Posts Tagged ‘On Writing’

Bulldog Edition

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

It’s amazing! After my brief discussion/defense of the Ritz Brothers last time, fan clubs for the boys have sprung up all over America!

Okay, maybe not.

I’m just softening the blow that I’m not doing a book giveaway this week. Maybe next week. I am working on the new Nate Heller and found myself scrapping my intended final two sections and plotting instead one second section. This required re-reading a ton of research material and re-thinking it. I have been taxing my wife Barb’s patience utilizing her as a sounding board whose ideas and reactions are always helpful.

And how about that Super Bowl? Actually, as I write this, it hasn’t happened yet and I don’t care about it, so Barb and I will be going to the new Death on the Nile at a time when the theater should be largely empty.

* * *

Barb and I have now seen Death on the Nile (in an almost empty theater!) and we both found it a whipsawing experience. Kenneth Branagh’s version of Poirot is perfectly acceptable and often pays attention to detail courtesy of the Christie (and Suchet) characterizations; but he falls prey to an out-of-character attraction he has to a raucous blues singer, based on Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose music is used throughout in a sometimes jarring way – where we should be getting a John Barry-esque score over the majestic Nile as backdrop to all this glitzy but murderous melodrama, we get guitar-driven blues (and a traditional soundtrack playing at a barely audible level, as if the theater left its Muzak going). I like guitar-driven blues, but as the soundtrack to Agatha Christie?

Kenneth Branagh in Death on the Nile

Though relatively faithful to Christie in general, the substitution of the blues singer and her manager/niece for the drunken romance novelist and her daughter seems at once forced modernity and a clumsy removal of a valid murder motive. A nice WW I origin story for Poirot and his mustache is followed by Poirot in 1937 going to a nightclub and sitting alone at a table watching over-choreographed lascivious dancing in quiet perverse contemplation – it’s a creepy sequence, turning the Belgian master detective into a raincoater in a porn-shop booth.

When the riverboat-board mystery kicks in, the cast proves less than star-studded (and filled, by accident of course, with cancelled or sort of cancelled celebrities of a few moments ago) though the direction is fine, save for circling cameras and other stunts during interrogation scenes that only detract from the importance of the information being gathered. When Branagh hews close to Christie, which he does about two-thirds of the time, his performance and the film itself are fine.

The biggest flaw is Gal Gadot playing the woman-stealing rich girl in a positive manner, not Lois Chile’s grasping, acquisitive proper murder victim of the superior 1978 version. And for all the emotion Branagh tries to stir up, no performance here touches ‘78’s Mia Farrow, the spurned woman of one of Dame Agatha’s most chillingly convoluted plots.

I’m glad to see Christie staying in the popular culture, although Covid and the mine field of who is cancelled by the time a film comes out has done this Poirot film no favors.

* * *

My discussion last week sparked quite a bit of response, after I revealed my negative opinion of a certain James Crumley first sentence, even while granting an I-hope-not-condescending-permission for others to like it. Some of those responses appeared in the previous Comments Section, but still others were sent to me by e-mail. One of the most interesting came in that fashion, and – with permission – I am sharing it here, so I can reply and perhaps have my response seen by more readers than if this had occurred in the Comments Section.

The following is excerpted from a missive courtesy of a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:

Your blog is your house. I think good discourse is important, but I also respect your site as your medium to transmit your message. No need to raise Cain in another man’s world. That said, I do like the Crumley line and state it here, privately. (NOTE FROM MAC: Privately until I got hold of it.)

“Perhaps it’s because, when my Dad was in the creative writing program in Montana, he met and drank with Jim (called some of his work mediocre too…you might have liked that!). Maybe it was the many ‘ramshackle joints’ like that one described that my Dad dragged us to as kids. Maybe it is because my college roommate was from Sonoma, who had an alcoholic father that just might have drank in the same bar. Maybe it is because I have never thought about a bulldog that was an alcoholic, much less an owner who would give him such a big name as ‘Fireball Roberts.’ Those all play, I’m sure, and made me want to know more. But, having lived on the Gulf Coast in my young adulthood, I know what it is like to ‘drink the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.’ Maybe you can’t go back, but that sentence fragment brought me there for a short moment.”

