Posts Tagged ‘New Releases’

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:
E-Book:

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a novella (it’s 40,000-words), but two additional Spillane pieces are included as a bonus at the back – the previously unpublished original version of his comic tale, “The Duke Alexander,” and a rare true-crime article.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:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:
Audio CD:
Executive Order cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:
Fate of the Union cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:

My eco-thriller, Midnight Haul, is also on sale on Kindle for $1.99.

Midnight Haul cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio CD:
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.

* * *

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.

Sit Down and Read!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

STOP THE PRESSES: Supreme Justice and Midnight Haul are on sale for $1.99 each as Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Kindle book deals till the end of May. Amazon links: Supreme Justice | Midnight Haul

* * *
Stand Up And Die! cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:

Stand Up and Die!, the new Mickey Spillane collection from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges imprint, goes on sale next week (May 17) as both a Kindle e-book and a physical book. I edited it (and introduced it) and contributed a new version of my very first collaboration on a Mike Hammer story with Mickey, “Tonight I Die” (originally titled “The Night I Died” and published in the Spillane/Collins-edited anthology, The Private Eyes, 1998).

These novellas and short stories are culled from two long-out-of-print anthologies I edited, Tomorrow I Die (1986, Mysterious Press) and Together We Kill (2001, Five Star). This represents all of the crime stories from both volumes collected here in one place.

Here are the contents:

“Stand Up and Die!” (1958)
“Everybody’s Watching Me” (1953)
“Together We Kill” (1953)
“The Girl Behind the Hedge” (1953)
“The Pickpocket” (1954)
“I’ll Die Tomorrow” (1960)
“Tomorrow I Die” (1956)
“Hot Cat” (1964)
“The Gold Fever Tapes” (1973)
“Tonight I Die” (2022)

The final story is a Mike Hammer tale, and the reason why I’ve done a new version – not radically different, but enough so to rename it – is a story unto itself.

The basic story of “Tonight I Die” appeared in three versions in Mickey’s files – a radio play, a thirty-minute TV show, and a sixty-minute or more TV movie. There are significant differences between versions, and I did not become aware of all three until much later.

In 1998, when we edited the anthology Private Eyes for NAL, I felt it was key that we include a Hammer short story. But there weren’t any and getting Mickey to write a new one would have tough to impossible. He had already begun to share his unpublished materials with me, just for my interest (and perhaps he was already thinking of what I might do with his unfinished work some day), and I had run across the radio play version. It seems to have been written for the radio series That Hammer Guy, possibly as a pilot. It was not to my knowledge produced, though the series ran three years.

The script was heavy with narration and I asked Mickey if I could turn it into a short story, sticking to his script. He gave his blessing. The script was heavy with narration and the transfer was not difficult, though I felt some of it could have used some work, chiefly for clarity. But I did as little as I could in that regard, basically turning the script’s present tense script into past.

Now that I’ve done so many posthumous collaborations with Mickey – with his blessing – I felt this story should be properly prepared for publication…again, without taking too many liberties.

The things I did not include from the Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill anthologies in this new one are interesting but not vital – like the science-fiction tale “The Veiled Woman,” ghosted by Howard Browne when Mickey missed deadline; a few memoirs for True magazine; a comic book “filler” story (now available in Vintage Spillane); and the script of a Mike Hammer screen test film starring Spillane’s policeman pal Jack Stang (a short story version appearing in the forthcoming Kill Me If You Can, this year’s Hammer 75th anniversary novel, which includes five bonus short stories). Also intentionally M.I.A. is Mickey’s good but non-crime tale, “Affair with the Dragon Lady.”

Stand Up and Die! is the definitive collection of Spillane crime/mystery short fiction, and its existence is due to not just my efforts but also Wolfpack’s Mike Bray, Paul Bishop and James Reasoner.

Mickey allowed a number of his crime novellas to be collected by NAL as paperbacks, mostly two-to-a-volume. This was part of his effort to raise last-minute funds for the troubled production of The Girl Hunters film. Possibly because that need for money was over, he did not bother to collect his other novellas and short stories similarly. Over the years I collected these in their original men’s adventure magazine appearances, sometimes off the newsstands, other times in used book stores. Convincing Mickey to let me collect some of them for the Mysterious Press anthology led to our first professional project together.

