Posts Tagged ‘Scarface and the Untouchable’

It’s a Thriller Just to Be Nominated

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Those of you who are nice enough (or possibly deluded enough) to follow these updates know that Girl Most Likely was a book that got some terrible reviews, although the vast majority were good to great. The bad reviews that really stung came from the trades, who beat me up essentially because the novel was not in the noir mode of Nate Heller and/or Quarry.

The same reaction came from self-professed “big fans” of one or both of those series who went out of their way to bemoan what a lousy job I did in their Amazon reviews. The other group (mostly in the UK) seemed to object to an old white male writing about a young white woman, and in particular that young woman have a positive relationship (and accepting help from) her middle-aged widower father.

These are knee-jerk far left complaints, in my view, which is somewhat ironic because Matt Clemens and I had knee-jerk far right complaints about Supreme Justice and its two sequels (for the same publisher as the Girl novels) on their publication.

These pans hurt the book, in spite of very respectable, even pretty damn good sales, and predominantly positive reviews. It’s made launching Girl Can’t Help It, the second book, harder than it should have been, even without the Corona Virus factoring in.

So I am pleased to announce that the Thriller Writers have nominated Girl Most Likely for Best Paperback Novel. Read about it here.

I have no illusions that I’ll win. But I feel I have a right to consider this a certain validation, particularly since it came from my peers. What’s interesting is that those who didn’t like the book often complained that it wasn’t a thriller (apparently multiple murders with a butcher knife just didn’t do it for them).

So thank you, Thriller Writers.

Thank you, actual fans (big and medium and small alike).

As to the rest of you, as Eric Cartman says, “F**k you guys, I’m going home.”

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I am also pleased to see Publisher’s Weekly join in on the general acclaim for the new Mike Hammer. Here is that review:

Masquerade for Murder: A Mike Hammer Novel

Set in 1989, MWA Grand Master Collins’s competent 12th posthumous collaboration with Spillane (after 2019’s Murder, My Love) finds Mike Hammer still operating as a PI when the WWII vet would have been in his late 60s. That touch of realism allows Collins to dial back most of the extreme elements of the early Spillane novels. Outside a Manhattan restaurant, Mike spots Wall Street wunderkind Vincent Colby as he steps into the street and is clipped by a speeding red sports car. He’s only bruised, but is taken to the hospital, and his wealthy dad, Vance, hires Mike to unearth the perpetrator over Vincent’s fierce objections. Mike’s investigation, aided as always by his voluptuous secretary, Velda, soon leads to a trail of bodies, linked only by the bizarre method by which they were dispatched. Spillane fans will be pleased to see how well Collins captures the brash tone but everyman personality of the latter-day Hammer without trying to imitate the character’s infamous vigilante crusades of earlier years. Spillane (1918–2006) would be proud of how well Collins has maintained his legacy.

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I have recently cut a deal with VCI and MVD (who brought out the Blu-ray double-feature of Mommy and Mommy’s Day recently) for distribution of the Mommy movies to streaming services. Mommy seems to have promptly popped up on Amazon Prime Video in some markets, but not all markets yet. Keep an eye peeled, because I think it’s free to Prime members.

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All of the covers for the upcoming new Nolan (Skim Deep) and the reprint series from Hard Case Crime are gathered for your perusal right here…and you don’t even have to click a link

I have received some really fun missives from readers lately that I would like to share.

I’ll start with an actual handwritten letter from a retired police detective here in Muscatine. I will not use his name, but will say that he was the investigator on the case against my former Mommy producer, which came out favorably for us, and he appeared quite convincingly as a uniformed cop in my movie, Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

I am just starting Girl Can’t Help It. If it brings me as much joy as Girl Most Likely did, it will be great. It sent me back to my years as a police detective. The interviews were of most interest. (SPOILER ALERT) I got the feeling after the first one with the teacher, Mr. Stock, that he was much more than a person of interest. The way he said he wanted to mentor Astrid just did not sit right with me. (END SPOILER ALERT)

I have to admit you did a great job of making other persons look good for the murders. Maybe it’s my training or years of police work, but it made me feel good to know I can still see the telltale signs of a perp.

