gary Sandy coming to town to star as Mike Hammer in a radio-style production of Encore for Murder has hit local media. Check it out.

In the meantime I have been working with my old pal Phil Dingeldein on other 75th Anniversary of Mike Hammer matters, specifically recording and editing a wraparound for the restored 1954 Brian Keith TV pilot that will be part of the ClassicFlix release of the 1953 version of I, the Jury. As I’ve mentioned here before, that release will really be something special – 4K, Blu-ray and (for those with capability) 3D. My commentary has been edited and is ready to go.

Additionally, Phil and I are working on the expanded version of my 1999 documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane. I’ve already recorded some material for that, and more will be shot here in my office. We’re expanding it from 47 minutes to around 60 and will be covering Mickey’s passing and what the Spillane Estate and I have done since then with Mickey’s unfinished work. We have a distributor interested in taking it out to the streaming services.

* * *

Despite my insistence last week that my discussing heading into the hospital was not a cry for sympathy – you may recall that sympathy can be found in the dictionary (between shit and syphilis) – a number of you wrote me anyway with your good wishes and support. Thank you for that, and it came in handier than I’d anticipated.

The cardioversion treatment for Afib – jump-starting your heart like an old Buick to get it back in proper rhythm – is a procedure I’ve had several times before, and never had to take much recovery time after. This was different. I was there for a long day, and am told the anesthetized me came off the hospital bed during two shock treatments like a bad comedy effect in a Bowery Boys movie.

Initially it didn’t take, and Barb and I sat in the very nice hospital room in Bettendorf, Iowa, feeling gloomy until, a couple of hours later, the doctor came in and looked at a monitor and pronounced the procedure had taken after all. That lifted our spirits at least as much as the shock treatment had me catapulting off the bed.

But this week has been a long slog. The burns from the paddles created a lot of discomfort by way of itchiness and while my heartbeat was behaving, I remained short of breath and really, really fatigued and flu-ishly achy. Among other things, I considered cancelling my band job on Sunday (it’s Sunday as I write this) and – as indicated above – we had already decided, with my doctor’s prompting, to cancel attending Bouchercon at Minneapolis in a few weeks.

Like Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films, however, every day in every way I’ve been getting better and better. With Barb and Nate set to help me load and set up my band equipment – and with God favoring us with nice weather for the outdoor event – my band Crusin’ (including me) will be playing later this afternoon.

Crusin' at Sunday Night Series 2022
Crusin’ at Second Sunday Summer Concert Series, August 2022

The band has one more date this year – the Ice Cream Social next Sunday at the Muscatine Art Center – and that will be it…maybe the final two Crusin’ dates period. I have a dream of doing one more CD and presenting it in a farewell appearance, but that may not happen.

Right now I’m happy just to be able to perform. Our previous gig, two Sundays ago (a private party), was where I got really sick and stupidly didn’t recognize that I was in Afib. The reason for that lack of recognition is that Afib symptoms are pretty much identical to Covid symptoms. By the way, anybody over 70 already has most of those symptoms every effing day whether they have Covid or not.

Finally, on this subject, let me apologize for being a big crybaby. My God, what I went through this week was nothing compared to the bad shit thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of my fellow humans suffer every day. So my embarrassed apologies.

* * *

I’ve had some very positive things to say about some of the movies and limited series that Barb and I have watched on various streaming services, and we continue to make nice discoveries.

For example, I had no idea Christopher Guest had done another film in the vein of Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show – favorites of ours – but Mascots appears to have been around since 2016. Apparently it went directly to Netflix, which we didn’t have at the time.

Mascots operates on the Best in Show template, a competition in an arena this time showcasing sports mascots. While Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are noticeably absent – they’d have been up Schitt’s Creek at the time – most of the other Guest regulars are present, including the great Fred Willard (now sadly gone), Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Don Lake, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban and John Michael Higgins, among others. Chris O’Dowd from Guest’s HBO series Family Tree is onboard too, and Spinal Tap’s Harry Shearer is the stadium announcer.

Though easily the least of the Guest mockumentaries, it’s still a joy if you like the others. The presentations of the routines by the mascots are beautifully staged, and Guest again walks his unique line between mocking and loving the characters so deeply involved into something inherently absurd. You know, like life.

So that was a nice discovery. Not so nice were the experiences of two series that caught us up and then, boy, let us down. Hard.

The first season of Picard was fine – not on a par with the recent Star Trek – Strange New Worlds, but a Firefly-like set-up with interesting new characters supporting Jean Luc Picard and just enough visits from the Next Generation cast to warm a trekker’s heart.

And then came the second season.

