Posts Tagged ‘Two for the Money’

Don’t Bug Me, Baby

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
Crusin' at Proof Social 2021
Crusin’ at Proof Social, l to r, M.A.C., Steve Kundel, Bill Anson, Scott Anson

The gig Saturday, July 3, at Proof Social in Muscatine went very well, especially considering it had been two years since Crusin’s last outing.

This was the first public performance with bass player Scott Anson (our guitar player Bill’s son). Scott filled in for Brian Van Winkle at the last performance – a private function in 2019 – before Covid sidelined us and everybody. He is a terrific bass player and a real asset to the band. Of course, it was bittersweet without Brian, whose premature, unexpected passing remains hard to accept.

We had a number of my fellow classmates of ‘66 Muscatine High School grads who came out for a kind of unofficial 55th reunion. But the performance on the patio outside the club (the same patio where we performed a number of times in past years for the Second Sunday concert series) enjoyed both nice weather and a standing room only crowd reflecting a broad demographic. My old pal from early Crusin’ days, Charlie Koenigsaecker, brought a group down from Iowa City. Charlie ran sound for us for back in the day and is a popular dj with great taste in addition to working at the Iowa City Library.

Another old friend, Doug Kreiger, came up to me and – once we’d kidded each other for a while – thanked me quite sincerely for all the music and stories I’d shared with my hometown (and beyond) over the years. It was a nice moment and an unexpected expression of sentiment.

I do find myself reflecting on all the years of music, knowing that the road ahead is limited in that regard whereas storytelling is less so. The loading in and out – as I mentioned last time – is so onerous that it calls into question whether or not it’s worth the effort. The day after, as I write this, I feel like I was hit by a truck. That was always the case after a band job, for the last three decades anyway, but now it feels like a bigger truck.

Gigs are unpredictable, always, and after a nice evening with weather cooperating, darkness fell and bugs attracted to the lights illuminating the band swarmed us, like Pappy Yokum getting assaulted by hordes of locusts as he tried to protect the turnip crop. These were tiny bugs, unidentifiable but similar to gnats, though they weren’t biting, just turning my keyboards into a gummy, sticky runway and clinging to my exposed flesh the same way. This didn’t happen till the last set, toward the end, and we limped through fifteen minutes of absolute insect invasion…and toward the end the notorious “fish bugs” joined the assault. They tell me fish bugs have only a 34-hour life span, and that’s way too long.

I’ve played in bands since 1965, frequently out of doors, and never had this happen before. And today I spent an hour cleaning the two keyboards of crushed bug carcasses, also a new experience.

Did God send the little devils to tell me I’d been doing this long enough?

* * *

On our recent trip to Minnesota for a family reunion, which centered around the graveside service of Barb’s mom, Barb and I went to a movie in Minneapolis. And I think I may be seriously out of step. I felt the same way this evening when I watched a movie on HBO Max.

In Minneapolis, we went to F9, as it’s being called, and it’s an appropriate title if “F” stands for what it should. I am easy to please with dumb action movies, and have seen every Fast and Furious movie in a theater and had fun. This one is sloppy and stupid, lacking both the Rock and Jason Stratham, but it did mark Barb and me officially getting back in the moviegoing swing – by walking out.

I didn’t walk out on director Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, with a cast so star-studded Matt Damon didn’t bother with getting a billing. But the only reason I didn’t walk out was because I was home. It’s a mess, incomprehensible and pretentious and frequently shot with distorting lenses that call attention to themselves. The great Don Cheadle spends the running time looking like he wished somebody had shown him the script. But the critics love it, so I am probably wrong.

F9 puts me out of step with the public and No Sudden Move puts me out of step with the critics. I’ve got all the bases covered!

* * *

Here’s a great review of Two for the Money (mostly about Bait Money but also the Nolan series in general).

And here’s a spiffy review of both novels collected in Double Down (Fly Paper and Hush Money).

Finally, here’s another Two for the Money review, generally not bad, but apparently the 22 year-old me in the early ‘70s was supposed to have better attitudes than “cringingly archaic” ones about women’s looks and tough guy prowess. You’d think I’d been writing a paperback crime novel with an early ‘70s mostly male readership in mind.

