Posts Tagged ‘The Big Bundle’

Sand Sale, Perdition, Hammer Theme, Spillane, Crusin’

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

There is another John Sand bargain this week – I believe it goes to the 15th of next month (July) – for the audio of To Live and Spy in Berlin. For only 99 cents! Brian J. Gill reads this (and the other two Sand novels) in a nice English accent that suits the material; really a great job.

To Live and Spy in Berlin Audiobook
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Several friends and fans wrote me about a Daily Atlantic newsletter essay that selected Road to Perdition as an ideal Father’s Day movie. I liked the piece, even though it neglected to mention me, and was touched that the photo running with the article was from the sequence directly based on my first driving lesson with my late father. No bank robberies were involved in real life, however. I also like John Rooney being based on John Looney got a mention.

Here it is:

‘He Was My Father’

Sometimes at the Daily we step back at the end of the week’s blizzard of news and current events and suggest something for your leisure time. It’s Father’s Day weekend, and so I want to recommend to you one of my favorite movies, a meditation on generations and fatherhood and loyalty and duty, a warm, nostalgic look at families during a simpler time, starring two of America’s most beloved actors.

I am talking, of course, about Road to Perdition.

If you have not seen it, Road to Perdition (based on the graphic novel of the same name, and widely available to stream) is a 2002 film about Irish gangsters in the 1930s. But it’s really about fathers and sons. A mob leg-breaker named Mike Sullivan, played by a bulked-up Tom Hanks, is fiercely loyal to his boss, John Rooney (played, in his last role, against type and with regal Hibernian menace by Paul Newman); indeed, Sullivan and Rooney have a father-son relationship.

But Rooney already has a son, played by Daniel Craig, and that son is a murderous psychopath. (People wonder why I had a hard time accepting Craig as James Bond. It’s because I saw Road to Perdition first.) Without giving away too much, Sullivan and his own young son, Michael, have to go on the lam. It’s a father-son road-trip movie, except with tommy guns and stone killers.

You may find this an unusual recommendation. Bear with me.

When Father’s Day rolls around, I naturally think of my own father. I have never been able to relate to all those Hallmark-card, Ward Cleaver images. My dad was a complicated man, which is what sons say when we mean “He was terribly flawed in a lot of ways, but he loved me.” He bore a lot of sins and had a lot of shortcomings, but he had a consistent code of ethics in dealing with others and he was known for it. He kept his word, paid his debts, and treated others with respect. He was the kind of man who would walk into a local bar and his peers would call him Nick but younger men would unfailingly refer to him as “Mr. Nichols.” Even our younger neighbors called him “Mr. Nichols,” with great affection. (When he died, I sold his house to one of the children who’d grown up next door to him.)

I think most of us had fathers who weren’t perfect. Mine wasn’t, and yet he taught me important things: Do an honest day’s work. Love your country. Do things you have to do even if they’re unpleasant. Never back down if you know you’re right. Be courteous in public.

He also taught me how to gamble and showed me how to spot someone dealing off the bottom of a deck of cards.

He wasn’t the blueprint for a good husband or father, and he knew it. When I was in my 30s, he admitted to my mother that he thought I’d grown up to be a better man than he was. This is a hard thing to learn about your father, a source of both pride and sadness. (I will have more to say about fathers, and the men I knew growing up, over on my Peacefield newsletter this weekend.)

Which brings me back to Road to Perdition. When Sullivan has to go on the run with Michael (played by a young Tyler Hoechlin), the son finally learns what the father he idolizes actually does for a living. He also learns that Rooney—based on the real-life Irish godfather John Patrick Looney—is not a kindly grandfather but a cold-blooded killer. These men (and this is very much a man’s movie) are scoundrels, but they have a code, and their obedience to that code leads them to tragic choices.

The last line of the movie (again, without spoiling anything) is what ties it all to my memories of my own boyhood. Young Michael reminisces, and says: “When people ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all, I always give the same answer. I just tell them: He was my father.”

