Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

Poetry Slam: Terry B. & M.A.C. Plus Ms. Tree On TV!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

I am still dealing with my A-fib (going in for a jump-start next week) and am slowed down by the condition as well as some heavy meds I’m on in prep for the procedure. So this week the update here is represented by this interview with Terry Beatty and me by the best pop culture interviewer on the planet, Andrew Sumner. Terry and I have rarely done joint interviews, so this is something of a rarity:

Ms. Tree: Deadline cover; Ms. Tree seated on a table pointing a smoking gun toward the viewer.
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
(Or at your local or online comic book store!)
E-Book: Google Play
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Shoot-Out At Sugar Creek Cover
Paperback: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's

What is possibly the final Caleb York western (of six) will soon be published in paperback, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek. (Tuesday, October 25)

This is a review of the hardcover of Sugar Creek that appeared last year, and it’s a very good, smart one that’s worth reading for the first time or revisiting it.

I loved doing these westerns, and it’s unfortunate Kensington didn’t ask for more. But what had been an unproduced screenplay (for John Wayne) by Mickey Spillane has generated six fun books, so I have nothing to complain about.

This is a really nice write-up about the new Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, at the lively, fun site Jerry’s House of Everything.

And the similarly fun Borg site has a discussion of Tough Tender, the two-fer of Nolan novels, Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, the final two novels of the original Nolan run. Available from Hard Case Crime, my lifeline to readers!

M.A.C.

Encore For Paula

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

Last Thursday (Sept. 1) I appeared on the Paula Sands Live at KWQC TV in Davenport. Paula’s hour-long Monday-thru-Friday show is extremely high-rated in the Quad Cities market, and she herself – also the nightly news anchor – is celebrating an astonishing forty years at the station. (I accuse her regularly of having an aging portrait in the attic.) This was my first TV shot post-Covid lockdown, and it felt like coming home.

Paula Sands and M.A.C.

As some of you may recall, Paula Sands Live (or a satirized version thereof) appeared with Paula as herself in my movie Mommy’s Day. She was a major character in the film and did a terrific job. Also in that film was Gary Sandy, co-starring with Patty McCormack of course; Gary’s upcoming appearance in Encore for Murder as Mike Hammer on September 17 at the Muscatine High School Theater grows out of my friendship with him when he shot his scenes right here in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1996.

Gary is generously donating his time, reprising his performance as Hammer in the radio-style play Encore for Murder (we originally presented it several years back in Owensboro, Kentucky, and later at Clearwater, Florida), in this one-night-only benefit for the Muscatine Art Center.

Here’s the info, in case you missed it, for those of you close enough to this area (or crazed enough to drive or fly here).

We had our second table read via phone with Gary and the full cast on the evening of the day I appeared on Paula Sands Live. It went very well and the production is really coming together. The cast assembled by co-director Karen Cooney is excellent, and we have Chad Bishop (himself a filmmaker among his many talents) as the foley artist, which is a big, entertaining part of the play, as old-fashioned radio sound effects (and some newfangled computer effects) are generated right on stage.

We are planning to shoot footage at several rehearsals and the performance itself for use in the expansion of my 1999 Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer documentary, which is part of what I’m planning for the ongoing 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer celebration. We already have a video distributor lined up (which will include streaming).

And speaking of Mommy’s Day, my filmmaking partner Phil Dingeldein and I are remastering Mommy and its sequel for another Blu-Ray release. We have vastly improved visuals and will return to the original 4:3 format as intended. For those of you who have bought the movies before, well, uh…thanks! But we are just trying to get the best versions out there so that we can appeal to more streaming services and make the physical media as doggone good as we can.

Mommy Before and After upscale/deinterlace.

And speaking of physical media….

So, all of you film and TV fans, remember when we were told that physical media – that journey from Betamax and VHS to laser disc and DVD, and more recently Blu-Ray to 4K discs – would soon be a thing of the past. Would die a much deserved death, because after all everything we could ever want to see will be permanently available in the “cloud.” It’ll all be out there, childishly simple to access, thanks to the wonder of (drum roll please) streaming services.

This is where you are free to either (a), laugh derisively, (b), laugh maniacally, (c), swear and pound a fist on a table or desk, (d), sit morosely staring into space, or (e), find a quiet corner to sit in and weep. (“All of the above” doesn’t seem a practical option, but attempt if you wish.)

After all, we now know several things about this Brave New Streaming World. Well, first it sucks. Sucks money from each of us and just plain sucks. But admittedly it offers a lot of options, if mostly taking the old So Many Channels and Nothing Is On paradigm to ridiculous heights/lows. But all of these streaming services offer their selection options for a limited time. Sometimes, as with HBO Max, they break promises to subscribers like a popular girl in junior high in 1960 (but I am not bitter).

