Posts Tagged ‘Nate Heller’

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
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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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Sand Sale, Perdition, Hammer Theme, Spillane, Crusin’

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

There is another John Sand bargain this week – I believe it goes to the 15th of next month (July) – for the audio of To Live and Spy in Berlin. For only 99 cents! Brian J. Gill reads this (and the other two Sand novels) in a nice English accent that suits the material; really a great job.

To Live and Spy in Berlin Audiobook
* * *

Several friends and fans wrote me about a Daily Atlantic newsletter essay that selected Road to Perdition as an ideal Father’s Day movie. I liked the piece, even though it neglected to mention me, and was touched that the photo running with the article was from the sequence directly based on my first driving lesson with my late father. No bank robberies were involved in real life, however. I also like John Rooney being based on John Looney got a mention.

Here it is:

‘He Was My Father’

Sometimes at the Daily we step back at the end of the week’s blizzard of news and current events and suggest something for your leisure time. It’s Father’s Day weekend, and so I want to recommend to you one of my favorite movies, a meditation on generations and fatherhood and loyalty and duty, a warm, nostalgic look at families during a simpler time, starring two of America’s most beloved actors.

I am talking, of course, about Road to Perdition.

If you have not seen it, Road to Perdition (based on the graphic novel of the same name, and widely available to stream) is a 2002 film about Irish gangsters in the 1930s. But it’s really about fathers and sons. A mob leg-breaker named Mike Sullivan, played by a bulked-up Tom Hanks, is fiercely loyal to his boss, John Rooney (played, in his last role, against type and with regal Hibernian menace by Paul Newman); indeed, Sullivan and Rooney have a father-son relationship.

But Rooney already has a son, played by Daniel Craig, and that son is a murderous psychopath. (People wonder why I had a hard time accepting Craig as James Bond. It’s because I saw Road to Perdition first.) Without giving away too much, Sullivan and his own young son, Michael, have to go on the lam. It’s a father-son road-trip movie, except with tommy guns and stone killers.

You may find this an unusual recommendation. Bear with me.

When Father’s Day rolls around, I naturally think of my own father. I have never been able to relate to all those Hallmark-card, Ward Cleaver images. My dad was a complicated man, which is what sons say when we mean “He was terribly flawed in a lot of ways, but he loved me.” He bore a lot of sins and had a lot of shortcomings, but he had a consistent code of ethics in dealing with others and he was known for it. He kept his word, paid his debts, and treated others with respect. He was the kind of man who would walk into a local bar and his peers would call him Nick but younger men would unfailingly refer to him as “Mr. Nichols.” Even our younger neighbors called him “Mr. Nichols,” with great affection. (When he died, I sold his house to one of the children who’d grown up next door to him.)

I think most of us had fathers who weren’t perfect. Mine wasn’t, and yet he taught me important things: Do an honest day’s work. Love your country. Do things you have to do even if they’re unpleasant. Never back down if you know you’re right. Be courteous in public.

He also taught me how to gamble and showed me how to spot someone dealing off the bottom of a deck of cards.

He wasn’t the blueprint for a good husband or father, and he knew it. When I was in my 30s, he admitted to my mother that he thought I’d grown up to be a better man than he was. This is a hard thing to learn about your father, a source of both pride and sadness. (I will have more to say about fathers, and the men I knew growing up, over on my Peacefield newsletter this weekend.)

Which brings me back to Road to Perdition. When Sullivan has to go on the run with Michael (played by a young Tyler Hoechlin), the son finally learns what the father he idolizes actually does for a living. He also learns that Rooney—based on the real-life Irish godfather John Patrick Looney—is not a kindly grandfather but a cold-blooded killer. These men (and this is very much a man’s movie) are scoundrels, but they have a code, and their obedience to that code leads them to tragic choices.

The last line of the movie (again, without spoiling anything) is what ties it all to my memories of my own boyhood. Young Michael reminisces, and says: “When people ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all, I always give the same answer. I just tell them: He was my father.”

That is the most honest thing most of us can say about our fathers. We love them, and they love us, and that’s enough.

* * *

My Brit pal Andrew Sumner, who edits my Mike Hammer novels at Titan (including the upcoming Kill Me If You Can), sent this great video.

