Posts Tagged ‘Nolan’

Caleb York Nominated

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek cover
Hardcover: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
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I’m pleased to say that my Caleb York novel – Shoot-out at Sugar Creek – has been nominated for a Scribe award.

Original Novel — General
Patient Zero, Amanda Bridgeman (Aconyte)
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Kensington)
Debonair in Death, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley)

Winners will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con July 22, 2022. A full list of nominees in all categories is at the IAMTW.

This is a bittersweet but much appreciated honor. For whatever reason, neither the Spur nor Peacemaker Awards from the Western Writers of America and the Western Fictioneers respectively have ever honored the Caleb York novels. (I should say we did get a Best Novel nomination for The Legend of Caleb York from the Fictioneers, but nothing since.)

I would imagine I’m viewed as an interloper, a mystery/crime novelist moving in on their territory. It’s been a fun ride nonetheless. Kensington has not asked for more Caleb York novels, and I am making no approaches to other publishers, though the York sales have been strong enough to make that possible. It’s just that my goal for Caleb York was to fashion a novel from Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Saga of Cali York, written for John Wayne. I only did more novels because Kensington requested them, and, hey, who am I to turn down work?

But at this stage of the game, I’m starting to question that question. I am embarking on what may be the final Nate Heller novel, the potentially massive Too Many Bullets, and will likely be spending most of the rest of this year on it. My health is fine, considering the underlying factors, but I am particular about what projects I take on at this point.

It’s hard for me to walk away from a series. I really loved writing Caleb York, as I’ve been a fan of movie and TV westerns since early childhood – admittedly less so of western fiction. But those six novels satisfied a creative itch and I’m pleased to go out on a Scribe nomination. The paperback of it is coming in October.

The Scribes honor writers of movie novelizations and TV tie-ins, as well as authors continuing characters begun by famous writers like Robert B. Parker, Edgar Rice Burroughs and, yup, Mickey Spillane. This is the first time I’ve submitted a Caleb York novel to the Scribes, as members are limited to one submission in a category, and previously I submitted Mike Hammer novels to the General Fiction category (winning several times, I’m pleased to say).

Those keeping score may recall that Lee Goldberg and I founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) a decade and a half ago. Lee, having more class than me, never submitted his work to the awards given by an organization he co-founded. I, of course, having no shame, have been a frequent nominee and occasional winner.

The reason why I have no shame is that the real shame goes to the writing organizations (you know who you are) that have ignored tie-in writing throughout their existence, as if the talented writers creating novels and short stories in their respective fields (science fiction, mystery fiction, horror, western) didn’t exist at all.

I know from the mail I’ve received over the years (snail and e-) that most readers don’t make that distinction. The role that Star Trek and Star Wars novels played in keeping those franchises alive during periods when Hollywood’s versions lay fallow cannot be overestimated. My publishers frequently mention that I am the author of Saving Private Ryan and Air Force One (among others) without bothering to mention they are novelizations. Until the recent Reeder & Rogers political trilogy came along, my CSI novels (written, like that trilogy, with my gifted co-writer Matthew Clemens) were my bestselling mystery/crime novels…and introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to my work.

So I am proud to be co-founder of the IAMTW, and will bear up under the shame of participating in their awards.

* * *
Sam Elliot in 1883

Speaking of westerns, among the streaming series Barb and I have been watching is 1883, which is supposedly a prequel to the very popular Yellowstone. We tried the latter and somewhere in the second season got irritated with it, so we avoided the prequel for a while. We shouldn’t have.

My love for Sam Elliot as perhaps our last great western icon in the Hollywood sense finally prompted us to watch, and it’s a fine show – tough, heart-felt, and more historically accurate than most. (Really it should be set at least ten years earlier, but apparently that would screw up its prequel-to-Yellowstone timeline.) Everyone on this series is good, but Elliot seems to sense this is a career-capper and his rock-hard surface hiding tender humanity – he is sort of the ultimate “tough love” advocate – sums up everything we admire about his work.

1883 is on Paramount-Plus, and I’m finding it the best of the handful of streaming services of which I partake. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to honor the memory and approach of Roddenberry while updating it. Barb and I glance at each other every episode and at some point one of us says, “Can you believe it’s 2022 and we’re watching new Star Trek?”

And real Star Trek at that.

The Offer wrapped up very well. Having read a bit about the actual filming of The Godfather, I am aware a certain amount of sugarcoating, not to mention artistic license, is afoot here. But I was shocked by the swells of emotion I felt in the knowledge that the characters have achieved their goals and were about to go on with their lives without me. For me, Miles Teller is the standout in a cast that I would have to say is flawless (well, the Sinatra guy could have been better).