Yes, movies and TV shows are out there somewhere in the ether, just not where you can access them.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray and 4K chug somewhat expensively along, and break the backs (or anyway banks) of film and TV buffs trying to build their non-cyber library. And yet what a wonderful thing a non-cyber library is. For me, my collection of DVDs, Blu-Rays and 4Ks are (nearly) as important to me as the thousands of books I’ve accumulated in my lifetime.

Now I am not against Kindle and Nook and other methods of reading books on little monitor screens. Some people even read books on their phones, probably the same troubled souls who watch 4K movies on those tiny screens, unless they are carrying large flat screens in their pockets and purses in the pursuit of making their lives seem even more absurd.

I am tolerant of Kindle especially because I have made much more money in recent years from e-books than from what I like to call real books. God bless people for utilizing that tool. And I am obviously berating the streaming services even as I seek to sell my wares to them. But here is a wonderful irony – several of the generations younger than mine (actually, that’s more than several) prefer to buy, read and collect physical books. Kindle use is much, much more predominant among older people, the kind of people still wondering when those flying cars are going to get here.

Listen, Kindle has its place. If I were in a big city commuting, I would be using the one that is gathering dust somewhere in this house (it was given to me by the Thomas & Mercer folks). But I like media in physical object form. I like to hold a book in my hands. I like to study a book’s cover (not the covers of most recent books, which are by and large cold and hideous beyond belief) and delight at how it reflects the book at hand (or bitch about how it doesn’t). I even like the smell of books. And I like the way DVDs and Blu-Rays and 4Ks have pictorial jackets and can be lined up on shelves like books with spines and everything. I am resolutely old-fashioned in that regard, and delighted that so many people younger than me are reading books not on glowing screens.

But glowing screens played an interesting role in all this. Yes, it’s annoying that people have their faces in their phones, and it will serve them right in thirty years when their radioactive noses fall off and they have to go searching for them in the dark (the detached noses will glow, so will be easy to find, don’t worry).

But it was Harry Potter, thanks to the now reviled J.K. Rowling, and the much criticized cell phone that taught several generations to read again. They read those Potter books, actual physical books, and on their phones they read (“read” both past and present tense here) e-mails and texts, and they write them, too. Like people used to write letters.

When I hear people of my generation say, “These kids don’t read today,” I think: that’s what old people were saying when I was a kid; and statistically more old people are reading on Kindles rather than actual books, so what are they talking about?

I find the return to vinyl interesting if odd, since I have loved CDs for their lacks of skips and crackles for decades now. But the CD is old-school physical media that truly is dying, because downloadable music is more closely infinite than the very not infinite “availability” of film and TV from the streamers. Downloadable music is the enemy because it has people creating their own play lists and the art of the album is damaged and maybe dying (you know, like most of Sinatra’s Capitol catalogue and Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds and My Aim Is True and the first Vanilla Fudge album and Weezer’s green album).

So it’s a mixed bag, and it will not sort itself out (if it does) while I am still here.

My son Nate – who is selling a lot more books with his Jo Jo translations than I could ever dream of – has a wonderful idea that I hope he carries through on. He wants to write a blog where each week or maybe day he plucks a random disc from my endless DVD and Blu-Ray collection and watches (and then reviews) it. These will be things he did not watch with me while I was on the planet. I will now walk across the room to a bookcase of Blu-rays, and a spinner of DVDs, and pluck five things at eyes-closed random.

Here are Nate’s first five columns. He will discuss:

The Bowery Boys Volume Four (okay, I cheated on this one); The Halliday Brand (a western directed by Gun Crazy’s Joseph Lewis; An Angel for Satan (with Barbara Steele); Haunt from Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (the Quad Cities boys who made good with A Quiet Place, and unlike the Bowery Boys a genuine chance selection); and Ernest Scared Stupid.

Man would I like to read that column.

M.A.C. with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shelves at BAM!
THAT’S MY BOY! Translator Nate Collins’ shelves of Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure at the Davenport BAM!
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Here’s a nice write-up on the upcoming Encore for Murder.

Ms. Tree is on this cool list from Punk Noir (great name); but there’s an inaccurate suggestion that I’ve written more than just the one Ms. Tree prose novel for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, this Wealth of Geeks essay discusses the merits of ignoring canon in films from a book (or comic book) series, and uses Mike Hammer to demonstrate. Good piece.

M.A.C.

Encore for Hammer

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

The 75th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer is really kicking in. Introduced in 1947 in I, the Jury, the private eye changed the nature of tough heroes even as his creator changed the face of publishing.

Not surprisingly, I’m in thick of that celebration, with Kill Me If You Can coming out next month. The novel is based on an unproduced teleplay written by Mickey in 1954, and it’s the bridge between Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) and The Girl Hunters (1962). Velda – his secretary/partner and the love of his life – goes missing, possibly killed, and Hammer wants to know why.

