Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Both Girls Are on Sale, Plus the Perdition Saga

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Some great deals on Kindle this week.


First, Brash Books is offering the complete Perdition saga (novels, not graphic novels), which includes the long suppressed full-length novelization of Road to Perdition, plus my two sequels, Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise. The fine folks at Brash are offering this through Amazon for a mere $9.99.



Girl Can’t Help It is on sale for $1.99 as a Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deal from now through June 30. And Girl Most Likely is just $0.99 in that same sale.




All three Reeder and Rogers novels are, too – $1.99 each as Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals through the end of the month – Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order. [Note from Nate: if you purchase or own any of the Girl or Reeder and Rogers books on Kindle, the audiobooks might also be available at a significant discount — I’m seeing them for $1.99.]

Speaking of political intrigue….

This is going to be a little tricky to write, so forgive me.

I belong to a number of writers’ and screenwriters’ organizations. They vary from quite active, guilds for example, to others that serve mainly to be a means of presenting awards in a chosen genre, with all the stops between. All of these approaches seem valid to me.

One of these organizations – please don’t try to guess which, because I do not wish to embarrass or criticize anyone, really – briefly became embroiled in the current, understandably heated conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and the police in America.

I think “Black lives matter” gets fuzzy, because there’s an organized group but also the phrase itself. I can see how someone might have an issue with the group, but not how anyone could really thoughtfully object to the phrase. The “all lives matter” response is glib – of course all lives matter. But pointing out that black lives matter reflects the undeniable reality that a minority has literally been on the firing line for as long as any of us can remember, and a lot longer than that.

Here’s where it gets tricky. A member of the writers group in question is a retired police officer. He objected to some of what was said (or at least implied) about the police, and pointed out that police are also on the firing line and have been stabbed and spit upon in the aftermath of the horrific crime that took the life of George Floyd. He specifically objected to a pro-Black Lives Matter statement from our organization because, as a member, he wasn’t in full agreement with it. (I should say that this exchange took place before the disturbing footage emerged of a seventy-five-year-old man being shoved to the pavement and left to bleed there.)

Many members of our organization responded negatively, a very few getting personal. I tried to pour some water on the fire, but may have inadvertently poured gasoline instead, when I suggested we add a line pointing out that most police officers, a good number of whom are African-Americans, are dedicated public servants.

No one liked that suggestion, and I quickly withdrew it.

Within perhaps an hour and a half of the discussion between members (on line) beginning, the former police officer resigned from our organization.

I have frankly been trying to process this. Part of me thinks, as a writers organization, we should not have waded into politics. And yet is racism really politics? Isn’t it the sin that has stained America from day one, and goes way beyond politics? Doesn’t it go past left and right and into simple humanity?

Of the various writing and filmmaking organizations I belong to, I share membership with writers whose work I admire, but others whose work I dislike. As artists, we don’t always agree – in fact, we often don’t. For me, it’s about storytelling and creativity. I can respect a fellow writer whose writing I don’t admire because that writer is living the writer’s life that I am, with the rewards but also the problems that come with it – chasing the next gig, for example. On a basic level, we’re all just trying to make a living. Professional writers, no matter what they think of each other’s work, have that in common.

I feel our organization should have respected this member and his right to disagree. And if he objected to the statement the organization made, he should have had a better option other than to resign. Anyway, I’m not sure an organization should make a statement that all of its members haven’t signed off on. That statement should probably have included only the names of those members who did. I would have gladly signed. Proudly signed.

This (now ex-)member was a work horse, a dedicated member of the organization, and an award winner. It makes me sad and a little sick that we have lost him. Part of me knows that creative people have to take a stand against something as major as racism, and yet I admit to keeping (mostly) quiet about political figures who seem to me to be blatantly racist because I don’t want to offend any of my readers. That’s probably cowardly, but I have a living to make, and maybe there’s a subversive aspect to my fiction that might make somebody’s thinking change or at least shift a little over time. I don’t know. Really don’t. Maybe I’m just a coward.

On the other hand, Quarry setting fire to a Ku Klux Klan rally in Quarry in the Black may have indicated where I’m coming from.

Limiting freedom of speech within our writing and screenwriting organizations to those who agree with us is antithetical to everything those of us who create for a living are about. And this ex-member’s objections did not reflect racism, but in fact spoke of years of effort to battle against it within the system.

An organization’s mission statement can spell out certain things that won’t be tolerated – racist bile would seem high on that list – but to be intolerant of a reasoned position from another point of view is dangerous. Someone in power whose name I won’t mention is pretty cavalier about the Constitution. Maybe the writing and screenwriting communities should take better care of the First Amendment.

