Posts Tagged ‘Nate Heller’

Do No Harm, Even if the Girl Can’t Help It

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

As I write this, on March 9, 2020, it’s Mickey Spillane’s 102nd birthday – a reminder of how lucky I was to encounter his books at an impressionable age, and eventually have an unlikely friendship and collaborative association with this key figure not only in mystery/crime fiction, but popular culture, worldwide.

As you read this, if you’re one of those who catch up with these updates as they first emerge, it’s March 10, 2020, the publication date of two of my novels (by two different publishers): Do No Harm, the new Nathan Heller thriller, and Girl Can’t Help It, the second Krista Larson mystery.

If you are one of the regular readers here, you may recall that the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder – written by me from a Spillane synopsis – was to be published a week later. That pub date has, I’m not sorry to announce, been moved to April 7, which at least puts a purchase of that third new Collins novel on a separate paycheck for loyal readers.

Do No Harm is a novel based on a real-life mystery that has fascinated me since 1961 when I read The Sheppard Murder Case by Paul Holmes – I would have been 13. And of course the television series The Fugitive, which began in 1963, only fueled that interest. And I did love that series – David Janssen’s charismatic, melancholy performance was something new in a TV hero, with a tragic depth unusual for the day. I watched every episode, and later – during my community college years – Barb and I would watch a syndicated episode over lunch at my parents’ house.

Like a lot of TV actors, Janssen had a shrewd if limited bag of tricks. My late actor friend Michael Cornelison told me that actor Robert Lansing (star of 87th Precinct and 12 O’Clock High) had advised him – should one of several TV pilots Mike starred in get picked up – to develop a characterization that would stay consistent and require few strokes, and allow the guest actors to carry the water. I gathered the same thing from Raymond Burr, when I worked on a project with him in Denver during the Perry Mason TV-movie days – he spoke of having to sleep in his dressing room at night because of the demands of being in so many scenes of his series.

I recently watched a Blu-ray of Superdome, a TV movie starring Janssen and a strong cast of its era. The actor was just two years away from his premature death at 48, and looked much older. Reportedly a hard drinker, Janssen – in a rather wretchedly written TV movie – brought along the same tics and tricks, and yet despite the rote feel of it still conveyed a humanity and sadness little seen in TV leads of his era. Sam Sheppard died at 47.

I waited a long time before bringing my detective Nate Heller to this case, even though it had been on my true-crime short list since the ‘80s. The murder of Sam Sheppard’s wife was not an easy fit for Heller. I have always attempted to bring Nate into a case in a natural fashion – that is, to fill in for a real-life participant (a cop, reporter, insurance investigator, actual P.I.) or combination thereof, as in Blood and Thunder where in Part One Heller is a Huey Long bodyguard and in Part Two he returns to Louisiana a year later on an insurance investigation into Long’s assassination.

Figuring out how to put Heller at the crime scene in Marilyn Sheppard’s murder seemed necessary to me, dramatically, as was determining how to narratively span a case that included Sheppard’s conviction, long struggle for justice from behind bars, and ultimate re-trial. Many other wrinkles made the case a tough one for my approach, including a particularly involved number of alternate theories for what really happened. I like to develop my own theories – or I should say Heller does.

Ironically, it was the project I was working on prior to starting Do No Harm – which I had contracted to write but was still struggling with what my approach would be – that finally gave me a window onto the case. In working with A. Brad Schwartz on the non-fiction book Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, I discovered that Eliot Ness had essentially lived next door to Sam Sheppard. Nobody had noticed this before, probably because Ness lived there in the ‘30s and Sheppard in the ‘50s. But nonetheless the coincidence struck me as irresistible – two of the most famous figures in not just Cleveland crime but American jurisprudence lived next-door.

Additionally, a latterday victim indicating the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run might have struck again in 1954 was the perfect reason for Ness to (a) call Heller back to Cleveland for consultation, and (b) to check out the crime scene of a brutal murder in Ness’s old neighborhood.

The other solution to involving Heller was Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner’s interest and involvement in the Sam Sheppard case. I had already established that Heller knew Gardner (in Carnal Hours) and had done some investigating for Gardner’s Court of Last Resort. That brought Heller into the effort to find out the truth about Sam Sheppard’s guilt or innocence in 1957, when Gardner’s activity in the case came to a head. Further, newspaper columnist/TV personality Dorothy Kilgallen – basis of Flo Kilgore, a recurring character in the Heller saga – was also a key figure in the Sheppard case.

