Monday 23 September 2019

Libraries boost eBook sales

When publisher Macmillan took the step of allowing libraries only one digital copy of their new eBooks over fears that sales would be affected if libraries were allowed to hire out multiple copies at once, the library trade were angered. Steve Potash, the CEO of OverDrive, the American company which provides digital rights management for libraries, called the movie, horse shit.

Well now there seems to be data that proves that Macmillan were wrong to worry and the library rentals actually impacts positively on eBook sales. Rebecca Miller recently revealed the results of a survey in  Library Journal  and the results were positive for digital publishing.

  • 42 percent of US adults surveyed reported that they had bought the same book they had previously borrowed from a library, a number that jumps to 60 percent among millennials.
  • 70 percent reported that they had bought another book by an author whose other works they’d borrowed from a library, a number that jumps to 75.4, 76.1, and 77.2 for Gen X, Gen Z, and millennials, respectively.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Is Picard to die in new Star Trek

Rumors are that CBS have committed to a second season of its latest Star Trek spin-off series, Picard but without Patrick Stewert whose character is to die at the climax of the first season. Claims, made by  YouTuber Doomcock, who boasts about having a source within CBS,  suggests that a ship would then be named the USS Picard allowing the show to continue.

Doomcock said on You Tube - “Oh hell yes they are going to kill Picard Picard is the only reason anyone would ever watch this s***. But here comes the part that will make fans heads explode. The worst part you can imagine. Are you ready gang? Get this. There will be a Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard.They do that because Patrick Stewart costs too much money, dude. They are bleeding money at CBS. And there is no way with the anemic ratings and the subscriber money they are getting on CBS All Access that they can afford Sir Patrick for another season.They are going to kill Picard. And his ragtag crew of attractive and marketable ragamuffins will miss him b******* about his daggum lombego so much, they will name their stolen star ship U.S.S. Picard. And they will have more adventures aboard the U.S.S. Picard in Season 2. Boldly going where lots of fashion models have gone before.”

Rambo author draws first blood against Stallone movie

Author David Morrell, creator of Rambo, has come out  against the latest movie in the franchise, Rambo Last Blood.

 'I felt degraded and dehumanized after I left the theater. In 2016 Sly and I had numerous lengthy telephone conversations about creating what he described as a “soulful” Rambo. Then he stopped communicating with me. One element of our conversations is in the new film (the search for the missing child as an example of the family he never had), but instead of being soulful, this new movie lacks one. I felt I was less a human being for having seen it, and today that’s an unfortunate message.'  Morrell wrote on his Facebook page

The film, the fifth in the franchise, sees Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo in a quest to rescue a girl held captive by a criminal gang in Mexico. And it has left critics perplexed over its depiction of Mexico as a criminal wasteland, however in fairness the Rambo movies have never been meant to be taken seriously and best work if the viewer accepts the gung ho nonsense for what it is.

Morrell and Stallone in better days

'The film is a mess, resembling a 1976 James Mitchum (Robert Mitchum’s son) film called TRACKDOWN, which has almost the same plot, in which a Montana rancher gets even with sex traffickers (in this case in Los Angeles), who have kidnapped a young female relative. That film is typical of ultra-violent 1970s exploitation “grindhouse” films, the technique of which RAMBO: LAST BLOOD resembles. The sets here look cheap. The direction is awkward. The script is filled with explanatory dialogue (“she was like the family I never had” or words to that effect—we get it—explanation not required, and this from an actor/writer who prides himself on communicating visually rather than through unnecessary words). The music has that droning synthetic sound that TV dramas use to support needless, tedious dialogue. The characters are post-it-note caricatures. Rambo could be called John Smith, and the film wouldn’t change. It assumes the audience is familiar with Rambo’s background whereas anyone under 40 will wonder what on earth is going on with those tunnels. From multiple perspective, this film fails miserably. The best I can say is that the first two minutes were promising.' Morrell from his Facebook post.

The critics have been no kinder and have called the direction, lethargic and the acting and writing, risible. Empire Magazine claimed that fans should put their headbands to half mast and remember better days, because this new Rambo is a damp squib, while The Observer dismissed the film, claimit it was  nothing but cheap and nasty carnage.