As long as I can read, I will try to get all the books the two of you right into my mental locker. Thanks for your talents when you write. Thanks for the part on the Lucas Street movie. I will always cherish my chance to serve you in the (REDACTED) case.

Here is one from a reader who signs himself RJM and who is actually (wait for it) older than me!

I loved your book (Do No Harm): my Dad was Chief Inspector of the War Department headquartered in the Terminal Tower starting in 1938. He was a Chicago guy and a newly wed navigating greater Cleveland.

In the early ‘80s I worked in the area covering three states for a company that no longer exists. So I thought I knew a lot about the area, but I learned a lot(I’ve never been in the Terminal Tower; I didn’t know about the Flat Iron Café, etc).

A great read well researched – I’m ordering True Detective and True Crime from Amazon soon. I’ve been a fan for about thirty years(I love Quarry and Nolan), but I’ve never read a Heller before. I’d love to review your books for Amazon (check out my review of An Eye for a Tooth by Dornford Yates). My only point of disagreement is Heller’s choice of beers – Hamm’s is fine but Cleveland beer in that era to me is always Drewery’s. Drewery’s had an enormous billboard ad just as you got on the highway coming up from the old Cleveland Stadium. As I kid I loved Mounties and horses and Drewery’s had both in their ads. Cleveland was probably Drewery’s largest metropolitan market. Thanks for countless hours of reading fun.

The unstoppable Tom Zappe sent me this:

I have just finished ordering what I call my “Literary Legacy” for my two grandkids aged 4 and 1.5 years respectively. They will not be able to begin to approach these books for another 10 or 12 years yet and I may well have made my trip to the gallows by then, so I’m assembling and delivering it to them and their parents within the next few weeks as they arrive from Amazon.

By and large these are books that I read [and later re-read] in my teens and later which put a distinct warp into my personality which remains unstraightened to this day. In all there about two dozen. They center mostly around the music, arts and entertainment field as especially found in New York and Hollywood in the Art Deco Era.

They include much biographical and autobiographical materiel of the likes of Mae West, Duke Ellington, Oscar Levant, Lillian Gish, Milton Berle, Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Groucho and Harpo Marx, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong and one of my all time favorites Alexander King who wrote four autobiographies, three of which are well worth reading and re-reading. (Note from MAC: I loved the King bios as a teenager.)

The Mark Twain autobiographies hold a place of special esteem among these works.

Although it’s not strictly about show business, I am also including Scarface and the Untouchable in this menagerie since it so thoroughly captures the era in which so much of this happened. Being able to put things in to the proper context is Paramount [or perhaps Universal]. I sometimes feel that I must have been in Show-Biz in my previous life.

I find it unlikely that we will see the likes of these people anytime again soon. Their style and personalities were [mostly] of their own making even among the Hollywood bunch. They didn’t need a press agent or focus group to tell them who they were.

All your readers have had, I’m sure, similar literary experiences worth passing on to their perhaps yet unborn descendants. This is my approach to seeing that the things I value might yet get a shot.

As a former viola player in the St. Louis Symphony once told me “There is nothing more subversive than a book. It can sit there for years apparently doing nothing, but once opened up it can change your world.”

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Here’s a nice recommendation for volume one of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother. Apparently, however, for all these years, Terry Beatty has been a female….

And we’ll end with this nice look back at the film of Road to Perdition from the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

M.A.C.

My Birthday Is, Apparently, Super

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Before we get to my birthday, here’s a present for you: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, running now through 3/31/2020, including Girl Most Likely at $1.99, and the following at 99 cents each: (links go to Amazon)

What Doesn’t Kill Her

Mallory Series:
The Baby Blue Rip-Off
No Cure for Death
Kill Your Darlings
A Shroud for Aquarius
Nice Weekend for a Murder

Disaster Series:
The Titanic Murders
The Hindenburg Murders
The Pearl Harbor Murders
The Lusitania Murders
The London Blitz Murders
War of the Worlds Murder

Midnight Haul

[Note from Nate:] Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago is also on sale at Amazon for $1.99! I don’t know how long this sale lasts. The deal also seems to be available at other eBook retailers. Click here to go to the book page, where I have links to different sellers.