My anonymous correspondent has made – or anyway implied – a point that I tried to make last time. It’s part of the overall concept of the reader as collaborator. I’ve discussed that my propensity for providing what some think is over-description (of clothing, or setting, etc.), and have tried to explain that this comes from my desire to be the in-charge half of the collaborative team.

First, I would like the reader to experience what I imagined, what I conjured, as close to the way I did. Second, I don’t think it should be the reader’s responsibility to do the writer’s work. Why should you have to clothe the damn characters? Why should they be allowed to run naked through the pages, unless it’s a sex scene or set in a nudist colony? Why should you have to describe the circumstances of where these fictional people live and put the flesh on the bones the stingy writer did not deign to provide?

Now I say this specifically in regard to my work. I don’t propose it as a schematic, or “rules,” other writers should follow. This approach reflects, as it has no choice other than to do, my way of seeing things. In the comments, one reader agreed with me about the overwriting in the Crumley line, then started quoting Elmore Leonard’s rules, most of which I disagree with…for me, not for Leonard. He was excellent at following his own rules and came up with something special…and his. I was a fan of Charles Webb, the little-known author of The Graduate, and he was the stingiest writer I ever encountered – he gave you nothing but the action and words of the piece, which may be why his famous novel became an even more famous movie…it was already almost a screenplay.

My anonymous correspondent’s comments about his dad, and the way his father related to bars and drinking (I am almost a non-drinker, despite the mimosa I had this morning), are him bringing himself to the party. He can’t help doing that any more than I can avoid bringing my opinions and personal history to the party. And neither of us should try otherwise. That’s where the collaboration between writer and reader becomes interesting.

It’s also why you can love a writer, and recommend that writer to a perfectly intelligent friend, and then have your own intelligence questioned by that friend because of your terrible taste in books. (This obviously also applies to movies and music.) That is why all reviews – mine included (see Death on the Nile above) – are essentially worthless…because none of us have the same experience when we read a book (or see a movie or listen to music).

You can tell somebody a book is great, but the truth is the version that person experiences will be at least somewhat different from yours, and probably a whole lot different. I have spent my life dueling with people who don’t like Mickey Spillane. I have very little respect for their intelligence. And they have very little respect for mine. Neither of us is wrong, at least not entirely.

The one area where I would disagree with my anonymous correspondent is a style issue. I don’t object to any of the things Crumley jams into the sentence (well, I think “Fireball Roberts” is a terminally cute name for a bulldog, and Abraham Trahearne is almost as bad for a human), it’s just the show-offy way he goes about it. It’s impossible (or difficult) (or maybe I’m just slow) to chug-a-lug all that one sentence’s information.

What I do like about that line is that it provides information even as it raises questions – that’s how many, perhaps most, good first sentences succeed. A good first sentence doesn’t require you to read it more than once to make sense of it, to process it, unless you think it’s a bad idea to pull your reader down immediately into the narrative and make forward progress.

This is a first sentence that I much admire:

“Later that summer, when Mrs. Penmark looked back and remembered, when she was caught up in despair so deep she knew there was no way out, no solution whatever for the circumstances that encompassed her, it seemed to her that June 7th, the day of the Fern Grammar School picnic, was the day of her last happiness, for never since then had she known contentment or felt peace.”

That’s plenty long, but you are right with it, and solid facts accompany cascading questions. It’s the first sentence of The Bad Seed by William March, and you can have your drunken bulldogs named Fireball What’s-It.

* * *

I can’t resist reprinting this great review of Tough Tender from Booklist.

