Posts Tagged ‘Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction’

An Essential Noir Blu-Ray, A Spillane Update and Final Episodes

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022
The Guilty/High Tide Blu-Ray Cover from Flicker Alley

My pal Eddie Muller, the guru of all things noir, has outdone himself with the latest Flicker Alley home video release from the Film Noir Foundation. Beautifully restored as usual by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Eddie’s first double feature on Blu-ray/DVD is The Guilty/High Tide, both 1947 releases from (of all people) producer Jack Wrather of early TV’s Lone Ranger and Lassie (!) fame.

What makes the disc a noir fan’s feast are the special features, many of which are the work of film expert Alan K. Rode, including documentaries on Wrather (and his actress wife Bonita Granville, star of The Guilty), Cornell Woolrich, and director John Reinhardt. The standout special feature for me, however, is Lee Tracy: The Fastest Mouth in the West from charming, articulate noir historian Imogen Sara Smith.

Lee Tracy is a nearly forgotten movie (and stage) star of the 1930s who has long been a favorite of mine. He defined the Hildy Johnson character in The Front Page on Broadway. He didn’t play the role on screen (Pat O’Brien did) but he went on to be the prototypical fast-talking, rule-bending, hard-drinking, sleazy-but-winning media-man of pre-Code Hollywood. He is remembered, if at all, for his most enduring films, Doctor X, Dinner at Eight, and Bombshell. He made a late career comeback on Broadway and in the film version of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (1964), playing a Truman-esque ex-president turned power broker – he got an Academy Award nomination for that. A terrific film, by the way.

His career downfall in the mid-‘30s came when he supposedly urinated from a balcony onto a passing parade of Mexican soldiers (he was making Viva Villa!). He was apparently as hard-living and hard-drinking as the characters he portrayed. For me, he’s a unique figure, fast-talking and oddly charismatic despite a face that looks like a sack of potatoes wearing a sly smile. He is pre-Code Hollywood wrapped up in one balcony-pissing package.

Eddie Muller, who participates in several of the documentaries and delivers his usual fine introduction to the films, is more impressed with The Guilty than with the Lee Tracy-dominant High Tide. The Guilty is definitely worthwhile, an Ulmer-esque exercise in making something out of nothing, budget-wise.

The Guilty is also one of the best translations of the mood of writer Cornell Woolrich to the screen. Rear Window is obviously – I’m no genius pointing this out – superior; but then so is The Window with Ed Gorman’s first cousin Bobby Driscoll and Phantom Lady and on and on. What The Guilty has, besides cannily used shabby sets, is its doomed lead actor, Don Castle – who is also in the Woolrich-based I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (1948) and of course High Tide. Castle rivals Tom Neal for sad irony in his real life, ending a suicide.

I will state, at risk of losing whatever noir credentials I have, that I am not in particular a fan of Woolrich’s writing. He was justifiably famed for his ability to come up with one resonant noir premise after another; but as a writer he did not do much for me. I once was hired to write a screenplay from a novel of his (never made) and was not impressed with the craftsmanship. This is a matter of taste and I acknowledge his importance on a very short list that includes Hammett, Chandler, James M. Cain, Horace McCoy, Mickey Spillane, and Jim Thompson.

The sadness and threadbare nature of Woolrich’s life is well-served by The Guilty, but for this fan of actor Lee Tracy, High Tide (with which I was already familiar) is the gem of this rhinestone-glittering package. Like The Guilty (and I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes) it’s from Monogram. I once had Nate Heller say, “The night was as starless as a movie from Monogram.” But Lee Tracy must have slipped my mind. Typically, in both The Guilty and High Tide, Regis Toomey shows up as essentially the same plainclothes police inspector (he has that role in I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, too, more centrally).

High Tide has a wraparound right out of Double Indemnity and a bigger budget than The Guilty (considering it’s Monogram, nothing to brag about) but it serves as a coda, or even valedictory, for Lee Tracy’s fast-talking, rule-breaking reporter, a figure recognizably American, at once admirable and shameful.

