Posts Tagged ‘Seduction of the Innocent’

Note From The Bunker #2

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

[Nate’s note: Before we get to the regularly scheduled Update, we have some breaking news:

QUARRY ON CINEMAX

Cinemax today officially announced an eight-episode series order to drama pilot Quarry. Production will begin March 30 on location in New Orleans and Tennessee. Created and executive produced by Graham Gordy & Michael D. Fuller. Based on the novels of Max Allan Collins, the show will be directed and executive produced by Greg Yaitanes (Banshee), along with executive producer Steve Golin (True Detective).

Quarry tells the story of Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green), a Marine who returns home to Memphis from Vietnam in 1972 and finds himself shunned by those he loves and demonized by the public. As he struggles to cope with his experiences at war, Conway is drawn into a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Damon Herriman co-star, along with Jamie Hector, Edoardo Ballerini and Skipp Sudduth. “This nuanced and dynamic show marks an exciting moment in the evolution of Cinemax programming,” said HBO’s Michael Lombardo.

An HBO Entertainment production in association with Anonymous Content, the series is also executive produced by Matt DeRoss, David Kanter, Max Allan Collins and Ken Levin. Additional writers on the series include Jennifer Schuur and Max Allan Collins.

Cinemax has been making strides in original programming with dramas Banshee and The Knick, the latter earning the sister HBO network its first awards nominations.

And now, back to the Update….]

* * *

Here’s the first major review for the upcoming Mike Hammer novel, KILL ME, DARLING – and it’s a great one from Publisher’s Weekly no less:

Kill Me, Darling

Set in 1954, Collins’s seventh posthumous collaboration with Mike Hammer creator Spillane (after 2014’s King of the Weeds) is one of his best, liberally dosed with the razor-edged prose and violence that marked the originals. The New York City PI has hit the bottle hard after his longtime assistant and love, Velda Sterling, abandoned him with a one-word note. Then Mike’s friend on the NYPD, Pat Chambers, tells him that Velda has surfaced in Miami, on the arm of Nolly Quinn, a notorious mob-connected pimp. Mike cleans himself up and heads south to rescue Velda from Quinn, only to find that she doesn’t want to be rescued. Collins faithfully follows Spillane’s successful formula, including frequent gunplay, menacing thugs, and betrayal. He even matches Spillane’s colorful turns of phrase (e.g., “My bullet shattered his smile on its way through him and out of the back of his head”). Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Mar.)

* * *

I am still working on the new Quarry novel and might finish this week, if all goes well. But a writer never knows. I often say that I never get writer’s block, which is the kind of boast than can catch up with you. No writer’s block, that’s true in its way, but I do have bad days.

A typical bad writing day for me happens as follows. I have a very good writing day, turning out more pages than usual, and I am floating on a cloud of genius. Then, that night, going to bed around midnight, having gone blissfully and quickly asleep, I wake up at 1:30 a.m. Wide awake. I do my best to get right back to sleep, but no go. I go downstairs, read something until I get sleepy, which takes an hour to two hours. Then I sleep in my recliner for a while, wake up after a while and trudge back to the bedroom, where I get to sleep right away. But I wake up at the usual time, after a very disrupted night’s “rest.”

The writing day that follows is almost always a disaster. I do write. But I am not my usual nimble self. What’s normal for me is ten to fifteen pages of finished draft. Last week, after my rocky night, I spent all day on four pages.

Some of that has to do with the research that is now required of a Quarry novel, now that they have become historical books themselves, in their quirky way. I spend as much time chasing details on Google or in reference works as I do writing – not that different from the Heller process.

But the way I do a Quarry novel is much different than a Heller. Because of the historical crimes involved, a Heller novel is tightly plotted, with each chapter detailed in at least a paragraph in a document that can be anywhere from ten to thirty pages long. With Quarry, my chapter outline reverts (not surprisingly) to the approach of my early career, with each chapter indicated by a sentence or two. For QUARRY IN THE BLACK, my outline says for chapter one: “Quarry gets job from Broker.” Another says: “Quarry and Southern gal connect at club.” That’s it. The rest is done on the fly.

That really works for Quarry, but if I’m having an off day? He is just not himself. Like I am not. Sometimes I can power through it. Sometimes I can come back in the evening (which I did with the four pages mentioned above, which turned into seven) but not always. Being older doesn’t help.

And there’s that other thing that writers never talk about – that as writers we change from day to day. Make that second to second. Back in the ‘80s, before word-processing programs automatically saved every now and then, I lost an entire chapter of the Eliot Ness novel, THE DARK CITY. It was devastating. When I knew the chapter was gone, really really gone, I started over and did my best to remember it.