He explains: “Due to my regular attendance at London’s finest jazz clubs, I’ve become friendly with a well-known UK swing/jazz R&B performer called Ray Gelato. Ray leads a band called Ray Gelato and the Giants and they essentially channel the energy of Louis Prima & Louis Jordan – they played Paul McCartney’s wedding, they’ve supported Queen, etc. They’re in a similar wheelhouse to Brian Setzer and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

Andrew was nice enough to request that they play “Harlem Nocturne,” Mike Hammer’s theme in the Keach era, and dedicate it to me. Have a listen and look (or is that a butcher’s hook?).

* * *

If you’re a huge Spillane fan or huge Collins fan or just huge masochist, you may wish to watch this entire ninety-minute interview of me (on the subject of Mickey) by Dan Scheider (he’s very’s good) featuring the great Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective fame and accomplishment.

* * *

On another musical note (or two or three or four), my band Crusin’, 2018 inductees in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, will be playing four dates in Eastern Iowa this summer and early fall.

First up, on Friday June 24 from 6 to 9 p.m., is the Ardon Creek Vineyard in the gently rolling farmland of “76 Township” in Eastern Iowa, approximately 30 minutes southeast of Iowa City, Iowa, 15 minutes southwest of Muscatine, Iowa and 5 miles north of Letts. Here’s the address: 2391 Independence Avenue, Letts, IA 52754. Their phone is (563) 272-0028 and more info’s available here, including a map.

On Saturday July 2 we’ll be at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 pm. We’ll be on the patio unless there’s rain, in which case we’ll be inside. This is a lovely venue, and the patio overlooks the Mississippi.

On Sunday August 14 we’ll again be appearing as part of the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s held indoors and other times, weather allowing, with an outdoor stage in the parking lot. Hours are 6 to 8 p.m.

Finally, we’ll be appearing at the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, which runs from 1 till 4 p.m. (Our times are 1:15 to 2:10 and 3 to 3:45.) 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

Yes, our “season” is short, which is on purpose. Again I wonder if this will be the last year for Crusin’ appearances. And my memory fills with my departed bandmates, including the most recent and cutting loss, bass player Brian Van Winkle. I hope he’s somewhere arguing with Paul Thomas, Chuck Bunn, Bruce Peters, and Terry Beckey who among them gets to play bass if that Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven gig comes through. But knowing Brian, he’d just smile and wait his turn.


Crusin’ at the Moose in January 2022
* * *

Check out this wonderful Quarry’s Blood review at the web’s definitive genre book review site, Bookgasm.

Here’s a nice Goodreads review of the graphic novel, Road to Perdition.

And finally here is The Big Bundle at the Hard Case Crime web site.

M.A.C.

A New Novella, TV Mini-Series Reviews and Legacy Books

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

This week I am working on my draft of the last five chapters of Cutout, the novella Barb and I are doing for Neo-Text. It will appear as a trade paperback, available through Amazon, and of course an e-book. No pub date yet, but Neo-Text moves fast.

Cutout marks Barb’s return to her tight, third-person style that she honed in her years writing short stories, which culminated in the novels Regeneration and Bombshell, co-written by me (now available from Wolfpack – the trade paperbacks are lovely).

We have, of course, been writing the Antiques series since then, and it’s been a long-running success, although we were not offered a new contract by Kensington and moved to Severn, where Antiques Liquidation (our second Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery for the UK house, after Antiques Carry On) will be published on October 4.

Barb had begun to get an itch to do something else, as evidenced by a short story we co-wrote that appeared not long ago in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2021) under our “Barbara Allan” joint pseudonym. For over a year she’s been mulling (her maiden name is Mull) doing an espionage-tinged novel called Cutout, and we discussed it often, plotting it over a restaurant lunch (as is our habit). I came to feel it was either a novella or a young adult novel, in part because its protagonist is a young woman in her freshman year of college, but also because it needed to be probably no longer than 40,000 or at most 50,000 words – at least as initially conceived. Barb had in a mind a very spare, almost minimalist style for this one.

With Neo-Text a market for my novellas – witness Fancy Anders Goes to War – we decided to go with that length, which will be in the neighborhood of 30,000 words.

We were able to sell it to Neo-Text on a basis of the first third or so of the manuscript plus a fairly detailed synopsis. I’ve been doing my drafts of chapters with Barb out ahead of me, and now she’s completed her draft and I have five chapters (of sixteen) to go.