Tracy was no longer A-list in 1947 and hadn’t been for well over a decade; he was making the occasional B picture. He would soon gain a slight, tenuous hold on noir history by way of starring in the first really successful tough private eye series, Martin Kane. Surviving examples of this early ‘50s show are fascinating artifacts of live TV. But in High Tide the actor brings his trademark persona fully into the bleak world of film noir, where leads are played by the doomed likes of Castle and Neal. He fits in well but flies much higher on his way to High Tide’s splash landing.

Thank you, Eddie Muller, Alan Rode, Woolrich documentarian Steven Smith, and especially Imogan Sara Smith, for her wonderful career piece on Lee Tracy.

* * *

In the meantime, I am preparing to do the commentary for ClassicFlix’s I, the Jury release this coming September. It’s going to be really something – a package including 4K, Blu-ray and 3-D. Preparing for my work, I have watched a 3-D advance disc of the 1953 film and was again blown away by John Alton’s cinematography.

I have always liked this film – it was my first introduction to Mike Hammer, seen on a very small black-and-white TV around 1955 – and I know that some people don’t accept Biff Elliot as Mike Hammer. Mickey didn’t, and he’s not alone. But I find Biff’s take on Hammer as a young, not terribly bright combat veteran, out to avenge the guy who lost an arm to a Japanese bayonet meant for him, both appropriate and effective – burly but not a bully. The flaws in the film mostly have to do with censorship issues – the truncated striptease at the conclusion particularly, but also the lengths the script has to go to, to avoid directly mentioning prostitution and dope dealing.

I will talk more about this later, but anyone interested in Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer…really, any film noir fan…will find the Classicflix I, the Jury on a short list of best Blu-rays of the year, including no doubt The Guilty/High Tide.

* * *

Elsewhere on the Spillane front, I am working on the galley proofs of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, and find myself very pleased. It was a big, hard job – Jim Traylor and I have been seriously working on this project since shortly after Mickey’s passing in 2006 – and I am relieved to find that I like the result. Jim is working on the index of the 350-page book right now.

I am thrilled that Mysterious Press is the publisher. It’s a classy imprimatur that I think this book deserves.

* * *

Our first post-Covid lockdown walk-out on a movie: Jurassic World: Dominion. The dinosaurs were believable, but the people were not. Just a dreadful, dull script with brain-numbing dialogue. I had thought this would be a nice melding of characters from the previous entries in the saga, but (for the hour-plus we witnessed) they rarely interacted.

We saw it in 3D that was barely noticeable (but for the upcharge). I was tempted to stay and watch at least some of the actors get eaten, but Barb was fed up.

I will say I thought the overhead sound conveying the prehistoric creatures grazing and grunting was effective until I realized it was just the other moviegoers.

On a more positive note, several of the limited-run TV series we’ve been watching have wrapped up satisfyingly, particularly Gaslit and (an episode to go) the delightful The Offer (I recommend supplementing the series with the behind-the-scenes Godfather book, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli by Mark Seal). HBO’s The Staircase remained compelling viewing in its final episode, but as it’s credited with being based on the French documentary of the same name, one does wonder where material not seen in the doc came from. Some of it seems unfair to all concerned. Anyway, that owl did it.

* * *

Finally, it’s another article about that Tom Hanks movie that you didn’t realize came from a graphic novel.

M.A.C.

Paging Dr. Tongue, Plus Neal Adams and Martin & Lewis

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

In case you haven’t been listening, 2022 is the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s debut in the 1947 novel I, the Jury. A lot of exciting things are already underway. So far we’ve got The Shrinking Island and The Menace out there from Wolfpack’s imprint, Rough Edges Press. And coming up in about two weeks from Rough Edges is a great anthology of Spillane novellas, Stand Up and Die!

But perhaps most exciting of all (next to the January 2023 prose biography, Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me from Mysterious Press) is the long, long-awaited release of the 1953 film version of I, the Jury…and in 3-D!

I The Jury 3D announcement

ClassicFlix – who specialize in (not surprisingly) Blu-rays and DVDs of classic films from Hollywood’s 1930s/’40s/’50s Golden Age – is bringing it out (likely in the fall).
I will be doing the commentary.