That is the most honest thing most of us can say about our fathers. We love them, and they love us, and that’s enough.

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My Brit pal Andrew Sumner, who edits my Mike Hammer novels at Titan (including the upcoming Kill Me If You Can), sent this great video.

He explains: “Due to my regular attendance at London’s finest jazz clubs, I’ve become friendly with a well-known UK swing/jazz R&B performer called Ray Gelato. Ray leads a band called Ray Gelato and the Giants and they essentially channel the energy of Louis Prima & Louis Jordan – they played Paul McCartney’s wedding, they’ve supported Queen, etc. They’re in a similar wheelhouse to Brian Setzer and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”

Andrew was nice enough to request that they play “Harlem Nocturne,” Mike Hammer’s theme in the Keach era, and dedicate it to me. Have a listen and look (or is that a butcher’s hook?).

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If you’re a huge Spillane fan or huge Collins fan or just huge masochist, you may wish to watch this entire ninety-minute interview of me (on the subject of Mickey) by Dan Scheider (he’s very’s good) featuring the great Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective fame and accomplishment.

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On another musical note (or two or three or four), my band Crusin’, 2018 inductees in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, will be playing four dates in Eastern Iowa this summer and early fall.

First up, on Friday June 24 from 6 to 9 p.m., is the Ardon Creek Vineyard in the gently rolling farmland of “76 Township” in Eastern Iowa, approximately 30 minutes southeast of Iowa City, Iowa, 15 minutes southwest of Muscatine, Iowa and 5 miles north of Letts. Here’s the address: 2391 Independence Avenue, Letts, IA 52754. Their phone is (563) 272-0028 and more info’s available here, including a map.

On Saturday July 2 we’ll be at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 pm. We’ll be on the patio unless there’s rain, in which case we’ll be inside. This is a lovely venue, and the patio overlooks the Mississippi.

On Sunday August 14 we’ll again be appearing as part of the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s held indoors and other times, weather allowing, with an outdoor stage in the parking lot. Hours are 6 to 8 p.m.

Finally, we’ll be appearing at the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, which runs from 1 till 4 p.m. (Our times are 1:15 to 2:10 and 3 to 3:45.) 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

Yes, our “season” is short, which is on purpose. Again I wonder if this will be the last year for Crusin’ appearances. And my memory fills with my departed bandmates, including the most recent and cutting loss, bass player Brian Van Winkle. I hope he’s somewhere arguing with Paul Thomas, Chuck Bunn, Bruce Peters, and Terry Beckey who among them gets to play bass if that Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven gig comes through. But knowing Brian, he’d just smile and wait his turn.


Crusin’ at the Moose in January 2022
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Check out this wonderful Quarry’s Blood review at the web’s definitive genre book review site, Bookgasm.

Here’s a nice Goodreads review of the graphic novel, Road to Perdition.

And finally here is The Big Bundle at the Hard Case Crime web site.

M.A.C.

A Shameless Excursion Into Self-Promotion

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

A reminder: today is the publication date of Stand Up and Die! (the new collection of Mickey Spillane’s novellas and short stories from Rough Edges Press, edited by me and with a Mike Hammer short story co-written by Mickey and me).

The new crime/horror novel, The Menace, by Mickey Spillane and me is $3.99 on Kindle at Amazon.

Stand Up and Die! cover
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The Menace cover
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The Menace just came out and is, as may already know, developed by me from an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay. If you’re not a horror fan, don’t be put off: it’s fundamentally a crime novel. It’s rather short – though not, as some have described a novella (it’s 40,000-words), but two additional Spillane pieces are included as a bonus at the back – the previously unpublished original version of his comic tale, “The Duke Alexander,” and a rare true-crime article.

For you physical media types (like me), the handsome trade paperback edition is just $9.99 at Amazon right now.

This update exists as a place for me to share views on pop culture, talk about what’s going on with me (and my wife Barb) personally and professionally. Part of that is letting you know about sales going on at Amazon (and elsewhere). There are several worth making you aware of going on right now.

