Quarry & Mike Hammer News

April 14th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

The New Orleans Times-Picayune interviewed me recently and if you will follow this link, you’ll find pictures from the set of the Cinemax QUARRY TV series as well as a three-part interview with me that is the most in-depth look at Quarry and his creation that I’ve ever provided.

I admit I was shocked that they used my entire interview – I had thought I was being interviewed for background on a broader piece, and expected a handful of things I said to be used as “pull” quotes. But they ran the whole thing, which is great, although occasionally I seem to be speaking English as a second (or perhaps third) language.

I THE JURY 82

For Mike Hammer fans, there’s good news – the under-rated Armand Assante I, THE JURY has received its first (albeit no frills) DVD release in America. I would have much preferred a Blu-ray with special features (like a commentary from yours truly), but we take what we can get.

For years what I had was a Japanese laser-disc that blurred all the sexy bits, and there’s a lot of ‘em. This is a made-on-demand DVD from Fox Cinema Archives and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere for around twenty bucks. Some people are gun-shy about MOD DVD’s, but I have tons of ‘em and have never had a problem. One proviso: While the DVD is in my house as I type this, I have yet to break the shrink wrap and screen it. If I’m disappointed in the transfer, I’ll let you know next week. [Note from Nate: Amazon instant video also has it in HD.]

Mickey did not like this version of I, THE JURY, but I am a fan. I would put it in the upper tier of Spillane films, probably in this order: KISS ME DEADLY; I, THE JURY (‘53) and THE GIRL HUNTERS (a tie for second place); and the I, THE JURY remake with Assante. The latter was a hard movie to see back in ‘82. Terry Beatty and I drove to a Chicago suburb to see it (returning the same night).

Here’s a brief excerpt on the I, THE JURY remake from MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN by Jim Traylor and myself:

Assante’s performance has a psychotic edge that makes his Hammer, updated or not, the definitive screen portrayal to date of the young Mike Hammer. Somewhere in there with the Brando and Stallone bits is a sense of the Mick himself: Assante has watched Spillane, obviously, and has the bantam walk down pat – as with Biff Elliot and Spillane, Assante confirms that a small, broad-chested Hammer has a bulldog rather than bully quality needed for character empathy in the page-to-screen transfer of the brawling hero.

The Assante Hammer is outraged; he’s prepared to risk anything for his goal, because his Hammer simply does not give a damn; if he dies in the course of his quest, so be it – “You take life too serious,” he advises several terrified unwilling participants in his various war games. Another time he tells Charlotte that he “may take a few suspects out along the way – I’m not perfect.” Dat’s Mike Hammer, ‘80s style.

Predictably, Spillane despised the film; most of his objections stemmed from (Larry) Cohen’s script, understandably displeased that his straightforward detective plot had been abandoned. He reserved his most dismissive comment for Assante: “He wore Italian heels,” as if this were enough to invalidate the film.

Even the update’s most obviously strong point did not impress Spillane – he dismissed the portrayal of Velda as “a preppie.” If so, this is a pistol-packing preppie, who likely shot the alligator on her shirt.

Very proud of that book, by the way. I believe it’s sold under 100 copies, and I wish I were kidding. If you like Hammer/Spillane, don’t be put off by the high price.

Elsewhere on the Hammer front, KILL ME, DARLING seems to be very well-received, but we could really use some more Amazon reviews. Last time I looked we only have five. I realize this is a very old song I’m singing, but if you like a book, if you like an author, take time to post at least a brief one or two sentence review and a nice high-star rating, to boost them. I speak mostly of myself here, obviously, but you really should be doing this for any author whose work you like.

Today (Monday as I write this), Barb and I will dig in on the first of two-days work on prepping ANTIQUES FATE for Kensington. I finished my draft on Friday, and we took Saturday off, meeting my research associate George Hagenauer for lunch at a great Italian restaurant in Dubuque called Vinnie Venucchi’s. Among other things, George and I (with Barb kibitzing) discussed the next Heller. The rest of the day Barb and I spent in that cool tourist trap Galena, where I was able to pick up the last two Richard Bissell books I needed at a used bookstore (Bissell wrote 7 ½ Cents, the basis for the musical Pajama Game, and is my favorite Iowa author other than Barb and me) (and Ed Gorman).