M.A.C.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!…Right?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021
Do No Harm

In the writing game, you never know when – or even if – honors will come your way. I’ve been lucky, and I mark the first big non-Dick Tracy career breakthrough for me as winning the Best Novel “Shamus” from the Private Eye Writers of America for True Detective in 1984. That put me, and Nate Heller, on the map.

A second Heller win (Stolen Away), and numerous Heller nominations over the years, culminated with the PWA honoring the series itself with the Hammer Award for its contribution to the genre. Then, for the last several Heller novels, it’s been quiet…too quiet.

Now, I am thrilled to say, the most current Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, has been nominated for the Best Novel “Shamus” by the PWA.

I spent several decades of my writing life supplementing my Heller and other novels with tie-in writing, doing novelizations of movies and original novels of popular TV series, the latter often with Matthew V. Clemens (we’re doing our John Sand series together at Wolfpack currently). One of the frustrations about writing media tie-in novels had always been the lack of respect and attention they got, quite apart from their quality (or for that matter lack of it).

My fellow tie-in writer Lee Goldberg – an actual TV screenwriter in addition to author of novels tied-in with shows where he’d contributed scripts, Monk and Diagnosis: Murder among them – had been thinking about starting an organization like the MWA and PWA for tie-in writers. I was having the same thought at the same time, and both of us had a particular goal of having annual awards, including a grand master award.

We threw in together and founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers in 2006, and created the Scribe Awards for various categories, with the Faust as a grand master award. Faust refers not only to the Faustian bargain tie-in writers agree to with the owners of the properties, but also to Frederick Faust, aka Max Brand, a prolific writer whose creations included Destry (of Destry Rides Again fame) and Dr. Kildare (for which he wrote his own novelizations).

Lee and I stepped down from leadership a few years ago, but the organization – now led by multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning suspense author Jonathan Maberry – is still going strong.

On the heels of the Shamus nomination, I received a second, rather overwhelming honor from the IAMTW, and have been chosen this year’s Faust winner – my third lifetime achievement award (preceded by the Eye from the PWA and the Grand Master Edgar from MWA), which is either an incredible honor bestowed upon me by my peers, or an indication that they think I’ve lived long enough.

Maybe both.

At any rate, I am shocked and pleased by this honor. The previous Faust winners include some of the best writers in the business (not just the tie-in business). I was further honored by a Best Novel “Scribe” nomination for the newest Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder.

All of these honors are wonderful, but the greatest honor of all is being married to Barbara Collins for 53 years. We’ve been together 55 – starting to go together at Muscatine Community College in 1966 – and getting married on June 1, 1968.

For our most ambitious post-lockdown day trip, Barb and I went to a favorite spot of ours, Galena, Illinois, to celebrate our anniversary. The accompanying picture is of us at Vinny Vanucchi’s, our favorite Galena restaurant. We shopped and just enjoyed a lovely day, but also stopped by the police department to see Chief Lori Huntington.

Lori is retiring after nine years in that position, and almost thirty years in Galena law enforcement. She was my consultant on both The Girl Most Likely and The Girl Can’t Help It. I could lie and say she was the inspiration for Chief Krista Larson in those novels, but I had conceived of that character before discovering that Galena indeed had a female chief of police.

But knowing Lori, and talking to her at length over the writing of the two novels, meant she had a huge impact on how the character was shaped, as well as keeping me honest about law enforcement in her little town – a tourist center that can see a million visitors, easily, in a year. She has generously agreed to let me stay in touch should I get around to writing a third Krista and Keith Larson novel, which I hope to do.

* * *

Barb and I finally finished listening to – thanks to the Galena drive – the audio book of Do No Harm. What a terrific job Dan John Miller did! He especially nails famous defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey (who passed away recently).

You may recall my continued praise for one of my favorite movies, Anatomy of a Murder. There’s a terrific write-up about the film at AV Club here.

Kristen Lopez has a wonderful podcast called Ticklish Business on which I guested. We discussed the 1964 version of The Killers. I think you’ll enjoy this. Kristen and her equally young female cohorts Drea Clark and Samantha Ellis talk pop culture in a way that gives me hope for the future (there’s an emphasis on classic film).

