Posts Tagged ‘Spillane’

A Darling Deal, and Heller on My Mind

Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
Kill Me, Darling cover
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

Another book deal has popped up, this time BookBub, and it applies to Kill Me, Darling, one of my favorite of the posthumous Spillane collaborations. I was working from a false start on The Girl Hunters where Velda’s disappearance didn’t have to do with Russia and espionage, but rather Florida and vice. (So in the Hammer canon Velda now disappears twice…not counting kidnappings.)

Anyway, I don’t understand BookBub and if someone wants to straighten me out, I’m fine with that. But it would appear this deal lasts for about a month. Like the still ongoing Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It offers, Kill Me, Darling is 99-cents on e-book. Unlike the Amazon deal, this extends to Nook and other e-book platforms.

Here’s how BookBub describes Kill Me, Darling:

From the authors of Murder Never Knocks. Private investigator Mike Hammer heads to Miami to find his ex-lover Velda — and figure out her connection to the disturbing murder of her old colleague. “Mike Hammer is undeniably an icon of our culture” (The New York Times).
$0.99 (regular price $7.99).

* * *
Seduction of the Innocent band photo

You may have seen my Seduction of the Innocent bandmate Steve Leialoha’s query to me in the comments last week, regarding my current project, Too Many Bullets, Nate Heller looking into the RFK assassination. He asked me if I’d ever talked to Miguel about the night of the assassination at the Ambassador Hotel, saying that Miggie and his mom were there that night.

This was news to me, and I kicked myself, because I’ve known for years I would eventually do Bobby Kennedy, and I never discussed it generally with Miguel. Why would I? You might ask.

Well, Miguel was a big Nate Heller fan. He always requested signed copies to read on set in his trailer (actors have a lot of down time). We talked Heller a lot. We were hoping to do a movie at one point with him in the lead (the novella Dying in the Post-war World was written with that in mind). Didn’t happen but I sure do wish it had.

Miggie’s (and my) pal Bill Mumy, a fellow Seductive One, was…and probably still is…a Heller fan, too. Like Miguel, he has read Heller novels during on-set downtime, and after all he wrote the song “True Detective” for our CD, The Golden Age. I’m proud to have these two among Heller’s supporters. And it hurts that Miguel didn’t get to read any Heller past Ask Not. Maybe, somewhere, Miggie and Bill Crider and Ed Gorman are in a book club, keeping tabs on me.

Chris Christensen, the other Seduction bandmate, also reads Heller, or anyway he used to. Chris did the music for my documentaries Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane and Caveman: V.T. Hamlin and Alley Oop). Very talented guy, and like all the Seductive Ones nice and fun.

If you were unaware of my friendship with Miguel, or even if you were and this is old news, you may wish to read this post from January 2017. It’s one of my favorites.

That Miguel could have shared his memories about a tragic, historic night about which I have yet to write gives me an extra pang in an already sensitive part of my psyche. But it also points out how weird the experience of writing Nathan Heller can be.

Miguel and his mom (Rosemary Clooney!) had been at the Ambassador Hotel that wonderful-turned-terrible night, and in an odd way that connected me. I already had an odd Kennedy connection because Jackie Onassis had been my editor on a book I co-wrote with a political figure (a ghost job). I had spoken on the phone with her many times and got to know her in that “phone friendship” way that can be very real. I have a letter she wrote me saying what a great job I did on the book. My University of Iowa mentor, Richard Yates, had been a Bobby Kennedy speech writer, as I learned after I plucked a copy of The Enemy Within off my mentor’s shelf and saw that it had been warmly signed to him. My collaborator Dave Thomas is a fellow assassination buff who knows Paul Schrade and promises to connect me with him. Paul Schrade was standing in back of Bobby Kennedy that night and also got shot in the head, but survived and is now 97 and still researching the case he was in the middle of.

This brings up an interesting point or two. I never know, in doing a Heller, whether I should talk to living participants in the cases I explore. They tend to have their own agendas and I can get caught up in them. For years after writing Stolen Away, I got phone calls from two of the men who thought they were the Lindbergh baby (and one might have been). I need to have my own point of view. My own take.

The other thing is weirder yet. Barb and I were on our honeymoon in Chicago – we were married on June 1 – when the Robert Kennedy assassination occurred in the early hours of June 5. We were staunchly anti-war and were RFK supporters. The news, made strange by not being home at the time, hit us hard, but…and this is the weirdest thing…I remember that I felt (can’t speak for Barb) that American political assassination had become just something to be expected. I was in high school when JFK got it, and not long before Bobby was killed MLK had been taken down, and I was at least vaguely aware of Malcolm X being in the same category. I remember thinking, “So this is how it’s going to be now.”

