Posts Tagged ‘Nathan Heller’

Bargains and Raves!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Amazon has a bunch of my stuff on sale all through the month of December, starting with the entire Reeder and Rogers series ([Linking to Amazon: –Nate] Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union, Executive Order) in an offer that will be sent to select customers.

Everybody else gets an even better deal – all of the following are at .99-cents during December:
The Titanic Murders
The Hindenburg Murders
The Lusitania Murders
The Pearl Harbor Murders
The London Blitz Murders
The War of the Worlds Murder
What Doesn’t Kill Her
Midnight Haul
Girl Most Likely

This is the first time The Girl Most Likely has been offered at the .99-cent price. And Girl Can’t Help It is available for $1.99.

Just till the end of the month.

At the Rap Sheet, that stellar critic and pop culture expert J. Kingston Pierce has selected Do No Harm as one of his favorite crime-fiction books of the year. Normally I would just provide a link, but I want to brag a little:

Do No Harm, by Max Allan Collins (Forge):

In previous books, Chicago private eye Nate Heller reinvestigated some of the 20th century’s most notorious crimes, from the “presumed” murder of bank robber John Dillinger to the slaying of L.A.’s enigmatic “Black Dahlia.” So it’s no surprise that he should finally tackle the real-life case of Cleveland osteopath Sam Sheppard, charged with bludgeoning his wife to death in July 1954. As on television’s The Fugitive—supposedly inspired by this case—the accused here claimed innocence, insisting an intruder had offed his spouse. And in Do No Harm, Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner believes Sheppard … which is why he hires Heller to review the evidence, three years later. In so doing, Heller walks readers back through the bizarre, haunting circumstances of that homicide and its aftermath, raising doubts not only about Sheppard’s guilt but about the actions of authorities (and newspapers) that helped to promptly convict him. In addition to Gardner, “Untouchable” Eliot Ness and celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey guest star in this inventive 17th Heller novel, one of the series’ finest entries—and that’s saying a hell of a lot.

Do No Harm cover

Kevin Burton Smith of the great Thrilling Detective web site selected Do No Harm as one of his favorite crime fiction novels of the year, and listed it (also at the Rap Sheet) but did not write about it. But I’m pleased just the same.

I should remind regular readers here that Do No Harm apparently will not get either a trade paperback or mass market reprint. So you’ll need to pick up the hardcover, which will likely go out of print (other than e-book) before too long.

Continuing to brag, I will share Ron Fortier’s wonderful review of Come Spy With Me at Pulp Fiction Reviews:

Come Spy With Me (Wolfpack)
Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

Max Collins is one of those writers who is constantly surprising us. After decades of offering up great mystery and crime tales, he then had us cheering wildly for his western actioners courtesy of the late Mickey Spillane’s cowboy hero, Caleb York. Now comes super-spy James Bond’s clone, John Sand.

The setting is the early 60s and a British novelist has become famous by fictionalizing the exploits of M1-6’s operative, John Sand. Obviously with such notoriety, Sand’s effectiveness as an agent is compromised and as the story opens, he has retired and married the beautiful Stacey Boldt, the beautiful heiress to a Texas oil tycoon. If that sounds familiar, think George Lazenby and Diana Riggs, we certainly did. It is wish fulfillment ala what might have happened had she survived. This book takes us there and it’s a wonderful ride.

Sand is sincere in his desire to leave his dangerous career behind and pursue his new role as an executive in his wife’s business empire. This all goes awry when, while on a trip to Caribbean, he becomes entangled in a political assassination. Within days he’s summoned by President John F. Kennedy to a clandestine meeting in the desert of Utah where a Frank Sinatra western is being filmed. Kennedy suspects rogue agents of the C.I.A. are planning on assassinating Fidel Castro. After the disastrous failure of the Bay of Pigs, the last thing he wants is another embarrassing incident pointing back to the U.S. Reluctantly Sand agrees to go to Cuba and see if there is any validity to the President’s claims.