Everything was coming together. Part Two would jump to 1966 and a role for Heller working for Sheppard’s new lawyer, F. Lee Bailey.

The novel was a challenging one, because of the jumps in time – while Book One is 1957 and Book Two is 1966, there are flashbacks within each. From a creative standpoint, however, I found that interesting and even fun, because the difference in decades – in Heller’s life and in America itself – provided a contrast I could play with.

And I have come up with a theory of my own, although oddly some reviewers (positive ones, by the way) have somehow thought I was leaving the story unresolved. I think that may possibly be because I have changed more names than usual, not wanting to cause trouble for the real people and their families who various alternative theories touch upon. I had already developed this theory when new evidence came to light, in an updated version of one my source books, that seemed to confirm my take on the case. My longtime research associate, George Hagenauer, has long said I have an almost psychic ability to suss out the truth of these crimes, and sometimes I almost agree with him.

The story behind Girl Can’t Help It is even more directly personal. Regular visitors here know of my rock ‘n’ roll connection, and that my bands The Daybreakers and Crusin’ are both in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. That’s an honor that some snicker at but which I take with a genuine measure of pride. I began playing with a short-lived group in 1965 with the Daybreakers forming in ‘66 while I was still in high school. Singing lead and playing “combo organ” have been a big part of my life for a long time.

We had our brush with fame when “Psychedelic Siren” was issued by Dial, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, a single produced by Joe Tex’s producer, Buddy Killen. We had a regional hit and in subsequent years, unlikely as it might seem, that track became a part of numerous national vinyl and CD collections of ‘60s garage band rock. In more recent years the song has been covered by bands all over the place – not all of them in the USA. Several versions can found on You Tube.

Both the Daybreakers and Crusin’ opened for such acts as the the Buckinghams, the Turtles, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Del Shannon, and Peter Noone, among quite a few others. In early 1968 we did a brief Midwestern tour opening for the Rascals and Gary Puckett & the Union Gap when “Psychedelic Siren” was charting at Davenport’s KSTT.

So I was on the fringes of success in that field. Also, in the ‘80s, when I briefly dropped out of playing music to focus on a particularly heavy writing load, Crusin’ became the Ones, a New Wave-oriented version of the band that mixed originals with classic rock and became a big act on the Midwestern college circuit, particularly popular in Iowa City, where their LP got lots of airplay. When we re-grouped for reunions, the band would appear as the Ones some places, and as Crusin’ others. Later versions reverted exclusively to the Crusin’ name.

What does that have to do with Girl Can’t Help It? Well, the novel begins with a New Wave act from Dubuque, Iowa, who had some national success “back in the day,” years later (when the novel opens) getting into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. In a much more direct way than ever before, I am dealing with rock as a major aspect of a mystery novel. I also dig into the darker side of being in bands in those days, although I want to be clear the group in the novel is not meant to be either the Daybreakers or Crusin’ or any of its members. But as part of that world, I saw things, not all of which were pleasant, even if I didn’t experience them. And I certainly saw – and experienced – the conflicts between members in such bands.

I will be interested to see how readers react to the second Krista and Keith Larson novel. I know a few readers – let’s call them a vocal minority – don’t like finding me dealing with lead characters who are not overtly larger-than-life in the manner of Quarry, Nate Heller, Ms. Tree, Mike Hammer, or even Vivian Borne. I set out in the Krista and Keith books to do people who are more real, and to do a father-and-daughter relationship that wasn’t built on snarky sarcasm (even though I think you all know that I can do sarcasm). The larger-than-life aspect comes by way of the crimes and the killer.

I admit to being surprised that any reader would have trouble with this approach. I only know that I like this new book a lot, rather relishing the rock aspect, and intend to write at least one more Krista Larson novel.

Girl Can’t Help It has inspired a particularly good review (as well as one of Girl Most Likely) at Atomic Junkshop, including something of an overview of my work in general, a very interesting take on it. I’m gratified to see someone whose favorite series is Quarry finding Krista Larson equally compelling.

As for Do No Harm, Publisher’s Weekly has chosen it one of its books of the week (running their rave, starred review a second time).

The Tor/Forge blog honors Do No Harm with a look at the Sheppard court case and other courtroom biggies of the ‘50s.

The Stiletto Gumshoe celebrates Mickey Spillane’s 102nd birthday here.