Not our last.

I can’t recommend a collection of tough fiction more highly than this one.

* * *

Here’s a good review of Quarry’s Blood by a reader who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he wants me to write more Quarry books or not.

This review of the film The Outfit, streaming now, says it’s a combination of Collins (me), Mamet (a writer whose work I don’t care for), and Sorkin (a writer whose work I do care for). So I went into watching it with one eye squinted. It’s an okay crime chamber piece, with a strong central performance by Mark Rylance. You may like it. I made it all the way through, Barb didn’t. Interestingly, Barb loves the film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (as do I), and the reviewer here in passing calls Tinker, Tailor “dreadfully boring.” Still, having my work referenced in a review like this was fun.

Some short, smart reviews here of three Quarry books and one Nolan. I’m blushing.

Road to Perdition is listed as one of the seven best movies debuting on Netflix in May 2022.

Here’s an interesting in-depth look at Wild Dog.

Finally, this brief, admiring look at the graphic novel and film of Road to Perdition.

M.A.C.

Menace & Shrinking Island Giveaway…And Robert Morse

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

The publication date of The Menace by Mickey Spillane and myself (from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press) is August 27 (Wednesday of this week, as I write). To jump-start some reviews of this and of The Shrinking Island (the collection of Mickey three YA adventure novels), I am announcing right now a book giveaway. Winners agree to write an Amazon review; other reviews are also encouraged.

M.A.C. holding copies of The Menace and The Shrinking Island

I have five copies of The Menace and five copies of The Shrinking Island for the first ten who request a book by writing me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Tell me which book you prefer, but if your choice is gone, the other will be sent. You must include your snail mail address, even if you’re entered before. These will go fast.

As usual, USA only.

The Menace is a special book. It is unusual in several respects. The Mike Hammer novels under the Spillane/Collins byline reflect me finishing books of Mickey’s in progress or put aside at the time of his death in 2006, or novels developed from synopses he left behind. I’ve also done from partial Spillane manuscripts two non-Hammer novels – The Consummata (with Morgan the Raider from The Delta Factor) and a standalone (Dead Street), with a very Hammer-like protagonist.

The Menace was developed from an unproduced screenplay in the Spillane files. It was apparently written shortly before or around the time he and I became friends in 1981, and he spoke to me of it frequently. He seemed to have an independent production in mind; he was friendly with South Carolina indie producer, Earl Owensby, who had his own studio, and the two had explored doing projects together. Nothing came of it, but The Menace indicates something might have.

But the screenplay was short – around 40 pages – and seems either to be a condensed version designed to attract investors or a version that could have been a pilot for a one-hour anthology series, probably with Mickey hosting. (In the forthcoming Mysterious Press biography by Jim Traylor and me, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, we explore Mickey’s efforts to put a mystery/crime anthology on the air with himself as the on-camera Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock).

What is particularly interesting about The Menace is the genre – while one foot is in a crime/mystery story, the other is in horror. Elements of horror were a part of Spillane’s novels from the beginning – he brought the horrors of graphic violence to his post-war crime fiction – the endings of Kiss Me, Deadly and My Gun Is Quick come to mind – and flirted with horror themes in The Twisted Thing and his last Hammer-in-progress, The Goliath Bone.

But The Menace is specifically Mickey reacting to the success of Stephen King. I go into this in my intro to The Menace, and will only say here that it was a Spillane reaction to King’s enormous success as a writer who became a media star and who carved out his own new niche in popular fiction. It’s fair to say that King has been imitated in much the same way Mickey was in his heyday.

Spillane did not, however, like the supernatural aspect of King and that other huge success, The Exorcist (book and film). As a Jehovah’s Witness, he took demons and the devil very seriously and did not consider them appropriate subject matter for fiction. He didn’t cry out for censorship, and in fact called King “a great writer”; but that type of horror was not for him.

