Posts Tagged ‘The Will to Kill’

Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook:

Turns out I make mistakes now and then. Who’d have thunk it.

A reader tells me I mangled an entry in the bibliographic essay at the conclusion of Do No Harm, for example. I will try to correct it in the ebook, when things settle down, but for now it’s all I’ll think about when I look at that book. A small continuity error in Killing Quarry is all I see when I look at the cover of that one (the e-book has been corrected).

For those caring enough to read this weekly update, I made another mistake, although it was not exactly my (or anybody’s) fault. Turns out the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, was published on March 17, the original announced date, and not April 7, having supposedly been postponed to that date. The audio is available, too, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

Now, here’s the surprise Spillane ending: the novel’s release really has been postponed till April 7…in the UK. Which sort of lessens my error, because after all the publisher is Titan, which is a British publishing house.

The bottom line is you lucky Americans can rush out and buy it now…well, you can order it online, anyway. Corona virus is doing nobody any favors – not even Smith Corona Virus. I may or may not do a book giveaway to help promote the book – I need to discuss the logistics of that with Barb.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss the new Hammer book a bit. The title of Masquerade for Murder is in line with the Stacy Keach TV movies of the ‘80s, all of which had “Murder” in their titles. This is fitting because the synopsis Mickey wrote, from which I developed the novel, was likely written for the Keach series, as was the case with Murder, My Love (the previous Hammer novel).

These two novels have in common something uncommon in Mike Hammer novels – the detective has a client in both of them. In Mickey’s famous novels, starting with I, the Jury, Hammer almost always is on a personal crusade, a vengeance hunt usually (a girl hunt in, well, The Girl Hunters). But with a TV series, Hammer couldn’t play vigilante every episode – the Darren McGavin version only has a handful of revenge plots, for example – so it’s natural Mickey might have developed these synopses with TV in mind.

The only TV synopses he wrote that became a novel written solely by him was The Killing Man, and it had Hammer personally motivated. Mickey did not submit that synopsis, by the way, considering the story “too good for TV.” (He apparently developed a synopsis for the terrible Keach-less Hammer TV movie, Come Die With Me, but only his ending was utilized.)

If Mickey was writing these synopses with television in mind, what am I doing developing novels out of them, in the case of Masquerade for Murder and the previous Murder, My Love?

Let me discuss what my procedure has been in creating novels where my famous co-author is deceased.

As I’ve reported numerous times, Mickey’s wife Jane and my wife Barb and I went on a treasure hunt – following Mickey’s directive shortly before his passing – for unfinished material in his three offices at his South Carolina home.

Our discoveries included half a dozen Mike Hammer manuscripts that represented works well in progress. These were usually 100 pages or a little more (double-spaced) and often had character and plot notes, and in a few cases endings.

Mickey had been racing to finish what he intended to be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically, The Goliath Bone, all but a few chapters of which were unfinished, and a roughed-out ending was there, too. But because of the terrible ticking clock he was working under, Mickey’s nearly complete draft was much shorter than usual and required fleshing out. Also, the novel had no murder mystery aspect. I provided the latter (his ending is the basis of the second to the last chapter).

A non-Hammer novel, Dead Street, existed in a nearly complete draft, a little rougher than usual but with almost everything there. Dead Street had been written in a stop-and-start fashion, however, and had some inconsistencies due to being written over a longer span of time than usual. I smoothed things out, and wrote the last several (missing) chapters.

The other five Hammers-in-progress – The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds – all had individual issues for me to deal with. The Big Bang consisted of about a third of the novel in finished form, and Mickey had told me the ending; but no plot and character notes turned up. Kiss Her Goodbye existed in two substantial manuscripts that went in two different directions (different mysteries developing); a lot of plot and character notes existed. I combined the two manuscripts – removing the redundant material – and used both mysteries, weaving them together.