And the great western writer James Reasoner has very nice things to say about the forthcoming Caleb York, Hot Lead, Cold Justice.

M.A.C.

A Do No Harm Excerpt, and Markers

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Here is a free excerpt from Do No Harm, the soon-to-be-published Nathan Heller novel.

* * *

As I approach my 72nd birthday (March 3 – plenty of time left for gift-buying), I am struck by the surprising emergence of ageism in my career, the tumultuous times I’m being forced to tolerate, and changing tastes that are understandably somewhat foreign to me. The latter has never proved a problem for me, but time and age have finally caught up with me on that score. I believe it has a lot to do with the fragmentation of the culture, including and maybe particularly the pop culture, where there is too much stuff to keep track of. Too many choices.

Too many choices has an upside – it means new venues are available for storytellers. It may also mean less pay, in some cases, but my focus now is on being able to continue telling stories. Part of why I am less tuned into the popular culture of the day has to do with my increased focus on my own work – in getting everything done that I came here to do. I am a collector who is collecting his own work.

Two events this weekend were markers of sorts for me. I’ll start with the fun one, which was Barb and me accompanying our four-and-a-half year-old grandson, Sam, to his first movie at a theater. Yes, I know theaters are not what they used to be – what is? But for a little boy who has never experienced a film in the big dark chamber with a huge screen and earthshaking sound and other people seated around him, seeing Sonic The Hedgehog was a very big, even frightening deal.

Sam is a smart kid, very well-spoken and funny. He is rather small – he was a premie – which adds to the impact of the sometimes astonishing things he says. As we drove toward the Palms Theater, Barb and I explained that the big building up ahead was where we’d be seeing the movie. The very size of the multiplex widened his eyes.

In the lobby, he watched with interest while other kids and their parents were lining up for popcorn, his grandpa among them. He was insistent that he did not want soda, and was glad to find lemonade an option. He was a very well composed young man.


Sam’s First Movie

When we entered the darkened theater, however, where the previews were blaring, he paused and clutched his grandma’s hand. He was, understandably, overwhelmed. We assured him everything would be all right, and he moved cautiously with us up the rise of the entry and then across the theater, with the mammoth screen looming and the sound booming, to seats on the other side, about half-way back and on the aisle, and sat between us. The kiddie meal (a little tray of popcorn with a slot for a package of M and M’s and a built-in cup holder for the non-soda) was soon in his lap. He looked small in the seat, but his eyes were big, as kid-oriented previews took the screen. Luckily, first up was the trailer for the new Minions movie (Minions are a favorite of his and most kids), which eased all three of us into the process.

Sam has seen movies at home, but always the animated variety – he has always been rather bored by actual humans (as am I, often). But he got caught up early on in Sonic, which proved to be a pretty good movie. Sam held his grandma’s hand through a few scary parts, but mostly he ate popcorn and M and M’s as he watched intently, sometimes on the literal edge of his seat. He asked surprisingly few questions, and the ones he did ask tended to be, “Are those good guys or bad guys?” In the four-year-old world, there are few grays.

We sat and watched much of the end credits, during which two post-film tags appeared, one revealing the Jim Carrey villain turning out to be the Sonic world’s key bad guy, Dr. Eggman. But more important, the final tag revealed the character Tails, a key character from Sonic-land, apparently, who has come to our world to seek the speedy blue hedgehog. There seems to be some confusion as to whether Tails is a boy or girl, but Sam always refers to Tails in the female sense.

“She has two tails,” he told us, “that transform into propellers.” (Later, in his car seat, he said, “I am wondering what is going to happen to Tails in the next movie.” He said he’d still be wondering tomorrow.)

On our way out of the theater, the credits were still rolling, with endless names as is the case with movies heavy with CGI, and Sam said to me (holding onto my hand now), “Are those the people who made this movie?” I said yes, and that since he likes to make up stories (which he does), someday a movie might be made from one of his stories.

“Then will my name be up there?”

I assured him would be.

And you know what? I think it will.

* * *

Russ Cochran by Frank Frazetta

That rite of passage over, another rite of passage much less pleasant happened last Sunday – I learned my friend Russ Cochran had died.

I’ll let his web site tell you who Russ was, and after that, I’ll tell you who he was to me.

For the past 30 years Russ Cochran has been collecting and publishing comic art.