As always, Collins’ use of the time and culture are spot on and add so much to the rich texture of his narrative. Ultimately Sand uncovers an even greater threat and upon reporting to Kennedy, is once again manipulated into being the President’s personal secret agent. If that wasn’t enough of a headache, Stacey demands to tag along. If her husband is going to continue leading a double-life, then he is going to do it with her or else he can pack his bags and kiss their marriage sayonara.

If like us, you grew up reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures, Come Spy With Me will feel like old home week. Not a bad way to kick off a new series, Mr. Collins & Clemens. Not bad at all.

Come Spy With Me cover
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Indiewire has a selection of books that its reviewers think should be TV series – and Nate Heller is on the list! Check this out….

This is Skyboat media hawking its own audio releases of Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. But it’s a very nice job and you may get a kick out of it.

Once again, Supreme Justice has made a list of the best legal thrillers of all time.

Here’s The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and me at a bargain price (check out this entire website, for cool stuff.)

Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet gets a recommendation from Tony Isabella, whose blog is always fun and informative.

M.A.C.

Bang, Zoom – You’re the Greatest! Also 99-Cent Nate Heller

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Till the end of the month, the latest Nate Heller novel, Do No Harm, is available for $2.99 as an eBook.

And starting September 22, all of the following Nate Heller novels are available for a mere 99-cents each on Kindle. This sale last only till September 28, so act fast!

These are the titles (in no particular order):

Damned in Paradise
Carnal Hours
Stolen Away
Chicago Confidential
Majic Man
True Detective
The Million-Dollar Wound
True Crime
Neon Mirage
Flying Blind
Blood and Thunder
Triple Play
Chicago Lightning

and this non-Heller title:

The Lusitania Murders

The promotion is here:
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13819722011

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Suddenly I’m ZOOMing.

Not long ago I did a panel promoting a book not by me, but by Susanna Lee, Detectives in the Shadows, on the impact of hardboiled private eyes on our popular culture. It’s an interesting book, with some observations I agree with (and some I don’t), focusing on a limited number of literary (and television) P.I.s. My participation came out of Ms. Lee doing a solid chapter on Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane.

The panel was moderated by my pal Kevin Burton Smith, whose Thrilling Detective web site is a place any fan of private eye fiction can (and should) spend a lot of quality time. Other panelists, besides Ms. Lee, were Ace Atkins (Spenser being a topic of a Detectives in Shadows chapter), Alex Segura, comics writer and P.I. novelist (the well-regarded Pete Fernandez series).

It’s a pretty good discussion, although I talk too much (big surprise). Alex got a bit short-changed, but Ace had smart things to say, particularly when he was agreeing with me. Anyway, don’t take my word for it. Here it is.

This afternoon (Sunday September 20, 2020), A. Brad Schwartz and I were interviewed about our non-fiction book, Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. We were interviewed by Scott Sroka, a recognized Ness expert, and the grandson of one of the real Untouchables (Joe Leeson), and himself a former federal prosecutor. We were hosted by Quail Ridge Books (thank you, Rebecca!).

It’s a decent discussion, I think, and since Brad and I will not be doing any bookstore signings or appearances, this is a somewhat rare opportunity to hear us talk about the second Ness book.

Brad and I will be doing one more of these appearances, this time at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas (where we appeared in person for Scarface and the Untouchable): THE SECOND ACT OF ELIOT NESS: BATTLING THE MOB IN CLEVELAND, October 8, 2020, 7 to 8 p.m.

Information on how to attend at the museum or online is here.

And that’s just the start of my ZOOMing adventures. This coming Wednesday I will be interviewed by Eddie Muller for his TCM series, Noir Alley (always a must watch, even when I’m not on it) (or, depending on your point of view, even when I am on it). I will be interviewed for two separate episodes on a pair of my favorite films, Kiss Me Deadly and Born to Kill. They should both air yet this year, and when I have air times (and permission to share them) I will post them on this update/blog.

