Killing Town In Stores Now

April 17th, 2018 by Nathan Collins

Hardcover:
E-Book:

Killing Town, the lost first Mike Hammer novel, is in stores now!

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Mike Hammer steals a ride on a train upstate to Killington. But he is welcomed by a nasty surprise: he is accused by police of raping and murdering a young woman near the freight yards. Roughed up by the cops and facing a murder charge, Hammer’s future looks bleak. Only a beautiful blonde, Melba Charles—daughter of powerful Senator Charles—might possibly save him… if he pays the price.

But why would Melba help save a man she has never met? And, more to the point, where is the real murderer?

From a brittle, brown manuscript, the first Mike Hammer novel—begun by Mickey Spillane in the mid-forties and completed seventy years later by Max Allan Collins—is a gift to mystery fans on the occasion of the noir master’s 100th birthday.

Put Some Damn Clothes On!

April 17th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Below is an excerpt from a review of The Bloody Spur from the Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine. It’s what you’d call a mixed review, on the patronizing side, and is mostly a plot summary, which I’ve skipped. But it raises some issues I’ve been wanting to talk about.

“There’s an overdose of descriptions of setting and clothing, and characters are stereotypical. But it’s enjoyable in a conventional-Western way, and the murder mystery has some intriguing twists.”

Let me get the stereotypical charge out of the way first. Yes, the characters established in Mickey’s 1950s screenplay are stereotypical – the stranger in town who becomes sheriff, a beautiful dance hall girl, a blind rancher, a lovely tomboy, and a cantankerous coot who becomes a deputy. There’s also a local doctor. What Mickey did, and what I have continued to try to do, is make these types specific and sometimes surprising in their characterizations, and to bring a gritty, even shocking amount of Spillane-style violence to the party as well as a mystery/crime element.

I don’t mean to respond to the reviewer, just to make clear where Mickey and I are coming from.

What I want to discuss is the charge that I do too much description of setting and clothing. I have always done a good deal of that, but it’s only in recent years that the occasional reviewer (particularly the Amazon variety) has bitched about it. The same is true of the sexual element, but that doesn’t apply too much to the Caleb York novels, so I’ll save that for a future discussion.

From my point of view, too many authors send their characters running around in books stark naked, and I don’t mean in sex scenes. I view clothing as a tool of characterization. The clothing a character wears tells us who this person is, and how these characters perceive themselves, and wish to be perceived.

Setting is the same. A description of a house, interior or exterior, tells us who lives there – a bedroom, particularly, is revealing of character.

Any reader who thinks I can on too much about clothing or setting is free to skip or scan. No harm, no foul.

In an historical novel – which westerns like the Caleb York books are by definition – setting is particularly important. It is also a big part of my 20th Century-set mysteries. If I take Nate Heller to a Hooverville or a strip club, you can bet I’ll give you chapter and verse about those settings. If Heller – in a 1960s-era story, when he’s become prosperous – is something of a clothes horse, that speaks of character, of who is and what he’s become. He’s rather shallow in that regard, frankly – part of his characterization.

In a Caleb York story, if I take my hero into an apothecary or a general store, you can bet I will describe the damn thing, and in some detail. York isn’t walking into a Walgreen’s or a Safeway, after all. Part of this is taking what is a mythic western – having to do with movies and ‘50s/’60s TV, more than the reality of the west – and giving it some verisimilitude. By keeping the underpinnings real, making the setting authentic, I can get away with the melodrama.

And what I do is melodrama. Nobody uses that word anymore, at least not correctly. But much of what I have done as a writer for over forty years is present a realistic surface on which to present my somewhat over-the-top stories.

Again, feel free to skim or skip passages that bore you. Elmore Leonard, great writer that he was, pretty much left you on your own. What he did worked for him (but his “rules” of writing are worthwhile only if you want to be Elmore Leonard when you grow up, and we already have one of those).

I am well aware that I am involved in a collaborative process with the reader. It amuses me when two readers argue over whether a book is good or not, as if they shared the same experience. Obviously they didn’t. Sometimes the play or movie mounted in a reader’s mind is a big-budget, beautifully cast affair; other readers are capable only of amateur night productions.