Of course, I couldn’t. The chapter, as it now exists, covers the same ground. But it’s not as good as the one I lost. If I were to lose this little essay and start over, it would be substantially different and none of the phrasing would be replicated. In the mid-‘80s, I lost a chapter of PRIMARY TARGET (aka QUARRY’S VOTE) and the same process happened: I tried to remember it and only came up with a shadow of what it had been.

If a writer starts working on a story or chapter in a novel on Monday morning, even working from a detailed outline, it will be substantially different that if he waited till Tuesday afternoon. We, like what we write, are works in progress. We hope it’s progress, anyway.

A number of people lately have asked me what order to read the Quarry novels in. Chronological would seem to make sense, like starting with THE FIRST QUARRY, moving to QUARRY’S CHOICE, then QUARRY aka THE BROKER, sliding the later-written books into continuity. But THE BROKER was written when I was in my early twenties; THE FIRST QUARRY and QUARRY’S CHOICE were written by a man in his sixties. Do you understand why my advice would be to read the books in the order I wrote them? Because the writer who did the first four Quarry novels was a very different one.

* * *

Here’s an okay review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, but the reviewer doesn’t quite get it….

Here’s a fun review of DAMNED IN PARADISE.

And now, with the blessing of being snowed in, I will head back to the bunker. Only I’m already there.

M.A.C.

Out of Touch?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

It seems like periodically I have to write on the subject of how out of touch I sometimes feel with the current popular culture.

Let’s start with this week’s Saturday Night Live. I have stayed loyal to this show from the beginning, even through its weakest, most disastrous seasons. But that may be at an end. The opening episode of the new season was truly abysmal, yet I’m seeing very positive reviews online.

Let’s start with Aidy Bryant, a pleasant overweight woman who has been on for several SNL seasons for no other reason, it would seem, than to be pleasant and make overweight people feel good about themselves. She has apparently been designated a star at SNL, because she was given the central role in four sketches, during which she mangled lines on every one. The high point was a lengthy sketch were she rapped about having “a big fat ass” to guest host Chris Pratt, who was generally poorly used, particularly in a sketch that had him as a kid’s action figure come to full-size life. The joke here was that the living action figures of He-Man (Pratt) and Lion-O of Thundercats (played poorly by the talented Taran Killam) patted their genitals and ate cake or anyway smeared their faces with it. This travesty, which appeared in the post-monologue sweet spot, was among the worst SNL sketches I’ve ever seen.

Weekend Update has replaced Cecily Strong with Michael Che, who did an okay job, with Strong back to do a trademark dumb girl character abandoned last year when she became an effective co-host with the bland Colin Jost. A new player, Pete Davidson, 20, did a piece about how it would be okay to have fellatio for money. This was (I kid you not, as Jack Parr used to say) the best thing on the show. (Next best was a Marvel movie trailer parody, not a live piece.) A pair of weak sketches on the NFL scandals (including the “cold open”) failed to score any points. Another sketch was based on the hilarious premise that every animal taken to a pet hospital promptly died. Online, Slate (among others) raved about the episode.

Let’s not leave out the musical guest. A small, attractive young woman – Ariana Grande – wore cat ears for both her songs (neither of which were about cats) and sang in a breathy, almost-on-pitch articulation-free caterwauling (maybe that’s the connection) imitation of Lady Gaga, which is like a soft drink imitating Pepsi, in this case badly. In cat girl’s second number, a black guy with a bizarre haircut that looked like a vulture was perched on his skull came out and did some sing-songy stuff. Turns out his name is the Weeknd. That’s right, no damn third “e” for Weeknd!

Here’s my “Weeknd” Update: SNL, I give up. How can anybody older than twenty-three identify with this stuff, and why the hell do they like it?

Moving on to films, the critical favorite THE BOX TROLLS (yes, Barb and I went to it, further establishing my son’s theory that I will go to any 3-D movie) turned out to be the most hideously unpleasant “family movie” I’ve ever seen. Highlights include: a boy at a fancy party noticing he should be using a fork, prompting him to puke up his food on his plate and eat it with a fork; a villain who loves to eat cheese (the “money” of this quaint Brit village) even though he’s allergic, causing his lips and other parts of his face to swell up grotesquely (SPOILER ALERT: he eventually explodes, Mr. Creosote style); and a long-lost father who has been tied upside down in a dungeon for a decade, causing him to grow a lot of facial hair and giggle as he yells, “Jelly!” Everything in the film – technically well-made, involving many talented artisans – is ugly and frequently horrific.

I don’t mind kids getting scared in movies. In fact, I think it’s good for them. Give them a taste or two of the Island of Lost boys and a poisoned apple. But not a steady diet. BOX TROLLS is whimsical without wit, precious without point, nary a laugh in the over-long dire mess. And guess what? It’s rated 72% fresh on ROTTEN TOMATOES!