On sale is Supreme Justice, the first of the political-thriller trilogy Matt Clemens and I wrote about Joe Reeder and Patti Rogers. Sales have stayed strong since its publication in 2014 – I believe it’s sold something like 150,000 copies, and the two sequels (Fate of the Union and Executive Order have done very well, too. Something like 350,000 copies of the Reeder and Rogers trilogy have been sold. Supreme Justice on Kindle is just $1.99 (till the end of the month).

Supreme Justice – the trade paper edition is $14.95 – has generated renewed interest because the plot concerns an attempt to rearrange the Supreme Court’s political slant by killing conservative members. It’s set in the near future, after the court overturns Roe V. Wade – again, it was published in 2014.

Supreme Justice cover
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Executive Order cover
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Fate of the Union cover
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My eco-thriller, Midnight Haul, is also on sale on Kindle for $1.99.

Midnight Haul cover
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This leads me into what will undoubtedly be a self-serving discussion – a shameless one at that – hoping to convince you to try novels of mine that you may have avoided. Things that may have been out of your comfort zone. Like Supreme Justice, for example.

Kill Me if You Can cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

I have talked here more than once about the reasons why I sometimes work outside of the Quarry, Nolan, Nate Heller and Mike Hammer noir-ish area. The truth is I have readers who follow one or two of those series, but avoid the others. The Quarry and Nolan novels are books in the 50,000 to 60,000-word range and are fast and (I hope) fun reads. The Mike Hammer novels, also in that word-length range, are overlooked by some of my readers because those readers are not Spillane fans or simply don’t care for books that continue a series created by someone else. Similarly, some Spillane fans don’t try these continuation novels, even though the books all have Spillane content (some a good deal of Spillane content), because Mickey himself did not write every word. The fact that Mickey engaged me to complete his unfinished material does not convince these stubborn souls. Kill Me If You Can, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s first appearance in 1947’s I, the Jury, is a novel developed from an unproduced Spillane teleplay, and it looks at the period between Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) and The Girl Hunters (1962), when Velda goes missing. It’s Mike at his most psychotic. Pre-order it through the links on the left.

That the Caleb York novels are westerns discourages some readers, who prefer crime/mystery, and that the first novel of the six is a novelization of an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay does not sway them. I think they’re missing out.

And of course the cozy Antiques mysteries written by Barb and me are not the hardboiled fare many of my readers enjoy, though the humor and murder content are high. I get that this approach isn’t for everybody, but will point out that the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries are the series of mine with the most entries. The new one will be out in October and can be pre-ordered through the links below.

Antiques Liquidation cover
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Some fans of my hardboiled books avoid the Nate Heller novels, which run in the 75,000-word to 150,000-word range, their lengths off-putting to at least a few readers. The true crime basis of the novels also discourages some Quarry/Nolan fans. The Big Bundle, coming out Dec. 6 (and available for pre-order now), will be the first Hard Case Crime publication of a Heller, and I think Quarry and Nolan fans who haven’t tried the series before will find themselves at home.

The Big Bundle cover
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E-Book: Kobo Google Play

Now I don’t expect any of you – except the hardier souls among you – to buy, read and like everything I put out. Over the last ten years or so, I have increased my already prolific output considerably. I understand that you have only so many hours available to devote to your reading pleasure, and that (however misguidedly) you have other authors you like to read who aren’t me.

So why do I write so much? My standard answer for that is, “If I don’t, they don’t send money to my house.” And that flip response is true enough. But I have also been aware of the ticking clock of mortality and realize that once I am dead, my output will slow considerably. You readers who outlive me will probably have plenty of my stuff to catch up on. That’s fine. It’s as close to living forever as I’ll come.

And I feel I stay fresh by not writing just one thing. I shudder to think if Quarry had taken off in the mid-‘70s and that what I would be doing right now is writing book #45 in the series.