Leonard and others may wish to cede their stories to the whims and abilities of their readers. I know to some extent that is inevitable – because no two readers will have the same experience reading fiction. But I believe in controlling the narrative to the fullest extent that I can. I consider a chief responsibility of my job is doing my job – to do the work for you, where setting and clothing are concerned and much more.

I understand and accept that I’m blessed and sometimes burdened with readers who are my inevitable collaborators. But I want them to come as close to experiencing the movie I saw in my head, and put down on paper for them, as I possibly can.

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This past Saturday, Crusin’ played the first gig of the season (defined as: not winter, though we were somewhat double-crossed by April sleet and snow). We performed for the Wilton, Iowa, High School Alumni banquet, a very well-attended event that had been going since five p.m. when we went on stage around nine-thirty. We held a good share of the audience for two sets (we took no break) and debuted a lot of new material…well, old material, although a new original was included.


L to R: M.A.C., Joe McClean, Steve Kundel, Bill Anson and Brian Van Winkle.

It went well, and our old friend Joe McClean, a Wilton area boy, joined us on several numbers. Joe was the heart and soul of the great Midwestern band the XL’s, who are also in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Our new guitar player, Bill Anson, is doing a fine job, as are longtime drummer Steve Kundel and our bassist Brian Van Winkle, the “new guy” who has been with us seven years.

It felt great playing again. Loading afterward, not so much. And two days later I still am in anybody-get-the-name-of-that-truck mode.


M.A.C., Joe McClean.
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My Scarface and the Untouchable co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, has written an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that has just appeared. Though I didn’t co-write it, I did some friendly editing and the piece beautifully discusses the somewhat facile comparisons being made of Trump as Capone and Comey/Mueller as Eliot Ness.

Wild Dog is back on Arrow this year. I haven’t watched the previous year yet.

Here’s a great review by Ron Fortier of the complete version of the Road to Perdition novel published by Brash Books.

Here’s where you can get signed copies of my books, including Killing Town and The Last Stand.

Road to Perdition the film is number three on this list of the best twelve Jude Law movies.

Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to the book giveaway posted last week. The books went quickly, and my apologies to those of you who missed out. Another will follow before too very long!

M.A.C.

Book Giveaway and C2E2

April 10th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

I have four copies each of The Last Stand, Killing Town, The Bloody Spur and advance bound galley proofs of Antiques Wanted.

When these sixteen are gone, they are gone. [They’re gone! Thank you!]

E-mail me at REDACTED and list in order of preference which of these you’d like. If there’s one you don’t want, list only those you do. I need you to include your snail mail address – and it’s USA addresses only. I ask only that you post a review on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, or your own blog.

Today we are recuperating from Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). The con itself was great. We had some issues with the hotel (Marriott Marquis), which despite its proximity to the event itself at McCormick Place, required endless walking of skywalks to get to the sprawling facility. The very modern hotel did not include hot water in the shower. And at a con, brother is a shower a necessity.

Not surprisingly, a con like this requires more security than ever, pretty much the same as an airport. Signs of the times (literal signs) were posted everywhere informing attendees that “COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.” It shows how schitzy our culture is – young women in the MeToo era walking around near naked, representing themselves as characters mostly created by men at their most objectifying.

I would say perhaps as many as 25% of attendees were in costume, some changing two or three times a day. Fun and sometimes disturbing stuff, and always a roadblock in aisles as the momentarily famous pause to pose for photographs.

From my standpoint – Barb was not appearing, just being my support staff – it was a fine con. Both panels I did – one on horror, the other on Chicago crime – were extremely well-attended. The horror one was aided by the presence of James S. Murray, of the Impractical Jokers TV show (he’s written a horror novel, The Awakened). Very nice guy.

My signings, particularly the Saturday one, were well-attended. I met a lot of readers and had some fun conversations. Many of them brought books from home and the material was wide-ranging – I signed things I’d forgotten about and even a few I’d never seen before. A veteran told me of buying my books on a military base overseas – some of the books I signed for him had the PX’s mark. Cool and humbling.

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Here’s a nice review of The Last Stand, including comments on “A Bullet for Satisfaction.”

The rest of this update will be photos from the con, courtesy of Barbara Collins.