Lady, Go Die! was an early manuscript, an unfinished follow-up to I, the Jury which had a good chunk of manuscript – about sixty pages – but was missing the first chapter. I had set this manuscript aside until I’d completed the first three Hammers, so that I felt comfortable enough to write the first chapter of one without Spillane input – I’d been intimidated, because nobody wrote better first chapters than Mickey Spillane. And I had a Spillane first chapter for another Hammer that seemed to be a 1970s reworking of the much-earlier story, and this I was able to use about half-way through the novel, to put more Spillane content in.

Complex 90 ran around 100 pages, very polished, but also had an issue: in the opening chapter, Hammer reports his harrowing adventures in Russia to some government spooks. I decided to turn that exposition into a flashback taking Hammer to Russia and experiencing all of his exploits first-hand. So that novel is unusual because it’s mostly the middle third that represents Mickey’s work.

King of the Weeds was the most challenging, and I had held it off for last, since my initial goal was to get these six substantial Hammer novels completed (and to complete Dead Street). Mickey conceived King of the Weeds as the final Hammer (changing his mind after the Twin Towers attack, which sparked Goliath Bone). At some point he misplaced the manuscript and – this is typically Mickey – just started over.

So I had two manuscripts to combine, including two very different opening chapters (the ending he had shared with me in a late-night gab session). The other difficult aspect was that Mickey was doing a direct sequel to Black Alley, a book that at that time was out of print. I almost threw out the Black Alley sequel material, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself not to follow Mickey’s wishes. Ironically, King of the Weeds became one of the strongest of the novels.

There was more material in Mickey’s files. I had done Dead Street for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, and now completed for HCC the sequel to The Delta Factor, another 100-page Spillane novel-in-progress that gave the world a second Morgan the Raider yarn.

Titan was anxious for me to continue Hammer. I had about forty or fifty pages of the novel Mickey began after Kiss Me, Deadly – a false start for The Girl Hunters with gangsters not Russian spies as the bad guys. It included Hammer traveling to Miami for an unusual change of scene and I felt had great potential. That became Kill Me, Darling.

A strong opening chapter by Mickey, plus some plot notes and his terrific ending became Murder Never Knocks. Two detailed opening chapters by Mickey became The Will to Kill. And – with Mickey’s 100th birthday in mind – I had held back about sixty pages of Mickey’s first, pre-I, the Jury (unfinished) Mike Hammer novel, Killing Town.

Mickey’s last completed novel, The Last Stand, a non-Mike Hammer, was wonderful but somewhat atypical, and rather short. So I revised an unpublished, very typical early novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” and it became a sort of preamble to Mickey’s final novel, published by Hard Case Crime. Interestingly, The Last Stand is a modern-day western, and another Spillane project of mine has been to develop a novel and then series of books from an unproduced screenplay he wrote for his buddy John Wayne – the script that became The Legend of Caleb York.

And there’s been a collection of eight Hammer short stories (A Long Time Dead) developed from shorter fragments. I have also sold a handful of non-Hammer short stories, which may someday be collected.

Which brings us up to the latest Hammer novels, last year’s Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. Murder, My Love is the only Hammer novel so far with no Spillane prose stirred in – strictly Mickey’s basic plot. The new book, Masquerade for Murder, came from a rather detailed synopsis, and the opening description of NYC is mostly Mickey’s, with a mini-sequence between Pat Chambers and Mike (about Hammer’s propensity for low-tech armament) that is Mickey’s as well. I feel good about how smoothly this material stirred in.

Where to now?

I have proposed three more Hammer novels, all from Spillane material. One combines two non-Hammer (but Hammer-ish) fragments, including a very different take on Dead Street; another will utilize a Hammer story Mickey developed for radio and again for TV, unproduced; and finally another synopsis apparently for a Keach-era Hammer episode.

I know some of you know all of this, but I thought it might be a good idea to get this recorded and in one place. Also, maybe it will inspire you to get hold of Masquerade for Murder, which I think is a damn good entry in this series.