All I can tell you is it seems very, very good to me.

I will keep you posted.

* * *

We seem to be in a sort of Golden Age of TV mini-series, thanks to the hungry eye of streaming services. I would like to point out a few that might be worthy of your time.

The Staircase

The Staircase (HBO, streaming on HBO Max) charts the notorious Michael Peterson case, in which the author of Vietnam thrillers is accused of the murder of his wife. This true-crime-based drama was already the subject of a well-known documentary, streaming on Netflix, also called The Staircase. The documentary is fascinating and, while somewhat flawed in stacking the deck at least slightly in Peterson’s favor, a worthwhile watch, despite its thirteen-episode length. But the dramatic mini-series is its own animal and quite good, dealing with material not covered in the documentary, including much more about Peterson’s wife and family, his experiences in prison, and the seemingly ridiculous but actually compelling theory that the wife was killed by an owl (!). Peterson in real life is a complex character, at first an apparent sociopath but then seemingly human and even a victim. It’s a whipsaw experience, watching both the documentary and the dramatic version. The centerpiece of the latter – a meta experience that includes the making of the documentary within its own narrative – is the remarkable Colin Firth as Michael Peterson.

Two more true-crime based mini-series may be of interest to you – they were to me. But both take a less serious approach to the material, casting real-life melodrama in a manner reminiscent of a John Waters movie.

Candy

Candy recounts the at-one-time household name murder case from 1980 in which one church-going housewife killed another church-going housewife with an axe, wielding enough blows to make Lizzie Borden look like an under-achiever. Candy Montgomery – the case is the subject of a famous true crime book co-written by John Bloom (Joe Bob Briggs!) – plotted her affair with Betty Gore’s husband as if it were a Brinks truck robbery. But she somehow killed Betty with that axe (the jury agreed) in out-of-control self-defense. The dark absurdity of the case lends itself to creator Nick Antosca staging everything Waters-style, with kitschy late ‘70s/’80s sets and Sears catalogue costuming and blatantly fake wigs and a musical soundtrack more appropriate for a sitcom than a tragic docudrama. Jessica Biel plays Candy peanut-brittle brittle, aggressively upbeat. The subtext here is that Candy was guilty.

But if you watch the 1990 TV movie with Barbara Hershey (it’s on You Tube and out-of-print DVD) – A Killing in a Small Town – you’ll find a strikingly similar film as to content, with the tone and approach wildly different. For one thing, Barbara Hershey is a world-class actress who actually sells Candy’s unlikely innocence. For another, the tragedy is treated not as a dark joke but…a tragedy. The 1990 film (only ten years later, after all) looks like real life, not an over-the-top, if admittedly compulsively watchable, kitsch fest.

The Thing About Pam

But The Thing About Pam, an NBC mini-series streaming on Peacock, makes Candy look like The Thin Blue Line. Reneé Zellweger has gotten heat for wearing prosthetics (including a “fat suit”) instead of putting herself through the unhealthy but somehow admirable effort of gaining a bunch of weight. A better argument might be hiring a plus-size actress, but Zellweger is so good in the role, even that’s doubtful. What did seem questionable to me, as I watched the mini-series, was how far down the John Waters rabbit hole the filmmakers had gone.

The absurdity was shameful! They even had that creepy Dateline guy do the narration! They outright played it like black comedy – how could they?

But then I looked at some of the documentary material on the case and you know what? It plays like laughably bad melodrama in real life – an idiot prosecutor who ignores the most obvious suspect, white cops who badger an Hispanic suspect for a quick arrest, a manipulative, greedy woman who sees herself as funny and smart and is just an unmistakable monster. That creepy narrator was the only thing absent from the real deal…and even there, the murderer herself pretended in her last desperate homicidal ploy to pass herself off as a Dateline producer!

I don’t know if I can recommend either Candy or The Thing About Pam, but…forgive me…I enjoyed every minute of both. The world we live in seems to me more and more like a John Waters movie. Why shouldn’t both of these mini-series reflect that? Didn’t I write this already? Wasn’t it called Mommy?