I can sum it up best by saying that Barb – at least as big a Roddenberry-era Trek fan as I am – bailed two-thirds through. Most of the new characters were back but in needlessly reworked fashion. I can’t critique this in detail because I’ve washed most of it from my memory – what I mostly recall is the cast being separated off into groups of two and wandering around a 21st Century city (it’s time travel) uttering meandering dialogue. The worst Trek I’ve ever endured.

The powers-that-be seem to know it, as the third (and announced final season of Picard) is going to feature the original Next Generation cast.

Then there’s The Old Man. I had avoided this FX series because it was a little too Quarry-like in its set-up (that kind of thing always annoys me) and even had several episodes directed by the main Quarry director. But we got caught up in it immediately, with both Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow excellent in a story that had a long-retired CIA agent forced out of retirement. And the first four episodes are compelling, just riveting…and then at first gradually and then picking up speed as it heads off the cliff, this initially fine show goes to crap.

This appears to have happened for a couple of reasons. My understanding is that initially the episodes were faithful to the source novel by Thomas Perry. Then, apparently, it veered away because, you know, what does the person who created the thing know, anyway?

But Covid is at least an accomplice in this descent into Shitistan. Originally scheduled for ten episodes, The Old Man became seven episodes when it shut down, a period during which Bridges got Covid among other even more daunting ailments. He recovered, but the show didn’t. And a good share of it is reflective of Covid precautions: much, much time is spent with people riding and talking in the front seats of cars.

And while Bridges can seemingly do no wrong as an actor, Lithgow goes from understated to full on ham, as he tries to salvage things from a script that makes so little sense the actors appear embarrassed. What began as a fine performance by Alia Shawkat in the first half of the season becomes an almost desperate cry for an acting coach. Not her fault. Bad script. Dismal direction.

My review to Barb, who somehow didn’t bail although her growing disgust became apparent, was to blow a Bronx cheer. A guy my age could really, really use those seven hours back.

* * *

The articles about the film of Road to Perdition just keep coming. Here’s a nice one.

We’re here, too.

And finally this really smart review of The Girl Most Likely (and my definition of smart is, of course, that the reviewer liked the book).

M.A.C.

Mike Hammer, John Shaft & James M. Cain

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022
Kill Me If You Can Audiobook cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Audiobook: Google Play Audiobook Store

Coming in August, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, is Kill Me If You Can, the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel (Hammer debuted in I, the Jury in 1947). It includes five Spillane/Collins short stories, two of which are Mike Hammer, both significant additions to the canon.

Kill Me If You Can will also appear on audio, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki, who for the past several Hammer novels has performed the impossible task of stepping in after Stacy Keach. The five short stories are included.

I have now done the commentary for the ClassicFlix Blu-ray 4K/3-D release of the 1953 I, the Jury. I think it went well, although I can’t compete with the likes of Tim Lucas and Tom Weaver (much less Eddie Muller) in their Blu-ray commentaries. Lucas and Weaver and Muller are always extremely well-prepared and organized, while I just watch what’s on the screen and blather on about all the useless information I’ve gathered and opinions I’ve formed over the years. I worked with my pal and partner Phil Dingeldein on this one – he shares credit but no blame. The Blu-ray comes out in early December.

Phil and I are preparing to shoot new material for an expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1999) documentary as well as introductory material for the Brian Keith/Blake Edwards written-directed 1954 Mike Hammer pilot, which will be a bonus feature on the I, the Jury disc.

We are in the early stages of mounting an amateur stage production of Encore for Murder and are hoping to entice Gary Sandy to come to Muscatine, Iowa, to again play Mike Hammer. A few years ago, Gary starred as Mike in pro productions of Encore in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Clearwater, Florida. The play is performed in the style of a ‘40s radio show. Much more to follow, but the date to save is September 17.

A reminder – the Kindle editions of the two books in my Krista and Keith Larson series, Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It, are on sale this month – right now through July 31. You can buy them as a pair for $1.98, or 99-cents each.

They are not on sale, but both Girl novels are also available on audio, read by my other favorite Collins narrator, Dan John Miller. [The Girl audiobooks are only $1.99 each if you own the eBooks. –Nate]

* * *

If you swing by here now and then – or, God help you, on a regular basis – you will have noticed I seldom review books but frequently talk about movies and TV – of late, streaming mini-series more than anything. This week is no exception.

But first let me explain that I am indeed still reading books. Right now I am swimming in them, preparing to write Too Many Bullets, the RFK Heller novel that will cover both Jimmy Hoffa and Sirhan Sirhan. I am dizzy from it and driving Barb nuts with my ever-shifting notions about how I will approach this thing.