I was scheduled to be on Noir Alley in March but the Pandemic decided I shouldn’t travel; and I was thrilled to be asked anyway, thanks to viewers getting used to seeing Zoom and Skype transmissions on bigtime TV.

Getting ready for Noir Alley has meant upgrading my computer set-up, and Turner Classic Movies has sent some higher-end stuff including a microphone that looks like it belongs on Johnny Carson’s desk and an HD camera that is far too realistically able to show the world what a 72-year-old version of a boy wonder looks like.

My son Nate has been vital in getting these technological upgrades installed and tweaked for a parent who doesn’t text and fears Apps the way Kevin McCarthy does his fellow citizens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

And tomorrow – the day before this first appears – I have to do a dry run with TCM to make sure we’ve correctly installed this stuff, though I’m pretty sure their techs have little if anything on Nathan Allan Collins.

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I am happy to report that the first batches of the Wolfpack trade paperbacks have arrived, and they are beauties. These folks do a great job. I don’t have enough on hand to start mounting book giveaways, though that will happen very soon.

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This is the second time I’ve titled one of these updates with a variation on Ralph Kramden’s toothless threat to send his wife Alice to the moon, and I suppose that’s risky in this climate. Will the day come – perhaps it already has – that a generation arrives who find The Honeymooners an offensive assault on their tender sensibilities?

Already, for decades, the all-African-American cast of gifted performers who made the Amos ‘n’ Andy TV show one of the funniest sitcoms in history have been consigned to the scrap heap of history. The creator of Harry Potter has a man in a dress killing women, I hear, and a whole lot of people who haven’t read the book want it boycotted.

As I have said many times: the place where the far right and the far left meet is a book burning…they’re just bringing different books.

I am always astounded at the things people complain about in my books. Quarry is viewed as having sexist views which they find just terrible (but nobody complains that he’s murdering people). Nate Heller also sizes up the attractive young women he counters, cataloguing their hair color and figures and facial features; but no one ever mentions that he often just flat-out kills people at the end of the books. I get attacked for writing sex scenes, mostly by priggish males, but don’t recall any complaints about gore.

Nothing new about that. That pre-dates political correctness, and just indicates how uncomfortable Americans have always been about sex and how comfortable they are with violence.

And now the Academy Awards are defining what elements a Best Picture nominee has to have, from the content of the screenplay to the ethnicity and sexual identification of the cast and crew. These are creative people who’ve banded together to promulgate this offensive nonsense, trivializing real problems and concerns into feeling smugly good about themselves.

It used to be Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Now the fiddlers burn other fiddlers while Nero and his boys sack Rome.

M.A.C.

Celebrating the Release of the Mad Butcher

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher
Hardcover: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link Google Play Purchase Link Nook Purchase Link Kobo Purchase Link iTunes Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link Google Play Purchase Link Kobo Purchase Link
Audio MP3 CD: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
Audio CD: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

Today is the publication date of the non-fiction tome Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and myself. I am celebrating this by giving away ten copies.

[Edit: All copies have been claimed. Thank you!]

The four Eliot Ness novels covering his Cleveland years – a quartet that eventually led to both the play/film Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life and the two non-fiction works, Scarface and the Untouchable and the new Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher – are available at Amazon from Wolfpack as An Eliot Ness Mystery Omnibus for $2.99. Even with my meager math skills, I can tell that’s a penny under three bucks for four novels.

While we hope to offer new print versions of the novels (perhaps in two-novels-to-a-volume form), right now they are Kindle e-books only. So no giveaways are in the cards for now. But if you have already read the novels – any of them – and liked them, reviews of the Eliot Ness Omnibus would be much appreciated. Right now we have a paltry two reviews at Amazon and that doesn’t go very far at getting the Omnibus noticed. Even if you haven’t bought the books in this new form, don’t hesitate about reviewing them under the Omnibus listing.

Since I’ll be talking about Eliot Ness this week, I’ll remind you that Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is available on Blu-ray now at Amazon.

It’s also available on DVD for $9.99.