Similarly, perhaps the best mini-series going right now draws upon an entirely different kind of true crime – Gaslit on STARZ, starring Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell and Sean Penn as her husband John. Both are excellent, though this Watergate mini-series belongs to Dan Stevens as a somehow lovable weasel of a John Dean. This one also plays as an absurd comedy, but doesn’t need to overdo it to make the point that the reality was similarly wack-a-doodle. Everybody in this is good, but another standout is Shea Whigham, who makes a terrifying and yet hilarious G. Gordon Liddy.

The offer

As good as Gaslit is, The Offer is my favorite of all these, the series both Barb and I savor every moment of. Streaming on Paramount (a company the series regularly skewers), The Offer is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Godfather. This, too, finds comic melodrama in the proceedings but is less heavy-handed than Candy and Pam (yet how I would love to see Candy Montgomery Vs. Pam Hupp: The Final Showdown). Some reviewers haven’t liked The Offer, but actual humans probably will. The cast is wonderful, with Matthew Goode’s Robert Evans a stunning thing to behold, while quietly charismatic Miles Teller holds everything together as producer Al Ruddy, the pole that holds the tent up. Also outstanding, among a flawless ensemble, are Juno Temple, Dan Fogler and Giovanni Ribisi.

Finally, Better Call Saul on AMC is in its final season (broken in two, as was the case with Ozark). I find its narrative style fascinating – often the story proceeds at a crawl, raising more questions than answers, and yet you hang right with it. I keep thinking about how that approach could transfer to prose.

* * *

Scott D. Parker, in his article “Legacy Authors and That Last Book,” compares aging rock bands who record a last song and/or album, knowing it will be their last, to authors who may write a book about an enduring character, knowing it will be the last.

Parker invokes me and some of my ruminations here about slowing down, and specifically wonders if I’ll know when I’m sitting at the computer to work on my final Heller novel. The truth is I don’t know. I have one more Heller to write on the current Hard Case Crime contract, and – as The Big Bundle won’t be out till early December – I don’t yet know how the HCC audience will take to Nate Heller. I am confident that Heller is my most important work and my best shot at being read years after I’m gone.

And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced his enduring contribution would be those historical epics nobody reads any more.

For me, it’s a matter of paying attention to my health. I’ve had two good reports in recent days and it looks like – aside from getting hit by a bus or something the docs overlooked – I’ll be around a while. I have every expectation this next Heller will get written.

Will it be the last?

I don’t know. Parker wonders if mystery writers realize their characters are getting older. Well, some ignore it. Stout would have characters from previous novels show up on Archie and Wolfe’s doorstep having aged, while Goodwin and Nero remain in the same frozen-in-time state. Mickey Spillane, in advertising for The Killing Man, appeared in Miller Lite trenchcoat-and-fedora drag saying, “I got older – Mike didn’t.”

But he did. Like Jack Benny, Mike Hammer didn’t admit to being older than 39, but he clearly was. He was a guy who’d fought in the Pacific in World War II, using a cell phone in Black Alley (1996). I have made a point, in my collaborations with Mickey, to be more up front about Mike’s age. I fudge it a little, though.

In our Antiques series, Barb and I have to dance around the aging problem all the time. We want the books to be contemporary, so mentions of current political figures and pop culture come in – but we only move the pieces on the chessboard ahead one-season-per-book. In other words, for every four books, one year has passed in the lives of Brandy and Mother. Less than five years in real time elapse over 15 or 16 novels, yet they are moving through time at the same rate as the rest of us.

My late friend Paul Thomas, my musical collaborator, used to say about such things, “If you buy any of it, you buy all of it.”

I think I am more inclined to age my characters more normally than most mystery writers. Quarry’s age can be calculated, and so can Nate Heller’s. But one thing is for sure: me? I am moving only in one direction.

* * *

Here are eleven “intoxicating” crime books set in Las Vegas. They include Skim Deep, but should have made it a dozen with Neon Mirage.

I get a nice mention in this very good article, “A Primer on Crime Fiction.”

I receive a left-handed compliment in this look at the great Batman eras.

M.A.C.

A Shameless Excursion Into Self-Promotion

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

A reminder: today is the publication date of Stand Up and Die! (the new collection of Mickey Spillane’s novellas and short stories from Rough Edges Press, edited by me and with a Mike Hammer short story co-written by Mickey and me).