Maybe the lone nuts decided to find a new hobby (they certainly have one now). Or maybe the powerful figures in the darkness moving chess pieces decided their moves were getting too obvious. But the next time I had a similar feeling was on Jan. 6, last year. I paused writing in my office and went downstairs to get something to drink, and flipped on the TV, and saw Trump’s mob crawling over the face of the Capitol like bearded ants.

And with a shrug I said softly to nobody, “That’s about right.”

It looked like this was how it was going to be now.

Getting back specifically to Nate Heller, my overriding job with all of these cases – unsolved or controversially solved – is to write a hard-hitting private eye novel, with the humor and sex and violence that people expect out of me. That I expect out of me. Part of a Heller novel can be disturbing and even sad, like Chinatown. But it also has to be exciting and interesting and, yes, fun. Like Chinatown.

So how do I face something as terrible, as nation-shaking as Bobby Kennedy’s death without trivializing it?

That is very much on my mind right now. Serving history. Serving my readers. And not doing either of them an injustice.

* * *

Here’s a story about Mickey Spillane walking out on I, the Jury in 1953. Maybe it’s true. The sentiment on his part is accurate. But the movie’s actually pretty good.

The great James Reasoner writes about the collection of the Mike Hammer comic strip that I edited and introduced for Hermes Press a while back.

Nice Road to Perdition (the film) essay here.

This review looks at Headed for a Hearse by Jonathan Latimer and my introduction (which was written some time ago for an earlier edition, though the writer seems unaware of that). It’s a pretty good essay but drifts into the area of judging yesterday’s fiction by today’s politically correct attitudes. The reviewer better not read the first chapter of Farewell, My Lovely.

M.A.C.

Mike Hammer, John Shaft & James M. Cain

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022
Kill Me If You Can Audiobook cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Audiobook: Google Play Audiobook Store

Coming in August, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, is Kill Me If You Can, the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel (Hammer debuted in I, the Jury in 1947). It includes five Spillane/Collins short stories, two of which are Mike Hammer, both significant additions to the canon.

Kill Me If You Can will also appear on audio, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki, who for the past several Hammer novels has performed the impossible task of stepping in after Stacy Keach. The five short stories are included.

I have now done the commentary for the ClassicFlix Blu-ray 4K/3-D release of the 1953 I, the Jury. I think it went well, although I can’t compete with the likes of Tim Lucas and Tom Weaver (much less Eddie Muller) in their Blu-ray commentaries. Lucas and Weaver and Muller are always extremely well-prepared and organized, while I just watch what’s on the screen and blather on about all the useless information I’ve gathered and opinions I’ve formed over the years. I worked with my pal and partner Phil Dingeldein on this one – he shares credit but no blame. The Blu-ray comes out in early December.

Phil and I are preparing to shoot new material for an expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1999) documentary as well as introductory material for the Brian Keith/Blake Edwards written-directed 1954 Mike Hammer pilot, which will be a bonus feature on the I, the Jury disc.

We are in the early stages of mounting an amateur stage production of Encore for Murder and are hoping to entice Gary Sandy to come to Muscatine, Iowa, to again play Mike Hammer. A few years ago, Gary starred as Mike in pro productions of Encore in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Clearwater, Florida. The play is performed in the style of a ‘40s radio show. Much more to follow, but the date to save is September 17.

A reminder – the Kindle editions of the two books in my Krista and Keith Larson series, Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It, are on sale this month – right now through July 31. You can buy them as a pair for $1.98, or 99-cents each.

They are not on sale, but both Girl novels are also available on audio, read by my other favorite Collins narrator, Dan John Miller. [The Girl audiobooks are only $1.99 each if you own the eBooks. –Nate]

* * *

If you swing by here now and then – or, God help you, on a regular basis – you will have noticed I seldom review books but frequently talk about movies and TV – of late, streaming mini-series more than anything. This week is no exception.

But first let me explain that I am indeed still reading books. Right now I am swimming in them, preparing to write Too Many Bullets, the RFK Heller novel that will cover both Jimmy Hoffa and Sirhan Sirhan. I am dizzy from it and driving Barb nuts with my ever-shifting notions about how I will approach this thing.

The degree of difficulty may make this the final Nate Heller novel, or at least one of such size and sweep. I can imagine doing shorter ones, more the length of a Quarry or Caleb York, which if Heller’s home remains Hard Case Crime makes sense. But the upcoming The Big Bundle was meant to be a “short” Heller and it ran over 400 pages in manuscript. As we say in the funnies, Sigh.