Reviews for Untouchable Life at Amazon are also appreciated. We only have two at the moment, and no one has specifically talked about the Blu-ray.

Also, the entire five-book Mallory series will be available for 99-cents each as Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals from now through the end of August. Included in the sale will be the thriller Regeneration by Barb and me (as “Barbara Allan”), also at 99-cents.

The Mallory titles are: No Cure for Death; The Baby Blue Rip-off; Kill Your Darlings; A Shroud for Aquarius; and Nice Weekend for a Murder.

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Is it undignified to celebrate the career of a law enforcement icon who could not be bribed by offering a giveaway, and hawking various titles pertaining to him? I don’t really care, since I never claimed to be untouchable myself.

But Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (it has a subtitle but I decline to use it, because I dislike it intensely) marks the final stage of an interest in the real-life lawman that reaches back into my childhood. My interest in such things begins even before the first Untouchables of two installments on Desilu Playhouse aired on April 20, 1959. The Dick Tracy comic strip (by way of comic book reprints) had ignited that interest; but, in fairness, since Ness was the real-life basis of Chester Gould’s Tracy, the Untouchable was already in the mix.

There’s no question that Tracy and Ness got me interested in stories about detectives, but more significantly The Untouchables TV series (and the autobiographical book that spawned it) got me interested in the factual material that generated so much of the guns-and-gangster pulp fiction I adored. My novel True Detective (1983), after all, deals with the same crime – the assassination of Mayor Cermak – as a two-part Untouchables episode I saw as a kid. Granted, that two-parter only nodded at history, but that nod was enough to get my attention.

Ness became the Pat Chambers to Nathan Heller’s Mike Hammer in a number of the Heller novels. At the request of an editor at Bantam, I spun Ness off into the four novels that dealt with his Cleveland years (previously explored, somewhat inaccurately, in Oscar Fraley’s Untouchables follow-up, Four Against the Mob, but otherwise little written about).

Two things are, I think, significant about those novels, including that they represent the first time actual cases of this real-life American detective had been the basis of stories about him (excluding the initial two-part telefilm). More importantly, the writing of the books led to research by myself and George Hagenauer that uncovered new (or at least forgotten) information about Ness.

In addition to his occasional role in the Nathan Heller saga, Ness appeared in my graphic novel Road to Perdition (drawn by the great Richard Piers Rayner) and in my prose sequel, Road to Purgatory (available from Brash Books). The latter, to some degree, dealt with Ness’s little-known role in fighting venereal disease on military bases and elsewhere during World War II.

For unknown reasons, Ness was not depicted in the film version of Road to Perdition, but that nonetheless led to the play (and 2007 video production of) Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. Initially, actor Michael Cornelison and I were planning to do a one-man show about Perdition antagonist John Looney. We intended to mount it in Rock Island (where Looney had been the local crime boss in the early Twentieth Century) and shoot the film in one of the two existing houses were Looney had lived.

Somewhere along the line, one of us – it may have been Mike – suggested that Ness would have greater appeal to a wider national audience. Also, over the years I had heard from editors and readers that I should do a non-fiction treatment of Ness, since I had done so much research into and about him. Much of what George and I uncovered about Ness was making its way into the accounts of non-fiction writers (fiction writers, too) without credit.

As an independent filmmaker, looking for productions that could be produced cheaply but well, I found a one-man show appealing. I also had the possibility of a grant from Humanities Iowa, for whom I’d made an appearance at a University of Iowa event with editorial cartoonist, Paul Conrad. We mounted the play at the Des Moines Playhouse, where we shot the film between performances. My eventual co-author Brad Schwartz saw the play and that sparked our collaboration.

I had intended An Untouchable Life to be my final statement on Ness. While it is written from Ness’s point of view, skewed to his own memories and perceptions of his life, and some dramatic liberties were taken (by both Ness and me!), the play represents the most accurate depiction of Ness on screen to date.