The press have made much out of the original author's dislike for the film with the New York Times claiming that Morrell is ashamed to be associated with Stallone's take on the character, though in truth the author actually said that he was embarrassed to have his name associated with the movie rather than Stallone himself.

Dean Koontz signs with Amazon publishing

Amazon's in-house publishing imprint, Thomas & Mercer is just over ten years old and this week it  announced the signing of worldwide betseller, Dean Koontz.

 “This is so exciting, I’ve been creatively rejuvenated. The times are changing, and it’s invigorating to be where change is understood and embraced.” Dean Koontz.

“We are honoured Dean has chosen Amazon Publishing to bring his newest work to readers. Building on the success of Dean’s Amazon Charts best-selling short story, Ricochet Joe, our first publication together, we’re excited to expand our relationship with five new books from Thomas & Mercer and an episodic collection of short thrillers from Amazon Original Stories, delivering the kind of exhilarating and deeply resonant suspense his millions of fans expect and we know new readers will love.” Mikyla Bruder, Amazon

Koontz was previously published by Random House and boasts many bestsellers in his backlist including Watchers, the basis for a 1988 movie. Worldwide he  has enjoyed sales of more that 225 million copies of his books.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Interview from the Archive archive's: Max Allan Collins

Chandler loathed the brutal no nonsense Mike Hammer, seeing him as a sadistic version of his knight errant Marlowe and critics were no kinder and would draw attention to the violence and red baiting of Mickey Spillane's pugilistic gumshoe. In fact the books were often sneered upon and treated almost as pornography but that didn't stop them selling like hot cakes.

Course these days things are different and Hammer is seen as a quintessential part of the genre, equally as important as Marlowe and Sam Spade in the development of the genre.

Course the fact that Spillane was the best selling mystery writer of the last century may have had a lot to do with the criticism - critics have always loved to shoot down a success story, especially if it doesn't confirm to their often narrow sensibilities.

For many years one voice spoke louder than most at extolling the virtues of Mickey and Mike Hammer and that was the tones of Road to Perdition author, Max Allan Collins.

Max had always been a fan and wrote scores of letters to the author and years later when he met his hero, Spillane remembered the letters and remarked that they used to correspond. 

Max then replied - "Sure a hundred letters from me and one from you."

Spillane laughed at that and a friendship, built on mutual respect  was formed. When Spillane passed away in 2006 he had already placed his legacy in safe hands, by handing Max a pile of unfinished manuscripts, notes and such.

I wondered what it was about Spillane that had appealed to the young Max ?

"I began reading Mickey at an early age -- thirteen -- and I'm sure the exciting, superficial aspects of his work, the sex and violence, were key. I'd gotten interested in private eye fiction thanks to a spate of TV shows in the late '50s and early '60s, PETER GUNN, 77 SUNSET STRIP, PERRY MASON and the original MIKE HAMMER with Darren McGavin. I started reading novels by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, but was always attracted by the dramatic covers of the Hammer paperbacks on the book racks. Of course, these had a reputation as "dirty books," so for a while I didn't dare buy one. In fact, the first time I bought a Mike Hammer paperback, I was out of town, on vacation with my parents...and lied about my age.

What has kept me a Spillane fan all these years is much more than the sex and violence -- the former seems tame by contemporary standards, although frankly the violence is as potent as ever -- those early books still shock in that regard. What Mickey had, particularly in the first seven novels, was a vivid, expressionistic style, a noir poetry, that combined with his compelling first-person portrait of Hammer presented something unique in the genre. Even Mickey's critics, and they've been legion, have credited him with incredible narrative drive. He probably wrote the best beginnings and endings of any popular writer."

So to go from fan to friend - how did this work out?

"It grew out of my becoming a defender of his work. In the 1950s, Spillane was blamed for the decline of literature and the rise of juvenile delinquency, among other absurdities. As a kid, I'd been shocked to find out that Mickey did not share the generally favorable critical appraisal that Hammett and Chandler routinely received, and I wrote any number of reviews and articles, singing his praises. I began publishing my own novels in 1973, and I sent the first two to Mickey, who responded with a warm letter, welcoming me to the profession.