During intense research phases, little recreational reading happens. My brain wants something less proactive than reading, hence film and TV. I do read before bed and chip away at books. And my ambition is to read the entire Tarzan series by Burroughs and dig seriously into the complete Race Williams stories by Carroll John Daly and also the Zorro stories by Johnston McCulley. I read most of Burroughs’ Tarzan novels as a kid, but only recently have the complete Race Williams and Zorro stories been collected in book form.

Also on my reading list are books on Anthony Mann’s crime films, the handful of Willam March-penned novels I haven’t got to, a few remaining items by F. Hugh Herbert (creator of Corliss Archer), and autobiographies of Mel Brooks, Chuck Berry and Brian Cox. I’m also salivating to read Hell’s Half Acre about Kate Bender, one of my favorite true crimes of the Lizzie Borden era.

Am I alone in noticing that time is the enemy?

On the streaming front, Barb and I greatly enjoyed The Dropout, the jaw-dropping story of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-exam scam. Stranger Things wrapped up in excruciatingly self-indulgent over-stuffed style – the Duffer brothers have got to stop writing teen romance! – but the horror aspects remained strong. And Star Trek: Stranger Worlds ended its season boldly going, and we continue to consider it the best post-Shatner/Nimoy/Kelley iteration.

Of course I am a hopeless addict of physical media, and snapped up two great Criterion 4K Blu-rays on their current Barnes & Noble 50% off sale – Shaft (1971) and Double Indemnity (1944).

Shaft is one of my favorite private eye films and it shows what might have been done with a Mike Hammer film had it been shot on gritty NYC locations (the 1982 I, the Jury remake comes close). Richard Roundtree is the most charismatic screen private eye since Bogart, and the Issac Hayes score ties with Mancini’s Peter Gunn for best P.I. theme. It’s really a pretty standard private eye yarn and very much on the Mike Hammer template – Shaft has a Homicide detective pal who scolds and yet uses him, and there’s a regular girl friend who the detective cheats on without a twinge, the violence is shocking and the P.I. is almost supernaturally tough, though he gets beat up before the end. Standard. But the Black twist on everything, those stark NYC locations, the pulsing soul score, the magnetic Roundtree…changes everything.

The movie looks great, sounds better, and the bonus features go on forever, though none of the experts mention Mike Hammer (the original hardcover novel had presented Shaft as the Black Mike Hammer) with no sense of the debt to Spillane on display here. There’s lots of feminist blather from a Black perspective, apologizing and rationalizing for what if this were a Hammer film would be labeled misogyny. But there’s a lot of good bonus material just the same, with Roundtree and Gordon Parks interviewed and much more. That includes the snappy quick sequel, Shaft’s Big Score (1972), on Blu-ray; it lacks the grit of the first film but has an incredible if absurd climax. Sadly M.I.A. is the underrated Shaft in Africa (1973). And if I’d have been in charge I’d have cherry-picked an example of the short-lived Shaft TV series, the episodes of which were movie length.

Double Indemnity blu ray cover

James M. Cain was one of the four writers who (sixty years ago) inspired me to go down the hardboiled path (the others being Hammett, Chandler and Spillane). Double Indemnity is generally considered the best of the screen versions, and was Cain’s own favorite. I could build a case for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) because it really does have a love story at its twisted heart. Double Indemnity, wonderful though it is, is cold at the center. Ironically (intentionally), the real love story is between Fred MacMurray’s Walter Neff and Edgar G. Robinson’s Barton Keyes, the insurance investigator who leads Neff and Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrich to their well-deserved fates.

It’s a great film, with Raymond Chandler’s crackling dialogue staying just to one side of self-parody; then there’s the prison-stripe window-blinds cinematography of John Sietz and march-to-doom direction of Billy Wilder. As Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon did with the private eye novel, Double Indemnity seems to invent, define and perfect the post-war film noir. Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith do right by the film in their terrific bonus-feature discussion (accomplished by editing together craftily two sides of a chat shot in separate locations).

I disagree with them on only one thing: they describe both Neff and Phyllis as sociopaths. I think Double Indemnity is a dance between a guy who’s been getting away with things and a woman who’s been getting away with murder. There’s a throwaway line very early on where MacMurray mentions having sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door; this is code for the traveling salesman who is on the make for available housewives. He sizes Stanwyck up as one of those, with no idea how in over his head he is. He’s a regular guy with a sleazy streak who gets pulled into a murder plot because (a) he’s hot for the dame, and (b) he’s always dreamed of putting one over on the insurance company he works for. Stanwyck, on the other hand, has immediately sized him up as a horndog who is a perfect candidate for the inside-man accomplice she needs.

Muller and Smith discuss the difference between Cain’s novel dialogue and Chandler’s film dialogue, and are again on the money; but they don’t share the key anecdote in full.