The 1953 I, the Jury is a very underrated film (including by Mickey). Biff Elliot makes a fine Mike Hammer and the script and direction by Harry Essex are faithful to the source. Peggie Castle and Margaret Sheridan make the definitive Spillane women, and the great noir specialist, cinematographer John Alton, works in 3-D with his usual artistry. I put only Kiss Me Deadly ahead of it and would call the first I, the Jury a tie with The Girl Hunters for second place.

The publishing schedule for the Hammer anniversary includes The Menace, with me writing a horror/crime novel from an unproduced Spillane screenplay; a collection of the three YA novels, The Shrinking Island, with the previously unpublished title tale a Spillane fan Holy Grail; and the soon-to-be-published Stand Up and Die! (with a Spillane/Collins Hammer story) the best collection of Mickey’s novellas ever assembled.

In August Titan will bring out the novel Kill Me If You Can, again with me working from an unproduced Spillane screenplay and dealing with the period between Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters – the direct aftermath of Velda’s disappearance. The book includes five Spillane/Collins short stories, including two Hammers.

And the capper of this wave of Spillane publishing will be the 100,000-word bio from Jim Traylor and me.

* * *
Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)
Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)

I suppose being my age – 74, damnit – means a progressive thinning of the ranks of my heroes and friends (two groups not mutually exclusive). Now we have lost Neal Adams, at 80, who for my money is the best Batman artist of the “serious” period, which – let’s face it – he and Denny O’Neil (also gone) invented.

He did much more, of course. His work on the comic strip Ben Casey, in his very early twenties, is stellar – I have an original daily example on my wall. I loved his Deadman, the Green Arrow/Green Lantern work was groundbreaking, and, really, everything his pen touched turned to great.

But he also was a champion for the rights of his fellow cartoonists, and he was a big part of getting some recompense for Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the teenagers from Cleveland on whose bones the DC empire was built.

I knew him a little, and I was complimented that he knew who I was…something which still seems to me a little unbelievable. I have a small but cherished memory of standing in line with him getting ready to ship things home from the San Diego Comic Con. I introduced him to my wife as a beginner I knew, and his grin couldn’t have been wider. He had a smile as dazzling as his artwork, and that’s plenty dazzling. We chatted and laughed for about five minutes, a small encounter that I will never forget. I always stopped by his booth at the con in subsequent years just to say hi.

Not a big relationship, by any means. But a big loss.

* * *

Another sign of advancing old age is my reading habits. I’ve never been one to start a book and then put it down without finishing it. But now I won’t waste my time if a book doesn’t engage me in a chapter or so. Like most of you, I have an ever-growing stack (stacks) of books I can’t wait to read. So some of this stuff just has to get out of the way if it can’t grab me.

Related to this is my experience with Judd Apatow’s new book, Sicker in the Head, a follow-up (of course) to his Sick in the Head. Both books are Apatow interviewing individuals in the world of comedy. I read every page of the first book. This time I read about a third of it.

Not the first third – I selected interviewees I was interested in – like the late John Candy, John Cleese, David Letterman, Peter Davidson, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Sasha Baron Cohen, Samantha Bee, and Will Ferrell. But I have no interest in people I have barely (or not at all) heard of – for example, Amber Ruffin, Ed Templeton, Hannah Gadsby, Lulu Wang, and on and on. Please don’t write telling me who they are, and/or defending their presence in a book with the comic legend likes of Candy and Cleese. I just don’t have time to let these people in unless they get up on their hind legs in the pop culture and make enough noise for someone my age to notice.

Now a book I read every word of is the massive, inch-and-a-half thick, 8.5″ by 11″, 772-page (!) Marketing Martin and Lewis by Richard S. Greene…with a foreword by Eddie Deezen! (Why didn’t Apatow interview him?!?). This is a Martin and Lewis fan’s dream, and worth the fifty-buck price tag (although I got it through Barnes & Noble for $40 using a coupon).

The book is predominantly pictures – movie posters and ads, TV ads, magazine covers, publicity photos, comic book art (Neal Adams!), and on and on; but the text is substantial and thorough, with every Martin & Lewis film discussed and the individual, post-team careers of both are examined. Greene is the ideal fan – his knowledge and the collectibles he shares are mind-bogglingly vast, but his opinions are frank, fair and well-articulated.

It also has the greatest cover of any book ever published. I shared this opinion with my wife, who looked at me as if about to say, “Are you for real?”