Now here’s a present those of you attending Bouchercon this year you can give me that doesn’t cost you anything. Anthony Ballots for Bouchercon attendees went out over the weekend. Votes for Antiques Ravin’ (Barbara Allan) and Murder My, Love (Spillane and Collins) are appreciated in Best Novel. Votes for Killing Quarry and Girl Most Likely in Best Paperback Original are also appreciated.

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Today is indeed my birthday, and reaching 72 years after some of what I’ve been through with various health issues feels rather momentous, but you people didn’t have to go to the trouble of calling this Super Tuesday. I mean, I’m touched, but that’s a little over the top.

Despite my carping about lack of marketing support from some publishers, and the perils of being perceived as a hack because three books of mine are about to be published essentially simultaneously by three different houses, I am busier than ever, and doing just fine, thank you. In fact I am one lucky son of a bitch.

I have two projects in the works, one of which involves writing three novellas about a new character, with a contract with the publisher already in hand. It’s too early to share much more than that with you, but I will say it’s a private eye series starring a female and is set during World War Two at the home front.

The other project is an ambitious novel co-written with an SCTV star, which exists at this point as a substantial sample of five finished chapters and a complete synopsis. My longtime agent, Dominick Abel, is marketing it. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to jinx it. When we have a sale, I will share everything. But working with one of my heroes in the world of Second City is a wonderful thing indeed. Talk about Happy Birthday!

For those inclined to read between the lines, I will say this is a genuine, working-in-the-trenches project, not a ghost job – plotting together, rewriting each other, the real deal. We have been working on this for several months and I am anxious to share more, but can’t.

Other things in the works that I can discuss only vaguely includes some real potential for a new Mike Hammer TV series. The possibility for TV or movies derived from Scarface and the Untouchable remains real, too. And there’s real interest in the Antiques novels for TV. Streaming is a hungry eye.

Those three books coming out next week aren’t everything, either. The new Mike Hammer novel, Masquerade for Murder, will be also available from Audible read by the great Stefan Rudnicki with Do No Harm read by that other terrific narrator, Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller. The non-fiction follow-up to Scarface and the Untouchable will be out in August – Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and me – and Terry Beatty and I have edited and assembled the complete Pete Morisi Johnny Dynamite for Craig Yoe. A second Ms. Tree collection (Volume Two: Skeleton in the Closet, featuring the rest of the DC graphic novellas) is on the way this year, and so is a new Caleb York, Hot Lead, Cold Justice. The new Trash ‘n’ Treasures by Barbara Allan, Antiques Fire Sale, will be out April 28.

Like many of you, I wonder what this year will bring where this coronavirus is concerned. I am a high risk, having had heart trouble, respiratory problems and being fucking old. My grandson was a premie and has respiratory issues, and so does Nate. My beautiful wife is almost high risk age-wise, though she of course looks like a young trophy wife I managed to bamboozle.

Barb and I look at things like the schedule for Crusin’ to play its summer and early fall gigs and wonder if that is endangered by this threat. We look at various public events we’ve agreed to be part of, like Bouchercon, and others we’ve been considering, like Comic Con, and are scratching our heads. We have bought more canned soup in one trip to the supermarket than we have in the last ten years of supermarket trips. I am beginning to wonder if we will be bunkering in at some point and finally getting these damn Blu-rays and DVDs watched – maybe even read some of the stacks and stacks of books I haven’t gotten to.

Bernie Sanders talks about the need for record turnout in the coming election, but if people are frightened to be out in public for fear of the Andromedia Strain, just how big a turnout will that be? If Joe Biden is the Democrat, will the old people who support him be able to stagger to the polls? If people start dying in droves, will the MAGA crowd still buy this thing as a Democrat “hoax”? Will Bernie and Joe and even Donald Trump all still be alive? They’re in the high risk age range, too.

Come on – you’re thinking about this shit, too! Don’t tell me you aren’t. By the way, here’s a tip – don’t watch the movie Contagion.

In the meantime, happy birthday to me and good luck to all of us on Super Tuesday.

And beyond.

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On March 28, Barb and I will be appearing together at the Des Moines Book Festival, where we’ll be giving a “Master Class.” Info about attending is here.