The new crime/horror novel, The Menace, by Mickey Spillane and me is $3.99 on Kindle at Amazon.

Stand Up and Die! cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:
The Menace cover
Trade Paperback:
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The Menace just came out and is, as may already know, developed by me from an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay. If you’re not a horror fan, don’t be put off: it’s fundamentally a crime novel. It’s rather short – though not, as some have described a novella (it’s 40,000-words), but two additional Spillane pieces are included as a bonus at the back – the previously unpublished original version of his comic tale, “The Duke Alexander,” and a rare true-crime article.

For you physical media types (like me), the handsome trade paperback edition is just $9.99 at Amazon right now.

This update exists as a place for me to share views on pop culture, talk about what’s going on with me (and my wife Barb) personally and professionally. Part of that is letting you know about sales going on at Amazon (and elsewhere). There are several worth making you aware of going on right now.

On sale is Supreme Justice, the first of the political-thriller trilogy Matt Clemens and I wrote about Joe Reeder and Patti Rogers. Sales have stayed strong since its publication in 2014 – I believe it’s sold something like 150,000 copies, and the two sequels (Fate of the Union and Executive Order have done very well, too. Something like 350,000 copies of the Reeder and Rogers trilogy have been sold. Supreme Justice on Kindle is just $1.99 (till the end of the month).

Supreme Justice – the trade paper edition is $14.95 – has generated renewed interest because the plot concerns an attempt to rearrange the Supreme Court’s political slant by killing conservative members. It’s set in the near future, after the court overturns Roe V. Wade – again, it was published in 2014.

Supreme Justice cover
Paperback:
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Audio MP3 CD:
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Executive Order cover
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Fate of the Union cover
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My eco-thriller, Midnight Haul, is also on sale on Kindle for $1.99.

Midnight Haul cover
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Audible:

This leads me into what will undoubtedly be a self-serving discussion – a shameless one at that – hoping to convince you to try novels of mine that you may have avoided. Things that may have been out of your comfort zone. Like Supreme Justice, for example.

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

I have talked here more than once about the reasons why I sometimes work outside of the Quarry, Nolan, Nate Heller and Mike Hammer noir-ish area. The truth is I have readers who follow one or two of those series, but avoid the others. The Quarry and Nolan novels are books in the 50,000 to 60,000-word range and are fast and (I hope) fun reads. The Mike Hammer novels, also in that word-length range, are overlooked by some of my readers because those readers are not Spillane fans or simply don’t care for books that continue a series created by someone else. Similarly, some Spillane fans don’t try these continuation novels, even though the books all have Spillane content (some a good deal of Spillane content), because Mickey himself did not write every word. The fact that Mickey engaged me to complete his unfinished material does not convince these stubborn souls. Kill Me If You Can, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s first appearance in 1947’s I, the Jury, is a novel developed from an unproduced Spillane teleplay, and it looks at the period between Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) and The Girl Hunters (1962), when Velda goes missing. It’s Mike at his most psychotic. Pre-order it through the links on the left.

That the Caleb York novels are westerns discourages some readers, who prefer crime/mystery, and that the first novel of the six is a novelization of an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay does not sway them. I think they’re missing out.

And of course the cozy Antiques mysteries written by Barb and me are not the hardboiled fare many of my readers enjoy, though the humor and murder content are high. I get that this approach isn’t for everybody, but will point out that the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries are the series of mine with the most entries. The new one will be out in October and can be pre-ordered through the links below.

Antiques Liquidation cover
Hardcover:

Some fans of my hardboiled books avoid the Nate Heller novels, which run in the 75,000-word to 150,000-word range, their lengths off-putting to at least a few readers. The true crime basis of the novels also discourages some Quarry/Nolan fans. The Big Bundle, coming out Dec. 6 (and available for pre-order now), will be the first Hard Case Crime publication of a Heller, and I think Quarry and Nolan fans who haven’t tried the series before will find themselves at home.

The Big Bundle cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Kobo Google Play

Now I don’t expect any of you – except the hardier souls among you – to buy, read and like everything I put out. Over the last ten years or so, I have increased my already prolific output considerably. I understand that you have only so many hours available to devote to your reading pleasure, and that (however misguidedly) you have other authors you like to read who aren’t me.