I can’t express what it means to me to look over at the shelf and see Mickey’s Hammer novels residing next to the ones I’ve completed for him…and for me, the teenager in Iowa who wanted more, more, more Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of short stories, Barb and I – writing as Barbara Allan, of course – have sold a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” It’s not an Antiques story, but rather harks back to the kind of nasty little tale my beautiful and talented wife concocted when she was specializing in short stories.

It’s a very big deal to get published in EQMM, and we are thrilled.

* * *

With Masquerade for Murder the subject of today’s update, I am pleased to share with you this terrific review of that very novel.

The word is out about Nolan’s somewhat imminent return in Skim Deep. Read about it here.

Also, my friends at Paperback Warrior have a podcast, always interesting, which this week includes some commentary on the Nolan series.

Here’s a wonderful Ron Fortier review of the Brash Books edition of Black Hats.

Guess who’s an Irish comic book character? Michael O’Sullivan, that’s who! Check it out here.

Both yrs truly and Barbara Allan get good play on this discussion of Quad Cities area authors. Hey, what about Matthew V. Clemens?

M.A.C.

The New Mike Hammer Audio Rocks (Said the Author)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Note from Nate: The entire Barbara Allan Trash ‘n’ Treasures series of eBooks are on sale now through April 1. Most are $1.99, but a couple are $.99 or $2.99. The newest novel, Antiques Ravin’ comes out April 30, making this the perfect time to catch up and fill in any you’ve missed! I’ve provided links to all major online eBook storefronts, but if I’ve missed your preferred store, please leave a comment and I’ll add it.

Scroll down for this week’s regularly scheduled update. Thanks!


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Kobo

Google Play


Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

* * *


Audiobook (digital): Kobo Audible
Audiobook (MP3 CD): Amazon Nook
Audiobook (Audio CD): Amazon Nook

Barb and I are listening to the audio of Murder, My Love in the car. We had a trip to Cedar Rapids recently (more about that later), which took us through half of it. Another trip, this time to the Quad Cities and back, got us about 3/4’s of the way.

It’s quite wonderful.

I have been very blessed to have perhaps the actor most identified with Mike Hammer – Stacy Keach himself – reading all of the Hammers for audio starting with The Goliath Bone and ending with Murder Never Knocks. I have no way to express how cool it was to hear that voice, so identified with Mike Hammer, reading the books I’ve written in posthumous collaboration with Mickey Spillane himself.

Stacy also was Hammer in the two audio book radio-style presentations of mine in the New Adventures of Mike Hammer series (I wrote volumes two and three of the three produced) – The Little Death (Audie award winner for best script) and Encore for Murder (Audie award nominee for best script). I actually acted with him in a couple of scenes on both. Bliss.

When for various reasons, the very busy Mr. Keach stepped down, another of my favorite readers took over – Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller, who read The Will to Kill and Killing Town. He did a fine job and made a particularly good younger-sounding Hammer, appropriate to Killing Town in particular. (He has just done Girl Most Likely, which I haven’t listened to yet, but definitely will.)

Now Stefan Rudnicki has picked up the mantle. Stefan claims to love my work, and I certainly love his. He’s been the reader of the Quarry novels for a while now, and also did an award-winning job on the massive Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. An amazing job by a reader/actor who really knows how to bring a book alive.

Now he’s taken on Mike Hammer, and he is doing a fantastic job. He gets every nuance of the tough-guy and smart-ass stuff, as well as the noir poetry. If you have stepped away from these audios, because Stacy isn’t doing them anymore (and I get that), you need to get back on board. Stefan in particular brings an older Hammer to life, which is perfect in Murder, My Love, a chronologically later book in the canon.

Don’t miss these. Also, we’ll get to keep doing them if you buy ‘em. The problem with a long-running series, particularly on audio, is that at a certain point the audio publisher feels there are enough books in a series – say, Mike Hammer – to suffice.

Speaking of Scarface and the Untouchable, if you’re going to Bouchercon, and haven’t sent in your Anthony ballot yet, shake a leg. That book is eligible, as are Killing Town and Antiques Wanted, and the Spillane/Collins stories “The Big Run” (EQMM) and “The Punk” (Mystery Tribune).

