Posts Tagged ‘Shoot The Moon’

Short Takes – Books and Movies

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020
Book cover of Shoot the Moon by Max Allan Collins
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

Wolfpack has announced the January 6 publication of Shoot the Moon in a reorganization of the collection Early Crimes. This new version is the novel Shoot the Moon with a “bonus feature” of short stories at the back of the book. Shoot the Moon was my attempt to do a Westlake-like humorous suspense novel. It can be ordered as either an e-book or a physical book.

Also announced by Wolfpack is Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales (with a January 27 pub date). Right now it can only be ordered as an e-book, but a physical book is coming. This collects virtually all of my horror stories to date.

Blue Christmas & Other Holiday Homicides is already available from Wolfpack in both e-book and physical book form. It’s a collection of holiday-themed stories by me, including the title tale, which is my favorite among my short fiction.

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Barb and I revisited two of the Christmas movies I recommended last time.

It Happened One Christmas is the re-imagining of It’s a Wonderful Life with a female protagonist (Marlo Thomas). I love this little movie almost as much as the original, but the truth is that It’s a Wonderful Life is a film masterpiece and It Happened One Christmas is a TV movie. A very good one with a remarkable cast, but a TV movie.

When it first appeared, It Happened One Christmas benefitted from It’s a Wonderful Life having dropped out of sight. But not long after the remake aired, the public domain showings of It’s a Wonderful Life began on PBS stations and revitalized interest in the original film. Despite the gender role reversal, the films are much the same, right down to the dialogue. This will be problematic for many meeting the remake for the first time.

It’s too bad, and I’m glad I saw the remake first, because it didn’t hurt my appreciation of the original at all. But the Marlo Thomas version is, in my opinion, still worthwhile with its strong cast including Wayne Rogers, Orson Welles, Christopher Guest, Cloris Leachman, Archie Hahn, Doris Martin, Richard Dysart, and Barney Martin. And for me a special resonance is the cinematography by Conrad Hall, who won an Academy Award for Road to Perdition.

Twelve Days of Christmas Eve held up very well on what must be my fourth or fifth visit. While it’s rather shamelessly a Ground Hog’s Day variant, it does so in a clever manner and star Steven Weber is excellent, as is Molly Shannon. If you ever try this, stick with it for a while, because it seems at first like just another TV movie, but becomes something very special as it goes along.

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Barb and I were excited about being able to see at home the new Wonder Woman movie (apparently called WW 84 – and I haven’t even seen WW 83 yet!), springing for the new HBO Max streaming service to do so. And guess what? WW 84 is one of the worst superhero movies I’ve ever seen. What did Barb think? She walked out – and we live here!

Where to start? The opening on Amazon Island (or whatever it’s called) is fine. But once we get to 1984, one problem after another presents itself. Let’s get this out of the way: nothing wrong with Gal Gadot, whose super-power seems to be emerging from this crock unscathed. If you are a man, this is not a movie you want to be in, unless you are Chris Pine or a homeless black guy, as every other adult male is a lout at best and a potential rapist at worst.

Chris Pine doesn’t fare that well himself, actually. He comes back from the Great War dead to be wide-eyed and astonished by such marvels as escalators (introduced around 1900) and a subway (introduced around 1890). He tries on a lot of groovy ‘80s clothes, which (as any 1910s guy would do) he finds really cool, particularly the man purse. By the way, in this movie where men are reprehensible, Diana Prince (SPOILER ALERT: Wonder Woman) allows an unknowing male to become the receptacle for her dead boy friend’s persona and almost immediately has sex with him.

What can you say about a film whose super-villain is a blithering jackass? Really, just another weak man who happens to be an a-hole? Or about a script whose theme is wishes coming true but at a cost…a cost that never defines its boundaries (i.e., some people immediately lose whatever they gave up to get their wish, but – so that she can participate in fight scenes – Wonder Woman only very gradually loses her powers).

Then there’s Kristen Wiig, who plays her role as a supposed nebbish girl like an SNL character, then unbelievably becomes a mostly CGI bad girl (the Cheetah, a recurring Wonder Woman villain, but never named in the film). What Kristen gave up for her wish was her…niceness.

This is a super-hero movie that made me want to reconsider Green Lantern. How could the first Wonder Woman film be so good, and this one so wretched? Same director. Different result.

Still from Wonder Woman 1984, captioned: That's just a trash can.
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While I haven’t dug into it yet, the Taschen coffee table tome, The History of EC Comics, was my “big gift” from Barb this year. I love these books but they are difficult to deal with. A hernia is no way to start the New Year. But what a thing of beauty this baby is.