The Equalizer

On the other hand, the terrific Spillane-style THE EQUALIZER with Denzel Washington opened to some devastatingly bad reviews (Entertainment Weekly gave it a D-), though it did well at the box office and has since risen to 60% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. This gives me hope. By the way, I invoke Spillane because THE EQUALIZER and the TV series it’s based on were pure Mike Hammer. The film even begins with a scene that re-works the opening of MY GUN IS QUICK. Washington is terrific as the self-contained, haunted hero, and a final action sequence in a Menard’s-type big-box store is blackly funny and satisfying as hell.

But it seems like out here in the hinterlands that I have to work very hard to find even an okay movie to go to (I like to go once a week). These days TV is more my go-to place for quality storytelling. MASTERS OF SEX just wrapped up an amazing second season, for example. Last week Barb and I enjoyed season eight of MURDOCH MYSTERIES, as I mentioned, and I understand more LEWIS is coming. JUSTIFIED’s final season is on the way, and more ARCHER lies ahead. AMERICAN HORROR STORY, too.

So I am relating to certain things in current popular culture.

But cat ears? Is a thing?

* * *

Here’s a pretty good review of SUPREME JUSTICE. About as good as I can expect from somebody who spells my middle name “Allen.”

Here’s a good list of hardboiled/noir books and writers (linked here because I’m on it!).

Check out these delightful reviews of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT and STRIP FOR MURDER (scroll down for A KILLING IN COMICS, previously linked here). What Rip Jagger does is intersperse photos of the real-life folks I used as the basis for characters – very cool.

My role in getting GET CARTER and other Ted Lewis books back into print is mentioned here, but the overall piece is terrific…like Ted Lewis.

Finally here’s a very good interview with my pal Ed Gorman, one of our best writers, from Gravetapping.

M.A.C.

First One’s Free

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

First, let me address a concern a number of readers have expressed – Amazon is listing COMPLEX 90 as not yet available on Kindle. I don’t have an answer yet, but I’m assured by Titan that this is just a glitch and that it will be straightened out, and soon. The novel is available on Nook. We’ll post here and at Facebook and on Twitter when the book is available on Kindle.

I hope you’re admiring the cover of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, the new thriller that will be published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer line in mid-September. Do I have a deal for you….

I have ten advance galley proofs of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER that I will make available to readers of this blog who pledge to write an Amazon review. (That review need not be favorable, but if you hate the book, and don’t care to comment on it, that would be okay, too.) It’s very important to get some advance buzz going and some Amazon reviews would help greatly. E-mail me at and request a copy, including your e-mail address.

If you have a regular reviewing blog, or just write occasional reviews in a more general blog, you can request a copy, too.

These are rather generic-looking books (the snazzy cover isn’t on this advance galley) and there are typos and a few minor revisions have been made since. But it’s the book and will suffice for reviewing purposes. I’m particularly anxious to have readers who haven’t sampled my thriller work (like the books I did with Matt Clemens at Kensington – Matt worked hand-in-hand with me on this one, too) give WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER a try.

Additionally, we have half a dozen extra hardcovers of the new ANTIQUES mystery by “Barbara Allan” – ANTIQUES CHOP. If you are interested in posting an Amazon review, we will send you one of those. Because of the limited number of copies, we’d prefer you ask for one or the other of these, though it’s also okay to suggest order of preference (i.e., if we’ve run through the ANTIQUES CHOP copies, that you’d be interested in receiving WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER).

[Nate here: All out of books this time around! Thanks for the fantastic response! If you have a regular review column or blog, you can still contact Max and he will try to get a review copy sent by the publisher. @Friday, 8:00AM]

Again, if you have a reviewing blog or a blog where you occasionally write reviews, I can get a copy of CHOP to you on request.

This is an experiment, and again we aren’t fishing for good reviews other than posting this offer at a site where presumably readers inclined favorably to my/our work might drop by.

I do repeat that any author whose work you admire – any book you enjoy – you are aiding by posting even a very brief positive Amazon review.

* * *

Speaking of “Barbara Allan,” Barb and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary on June 1st. We traveled to the Chicago area for two days of reckless abandon (food, shopping, and none-of-your-business). Along the way we saw an entertaining if implausible film, NOW YOU SEE ME, and took in the Trey Parker/Matt Stone musical THE BOOK OF MORMON in the Loop. We go back to the beginning of SOUTH PARK as fans – actually before that, because my pal Phil Dingeldein had shared “The Spirit of Christmas” with me prior to the series – and Barb and I enjoyed the energetic, funny, profane performance a great deal. It’s very much in the vein of REEFER MADNESS and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (the musical versions, that is), and to us that’s a good thing.