What I’d like to do with the rest of this ridiculously self-serving column is ask you to read – to buy, actually, and then read – a few of my recent books that you may have skipped. I’ve already mentioned The Menace, which some might pass on because (a) it appears to be horror, and/or (b) it doesn’t feature Mike Hammer. I can only say that Mickey came up with a good story and I developed it into a good novel that I’m very proud of.

Here are a couple of others you may have overlooked.

Fancy Anders Goes to War is a novella available on Kindle but also has a handsome little trade paperback with a wonderful Fay Dalton cover (and interior illos). It’s a private eye story with a new heroine who has much in common with Ms. Tree but is also her own girl (it’s a ‘40s story so I can call her that, and anyway she’s young). The research is Heller level. It’s the first of three such novellas from Neo-Text. I just loved writing it (and its two follow-ups, the second of which will be out before long). On Kindle it’s 2.99 and the paperback is only $6.99.

The audio of Fancy Anders Goes to War from SkyBoat is outstanding, virtually a movie for the ears.

Fancy Anders Goes to War cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link

Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It are two books that have suffered a handful of bad reviews and a wealth of good ones that haven’t overcome that handful. This was my attempt to do something along the lines of an American version of Nordic noir. The detectives are a young woman police chief and her retired homicide cop father in Galena, Illinois (I had the cooperation of the town’s police chief, female). I like these books a lot but they didn’t do as well as previous Thomas & Mercer titles. Girl Can’t Help It touches heavily on my rock ‘n’ experience. If you like my work at all, give these a try. They are $4.99 each on Kindle and $10.93 and $12.83 respectively as trade paperbacks.

Girl Most Likely cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon
Girl Can't Help It cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

Finally, one of my favorites among all of my novels: The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, written with SCTV’s Dave Thomas. Two things seem to get in the way of my regular readership trying this one: the science-fiction aspect, and the assumption that it’s a comedy. Where to begin? This novel is as much a crime story as s-f, with an older male Black cop and a young female Gen Z partner struggling to find out who shot smalltime thief Jimmy Leighton, who is in the hospital in a coma. Meanwhile, Jimmy, who accidentally triggered a quantum experiment in the basement lab he broke into, is careening from one lifetime to another. The chapters alternate between the cops working on the crime and Jimmy’s journeying.

As for the book being mistaken for a yuk fest, my co-writer Dave Thomas was a writer and producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist. So there.

Some have characterized Jimmy’s adventures in terms of the old Quantum Leap TV series. While there is some similarity, there’s a major difference. Dave and I, who wrote this book together during the Covid lockdown (lots of phone calls and Zoom get-togethers), wanted to avoid the notion that our traveler would find himself a jet pilot, or on a Broadway stage, or in the middle of doing brain surgery. Jimmy is encountering different lives of his – the different paths he might have taken – possible lives, not unlikely ones.

For me – and for Dave, too – this is a novel that has more to do with Groundhog Day or A Christmas Carol than Quantum Leap. And the science-fiction aspect – Dave takes his quantum science very seriously – is like the history in Nate Heller. It’s important, and it strives to be right; but it’s not the story. If you trust me at all, know that in my opinion The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton is one of the best books in my catalogue.

Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link

Finally, for those of you who – like me – stubbornly insist on prowling actual bookstores, you must accept the fact that most of these books almost certainly will not be found in the world of brick-and-mortar. Supreme Justice and its two sequels, and the two Girl novels with Krista Larson and her dad, are mostly available at Amazon (physical copies at Barnes & Noble and others, but Kindle is Amazon). So is The Menace. Neo-Text books – Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton – are Amazon.

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Speaking of Supreme Justice, it has made another list of the best legal thrillers.

And here’s a great review of Tough Tender, the Hard Case Crime two-fer of Hard Cash and Scratch Fever with Nolan and Jon.

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
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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.)

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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
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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.

A Late Announcement and Heller Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

This announcement is criminally late, and will serve only to inform potential attendees in the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities area. How criminally late? The event takes place the evening of the day this update is posted.

I will be appearing at a screening of Road to Perdition at the Figge Art Museum, doing a post-film Q and A joined by my frequent collaborators, Barbara Collins and Matthew V. Clemens.