In 1981, the big mystery fan convention, Bouchercon -- named for New York Times critic Anthony Boucher, who had often attacked Spillane -- was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is the home of Miller Beer, and Mickey was at the time in the midst of a big TV commercial campaign as a spokesperson for Miller Lite -- these were clever commercial spots with Mickey essentially playing Mike Hammer in trenchcoat and fedora. The Bouchercon people wanted to have Mickey as a guest of honor and worked through Miller Beer to make that happen. And I was recruited, as the "Mickey Spillane guy," to be the con's liaison with Mick. We did a two-man interview that was hugely attended, as Mickey had never appeared at a Bouchercon or any kind of fan event before.

Anyway, he and I hit it off, and he invited me to visit him at his South Carolina home on the oceanfront -- actually, an inlet off the ocean. The first visit was in 1982, I believe, the first of many. Most of Mickey's friends were local people with no connection to writing -- from car mechanics to dentists -- and I represented somebody he could talk to about the craft and profession of fiction-writing."

Max Allan Collins is a successful writer - he was responsible for the original graphic novel which became the movie Road to Perdition which is probably still his best known work. But he's produced scores of graphic novels and novels including the successful Nate Heller and Quarry series. He's responsible for many CSI novel tie-ins and recently his tie-in novel for American Gangster sat on the New York Times Bestseller lists and that's not to mention film production.

Oh and he did the Dick Tracy comic strip for a great number of years.

He also seems to have won at one time or other every award the genre can bestow. But for all this success being handed the manuscripts of Mickey's unfinished works must have been daunting.

"It's a huge sense of responsibility, but I am not intimidated. I have unwittingly trained for this moment my entire professional career and before that. I'd done a number of projects with Mickey -- we co-edited numerous anthologies and did a comic book together that ran several years -- so his belief in me, while incredibly gratifying, was no surprise. The real sense of responsibility divides in two -- first, handling these works in a way that I think would please and satisfy Mickey; and second, creating something that will resonate with contemporary readers, so that the books will be successful enough that all of them can be done. In particular, there were six substantial Hammer novel manuscripts, of which GOLIATH BONE is the first, and my minimum goal here is to get all six out there on book shelves. Imagine if Agatha Christie had left behind substantial portions of half a dozen Poirot and/or Marple novels -- with a writer of that stature, you don't just leave them in the file or a trunk. "

So far the Spillane/Collins partnership has resulted in Dead Street from Hardcase crime and a new Mike Hammer novel, The Goliath Bone. So what comes next?

"I have completed the second novel, THE BIG BANG, which is set in the mid-1960s, when Mickey began it. The idea is to set each book in the period Mickey conceived it. The third book will probably be KISS HER GOODBYE, a novel Mickey worked on in the '80s. If we're lucky enough to get a second three-book contract, what will follow will be COMPLEX 90, another mid-'60s story and a sequel to Mickey's THE GIRL HUNTERS, having to do with Russian spies; then LADY, GO DIE, which is a particularly exciting project, because it's a manuscript Mickey started in 1948 as the second Hammer novel, right after I, THE JURY; and finally KING OF THE WEEDS, the novel Mickey had originally intended to be the last Hammer novel, until he put it aside to write the post 9/11 novel, GOLIATH BONE.

After that, if readers want more, there are another half dozen smaller fragments -- a chapter or two with notes, in most cases -- from which I could develop Hammer novels. But the six I've mentioned are all substantial manuscripts -- 100 pages or more, often with notes, sometimes with roughed-out final scenes. Mickey often worked out the ending first."

The Goliath Bone, see my review on the Tainted Archive, was a welcome return for the hard as nails private eye and also gave us a happy ending to the on off Hammer/Velda relationship. How much of the book was completed when Collins received the manuscript?

"Mickey had done ten of twelve chapters, plus about half of the last chapter. But he knew he was working against the clock, ill as he was, and these were rough-draft for the most part, shorter than his usual chapters. So my job was fleshing things out in an unobtrusive way. There isn't a chapter that doesn't have Spillane material in it. This was possible because I also found a three-chapter false start in his papers, which allowed me to work some of that material in, as well."

The Mike Hammer books were often accused of being too right wing and the new book doesn't shy away from the odd political comment. Was Max worried about this in today's inane world where political correctness is censoring the language and destroying individualism?