The novel I’ve fashioned from his compact screenplay is unusual in its crime/mystery aspect having no Mike Hammer substitute at its center, though a tough small-town police chief is one of the two protagonists. The story is about a family where the husband (a self-made-man doctor) and wife (an artist from a wealthy family) have been driven apart by their disagreement over how to raise their ten-year-old “special needs” son. During much of the action, the estranged couple and their boy are in a big old spooky house, the grounds behind walls, which becomes the setting for a siege of sorts involving an Aztec mummy who may or may not still be breathing and a creature who may or may not be human. And at its heart is the story of a family coming back together in adversity.

Not typical Spillane elements, but typically compelling Spillane storytelling. Like the adventure stories he wrote in his last decade – The Shrinking Island, Something’s Down There and The Last StandThe Menace indicates an author trying to break away from Mike Hammer and flex other storytelling muscles.

I am very proud of the book and think it shows a whole other side to Mickey Spillane. It’s a relatively short novel – 40,000-words – but we have included as a bonus the original, previously unpublished version of the short story “The Duke Alexander” and a rare non-fiction crime story by Mickey, “The Too-Careful Killer,” unseen since 1952.

* * *

Yet another of my heroes has left the planet. As if losing Norm Macdonald and Gilbert Gottfried weren’t enough, a selfish God has taken Robert Morse away. Granted, Bobby Morse had a 90 year-run, and I admit when Barb and I screened How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in his honor over the weekend, we could not mourn. We could only get caught up again in the joy of experiencing the magical, shamelessly mugging musical comedy performance that is Robert Morse playing J. Pierpont Finch.

I started thinking about what I was going to say about How to Succeed and Morse, but thought I should check on what I’d said on the subject in this space before. And I discovered that in a post in 2017, I had already said the things that my mind was putting together for me to share now. So I’m going to do something I don’t believe I ever have here – I am going to rerun my response to seeing the Twilight Time Blu-ray edition of How to Success in Business Without Really Trying.

* * *
As you may have gathered, if you’ve stopped by here at all frequently, I am a collector of movies on Blu-ray and DVD. Many of my favorite films have made it onto Blu-ray, like Kiss Me Deadly and Gun Crazy (though I had to get that from Germany). And a fairly short list of my favorites remain on DVD only, like the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes, and the great film version of the Broadway musical, Li’l Abner.

One of my favorites, poorly represented with a terrible transfer on DVD, has finally made it to Blu-ray, in a limited edition of 3000, from Twilight Time, the boutique label that has brought us any number of terrific films, from The Big Heat to the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles, from a Sinatra Tony Rome double feature to Pretty Poison.

But this time – and my birthday month yet – they have given me (and Barb and for that matter son Nate, who also loves it) a film I could watch once a week – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

There are those who can find reasons not to like this movie, just as there are people who can find a reason not to like ice cream. They are to be pitied. How to Succeed features a brilliant, witty, acid but not hateful score by the brilliant Frank Loesser. A Pulitzer Prize-winning musical (yes, Pulizter Prize-winning musical) in 1961, the Broadway version skewered the shallowness of big business in an up-to-the-moment manner. Unfortunately, the timing of the film’s release – 1967 – made How to Succeed’s cutting-edge satire seem dated, a lot having happened since ‘61.

Fortunately, time has been kind to this early ‘60s musical, with its bright Batman TV colors and cartoon images come to life (cartoonist Virgil Partch – VIP – was a consultant) and Bob Fosse choreography that is as witty and biting as the original play itself. (Fosse is not the actual choreographer of the film, but he’s credited as the source.)

A number of players from the Broadway show are retained, including Michelle Lee (who was the second Rosemary Pilkington in the original cast), the very funny Rudy Vallee, Ruth Kobart, and Sammy Smith, with Charles Nelson Reilly’s Bud Frump M.I.A., though decently replaced by Anthony Teague. Maureen Arthur – a live-action Little Annie Fannie – was in the national company of the musical and joined the Broadway run later.

I saw the national company in Chicago when I was in high school and fell in love with the musical then. The cast included Dick Kallman as Finch (later star of Hank on TV), who was excellent, with the second Great Gildersleeve, Willard Watterman, in the Rudy Vallee role. And of course the eye-popping Maureen Arthur was Hedy LaRue (“O.K. Charlie!”).