Sunday I did a draft of the pilot outline for the TV project that I can’t talk about yet.

So, anyway, today I will be reading the ANTIQUES FATE manuscript and making corrections and revisions in red pen, and Barb will be entering those and tweaking as she goes. For those keeping count, this is the third novel I’ve finished this year (two of them collaborative, of course). Actually, I finished four novels this year, but the Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, was completed early in January on the heels of several months of writing last year.

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Here’s a very nice review of KILL ME, DARLING.

And finally here’s a graphic novels to film piece that highlights ROAD TO PERDITION.

M.A.C.

Stacy Keach Kills Me!

April 7th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Kill Me, Darling Blackstone Audiobook

This week, the audio book of KILL ME, DARLING will be released with the great Stacy Keach as the reader. The book is already available from Audible for download, and Barb and I started listening to it in the car on a trip to the Quad Cities this weekend, and are saving the rest for our next, longer-distance car trip. What a wonderful job Stacy is doing.

Check out the great audio book cover, which I actually prefer to the Titan one (which is very cool, but ignores the Florida setting).

It’s hard for me to express what it means for me to hear Stacy Keach read these novels (he’s done the prior six Spillane/Collins “Hammer” collaborations). Stacy – and I know him well enough to name-drop with that familiarity – is the most famous and certainly the most popular screen Mike Hammer of all time. I was not always crazy about producer Jay Bernstein’s TV version of HAMMER, but Stacy was consistently terrific and he captured the character beautifully, even perfectly. He became the Hammer of several generations.

Of the various Hammer projects I’ve been involved with, the two audio “radio play”-style full-cast, full-length dramatizations for Blackstone are among my favorites. The first one, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME TWO: THE LITTLE DEATH won the Audie for best original work, and the second, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME THREE: ENCORE FOR MURDER, was similarly nominated. I am very proud of those two audios, and owe a big thanks to producer Carl Amari. Also, since my late friend Mike Cornelison played Pat Chambers in both, they hold a special place in my heart.

We almost missed out on having Stacy read the audio of KILL ME, DARLING – in fact, we almost missed out on having an audio at all. For reasons I can’t fathom, although I may have been asleep at the wheel myself, Blackstone Audio was not approached in a timely fashion. Audio publishers like to be publish simultaneously with the books themselves. I didn’t check on this until early February, and when I found the ball had been dropped somewhere along the line, rushed to get Blackstone and Stacy together on this. Bless them both for jumping on board with little notice. As it is, the audio is appearing a couple of weeks after the book’s initial availability.

If you’re a Hammer fan and you haven’t listened to Stacy Keach read these new Hammer novels, you are really, really missing out.

From my point of view, a Hammer novel doesn’t feel real to me until I’ve heard Stacy read it.

I was nervous about KILL ME, DARLING – although frankly I love the book – because it was the first time I had a shorter chunk of Mickey’s work to expand and complete (less than fifty double-spaced pages as opposed to one-hundred). Would readers and reviewers find this as authentic a Hammer novel as the previous ones? So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Partly, I think, that’s because this is only the second of the Hammer’s I’ve completed that dates to Mickey’s most popular period (late forties/early ‘50s – the other being LADY, GO DIE!, chronologically the second Hammer novel). KILL ME, DARLING is the book that would have followed KISS ME, DEADLY – in other words, it picks up right where that hugely popular novel left off…right where Mickey left Hammer fans dangling for what would be a decade.

The next partial Spillane “Hammer” manuscript I complete will also be from the ‘50s. I feel privileged and thrilled to be able to fill in those missing years.

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Regular readers of these updates will know that KILL ME, DARLING was created from a false start on THE GIRL HUNTERS. So it’s fun and interesting that (thanks to the Scorpion Blu-ray/DVD releases) that the Spillane-starring movie version of that novel is getting fresh attention.

Here’s one fun look at the film, with some mentions of my contributions to the blu-ray.

And here’s another.

In the meantime, I’m back to work on ANTIQUES FATE.

M.A.C.

Action!

March 31st, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Shooting has begun on QUARRY in New Orleans.

