Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’s Blood’

Shoot the Moon & A Shot in the Arm

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021
Shoot the Moon Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

Yes, it’s one of our ever-popular book giveaways. I have ten copies to give to the first ten readers who request it and agree to do an Amazon (and/or other) review. Those of you who have won books in the past and have not posted a review yet, for shame. Those of you who have won books and hated the book and haven’t posted a review, thank you.

[All copies for the giveaway have been claimed. Thank you for your support! –Nate]

Anyway, this is for Shoot the Moon, which is a repackaging (with revised intro) of Early Crimes. I’ve done this because Shoot the Moon is a novel and Early Crimes was rather inaccurately described as a collection. What we have is a novel, written about six books into my career, that was my attempt to do a Donald E. Westlake-style comedy of crime. By now you can see that Westlake was a major influence on my work, and was in fact a mentor to me when I was working on Bait Money, the first published Nolan novel, which of course was written as a pastiche/homage to Westlake’s Richard Stark-bylined Parker novels.

So perhaps it was natural that I try to follow in his other footsteps, and Shoot the Moon is that novel. It’s a short novel (but not a novella) and the two early short stories, “Public Servant” and “The Love Rack,” follow the novel as the equivalent of DVD/Blu-ray bonus features.

Back to the book giveaway. Write me at [link removed], and (this is important) include your snail mail address, even if you’ve won before. This is for USA only. That’s not patriotism, it’s cheapness (foreign postage is particularly high in the Covid era).

Speaking of which….

Barb and I have received our first vaccine doses (the Pfizer variety) and we are greatly relieved. How we got it is reflective of the difficulties even those of us who are seniors with underlying conditions are having getting vaccinated for Covid-19. Here’s our story.

For about a month I have been haunting the site of the Hy-Vee supermarket’s pharmacy (Hy-Vee being the major grocery chain in Iowa). It’s where Barb and I step outside of sheltering in place to take in “geezer” hour and do our weekly grocery shopping. The benefits are fewer people and ‘60s-era oldies playing instead of country western.

About four trips to Hy-Vee ago, I stopped at the pharmacy window to ask how I went about getting an appointment for vaccination. I was told by the pleasant young woman to sign up on-line and I would receive updates. (To date, I have received none. I also enrolled at Walgreens and also got zip updates.) On my next trip to the Hy-Vee pharmacy I inquired about when a vaccine shipment might be coming in and learned that one had in fact come in two days ago – 200 doses – and were gone in an hour.

That was when I asked (Barb said, “Don’t be angry!”) why I hadn’t received an update, and was told what I needed to do was keep refreshing the Hy-Vee pharmacy page on Facebook. I went home and began doing that, probably a dozen times a day – not a hardship, as I work at my computer. Two shipments would be coming in the following week, I was assured.

A week later I was told (credibly) the shipments hadn’t made it because of the cold in Texas that Ted Cruz was avoiding. I went home and began refreshing and refreshing.

The next week – this past week – I asked when the next shipment was coming in and was told by the pleasant young woman that it already had and was gone. (Two shipments had become one shipment.) I asked why the updates had never come and why all my refreshing hadn’t indicated any shipment ever had. The answer was not direct. I was advised to go to another web site and sign up there for…updates.

I trudged off and caught up with Barb, who was shopping to the tune of “Swinging School” by Bobby Rydell. I followed, considerably less happy than I usually am hearing Bobby Rydell, who is a favorite. Suddenly I said, “I’m going back there.”

“Why?”

“It’s unclear exactly what page I’m supposed to be refreshing.”

“Be nice.”

This conversation was conducted through masks, of course.

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “You’re a hothead.”

Never had I ever been so insulted! That she had a point was…beside the point…or something. I trudged back.

The pleasant young woman behind the counter said, “I was just going to page you.”

“Why?”

“Get your wife. We’ve had two cancellations and we start vaccinating in fifteen minutes.”

I ran – let’s call it power-walked – to Barb, pushing her cart with the patience of Sisyphus pushing his big rock, and at about the same speed.

“Come with me,” I said.

“Why?” She was understandably suspicious.

“They’ve had two cancellations.”

Suddenly my wife loved me again. Suddenly my stubborn hotheadedness had been transformed into blessed persistence.

I don’t blame anybody for this, and I do thank Hy-Vee for stepping up in the war against Covid and for the pleasant young woman having the presence of mind – and, frankly, compassion – to take advantage of those two cancellations…and the opportunity to get rid of me.