Tough Tender.
By Max Allan Collins
Mar. 2022. Hard Case Crime, paper, $12.95 (9781789091434)

Collins’ Nolan series, starring the no-nonsense thief Nolan and his younger partner, comics crazed Jon, was written from the sixties into the eighties, but it had been largely unavailable for decades, until Hard Case Crime began reissuing the series as twofers under new titles. This is the third in that sequence, following Two for the Money (2021), and it combines Hard Cash and Scratch Fever. Nolan has no interest in robbing the same bank twice, but he’s blackmailed into doing so by the bank manager, who wants a share of the take this time. Naturally, it all goes crazy wrong. Scratch Fever picks up the story years later when Nolan and Jon encounter hairstylist-turned-entrepreneur Julie, who scammed them on the bank deal. Naturally, they’d like to get their money back, and just as naturally, Julie would like to get rid of them altogether. Collins displays his usual ability to round out the flat edges of what seem initially like stock genre characters, but he really outdoes himself with Julie, surely one of the most memorable femme fatales in hard-boiled fiction (“everything she touches turns to dead”).
— Bill Ott

And here is (incredibly enough) a really nice review of Double Down, another Nolan two-fer, from Kirkus.

Nolan also gets love at http://thebadnet.blogspot.com/, which gives me great pleasure, as it’s a site devoted to Lee Van Cleef. Scroll down when you get there (linger over the naked blonde if you like).

Finally, Road to Perdition gets a spot on this list of Best 21 books about the Mafia.

M.A.C.

Barb’s Mom and Writing From Experience

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Barb’s mother passed away last week. I mention this not to initiate a flood of condolence wishes, which since Barb does not use Facebook might fall on deaf ears anyway. Dorothy Carolyn Jensen Mull was 97 and had endured a long bedridden convalescence, although saying Dot’s passing was a “blessing” in a way does not make it any easier for Barb and her six siblings.

I mention it here because Dorothy deserves thanks and recognition for inspiring, to a degree, the character Vivian Borne in the Antiques cozy mystery series that Barb and I write. This is not to say that Dot was a zany eccentric or a local theater diva – neither was the case. But she was highly spirited and for a number of years went antiquing with Barb from this flea market to that garage sale. This led to Barb and her mom running a booth at an antiques mall together for a good number of years, which was a major inspiration for the book series.

And I am happy to say that Dot enjoyed the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries, which in her later years (with her eyesight failing) were read to her by Barb’s sister Anne.

I go into this in part because it speaks to Barb’s methods and mine where it comes to writing fiction. Though we work in a genre with its own conventions and (to use the tiresome current favorite term) tropes, we both instill elements from our own experience in our storytelling. The psychologist character in the Antiques books draws from Barb’s sister Cindi, yes, a psychologist. Barb has an older sister just as Brandy Borne does, although past a few superficial similarities the resemblance ends there. She also has a sister, Kathe, whose work in Broadway theater impacted our novel, Antiques Con. My brother-in-law Gary inspired a friend of Quarry’s who has somehow managed not to get killed, either in real life or fiction.

This kind of thing goes back to the earliest days of my career, when I was first able to inject elements of my real life into my crime-fiction fantasy. Mourn the Living had an Iowa City setting and reflected the hippie era there when I was in college. Bait Money finds Nolan and Jon robbing the bank where Barb was working at the time; she provided me with their security protocols!

Even in writing historical fiction I draw upon my own experiences. I wouldn’t have written The Titanic Murders if I hadn’t read in grade school a Tab book club edition of Jacque Futrelle’s The Thinking Machine. Getting betrayed by my best friend from high school (who embezzled from me) played a part in any number of my novels in the last twenty years, including Quarry’s Ex, which also drew upon my experiences making indie movies.

Anyway, it’s a lesson aspiring writers in any genre should take to heart. Don’t just write out of the books you’ve read and movies and TV you’ve seen. Draw on your experiences even in the context of mystery fiction or s-f or westerns or…really, any genre.

