Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Leighton, Jimmy Leighton

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021
The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton

Here’s a first glimpse at the stunning Fay Dalton cover of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me (both Fay and her cover are stunning, by the way). You can pre-order it here either on Kindle ($3.99) or as a physical media thingie, which I like to call a “book” ($8.99). The price points of both are excellent, obviously, but the physical media thingie is something of a steal.

The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton is not a novella, like Fancy Anders Goes to War, but a full-length 90,000-word novel. Yes, my co-author indeed is the Dave Thomas from SCTV and much else. I’ll talk about it at more length later, but it’s a hybrid of s-f and crime novel, contemporary not futuristic.

And if you haven’t tried Fancy Anders Goes to War yet, it’s $2.99 on Kindle and a paltry $6.99 for a physical media thingie. It’s also going to be released as an audio book by Sky Boat, but more about that another time.

Once again, the meat of the sandwich this week is another chapter in my literary memoir, A Life in Crime, the first of three entries that will discuss collaboration, leading up to a piece on how Dave and I came to write Jimmy Leighton together. This week it’s how Barb and I work on the Antiques novels and other fiction projects.

* * *

We made a rare excursion to a movie theater on Sunday morning, choosing the time because it would likely be slow, which it was. Our son Nate came with us and it was his first pandemic era trip to the flicks. We bought an extra seat to protect ourselves. Why the effort?

I was determined to see the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die. In my entire strange life, I have never not seen the new James Bond movie within a day or two of its release. I won’t discuss No Time to Die in detail because it has many surprises and nice moments that should be experienced and not spoiler-ed for you.

Having worked with Matt Clemens on the three John Sand novels (an exciting announcement coming about those soon), I was particularly attuned to what the Bond producers were up to on this fifth Daniel Craig entry. Let’s get this out of the way: I loved it. It is long – two hours and 43 minutes – but the only reason that was a problem was how tired we got sitting through 45 minutes of mostly commercials and a few previews. Clearly movie theaters are scrambling for income, so I understand why money from advertisers helps staunch the bleeding. But with a film this long, it’s like being forced to read an endlessly long ransom note.

Don’t let the running time put you off. It’s mostly earned. You may want to do what Barb and I did – we binged on the previous four Daniel Craig episodes, one per night, over four nights. This cycle of Bond films is unique because it really does have a through line – is, in a way, one story.

Daniel Craig has risen to the number two Bond spot for me – there is still only one real Bond, James Bond and that’s Connery, Sean Connery – and edging past Timothy Dalton. Craig could have phoned it in but instead gives the best performance of his run. These five films telling one episodic narrative gives them a special place and unusual power in the Bond film canon.

Daniel Craig in No Time to Die

I met Daniel Craig at a Road to Perdition pre-premiere party in London. I chatted with him about the real Connor Looney (Rooney in the film) and he was charming and had a lovely sense of humor. Yes, I am name-dropping. I only wish I’d known at the time I was meeting the next James Bond.

Barb and I watched the four Craig films on 4K HD Blu-rays and they were eye-popping. We are now watching the first four Star Trek movies on that same glorious format, and I am tempted to say I knew Leonard Nimoy a little, but that would be obnoxious. Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett, too. Walter (a longtime friend) was almost in Mommy and Majel was.

Anyway, Barb and I were reminded how much we love the much unloved Star Trek – The Motion Picture. It’s hard to explain to anyone who didn’t faithfully watch the TV show and long to see it return for about a decade a half what it was like, at the time, to see that film on a great big movie screen. Which Barb and I did four times (and I did five times) (total of five – I’m not a lunatic!). I understand that it plays slow, but for the Trek fan in 1979 every glorious moment of that trip around the exterior of the Enterprise was a religious experience. A very dumb religious experience, I grant you. The story itself is classic Trek.

In all the Trek movies, Shatner does the best Shatner on the planet, and Nimoy’s Spock is one of the great TV/movie recurring characters of all time – it’s really an amazing, smart, nuanced performance. By the way, I love that Shatner is going into space even more than I hate gazillionaires playing rocket man.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is still terrific, decades later. Why does Spock’s death scene work so well even when you know Nimoy was going to make four more movies, not counting the reboot or Next Generation appearances? But it does.

