Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Come Spy With Me Launches

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Nobody Lives Forever is the title of one of John Gardner’s James Bond novels. Gardner, like my friend Raymond Benson, was one of the official scribes hired by the Ian Fleming estate to continue the novel series. But while, as a title, Nobody Lives Forever has an authentic Bond ring, I must disagree with its sentiment.

Sean Connery will live forever, and so will James Bond. And especially Sean Connery’s James Bond will live forever.

That makes this the right time to finally share with you the cover of Come Spy With Me, the first of a projected trilogy by Matthew V. Clemens and me about retired UK spy, John Sand, who the novel implies was the “real” basis for James Bond. We had been told, at one point, that the book would not be out until December.

But it turns out the publication date is coming right at us – November 18 – available both as a Kindle e-book title and as a trade paperback. You can pre-order it now, and I hope you will.

When I began talking to editor Paul Bishop at Wolfpack about doing original titles for them – we had already agreed on a number of backlist novels and new short story collections to appear under their imprint – I knew figuring out the right property for that particular publisher’s launch of new M.A.C. titles was a priority.

Come Spy With Me cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Paperback:Amazon Purchase Link

I also knew I wanted to do some of what I had in mind with my longtime collaborator, Matt Clemens, with whom I began kicking around ideas. One was to do a new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, but we were hesitant at this (shall we say) “moment in time.” After all, we’d already done the Reeder and Rogers trilogy in which Supreme Court justices were targeted for murder (Supreme Justice), a megalomanic populist from the private sector ran for President (Fate of the Union), and an extreme right-wing group plotted a coup of the government of the USA (Executive Order).

We were almost afraid to come up with another outlandish premise like those.

At the same time, we were putting together for Wolfpack the original collection of our collaborative short stories, Murderlized, and needed to come up with the original files for each story. In rummaging around in his hard drive, Matt came upon the opening chapters of a novel we’d started twenty years ago – about the opening third, plus a detailed synopsis. He read over the material and said he thought it was pretty good. He sent it to me and I responded likewise.

A sizeable share of the Wolfpack audience likes action and adventure, and this untitled manuscript was an homage to James Bond and Ian Fleming. I will likely write in more detail about my love for Fleming and how caught up in the spy cycle of the mid-‘60s I was, but not right now. The origins of what has become Come Spy With Me are peculiar and a little amusing.

Matt and I had been writing short stories together for a while, but had not yet embarked on the series of TV tie-ins (CSI, Dark Angel, Criminal Minds, Bones) that we’d be doing for something like fifteen years. We were, in fact, discussing doing some kind of novel series together.

And along came a strange opportunity. A new publisher was going to bring out (wait for it) erotic novels in which all of the sex was between married people. Married to each other. At the time, I pointed out to them that few married people, particularly if they’d been married a while, did their fantasizing about their mates. But this, the publisher insisted, was a time that had come.

Okay.

Matt and I kicked around the notion of, “What if at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond’s new wife (SPOILER ALERT) was not killed by his arch-nemesis, Blofeld? What if Bond got married and quit the spy game, and then got pulled back in? Adding to this was the concept that Ian Fleming had been a colleague of our “John Sand” and had based James Bond on him. We both loved that idea.

We were signed to do the novel, and got to work…but the married-people-having-sex concept turned out not to appeal (imagine that) and the publishing idea went belly up. Well, it was soft-core porn, so let’s call it “tits up.”

Matt and I were frustrated, because we really liked what we’d written. But we shelved it, as the tie-in market summoned us and, well, no project lives forever.

Or does it?

Wanting to get something out with Wolfpack as quickly as possible, we developed what became Come Spy With Me, with a few changes. We removed the soft-core porn aspect – although there are erotic moments between man and wife – and (at the suggestion of Raymond Benson) were more coy about the Sand/Bond connection, although it’s certainly implied. But neither Fleming nor Bond are mentioned by name in the novel.

And that opening third of the book was heavily re-thought and rewritten. However – it still gave us a leg up on the project (sorry if that phrase sound soft-core porny in and of itself). Soon we were seeing the possibility of at least doing a trilogy and began plotting it, as well. Our work method on Come Spy With Me, as always, was to plot together with Matt doing a somewhat short first pass and me doing a complete, fleshed-out second pass.

My initial title was Come Die With Me (the title, by the way, of a terrible Mike Hammer TV movie). Paul Bishop was not in love with that. But he responded well when I tweaked it into Come Spy With Me. Now Matt and I are toying with doing “spy” puns for any subsequent titles.