The degree of difficulty may make this the final Nate Heller novel, or at least one of such size and sweep. I can imagine doing shorter ones, more the length of a Quarry or Caleb York, which if Heller’s home remains Hard Case Crime makes sense. But the upcoming The Big Bundle was meant to be a “short” Heller and it ran over 400 pages in manuscript. As we say in the funnies, Sigh.

During intense research phases, little recreational reading happens. My brain wants something less proactive than reading, hence film and TV. I do read before bed and chip away at books. And my ambition is to read the entire Tarzan series by Burroughs and dig seriously into the complete Race Williams stories by Carroll John Daly and also the Zorro stories by Johnston McCulley. I read most of Burroughs’ Tarzan novels as a kid, but only recently have the complete Race Williams and Zorro stories been collected in book form.

Also on my reading list are books on Anthony Mann’s crime films, the handful of Willam March-penned novels I haven’t got to, a few remaining items by F. Hugh Herbert (creator of Corliss Archer), and autobiographies of Mel Brooks, Chuck Berry and Brian Cox. I’m also salivating to read Hell’s Half Acre about Kate Bender, one of my favorite true crimes of the Lizzie Borden era.

Am I alone in noticing that time is the enemy?

On the streaming front, Barb and I greatly enjoyed The Dropout, the jaw-dropping story of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-exam scam. Stranger Things wrapped up in excruciatingly self-indulgent over-stuffed style – the Duffer brothers have got to stop writing teen romance! – but the horror aspects remained strong. And Star Trek: Stranger Worlds ended its season boldly going, and we continue to consider it the best post-Shatner/Nimoy/Kelley iteration.

Of course I am a hopeless addict of physical media, and snapped up two great Criterion 4K Blu-rays on their current Barnes & Noble 50% off sale – Shaft (1971) and Double Indemnity (1944).

Shaft is one of my favorite private eye films and it shows what might have been done with a Mike Hammer film had it been shot on gritty NYC locations (the 1982 I, the Jury remake comes close). Richard Roundtree is the most charismatic screen private eye since Bogart, and the Issac Hayes score ties with Mancini’s Peter Gunn for best P.I. theme. It’s really a pretty standard private eye yarn and very much on the Mike Hammer template – Shaft has a Homicide detective pal who scolds and yet uses him, and there’s a regular girl friend who the detective cheats on without a twinge, the violence is shocking and the P.I. is almost supernaturally tough, though he gets beat up before the end. Standard. But the Black twist on everything, those stark NYC locations, the pulsing soul score, the magnetic Roundtree…changes everything.

The movie looks great, sounds better, and the bonus features go on forever, though none of the experts mention Mike Hammer (the original hardcover novel had presented Shaft as the Black Mike Hammer) with no sense of the debt to Spillane on display here. There’s lots of feminist blather from a Black perspective, apologizing and rationalizing for what if this were a Hammer film would be labeled misogyny. But there’s a lot of good bonus material just the same, with Roundtree and Gordon Parks interviewed and much more. That includes the snappy quick sequel, Shaft’s Big Score (1972), on Blu-ray; it lacks the grit of the first film but has an incredible if absurd climax. Sadly M.I.A. is the underrated Shaft in Africa (1973). And if I’d have been in charge I’d have cherry-picked an example of the short-lived Shaft TV series, the episodes of which were movie length.

Double Indemnity blu ray cover

James M. Cain was one of the four writers who (sixty years ago) inspired me to go down the hardboiled path (the others being Hammett, Chandler and Spillane). Double Indemnity is generally considered the best of the screen versions, and was Cain’s own favorite. I could build a case for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) because it really does have a love story at its twisted heart. Double Indemnity, wonderful though it is, is cold at the center. Ironically (intentionally), the real love story is between Fred MacMurray’s Walter Neff and Edgar G. Robinson’s Barton Keyes, the insurance investigator who leads Neff and Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrich to their well-deserved fates.

It’s a great film, with Raymond Chandler’s crackling dialogue staying just to one side of self-parody; then there’s the prison-stripe window-blinds cinematography of John Sietz and march-to-doom direction of Billy Wilder. As Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon did with the private eye novel, Double Indemnity seems to invent, define and perfect the post-war film noir. Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith do right by the film in their terrific bonus-feature discussion (accomplished by editing together craftily two sides of a chat shot in separate locations).

I disagree with them on only one thing: they describe both Neff and Phyllis as sociopaths. I think Double Indemnity is a dance between a guy who’s been getting away with things and a woman who’s been getting away with murder. There’s a throwaway line very early on where MacMurray mentions having sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door; this is code for the traveling salesman who is on the make for available housewives. He sizes Stanwyck up as one of those, with no idea how in over his head he is. He’s a regular guy with a sleazy streak who gets pulled into a murder plot because (a) he’s hot for the dame, and (b) he’s always dreamed of putting one over on the insurance company he works for. Stanwyck, on the other hand, has immediately sized him up as a horndog who is a perfect candidate for the inside-man accomplice she needs.