Marketing Martin and Lewis
* * *

Here’s a New Yorker article about a Muscatine, Iowa (my hometown) resident who inspired my Mallory novel, No Cure for Death.

An interesting Road to Perdition article is here, looking at the film’s shooting locations (cameras, not guns).

Netflix has added Road to Perdition to its roster.

This review of the Nolan two-fer, Double Down, begins with a left-handed compliment but evolves into a pretty decent write-up. I wrote these books around 1974 and it’s peculiar to see them judged in terms that don’t acknowledge it’s not unusual for writers to grow over time.

Finally, this article wonders whether Road to Perdition is based on a true story (the answer is “sort of”).

M.A.C.

Menace & Shrinking Island Giveaway…And Robert Morse

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

The publication date of The Menace by Mickey Spillane and myself (from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press) is August 27 (Wednesday of this week, as I write). To jump-start some reviews of this and of The Shrinking Island (the collection of Mickey three YA adventure novels), I am announcing right now a book giveaway. Winners agree to write an Amazon review; other reviews are also encouraged.

M.A.C. holding copies of The Menace and The Shrinking Island

I have five copies of The Menace and five copies of The Shrinking Island for the first ten who request a book by writing me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Tell me which book you prefer, but if your choice is gone, the other will be sent. You must include your snail mail address, even if you’re entered before. These will go fast.

As usual, USA only.

The Menace is a special book. It is unusual in several respects. The Mike Hammer novels under the Spillane/Collins byline reflect me finishing books of Mickey’s in progress or put aside at the time of his death in 2006, or novels developed from synopses he left behind. I’ve also done from partial Spillane manuscripts two non-Hammer novels – The Consummata (with Morgan the Raider from The Delta Factor) and a standalone (Dead Street), with a very Hammer-like protagonist.

The Menace was developed from an unproduced screenplay in the Spillane files. It was apparently written shortly before or around the time he and I became friends in 1981, and he spoke to me of it frequently. He seemed to have an independent production in mind; he was friendly with South Carolina indie producer, Earl Owensby, who had his own studio, and the two had explored doing projects together. Nothing came of it, but The Menace indicates something might have.

But the screenplay was short – around 40 pages – and seems either to be a condensed version designed to attract investors or a version that could have been a pilot for a one-hour anthology series, probably with Mickey hosting. (In the forthcoming Mysterious Press biography by Jim Traylor and me, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction, we explore Mickey’s efforts to put a mystery/crime anthology on the air with himself as the on-camera Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock).

What is particularly interesting about The Menace is the genre – while one foot is in a crime/mystery story, the other is in horror. Elements of horror were a part of Spillane’s novels from the beginning – he brought the horrors of graphic violence to his post-war crime fiction – the endings of Kiss Me, Deadly and My Gun Is Quick come to mind – and flirted with horror themes in The Twisted Thing and his last Hammer-in-progress, The Goliath Bone.

But The Menace is specifically Mickey reacting to the success of Stephen King. I go into this in my intro to The Menace, and will only say here that it was a Spillane reaction to King’s enormous success as a writer who became a media star and who carved out his own new niche in popular fiction. It’s fair to say that King has been imitated in much the same way Mickey was in his heyday.

Spillane did not, however, like the supernatural aspect of King and that other huge success, The Exorcist (book and film). As a Jehovah’s Witness, he took demons and the devil very seriously and did not consider them appropriate subject matter for fiction. He didn’t cry out for censorship, and in fact called King “a great writer”; but that type of horror was not for him.

The novel I’ve fashioned from his compact screenplay is unusual in its crime/mystery aspect having no Mike Hammer substitute at its center, though a tough small-town police chief is one of the two protagonists. The story is about a family where the husband (a self-made-man doctor) and wife (an artist from a wealthy family) have been driven apart by their disagreement over how to raise their ten-year-old “special needs” son. During much of the action, the estranged couple and their boy are in a big old spooky house, the grounds behind walls, which becomes the setting for a siege of sorts involving an Aztec mummy who may or may not still be breathing and a creature who may or may not be human. And at its heart is the story of a family coming back together in adversity.