I have read all eight scripts (including the one I wrote!) and series creators Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller have put together an excellent in-depth look at the origins of Quarry. It’s exciting, sexy, violent, character-driven and takes on important topics, which I like to think is a reflection of my fiction. I am particularly pleased that the show is being done in period with a real emphasis on the Vietnam aspect of the source material.

Break a leg, guys!

* * *

It’s been a very busy year already. Now I begin work on ANTIQUES FATE, working from Barb’s rough draft. Maybe writing FATE OF THE UNION (another FATE!) in between QUARRY IN THE BLACK and this latest Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery will ease the jolt between the very dark world of most of my work and the lighter world of Brandy and her mother Vivian. On the other hand, Barb had the idea of really littering this one with murder victims, so we’ll see.

We’re doing an English-style cozy, consciously invoking the likes of MIDSOMER MURDERS and MISS MARPLE with a village in Iowa that plays up its British heritage. Working on these books is always fun, because Barb puts in so much comedy, which inspires me to put in even more.

One thing will make this year less busy than it would have been: Barb and I (and Nate and Abby) won’t be going to San Diego Comic-Con. We’ve gone regularly for over two decades, so this is kind of the end of an era, or anyway an interruption of one. The con has become so big, sprawling and unwieldily, it can be daunting for older fans and pros. It’s also difficult to get into many of the most interesting panels because to do so requires standing in line for a long, long time (in some cases, overnight).

It will probably mean the Scribe Awards (which I have regularly hosted since their inception, given out at the San Diego Comic-Con) will likely be looking for a new home. This I really regret, as co-founder (with my pal Lee Goldberg) of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers, who honor tie-in writers with these awards. The con gave us a nice high profile.

Why are we staying home? Simple – the wretched situation where lodging is concerned. The con throws all of the hotel rooms out there at a specified time, and if you’re not a computer whiz, you don’t stand a chance – everything at all close to the convention center is gone in about sixty seconds, and within five minutes even the bad rooms are taken. Even with Nate at the computer keys, we wound up with a hotel in Mission Valley – far, far away from the con. Well, we’re already far, far away from the con, and we’ll stay there – home, I mean.

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The new Dover edition of STRIP FOR MURDER has inspired this nice write-up.

Here’s a wonderful review of KILL ME, DARLING from the UK.

The paperback edition of COMPLEX 90 inspired this great review.

And here’s a piece on KILL ME, DARLING by someone who hasn’t read it yet…but it’s good!

M.A.C.

Kill Me, Darling—Today!

March 24th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
Kill Me, Darling
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The day this update appears, so will KILL ME, DARLING on the shelves of B & N, BAM! and other brick-and-mortar bastions of bookselling, and of course the on-line forces of Amazon and others will have it available, too.

The response so far has been really gratifying, since this is the first of at least three Hammer novels that will have me fashioning a novel from shorter novel fragments that Mickey Spillane left behind. The previous six novels have all had around 100 pages for me to deal with, and sometimes notes and even roughed-out endings. This time I had around 50 pages, including the first chapter from a completely other tale but similar enough that I could rework it for this one (an earlier take on THE GIRL HUNTERS, with Velda disappearing off to Florida, not Russia) without repeating the first five or six pages that were identical in both manuscripts.

So I was nervous that this one might be perceived differently than the ones that were more heavily Mickey. Thus far, that’s not been the case.

Since this is pub day, I am going to share with you here (rather than just provide a link to) the terrific Bookgasm review of KILL ME, DARLING. Here goes:

Prolific crime author Max Allan Collins continues his role as literary executor and posthumous collaborator for the late Mickey Spillane with KILL ME, DARLING, the first of three intended Mike Hammer novels found among Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts.

As he explains in his brief introduction, Collins noted that Spillane envisioned the novel as a follow-up to KISS ME, DEADLY (1952). So Collins revised the opening chapter and placed the entire narrative in the 1953-54 time frame. And, as has been the case with previous collaborations, Collins does the Mike Hammer creator proud.

It’s been a tough time for PI Mike Hammer. As the novel opens his secretary and true love of his life, Velda, has walked out on him, leaving a note with a terse goodbye and no further explanation. And Hammer is just surfacing from a four-month bender. Then a highly respected old cop from the NYPD Vice Squad turns up murdered. Hammer visits the scene of the murder, but before long is picked up by a squad car and taken to the home of his pal, Captain Pat Chambers.