The vaccines will start flowing better, I am sure. Some of my readers support Trump, and that’s fine. I like anchovies. But nobody can say Joe Biden isn’t taking this pandemic seriously, and things are going to get better and soon. But right now it felt like the luckiest of lucky breaks to blunder in making a weekly nuisance of myself with stupid questions and a generally incompetent approach to getting vaccinated and be able to fill two cancellations and feel like our lives had been saved.

The bottom line, of course, is: it’s better to be lucky than smart.

M.A.C. waiting to get a COVID vaccine.

M.A.C. receiving the COVID vaccine.

* * *

Our sheltering in place has gone on for just about a year, Barb and I. We take it very seriously. Her health is fine, but she’s only a few months younger than me, so she needs protection and I’m not talking condoms. And I have enough underlying conditions to just check “all of the above” on a physician’s questionnaire.

So tomorrow (if you are reading this on the Tuesday it was posted) I will turn 73. It seems unreal to me, but I will tell you this – as long as I have my marbles, and can find venues that will have me, I will keep working. I will keep writing. Skim Deep is the new Nolan novel and the first one appeared in 1973, and was written around 1970. So do the math. It’s almost beyond belief that I recently wrote an entry in a series I created fifty-one years ago.

And I just completed Quarry’s Blood, in a series that began with a book I started in 1971. Fifty years ago.

Mickey Spillane used to talk to me about this – how writing was the only business you could stay at as long as you had decent health, no matter what age you might be. And that you can keep improving all along the way.

I’m not sure if that’s correct. I know there are many things I do better now, but I also know that the rigors of a work like Stolen Away might be beyond me. Nonetheless, I intend to do another Heller later this year, if the contract comes through.

Oh, as for my birthday. I am not fishing for birthday wishes, here or on Facebook or even in my snail-mail mailbox. If you want to send a gift, though, checks are best. Sorry – no PayPal account.

And if you really are, seriously, looking for a way to say Happy Birthday to me, buy one of the recent books: Come Spy With Me, Skim Deep, Masquerade for Murder, Antiques Fire Sale, Reincarnal, Shoot the Moon, Ms. Tree Vol. 2: Skeleton in the Closet, Murderlized, or maybe one of the great audiobooks that Skyboat Media is putting out (they’re doing all of the Nolans!). And the Wolfpack trade paperbacks are very handsome books indeed.

Here’s an idea: post a positive review for Max for his birthday.

* * *

I have seen some interesting things of late. I am particularly taken by a new sub-genre that Groundhog Day has spawned – specifically, movies that openly, unabashedly borrow its premise. Happy Death Day is a crafty horror-movie take on the Time Loop premise, and its sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, is more of the same but also good. Edge of Tomorrow is a strong s-f variation.

Two excellent rom-com takes are streaming right now – Palm Springs starring Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, and The Map of Tiny Perfect Things starring Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen. What’s fascinating about these two is that, despite both depicting a couple caught in a Time Loop with a romance developing, each is different and makes its own point. And, while both films name-check Groundhog Day on screen, they demonstrate that the Time Loop concept has plenty more places to go.

As I say, a new sub-genre.

Now to a controversial topic. Barb and I gave up on Hamilton after about 45 minutes. I’ve made it clear that I am a musical comedy fan – that I love Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim and Frank Loesser. The upcoming Blu-ray release of Damn Yankees has me giddy. And Hamilton certainly is a spectacle with a stage brimming with energy and talent.

What’s wrong with it – for me – is the rap/hip hop aspect. And that’s my problem. But I can’t get past it. I hate rap almost as much as I hate country western – maybe more. To my ancient ears, it’s just a bunch of rhyming and fast-talk gymnastics, and has little to do with music, although the percussive aspect is catchy in the way melodies used to be.

All-black musicals are nothing new – this one does have a few white faces dropped in – as The Wiz and Ain’t Misbehavin’ and many others demonstrate. All-black revivals of the likes of Guys and Dolls and Hello Dolly! have done very well, both critically and at the box office. But Porgy and Bess and Carmen Jones were originals, and the faithful films of both are both problematic today, I’m afraid, despite the wealth of talent on display.

Hamilton feels like a fad to me, not a Broadway classic unfolding before our eyes. But I am probably wrong.

As I said earlier, I will be 73 this week. This musical isn’t for me. As someone who has loved popular culture my entire life – loved my generation’s pop culture, but also my parents’ and my grandparents’ and much of my son’s – I am disappointed that Hamilton doesn’t touch me the way Sweeney Todd or Carousel or How To Succeed in Business do.