Both of us are old enough to be veterans of the initial James Bond craze. And – in this Corona Virus environment – we are happy to do novels not set in the present. The early 1960s seemed like a more fun place to spend time right now than the 2020s.

We are rather determinedly in the area of Connery’s Bond, not Moore or any other pretender, except perhaps Timothy Dalton. There are dark quips of the “Get the point” variety, but some people forget that such things began with Connery. Like Fleming’s novels, Come Spy With Me is fairly hardboiled and fans of Quarry, Nolan and Heller should not feel shortchanged.

For us, as much as we like the actors who followed in Sean Connery’s footsteps, we consider him the one and only true James Bond. Every one else is a kind of place holder, someone to build a Bond film around. But when Connery said, “Bond. James Bond,” it was forever.

* * *

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews provides this wonderful review of the second Caleb York novel, The Big Showdown.

A good place to order the new Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet collection is my old pal Bud Plant’s mail-order company, specializing in comic art and illustration.

M.A.C.

Wolfs and Cats, Living Together, Sunday Fun, and a 5-Day Script

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Too Many Tomcats, Wolfpack Cover
Ebook: Amazon Purchase Link

All of the copies in last week’s book giveaway of Murderlized and Murder – His and Hers have been shipped. I unexpectedly received more copies of Murderlized that allowed me to send ten copies out, not just five.

Now we have another Wolfpack release, thus far only available on Kindle, but a physical book will be along soon. It’s Barb’s Too Many Tomcats, an anthology of her stories for the various Cat Crimes collections; I wrote the intro and co-wrote a couple of stories.

Do not be dissuaded by the title and subject – these are dark tales, very much in the Roald Dahl/Alfred Hitchcock Presents vein. While Barb does not (exactly) dislike cats, she is fact allergic to them. The cats in these stories, among other things, tend to be evil, murder victims, and/or dead. It’s a wonderful collection, reflecting many of the tales having been chosen for the Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories anthologies edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, two great men both sadly gone.

* * *

I am pleased to announce that the project that SCTV’s Dave Thomas and I are in the process of writing has found a home.

Much more about that later.

* * *

For those of you not sick to death of me (which does not include my wife) (or myself for that matter), I did a ZOOM interview with S-F/Fantasy & Mystery author Russ Colchamiro. Russ is a fine, fun interviewer and we talked about things that haven’t made it into my zillion other interviews.

Russ is one of the Crazy 8 Press group of genre writers, which includes (among other excellent scribes) my old pals Peter David, Glenn Hauman, Robert Greenberger and Paul Kupperberg.

Check out the talk between Russ and me right here:

* * *

Although this update/blog appears on Tuesday morning, I often write them the Sunday night before. That’s the case this week.

You may recall I’ve written about a handful of very carefully orchestrated outings that Barb and I have undertaken (an unfortunate word in a pandemic), getting carry out meals to eat in the car or at a park, and slipping into a bookstore or some other retails outlet at an off-time when few if any other customers can be spied. And, of course, only stores where you have to wear a mask to enter, even if you aren’t robbing the joint.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but the three times we’ve gone out on such outings have been lovely – it felt like the old days, way-way-way back in February of this year, when only our president and Bob Woodward knew the truth about Covad-19.

We had our day planned – another Quad Cities trip. We would again go Portillo’s, a wonderful drive-in restaurant, and then Barb would slip into the Van Maur department store at North Park Mall in Davenport while I would do the same at the Barnes & Noble, for perhaps half an hour. We timed it to arrive at Portillo’s around 10:45 a.m. and the mall at 11:30 (when it opened). We planned it with a precision that Nolan and Jon (if you’re reading this you really should know who that is) would envy.

Then we got up this morning and read the Quad City Times Sunday edition. It told of the 500 cases of Covid logged in the QC’s this week, mostly Iowa side of the river. It also mentioned that Iowa is number four among Covid hot spots in the nation.

And we stayed home.

And you know what? It wasn’t bad. We spent some time together in the morning (none of your business), I got us breakfast at Hardee’s (Mickey Spillane ate their biscuits every day), prepared the living room for carpet cleaning early this coming week (I will be upstairs and the cleaners will be downstairs) (in masks), and I finished up cleaning my office to prepare for beginning a new project tomorrow. Barb and I spent the evening watching three episodes of the British crime show New Tricks, which we have been bingeing. We ate hot dogs that were damn near Portillo’s-worthy.

Of course we also had to watch the president of the United States take a motorcade to nowhere to wave at his fans. Your tax dollars at work.