* * *

Here’s another interview on the Fancy Anders virtual tour, featuring looks at Fay Dalton’s art and a preview of Chapter One.

And another interview here.

And here’s one more. I do my best to put different stuff in all of these interviews, though of course I fail miserably.


Quarry in Feb, Fancy Anders Coming, and Billy Bob Thornton

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

News flashes hot off the wires….

If you have pre-ordered Quarry’s Blood, be advised that due to printing, shipping and customs delays, the new Quarry novel from Hard Case Crime won’t be arriving in stores until February 2022.

The publication of Fancy Anders Goes to War is imminent, and both the Kindle e-book and the physical book can be pre-ordered now. I will probably not see the latter until right around publication date, but I am very pleased (obviously) with Fay Dalton’s great cover and the general layout of the book.

Again, the e-book of Fancy will have full color illos (a few are mostly black-and-white with dabs of color) while the “real” book will have the illos in black-and-white. The hope is that after the other two Fancy novellas appear (Fancy Anders For the Boys and Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood, which also feature Fay Dalton covers and illustrations), all three will be gathered in a single book with the illos in color and likely in a larger format.

You can order Fancy Anders Goes to War right here. (E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link, Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link) You can only find it on line, not in brick-and-mortar stores.

Also, over the weekend Dave Thomas, publisher John Schoenfelder and I decided that there would be two covers for NeoText’s also fairly imminent The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton. Fay Dalton has already completed her stunner, and another is being put together from roughs by Dave (with my input) for an alternate cover. You will be able to choose which cover will adorn your copy of the book. (Jimmy is not yet available for pre-order on Amazon, but its publication is soon – October 25).

All ten copies of the Wolfpack edition of Bombshell by Barb and me are now spoken for, so the book giveaway for that title is over. Books will go out within the week. Barb and I will sign them all.

Again, the meat of the sandwich this week is the next installment my ongoing memoir, A Life in Crime, at the great NeoText web site. This week it’s the story of how Road to Perdition came to be and is again lavishly illustrated. I’d like to acknowledge Al Guthrie of NeoText who has been putting these together beautifully.

Next week will be part seven and focus on Fancy Anders on the very week of Fancy Anders Goes to War being published. Coincidence or evil plan? You tell me.

Initially, this was to end this run of A Life in Crime for now, with appropriate installments to be written and appearing in support of future books. But I decided to keep going with this essays right up to the publication of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, so three more installments are (as they delicately say) in the can.

* * *
Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath

Billy Bob Thornton is one of my favorite actors – one of my favorite creative people, period.

Sling Blade (1996) is a masterpiece of indie filmmaking and proof that story and performance are more important than cinematic flash. Thornton’s limited budget made it necessary to shoot his film almost entirely in master shots (wide shots). Despite its lack of moody lighting effects and camera angles, it’s a solid example of film noir.

And I can never find Thornton in that performance. He has disappeared into Karl so thoroughly, the character seems to exist apart from the actor.

Like Orson Welles and John Cassavetes, Thornton has alternated parts in more commercial films with artier fare and the ability to record and perform with his rock band, Boxmasters. Along the way he has starred in some films I like very much – the two Bad Santa movies and the Coen Brothers’ James M. Cain pastiche, The Man Who Wasn’t There – and he knocked the ball out of the park in the first season of the FX miniseries Fargo as Lorne Malvo, a hitman who might be a physical manifestation of the devil.

I mention my like of Thornton primarily to recommend his series Goliath on Amazon Prime. Barb and I are half-way through the fourth and announced final season of this series about a once very successful attorney now an alcoholic shambles of his former self who nonetheless is able to pull himself together to play David against various corporate Goliaths. I’m not sure you need to watch the previous seasons to enjoy this final one. Each season has its own flavor and the second season, although I liked it, soured some viewers.