M.A.C.

Mommy Streams, Backlist Bubbles, We Binge

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Both Mommy and Mommy’s Day are now streaming on Amazon Prime. (Links: Mommy; Mommy’s Day) How long they will be there I can’t say (Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life has disappeared, though some other streaming services have it). If you’re a Prime member, it’s included.

[Note from Nate: Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life is currently on Tubi, free (with ads?)]

So if you haven’t seen both or either of these films, now’s your chance. If you have the earlier full-screen versions, this is an opportunity to see the widescreen versions that Phil Dingeldein and I recently labored to create. I do warn everyone not to expect HD quality (despite being streamed as HD) – the picture (particularly on Mommy) is rather soft. But it’s probably the best either one is going to look.

As I’ve said, compromises were made to be able to afford the wonderful casts.

remain proud of these films, and the Blu-ray double-feature release has received mostly good to great notices. People seem to understand where these little movies were coming from – which is to say blackly humorous melodrama, and a tribute to The Bad Seed and to Patty McCormack herself.

Mommy and Mommy’s Day are streaming on Fandango, too, for a couple of bucks. It may show up elsewhere (I am not kept terribly well in the loop by the distributor). (Links: Mommy; Mommy’s Day)

The novel versions will be coming out again one of these days, part of a package I am negotiating with a major e-book publisher for the seven remaining novels on my backlist (Amazon has most of the rest, Dover has the first two Jack and Maggie Starr novels).

We are also discussing a group of collections of my short fiction (and Barb’s), reprinting Blue Christmas, Too Many Tomcats, and Murder – His and Hers, plus a follow-up to that last title, a collection of my horror stories, and two collections of the stories Matt Clemens and I have done together.

Pulling these stories together has been a big job. They go back to the nineties in many cases, and were written using the word-processing program (wait for it) WordStar, and then converted to now nearly obsolete versions of WordPerfect maybe twenty years ago, and finally to Word. So while I have most of the files in some form, the dizzying array of conversion glitches causes twitches.

For the horror collection I decided to include the radio scripts of “Mercy” and “House of Blood,” written for the Fangoria radio show, Dreadtime Stories. I had adapted a number of my short stories for producer Carl Amari, but had two indie movie ideas I wanted to get up on their feet, and that’s how the two scripts above came to be written. The scripts were in a format (basically a very narrow strip of copy, maybe four inches wide, that required hours of work transforming them into more standard pages of text that wouldn’t bewilder or annoy readers. Fortunately, I have a staff to do such scut work. No, wait – I don’t!

Ultimately, though, it will mean the vast majority of my work will be available in e-book (and real books), with only a handful of things lost to the mists of time.

* * *

What have Barb and I been watching lately? Now that we don’t go to the movies anymore?

We finally got around to Ozark, which had been recommended to me by smart people, who were right. It’s a terrific show, very well-acted and full of twists and turns. Several people had told me that somebody (or somebodies) at the series seemed to be fans of mine or were influenced by me, and I think that might be the case. If so, it’s flattering. If not, it’s not the first time I’ve been deluded.

But there’s a hillbilly family reminiscent of the Comforts from the Nolan novels, a character called Boyd (Quarry’s partner in those novels), and a major villain in the first of the three seasons so far is played by the actor (Peter Mullen) who was the Broker in the Quarry TV series. And the good man doing bad things to keep his family afloat is Road to Perdition 101. Maybe half a dozen times I turned to Barb and said, “At least somebody’s reading me.”

The series itself is obviously something that wouldn’t exist without Breaking Bad, and it challenges you (in a Quarry-like way) to root for and identify with people who are making really poor choices. I don’t mean to overstate any debt anybody owes me, because (a) I owe plenty of debts myself, and (b) I may be full of shit about this.

The Guardian describes Ozark thusly: “Ozark follows the misadventures of Marty Byrde (the perpetually clenched Jason Bateman), a financial adviser forced to relocate from Chicago to Osage Beach, Missouri, where he launders money on a scale that would give Al Capone a cluster migraine.”

Bateman uses his standard glib, slightly put-upon persona to nice comic effect initially, and you are slightly amazed at first by how well that persona works in a dark melodrama. But as that melodrama grows darker, and the consequences ever more dire, Bateman’s performance deepens. Other mesmerizing performances come from Laura Linney, as Bateman’s even more glib wife, whose sunny smile delivers manipulative self-interest in such a “helpful” way; and Julia Garner’s Ruth, the most original and unique character in Ozark, a hillbilly girl with a good heart and a crushed soul, capable of kindness and murder, when either is called for.