My fault. My loss.

* * *

Here’s a peek at the Spillane/Collins “Mike Hammer” short story, “Killer’s Alley,” in this month’s Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Just a taste….

From the great Ron Fortier comes this splendid review of Reincarnal.

Finally, here’s an article on the best Batman stories drawn by Norm Breyfogle, one of which is mine.

M.A.C.

In This Exciting Issue!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One of the small pleasures denied me during this pandemic, where Barb and I have been largely sheltering in place for almost a year now, is going to Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million to check out the new magazines.

But magazines have been a stubbornly dying breed for some time, and my favorites – most dealing with B-movies – have been hit hard. A particularly tough loss to take comes as a double hit – the writer/editor/publisher behind VideoScope, Joe Kane, has died.

And with him has gone his wonderful magazine.

Cover of VideoScope magazine

VideoScope was among the last of a handful of magazines combining reviews of what a prior dead magazine called psychotronic movies with news, articles and interviews. I never met Joe, but we exchanged many e-mails and I was an occasional contributor to the magazine. He was a consistent booster of my films and, when he was writing for the New York Daily News, reviewed both Mommy movies generously.

I looked forward to receiving VideoScope in the mail the way I used to (in my high school years) look forward to snagging my father’s gift subscription copy to Playboy before he got home from work. Of course Playboy – like my father – is gone now, but perhaps that magazine’s demise has to do not just with changing times, but the reality that certain magazines – yes, like the otherwise dissimilar VideoScope – were so much extensions of their creators/editors that they could not survive their absence. The fate awaiting Hustler, now that Larry Flynt is gone, is likely the same.

I dealt with a Flynt-like editor of the Hustler-like Climax magazine in Quarry’s Climax, the sexual content of which offended some readers – usually the same readers who weren’t offended by the violence. And I revisit aspects of that story in the forthcoming Quarry’s Blood. I liked Flynt’s Hustler, which had an outrageous sense of humor and a unique combination of blue-collar sensibility and left-wing politics (only “Asshole of the Month” could do a Tucker Carlson justice). The interviews and articles were often of interest as well (I will stop short of defending myself by saying, “I read Hustler for the articles,” even if it is sort of true – but I doubt I’ll be picking it up again).

Among the more respectable magazines I have looked forward to are two devoted to Old West history/pop culture, True West and Wild West. Both remain excellent and the former is the work of Stuart Rosebrook, a friend of mine who I’ve watched in recent years rise to the position of editor (the magazine’s publisher and creative guiding hand is the great artist/writer, Bob Boze Bell). Stuart Rosebrook’s screenwriter father Jeb wrote the classic “modern” western, Junior Bonner and much else (including The Waltons and The Yellow Rose on TV, The Black Hole feature film and The Gambler TV movies); when Stuart was living in Iowa City, he arranged for me to meet his visiting dad, which was an honor and a thrill.

Shock Cinema cover

With VideoScope gone, only a few stalwart defenders of the psychotronic side of cinema remain. A standout is Steven Puchalski’s Shock Cinema, which combines in-depth interviews with actors and filmmakers with reviews of obscure movies, Blu-rays/DVDs, and books. It has the same kind of fannish yet professional touch as Joe Kane’s VideoScope but with its own distinctive spin. The current issue is typical, featuring incredible interviews with actors Candy Clark (American Graffitti), Veronica Cartwright (Alien), Robert Wuhl (Arli$$), and director Jack Hill (Switchblade Sisters). A similar survivor is Darryl Mazeski’s Screem, another newsstand survivor. Like Shock Cinema and the now-lamented VideoScope, Screem has a personal touch and its own look and feel.

A slicker classic cinema magazine that somehow endures is the UK’s Cinema Retro, with incredible in-depth articles, wonderful reviews, and contributions by my pal Raymond Benson. Every issue is a feast, and occasionally they do a special issue devoted to a single classic film, with the emphasis on the ‘60s and ‘70s.

But these baby-boomer delights are a dying breed, as are magazines themselves, I fear.

Among the first things I did when it became clear we’d be sheltering in place until a vaccine arrived (and we still are waiting, Barb and I, for our shots) was to subscribe to all of the above and a few other magazines. But the joy of going to the magazine section of a book store, to see if a new issue of a favorite periodical is on the stands, is among the small yet keenly felt losses of this pandemic.

Joe Kane, who called himself the Phantom of the Movies, is a loss particularly keenly felt. So are the many magazines we have all loved…and taken for granted.