And one last thing – thank you, Dorothy. You inspired me, through your daughter and your own unique spirit.

* * *
Scarface and the Untouchable Cover

Scarface and the Untouchable – the Capone/Ness non-fiction work by Brad Schwartz and me – hit the entertainment news last week. CBS is exercising their option to pick up the property for a series and it’s going to Showtime. We’ll see if it happens.

Read about it here, where you’ll discover my middle name is “Allen” and that apparently no one but me (and you) remembers that this all began with The Untouchables TV series starring Robert Stack.

* * *

Barb and I went to a movie at the local theater for the first time since the pandemic hit – something like fourteen months. We are, as you may be aware, frequent moviegoers and it was definitely strange to be back doing something so familiar after over a year and a half away from it. The theater did a good job with every other row blocked off and masks in the outer areas. We went at an off-time (3:30 pm on a Sunday) and were among perhaps seven other moviegoers.

The film was terrific – Wrath of Man, starring Jason Stratham and directed by Guy Ritchie. I like Ritchie’s films very much – he is essentially the UK’s Tarantino. It’s a very hardboiled crime story and not for the faint of heart (or the five year-old whose parents took her to this screening), minus the humor and quick cutting of most Ritchie films. This has more of a Richard Stark feel than the Parker film Stratham starred in a few years ago.

* * *

Here’s a wonderful review of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, the new Caleb York.

And another.

Jeez, maybe you guys ought to read this one.

M.A.C.

Fate of the Union and More Queen’s Gambit

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

As many of you know, my friend and longtime collaborator, Matthew V. Clemens, and I wrote a trilogy of political thrillers a few years ago, with the three branches of our government represented by individual novels. They are Supreme Justice (the Supreme Court), Fate of the Union (Congress), and Executive Order (the Presidency).

Supreme Justice cover
Executive Order cover

Fate of the Union cover

As it happens – not really as part of any plan – all three deal with threats from within, essentially domestic terrorism. Somewhat chillingly, the second novel – Fate of the Union, published in 2015, posited a run for the Presidency by a billionaire populist as well as an attack on the United States Capitol building.

After the events of last Wednesday, January 6, occurred, I asked Matt, “Shall we sue Trump for plagiarizing us on Fate of the Union?” His response: “Can we? Can we please?”

Last week I neglected to announce that all three Reeder & Rogers titles are on sale on Kindle until the end of this month (January). Supreme Justice and Fate of the Union are $1.99 and Executive Order is 99 cents.

* * *

I’ve had many nice comments about my update last week, in which I talked about (among other things) my time at the Writers Workshop in Iowa City with Walter Tevis as my instructor. That included my thoughts on the wonderful Netflix mini-series based on his 1983 novel, The Queen’s Gambit.

Barb and I enjoyed that mini-series very much – we watched it twice – and I found myself compelled to take the novel off the shelf (it, and Walter Tevis’s other books, are in my office in one of two bookcases of honor) to read it for the first time. Years ago I had, wrongly, set it aside because of its chess theme, thinking that I needed to be intimate with the game to enjoy the novel.

I was stunned to discover how incredibly faithful the mini-series was to its source, perhaps the most faithful film adaptation of a novel I’ve encountered in years. Oh, they are out there – for example, you can follow The Maltese Falcon in the book while you watch the John Huston film, skipping only the scenes (and they are few) that didn’t make it into the movie.

The Queen’s Gambit, the mini-series, not only replicates almost all of the dialogue from the novel, it endeavors to turn interior monologue into speech and pays close attention to descriptions of clothing and particularly setting.

When Beth enters fellow chess player Benny’s basement apartment in New York, Tevis tells us, “There were plastic bags of garbage in the entryway,” and details the pump Beth must pedal with her foot to inflate a rubber mattress. Earlier, when Beth spends the night with a college boy and wakens to find herself alone in a post-party house, the note to her on the refrigerator is held by “a magnet in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head.” And that’s what is depicted in the mini-series.