Here are the details as reported by Tristan Tapscott at QuadCities.com:

‘Road to Perdition’ Screening and Author Panel
March 22 at The Figge

Scott Community College, with the generosity of the Figge Art Museum, will host a screening of the award-winning film, Road to Perdition (2002), starring Tom Hanks on March 22, 2022, at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd Street, in Davenport. The film screening will begin at 4 p.m. with the author question and answer panel to follow.

Following the film will be an author question and answer panel with Max Allan Collins, author of the graphic novel, Barbara Collins, critically acclaimed author and short story writer, and Matthew Clemens, author and frequent collaborator of Max Allan Collins.

This event is free and open to the public.

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins has been selected as the Great Scott Read 2021-2022. The graphic novel and text versions of Road to Perdition are being used by Scott Community College instructors in the classroom. Copies of the book and graphic novel are available to check out from the Scott Community College Library.

For general information, please call 563-441-4150. For venue information, please call 563-326-7804.

Okay, why such a late announcement? Two reasons – the official date of this event was originally announced at a time Barb, Matt and I had not cleared with our schedules. The correct information about a new date did not get announced until just recently, and that announcement did not fall neatly into when my weekly update/blog appears (each Tuesday morning).

Now, I could have done a special posting earlier last week, but I was caught up in writing the final chapters of the new Nathan Heller novel (for Hard Case Crime), The Big Bundle.

I’m going to talk about that now.

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As I’ve said here before, the Heller novels are my proudest achievement and the series is what I consider my signature work. Quarry, which after Heller is my favorite among my series, has become my signature work in the eyes of some. I don’t resent that at all – I like that two things of mine are viewed with such enthusiasm by readers. And of course Road to Perdition (and its sequels and subsequent graphic novels) is the most famous…though I should note that Road to Perdition was an off-shoot of the Heller saga.

Keeping Heller alive throughout my career has been tricky. The day when a mystery series could keep going at the same publisher over many decades had already ended when True Detective (the first Heller novel) was published in 1983. Spillane, Stout, Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and any number of less household-name authors were able to stay with one publisher and one series for a long, long time. But for some while we have been in a situation where publishers cancel a series – somewhat in the network TV mode – as soon as they deem it to have run its course, i.e., as soon as sales begin to drop at all. Often after one or two of three entries.

Heller has been cancelled and pronounced dead (even by my own agent) more times than Dracula at Hammer Films. I have been encouraged to leave him behind and write something new. Well, writing something new is no problem – I like doing that. But when I have hold of something special, I want to stick with it.

That’s why, when I had the opportunity decades later to pick back up with Quarry, I grabbed the chance. I knew Quarry was among the handful of innovative things I’d done in my career – a first-person hitman “hero” was, in a field that is built on recycling the ideas of others (and your own), something unique. When you have writers as gifted as Lawrence Block and Loren Estleman following your lead, you must be doing something right.

Heller is probably my major contribution to mystery fiction because he went somewhere no private eye had gone before: real crimes, researched as if this author (me) had been preparing to write the definitive non-fiction account of each crime…and with fresh solutions to those crimes. Additionally, he would age and change, would have a father and mother, would marry and produce an offspring, his one-room office would over the years become a coast-to-coast agency, and he would do human things like cry, fart, lie and cheat while not losing his P.I. credentials of having a code and being the best man in his world. I consciously chose to examine the cliches and tropes of the private eye, to find the reality behind them – to take Heller back to when Race Williams, the Continental Op and Sam Spade took the private eye into public consciousness…and when in fact there were real private eyes more or less doing for a few decades the fanciful things fictional private eyes would do for many decades.

But continuing the Heller series over decades has a downside that perhaps publishers anticipated. The novels get less frequently reviewed. New waves of fans ignore the books and don’t even try them. Their cultish status – their historical nature – get them ignored by mystery fandom publications. Reviewers who love the Heller novels and rave about them will forget to include them on their year’s end “best of list,” perhaps because the Hellers are in a sub-genre of their own. Or maybe Heller is just a been-there-done-that for such reviewers.