* * *

Last week Barb and I appeared at the Ed Gorman Celebration of Popular Fiction at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. (We were the only guests at the inaugural event. As Miles Davis once said, told he was going to be late for the show, “I can’t be late for the show, man – I am the show”).

Barb and I taught a full classroom of interested and obviously bright students, who took lots of notes and asked plenty of smart questions. That evening I spoke for an hour, a good portion of my talk devoted to my late friend Ed Gorman and what a wonderful writer he was, and what an incredible friend he was to me (and to Barb, whose writing career he encouraged and supported with anthology invites).

Ed’s lovely, gracious wife Carol drove us around and kept us company. We stayed overnight at the DoubleTree in downtown CR, because it was a long day. I mention this because some of you may be wondering why I so seldom do this kind of thing anymore, especially since I tend to be really good at it (no brag, just fact, some asshole said) and so obviously enjoy myself doing such dates. The signing afterward was similarly fun and I loved talking to longtime readers and new ones alike.

But I have to say such events are going to be few and far between now. I doubt I’ll do more than one convention a year, and it will probably be Bouchercon. I am available to be a guest of honor at just about any other mystery or comics con, as I am easily flattered and like to have my hotel room and transportation paid for. Who doesn’t?

Coe made for a long day. We took that hotel room so I could rest between the teaching session and a cocktail party meet-and-greet followed by the speaking engagement. The long day required me to go up a lot of stairs and walk all over the campus, or at least it seemed that way to me. Listen, I’m not really complaining – I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I got a lot of laughs during my speech, which is almost as good as a fat royalty check. Almost.

This is not about my health issues, or at least is only partly about them. The medication I’m on can give me dizziness, and my gait gets unsteady when I get tired, ever since the minor stroke I had on the operating table. People think because I am energetic and charming and witty as hell that I am a Superman. Maybe, if he had pockets full of Kryptonite.

This is something Barb and I are dealing with. I noticed it for the first time in Vegas at the Mob Museum, where at my first of two appearances I felt I stunk up the joint (I was very good at the second event, a day…and a bunch of rest…later.) At the same time, I am preparing for my band Crusin’ and our “season,” which begins early summer and lasts through early fall. Last year we played around nine gigs, mostly out of doors, which makes me wonder if I should make this my last gigging season.

Nonetheless, I am hoping we will make a new CD this summer, all original material.

The one thing that doesn’t seem to be terribly impacted by age and occasionally sketchy health is my writing. I am more prolific than ever, which makes it hard for some readers to keep up with me. But that’s when I feel the most myself and the most alive – at the machine. Making up stories.

I am not looking for sympathy, which I do not deserve, and don’t mean to imply I am unwell, which I am not. I feel very good almost all of the time. It’s a matter of energy, and I think when this dreadful Midwestern winter gets tired of torturing us, and I get out walking again – and gigging again – I will start to feel in shape.

Just know that the reason my book signings and con appearances are more and more infrequent doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means that I have to watch my energy level and make sure any appearances are infrequent and, when I do take one on, designed to give me time for rest…and to drop me at the door by car of wherever I’m appearing, with Barb at my side.

What I want to spend most of my time doing now is writing books, and short stories and non-fiction pieces and movie and TV scripts. And I think that’s probably how you’d prefer I spend my time, too.

* * *

Here is what I consider a first-rate interview with yours truly, in support of The Girl Most Likely.

Supreme Justice is chosen one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century. Hey, Matt Clemens – we are in some heady company, my friend!

The Rock Island Dispatch-Argus lists some men who made their mark who come from the Quad Cities area. I sort of make the list by hanging onto John Looney’s coattails.

Finally, here’s some stuff about Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya and me. Looks like some collectibles were generated from that, unbeknownst to me.

M.A.C.