My son Nate gave me two books in Marc Cushman’s These Are the Voyages series of big, long, in-depth tomes about Star Trek. I have mentioned here that Barb and I were trek fans before the dreaded term trekkie was even coined. We attended one of the first Star Trek conventions, and watched the episodes in syndication over and over. I bought the comic books and James Blish paperbacks. We went to dinner theater plays in Chicago starring (separately) William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I got to know Walter Koenig, at first by mail (we traded Big Little Books) and then in person. (Later I would cast Majel Barrett Roddenberry in Mommy.) We went to Gene Roddenberry’s embarrassing film Pretty Maids All in a Row in the theater, and we stood in the cold for hours to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which remains one of my favorite films, for which I have no apology).

These books chronicle everything. The first three are about each original season, but now I’m reading book four, which is about the years leading up to the animated series. Cushman’s tomes are well-written and ridiculously thorough – how ridiculously thorough? How about reviews quoted at length from those dinner theater appearances I mentioned earlier? Or tons of the bad reviews Pretty Girls All in a Row got? Or what TV shows the secondary cast members appeared in between the series and the movies?

So you have to be something of a lunatic where Star Trek is concerned – the real Star Trek, that is – to want anything to do with these three-inch-thick books. And I qualify.

Thank you, son.

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As a sidebar to the WW 84 review above, let me say that after recently adding movie channels to our cable and streaming channels to our Roku, I am underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. “Over” because there is so much of it. “Under” because so little of it appeals to me.

Much of the new product seems so politically correct and painfully diverse to make me consider voting Republican (we all have our weak moments). “Free” content on most of the streaming services is commercial-ridden. But now and then I stumble onto something good.

In 2015, Colin Hanks (whose father, I understand, appeared in a very good gangster film) directed a documentary about Tower Records called All Things Must Pass. It’s an extremely well-made film in which Russ Solomon, the creator of the record-store chain, is interviewed at length; so are many of the original employees, who rose to high levels within the company, and such music luminaries as Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.

I loved Tower Records. Any time I was in a big city, I tracked Tower Records down. Each store was the same but different, reflecting the individual management and its employees. Those red letters on yellow thrill me to this day. I bought CD’s there. And books. And magazines. And laser discs. And DVDs.

In Chicago. In Los Angeles on Sunset. In New York in the Village. In Honolulu. In London. In Las Vegas. These stores were a pop culture paradise, and they still exist only in Japan, and in my memory.

I hate streaming. I hate e-books (except for the income they generate for me, of course). I am Old School. Physical Media. Physical Media. Physical Media.

Nice job, Mr. Hanks. Cool work on Fargo, too.

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Among the oddball, quirky Blu-ray labels I support is Vinegar Syndrome. You should check them out. On their Black Friday sale, I bought Forgotten Gialli Volume 2 and a box set of The Beastmaster. The packaging is incredible and the bonus content mindboggling. They do intersperse “classic” porn titles between the horror and giallo and s-f titles, so take care. Some of their media gets pretty physical.

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I will see you next year. By then, I will be working on Quarry’s Blood. Skim Deep was a coda to the Nolan series, and this one will be a coda to the Quarry series.

Shall we endeavor for 2021 not to suck quite so thoroughly as 2020? On the other hand, the thing I’m looking forward to about next year is getting a vaccine shot or two.

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Here’s a nice recommendation for Skim Deep.

M.A.C.

Trimming the Weeds & a Reprehensible Ranger

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, the final novel created from the six substantial Mike Hammer manuscripts in Mickey Spillane’s files.

This does not mean my collaborations with Mickey are at an end – I hope to fashion three more novels from shorter but still significant manuscripts. There are also short Hammer fragments (five or six pages) that I will continue to flesh out into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, considerably more non-Hammer material awaits in Mickey’s files, including three unproduced screenplays that I hope to turn into novels. Plus, there are short but significant non-Hammer fragments ranging from a chapter to two or three chapters, sometimes with notes, that could possibly be converted into Hammers. In addition, several outlines for Hammer novels remain (like the one I used as the basis for the audio play ENCORE FOR MURDER).

Mickey wrote and published thirteen Mike Hammer novels. I think it would be very cool if I could add another six novels (to the six I’ve completed) plus a short story collection and double that list. On the other hand, I have reached my first and most important goal – to complete the manuscripts on which Mickey had done considerable work. In several cases – like COMPLEX 90 and the Morgan the Raider novel THE CONSUMMATA – the books had even been announced in the publishing trades. I think Mickey truly intended to go back and finish most of these.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be talking with the folks at Titan at San Diego Con about continuing Hammer. I will report when I get back.