Here’s a wonderfully insightful review of the paperback of Mike Hammer in Kiss Her Goodbye (with my original uncensored ending)

A “great Tom Hanks gangster movie just hit Netflix” – wonder what it is?

Here’s a terrific review of Two for the Money, the HCC two-fer of Bait Money and Blood Money.

M.A.C.

Back to the Basement

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

After fourteen months, my band Crusin’ had its first two post-lockdown rehearsals. The accompanying photo illustrating the current line-up was, appropriately, shot in my garage (though we practice in the nearby basement among thousands of books and DVDs).

Crusin' 2021 garage photo
CRUSIN’ 2021, left to right: Collins, Scott Anson, Steve Kundel, Bill Anson

We have three gigs lined up for our “season,” the first being July 4 at the Missipi Brew in the evening leading up to the fireworks. I’ll post the other dates here soon. And another gig or two may come through – we’ll see.

It was great being back with the guys – bittersweet, of course, after the passing of Brian Van Winkle, our longtime bass player. Our guitarist Bill Anson’s son Scott is our new bassist, but not all that new – Brian had stepped away from the band before our last pre-Covid gig, and Scott had been running sound and helping us load in and out for a couple of years. This is the first time we’ve had a father and son in the band, although drummer DeWayne Hopkins (who went on to be mayor of Muscatine) was followed in that role by his son, Jamie.

Both rehearsals went well, although all of us were rusty to a degree – not so much where playing was concerned, but in remembering chords and lyrics and the structure of arrangements. We had spent a lot of time in 2019 working on originals for one last CD, and were playing them on the job, but for now we’re tabling them. Without a CD to promote and sell, playing the originals seemed wrong somehow – we’re a classic rock band (a ‘60s/’70s/’80s variety) and audiences are not there to hear our originals.

We will still do a handful of our own songs this season, but next year we hope to be out there with a CD of original material, and possibly include the original songs from my movie Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, which feature my late, longtime musical accomplice Paul Thomas on guitar, vocals, producing and songwriting.

In addition to being rusty, I admit to having some problems with my hands, specifically arthritis in my thumbs, which hasn’t impacted my typing (yet) but which did slow me down at the organ keyboard…my brain kept asking my fingers to do things to which my fingers replied, “Are you effing kidding?”

This leads me to suspect that next year – assuming I’m here and so is everyone else in the band (uh, I’m no longer the oldest person in Crusin’) – will be our farewell mini-tour with a CD the jewel (or jewel case, anyway).

Funny thing. I did not personally rehearse at all during those fourteen months. I have a Roland keyboard in my office and I occasionally played it, usually when I was watching a laserdisc of some vintage rock group (New Wave the newest) and wanted to see if I could figure out (or remember) the chords. But I stayed out of the band room in the basement, other than to retrieve a DVD. I had something akin to a mental block about it and I can’t explain why.

That Roland keyboard in my office I had ordered when I was recovering from my heart surgery with my right hand essentially useless after the operating-table stroke I suffered. That keyboard, in addition to Physical Therapy exercises and such, was my savior. Very early in the recovery process I realized I had enough minimal strength in my right hand and fingers to type on a computer keyboard, which can tolerate a very light touch. Hardest thing about that was my usual hammering-away left hand needed to cool it some to have both hands work effectively in tandem.

But it was playing the Roland keyboard that largely got the use of my hand back – muscle memory, I guess. But we had it set on the dining room table like an oddly-shaped meal and I would play it several half hours a day, just doing improv things, like the “Light My Fire” and “Evil Ways” leads.

As for why I didn’t rehearse during those fourteen months, I can’t explain it. I often thought about going downstairs to practice, but I never did. I do know that I have never been one to “jam” – I like the structure of playing a song. My late uncle Mahlon Collins was a terrific trombone player who in his retirement years lived in Los Angeles and played in some big bands out there with top players…people who backed Sinatra-type top players (also with Chris Christensen of Seduction of the Innocent!). And Uncle Mahlon said he was the same way. He admired the soloists but he read charts. He liked structure. Songs.