But overall it’s a great series, in a streaming world where we are hit with so many choices it’s easy to miss some of the really good things. And this fourth season, as far as I’ve seen at least, is outstanding. Thornton directs the first episode with the kind of noir-ish flare that is missing from Sling Blade (although frankly it might have ruined the effect of that low-key classic).

Much of the fourth season takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown, as if to dare you not to make the connections between it and the great film of that name. It also consciously invokes Vertigo, which takes guts. By which I mean balls.

And yet so far, they’re pulling it off.

And it has Bruce Dern in it. If that doesn’t make you smile, we have nothing in common.

Billy Bob has been married six or seven times, has phobias about antique furniture and silverware, is a huge fan of My Little Pony, and much other weirdness. And I don’t care. He’s a national treasure.

* * *

Fancy Anders Goes to War, while not a graphic novel, is attracting a lot of attention in the comics world, thanks largely to artist Fay Dalton’s contribution and maybe a little bit because of my comics connections.

IGN has nice coverage here.

John Siuntres’ Word Balloon podcast has an interview with me, and he’s knowledgeable, which made it a pleasure.

This is an especially lively video podcast with Al Mega and C.V.R. the Bard. I had a great time with this one.

And J. Kingston Pierce at the definitive mystery/crime fiction blog, The Rap Sheet, has taken notice of what we’ve been up to here recently.


The Book Giveaway Suspense Is Killing Me

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

The time has come…for another book giveaway.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! —Nate]

Suspense His and Hers giveaway copies

The book, which publisher Wolfpack describes (accurately) with a secondary title of “Tales of Love and Murder,” collects short stories written by Barb, by me, and both of us together. It’s about 300 pages and includes some of our best stories, including the recent “Amazing Grace” by me and “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” by mostly Barb. The Edgar-nominated Ms. Tree short story, “Louise,” is included, and two Quarry short stories, “Guest Service” and “Quarry’s Luck.”

This is a new collection, a follow-up to Murder – His & Hers (also available from Wolfpack) – and is a plump 300 pages or so. The cover is terrific. I remain very impressed with the packaging that Wolfpack is coming up with.

The point of the exercise is for us to generate reviews in particular at Amazon (the e-book is exclusive to Kindle). We encourage you to support not just us – or us when we send you a free book – by any authors whose work you enjoy through online reviews. That can sound intimidating, but reviews can range from a line or two to lengthy looks. The point (from an author’s POV) is to build the “star” rating up for titles and get more readers to try your work.

That’s why I release you from your obligation, in a book giveaway, to do a review if you hate the book (although of course you still can if you choose).

* * *
Nolan cover collage from Neotext article.
Image taken from NeoText. See the article linked below for much more.

For the weeks running up to the Oct. 5 publication of Fancy Anders Goes to War I am devoting the time usually spent here to doing an essay on something or other to an installment of my serialized literary memoir, A Life in Crime, at the excellent web site of Fancy’s publisher, NeoText.

Response to the first installment – “Why Mystery?” – has been excellent.

This week I focus on “Nolan.”

Read it here.

* * *

The other big project for NeoText is The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me. I spent much of the weekend going over the final galleys of this 90,000 word novel.

I am not always the best judge, but this feels like a very special novel, combining elements of noir on the one hand and science-fiction on the other. I should add that its time frame is contemporary and not futuristic. I will have more to say about this one soon.

* * *
Reminiscence promo photo

Speaking of noir/s-f hybrids, Reminiscence (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max) is a good one, despite its lousy Rotten Tomatoes ranking. Visually stunning, the film has an effective Hugh Jackman at its center and the always interesting actress Rebecca Ferguson as a mysterious femme fatale. It consciously invokes both Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (there’s a Velda and also revenge) and Vertigo, and alternates between moody mystery and action thriller.

The dialogue is more than a little arch, and it does occasionally trip over itself in a Chandler-esque narration (minus any humor), but if you can forgive it that, it’s a worthwhile, even haunting experience. The machinations of the plot are clever and it’s a rare film that gets better as it goes along.