Now, while I say I have “completed” KING OF THE WEEDS, I still have work left to do. I have finished the book in the sense that I have reached the end of it. I revise as I go, a minimum of three passes per chapter and often more, with Barb editing along the way – she seeks out inconsistencies, word repetition, missing words, and makes suggestions. I always enter her corrections and deal with any revisions growing out of her edit before I move on.

Today I start the process of reading and revising. I work with red pen on a hard copy, and Barb enters the corrections and revisions as we go. How long this process takes varies book to book – a Quarry novel may take a day or two, whereas a Heller could take a whole week. This Hammer novel, which has a very complicated plot, will take two days minimum. If I hit something that strikes me as problematic, all bets are off – I will go back to the machine and start re-writing any troubled section. This happens seldom, though.

This was a tough one. I think it turned out well, and my fears have lessened that the older Mike Hammer might not please new readers who know only the wild and woolly private eye of THE BIG BANG, KISS HER GOODBYE, LADY, GO DIE! and COMPLEX 90. But the final chapters are as wild a ride as you’ll find in any of those. And I think the older Mike Hammer, with his career winding down — KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived by Mickey as the last Mike Hammer novel, after all – is very interesting.

Next week, we will be going to the San Diego Comic Con. By “we” I mean Nate, Abby, Barb and me. We will post our schedule (including two panels Nate is on) here next week. Then we will probably post brief daily updates from the con.

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The Fourth of July weekend was a lot of fun with very beautiful weather. The Crusin’ gig at the Brew in Muscatine went extremely well, and lots of locals who hadn’t seen us in a while got to see the current strong line-up – earning us many great comments.

We also spent a good deal of time with my old high school buddy Ron Parker and his very cool wife Vickie, visiting from Florida where they retired after careers in the military. Ron is very smart and funny, but don’t tell him I said so. He is one of the last surviving members of our group of poker-playing pals who went through school together. How far back does this go? Well, we began playing poker together when MAVERICK was airing first-run episodes. Ron and I reminisced about Jon McRae, the basis for the John character in NO CURE FOR DEATH, and our late friend Jan McRoberts, whose mysterious death I fictionally explored in A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS. Jim Hoffmann, who produced the MOMMY movies, was also part of that group, is also gone. Alive and well of the poker players are Mike Bloom, Nee Leau, John Leuck and David Gilfoyle – the latter the funniest of a very witty bunch of guys. Dave was nicknamed “Wheaty,” and you will meet him in my previously unpublished 1974 novel SHOOT THE MOON, if you buy the Perfect Crime collection EARLY CRIMES coming out late this summer.

The Lone Ranger

With Ron and Vickie, Barb and I went to THE LONE RANGER. I don’t like to write negative reviews, but I found the film reprehensible – misguided, misjudged, misbegotten. If we hadn’t have been with friends, we would have walked out. Disney is a company built on family entertainment, and THE LONE RANGER of radio and TV was the most wholesome of western heroes – he used silver bullets so that would not shoot his gun carelessly, and (like Superman) never killed. This LONE RANGER is an unpleasant western filled with stupid violence put together by a gifted director who wanted to pay tribute to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and not the actual source material. The new film’s Lone Ranger is a clumsy goofus and Tonto a nasty lunatic. The tone is uneven to say the least – forced unfunny humor is interspersed with bloody violence. And it’s as slow and long as you’ve heard. Oddly, much of the 2013 LONE RANGER seems culled from the previous disastrous take on this material, the notorious 1981 flop THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, which did not make a star out of Klinton Spilsbury. Remember that one? The producer alienated every baby boomer on the planet by suing the ‘50s TV Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to keep him from doing personal appearances in his mask. LEGEND is a hard film to see – my widescreen copy is from overseas – but it’s actually better than this new RANGER film (faint praise), which lifts from LEGEND such elements as making John Reid (think Clark Kent) a virtuous attorney, turning Butch Cavendish a madman, setting an action set piece on a moving train, mounting a Gatling gun massacre, and showing the Ranger and Tonto dynamiting a bunch of stuff (a bridge in the new picture, a dam in the other).

The 2013 movie actually ends with the Lone Ranger finally uttering his signature line, “Hiyo Silver, away,” and Tonto telling him never to say that again. The Ranger apologizes, of course. The final line of the movie is a reminder that “tonto” means “stupid” in Spanish. These filmmakers are embarrassed by the material they were hired to re-boot, and should be ashamed of themselves. When would Barb and I have walked out had we not been with Ron and Vickie? How about when Tonto, for a cruel gag, drags a barely conscious, wounded Lone Ranger through horse dung? Or maybe when the grand steed Silver drinks beer and belches. RULE NUMBER ONE IN ADAPTING FAMOUS MATERIAL: Do not have contempt for it.

M.A.C.