* * *

Here’s my introduction to the just-published IAMTW tie-in anthology, Turning the Tied. (Kindle link)

I also discussed tie-in writing in the forthcoming MWA, Lee Child-edited mystery writing handbook.

M.A.C.

The Busy Lane I Picked

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I’m at one of those odd junctures where, because I write so much, I am bombarded by the demands of individual books ganging up on me, as needy as bunch of starving brats.

Look, I know it’s my fault, a combination of karma and my selfish desire to do a lot of different things and, along the way, maybe earning a decent living. My inclination, as an artist (I think that’s a fair way to put it, as long as I don’t add an “e” on the end) is to do one project at a time. Concentrate on one thing.

I mostly write novels, and I write them much as I read books – one at a time. I am not one of those strange, unfathomable people who read a number of books at once – they are like drunks changing channels on a runaway remote, as far as I’m concerned. This is one of the reasons why I don’t read much fiction – because the book I’m immersed in is the book I’m writing.

And you may have noticed that I’m always writing a book.

Almost always. I do take a week or two off between books, but I do other writing then – like short stories and articles – and catch up with the things I’ve neglected, like real life.

But fiction writing is a business, or rather a hobby or an art that has to be a business if you want to avoid a real job, a goal I have pursued since I quit my job sacking groceries in 1967. And as a business, the demands of publishing don’t care that I’m writing a book, particularly a book a given publisher isn’t, you know, publishing.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about having just finished Quarry’s Blood, and my incredibly fast editor, Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime, read it in a couple of days and returned it with queries and minor rewrite requests, all reasonable and helpful. In the scheme of things, getting a freshly finished novel back with such immediacy is both unusual and wonderful. Everything is still fresh in my mind, and I can do the novel justice.

However. I am also dealing with the galley proofs of Antiques Carry On. Due simultaneously are the galley proofs of Live Fast, Spy Hard (John Sand #2), and the galley proofs for the short story collection, Suspense – His and Hers by Barb and me. In addition to the aforementioned Antiques Carry On galleys, our new publisher for that series quite reasonably wants a questionnaire about the book and its authors filled out, and an essay about the book written for their customers.

Galley proofs require a close read, looking for mistakes on the publisher’s end (typos) and mistakes on the author’s (continuity errors and general clean-up of writing problems, like repeating a word too many times on a page). It’s a time-consuming prospect – an Antiques book or the John Sand would take a day or two each.

Even worse is when a copy-edited manuscript comes in (the step before galley proofs), at least when a copy editor has overstepped his or her job description. This happens a lot, in my experience. Why a serial killer in one of my books hasn’t singled out copy editors for attention yet is a greater mystery than I have ever concocted.

Am I complaining? Well, of course I am, but not really. I am complaining more about my inability to do more than one thing at once. But I am improving. Right now, it’s my privilege and pleasure to be working with someone I admire and, even better, really like – Dave Thomas, SCTV star, among much else. Dave is working on the first draft of a book we’ve been working on for over a year, a project I am very proud of and am anxious to discuss here in more depth, when the time is right.

Dave, probably because of his incredible improv background, likes to run things by me and we talk and kick things around, and it’s really just great fun. I seem to have no problem stepping out of, say, Quarry’s Blood to talk about and explore the options and possibilities for our novel together in a plotting session.

But one of the things that’s become clear to me, when I’ve had such disparate projects as the Dave Thomas one, Quarry, Antiques and John Sand spinning in my brain like a noir dream sequence, is that I’ve come to understand better why I can’t expect every reader of mine to like or even understand every facet of my imagination and interests.

Some of you may recall a reader, irritated by one of my relatively rare excursions into politics, insisting that I should “pick a lane.” I responded that I am left of center in my politics, but close enough to the middle that both lanes of traffic have an equal swipe at me. I also mentioned that I feel nuance is a positive, not a negative.

I have, obviously, picked a lane in my writing – mystery/crime, but even that is really two genres, and of course horror is part of it, as the current Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales demonstrates. But it’s clear to me, at this ripe old age, that I would have been more popular and successful as a fiction writer if I had been more narrow in focus.