Two things make this film one of the best transitions of a Broadway hit to the big screen. First, director/writer David Swift – with credits like Pollyanna and Under the Yum Yum Tree enough to make one doubtful – had the surprising sense to film faithfully a show that had won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The other thing is Robert Morse.

His J. Pierrepont Finch is my favorite performance in any musical film. He shamelessly recreates the Broadway role with only the slightest concession to movie technique. He understands, as does the rest of the cast (though not on this level), that he’s appearing in a cartoon. His character, who climbs from window washer to the chairman of the board in a few days, following a self-help book that provides the film’s narration – should be unsympathetic. He’s manipulative and dissembling and is never seen really working (not really trying, remember?); but the boyishness of Morse himself smooths the edge off.

Morse brings a remarkable energy to his songs and his loose-limbed dancing brings James Cagney to mind. In the ensemble, “Brotherhood of Man,” in the midst of a sea of Bob Fosse choreography, brilliant scene-stealer Morse knows just how to draw the viewer’s eye, chiefly by lagging like a jazz player behind the melody just enough to seem improvisional among all the precise dancers. He alone seems spontaneous.

Does he mug? Almost constantly. His performance is basically Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School. Somehow, playing a ladder-climbing nogoodnik, he seems joyful – the perfect conveyer of Loesser’s lyrics, with their hidden dark side.

Famously, the big hit love song from How to Succeed is sung by Morse’s Finch…to himself in a mirror. Few scores rival this one, though like Sondheim, Loesser writes to the story. The songs that were left out (“Paris Original,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm”) are the weakest in the show. The only loss, besides Charles Nelson Reilly, is the great “Coffee Break,” which was filmed but cut for time. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have survived to be a special feature.

Morse and Reilly, by the way, were so successful on Broadway that they made an album together, “A Jolly Theatrical Season,” in 1963.

If the name Robert Morse seems vaguely familiar to smart younger people, he played Bertram Cooper on Mad Men, a role he was cast in, in tribute to his star turn in How to Succeed. Toward the end of Mad Men’s run, Morse was given a lovely song-and-dance farewell.

Morse’s career on Broadway was a stellar one, particularly his roles in Sugar and his one-man play, Tru, in which he played Truman Capote, winning his second Tony. But his film legacy is, largely, How to Succeed. No other film caught his magic, and a few really did him no favors – Honeymoon Hotel; Quick, Before It Melts – though The Loved One and Guide for the Married Man are worthy credits. I used to feel sad that this great talent had only one film to do him justice.

But with How to Succeed finally on Blu-ray, and with Mad Men as a wonderful, Emmy-nominated coda, I can only smile.

Nice modern-day (separate) interviews with Morse and Michelle Lee are special features. No “Coffee Break,” alas.

Buy it here.

* * *

UPDATE: The Twilight Time Blu-ray is still available but is pricey from some sources, although Screen Archives still has it at $20.

Let me add a few thoughts. Morse, who I describe above as “Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School,” shared with Lewis an inability to move from boyishness into anything else. It took the heavy make-up of his Truman Capone one-man show to briefly change that – he won a second Tony for it, after all – but he remained a boyish persona.

His rise to success (and Succeed) came from a string of stand-out youthful Broadway roles that culminated in J. Pierpont Finch being designed as a star vehicle for him. Two Broadway revivals have not shown their popular stars able to make their performances anything but reminders of how good Morse was.

He worked. He had a career. For a while he remained hot on Broadway, with Sugar (the musical version of Some Like It Hot) in 1972 a particular highlight. But mostly it was episodic TV and TV movies (he played Grandpa Munster in one), Pringle commercials and lots of cartoon voiceovers (Teen Titans, toward the end) – not what his dazzling How to performance promised.

That he had Mad Men as a last act is wonderful. But he deserved more. And we deserved more Morse.

* * *

Richard Piers Rayner’s phenomenal work on Road to Perdition gets some nice notice here in a piece on movies that recreated panels from the comic books they were based on.

M.A.C.