It’s a very expensive show to go to, however, and we sat it in a theater filled with limited and obstructed seating; but we were in Chicago and were able to bribe an usher to get better seats.

* * *

Casting continues on the Quarry pilot, with lots of attendant Net attention. Here are a couple of examples.

http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/noah-taylor-cast-in-cinemax-pilot-quarry/

http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/quarry/124934/game-of-thrones-noah-taylor-cast-for-cinemaxs-quarry

The NPR interview with me about COMPLEX 90 got incredible Net response. See Nate’s mini-update below for a link.

And the favorable COMPLEX 90 reviews continue to roll in, like this one at Geek Hard Show.

Here’s another cool COMPLEX 90 review from Retrenders.

And one from Team Hellion.

And SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT continues to get nice attention, as in this write-up.

The lovely Hermes Press collection of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip gets a fine write-up here. A pity this isn’t getting more press.

Finally, an intelligent discussion at Hidden Face Crime discusses my reluctance to put the murder on the first page of every suspense novel I write.

M.A.C.

Carry On Spying

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

This week my update will be primarily links to the three articles and the several interviews I’ve done to promote COMPLEX 90, plus an encouraging round of reviews for the novel…as well as reviews for other books. With the links to the articles and interviews, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to hear me pontificate.

All I’ll say, by way of anything personal, is that Barb and I loved the new STAR TREK movie (STAR TREK INTO THE DARKNESS) and I may discuss it next week. The reviews and audience response has been great, but a small vocal minority hates the film, and somehow it’s being labeled a box-office disappointment despite being the top movie of the weekend, pulling in over $70 million. Longtime readers of this blog/update may remember that Barb and I have been fans so long that we go back to when “Trekkie” wasn’t an insult. How much did we like the new film? We went on Thursday, and we went back on Sunday. We haven’t seen a movie twice in a theater in ages. It’s a great movie, if you have any real liking for STAR TREK at all, and I would put it slightly above the first (also wonderful) film with this cast and director.

This week, I am working on the galleys of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER and will be continuing preliminary work on KING OF THE WEEDS. I will also be doing my draft of the first chapter of ANTIQUES SWAP – we have to turn in the first chapter of each of the antiques novels early, so it can be previewed in the new book.

* * *

There are a few days left to enter the giveaway for a free copy of COMPLEX 90 at My Bookish Ways.

Here is my Huff Post piece on memorable spy films from novels. There’s accompanying video.

And here are ten memorable Cold War-era spy novels that I write briefly about.

At Military.com I wrote about “The Friends of James Bond” – really, the imitators of James Bond.

Here’s a well-conducted interview at the Geek Girl Project.

And another well-done interview (by the interviewer, anyway) at Fanboy Comics.

The reviews for COMPLEX 90 keep rolling in. Here’s a nice one at Celebrity Cafe.

Here’s another good one at City of Films.

This is a very interesting if patronizing review from a writer who gets that Mike Hammer is a characterization and not a blueprint for behavior. It’s a fun read from someone who clearly dug the book but is a little ashamed about it.

This write-up at Unreality Mag is more an article than a review, but certainly worth a look.

I particularly liked this review from a young woman who doesn’t allow her dislike of the ‘60s era male hubba-hubba view of women get in the way of having a good time.

This is from Ed’s Blog – not Ed Gorman, another smart guy named Ed. (Ed Gorman, by the way, was kind of enough to link to the Huff Post piece at his blog. Thanks, Ed!)

Here’s another smart, fun review of COMPLEX 90. Something about the book seems to inspire entertaining reviews.

This is a disappointing though not entirely negative review from, surprisingly, Bookgasm, where my stuff is generally well received. Are some reviewers getting jaded, as I deliver a new Hammer every year? Well, that’s not gonna go on forever….

Here’s a swell review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Jerry’s House of Everything.

And yes, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is still generating some nice reviews.

The reprints of the early Quarry novels are starting to get some attention from reviewers, as in this write-up from Just a Guy That Likes to Read.

This review links the recent Lawrence Block “Keller” novel with QUARRY. Nice company, but, uh…I was first. Ungracious of me? Don’t care.

A West Virginia newspaper has a review of the Frank Nitti Trilogy from a high school junior who does a bang-up job. You don’t know how much it pleases me to see a new generation picking up on Nate Heller.

David Williams has been reviewing the Hellers in smart, succinct fashion for a while now. Here’s a link to some of his Heller reviews, starting with the most recent of his write-ups, on ANGEL IN BLACK. He doesn’t care much for two of my favorite entries in the series, FLYING BLIND and MAJIC MAN, but nobody’s perfect.

M.A.C.