I like the series and I think you will, too.

We also have recently enjoyed the surprise gift of a second season of Rick Gervais’ After Life, the touching drama/comedy (you don’t think I could ever type the vile word “dramedy,” do you?) that explores the road back for a husband consumed by grief over the loss of a wonderful wife.

The very special thing about After Life is its signature combination of mean humor and genuine sentiment. It’s a show about a man so depressed that suicide is an understandable option, and it’s often frequently hilarious.

I am a Gervais fan and have been for a long, long time. This little series isn’t much talked about, but it may represent his best work.

On the film front, we have watched a lot of British comedies of the late ‘40s and 1950s – such Alastair Sim gems as our perennial favorite, The Belles of St. Trinian’s, but also Laughter in Paradise and School for Scoundrels; and Alec Guinness in All at Sea, The Captain’s Paradise and Last Holiday.

And the most current season of Midsomer Murders, a favorite comfort food of ours, seemed particularly strong after a few missteps the season before.

* * *

Bookgasm, which is a book review site you should be regularly visiting, has posted a wonderful review of Girl Can’t Help It that’s been picked up all over the place, and I provided a link last week. But in case you haven’t seen it, I’m going to share it here, right now:

Notoriously prolific author Max Allan Collins has added a second entry to his Krista Larson series, GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. It’s also a stretch back to Collins’ past (and present) as a rock and roll musician. True! I didn’t know this either but Collins apparently wrote the song “Psychedelic Siren” recorded by The Daybreakers in 1968 (here, watch it on YouTube). In the author’s note, he states this is the first time he has mined his rock and roll experience for a book. Well dang it, more of this please. Mr. Collins.

The first book in the series, Girl Most Likely, features Krista Larson as the Chief of Police in Galena, Illinois. She is assisted by her able staff but also by her father, a retired cop from the Dubuque Police Department who does invaluable detective work. In this second work, Girl Can’t Help It, the Larson duo is back on the job.

The book title refers to a song title recorded by local Galena band Hot Rod & The Pistons. They scored a huge hit with the song in the 80s when retro rockabilly hit big (think Stray Cats). They managed two albums and then faded away. But after their election into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they’re set for a reunion gig and maybe even a little tour. The town of Galena is excited and creates a special musical festival to kick off the whole thing. All well and good.

Until one of the members is found dead of a heart attack in a bathtub. Oh well, old guys do die. But then a second band member commits suicide and his apartment has been ransacked. This hits the Larsons as fishy, and they’re fairly convinced that both deaths are murders.

Of course, we the readers know these are murders because we have chapters written from the point of view of the murderer. The crimes continue to escalate and it’s a battle between the murderer and the police department to see who will come out on top and if the entire lineup of Hot Rod & The Pistons will be killed off one by one.

Everybody knows Max Allan Collins by now. He has multiple series in place, writes another successful series with his wife (the duo goes by Barbara Allan) and is one of the solid bricks in the pyramid of genre writers over the past 40+ years. A lovely, smooth and polished style coupled with a brisk pace makes for quick reading short chapters, believable characters, behaviors and dialogue. If you like any of Collins’ works, you’ll like GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. I think this series has real promise. Recommended. —Mark Rose

Get it at Amazon.

A fun podcast about books, The Inside Flap, was kind enough to give Do No Harm and Nate Heller some attention. The Do No Harm stuff happens a bit after the hour mark. You’ll hear one of the participants wish that I would have Heller solve the JFK assassination (guess what books I sent along to them).

The great blog Paperback Warrior is posting their all-time ten favorite posts, and the one focusing on The First Quarry is #4.

Here’s a great interview with my buddy Charles Ardai, touching on our projects together.

The fantastic Stiletto Gumshoe site talks about Mike Hammer and Masquerade for Murder, and provides some links to things you may have missed.

This nice review of Antiques Fire Sale is a little quirky – doesn’t like all the talking to the reader, and thinks referring to Vivian as “Mother” is disrespectful – but some nice insights are on hand, as well. Loving us is preferred, but liking us is just fine, too.

Finally, check out this terrific Mystery Tribute piece about Mike Hammer and Masquerade for Murder.

M.A.C.

Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook:

Turns out I make mistakes now and then. Who’d have thunk it.