Russ Cochran was born in West Plains, Missouri. Without television in the 1940s, Russ developed a passion for comic books.

In 1964 Russ earned his Ph.D. in Physics and became the Chairman of the Drake University Physics Department in Des Moines, Iowa.

As time passed, Russ felt the desire to become a collector of the comic books he had always enjoyed in his youth. The hobby brought him to his first comic book convention in 1965. Russ pursued a collector’s connection with Bill Gaines, publisher of EC Comics and MAD Magazine. Bill Gaines and Russ Cochran shared a mutual enthusiasm which led to a great friendship. Their relationship inspired Russ Cochran to republish the entire collection of EC comics.

In 1975 Russ followed his dream by moving back to West Plains, Missouri while devoting all of his energy toward publishing. Today Russ Cochran’s Auction offers select comic art for those collectors who share his appreciation and nostalgia.

That’s a modest, compressed version of who Russ was. A more detailed look at his accomplishments is provided by Bleeding Cool here.

I’ll bet there are people in your life who you’ve known for many years and who have been important over those years, yet you don’t remember exactly how the two of you came to intersect. I am going to guess that I met Russ around 1971 or ‘72, when he was still living in the Des Moines area. Whether he invited me to his place, or whether I had heard there was somebody into comics in Des Moines that I might like to meet, I can’t tell you.

But it speaks volumes that, back in the early ‘70s, just hearing that somebody else in your state – not your town, your state – was into comics made it worthwhile getting in touch with them. We were rare beasts. Comics fandom was still in its relative infancy.

At any rate, Barb dropped me at Russ’s place – all I remember is that it was a lovely, ranch-style affair – and likely drove off to spend a few hours at a shopping center. Meanwhile, Russ welcomed me warmly. Lanky, casual, he had a low, easy, slow pattern of speech, kind of deceptively lazy in a western way. I understood that he was the Chair of Physics at Drake, which was at once surprising – his quiet, folksy manner – and not surprising – his confidence and articulate speech.

He was a big, bearded guy, who might have been a Mountain Man in another life. He showed me around his house and I saw the most amazing, even mind-boggling array of original comic strip, comic book and illustration art that I had ever seen…no, have ever seen. He had paintings by Frank Frazetta, with whom he it was clear he had a friendship, and Flash Gordon originals by Alex Raymond, and Krazy Kat originals by George Herriman, and so much more…all framed, knocking my eyes out from every wall.

Over the years to come, as Russ began his fabled art auctions – which ran for decades with beautifully illustrated catalogues – I began collecting comic artwork. Not on his level, of course, but Russ showed me the way to appreciate this material. I have never been a collector who sticks things away in a drawer. Like Russ, I have framed the art. And I found surrounding myself with the creativity of others somehow fueled me. It still does.

Russ Cochran changed my life…Barb might say not for the better…and the thought that I won’t still hear that smoky, soothing voice of his over the phone saddens me more, perhaps, than it should. I bought from him, traded with him, spent time at comics conventions with him, and in the last few years have thinned my collection through his still ongoing art auctions. My most recent conversations with him were about an original Tarzan page by Jesse Marsh (good for you, if you know who that is) from the Dell comic books of my youth. Russ helped make sure I landed the page that I wanted.

Russ had an eccentric side. He was such a Tarzan fan, he bought a chimp as a pet – not a good idea, everyone will tell you, but it worked for him…and the chimp, apparently. You don’t move from Chairman of the Physics Department to a comic art dealer if you’re not eccentric.

I wrote introductions for a number of the EC hardcover collections he did – Johnny Craig’s work my speciality. For that, he sent me every volume of that incredible reprint series – boxed sets of every comic book and magazine EC ever published.

We argued a few times. He got mad at me once when I wouldn’t make a trade. That happens among collectors. But that unpleasantness lasted about a day, then fizzled away into warmth and good will. He always called me “Al” – in that Missouri way of his that somehow turned Al into three syllables.

Thanks, Russ. You introduced me to a world of collecting that was equal parts misery and delight, and – oddly – I appreciate having experienced both.

* * *

This is the first coverage that Girl Can’t Help It has received on the Net – features a quote from me before I wrote the book, inaccurately describing it! Check out my comment among several others at the bottom.

There’s a nice Killing Quarry mention toward the bottom of this EQMM review column.

M.A.C.