Not typical Spillane elements, but typically compelling Spillane storytelling. Like the adventure stories he wrote in his last decade – The Shrinking Island, Something’s Down There and The Last StandThe Menace indicates an author trying to break away from Mike Hammer and flex other storytelling muscles.

I am very proud of the book and think it shows a whole other side to Mickey Spillane. It’s a relatively short novel – 40,000-words – but we have included as a bonus the original, previously unpublished version of the short story “The Duke Alexander” and a rare non-fiction crime story by Mickey, “The Too-Careful Killer,” unseen since 1952.

* * *

Yet another of my heroes has left the planet. As if losing Norm Macdonald and Gilbert Gottfried weren’t enough, a selfish God has taken Robert Morse away. Granted, Bobby Morse had a 90 year-run, and I admit when Barb and I screened How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in his honor over the weekend, we could not mourn. We could only get caught up again in the joy of experiencing the magical, shamelessly mugging musical comedy performance that is Robert Morse playing J. Pierpont Finch.

I started thinking about what I was going to say about How to Succeed and Morse, but thought I should check on what I’d said on the subject in this space before. And I discovered that in a post in 2017, I had already said the things that my mind was putting together for me to share now. So I’m going to do something I don’t believe I ever have here – I am going to rerun my response to seeing the Twilight Time Blu-ray edition of How to Success in Business Without Really Trying.

* * *
As you may have gathered, if you’ve stopped by here at all frequently, I am a collector of movies on Blu-ray and DVD. Many of my favorite films have made it onto Blu-ray, like Kiss Me Deadly and Gun Crazy (though I had to get that from Germany). And a fairly short list of my favorites remain on DVD only, like the Chinatown sequel, The Two Jakes, and the great film version of the Broadway musical, Li’l Abner.

One of my favorites, poorly represented with a terrible transfer on DVD, has finally made it to Blu-ray, in a limited edition of 3000, from Twilight Time, the boutique label that has brought us any number of terrific films, from The Big Heat to the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles, from a Sinatra Tony Rome double feature to Pretty Poison.

But this time – and my birthday month yet – they have given me (and Barb and for that matter son Nate, who also loves it) a film I could watch once a week – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

There are those who can find reasons not to like this movie, just as there are people who can find a reason not to like ice cream. They are to be pitied. How to Succeed features a brilliant, witty, acid but not hateful score by the brilliant Frank Loesser. A Pulitzer Prize-winning musical (yes, Pulizter Prize-winning musical) in 1961, the Broadway version skewered the shallowness of big business in an up-to-the-moment manner. Unfortunately, the timing of the film’s release – 1967 – made How to Succeed’s cutting-edge satire seem dated, a lot having happened since ‘61.

Fortunately, time has been kind to this early ‘60s musical, with its bright Batman TV colors and cartoon images come to life (cartoonist Virgil Partch – VIP – was a consultant) and Bob Fosse choreography that is as witty and biting as the original play itself. (Fosse is not the actual choreographer of the film, but he’s credited as the source.)

A number of players from the Broadway show are retained, including Michelle Lee (who was the second Rosemary Pilkington in the original cast), the very funny Rudy Vallee, Ruth Kobart, and Sammy Smith, with Charles Nelson Reilly’s Bud Frump M.I.A., though decently replaced by Anthony Teague. Maureen Arthur – a live-action Little Annie Fannie – was in the national company of the musical and joined the Broadway run later.

I saw the national company in Chicago when I was in high school and fell in love with the musical then. The cast included Dick Kallman as Finch (later star of Hank on TV), who was excellent, with the second Great Gildersleeve, Willard Watterman, in the Rudy Vallee role. And of course the eye-popping Maureen Arthur was Hedy LaRue (“O.K. Charlie!”).

Two things make this film one of the best transitions of a Broadway hit to the big screen. First, director/writer David Swift – with credits like Pollyanna and Under the Yum Yum Tree enough to make one doubtful – had the surprising sense to film faithfully a show that had won seven Tony Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The other thing is Robert Morse.

His J. Pierrepont Finch is my favorite performance in any musical film. He shamelessly recreates the Broadway role with only the slightest concession to movie technique. He understands, as does the rest of the cast (though not on this level), that he’s appearing in a cartoon. His character, who climbs from window washer to the chairman of the board in a few days, following a self-help book that provides the film’s narration – should be unsympathetic. He’s manipulative and dissembling and is never seen really working (not really trying, remember?); but the boyishness of Morse himself smooths the edge off.