A reader tells me I mangled an entry in the bibliographic essay at the conclusion of Do No Harm, for example. I will try to correct it in the ebook, when things settle down, but for now it’s all I’ll think about when I look at that book. A small continuity error in Killing Quarry is all I see when I look at the cover of that one (the e-book has been corrected).

For those caring enough to read this weekly update, I made another mistake, although it was not exactly my (or anybody’s) fault. Turns out the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, was published on March 17, the original announced date, and not April 7, having supposedly been postponed to that date. The audio is available, too, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

Now, here’s the surprise Spillane ending: the novel’s release really has been postponed till April 7…in the UK. Which sort of lessens my error, because after all the publisher is Titan, which is a British publishing house.

The bottom line is you lucky Americans can rush out and buy it now…well, you can order it online, anyway. Corona virus is doing nobody any favors – not even Smith Corona Virus. I may or may not do a book giveaway to help promote the book – I need to discuss the logistics of that with Barb.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss the new Hammer book a bit. The title of Masquerade for Murder is in line with the Stacy Keach TV movies of the ‘80s, all of which had “Murder” in their titles. This is fitting because the synopsis Mickey wrote, from which I developed the novel, was likely written for the Keach series, as was the case with Murder, My Love (the previous Hammer novel).

These two novels have in common something uncommon in Mike Hammer novels – the detective has a client in both of them. In Mickey’s famous novels, starting with I, the Jury, Hammer almost always is on a personal crusade, a vengeance hunt usually (a girl hunt in, well, The Girl Hunters). But with a TV series, Hammer couldn’t play vigilante every episode – the Darren McGavin version only has a handful of revenge plots, for example – so it’s natural Mickey might have developed these synopses with TV in mind.

The only TV synopses he wrote that became a novel written solely by him was The Killing Man, and it had Hammer personally motivated. Mickey did not submit that synopsis, by the way, considering the story “too good for TV.” (He apparently developed a synopsis for the terrible Keach-less Hammer TV movie, Come Die With Me, but only his ending was utilized.)

If Mickey was writing these synopses with television in mind, what am I doing developing novels out of them, in the case of Masquerade for Murder and the previous Murder, My Love?

Let me discuss what my procedure has been in creating novels where my famous co-author is deceased.

As I’ve reported numerous times, Mickey’s wife Jane and my wife Barb and I went on a treasure hunt – following Mickey’s directive shortly before his passing – for unfinished material in his three offices at his South Carolina home.

Our discoveries included half a dozen Mike Hammer manuscripts that represented works well in progress. These were usually 100 pages or a little more (double-spaced) and often had character and plot notes, and in a few cases endings.

Mickey had been racing to finish what he intended to be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically, The Goliath Bone, all but a few chapters of which were unfinished, and a roughed-out ending was there, too. But because of the terrible ticking clock he was working under, Mickey’s nearly complete draft was much shorter than usual and required fleshing out. Also, the novel had no murder mystery aspect. I provided the latter (his ending is the basis of the second to the last chapter).

A non-Hammer novel, Dead Street, existed in a nearly complete draft, a little rougher than usual but with almost everything there. Dead Street had been written in a stop-and-start fashion, however, and had some inconsistencies due to being written over a longer span of time than usual. I smoothed things out, and wrote the last several (missing) chapters.

The other five Hammers-in-progress – The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds – all had individual issues for me to deal with. The Big Bang consisted of about a third of the novel in finished form, and Mickey had told me the ending; but no plot and character notes turned up. Kiss Her Goodbye existed in two substantial manuscripts that went in two different directions (different mysteries developing); a lot of plot and character notes existed. I combined the two manuscripts – removing the redundant material – and used both mysteries, weaving them together.

Lady, Go Die! was an early manuscript, an unfinished follow-up to I, the Jury which had a good chunk of manuscript – about sixty pages – but was missing the first chapter. I had set this manuscript aside until I’d completed the first three Hammers, so that I felt comfortable enough to write the first chapter of one without Spillane input – I’d been intimidated, because nobody wrote better first chapters than Mickey Spillane. And I had a Spillane first chapter for another Hammer that seemed to be a 1970s reworking of the much-earlier story, and this I was able to use about half-way through the novel, to put more Spillane content in.

Complex 90 ran around 100 pages, very polished, but also had an issue: in the opening chapter, Hammer reports his harrowing adventures in Russia to some government spooks. I decided to turn that exposition into a flashback taking Hammer to Russia and experiencing all of his exploits first-hand. So that novel is unusual because it’s mostly the middle third that represents Mickey’s work.