"My politics are not Mickey's politics, but my responsibility was to honor his views, and I did. The Mike Hammer character was a classic outsider, always depicted by Mickey as a guy with friends of various ethnicity's -- he fought for the little guy, remember. There are some racist comments about Muslims in the book, but they come from the mouths of characters other than Hammer himself, our hero. He does make an outrageous statement late in the book, to a dying terrorist, and that's pure Mickey."

I wonder what it was like to have Mickey Spillane as a friend - I've seen video footage of him and he seems, what we would call in the UK - quite a character. What was he like?

"He was quite a character by American standards as well. He was a very unpretentious guy, warm and funny -- my wife often characterized him as a scamp, because he liked to tease and shock. But what a sweetheart -- generous and down to earth, and probably the most gracious celebrity you'd ever meet. He always had time for, as he put it, his "customers."

He would put himself down and laugh about the bad critical reception -- he called himself a "writer," not an "author," said he was "the chewing gum of modern literature." But that was a defense mechanism. Privately, he and I spoke about the art and craft of writing, and his love for language, his enthusiasm for sheer storytelling, was at the center of his being."

Eventually Collins will exhaust the unpublished Spillane material. Are there plans to continue Mike Hammer then as original works?

"There are so many fragments that there were never be a need for me to create a brand-new Hammer story. Anything I do will have a basis in something Mickey started to develop. Beyond the first six "new" novels, another six or seven are possible, as well as potentially four or five short stories -- I've already done one short story. Chronologically, GOLIATH BONE is the last novel. All the rest will be set in period, based upon when Mickey conceived them.

Beyond this, there are a number of non-Hammer novels, including a half-completed sequel to THE DELTA FACTOR, and a completed novella called THE LAST STAND. Lots of interesting things. But since Mike Hammer is, as Mickey put it, his "bread and butter character," the emphasis at first will be on Hammer."

Mickey Spillane was never considered in the top rank among the likes of Chandler and Hammett but in pacing, I think he was superior to both. I wondered what Max's thoughts on this were?

"The shocking content of the early books turned critics and social commentators against him. Mickey is the guy who opened the door on sex and violence in popular fiction -- it all flows from him, including and in particular James Bond and Ian Fleming. In America, the right wing attacked Mickey for what was then shocking sexuality; and the left wing were deeply offended by his hero's violent vigilante tactics. Spillane got it from all sides.

In addition, he wrote in an expressionistic pulp style, very vivid and even over the top, and this was a stark, even startling contrast to the understatement of Hammett and the literary tone of Chandler. To this day, it amuses me that so many critics will lavish praise on the brigade of slavish Chandler imitators, but many still refuse to recognize the distinct genius of Spillane at his best."

So which of Mickey's books would rate as Max's favourite?

"The first I read, at 13: ONE LONELY NIGHT. Mike Hammer takes on the "Commies" even as he attempts to recover from the criticism of a judge who attacked him from the bench in a manner that clearly was meant to invoke the critical attacks on Spillane."

A few years ago Max made a documentary about Mickey Spillane which I've never seen. I ask him about this?

"Mickey would never allow me to write his biography, saying he might write an autobiography himself one day. But he consented to take part in a documentary, because he understood the publicity value. I interviewed him at length, and also sat down with dozens of mystery writers at a Bouchercon to get their take -- people like the late Donald E. Westlake participated, and Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Lawrence Block. London's own Maxium Jakubowski is in it. Anyway, it won quite a few awards at festivals, and has been shown at the NFT in London as part of a Spillane film retrospective mounted by my friend Adrian Wootten.

It's available in America as part of a film called SHADES OF NOIR, which gathers several short films of mine with the documentary, MIKE HAMMER'S MICKEY SPILLANE, as the centerpiece. Right now that compilation is only available as part of the boxed set ThE BLACK BOX, which gathers three other indie features I wrote and directed. Incidentally, Mickey plays an attorney in two of them, MOMMY and its sequel MOMMY'S DAY."

This interview is published in the memory of Frank Morrison Spillane 1918 - 2006

Australia empowers Big Tobacco with its new draconian and simply barking mad vape restrictions

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