Book Giveaway, an Award Nomination, and Three Fond Farewells

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

I have ten finished copies each of the new Nate Heller, Do No Harm, and the second Krista Larson, Girl Can’t Help It, available first-come-first-served, in return for Amazon and or other reviews, including blogs.

[Note from Nate: The giveaway is over. Thank you for your participation! Keep an eye out for more to come.]

I am counting on your support because, as I mentioned last week, I am in the unhappy situation of having three books published by three publishers simultaneously. This may sound like an embarrassment of riches, but really it limits buyers and reviewers for all three titles.

If you have a blog or review site of some kind, you can request a book without being part of the giveaway. Just state that you are a reviewer.

I can’t emphasize enough how much reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and elsewhere – including blogs – impact sales. So if you have purchased either of these books, please consider reviewing them. Reviews at booksellers like Amazon do not have to be lengthy. The number of stars you give a book is as important as the review itself.

And this doesn’t apply just to me, obviously, but to any author whose book you enjoy, particularly authors you follow regularly.

Keep in mind, too, that the latest book in a mystery series – like Heller – seldom gets much publisher promo. Thomas & Mercer gave The Girl Most Likely a big push, just as they did Supreme Justice. But after a series has been launched, books depend on authors for D.I.Y. promotion.

I don’t have copies of the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, yet; but hope to have enough on hand to do a giveaway for that one, as well, in the next few weeks.

* * *

I’m pleased and honored to say Killing Quarry has been nominated for a Barry Award for Best Paperback. You can see the complete nomination lists here. The Barry Awards are presented by the editors of Deadly Pleasures, and is named after fan/reviewer, the late Barry Gardner.

It’s been very gratifying to see Killing Quarry so warmly received – the reviews have been flattering, to say the least.

By the way, for those keeping track: I have completed the first Nolan in 33 years – Skim Deep – and it will go out to Hard Case Crime by Wednesday at the latest. All that remains is one last read and the minor tweaking that will entail…unless I screwed something up, in which case all bets are off.

* * *

I will be 72 in March, and one of the bad things about surviving this long is having to see friends and heroes go on ahead of you. Three passings this week were especially hard to take.

Mary Higgins Clark, in addition to being a hugely successful author and the creator of a whole style of thriller focusing on female protagonists, was a kind, sweet, generous human being. Barb and I were on a cruise with her – one of those mystery cruises with a whodunit game part of the activities – and she and her daughter Carol made wonderful company. Mary was warm and displayed a lovely sense of humor. Carol, who was also a delight, has gone on to her own great success as a suspense novelist.

Orson Bean died at 91, hit by a car (two cars actually) jaywalking to get to a play. The absurdity of that – and that theater was a part of it – shows fate in a fitting but cruel mood. Bean was a whimsical, wry stand-up comic early on, a comic actor of charm and skill on stage and (large and small) screen, and a particularly popular, adept and (of course) funny game show participant. He also has a small but key role in Anatomy of a Murder. Bean had a searching mind as several of his books display – Me and the Orgone, Too Much Is Not Enough, and M@il for Mikey (not a typo).

He was also the star of an obscure but wonderful shot-on-video version of the time-travel play The Star Wagon by Maxwell Anderson, with a pre-Graduate Dustin Hoffman as his sidekick. It was shot in 1967 for PBS and is available at Amazon on DVD.

In January a man few of you have heard of passed away in Muscatine. Howard Rowe was a chiropractor, my chiro for many years. He and I disagreed on much – he was conservative, very religious, and a home-schooler, none of which I am, and yet we never argued. He supported my work, and was an enthusiastic fan of the movies we made here in Muscatine. His life was a reminder of how to be individualistic with strong opinions and yet still be a pleasure to be around. When I picture him, he’s smiling. Always. Most of you never met him, and some who did meet him considered him an oddball. He was, I suppose. But a glorious one.

* * *

Rue Morgue, the major newsstand magazine on horror films, interviewed me online not long ago, and did a very good, gracious job of it. Now a Rue Morgue review of the Mommy/Mommy2 Blu-ray has appeared and it, too, is positive.

The Flick Attack website has given Mommy’s Day (as part of the above-mentioned Blu-ray) a very nice write-up. Check it out.

Earlier Flick Attack talked about Mommy, in a mostly favorable manner, here.

With the release of Girl Can’t Help It imminent, seeing a favorable review of Girl Most Likely by Ron Fortier feels like a good omen.

So does this solid Girl Most Likely review.