So why do I write so much? My standard answer for that is, “If I don’t, they don’t send money to my house.” And that flip response is true enough. But I have also been aware of the ticking clock of mortality and realize that once I am dead, my output will slow considerably. You readers who outlive me will probably have plenty of my stuff to catch up on. That’s fine. It’s as close to living forever as I’ll come.

And I feel I stay fresh by not writing just one thing. I shudder to think if Quarry had taken off in the mid-‘70s and that what I would be doing right now is writing book #45 in the series.

What I’d like to do with the rest of this ridiculously self-serving column is ask you to read – to buy, actually, and then read – a few of my recent books that you may have skipped. I’ve already mentioned The Menace, which some might pass on because (a) it appears to be horror, and/or (b) it doesn’t feature Mike Hammer. I can only say that Mickey came up with a good story and I developed it into a good novel that I’m very proud of.

Here are a couple of others you may have overlooked.

Fancy Anders Goes to War is a novella available on Kindle but also has a handsome little trade paperback with a wonderful Fay Dalton cover (and interior illos). It’s a private eye story with a new heroine who has much in common with Ms. Tree but is also her own girl (it’s a ‘40s story so I can call her that, and anyway she’s young). The research is Heller level. It’s the first of three such novellas from Neo-Text. I just loved writing it (and its two follow-ups, the second of which will be out before long). On Kindle it’s 2.99 and the paperback is only $6.99.

The audio of Fancy Anders Goes to War from SkyBoat is outstanding, virtually a movie for the ears.

Fancy Anders Goes to War cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link

Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It are two books that have suffered a handful of bad reviews and a wealth of good ones that haven’t overcome that handful. This was my attempt to do something along the lines of an American version of Nordic noir. The detectives are a young woman police chief and her retired homicide cop father in Galena, Illinois (I had the cooperation of the town’s police chief, female). I like these books a lot but they didn’t do as well as previous Thomas & Mercer titles. Girl Can’t Help It touches heavily on my rock ‘n’ experience. If you like my work at all, give these a try. They are $4.99 each on Kindle and $10.93 and $12.83 respectively as trade paperbacks.

Girl Most Likely cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon
Girl Can't Help It cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

Finally, one of my favorites among all of my novels: The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, written with SCTV’s Dave Thomas. Two things seem to get in the way of my regular readership trying this one: the science-fiction aspect, and the assumption that it’s a comedy. Where to begin? This novel is as much a crime story as s-f, with an older male Black cop and a young female Gen Z partner struggling to find out who shot smalltime thief Jimmy Leighton, who is in the hospital in a coma. Meanwhile, Jimmy, who accidentally triggered a quantum experiment in the basement lab he broke into, is careening from one lifetime to another. The chapters alternate between the cops working on the crime and Jimmy’s journeying.

As for the book being mistaken for a yuk fest, my co-writer Dave Thomas was a writer and producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist. So there.

Some have characterized Jimmy’s adventures in terms of the old Quantum Leap TV series. While there is some similarity, there’s a major difference. Dave and I, who wrote this book together during the Covid lockdown (lots of phone calls and Zoom get-togethers), wanted to avoid the notion that our traveler would find himself a jet pilot, or on a Broadway stage, or in the middle of doing brain surgery. Jimmy is encountering different lives of his – the different paths he might have taken – possible lives, not unlikely ones.

For me – and for Dave, too – this is a novel that has more to do with Groundhog Day or A Christmas Carol than Quantum Leap. And the science-fiction aspect – Dave takes his quantum science very seriously – is like the history in Nate Heller. It’s important, and it strives to be right; but it’s not the story. If you trust me at all, know that in my opinion The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton is one of the best books in my catalogue.

Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link

Finally, for those of you who – like me – stubbornly insist on prowling actual bookstores, you must accept the fact that most of these books almost certainly will not be found in the world of brick-and-mortar. Supreme Justice and its two sequels, and the two Girl novels with Krista Larson and her dad, are mostly available at Amazon (physical copies at Barnes & Noble and others, but Kindle is Amazon). So is The Menace. Neo-Text books – Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton – are Amazon.

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Speaking of Supreme Justice, it has made another list of the best legal thrillers.

And here’s a great review of Tough Tender, the Hard Case Crime two-fer of Hard Cash and Scratch Fever with Nolan and Jon.

M.A.C.