The thing is, I am driven not so much by genre considerations as I am by ideas. Ideas have driven every novel writing choice I’ve made. Quarry was a hitman who had to solve the murder he committed. Road to Perdition was a take on John Woo and other Asian influences my then very young son and I were taking in. Mommy was a reversal of The Bad Seed’s premise. Eliot Ness, both novel and non-fiction, was looking for the man behind the myth, and his real cases. Black Hats was old Wyatt Earp meets young Al Capone. USS Powderkeg was a way to talk about my father’s experiences with an all-black crew in the Pacific during the Second World War. Krista and Keith Larson was an American take on Nordic noir and a step away from hardboiled genre types. Ms. Tree was Velda marrying Mike Hammer and Mike getting killed on their honeymoon. Antiques was a young woman using antiquing (and amateur sleuthing) as a positive way to relate to her eccentric mother. Supreme Justice was somebody killing Supreme Court justices to change the balance of the court. John Sand is the spy that James Bond was based on. And on and on.

Ideas.

And the need to execute these ideas in a way that is appropriate to the material is the goal – effective storytelling, interesting to me. Fiction writers should write the novels they want to read themselves. Their first audience is themselves – and my readers are invited in, welcomed in, but don’t always share my interests and enthusiasms.

So I get it if Girl Can’t Help It doesn’t please somebody who is really into Quarry and Nolan. I wholly understand if someone into the Antiques series is horrified beyond words at my writing Mike Hammer novels.

But it is, frankly, hurtful when a reader feels betrayed by a choice I’ve made, and attacks a work that isn’t on their wave length as if I have failed them or am “phoning it in” or doing inferior work simply because it’s not to their taste.

And here in the last phase of my career – which I hope will be another twenty years, don’t get me wrong – I am interested in getting as many of the stories I want to tell fucking told. I am (as perhaps being the co-author of a series of cozy mysteries about antiquing might indicate) a collector. I am of perhaps the first generation of mystery writers who were fans first, and became writers.

So what I am doing, in 2021 and beyond, is collecting my own books. In a way, I am my own biggest fan, but also my harshest critic. A creative person needs to be an unlikely combination of self-confidence and self-doubt, and I certainly qualify.

* * *
Turning the Tied cover

Matt Clemens and I have contributed a Sherlock Holmes short story to an exciting new collection by top tie-in writers. Read about it here.

J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet is always worth reading. Some interesting news about me is buried in his latest installment.

Finally, Mike Hammer: The Night I Died graphic novel from Titan is one of seven recommended graphic novels here.

M.A.C.

Cover Story

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

I had not been given an advance look at the Noir Alley episode this weekend that had me guest-presenting with Eddie Muller the great film noir, Born to Kill (1947) from the James Gunn novel, Deadly Is the Female. During the shoot, Eddie and I had talked about both the film and the book for maybe forty minutes, and the TCM editors honed it down beautifully. I am very pleased, and if it turns up on You Tube, I’ll share it here.

God, I love it when I don’t stink up the place!

Skim Deep has been getting some lovely notices, I am pleased to say, including great Amazon reviews, and readers seem to be pleased either to see Nolan again or meet him for the first time.

But due out a week from today is the first-ever audio book of Blood Money, the second Nolan novel, read by the amazing Stefan Rudnicki. As you may know, Hard Case Crime is bringing out a new trade paperback edition of Two for the Money, collecting the first two Nolan novels – Bait Money and, again, Blood Money – on April 20.

The Edgar nominations are out, and Eliot Ness and the Butcher did not receive a Best Fact Crime nom, just as Scarface and the Untouchable did not in its year. It’s frustrating that this major work – I consider these two books joined at the hip – has not been better recognized; but I am confident that what my co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, and I accomplished will have a lasting place in true-crime literature.

Both Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and Shoot the Moon (And More) are available in trade paperback(and of course Kindle) from Wolfpack. I talked about Reincarnal last week and spoke of my pleasure in having my short horror fiction collected in one place. I’m excited to see Shoot the Moon published as a novel and not as part of a collection. Originally it was featured in the now out-of-print Early Crimes, and the two short stories from that collection are still included, but moved to the back of the book as a bonus feature.

Shoot the Moon is a novel written fairly early in my career, but after Bait Money, Blood Money, No Cure for Death, The Baby Blue Rip-off and Quarry. So it’s not an early work in the sense of being formative or from my college days. The two short stories that serve as a bonus are, in fact, from my community college days, although one of them (“Public Servant”) was considered good enough years later to be included in a Lawrence Block-edited anthology (Opening Shots).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Shoot the Moon is to the Donald E. Westlake comic crime novels as Bait Money is to the Richard Stark un-comic crime novels. My debt to Don Westlake, as an inspiration and mentor, is one I can never adequately repay.

Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales Cover
Shoot the Moon Cover

My son Nate encourages me to share behind-the-scenes stories and such about the writing life. So here I go….