Chambers tells Hammer that Velda has been seen in Miami, Florida, and reportedly is the moll of gangster and suspected drug runner Nolly Quinn. What’s more, Chambers suspects that Velda’s disappearance is connected with the murdered cop – especially since Velda once worked undercover for the cop before she was introduced to Hammer. Hammer sobers up as quickly as he can and drives to Miami to find Velda and bring her home.

Once in Miami Hammer enlists the help of a veteran local newspaperman and a police detective to get information on Nolly Quinn. But the more Hammer learns about Quinn and his Miami operation, the more he fears that whatever Velda is involved in is way over her head and could cost her life.

The dust jacket promotes the novel as “The Lost Mike Hammer Miami Thriller,” and at first the thought of Hammer, the archetype of the urban tough guy, in the land of sun and beaches seems horribly out of place. But Spillane and Collins know that when the sun sets the streets of Miami can be as mean as any in New York. So it doesn’t take long for Hammer to get tangled up with the criminal bosses running the gambling and whorehouses that keep tourists busy after dark.

Collins’s contributions, although mostly seamless, can be felt mainly in his research of the historical time frame of the novel’s setting. So he takes full advantage of the knowledge of Miami’s reputation as the place where even underworld bosses brought their families on vacation, the tempting strategic location of Cuba for moving contraband, and most notably the specter of the Kefauver Committee senate hearings on organized crime that hang over Miami like a veiled mist.

But make no mistake; this is a Mike Hammer story, so it’s filled with bullets shot from speeding cars, brutal hand-to-hand fights, plot twists and sudden revelations right up to the novels’ final pages, plus plenty of hard-boiled observations and dialogue. Even the attitudes about sex and sexuality are firmly and bluntly within the period. And while Hammer carries a devoted torch for his beloved Velda, he finds the lure of the scantly clad Miami women hard to resist.

Spillane popularized those characteristics we now know as “pulp fiction,” and set the stage for most of the impulsive, tough-talking detectives that followed Mike Hammer in print, movies, and TV. So it’s reassuring to know that his spirit and influence are in the ultra-capable hands of Collins.

KILL ME, DARLING will delight new and long-time Spillane fans, and effectively whets our apatite for the forthcoming collaborations Collins has in the pipeline. —Alan Cranis

A review like that is gratifying any time, but in this case it feels extra sweet.

Strip for Murder

Also, I’d like to announce that Dover Books is bringing out nifty new editions of the first two Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries, leading with the second one, STRIP FOR MURDER. The first, A KILLING IN COMICS, will follow soon. The covers are not by Terry Beatty this time, but all his wonderful interior art remains. Thanks, Terry!

This past week, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller, FATE OF THE UNION, went off to my editor at Thomas & Mercer. Matt Clemens worked on it with me and will receive a cover credit. Matt’s story treatment, developed from our co-plotting, gave me a very solid structure to base the novel on, and we were joined-at-the-hip during the writing of my draft. We both think it’s superior to the first novel (which we – and several hundred thousand readers – also like). No pub date yet.

Very soon the QUARRY TV series for Cinemax starts shooting in New Orleans. Barb and I will probably go to the set in April or early May. My episode is now #6 of eight.

This coming week I will be working on the pilot outline for another potential series based on one of my series. More than that I dare not say.

I am writing this in a St. Louis hotel room (at the Moonrise in the Loop), on a visit to son Nate and his bride Abby, who have moved from a West End apartment to suburban O’Fallon, so that Abby has a shorter work commute. Very cute house where we helped the couple set up Nate’s work desk and a dining room table, both of which we magically got into the back of our Chevy Equinox for delivery. Wonderful seeing them, and our granddog Toaster as well. Nate is working on a video game translation currently. Together we watched several episodes of my favorite new series, THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW.

* * *

Top-notch crime writer Mike Dennis also has nice things to say about KILL ME, DARLING – and Mr. Dennis knows his Mike Hammer.

And here’s a very generous appraisal of my career, focusing on the Nathan Heller short story collections, CHICAGO LIGHTNING and TRIPLE PLAY.

M.A.C.

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