Also viewed streaming (it’s available a couple of places) is a three-and-a-half-hour Bollywood movie my son badgered me to watch – RRR. It is an absolutely bonkers action spectacle that makes Raiders of the Lost Arc look like a documentary about archeology. They fight, they sing, they dance, they romance, they make sure we know the Brits were stinkers. It’s absurd and childish and sophisticated and three hours and a half just blow by. I cannot do RRR justice, other than to say – don’t leave the planet before you’ve experienced it. (My favorite scene had to do with the massive cages of wild beasts being unleashed on a British nighttime garden party.)

You’re welcome.

* * *

One of the things about writing a weekly blog, with a specific deadline, is that everything else can get in the way.

Today I have to prep for the commentary I’m doing tomorrow morning (at Phil Dingeldein’s studio in Rock Island) for the ClassicFlix 4K Blu-ray (and 3-D) release of the 1953 I, the Jury, something I had only dreamed might one day happen. But the prep will not be easy, as there is much to discuss.

Last week I was in a foul mood and did not feel well, and dragged myself through this bloggy process. And if it showed, well, you’re not paying anything for this. Don’t bitch.

However. I performed the kind of screw-up I am well-known among my friends and associates (not mutually exclusive groups) for performing: I posted the four gigs of my band Crusin’ this summer and managed to leave out one of those dates, while thoughtfully including the times and places. You can’t have everything.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

Before I present the revised schedule, I’ll mention that Crusin’ appeared last Friday night (June 24) at Ardon Creek Winery. It’s a lovely outdoor venue, and we were pretty good. The crowd was even better, numbering in the hundreds. A taco truck fed their tummies, and we fed their souls. It was fun, and I felt good throughout, relieved that my age had not dulled my rock ‘n’ roll skills appreciably since last year.

We had not appeared at Ardon Creek, one of our favorite venues, since pre-Covid, so it felt like a reunion. Barb was there – she helps me set up and tear down – and my son Nate, his wife Abby and their two kids Sam and Lucy came and capered on the surrounding green landscape that makes this particular venue so special.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

I know these updates go out to readers, fans and friends all over the country, all over the world really, and what follows is strictly for Eastern Iowa and thereabouts. But here’s the rest of Crusin’s season:

Saturday July 2 we’re at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 p.m. On the patio, inside in case of rain.

Sunday August 14 it’s the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s indoors, weather allowing outside in the parking lot. 6 to 8 p.m.

Sunday Aug 21 2022 – the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, 1 till 4 p.m. 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

* * *

Here’s a nice John Sand review.

This piece looks at Road to Perdition on Netflix.

You have to scroll down a ways, but this is an in depth look at several of the Nolan novels, including the recent Skim Deep. [Note: the link is a PDF-format Internet magazine. The homepage is here.—Nate] The writer is very self-confident, smart and talky, but careless (my middle name is “Allen” in the first piece, and Richard Stark, it seems, writes about “Porter”). But it’s a deeper dive (a current term I despise) than Nolan is usually given.

Here’s a Spillane WW 2-era comic book story I didn’t know about!

M.A.C.

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

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will keep you posted.

* * *

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

The Staircase

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

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

Candy

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

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

The Thing About Pam

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

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

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

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

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

The offer

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

Will it be the last?

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

M.A.C.

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.

Paging Dr. Tongue, Plus Neal Adams and Martin & Lewis

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

In case you haven’t been listening, 2022 is the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s debut in the 1947 novel I, the Jury. A lot of exciting things are already underway. So far we’ve got The Shrinking Island and The Menace out there from Wolfpack’s imprint, Rough Edges Press. And coming up in about two weeks from Rough Edges is a great anthology of Spillane novellas, Stand Up and Die!

But perhaps most exciting of all (next to the January 2023 prose biography, Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me from Mysterious Press) is the long, long-awaited release of the 1953 film version of I, the Jury…and in 3-D!

I The Jury 3D announcement

ClassicFlix – who specialize in (not surprisingly) Blu-rays and DVDs of classic films from Hollywood’s 1930s/’40s/’50s Golden Age – is bringing it out (likely in the fall).
I will be doing the commentary.

The 1953 I, the Jury is a very underrated film (including by Mickey). Biff Elliot makes a fine Mike Hammer and the script and direction by Harry Essex are faithful to the source. Peggie Castle and Margaret Sheridan make the definitive Spillane women, and the great noir specialist, cinematographer John Alton, works in 3-D with his usual artistry. I put only Kiss Me Deadly ahead of it and would call the first I, the Jury a tie with The Girl Hunters for second place.