Our Audie Murphy Film Festival

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Killing Town, the “lost” first Mike Hammer novel, is now available on audio read by the great Dan John Miller. Read about it here. If you support this audio (and the previous Journalstone Mike Hammer release, The Will to Kill), more will follow!

* * *

I am writing this week’s update on Memorial Day Weekend. It seems like a good time to say a few things about Audie Murphy.

First, let me share with you a part of my prep for writing the Caleb York novels for Kensington (under the Spillane & Collins byline) – essentially, how I get into the mood.

I am about to start the new Caleb, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Whenever I do a York novel, Barb and I have an appropriate western film festival, watching an “oater” each evening. For the first novel, The Legend of Caleb York (from Mickey’s screenplay, which started it all), we watched John Wayne westerns, as Mickey had written the screenplay for Wayne’s Batjac productions, though it had never been produced. My favorites, predictably, are The Searchers, Red River and Rio Bravo.

For The Big Showdown, we watched Randolph Scott, including all of his outstanding Budd Boetticher-directed westerns. For The Bloody Spur, our nightly western was a Joel McRae. And I have been gathering Audie Murphy’s westerns (and his other films) for several years now, with an eye on the festival Barb and I are beginning now.

Audie Murphy, of course, is celebrated as the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II. He received every military combat award, including the Medal of Honor, having – at age 19 – held off by himself an entire company of German soldiers for an hour, then (while wounded) leading a successful counterattack.

Murphy was a Texas boy from sharecropper stock who learned his skills with a rifle by putting food on the table for his six brothers and four sisters, after their father left their mother, who died when Audie was a teen. Murphy lied about his age to get into the U.S. Army, not long after Pearl Harbor (the Marines and Navy having turned him down).

After the war, making the cover of LIFE Magazine for his courageous service, he was taken under the wing of the great James Cagney. From the late forties until his tragic young death in 1971, Murphy was a movie star. Aside from a few A-pictures (like The Red Badge of Courage and The Unforgiven, both directed by John Huston), and several contemporary offerings, Murphy specialized in westerns, as well as a western TV series, Whispering Smith.

But his biggest success was starring as himself (a role he reluctantly accepted) in the film version of his autobiographical war account, To Hell and Back. He was a skilled horseman and a successful songwriter, his work recorded by such stars as Dean Martin, Harry Nillson, Eddy Arnold and Jimmy Dean, among many others. And, not surprisingly, he suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He slept with a .45 automatic under his pillow.

Stopped for speeding, Murphy pulled over and, when the officer noticed the .45 on the seat next to the easily recognizable Audie, the cop smiled and said he was a big fan and wanted an autograph. Murphy provided it. Accosted by a gangster at a horserace, Murphy stared him down and said, “I killed sixty of you bums in Sicily – one more won’t make a difference.” The thug moved on. Many a brawny challenger who figured he’d pick a fight with Murphy was quickly and brutally dispatched by the five-foot-five war hero turned movie star.

Or so go the stories. More easily verified is Murphy’s refusal to do ads for cigarettes or liquor, not wanting to set a bad example for young people. He died in a small plane crash.

My character, Quarry, was in part inspired by Murphy. David Morell told me Rambo had the same source. And Robert Stack said his Ness portrayl was inspired by Murphy.

Around Memorial Day, and all year frankly, Audie’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery is among the most visited. He is probably remembered more for his incredible valor as a teenaged war hero than for his movie career, and while that’s understandable, I’m here to tell you he was a fine actor.

In his day – and still today – his ability to star in a film is perceived as a sort of “talking dog” thing – the dog doesn’t haven’t to say anything impressive to qualify for that distinction. My feeling is the studios (chiefly Universal) often felt they had to pair Murphy with a strong character actor – Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, Barry Sullivan – to carry him.

But anyone at all savvy about film and film-acting can look at Murphy in almost any of his pictures and see how his instinctive, charismatic under-playing seems modern and real while many of the actors around him appear to be shouting and hamming it up. He is present in every scene, quietly reacting, watching, then delivering lines naturally and effectively.