Eventually, however, Brad convinced me to join him in writing the definitive biography of Ness. We embarked on doing that only to discover another, apparently major Ness biography was about to come out. I had once considered doing a massive, Godfather-style novel on both Capone and Ness, cutting back and forth between their stories. Now I suggested we follow that approach, but in a strictly non-fiction fashion. That would set us apart from any Ness bio or Capone bio, for that matter.

Obviously that approach – particularly since we intended to do cradle-to-grave accounts of both men – turned out to be too big for one book. Now we have a two-volume work that I feel confident is the definite treatment of the life of Eliot Ness. The research George and I did for the novels has been greatly enhanced by further research, much of it by my co-author, who crisscrossed the country in his efforts, even talking to surviving friends and associates of the long-deceased lawman.

It must be said that I have written about several different Eliot Nesses. The Ness of the Heller books serves a specific function – he is Heller’s conscience, the Jiminy Cricket to his Pinocchio. The portrayal darkens in Angel in Black and Do No Harm. The Eliot Ness Omnibus of Cleveland novels is a basically accurate but somewhat romanticized version of Ness – far closer to reality than Robert Stack, but splitting the difference between them. The same is true of Ness in Road to Perdition and Road to Purgatory. Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is only slightly romanticized, and (in my view at least) portrays him as he saw himself.

The real Ness can be found in Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (and Scarface and the Untouchable). My co-author and I did not always agree on what – or who – the research added up to. We wrestled our way into a joint presentation that is probably more accurate than if either of us had been turned loose alone.

I can look at these two works and feel that, at last, I have done right by this complex real-life Dick Tracy. With the publication of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, with the recent publication of Do No Harm (which ends Ness’s story in the world of Nate Heller), and with the four Ness-in-Cleveland novels gathered into Omnibus form, I feel I’ve come full circle.

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Here’s a great Wall Street Journal review. Here is the link, but it requires a subscription to read.

‘Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher’: An Untouchable Second Act

After helping to put Al Capone behind bars, lawman Eliot Ness came to Cleveland, where he did battle with a vicious killer.

Moviegoers of a certain age will remember Eliot Ness—the upright law-enforcement figure who battled corruption and organized crime from the 1920s to the ’40s—as portrayed by a tough-talking Kevin Costner in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables.” Television viewers from an even earlier era will recall Ness depicted by the stern-faced Robert Stack in the ABC series (1959-63) of the same name. But the real-life Ness, as revealed in Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz’s “Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher,” was less the hard-boiled hero of popular culture than a humane and forward-thinking lawman as interested in preventing crime as in punishing it.

The Chicago-born Ness (1903-57) came to prominence as a Prohibition agent in the Windy City, doing battle with Al Capone and other bootleggers as head of his own hand-picked squad of agents. His men were dubbed the “Untouchables” for their refusal to accept payoffs or gratuities. As a friend observed of the incorruptible lawman: “Honesty amounted to almost a fetish.”

The government put Capone behind bars in 1932 via the prosecution of a tax-evasion case, but the work of Ness and his men was central to establishing the extent of the mobster’s criminal activities. With Capone out of the picture, the Untouchables were disbanded, and Prohibition ended soon after. Ness, a nationally known figure (his physical and professional image inspired Chester Gould’s comic-strip police hero Dick Tracy), looked beyond Chicago for new opportunity. He found it in Cleveland, the site of his next significant successes—but also of the disturbing case that gives Messrs. Collins and Schwartz’s book its title.

Ness was named Cleveland’s director of public safety in 1935 and was put in charge of the city’s police and fire departments. He found the cops to be sloppy, uncooperative and demoralized. Once more he formed his own discrete unit of Untouchables to weed out incompetent and corrupt officers and hire smart new ones. “Intelligence,” he counseled, “must supplant brutality.”

But even Ness was stumped trying to apprehend the “torso murderer” responsible for a series of ghoulish killings, in which parts of dismembered and beheaded corpses were strewn about the woods and dumpsites of Kingsbury Run, one of the city’s poorest areas. “The mystery of the headless dead” drew national and international attention. In Germany, the Nazi press mocked America’s inability to apprehend the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.” With no witnesses and sometimes no way even to identify victims—and with advanced forensics techniques far in the future—police were stymied.