No, I’m not going to get political, because I have too many friends and business associates who are not just Republicans but support the president. Their privilege, and I don’t want to alienate any of my readers, either.

But just between us, the inside of my head is exploding, twenty-four hours a day.

* * *

I had a wild week, reminiscent of my pre-heart surgery younger days. With another deadline looming, I nonetheless agreed to write a first-draft screenplay for a movie based on “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” a non-Mike Hammer crime novella written by Mickey Spillane and yours truly. (It appeared as a sort of short subject before the main attraction in The Last Stand, the 100th anniversary Spillane novel.)

Basically I had to turn out twenty pages of finished script a day (“first draft” merely means the first version of a script, not something loose or sloppy or haphazard). The novella is a gloriously crazed collection of noir tropes, which attracted an established, Hard Case Crime-loving indie filmmaker to the material. My job was to assemble a bunch of short, fun, off-the-wall scenes into a more coherent whole, combining them, and making them play believably, mining a plot out of the mineral content, without losing what attracted the filmmaker in the first place.

I had a wonderful time. I just loved doing it.

Will it go anywhere? You never know. We have not signed a deal yet, but I had a window in which to work, so I grabbed it – if the project falls through, I’ll wind up with a screenplay, so no harm, no foul. If it goes forward, I am not carrying the ball – I am not the director, who will be doing a second draft from my first. Doesn’t bother me – he’s the director, and it’s his movie. Having talked to him at length, I liked what I heard, and we seem to be on the same page.

But this is the movies, and you never know. My version of The Last Lullaby – my script was faithfully novelized by me into The Last Quarry – was used by a young director to raise the money. I was the Road to Perdition guy, remember? Then a producer came aboard with his own writer and my screenplay was rewritten by someone I’ve never met. After that, I was able to do a polish, but I still wish my initial version had been shot.

On the other hand, despite certain problems with it, The Last Lullaby is still a damn good crime movie and probably a more accurate rendition of Quarry than the Cinemax series (though technically the main character is not Quarry – he’s “Price,” a name I think was appropriate).

Anyway, it’s the movies. I love the damn things, and I love my excursions into screenwriting.

But there’s a reason why you write novels.

They are yours.

* * *

A reminder that this coming Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, A. Brad Schwartz and I will be appearing via ZOOM at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas to talk about Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. You don’t have to go to Vegas to participate, either.

And here’s a great review of the paperback edition of The Big Bang, only the second of the Spillane/Collins collaborative Mike Hammer novels.

M.A.C.

R.I.P. Emma Peel…and a Wolfpack Spy Revealed

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

I am, obviously, at that age when the icons of my youth are going on ahead of me into whatever lies ahead. Emma Peel is gone. Not at all forgotten.

Still, losing Diana Rigg at 82 sounds much too soon – she was still displaying her considerable acting skills and powers of personality in Victoria and the forthcoming Black Narcissus.

The British Invasion was the Big Thing when I was in high school, and that of course immediately brings to mind the Beatles and their fellow rock ‘n’ roll invaders. But the British Invasion was also James Bond, and the Spy Craze – even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an Ian Fleming brainchild (thought that fact has been lost in the shuffle a bit). Sometimes the rock aspect collided with the spy craze, as when Johnny Rivers did the theme song for Secret Agent (as the Brit Danger Man was retitled for USA consumption). And would Michael Caine’s career have gotten its jump start if Harry Palmer hadn’t brought John Lennon to mind in The Ipcress File (1965)?

From the UK came the greatest of Spy Craze TV series, The Avengers (well, let’s call it a tie with The Prisoner). Emma Peel’s predecessor – as the black catsuit-clad partner of bowler-and-bumbershoot-sporting John Steed, portrayed by urbane Patrick Macnee – was Cathy Gale. The original distaff martial-arts Avenger (to “boys” my age, those Marvel Avengers should be called the Pretenders) was Honor Blackman, whose final curtain call preceded Diana Rigg’s by just a few months.

The Bond connections are many. Honor Blackman was (could anyone reading this really not know) Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964); and Patrick Macnee was James Bond’s Lordly sidekick in the Roger Moore entry, View to a Kill (1985). Macnee was not, as some would have, the cousin of (sort of) James Bond, David Niven (Casino Royale, 1965), though the two actors did appear together in The Elusive Pimpernel (1950).

Most significantly, Diana Rigg portrayed Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), and became not just the love of Bond’s life but his wife, albeit briefly. The former Emma Peel was, not surprisingly, appealing in the role and her presence shored up the place-holder presence of George Lazenby as Bond in what was the greatest James Bond movie Sean Connery never made.