And in scenes of violence, just who this baby-faced boy/man is always comes to the fore. He’s a killer. Real deal. Not a murderer, but a soldier who unflinchingly does what he has to. But he’s not one note: he can be boyish, he can be scary, he can be romantic, he can be funny, he can be tough as hell – as much as I like Randolph Scott (and that’s a lot), Murphy has far more colors to his palette.

We’ve been watching him for a week or so now, and not all of the movies are good – toward the mid-1960s (particularly when he’s not working at Universal), his films are programmers, bottom-bill fodder for drive-ins. But he made some fine westerns, too, and worked with such great genre directors as Don Siegel, Budd Boetticher and Jack Arnold.

My favorite, the latter director’s work, is No Name on the Bullet. Murphy is an assassin who comes to a small western town, quietly checks in at the hotel and minds his own business – only his business is killing someone while he’s in town…but who. Everyone in the community seems to have a secret worth killing for. It’s a very Quarry-like role. The quiet killer side of him is in evidence – the film is thoughtful, a sort of High Noon turned inside out, and Murphy is great. Just great.

In collecting Murphy’s films, I’ve had to order DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world. A few are available here (including No Name on the Bullet), and there’s a nice boxed set from Turner Classic Movies – check it out.

Oddly, Murphy is considered a major star in Germany. Think about that – our decorated hero is revered by the losers, and patronized and even ignored by the winners. This is much odder than Jerry Lewis being lionized in France (though the French are right about Lewis, and they like Murphy, too, for that matter).

Salute this Texas sharecropper’s son, while Memorial Day is still in the air, won’t you? For his service to his country, by all means. But track down some of his movies. He was a real movie star, and – unlikely as it seems – a fine actor.

* * *

The forthcoming Scarface and the Untouchable is one of the ten summer books Chicago Magazine recommends.

Here’s a fine review of Killing Town.

Check out this advance look at the first issue of the Hammer four-issue comic book mini-series.

The Quarry TV series gets some love here.

Finally, here is a wonderful review of Antiques Wanted by a reviewer who really gets what Barb and I are up to.

M.A.C.

Two of the 120 Greatest Mystery Writers

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

I have little to say this week, flabbergasted and delighted by the huge response to Mickey Spillane’s birthday.

First, this unexpected present from the editorial board of the Strand Magazine, where both Mickey and I are among their 120 greatest mystery writers, displayed on a coffee mug that (not surprisingly) you can buy.

Now the main reason I’m not writing much this time is that there’s already more than enough of me elsewhere to read right now on the Net. Let’s start with J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet and his very in depth interview with me about the entire effort to get Mickey’s unfinished works completed and out there.

Jeff Pierce also has the Killer Covers site, where he follows up his already massive Spillane coverage with a look at many Spillane book (and comic book) covers.

The Daily Beast offers up one of the very best essays on Mickey that appeared on his birthday. I was interviewed for it, but can take little credit.

Jon Jordan, the Crimespree guru, provides this excellent review of both novels that make up the new book, The Last Stand.

For Mickey Spillane wisdom, try these “ten wry quotes,” each and every one wonderful.

Here’s more coverage of the upcoming Mike Hammer four-issue comic book mini-series from Hard Case Crime Comics.

Out of nowhere comes this wonderful tribute to Ms. Tree at a UK site.

And this from Brash Books (scroll down for Mickey/Max stuff).

Here’s a review of The Will to Kill that is favorable but the reviewer gets thrown, due to this being the first Hammer read by said reviewer and it happened to be a change of pace yarn.

First-rate mystery writer and human, Wayne Dundee, reflects on meeting Mickey on set at Mommy’s Day over (choke) twenty years ago.

The Saturday Evening Post weighs in on Mickey’s birthday – no mention of the posthumous publishing.

Read a short but sweet tribute here.

Finally, this celebration prints my introduction to The Last Stand – good for you to read if you haven’t decided whether to read it or not.

M.A.C.