Ask Not with Nate Heller is still on sale as an e-book for $2.99 right here.

Finally, my old friend Rick Marschall writes about the creators he worked with as an editor in the newspaper comics field, and I’m pleased to say his role in landing me the Dick Tracy job is something he’s proud of.

M.A.C.

Working on Nolan’s Return

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Cover of Mad Money, which will reprint Spree and Mourn the Living.

I am “coming down the pike,” as Barb puts it, on the new Nolan novel, Skim Deep, the first in the series since Spree (1987). Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai has for some time been encouraging me to write a new Nolan, lately to help launch HCC’s upcoming reprint series of the previous novels (they will be done two books to a volume). These sport excellent covers by Mark Eastbrook, and that includes the novel in progress.

Also, a fair number of readers have wanted another Nolan. I’ve resisted this because I felt the character’s story was over – that Spree concluded it nicely. Nolan has always been an ongoing saga as opposed to a series with a premise, in the way of a P.I. novel does or a Quarry or even an Antiques entry.

Of course, Nolan has always been a homage to the Parker series by Richard Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake), and as I often said to Don himself, “Homage is French for rip-off.” Don was always nice enough to say that Nolan, largely because of surrogate son Jon, was distinctly different from Parker. He also on occasion described my Nolan as the Jayne Mansfield to his Parker, and I would correct him, saying more the Mamie Van Doren.

To be fair to myself, the Nolan series did (after the first novel, Bait Money) quickly become its own thing. Nolan is a professional thief of fifty trying very hard to go straight and take part in the American Dream; but karma keeps looking for him, and finding him.

Editors wanting me to write something for them are a seductive lot indeed. So I’ve embarked on Skim Deep and am enjoying it a great deal, or anyway as much as possible when I’m up against a deadline – which is today, as it happens, which I’m going to miss by a week or two.

Then, out of the blue, there’s been some Hollywood interest in Nolan, which seems vaguely serious and involves a bunch of talented people. I’ll say no more because such things often do not play out into anything at all.

Rejoining these characters required little besides checking my previous novels for continuity issues. That’s in part because over the past several decades I have written various versions of a Spree screenplay (optioned a few times) that had me dealing with Nolan, his lover Sherry, and of course cartoonist/musician, Jon.

As is the case with continuing Quarry, I am keeping the novel in the time frame of the original series. Skim Deep takes place in 1988, about six months after Spree.

But I thought you might like another peek behind the curtain, this time as it pertains to working on this as yet unfinished novel.

Over the years I have developed a process that begins with an outline breaking the book down by chapters. Each chapter gets a paragraph or two, and occasionally just a couple of sentences. Among much else, that allows me to make sure the novel will be long enough to satisfy the editor (word count is often specified in contracts, although mostly that’s a guideline not a rule).

Each chapter has to be outlined, at least in my head, like a little novel or anyway a short story. And the narrative tends to develop in ways and directions I didn’t plan. So it is not uncommon for me to re-plot about half-way through, to accommodate the surprises I’ve given myself.

Fiction writing is largely a writer solving problems of his or her own making.

More often than not, I re-plot again, about half-way through the new half-a-novel outline. Sometimes more frequently. I have just written Chapter 11 of 17 (two of which are short chapters near the end). And I have, at this stage, re-plotted four times (after the initial first outline), and have also written a two-page outline of Chapter 11, which had a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

Last night, trying to get to sleep, I re-plotted again, but have not committed those changes to paper, although I will.

This is a tad (just a tad) unusual. But this represents my belief that plotting carefully must still allow for spontaneity. Have a roadmap, yes, but if a sign says, “World’s Biggest Ball of String NEXT RIGHT,” don’t be afraid to veer off. Some things just happen in a story – the ending of Road to Perdition had not been planned…just came out of my fingers when I was writing the final installment for artist Richard Piers Rayner.

Chester Gould did not plot ahead. He liked to say, “If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, neither will the reader.” That’s a little extreme, but Chet had a point.

* * *

Here’s a great write-up about the Reeder and Rogers political thriller series by Matt Clemens and me.

The Mommy/Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day Blu-ray gets some cool coverage at Media Play.

With Girl Can’t Help It waiting in the wings, here’s a nice review of Girl Most Likely.

Finally, MacMillan has the Kindle version of the Nate Heller novel Ask Not on sale for $2.99 here (regularly 7.00).

M.A.C.