Here’s what Cain himself said in that regard: “When they were making Double Indemnity in Hollywood, Billy Wilder complained that Raymond Chandler was throwing away my nice, terse dialogue; he got some student actors in from the Paramount school, coached them up, to let Chandler hear what it would be like if he would only put exactly what was in the book in his screenplay. To Wilder’s utter astonishment, it sounded like holy hell. Chandler explained to Wilder what the trouble was that Cain’s dialogue is written to the eye. That ragged right-hand margin that is so exciting and wonderful to look at can’t be recited by actors. Chandler said, ‘Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dialogue it with the same spirit Cain has in the book but not the identical words.’ Wilder still didn’t believe him. They got me over there, purportedly to discuss something else, but the real reason was that Wilder hoped I would contradict Chandler, and somehow explain what had evaporated. But, of course, I bore Chandler out….”

* * *

Lots of lists of the best Film Noirs have popped up lately, but this one is solid, and does a fine job discussing Kiss Me Deadly. And, of course, Double Indemnity is on it.

M.A.C.

Noir Alley and Dynamite Gift Ideas

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

The experience of being a guest on Noir Alley with Eddie Muller was a very gratifying one. Eddie was generous in his praise of my work and supposed history-of-mystery acumen, and we had a blast talking over ZOOM. The reality of TCM’s needs meant our conversation was drastically (but well) cut/edited. We did a second intro and outro for another favorite of mine, Born to Kill. It airs sometime early next year – you’ll read about when right here.

Some of you may have missed this screening of Kiss Me Deadly, which Eddie and I introduced and, afterward, discussed. But you probably either own a copy of that movie or have seen it more than once (if you a regular reader of these updates).

So here are the intro and outro of the Noir Alley presentation of Kiss Me Deadly.

While we’re in a noir-ish mood, take a gander at this cool promo for the Johnny Dynamite collection that Terry Beatty and I edited. It’s a wonderful book and a things of beauty. Check this video out for proof.

This segues me into Gift Guide mode again. I hope that you diehard fans of my work will consider giving the Nate Heller novel Do No Harm, the Mike Hammer entry Masquerade for Murder, the Ms. Tree collection Skeleton in the Closet, the debut of John Sand in Come Spy With Me, and the new Nolan (due out any second now) Skim Deep as under-the-tree gifts and stocking stuffers. These can all be purchased from the various on-line and (usually) brick-and-mortar sources, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s a good way to utilize a gift card, too.

But if Johnny Dynamite is on your shopping list, I want to suggest a specific seller. Bud Plant has been a friend of mine for many years – I bought Underground Comics from him mail-order going back to the late ‘60s. For years he had a huge booth at San Diego Con, where I often spent the bulk of whatever disposable cash I’d set aside for that event.

Bud has a terrific on-line store that specializes in comics and illustration, and other popular culture. He has many lovely books – like, for example, Johnny Dynamite – that would make excellent gifts for those you love, including yourself. If you buy Johnny Dynamite, he has it at a good price; Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet is there, too.

Take a look around here.

https://www.budsartbooks.com

Last week I mentioned that Mike at Just for the Hell of it Video – who specializes in obscure B-movies otherwise unavailable – has Mickey Spillane’s The Delta Factor. Well, he has a lot more and it’s all listed on-line here.

Among other goodies Mike has are Elmore Leonard’s Cat Chaser, Alistair MacLean’s Bear Island and Fear Is the Key, Mongo’s Back in Town, and oddball Bond imitations like The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World. J4HI is gray market, offering public domain or out-of-print material, and the quality is good of its kind. Particularly strong, though, is the packaging – DVDs in nice cases with colorful, well-designed art.

If you decide to order from Mike, put “Max Collins sent me!” in the message box during check-out and he will include a free DVD of an OOP trailer compilation. Any size order placed until the end of this year would qualify.

Finally, a recommendation for something worth watching that can be found on Blu-ray from Kino or on several streaming services – Babylon Berlin. This is period crime drama from a novel (whose author cites Road to Perdition as an influence) and it’s set in 1929, with all the turbulent politics of Germany as the backdrop against the solving of mysteries and crimes. It’s beautifully shot, staged, art-directed, and acted – kind of Cabaret Meets Chinatown. I have seen the first two seasons and, so far, it just gets better and better as it goes along.

It’s the show that HBO’s Perry Mason thinks it is.

I hope you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Now stay indoors, would you? Buy a book and read it or something.

M.A.C.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Much more about that later.

* * *

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

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

Check out the talk between Russ and me right here:

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

And we stayed home.

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there’s a reason why you write novels.

They are yours.

* * *

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

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

M.A.C.