Countless details, including mannerisms of Beth’s chess opponents, are recounted, like a young man who brushes back his hair. Someone – or many someones – loved this book! It’s astounding.

Now, differences do crop up, though mostly it’s expansion of scenes. The major ones have to do with Beth’s mentally disturbed mother, a boy she loves who the mini makes gay, and a somewhat opened-up last few chapters, with an almost Capra-esque long-distance-call reunion of many of Beth’s chess-world friends when she can use some help with the big match. The scene is in the book, but only involves Benny and a couple of chess experts, not a reunion of characters – which is a good change, because it shows that this lonely girl has friends and needs friends. The gay (bisexual?) sort of love interest shows up in Moscow in the final section, also to be supportive, and it’s a good change. A less good one is having Beth’s black friend, Jolene, seek Beth out as an adult when the book shows our troubled protagonist reaching out to that old friend. Tevis shows Beth struggling to help herself and not just being rescued out of the blue.

These differences are well within the rights of the adaptors, and I generally feel that a film only has a responsibility to be faithful to the spirit of its source. I was fine with most of the liberties taken with Road to Perdition (and any writer who cashes the check should shut the hell up, anyway).

But seeing filmmakers who view the text as, if not sacred, something to be plumbed for inspiration and guidance, well…that is as refreshing as it is unusual.

Now, I’m going to shift gears but stay on the subject of Walter Tevis and The Queen’s Gambit.

If you’ve followed these updates or read interviews with me, you may be aware that I read little fiction. The reasons are numerous, but among them is avoiding being influenced by style. I’m enough of a natural mimic that I can get myself in trouble.

A major reason is that a book I am writing is, in a very real way, a book I am reading. And I’ve never been one to read two books at a time, going back and forth between them. Not my way. So, immersed in the narrative I’ve been trying to get down on paper, I avoid other people’s prose narratives.

Now, that does not include reading non-fiction, even biographies. Nor does it include listening to a book in the car on a trip, back when we took trips in cars. Remember that? And I watch a lot of movies and TV in the evenings, winding down.

But there’s another difficulty I have reading fiction. I don’t really believe in rules of fiction writing – to me, storytelling is mostly strategy. For example, is this a story better told in third-person or first-person? Where in the story should I begin? Should I end a dialogue scene when I get to a snappy, memorable line, or let it play out? And a million other things, or anyway thousands.

I have been writing professionally since 1971, but I was trying to write professionally starting in 1961 and worked at a newspaper in the summers of ‘66 and ‘67. So I’ve been at this a while, and though I studied at the Writers Workshop, and benefitted from it, I learned early on that you can’t be taught to write by anybody but yourself. You can get tips from a pro like me, but to learn to write you must do things: you read and you write. You read because you love it and, later, you read analytically; and you write by trial-by-error.

So in these many years, I have come up with those thousands of strategies that have become, in a way, my rules. Not your rules, not anybody else’s rules; but mine. Some of my approach has bled over into collaborators like Barbara Collins and Matthew Clemens, but they have developed their own rules/strategies, too…as well they should.

Okay, I said above that part of learning to be a writer is reading books. And for the years leading up to becoming a professional novelist, I did. So why don’t I read much fiction any more? (I do read some – mostly the people I read before becoming a pro, however, like Hammett, Chandler, Stout, Spillane, Christie, etc.).

Which brings me to The Queen’s Gambit again. Tevis is a wonderful writer, and I learned things from him then (and now), although probably more from The Hustler than his classroom teaching. I was struck by how beautifully Queen’s Gambit is written and came upon passages that I stopped and re-read aloud.

Not often.

A book that has you doing that all the time is a book by an effing show-off. Some highly respected writers in my genre, much more respected than me, are dedicated to making themselves and their readers feel important. Well, I already feel important enough, so to hell with that, and anyway I’m here to try to tell you a good story. Don Westlake told me, “Good writing is invisible.”