Keeping him alive meant somehow bamboozling various publishers into picking up a series that another publisher deemed had run its course. I started at St. Martin’s, moved to Bantam, then Dutton, and (after a decade-long break) to Forge. Now, Charels Ardai – who understands the hardboiled field, including its history – has picked up my torch at Hard Case Crime.

What has caught up with me, after all these years, is all these years. By which I mean, I am 74 and doing a Nate Heller book is a bitch. It really is. The joy of writing Quarry or Nolan or Mike Hammer is that a fairly minimal amount of research is involved. Some research is necessary, particularly since all the recent books in those series are set in period. Even though I lived through those eras doesn’t mean I was paying attention. I still have to check things like what songs were popular and what night TV shows were on, and fashions and brand-names, and on and on.

But generally there are great stretches where I can just write – I can just follow one of my protagonists into and through a scene, and dialogue can ensue as well as mayhem and eroticism. That’s when writing fiction is fun – when you have room in the kitchen to cook.

And Google has made much research both possible and easier. For decades, research associate George Hagenauer (who did not participate much in The Big Bundle) and I would both spend hours in libraries and other research-friendly facilities digging out all kinds of things. We both have built voluminous libraries of books and magazines that we have scoured over the years to produce Heller and other historically-themed novels. Google – added to those already assembled personal libraries – has made doing Heller easier.

But not easy.

Let me put it into perspective. Quarry’s Blood was written in three weeks. The Big Bundle took two months of reading/note-taking followed by three months of writing. (I got paid the same for both Blood and Bundle. Not complaining – that’s just the reality.) At my age, the degree of difficulty for doing a Heller is considerable.

I have committed to doing another Heller for Hard Case Crime, Too Many Bullets, which with The Big Bundle will comprise what I will likely call The Kennedy Quintet (Bye Bye, Baby; Target Lancer; and Ask Not being the previous novels in this cycle within the Heller cycle).

I find myself wondering – assuming I’m able to stick around on the planet a while longer – if I have the energy to keep Heller going. I have wanted to do a Watergate novel with him for some time, and have considered a Martin Luther King assassination novel (although in the current climate that may be a bad idea). I had a George Reeves/Superman novel in the research stage, but the film Hollywoodland came out and explored the same subject, so I shelved it; but enough time has passed that I might reconsider. There are several other smaller crimes that might become shorter Heller novels.

Perhaps he will have run his course by the end of Too Many Bullets. Lord knows I don’t want readers to say I’ve written Too Many Hellers. But the practical consideration of the degree of difficulty of these things may decide it for me.

I am picturing this week a page from the manuscript of The Big Bundle. I have circled everything that required me to stop and do research before going on. You will see, I think, what I am up against.

The Big Bundle Manuscript page showing researched text.

And yet I love having written The Big Bundle. Unintentionally, it became – like Skim Deep for Nolan and Quarry’s Blood for Quarry – a meditation on what had come before. Quite accidentally, Heller finds himself in situations that resonate with his past, starting with the case at hand being the kidnapping of a child – summoning both the Lindbergh kidnapping and his own fatherhood. If not a coda to the Heller saga (chronologically it appears before Target Lancer and Ask Not), it is a reconsideration and a revisiting of what has gone before.

None of this is bitching by the way, or if it comes across that way, my apologies. These are just the thoughts that occur to me as, with Barb’s help, I prepare to enter my final corrections into The Big Bundle manuscript and get it sent to Hard Case Crime yet today.

* * *

In a list of favorite Paul Newman films, Connie Wilson includes a nice little write-up of Road to Perdition.

This is a lovely review of Quarry’s Blood, but BEWARE – it includes a MAJOR SPOILER.

And here’s a podcast featuring Brad Schwartz, discussing our Eliot Ness non-fiction tomes. (I passed on participating because I was deep in The Big Bundle.)

M.A.C.