Speaking of Barb and me, our Antiques Fire Sale has received an outstanding review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Girl Can’t Help It gets some nice attention here.

And don’t forget the Bookreads Book Giveaway of Girl Can’t Help It.

M.A.C.

A Tale of Two Titles (Actually, More Titles Than That!)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I mentioned a while back that the title of what had been announced as The Untouchable and the Butcher: Eliot Ness, the Torso Killer, and American Justice was called into question by our editor. This is, of course, the follow-up to Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me.

From the beginning, Brad and I had viewed this second book as a sequel, and thought the echo of the first book in the title of the second was desirable. It was certainly intentional. But our editor, not terribly long ago, made his desire known: he wanted the book to stand apart, to stand on its own, and he wanted a title that he considered more marketable.

We felt “Untouchable” said Eliot Ness, but our editor’s opinion was that – minus Al Capone – that connection was not as obvious in 2020. We argued. We lost. And since we agreed with our editor that we wanted to sell books, we began searching for a new title.

So did our editor. He had found a vivid phrase in newspaper coverage of the Mad Butcher case: “The Headless Dead.” Initially it was presented as “The Mystery of the Headless Dead,” but neither Brad nor I liked it – I frankly said it sounded like the Hardy Boys. Do I know how to get on an editor’s good side or what?

But I thought “Headless Dead” was worth considering in some form or other; Brad never came around to it. He and I generated probably a score of titles, among the better ones (some mentioned here previously) Shadow of the Butcher and A Knight in the Dark City. This went on for some time.

Then our editor came up with The Haunting of Eliot Ness. I felt that sounded like a book about the paranormal, but Brad saw the merit of referring to how the Mad Butcher case had haunted Ness to his dying day, among other resonances (the real Ness in history is haunted by the TV/movie Ness, for instance).

Beyond this, we had a subtitle to come up with, and I would guess we came up with two score of those. The problem came down to the title needing to focus on the Mad Butcher case, but the book itself also covered the rest of Ness’s post-Capone life, with an emphasis on his innovations in criminology and law enforcement. He was a real innovator in that regard. So the subtitle needed to suggest that.

We spent three hours on the phone with our editor, and I have to hand it to him for his patience with us and his persistence in arriving at a title that he felt readers would be pulled in by (and that the sales force and marketing folks would also like). In that phone call, we zeroed in the subtitle, and while we didn’t settle on anything, we got very close – we knew we just had to assemble the words we’d summoned in a slightly different way. Exhausted, we went to our separate corners to try to come up with some good versions of our basic idea. Also, we had agreed on the overall title – The Haunting of Eliot Ness.

Overnight, I couldn’t stop mulling that title. All I could think of was spending the rest of my life having to deal with readers complaining that Eliot Ness’s ghost was not in the damn book. Or Capone’s or the Butcher’s or somebody’s ghost. The paranormal feel just couldn’t be denied, I felt – the cadence was strictly The Haunting of Hill House.

The next day I opened the can of worms. I began pitching other titles, including The Mystery of Eliot Ness, as our editor liked the mystery aspect of the book. Brad, rightly, was underwhelmed by that. Our editor was worn down by us. Few editors would have spent three hours on the phone with two stubborn writers in search of one decent title and a good subtitle.

Like Solomon, the editor asked Brad and me to come up with two titles that we both could live with. Brad and I started e-mailing back and forth. I did not go with any version of Headless Dead, because I knew Brad would under no circumstances sign off on that. Brad’s pick was The Haunting of Eliot Ness, which of course I had misgivings about.

Then I came up with Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. I was operating on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre theory – has any title ever told you more honestly, more completely what you’re going to get than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

To my astonishment, the editor chose Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. He was happy with it. I was happy. Brad was happy. We did some tweaking back and forth of the final version of a subtitle that I had attached to my preferred title, and that discussion did not take three hours. More like half an hour of e-mailing. And so.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing…

Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher: Hunting America’s Deadliest Unknown Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology

Available this coming August by M.A.C. and A. Brad Schwartz. You can order it at Amazon now, under its now former title The Untouchable and the Butcher: Eliot Ness, Al Capone, and America’s Jack the Ripper.