The publishing schedule for the Hammer anniversary includes The Menace, with me writing a horror/crime novel from an unproduced Spillane screenplay; a collection of the three YA novels, The Shrinking Island, with the previously unpublished title tale a Spillane fan Holy Grail; and the soon-to-be-published Stand Up and Die! (with a Spillane/Collins Hammer story) the best collection of Mickey’s novellas ever assembled.

In August Titan will bring out the novel Kill Me If You Can, again with me working from an unproduced Spillane screenplay and dealing with the period between Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters – the direct aftermath of Velda’s disappearance. The book includes five Spillane/Collins short stories, including two Hammers.

And the capper of this wave of Spillane publishing will be the 100,000-word bio from Jim Traylor and me.

* * *
Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)
Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)

I suppose being my age – 74, damnit – means a progressive thinning of the ranks of my heroes and friends (two groups not mutually exclusive). Now we have lost Neal Adams, at 80, who for my money is the best Batman artist of the “serious” period, which – let’s face it – he and Denny O’Neil (also gone) invented.

He did much more, of course. His work on the comic strip Ben Casey, in his very early twenties, is stellar – I have an original daily example on my wall. I loved his Deadman, the Green Arrow/Green Lantern work was groundbreaking, and, really, everything his pen touched turned to great.

But he also was a champion for the rights of his fellow cartoonists, and he was a big part of getting some recompense for Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the teenagers from Cleveland on whose bones the DC empire was built.

I knew him a little, and I was complimented that he knew who I was…something which still seems to me a little unbelievable. I have a small but cherished memory of standing in line with him getting ready to ship things home from the San Diego Comic Con. I introduced him to my wife as a beginner I knew, and his grin couldn’t have been wider. He had a smile as dazzling as his artwork, and that’s plenty dazzling. We chatted and laughed for about five minutes, a small encounter that I will never forget. I always stopped by his booth at the con in subsequent years just to say hi.

Not a big relationship, by any means. But a big loss.

* * *

Another sign of advancing old age is my reading habits. I’ve never been one to start a book and then put it down without finishing it. But now I won’t waste my time if a book doesn’t engage me in a chapter or so. Like most of you, I have an ever-growing stack (stacks) of books I can’t wait to read. So some of this stuff just has to get out of the way if it can’t grab me.

Related to this is my experience with Judd Apatow’s new book, Sicker in the Head, a follow-up (of course) to his Sick in the Head. Both books are Apatow interviewing individuals in the world of comedy. I read every page of the first book. This time I read about a third of it.

Not the first third – I selected interviewees I was interested in – like the late John Candy, John Cleese, David Letterman, Peter Davidson, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Sasha Baron Cohen, Samantha Bee, and Will Ferrell. But I have no interest in people I have barely (or not at all) heard of – for example, Amber Ruffin, Ed Templeton, Hannah Gadsby, Lulu Wang, and on and on. Please don’t write telling me who they are, and/or defending their presence in a book with the comic legend likes of Candy and Cleese. I just don’t have time to let these people in unless they get up on their hind legs in the pop culture and make enough noise for someone my age to notice.

Now a book I read every word of is the massive, inch-and-a-half thick, 8.5″ by 11″, 772-page (!) Marketing Martin and Lewis by Richard S. Greene…with a foreword by Eddie Deezen! (Why didn’t Apatow interview him?!?). This is a Martin and Lewis fan’s dream, and worth the fifty-buck price tag (although I got it through Barnes & Noble for $40 using a coupon).

The book is predominantly pictures – movie posters and ads, TV ads, magazine covers, publicity photos, comic book art (Neal Adams!), and on and on; but the text is substantial and thorough, with every Martin & Lewis film discussed and the individual, post-team careers of both are examined. Greene is the ideal fan – his knowledge and the collectibles he shares are mind-bogglingly vast, but his opinions are frank, fair and well-articulated.

It also has the greatest cover of any book ever published. I shared this opinion with my wife, who looked at me as if about to say, “Are you for real?”

Marketing Martin and Lewis
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Here’s a New Yorker article about a Muscatine, Iowa (my hometown) resident who inspired my Mallory novel, No Cure for Death.

An interesting Road to Perdition article is here, looking at the film’s shooting locations (cameras, not guns).

Netflix has added Road to Perdition to its roster.

This review of the Nolan two-fer, Double Down, begins with a left-handed compliment but evolves into a pretty decent write-up. I wrote these books around 1974 and it’s peculiar to see them judged in terms that don’t acknowledge it’s not unusual for writers to grow over time.

Finally, this article wonders whether Road to Perdition is based on a true story (the answer is “sort of”).

M.A.C.