King of the Weeds was the most challenging, and I had held it off for last, since my initial goal was to get these six substantial Hammer novels completed (and to complete Dead Street). Mickey conceived King of the Weeds as the final Hammer (changing his mind after the Twin Towers attack, which sparked Goliath Bone). At some point he misplaced the manuscript and – this is typically Mickey – just started over.

So I had two manuscripts to combine, including two very different opening chapters (the ending he had shared with me in a late-night gab session). The other difficult aspect was that Mickey was doing a direct sequel to Black Alley, a book that at that time was out of print. I almost threw out the Black Alley sequel material, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself not to follow Mickey’s wishes. Ironically, King of the Weeds became one of the strongest of the novels.

There was more material in Mickey’s files. I had done Dead Street for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, and now completed for HCC the sequel to The Delta Factor, another 100-page Spillane novel-in-progress that gave the world a second Morgan the Raider yarn.

Titan was anxious for me to continue Hammer. I had about forty or fifty pages of the novel Mickey began after Kiss Me, Deadly – a false start for The Girl Hunters with gangsters not Russian spies as the bad guys. It included Hammer traveling to Miami for an unusual change of scene and I felt had great potential. That became Kill Me, Darling.

A strong opening chapter by Mickey, plus some plot notes and his terrific ending became Murder Never Knocks. Two detailed opening chapters by Mickey became The Will to Kill. And – with Mickey’s 100th birthday in mind – I had held back about sixty pages of Mickey’s first, pre-I, the Jury (unfinished) Mike Hammer novel, Killing Town.

Mickey’s last completed novel, The Last Stand, a non-Mike Hammer, was wonderful but somewhat atypical, and rather short. So I revised an unpublished, very typical early novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” and it became a sort of preamble to Mickey’s final novel, published by Hard Case Crime. Interestingly, The Last Stand is a modern-day western, and another Spillane project of mine has been to develop a novel and then series of books from an unproduced screenplay he wrote for his buddy John Wayne – the script that became The Legend of Caleb York.

And there’s been a collection of eight Hammer short stories (A Long Time Dead) developed from shorter fragments. I have also sold a handful of non-Hammer short stories, which may someday be collected.

Which brings us up to the latest Hammer novels, last year’s Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. Murder, My Love is the only Hammer novel so far with no Spillane prose stirred in – strictly Mickey’s basic plot. The new book, Masquerade for Murder, came from a rather detailed synopsis, and the opening description of NYC is mostly Mickey’s, with a mini-sequence between Pat Chambers and Mike (about Hammer’s propensity for low-tech armament) that is Mickey’s as well. I feel good about how smoothly this material stirred in.

Where to now?

I have proposed three more Hammer novels, all from Spillane material. One combines two non-Hammer (but Hammer-ish) fragments, including a very different take on Dead Street; another will utilize a Hammer story Mickey developed for radio and again for TV, unproduced; and finally another synopsis apparently for a Keach-era Hammer episode.

I know some of you know all of this, but I thought it might be a good idea to get this recorded and in one place. Also, maybe it will inspire you to get hold of Masquerade for Murder, which I think is a damn good entry in this series.

I can’t express what it means to me to look over at the shelf and see Mickey’s Hammer novels residing next to the ones I’ve completed for him…and for me, the teenager in Iowa who wanted more, more, more Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of short stories, Barb and I – writing as Barbara Allan, of course – have sold a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” It’s not an Antiques story, but rather harks back to the kind of nasty little tale my beautiful and talented wife concocted when she was specializing in short stories.

It’s a very big deal to get published in EQMM, and we are thrilled.

* * *

With Masquerade for Murder the subject of today’s update, I am pleased to share with you this terrific review of that very novel.

The word is out about Nolan’s somewhat imminent return in Skim Deep. Read about it here.

Also, my friends at Paperback Warrior have a podcast, always interesting, which this week includes some commentary on the Nolan series.

Here’s a wonderful Ron Fortier review of the Brash Books edition of Black Hats.

Guess who’s an Irish comic book character? Michael O’Sullivan, that’s who! Check it out here.

Both yrs truly and Barbara Allan get good play on this discussion of Quad Cities area authors. Hey, what about Matthew V. Clemens?

M.A.C.

A Do No Harm Excerpt, and Markers

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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


Sam’s First Movie

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

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

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

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

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

“Then will my name be up there?”

I assured him would be.

And you know what? I think it will.

* * *

Russ Cochran by Frank Frazetta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

M.A.C.