Also streaming right now, on Hulu, is the six-part documentary, McCartney 3,2,1 starring (obviously) Paul McCartney and record producer Rick Rubin. The emphasis is on The Beatles with some side trips to McCartney’s solo work and Wings. It’s basically an informal interview centered around revisiting (and fooling around inside) the mixes of various tracks (mostly Beatles). Rubin proves a knowledgeable questioner, though with his bird’s nest bushy white beard he comes across alternately as a homeless guy who wandered in while McCartney waits for the cops to answer his 911 call and a wide-eyed goofball sitting cross-legged before a bemused guru.

That aside, it’s a wonderful ride and, for an aging Baby Boomer like me, a nostalgic trip that invokes grins and tears and all stops between. McCartney comes across as unpretentious and a very successful idiot savant of a musical genius who has a clear-eyed view of what he’s accomplished, and a sense of the luck and magic involved in these four Liverpool kids coming together.

While Yoko is barely invoked, it’s clear Paul and John loved each other, were two puzzle pieces that fit together into one amazing picture, and the break-up of the group (which we all know was Yoko’s fault and I don’t want to talk about it) hurt McCartney deeply. Both Lennon and McCartney did brilliant work apart, but rarely the equal of their collaborations, even when one was mostly just looking over the other one’s shoulder.

Most fascinating is how McCartney has become a self-professed Beatles fan himself now, appreciating the synergy of the group, and how he reflects on his old view that he was making music with a “bloke” named John but now understands he was making music with John Lennon.


My Life in Crime Begins

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

For the next seven weeks, leading up to the publication by NeoText of Fancy Anders Goes to War – as both a Kindle e-book and trade paperback – I will be writing a kind of literary memoir about my various book series.

These will be fairly in-depth essays of around 2500 words each. Installments on Nolan, Quarry, Heller, Ms. Tree and Road to Perdition will culminate in a piece about Fancy Anders. They will appear at the NeoText web site – a very entertaining affair with in particular great material about film, particularly the genre stuff from the last seventy years or so that has tended to get lost in the shuffle.

NeoText has invited me to continue writing these essays in support of other books of mine that will be appearing over the next several years, not necessarily published by them. It’s very generous and is allowing me to sum things up about my writing life in a more focused manner than the (I hope) fun but willy nilly manner I indulge in here.

For these seven weeks, the essays will be the primary content of this update/blog. There will continue to be news and links and occasional blathering, but mostly I will be confined to writing these essays.

Here is this week’s – I think you’ll enjoy it, and you’ll find it lavishly illustrated, as will be all the future entries.

* * *

My Mike Hammer editor at Titan, my pal Andrew Sumner, has been ailing of late. But he’s on the mend, which is great news. Here’s his latest interview with me.

* * *

Tom Helberg of Sentai Filmworks led a discussion of the Lone Wolf and Cub series (manga, films, TV, etc.) featuring film reviewer Ed Travis and myself, with an emphasis on how Road to Perdition was influenced by Lone Wolf.

And here’s the trailer for Sentai’s streaming of the 1973 Lone Wolf and Cub TV series.

* * *

I was not a huge fan of writer/director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. The film held me but I was unable to fix upon what point he was trying to make – were the rich the actual parasites? The poor? Both? And the resolutely downbeat, violent ending seemed imposed upon the material, not the natural resolution.

But many disagree with me, smart people at that, so it’s just might be I was wrong. Perhaps I’ll revisit it someday. I do know I very much liked Bong Joon Ho’s earlier (2003) film, Memories of Murder (out on Criterion Blu-ray). It’s a police procedural based on a notorious real case in South Korea. The early tone is almost farcical, as the incompetent smalltown cops deal with a serial killer ways alternately buffoonish and thugish. After a young, cool big city inspector joins them to get the case on track, the tone gradually shifts but still has comic moments.

But the story edges toward the abyss as the serial killings continue and the cool cop becomes haunted and frazzled by the crimes. The conclusion will unsettle viewers today, but I warn you not to read anything about this film before giving it a try and, if you have the excellent Criterion edition, make sure to reserve time to watch the supplementary material about the real serial killings and their surprising resolution.