I’m not exactly that way, because my ability to read music is limited and mostly I know chords – an organ player, not a pianist. And I do solos all the time – a Hammond B-3-style organ is great for improv and for more structured solos, too. If anyone cares, my favorite keyboard players are Rod Argent, Mark Stein and Alan Price. (I play a Nord that works well as a B-3 clone and the new version of the VOX Continental, for combo sounds.)

But just playing to play – again, getting together to jam – is not my…jam. I don’t write songs unless there’s a project – an indie movie of mine that needs songs, a CD we’re doing, even the time my father asked me to write a song for him to dance with my mother at their 50th wedding anniversary (it was called “Patricia,” which was her name, and was a pretty good tune). I wrote a Christmas song for a concert my dad was doing with his men’s chorus one year.

However…without a reason, an assignment, I would never sit down and write a song just for the hell of it, the way real musicians do. My guitar player Bill Anson writes songs all the time and he worked diligently in his home studio rehearsing Crusin’ (and other) material all through those fourteen months. I haven’t written any songs since I wrote my half dozen or so for the CD (the rest will be by Bill, except for one we wrote together, called “Crusin’” for some reason, which we performed at the 2018 induction concert for the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame).

I will say that – other than my arthritic thumbs protesting – I had no problem after fourteen months picking up where we left off. I always say – where my keyboard playing is concerned – I never knew enough to forget much.

* * *

Our first two-part Book Giveaway went very well – Barb and I sent out two boxes of books on Saturday. A few people got two books as we had some Antiques Fire Sale paperbacks left over.

We will probably have another giveaway next week.

I’m not trying to smother you people in pulp, it’s just that I have no control over publication dates. When a book comes out, I do a giveaway. Which means there may be several in the same month or two, or six months or more may pass between ‘em.

But I thank all of you who participate in these giveaways and we’re grateful for your reviews.

* * *

For some reason this video, in support of Scarface and the Untouchable by Brad Schwartz and me, has resurfaced. It’s on Fox Nation. [Photosensitivity warning: flashing lights]

Here is a swell review of Two for the Money, the Hard Case Crime combo of the first two Nolan novels, Bait Money and Blood Money.

And finally here is a fantastic review of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek from Bookgasm and Alan Cranis.

M.A.C.

Previews of Coming Attractions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
Kiss Her Goodbye Paperback

Last week’s book giveaway went well and all thirty signed copies (ten each of Two for the Money, Kiss Her Goodbye (with the uncensored ending), and Shoot-out at Sugar Creek) have been distributed.

I am grateful for those of you who participate in these book giveaways and follow up with reviews. It’s one of the few things an author can do to promote titles in the Covid era, though even before that bookstore signings had already declined in effectiveness.

A giveaway for the recently published third John Sand novel, Live Fast, Spy Hard, will be offered here as soon as I get copies of the trade paperback. At this writing, I’m not sure the “real book” edition is available yet, though I’m checking. The e-book is available now, of course, and we’re already generating some nice Amazon reviews.

The new publisher of the Antiques Trash ‘n’ Treasures series has asked for another book, and Barb and I had already been working on the proposal for what will be Antiques Liquidation. We will be plotting it in more detail this week, doing a chapter by chapter breakdown. As some of you know, Barb writes a complete first draft and then I do the final one, with her input of course.

Meanwhile, my co-author Matt Clemens has been working on his draft of To Live and Spy in Berlin, the third John Sand novel, which we plotted and broke down into chapters a few months ago. I will be starting my draft very soon.

What I have been working on are two projects for Neo-Text, a new publisher (chiefly of e-books) with a great web site you should be checking out regularly.

The first project, which I completed several months ago, is Meet Fancy Anders, the overall title of a series of three novellas about a female private eye during World War Two in Los Angeles; the novellas are interrelated and will become a novel of that title. Fancy goes undercover as a defense plant worker, a Hollywood Canteen hostess, and a movie extra. I’m extremely excited about this series, which was fun to do, and the e-books will be illustrated by a top female artist, those illustrations porting over to various book versions – likely a trade paperback but also a larger-size, possibly hardcover book with full display of the mostly color art. The idea is for each chapter to begin with a full-page illustration.