The book includes five short stories completed by me from Spillane material, two of which are Hammer yarns with particular significance to the canon.

In 1952 Mickey sold the film rights to the existing Hammer novels to expatriate British producer Victor Saville. The ink was barely dry when they began to feud over Mickey’s desire for input, including casting. Saville manipulated and handled Mickey, making promises he had no intention of keeping, i.e., casting Mickey’s cop pal Jack Stang as Hammer (who wound up with a bit as a pool hall thug). For that reason Mickey came to dislike the films Saville made and, frankly, Hammer’s daddy wasn’t always fair to those films, criticizing them in public. Taking the brunt of that criticism has been the 1953 I, the Jury with Biff Elliot.

The film has also long been dismissed by some critics (including latterday noir buffs) but they – and Mickey – are wrong. It’s a wonderful though hardly perfect movie, suffering from censorship woes but still a fine translation of Spillane to the screen, really capturing the feel of the early novels. Very few films noir were shot in 3D and this one was the work of cinematographer John Alton, widely considered the finest noir director of photography of the classic period. And only a couple of noirs were made at all during that first 3D wave.

For years now, the only place you could see the 3D version of I, the Jury was at an occasional film festival (I saw it in London at the Spillane retrospective where we showed my documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, 1999). And the film is a wholly different experience in 3D.

Now ClassicFlix is bringing out an elaborate Blu-ray that includes a 3D disc (for those of you who have the capacity for 3D) but also a 4K disc and a Blu-ray. Seeing it in 4K is almost like seeing it in 3D. Here’s the terrific cover.

I The Jury 3D cover

I have recorded the commentary and also have contributed a new transfer of the rare 1954 Brian Keith Mike Hammer pilot written and directed by Blake Edwards. My pal Phil Dingeldein and I created a new wraparound for the pilot that puts it into historical context.

Additionally, Phil and I are working on an expanded version of my 1999 Spillane documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, bringing the story of Hammer and Spillane up to date. It will be a companion piece of sorts to the biography Jim Traylor and I have written (years in the making!), Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, which comes out in January from Mysterious Press, and includes a lot of rare pictures as well as personal memories of mine set off in Spillane-appropriate italics.

We already have a distributor interested in doing both a Blu-ray of the documentary and getting it out to the streaming services.

As I’ve mentioned here I am also co-directing (with local theater maven Karen Cooney) a one-night presentation of the radio-style play, Encore for Murder, starring Gary Sandy (of WKRP In Cincinnati fame) as Mike Hammer. The production, an otherwise amateur one but with a strong local cast, is a benefit for the Muscatine (Iowa) Art Center.

Gary and I presented Encore for Murder in Owensboro, Kentucky in 2010 as part of the International Mystery Writers Festival, and in 2018 in Clearwater, Florida, at Ruth Eckerd Hall Theatre. We may be doing a half-hour documentary about this latest production as part of (or perhaps a Blu-ray bonus feature for) the expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane documentary.

Encore for Murder poster
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Crusin’ played its final gig of its season at the Art Center’s annual Ice Cream Social. The crowd was large and appreciative on a lovely day. We were very lucky this year as all five of our gigs were outdoors and nary a raindrop in sight.

Crusin' at Muscatine Art Center Ice Cream Social 2022

The question is, was that the last Crusin’ gig ever?

It’s the old Godfather 3 thing – “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” With one notable exception, these were all excellent gigs, very well-received, and the last several showed this version of the band at its best.

That notable exception was a private party that came up out of nowhere, which we took because nobody could think of a reason not to. I was of course unaware that I had gone back into Afib and was sick as a dog all night, wishing I were anywhere else. But playing in a band is always that way – you have a miserable experience, and want to bail from the whole damn thing; then you have a fun, great night and amnesia about the bad gig sets in.

I continue to have an ambition to do one last original material CD. We began working on one the year before the pandemic began and rehearsals shut down. And these last two summers we’ve just had enough on our plates to get prepped to make our limited schedule of appearances in the summer.

On top of that – after an unexpectedly rough week following the cardioversion procedure designed to get me out of Afib (the three previous times had taken only a day from which to recover) – I am now feeling fine. Like Nixon, tanned, rested and ready.

So I find myself considering an encore for Crusin’. It’s hard to let go of something you’ve done since (choke) 1965.

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Here’s an interesting review of Batman – Second Chances, which collects much of my Batman work.

I haven’t seen it yet, but here’s a magazine you can pre-order with a new Collins/Beatty Ms. Tree interview.

I’m quoted in this terrific look by the great J. Kingston Pierce (of Rap Sheet fame) at half-hour detective TV shows of the 1950s.