Muller and Smith discuss the difference between Cain’s novel dialogue and Chandler’s film dialogue, and are again on the money; but they don’t share the key anecdote in full.

Here’s what Cain himself said in that regard: “When they were making Double Indemnity in Hollywood, Billy Wilder complained that Raymond Chandler was throwing away my nice, terse dialogue; he got some student actors in from the Paramount school, coached them up, to let Chandler hear what it would be like if he would only put exactly what was in the book in his screenplay. To Wilder’s utter astonishment, it sounded like holy hell. Chandler explained to Wilder what the trouble was that Cain’s dialogue is written to the eye. That ragged right-hand margin that is so exciting and wonderful to look at can’t be recited by actors. Chandler said, ‘Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dialogue it with the same spirit Cain has in the book but not the identical words.’ Wilder still didn’t believe him. They got me over there, purportedly to discuss something else, but the real reason was that Wilder hoped I would contradict Chandler, and somehow explain what had evaporated. But, of course, I bore Chandler out….”

* * *

Lots of lists of the best Film Noirs have popped up lately, but this one is solid, and does a fine job discussing Kiss Me Deadly. And, of course, Double Indemnity is on it.

M.A.C.

Caleb York Nominated

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek cover
Hardcover: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
Paperback: Indiebound Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook Libro.fm Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

I’m pleased to say that my Caleb York novel – Shoot-out at Sugar Creek – has been nominated for a Scribe award.

Original Novel — General
Patient Zero, Amanda Bridgeman (Aconyte)
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Kensington)
Debonair in Death, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley)

Winners will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con July 22, 2022. A full list of nominees in all categories is at the IAMTW.

This is a bittersweet but much appreciated honor. For whatever reason, neither the Spur nor Peacemaker Awards from the Western Writers of America and the Western Fictioneers respectively have ever honored the Caleb York novels. (I should say we did get a Best Novel nomination for The Legend of Caleb York from the Fictioneers, but nothing since.)

I would imagine I’m viewed as an interloper, a mystery/crime novelist moving in on their territory. It’s been a fun ride nonetheless. Kensington has not asked for more Caleb York novels, and I am making no approaches to other publishers, though the York sales have been strong enough to make that possible. It’s just that my goal for Caleb York was to fashion a novel from Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Saga of Cali York, written for John Wayne. I only did more novels because Kensington requested them, and, hey, who am I to turn down work?

But at this stage of the game, I’m starting to question that question. I am embarking on what may be the final Nate Heller novel, the potentially massive Too Many Bullets, and will likely be spending most of the rest of this year on it. My health is fine, considering the underlying factors, but I am particular about what projects I take on at this point.

It’s hard for me to walk away from a series. I really loved writing Caleb York, as I’ve been a fan of movie and TV westerns since early childhood – admittedly less so of western fiction. But those six novels satisfied a creative itch and I’m pleased to go out on a Scribe nomination. The paperback of it is coming in October.

The Scribes honor writers of movie novelizations and TV tie-ins, as well as authors continuing characters begun by famous writers like Robert B. Parker, Edgar Rice Burroughs and, yup, Mickey Spillane. This is the first time I’ve submitted a Caleb York novel to the Scribes, as members are limited to one submission in a category, and previously I submitted Mike Hammer novels to the General Fiction category (winning several times, I’m pleased to say).

Those keeping score may recall that Lee Goldberg and I founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) a decade and a half ago. Lee, having more class than me, never submitted his work to the awards given by an organization he co-founded. I, of course, having no shame, have been a frequent nominee and occasional winner.

The reason why I have no shame is that the real shame goes to the writing organizations (you know who you are) that have ignored tie-in writing throughout their existence, as if the talented writers creating novels and short stories in their respective fields (science fiction, mystery fiction, horror, western) didn’t exist at all.

I know from the mail I’ve received over the years (snail and e-) that most readers don’t make that distinction. The role that Star Trek and Star Wars novels played in keeping those franchises alive during periods when Hollywood’s versions lay fallow cannot be overestimated. My publishers frequently mention that I am the author of Saving Private Ryan and Air Force One (among others) without bothering to mention they are novelizations. Until the recent Reeder & Rogers political trilogy came along, my CSI novels (written, like that trilogy, with my gifted co-writer Matthew Clemens) were my bestselling mystery/crime novels…and introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to my work.