By 1938, the authors write, “the Butcher had become the subject of the largest manhunt in Cleveland’s history.” Thousands of citizens wrote and called the cops with worthless tips. “The investigators, after years of fruitless searching, grew desperate, pursuing ever more eccentric lines of inquiry.” At last a few tantalizing leads brought an alcoholic and mentally disturbed doctor named Francis Sweeney to the attention of the detectives.

Ness and his crew subjected the 44-year-old Sweeney—who had shown signs of psychosis and had been verbally and physically cruel—to judicially inadmissible polygraph examinations that convinced all present of his guilt. Still, despite an abundance of circumstantial indicators, Ness had no hard evidence. Complicating matters was the man’s being a cousin of a local congressman, a vocal Ness critic. Prosecution was not an option. Ness handled the matter privately, helping to arrange Sweeney’s commitment to a mental hospital. Sweeney, who was institutionalized for much of the rest of his life, sent a series of bizarre and taunting postcards to Ness through the mid-1950s.

Though Ness was sure that the killer had been caught and dealt with, he couldn’t officially close the case and so swore himself and his men to secrecy. The public was left with the impression that the culprit might still be at large. The case of the Mad Butcher, with its unsatisfying non-finale, fits a bit awkwardly into Messrs. Collins and Schwartz’s wider narrative. In the latter stages of their book, the authors ably follow Ness through an unsuccessful foray into city politics and a disappointing business career. But given this work’s title and its subtitle—“Hunting America’s Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology”—one sometimes gets the feeling of two different books uneasily hitched.

That said, the authors have done Ness justice. It’s discouraging to learn that a man who refused a fortune in bribes died $9,000 in debt. Shortly before his fatal heart attack at the age of 54, he finished work on the memoir that would revive and romanticize his reputation and bring his third wife and their adopted son a modicum of income.

Messrs. Collins and Schwartz, in this, their second deeply researched book about Ness, don’t gloss over their subject’s failings and blind spots, but they do show that he tried harder than many to leave the world a better place. His “signature achievements in Cleveland—fighting juvenile delinquency, reorganizing the police department, promoting traffic safety—stemmed from a deep well of humanity and compassion,” they write. Now more than ever, the authors conclude, Ness’s name “should remind us of the rigorous standards he brought to law enforcement—professionalism, competence, honor, and decency—and a determination to make everyone safer by addressing the systemic root causes of crime.”

Review by Tom Nolan.

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My favorite Jeopardy! question popped up again on a rerun this week:

MAC on Jeopardy!

Here’s a great interview with my buddy Charles Ardai, editor of Hard Case Crime. He mentions me several times, bless him.

Check out this wonderful review of The First Quarry.

M.A.C.

My Debt to Lone Wolf and Cub’s Genius Creator

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Kazuo Koike, the great creator of the manga classic, Lone Wolf and Cub, has died at age 82.

My name appears in many of his obits, along with Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino, because of the influence he had on our individual work. Road to Perdition is often mentioned, of course, sometimes stating that it was an American version of Lone Wolf and Cub.

My interactions with this incredible writer were decidedly odd.

At one point, I received a very friendly e-mail from an associate of his saying Kazuo Koike would be in America soon and was an admirer of my work, and wanted to meet. This was perhaps a year after Road to Perdition, the film, came out. The meeting would have been in Los Angeles, if I recall, and I had to explain that I lived in Iowa, nowhere near L.A. I said I would have loved to meet with him, and that I was a great admirer of his work.

Then at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con, I attended a panel that was just Koike and a translator and someone from Dark Horse, his American publisher. During the question-and-answer session, Koike complained that his work had been plundered, and mentioned Road to Perdition as an example, complaining that these plunderers might at least have given him credit.