Dave Thomas

The second project, which I’ve hinted at here, is co-written by Dave Thomas of SCTV fame (who was also a writer/producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist). It’s called The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton and is a genre-straddling (s-f and crime) saga that will appear in three parts and, like Fancy, be collected as a book, again possibly in several formats. We are lining up a top comic book artist to do the covers and illustrations. I finished my draft of the third and final part today, and will be doing revisions this week, then shipping it out to Dave for our final mutual edit/tweak. He’s a great storyteller and this is very much a fifty/fifty collaboration. And I think this novel will be one of my best.

This is sizing up as a very busy year for me. The Heller novel I’ll be doing (well, it straddles the latter part of this year and next) will sideline Quarry for a while, and Caleb York will have to cool his spurs likely till 2022 or even ‘23. I have a Mike Hammer novel to complete, the Spillane bio with James Traylor, and another Spillane project that will be announced later.

I think I’ve spilled enough beans already.

* * *

I have encountered two films that are not likely to be on your radar – indie productions that are not big-budget affairs but that you may find worth your while.

My son Nate and I liked the sound of The Kid Detective, a 2020 film starring Adam Brody, and decided to give it a try. It’s one of my favorite films in some time (and I think Nate has the same opinion). The premise is whimsical – in a small town, a 32-year-old private detective is existing on the fumes remaining from his high octane reputation as a kid detective when he was, yes, a kid. It’s as if Encyclopedia Brown grew up and tried to continue his detective adventures into adulthood, with the expected absurd results. The idyllic town hasn’t weathered the years any better than the now-grown kid detective, and his fellow citizens rather resent and even deride him. But he hangs in there. The humor here is gentle with a surprising edge, and laugh-out-loud funny frequently, though two real crimes – one old, one new – hang over the comical proceedings like dark, gathering clouds.

Despite the smalltown setting, and the quirky caprice of the premise, this is a genuine private eye movie with film noir themes and under- and overtones despite a surface that might be an after-school special. Prepare to be sucker-punched, because when the two mysteries converge and pay handsomely off, things get as dark as any noir. And the final moments are serious and moving and also surprising.

The other film worth checking out, if what I am about to describe intrigues you, is VHYES, a 2019 feature described thusly on IMDB: “This bizarre retro comedy, shot entirely on VHS and Beta, follows 12-year-old Ralph as he accidentally records home videos and his favorite late night shows over his parents’ wedding tape.” If you read the Amazon reviews, you will find some viewers outraged and highly annoyed by the film, and others loving it (I am in the latter camp). Like Kid Detective, it has a whimsical premise that becomes more serious as the film progresses. The home-movie events that get intermittently recorded over are, as unlikely as it first seems, a narrative that has some emotional impact (again, like Kid Detective).

What the IMDB write-up neglects to mention is that the VHS cartridge is being taped over in 1987 and the entire film is set in that period. In some respects VHYES is in the tradition of the ‘70s TV parody films like The Groove Tube, Tunnelvision and Kentucky Fried Movie, pre-SCTV efforts often featuring Second City performers. VHYES features Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon of RENO 911, which may be enough to sell some of you – it did me.

You get snippets of public access, PBS and kid’s shows, commercials, spoofs of Home Shopping Network and Antiques Roadshow, and a real story, if you’re paying attention.

* * *

A reminder that Barb and I are doing a Master Class via Zoom that is available to anyone interested. Here’s the info again:

DSM Book Festival: Sat. April 3
Workshop: Max Allan Collins at 9 a.m. (duration 1 hour)
Log-in: 8:40 a.m.

Workshop description:
Learn from the masters, Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara Collins, as they each present their Top 5 Fiction Writing Tips and then field questions from the class. Together, Max and Barb have published the Trash & Treasures mystery series. Max is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Road to Perdition, True Detective, the Quarry series, Girl Can’t Help It and many more.

The registration deadline is today! (March 30)

https://www.dsmpartnership.com/dsmbookfestival/attend/writers-workshops

M.A.C.