Wolfpack is a very interesting outfit, because its publisher, Mike Bray, is something of a visionary, and its editor-in-chief Paul Bishop is a first-rate novelist himself who approaches publishing with an empathy and feel for his fellow writers.

I have been particularly pleased with the covers that have come out of Wolfpack, and yet a couple of problems turned up recently. As an example of the rampant political correctness that all creative people suffer these days, the cover of Reincarnal – which I love – was rejected for use in ads by Amazon. Fortunately, I’m told, ads for Facebook with that cover are still possible.

Apparently Reincarnal having a knife on its cover is the problem. I’ve run into this kind of thing before at several publishers, who haven’t wanted a gun on their covers. In one case, a publisher doing serial killer books – where the editor had me add a violent opening scene – did not allow guns or knives on their covers. Hey, I’m all for keeping guns off the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate – none of those people should be allowed around sharp objects – but on the covers of thrillers, horror novels and noir?

Who are we protecting with this prissy attitude, anyway?

Come Spy With Me Cover

Conversely, the wonderful cover of Come Spy With Me has taken some heat for being too classy, too subtle. And it does have a gun on it! That gun is on a beach covered in sand, which anyone whose favorite word isn’t “Duh!” will tell you was meant to make you think of the protagonist, John Sand. It’s possible we’ll eventually do a second cover for that title, when the third Sand novel, To Live and Spy in Berlin, emerges – a book Matt Clemens and I are plotting, having delivered book two, Live Fast, Spy Hard recently.

Wolfpack’s bread-and-butter has been what I used to hear called “boy books” by editors both male and female. “Boy books” are westerns, techno-thrillers, male-lead thrillers, private eye novels and noir (the latter will come as a surprise to Christa Faust and Megan Abbott). Westerns and men’s adventure-type novels, including spy stuff, do very well at Wolfpack, and while my work is at least vaguely in the “boy book” vein, I am part of the publisher’s effort to expand into new publishing realms. And I salute them for that.

“How can I help?” I hear you saying.

You can buy Reincarnal, Shoot the Moon, and Come Spy With Me for a start, and all the other titles of mine Wolfpack has been good enough to foist upon you lucky people.

At fear of kissing up (well, I’m not that afraid), I will say that Wolfpack, Hard Case Crime, Titan and the emerging Neo-Text are publishers who are allowing me to explore the genres and characters I care about, both old and new, and God bless them for it. Every one of them has invested their faith in me and my work in a way that goes well beyond the standard publishing approach of, “Well, we’ll throw one or two of your titles out there and see how they do.”

Publishers, notoriously, have laid all the blame on the writer for the lack of success of a book. We writers are where the buck stops, and you might say, “Of course you are!” But the truth is publishers are not in the book-selling business, they are in the cover-selling business. Hey, if my books aren’t packaged correctly, it’s not my effing fault.

Now, I have to cop to having loved some covers that didn’t work in the marketplace, and having hated some that did. But it’s not my job to package the books. I am busy writing them. I am hard at work making Wheaties. What athlete goes on the box isn’t my choice or my fault, which means I can’t take full credit for how many boxes of Wheaties fly off the shelves.

Publishers usually ask for a writer’s input into the covers, and then ignore that input, often for good reason. Hard Case Crime sends me the cover before I’ve even written the book, so I can work the scene into the narrative, like the old pulp writers used to – I get a perverse pleasure out of that. Thomas & Mercer gave me a lot of input into the covers, and I love the results. Those books continue to sell briskly.

But here is my dream. An editor has a series that has received glowing reviews, a series that said editor considers first-rate, though with a small but dedicated reader base, if not enough to justify publishing any more books in that series. Rather than drop that series like something icky, why not consider a re-packaging approach, and take a hard look at the marketing that has (or hasn’t) gone into it, and give that series a book or two more, with a new cover and new marketing approach, before deciding its ultimate fate?

That never happens.

Keeping Nate Heller alive through five major publishing houses, with a fifth coming, over almost fifty years is a small miracle – no, a big miracle, speaking to my own stubbornness and my only-child inability to be told “no.”

And yet. Here is Nolan back in print. Here is Quarry not only back in print but with me writing, right now, the tenth new book (Quarry’s Blood) in a series started back up again in 2006 when the damned thing had been declared dead in 1976.

* * *

J. Kingston Pierce’s The Rap Sheet, hands down the best mystery site on the web, has an edition of his entertaining column-within-a-column “Bullet Points” that has a nice paragraph about the book I’m writing now (Quarry’s Blood) and Heller.