Afterward, I went up with my son Nate and caught Koike before he’d left the stage, and Nate startled the great man somewhat by introducing me in Japanese. (As many readers of these updates know, Nate is a translator of Japanese into English and has done novels, manga and video games.) Nate told him that I was a big fan and meant to pay homage to him, and would like to shake his hand. He shook my hand, and signed a book for Nate.


Kazuo Koike, SDCC 2006

A few years later, at another San Diego con, Koike was appearing again, and (Nate again with me) I approached the Dark Horse people about arranging a brief meeting between us. They checked with him. I was told he did not want to meet with me.

Lots of peculiarity here. First, why had I been approached for a friendly meeting earlier? Would it have been an ambush of some kind? Also, I have always gone out of my way to acknowledge Lone Wolf and Cub as one of the inspirations for Road to Perdition. Koike quotes serve as epigrams at the start of the graphic novel and the two prose sequels.

If anything, I have – and certainly others have – exaggerated Road’s debt to Lone Wolf. As I’ve mentioned in any of number of places, I was most of all drawing upon John Woo movies, including Heroes Shed No Tears (1986), a very overt (wholly uncredited) updating of Lone Wolf and Cub. In the ‘80s, I was watching a lot of Hong Kong crime movies, gray market VHS copies, when director/writer Woo was fairly unknown in America. I saw Heroes Shed No Tears before I saw any of the Lone Wolf movies.

Further, in Road, I was drawing upon the real-life Rock Island gangster, John Looney, and his homicidal son Connor, and the falling out that several formerly loyal lieutenants had with Looney. In a more basic way, I was combining the movies about ‘30s bank robbers (Bonnie and Clyde, Gun Crazy) with gangster films (St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Godfather). The notion was to bring the worlds of the rural outlaws and urban gangsters of the ‘30s together. And I’d already been doing Nate Heller for some time (Looney and son are mentioned in True Detective, 1983).

No question that Lone Wolf was in the mix. I specifically thought that the shogun and his assassin had parallels in a mob godfather and his chief enforcer. And the father and son seeking vengeance while they were being chased was an element, too, although my anti-hero’s son was an adolescent, not a baby in a cart. Robbing banks where the mob cached their cash came from the terrific Don Siegel-directed film, Charley Varrick (1973), and striking back at the mob for vengeance through their bank books was from John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). The latter was also the start of what became my Nolan series

A lot of what I do draws from popular culture I like, but with a twist. Quarry has some of its roots in another Siegel film, The Killers (1964). Mommy is The Bad Seed flipped. Nate Heller is Philip Marlowe/Mike Hammer thrust into real unsolved crimes of the Twentieth Century. Girl Most Likely, to some degree, transposes the Nordic noir to the USA.

Lone Wolf did inspire the saga-like structure I originally had in mind. The idea was to have Michael O’Sullivan and his son on the road for 900 pages (in 100-page increments). But Road to Perdition (1998) was published as a single graphic novel (and not three 100-page “issues”) when Paradox Press (DC’s noir graphic novel line) went bust. After the film came out, I was able to go back to do another 300 pages of the father and son on the run (Road to Perdition 2: On the Road). The rest of the story was told in two prose novels – available from Brash Books – Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise, and another graphic novel from DC, Return to Perdition.

My debt to Kazuo Koike is undeniable, if perhaps not as great as he imagined. What is great is his body of work, and his masterpiece, Lone Wolf and Cub. He might wince to know I turn up so often in his obits, but I am nonetheless honored to be in his company.

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Another of my favorite manga creators, Monkey Punch (Kazuhiko Kato), also died recently, at 81. His Lupin III is a classic, and inspired perhaps the greatest anime, Cowboy Bebop. If you’ve never seen Monkey Punch’s thief in action, seek out the feature length Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1997), directed by the genius animator, Hayao Miyazaki.

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Check out this write-up about Kazuo Koike’s passing.

Here’s a top-notch review of Girl Most Likely from Criminal Element.

Here’s a short but sweet Girl Most Likely review.

Another decent Girl review can be seen here.

And this may be my favorite review of Girl Most Likely yet.

M.A.C.