One of the reasons that subtitle is gone, by the way, is that very early in the writing we decided not to use the Al Capone material because it would have taken us to an unpublishable length.

And for those of you who have been holding off on getting Scarface and the Untouchable, the hardcover is available here for $6.98!

But you should also know that the current trade paperback has a bunch of corrections and bonus material that may make you want to spring for the version still on the bookstore shelves.

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This review of both Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day at Horror Fuel is extremely gratifying. The reviewer sees past our low-budget limitations to the performances and story. He likes both movies, but rates the second one higher – a rare honor for a sequel. Please give this a look.

And in just a few days at Amazon the Mommy/Mommy 2 25th Anniversary Blu-ray goes from pre-order to in stock! Still $19.99 (almost ten bucks off!).

M.A.C.

Dispatch From the Bunker

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

The audio book of Scarface and the Untouchable, I am pleased to report, is up for a Voice Arts Award, thanks in no small part to narrator Stefan Rudnicki…assisted by two other narrators, A. Brad Schwartz and Max Allan Collins, under Stefan’s direction.

For those of you attending Bouchercon, look to see Barb and me there, Friday through Sunday. The con begins on Thursday, but that’s Halloween, and my four year-old grandson will be in costume, seeking candy, which I do not intend to miss.

Next week I’ll give you the breakdown on our panels and signings (Barb and I each have a panel appearance).

I have been very much burrowed in on the next Mike Hammer novel, Masquerade for Murder. It will be out next March. This is the second Hammer I’ve written from a Spillane synopsis, with only two scraps of Mickey’s prose to work into the book (including the opening, however). That’s an intimidating prospect, but I think it came out well.

The novel takes place in the late ‘80s and is a follow-up (not a sequel) to Mickey’s The Killing Man. Like the preceding Spillane/Collins Hammer novel, Murder, My Love, the synopsis may have been written by Mickey as a proposed TV episode for the Stacy Keach series. This means I had fleshing out to do, and I hope I’ve done Mike and the Mick justice.

I am working with a new editor at Titan, Andrew Sumner, who knows Hammer well – he was the skilled interviewer for one-on-one interviews with me at the last two San Diego Comic Cons. Andrew knows American pop culture inside out, and this is good news for me and the series. I will, very soon, be preparing a proposal for three more Hammer novels – two of which have considerably more Spillane material to work from.

The 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer looms in 2022, and we are already planning for it. With luck, the long-promised Collins/James Traylor biography of Spillane will be part of that. There will be a role for Hard Case Crime in the mix, too, and possibly even another graphic novel, this one based on a classic Spillane yarn.

For Masquerade for Murder, I spent a lot of time with The Killing Man, assembling typical Spillane phrases, settings and passages for reference and inspiration. I try to incorporate a Spillane feel, particularly in descriptions of weather and NYC locations; but I stop short of writing pastiche – I am less concerned with imitating Mickey’s style and more concerned with getting Hammer’s character down.

It’s somewhat challenging positioning each novel in the canon in proper context. Hammer was a shifting character – shifting with Mickey’s own age and attitudes – and I want each book to reflect where the writer and his character were when Mickey wrote the material I am working from. The last two have been later Hammer – specifically, late 1980s. Next time, assuming I land another three-book contract, I will be writing a story set around 1954. I look forward to that, because it’s the younger, rougher and tougher and more psychotic Hammer that many of us know and love.

I also have gone over the galley proofs of the new Heller, Do No Harm, also out in March (as is Girl Can’t Help It!) (yikes)! It was written a while ago and I was pleased to view it from a distance – and pleased to find I liked it very much.

I hope you’ll agree.

You didn’t have anything else to do next March but read three books by me, did you? You can take April off and dive back in, in May for Antiques Fire Sale.

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Here’s a nice, extensive look at Ms. Tree.

Wild Dog has his own Wikipedia entry now – a good one.

One of our best contemporary crime fiction critics and historians, J. Kingston Pierce, has included The Titanic Murders in a fun look at disaster mysteries.

The late, great Paul Newman is lauded in this write-up about the film of Road to Perdition.

And finally, that man Jeff Pierce is back with a fine piece about the subject of last week’s update, actor Robert Forster.

M.A.C.