Tevis writes simply but is not afraid to use a word you may not know. He is clear and he is precise. I have been criticized by blog-type reviewers and even mainstream reviewers, as well as an editor (former editor), for writing about clothing and setting. Tevis does both and gives you not only a sense of place, but by doing so a sense of who those characters are. He wrote these detailed descriptions so thoroughly and well that they made it into the mini-series that everybody loves.

So I felt validated by that.

But I also stumbled on a writing strategy of his that began to bother me. He uses the “There is” and “It was” construction often. I find that passive, even lazy. It’s something that, in recent years, I’ve tried to avoid (though I didn’t in this sentence).

When Tevis would break one of my “rules,” it stopped me and I would find myself rewriting him, like Beth Harmon looking at the chess board on her ceiling and moving pieces around, replaying a famous game and looking for errors. It broke the spell.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the novel. Tevis is a great writer and having books like The Hustler and The Queen’s Gambit on my list of credits would be a dream come true. But he had his strategies and I have mine, and as much as I enjoyed reading The Queen’s Gambit, it demonstrates why I rarely read fiction.

But please, please, everybody out there (both of you) – keeping reading stories. It’s what separates us from the apes.

That and opposable thumbs.

* * *

This is a fabulous review of Skim Deep, and I swear I didn’t write it myself.

I get mentioned on the great podcast Paperback Warrior again, but run into The Fanboy Gambit – the reader who won’t read the new book till he’s read all the others in the series!

M.A.C.

A Typical Day in the Neighborhood

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

In previous updates, I’ve mentioned that I am currently working with two publishers who are primarily e-book-oriented. One is Wolfpack, where I’ve just sent in my first original novel (co-written with my longtime collaborator Matt Clemens). I am not ready to reveal the title or the genre as yet, but I will say we’ve committed to at least three entries in this new series, and that I’m very pleased and excited with/by this first entry.

Wolfpack ad for Eliot Ness Omnibus

Wolfpack continues to be incredibly supportive. Take a gander at this ad that ran in Publisher’s Weekly for their first publication of my work – The Eliot Ness Mystery Omnibus, which collects the four Ness-in-Cleveland novels. For those of you with Kindles, you can get this omnibus – all four novels – for $2.99 (free for Prime Unlimited members).

Those of who you have already read these and own them in some other form are encouraged to write reviews of the omnibus, which as of now has only a single, lonely review. And Do No Harm, Girl Can’t Help It, Masquerade for Murder, Antiques Fire Sale and Hot Lead, Cold Justice have all kind of stalled out on the review front, so if you haven’t got around to posting yours, doing so would be appreciated.

The other e-book project I’m working on is for a new company that got a splashy welcome fromThe Hollywood Reporter (among others).

I am not ready to reveal what the Neotext project is, other than to say it’s a new detective series with a female lead and that I’m doing three novellas (30,000 words each) about the character. Okay, here’s a few more tidbits – it’s set during World War II, and it will be illustrated by a terrific Hard Case Crime artist, providing not just a cover but one painting per each chapter (ten per novella).

Initially these novellas will be published as e-books, one at a time, with an eye on later collecting them in physical book form. But so far Neotext itself is strictly an e-book publisher.

I am starting work this week on the second novella for Neotext. And Matt and I are meeting, via Zoom, to plot the second novel for Wolfpack. Both publishers have me creating new series, although Wolfpack is also publishing back list (including short story collections) and are up for me continuing existing series…in fact, have signed me to continue both Krista Larson and Reeder & Rogers.

This brings me to the non-promotional (at least not overtly so) portion of this update.

A question I am frequently asked is what my work schedule is – “What’s your typical day?”

In a way, I don’t have a typical day. Each morning does begin about the same, with the usual rising groggily, throwing down a handful of pills, scarfing down a mini-donut or two, guzzling some sparkling juice, and spending half an hour or so in my recliner watching Morning Joe (I’m a liberal – get over it).