Finally, here’s an interesting review of Quarry’s Blood by a reader familiar with the first few novels colliding with the much older Quarry of this one. I have a response in the comments.

M.A.C.

Happy Birthday, Mike Hammer – All Year!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

So it’s 2022 and that makes it the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer.

More specifically, it’s the 75th anniversary of the publication of I, the Jury (1947), the first Hammer novel. The character, arguably, begins with Mike Lancer, who appeared in one story written by Spillane and drawn by Harry Sahle, “Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death,” in Harvey’s Green Hornet comic in 1942. Lancer became Mike Danger, although none of the comics stories were published till 1954.

Kill Me If You Can cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

If you’ve been following this update/blog, you may recall that we have a lot of special things in store this year for the Hammer birthday celebration. I have used several unproduced TV scripts by Mickey to write the 2022 novel, Kill Me If You Can, available in August (and for pre-order now). The book is the prequel to The Girl Hunters (1962) and deals with the missing period between it and Kiss Me, Deadly (1952), showing how Hammer dealt with Velda’s disappearance and apparent demise. (Hint: not well.)

But wait, there’s more: in addition to the full-length novel, we are including five short stories written by me from unpublished Spillane material; this includes two Hammer stories and three others in the Hammer-verse. These stories have appeared in The Strand, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Mystery Tribune, and are collected here for the first time. I am very grateful to Titan publishers Vivian Cheung and Nick Landau and editor Andrew Sumner for giving me this opportunity to make the 2022 Mike Hammer book something really special.

Again, if you’ve been following these updates at all, you’re aware that Jim Traylor and I have completed Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, the long-in-the-works biography of Mickey. It’s in the hands of Mysterious Press publisher Otto Penzler who, after some tweaks and minor rewrites, has sent the book into copyediting. In recent weeks I’ve compiled the photos for the book and written captions, all of which have been approved by Jim and which are now in the hands of my son Nate to prepare them for the book designer.

I don’t have an official pub date yet, but the idea is for the biography to be out toward the end of this birthday year.

Additionally, I am working with Wolfpack editors Paul Bishop and James Reasoner, as well as publisher Mike Bray, to bring out several major Spillane books during this celebratory year. First, a collection of Mickey’s YA adventures novels will for the first time gather all three of those books into one volume, The Shrinking Island, named for the previously unpublished final book in the Josh and Larry trilogy. Hardcore Spillane fans have been waiting for this for a long time.

In addition, I have novelized and expanded Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Menace – the only work of his that was designed as a horror property – into a novel. Wolfpack will be bringing that out this year, possibly under their recently acquired Rough Edges Press imprint.

Finally, I am in the process of putting together a collection of Spillane’s short fiction – not all that short, because mostly this is novellas – plucked from two long out-of-print collections I edited (Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill). This new book – Stand Up and Die! – will excise from previous two collections assorted non-fiction and non-mystery-fiction works and leave only vintage Spillane crime yarns.

Included will be a new edit by me of “The Night I Died,” the Mike Hammer short story that marked the only Hammer collaboration between Mickey and me during his lifetime (we of course worked on the revival of Mike Danger together). It is based on an unproduced radio play Mickey wrote around 1953. I am taking a new look at it because I now feel it was too literally a translation of the script.

The novellas, including the title one and the little-seen “Hot Cat” (aka “The Flier”), are particularly strong. This will be a fine addition to the books published in the Hammer birthday year.

In addition, I am working with Bob Deis, the mastermind behind Men’s Adventure Quarterly, to present a raft of other Spillane novellas in at least one collection including the original men’s adventure magazine illustrations.

We had great success with Mickey’s 100th birthday celebration a few years ago; this represents a new – and perhaps last – bite at the apple. I hope to do a few more Hammer novels for Titan, including Mickey Spillane’s The Time Machine (originally Mike Danger but now Mike Hammer) before wrapping up the saga. And if Wolfpack is successful with the Spillane publications above, I have one more unproduced Mickey screenplay to novelize and half a dozen novels he began that are waiting to be finished.

I’m sorry to report that Kensington has not requested a new Caleb York, but Wolfpack has been very successful with their western line, and – again, depending on how these Spillane titles to for them – we may see Caleb (and me) back in the saddle. I don’t have a pub date, but I think Kensington will still be bringing out Shoot-out at Sugar Creek in a mass market edition as yet another Spillane title in the Hammer anniversary year.

As usual, the success of all this is in your hands.

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Here’s a very smart review of the new Hard Case Comics Ms. Tree collection from Titan, third in the series.

Check out this fabulous review of Fancy Anders Goes to War from Ron Fortier.

Some interesting thoughts about the film version of Road to Perdition here.

This list of the best mysteries of all time includes a number of my titles. Aw shucks, he said. About time, he thought.

M.A.C.