Quarry Hits the Big Times

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

It’s been ages since I’ve had a New York Times review of one of my novels. I’ve had some nice write-ups there – don’t recall a bad one – but this is the first ever Quarry novel the Times has reviewed. Here goes:

With QUARRY’S BLOOD (Hard Case Crime, 224 pp., paper, $12.95), Max Allan Collins finally bids goodbye to Quarry, his Marine sniper-turned-professional assassin, more than 10 years after The Last Quarry, by its title, promised to do so. This time feels like it’s for keeps, as the novel is set more or less in the present (there’s a reference to a character dying of Covid), and Quarry, pushing 70, is looking forward to retiring after all those decades of killing for hire.

Retirement, however, is put on ice when a true-crime writer, Susan Breedlove, shows up at Quarry’s door looking for some answers. Her arrival opens a portal into full-on metafiction, as the line between what Collins has published since the mid-1970s and what has spilled out into the actual world (like a television adaptation) grows so porous as to cease existing.

It goes without saying that the body count will pile up, and that Quarry, despite his aching body and slower reflexes, still operates at a more ruthless clip than almost anyone he encounters. This is a sure-footed ending to a series that marinated in the excesses of pure pulp.

That’s a swell review, but what’s interesting to me is to how the word “pulp” has become a compliment in recent years – possibly thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – when for decades it was a pejorative. Now it denotes a certain style of fiction (often consciously retro) viewed with a positive, even affectionate spin.

Equally interesting to me is that this is the first I’ve had a paperback original reviewed in the Times, at least that I can remember.

So far the reader response, and reviewer reaction, has been very warm indeed to the new Quarry. It was a risky novel to write, as you readers of the book already know, because I ventured into “meta” territory, big-time. I don’t want to say more, but I will say that one of the things I dealt with is just what exactly Quarry has been writing in these first-person narratives all these years.

Quarry's Blood Audiobook cover
Digital Audiobook: Audible Purchase Link

Out right now is the audio book of Quarry’s Blood, read by the wonderful Stefan Rudnicki. The cover is pictured here. I have not listened to the audio yet, but will begin sometime this week, when we take a day off to celebrate my 74th birthday. (It’s March 3rd, not yet a national holiday.)

Stefan has become the voice of Quarry for me, just as Dan John Miller is Nate Heller.

Check out an excerpt here:

* * *

I am working on the new Heller novel now, ridiculously immersed in it, and for that reason this will be a short update. I would like to respond to Bill P’s follow-up comment on a discussion about writing, readers and reviewers that’s been going on for a few weeks here. I misunderstood Bill’s use of “archetype,” thinking he meant the characters I write about; but he was thinking of the archetypical reader I envision.

I accidentally answered that, by saying that I write to please myself, and my wife Barb, who is my first reader as I go along (meaning she reads the chapters as I complete them). I do, however, envision a reader. I don’t think specifically of a male or female, just someone who shares my interests and tastes, and the ideal reader is probably of my generation or the generation or two on either side of mine. A major part of my approach is my assumption that the reader is at least as smart as I am. He or she might be smarter, but not so much smarter that my work seems childish or beneath them. I never assume – never – that the reader isn’t as smart as I am. I endeavor never to write down.

The only slight exception – the only “sort of” exception – is when I write a first-person story in the voice of someone not as smart as me. I’ve only done this a few times, and it’s tricky (Shoot the Moon is one). This relates as well to writing in the point of view (when in third person) of someone who isn’t as smart as me. Who might be dumb, like Lyle in Spree. All I can say is that these characters never think of themselves as dumb, just as the antagonists of the protagonists never think of themselves as the villains.

I’ve made it clear here that I abhor writing that tries to impress – that spends too much time showing off. In this approach, the story almost always pays the price.

* * *
La Guerra De Quarry (Quarry's War, Spanish Edition) cover

I wanted to share with you this cover of the graphic novel Quarry’s War in Spanish.

I don’t remember Quarry appearing in Spain before. Road to Perdition did, which may be what led to this edition.

Here is a very smart review of Quarry’s Blood. This reviewer is always worth reading.

M.A.C.