Barb, in her neighboring recliner, always says, “Tell me about your day in the greatest of detail.” And I share my best-laid plans before the day proceeds to do whatever the hell it feels like.

When I am bunkered in writing a novel, which is most of the time, I attempt to write in the morning with lunch arriving no earlier than 11 a.m. and no later than noon. We used to go out for it, but now we rustle up our own (yes, I help in the kitchen, though my efforts are somewhat pathetic). When lunch happens depends on how my writing is going and, of course, how Barb’s writing is going. Barb has to get her writing done in the morning, as she is providing Day Care for our two grandkids a few houses up the street from one p.m. till shortly after five. I write all afternoon.

But fulltime freelance writing is a small business and both of us have to deal with business stuff as well as feed our muses – Barb in particular handles the financial side of things. But I have editors and agents and collaborators to deal with, and when galley proofs arrive I generally have to set my work schedule aside and deal with that aspect of things.

Between novels I do my best to attend to smaller projects, like short stories and the intros to the IDW Dick Tracy collections. I also always clean my office, which deteriorates to disaster-level proportions as a novel progresses – scattered research volumes, wadded-up paper on the floor, discarded drafts of pages and even chapters, and so on.

Also intruding on the actual writing are the requests for interviews, which I mostly try to handle via e-mail, but which sometimes require the phone or Skype or Zoom. These updates are written either Sunday evening, late, or first thing Monday. The longer ones sometime drain my energy to the point that no other significant writing gets done that day.

My pattern has changed radically over the years. As some of you may recall, for much of my professional life I was a night person who did most of his writing starting around midnight, going to bed at eight or nine a.m. and sleeping till noon. I had enormous energy as a younger person, needing little sleep; most nights I wrote a finished chapter, including long ones like those in a Nate Heller novel. But when we did the Mommy movies, and I had to rise at six a.m. or so – the director has to be first on the set and last to leave – my inner clock got changed. Ever since, I’ve rarely risen any later than eight a.m. or so. Now, as an old man (goddamnit!), I sometimes wake as early as six a.m.

And I hate it.

On such mornings, I start writing early, even before Barb gets up. So there are factors that come in, as you may have already noticed, that mean there is no really typical day.

On the other hand, sheltering in place for the corona virus has made one day seem much like another. Oddly, for Barb and me, time is passing more quickly, which seems like the opposite of what you’d expect.

* * *

The Quarry series was selected by Crime Reads as one of ten most binge-worthy series of the 1970s, which is a nice honor. In the comments, I corrected the assumption that the Memphis setting of the TV series is the same as the books.

Here is the opening sentence of a patronizing review of the Johnny Dynamite collection: “The opening introduction by writer Max Allan Collins is more a biographical essay about writer Frank Morrison Spillane (alias Micky Spillane) and writer/artist Pete Morisi. Not to mention it is excessively long. (Then again the title of this collection is also excessively long.) Though Collins’s introduction should please those wanting more knowledge about the subjects’ lives and/or the early comic book industry. While the introduction by artist Terry Beatty is of reasonable length it has one or two sentences that are a little clunky.”

I have a few thoughts to share. First, what other kind of introduction is there but an “opening” one? Second, if you’re going to be dismissive about Mickey Spillane’s role in this collection, at least spell his name right (not “Micky”). If you’re going to accuse my co-editor of writing a “clunky” sentence, perhaps you should learn to write in complete sentences yourself. Do you wonder why reviews like this irritate me?

On the other hand, here is Ed Catto’s terrific (and well-written) review of that same book, interspersed with quotes from an interview I gave Ed.

Here’s a brief, positive review of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher – the non-fiction follow-up to Scarface and the Untouchable by A. Brad Schwartz and myself that will be published…next week!

Finally, the “lost gem” that is my single Batman comic strip continuity (with the late great Marshal Rogers) is discussed here.

M.A.C.