Morse brings a remarkable energy to his songs and his loose-limbed dancing brings James Cagney to mind. In the ensemble, “Brotherhood of Man,” in the midst of a sea of Bob Fosse choreography, brilliant scene-stealer Morse knows just how to draw the viewer’s eye, chiefly by lagging like a jazz player behind the melody just enough to seem improvisional among all the precise dancers. He alone seems spontaneous.

Does he mug? Almost constantly. His performance is basically Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School. Somehow, playing a ladder-climbing nogoodnik, he seems joyful – the perfect conveyer of Loesser’s lyrics, with their hidden dark side.

Famously, the big hit love song from How to Succeed is sung by Morse’s Finch…to himself in a mirror. Few scores rival this one, though like Sondheim, Loesser writes to the story. The songs that were left out (“Paris Original,” “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm”) are the weakest in the show. The only loss, besides Charles Nelson Reilly, is the great “Coffee Break,” which was filmed but cut for time. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have survived to be a special feature.

Morse and Reilly, by the way, were so successful on Broadway that they made an album together, “A Jolly Theatrical Season,” in 1963.

If the name Robert Morse seems vaguely familiar to smart younger people, he played Bertram Cooper on Mad Men, a role he was cast in, in tribute to his star turn in How to Succeed. Toward the end of Mad Men’s run, Morse was given a lovely song-and-dance farewell.

Morse’s career on Broadway was a stellar one, particularly his roles in Sugar and his one-man play, Tru, in which he played Truman Capote, winning his second Tony. But his film legacy is, largely, How to Succeed. No other film caught his magic, and a few really did him no favors – Honeymoon Hotel; Quick, Before It Melts – though The Loved One and Guide for the Married Man are worthy credits. I used to feel sad that this great talent had only one film to do him justice.

But with How to Succeed finally on Blu-ray, and with Mad Men as a wonderful, Emmy-nominated coda, I can only smile.

Nice modern-day (separate) interviews with Morse and Michelle Lee are special features. No “Coffee Break,” alas.

Buy it here.

* * *

UPDATE: The Twilight Time Blu-ray is still available but is pricey from some sources, although Screen Archives still has it at $20.

Let me add a few thoughts. Morse, who I describe above as “Jerry Lewis Goes to Graduate School,” shared with Lewis an inability to move from boyishness into anything else. It took the heavy make-up of his Truman Capone one-man show to briefly change that – he won a second Tony for it, after all – but he remained a boyish persona.

His rise to success (and Succeed) came from a string of stand-out youthful Broadway roles that culminated in J. Pierpont Finch being designed as a star vehicle for him. Two Broadway revivals have not shown their popular stars able to make their performances anything but reminders of how good Morse was.

He worked. He had a career. For a while he remained hot on Broadway, with Sugar (the musical version of Some Like It Hot) in 1972 a particular highlight. But mostly it was episodic TV and TV movies (he played Grandpa Munster in one), Pringle commercials and lots of cartoon voiceovers (Teen Titans, toward the end) – not what his dazzling How to performance promised.

That he had Mad Men as a last act is wonderful. But he deserved more. And we deserved more Morse.

* * *

Richard Piers Rayner’s phenomenal work on Road to Perdition gets some nice notice here in a piece on movies that recreated panels from the comic books they were based on.

M.A.C.

Perdition Years Later, Proofing Copy-Edits & New Spillane

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

As you may know, the Antiques books – the current one, Antiques Carry On is out now in trade paperback – are now published by Severn, based in the UK but also distributed here (and of course Mike Hammer’s publisher, Titan, is in England as well). So perhaps that explains the photo of a satisfied reader that we received, courtesy of our friend, Gene Eugene.

The Queen's Restorative Reading
* * *

Screening of Road to Perdition last week at the Figge art museum in Davenport was fun – it was nicely attended by a somewhat captive audience of Scott Community College students who’d been assigned the graphic novel, among others whose arms had not been twisted to attend.