Diana Rigg was an accomplished and much-lauded screen actress, and I won’t go into all of her remarkable list of credits here. I’ll mention only my favorite performance by her, after Emma Peel and Tracy di Vicenzo, which is Arlena Stuart Marshall in Evil Under the Sun (1982), the best of the big screen Poirot movies (feel free to disagree, but do so knowing I’m not listening).

What is significant about Diana Rigg, it seems to me, is how she managed to be an actress of incredible sex appeal and at the same time convey an undeniable, even intimidating intelligence, at a time (the first Bond era, remember) when “birds” were mostly mini-skirts, eye make-up, and lots of teased hair. She could even smirk with intelligence, and the way she and The Avengers spoofed the inherently absurd spy fad gave the series its special zing. Her range as an actress is astonishing. I always had a sense that she wanted to give the audience her best, but if they didn’t like it, that was their problem.

So it is with a bittersweet smile, and a gathering sense of my own mortality, that I blow a kiss goodbye to Emma Peel, knowing that she and Diana Rigg will live forever.

Now, hoping it’s not a display of bad taste, I will segue into finally announcing the series that Matt Clemens and I are doing for Wolfpack. You’ll see the connection in a moment, or perhaps as soon as you hear the title of the first novel: Come Spy With Me.

Matt and I created the lead characters and developed the premise for the series twenty years ago in a couple of little seen short stories. John Sand is a recently retired British secret agent whose cover was blown world-wide when a famous series of novels by an ex-spy colleague of his became best sellers. The stories – at least the trilogy we have agreed to produce – take place in the, shall we say, Swinging Sixties.

John Sand has married a wealthy young woman named Stacey and, in Come Spy With Me, we join them on their honeymoon, where if we had any sense of propriety we wouldn’t witness their carnal conduct. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much propriety Matt Clemens and I have.

But not to worry. The mushy stuff is temporary – carnal gives way to carnage soon enough, and John Sand is as hard-edged a man of action as, well, the famous fictional spy that was based on him.

The name “Sand,” by the way, is a very much conscious tip of the jaunty ‘60s cap to the mono-named lead of Ennis Willie’s series of novels written in that era, which influenced me almost as much as Mickey Spillane, Richard Stark, and Ian Fleming.

You will hear more about this series as the weeks progress – the first book will, as I’ve indicated, be out well before the end of the year. We’ll have a cover to show you before too very long.

When Matt and I discussed getting an advance blurb from an appropriate author, only one name came to mind: Raymond Benson, author of officially licensed James Bond novels (and short stories and video games) and the landmark The James Bond Bedside Companion. Raymond is also the author of the Black Stiletto novels and Hotel Destiny – A Ghost Noir.

Raymond was gracious enough to look at Come Spy With Me in manuscript, and this is what he says:

Come Spy With Me is a heck of a ride! The characters are smooth, the real-world cameos are fun, the action is electric, and the sex is rightly retro. This homage to Mr. Fleming, Mr. Bond, and all the other pulp spy thrillers of the 1960s will leave you craving for the next installment!”

* * *

This is a lovely review of the forthcoming second Ms. Tree collection from Titan – Skeleton in the Closet.

Here is a compendium of reviews of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, mostly very good.

My co-author, A. Brad Schwartz and I, will be discussing Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher next Sunday, September 20, at 1 pm Central. Join us with your own questions.

M.A.C.

“Real” Books Now Available from Wolfpack!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

This will be a brief update because my office is shutting down for my son Nate to install a new computer with various new programs.

But I will take the time to announce the following: print versions of both Mommy and Mommy’s Day are available for $9.99. Be sure to click on PAPERBACK at the listing to get the right price (and cover). [Note from Nate: The links in this update go directly to Amazon.]

Also available as “real” books from Wolfpack are Murderlized – the collected short stories of Matt Clemens and me (10.99); all four Eliot Ness books, The Dark City, Butcher’s Dozen, Bullet Proof, and Murder by the Numbers ($10.99 each); and Murder His and Hers, stories by Barb and me ($9.99).

Your support of these titles will be much appreciated. Their success paves the way for new original books (and further reprints) by me, me and Matt, and me and Barb.

Yeah, I know – that’s an obnoxious amount of “me” – and “I” know it.

* * *

Here’s a great Kiss Her Goodbye review, reprinted from a long-ago post.

This is a rather tepid endorsement of Eliot Ness & the Mad Butcher.

Finally, here’s a list putting a story by Mickey Spillane and me on the “must-read” list.

M.A.C.