So I am proud to be co-founder of the IAMTW, and will bear up under the shame of participating in their awards.

* * *
Sam Elliot in 1883

Speaking of westerns, among the streaming series Barb and I have been watching is 1883, which is supposedly a prequel to the very popular Yellowstone. We tried the latter and somewhere in the second season got irritated with it, so we avoided the prequel for a while. We shouldn’t have.

My love for Sam Elliot as perhaps our last great western icon in the Hollywood sense finally prompted us to watch, and it’s a fine show – tough, heart-felt, and more historically accurate than most. (Really it should be set at least ten years earlier, but apparently that would screw up its prequel-to-Yellowstone timeline.) Everyone on this series is good, but Elliot seems to sense this is a career-capper and his rock-hard surface hiding tender humanity – he is sort of the ultimate “tough love” advocate – sums up everything we admire about his work.

1883 is on Paramount-Plus, and I’m finding it the best of the handful of streaming services of which I partake. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to honor the memory and approach of Roddenberry while updating it. Barb and I glance at each other every episode and at some point one of us says, “Can you believe it’s 2022 and we’re watching new Star Trek?”

And real Star Trek at that.

The Offer wrapped up very well. Having read a bit about the actual filming of The Godfather, I am aware a certain amount of sugarcoating, not to mention artistic license, is afoot here. But I was shocked by the swells of emotion I felt in the knowledge that the characters have achieved their goals and were about to go on with their lives without me. For me, Miles Teller is the standout in a cast that I would have to say is flawless (well, the Sinatra guy could have been better).

Also viewed streaming (it’s available a couple of places) is a three-and-a-half-hour Bollywood movie my son badgered me to watch – RRR. It is an absolutely bonkers action spectacle that makes Raiders of the Lost Arc look like a documentary about archeology. They fight, they sing, they dance, they romance, they make sure we know the Brits were stinkers. It’s absurd and childish and sophisticated and three hours and a half just blow by. I cannot do RRR justice, other than to say – don’t leave the planet before you’ve experienced it. (My favorite scene had to do with the massive cages of wild beasts being unleashed on a British nighttime garden party.)

You’re welcome.

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One of the things about writing a weekly blog, with a specific deadline, is that everything else can get in the way.

Today I have to prep for the commentary I’m doing tomorrow morning (at Phil Dingeldein’s studio in Rock Island) for the ClassicFlix 4K Blu-ray (and 3-D) release of the 1953 I, the Jury, something I had only dreamed might one day happen. But the prep will not be easy, as there is much to discuss.

Last week I was in a foul mood and did not feel well, and dragged myself through this bloggy process. And if it showed, well, you’re not paying anything for this. Don’t bitch.

However. I performed the kind of screw-up I am well-known among my friends and associates (not mutually exclusive groups) for performing: I posted the four gigs of my band Crusin’ this summer and managed to leave out one of those dates, while thoughtfully including the times and places. You can’t have everything.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

Before I present the revised schedule, I’ll mention that Crusin’ appeared last Friday night (June 24) at Ardon Creek Winery. It’s a lovely outdoor venue, and we were pretty good. The crowd was even better, numbering in the hundreds. A taco truck fed their tummies, and we fed their souls. It was fun, and I felt good throughout, relieved that my age had not dulled my rock ‘n’ roll skills appreciably since last year.

We had not appeared at Ardon Creek, one of our favorite venues, since pre-Covid, so it felt like a reunion. Barb was there – she helps me set up and tear down – and my son Nate, his wife Abby and their two kids Sam and Lucy came and capered on the surrounding green landscape that makes this particular venue so special.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

I know these updates go out to readers, fans and friends all over the country, all over the world really, and what follows is strictly for Eastern Iowa and thereabouts. But here’s the rest of Crusin’s season:

Saturday July 2 we’re at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 p.m. On the patio, inside in case of rain.

Sunday August 14 it’s the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s indoors, weather allowing outside in the parking lot. 6 to 8 p.m.

Sunday Aug 21 2022 – the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, 1 till 4 p.m. 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

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Here’s a nice John Sand review.

This piece looks at Road to Perdition on Netflix.

You have to scroll down a ways, but this is an in depth look at several of the Nolan novels, including the recent Skim Deep. [Note: the link is a PDF-format Internet magazine. The homepage is here.—Nate] The writer is very self-confident, smart and talky, but careless (my middle name is “Allen” in the first piece, and Richard Stark, it seems, writes about “Porter”). But it’s a deeper dive (a current term I despise) than Nolan is usually given.

Here’s a Spillane WW 2-era comic book story I didn’t know about!

M.A.C.