There was a hitch that took it from the auditorium to the lobby, where the presentation was not ideal but it served the purpose. Matt Clemens and Barb and I took questions after, and I talked too much. Apologies to one and all on that score.

I hadn’t seen Road to Perdition since the Blu-ray came out in 2010 – twelve years! I was struck that my reaction to everything I liked about the film on first seeing it and everything I hadn’t liked (big and small and in between) remained exactly the same. I still wish I’d had a crack at the dialogue, some of which I find stilted, and that the ending were mine – that Jack Lemmon hadn’t died and left the narration (obviously written for an adult looking back on his life, as in the graphic novel) to young Tyler Hoechlin, the book’s real ending scrapped for a Hollywood one.

But I still love the thing. It has such a nice mood, and it picks up on so many visuals from the book (Richard Piers Rayner, God bless you), and stays mostly true to my story. I was after a combination of big city gangster film and rural outlaw movie, and the filmmakers got that. The Paul Newman/Daniel Craig father-and-son relationship is handled better than I did. The cast remains amazing, and I still feel like I’ve won the lottery. And the speech in the church basement is beautifully written.

Over the weekend, Barb and I watched the new 4-K remastering of the three Godfather movies, and how much influence the first Godfather had on the Perdition film was incredibly obvious – in a good way. Several critics at the time called Perdition the best mob film since The Godfather and Godfather 2, and I don’t disagree.

One of my few career regrets is that we never got Road to Purgatory made. My buddy Phil Dingeldein and I worked mightily to get that done. I still have a script for it that I’m proud of…and which I hold the rights to.

If anybody’s interested, now’s the time. Hoechlin has grown up in a super fashion, and Stanley Tucci can be found in a kitchen somewhere. (We killed everybody else.)

* * *

Things in publishing have two speeds: slooooooooow, and effing fast.

I just delivered The Big Bundle to editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime last week, and he had it copy-edited and back to me by the weekend. Charles is incredibly fast, and has a terrific eye. He is respectful of what I write but calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, which is to my benefit. Amazingly, the book has been put to bed but for my eventually proofing the final copy-set copy.

On the other hand, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction took quite a while to get to me from the editors at Mysterious Press (which is more typical). They have been gracious about giving me the time I need, but I will be tackling the job this week, which should be sufficient. A non-fiction book is a more demanding thing, at this stage, but I will face all kinds of fact-checking questions.

I dread the copy-editing stage, as I’ve made clear here many times. About one out of three times at bat, I get saddled with a copy editor who appoints him- or herself my collaborator, and not the person preparing the text for typesetting. I have been rewritten more times that the Holy Bible, and I take it just a little worse than God.

But this goes with the territory.

I also proofed the type-set version of The Menace, the crime/horror novel by Mickey Spillane and me, coming from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press. It’s a book developed by me from an unproduced film script Mickey wrote probably in the early 1980s. He had Stephen King on the brain, I think, seeing that King was developing into the kind of celebrity bestselling author that he (Mickey) had been.

In addition I read the galleys of Mickey’s The Shrinking Island (introduced by yours truly), which collects the three young adult adventure novels he wrote in the ‘70s. The title story has never been published before. It comes out soon – April 7 – and if you’re an adult Spillane fan, it’ll make a grinning kid out of you.

The first of the three Larry and Josh adventures, The Day the Sea Rolled Back, was a big influence on The Goonies. I was at Mickey’s house when he got a call from Steven Spielberg (not sure whether it was Spielberg himself or one of his “people”), inquiring about the availability of The Day the Sea Rolled Back for the screen. Mickey told whoever it was that he wasn’t interested in dealing with anybody in Hollywood except Jay Bernstein (his Mike Hammer TV producer). And before long came…The Goonies.

The other YA yarn is The Ship That Never Was. Check out this new collection. The cover, which I’m including here, is (obviously) a stunner.

The Shrinking Island
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:
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Mystery Tribune lists its favorite Irish mob movies and Road to Perdition is included (no mention of the book’s author, though – who was that again?).

Syfy rates the top best eleven R-rated movies based on comic books and suggests that Road to Perdition may be the best one.

Here’s a great Bookgasm review of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

And another great Bookgasm review of Fancy Anders Goes to War.

M.A.C.