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Chicago Crime Panel, l to r, Crimespree editor Jon Jordan, M.A.C., David L. Carlson, Landis Blair (writer and artist of The Hunting Accident)


M.A.C. at Anderson Bookshop Booth


M.A.C. signing.


James Murray, M.A.C.

Chicago Comic Expo Starring Me

April 3rd, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Well, maybe not starring…

But I will be appearing at C2E2 on this coming Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be doing one panel each day (details below) and a signing will follow each. I am told copies of the hardcover Killing Town will be available, almost two weeks ahead of the official on sale date.

The Comic & Entertainment Expo is a 3-day exhibition and conference of comic and pop culture with exhibits, talks and cosplay competitions.
Dates: Apr 6, 2018 – Apr 8, 2018
Location: McCormick Place – South Building, Chicago, IL

Here are the panels:

Horror in Fiction and Non-Fiction
April 07, 2018, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Room S403
Whether it’s a haunting, a monster, or a mobster, horror is just one of those genres that crosses borders, from fiction to non-fiction. What does it take to make a story “horrific,” and why do we love it so much? Join authors Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), and James S. Murray (Awakened) as they discuss their love of things that go bump in the night and real-life scary stories.

Windy City Crime: Stories About The Chicago Gangland
April 08, 2018, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Room S405a
The Chicago gangland of the 1920’s and 30’s remains legendary to this day, romanticized in films, tv shows, and popular songs. The true original gangsters are larger than life figures, icons of both history and popular culture. Join Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), David Carlson and Landis Blair (The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry) for a discussion of one of some of Chicago’s most notorious gangsters.

There will be a later Chicago signing, for Scarface and the Untouchable, with both (A.) Brad Schwartz and (The) Max Allan Collins Sunday August 19 2 PM at Centuries and Sleuths. Okay, Mike Doran?

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This will be a somewhat short update because I am up to my eyeballs (see photo) with the galley proofs of Scarface and the Untouchable. All 700-some pages of it. I have never had to spend this much time on a read-through, tweak-session before.

But because you are loyal enough (or bored enough or foolish enough) to read these updates every week, I will speak about some TV shows and a movie that Barb and I liked – no negative, walk-out stuff today.

The Death of Stalin is a very funny, very dark sort of satire with an amazing cast including Steve Buscemi (as Nikita Khrushchev!) and Jeffrey Tambor (thankfully not recast and digitally replaced or something). Everybody else is a top-flight British actor, and one of the delights is that nobody does a Russian accent – it’s all very unabashed bloody British, which makes it both funnier and, oddly, more real.

Though its history is compressed, the film is fairly faithful to the events, which had they been portrayed without an overtly Monty Python-esque quality (Michael Palin has a key role, wonderful) and even a Mel Brooks-ian feel, might have been too harrowing and grim to be tolerated.

The Death of Stalin is proof that worthwhile movies are still out there; but TV seems a more reliable place to find something, well, good.

Barb and I recently binged on the first two seasons of Stranger Things – what an excellent series. Millie Bobbie Brown’s amazing performance as Eleven, a psychic child who breaks free from the lab of her CIA-type captors, is one of those immediately iconic performances/characters that rank with Mr. Spock and the Mulder/Scully combo. This is in a cast that includes many standouts, notably Winona Ryder and David Harbour, as well as the quartet of friends into Dungeon and Dragons and video games, circa 1983-1984: Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp. The Duffer Brothers are the creators and main writers as well as occasional directors. Shawn Levy also directs episodes, and very well.

There’s a lot of talk about the ‘80s references in Stranger Things, almost too much. I have an affection for those years, despite (not because of) Ronald Reagan, and mostly for New Wave music. But I don’t have a nostalgia for the ‘80s because I hadn’t been growing up then, as I had been in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s. To me John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and Stephen King are just contemporary talents, not touchstones of my youth.

The good news is that Stranger Things is not just a wallow in references. The most overt reference is an interesting one – Stephen King’s It. Why? Because the Duffer Brothers (think the Coens if they had been Monster Kids) went after the job of scripting the 2017 It film and got turned down. Stranger Things (which co-stars one of It’s young players, Finn Wolfhard) is essentially their variation on the job they were denied.

It’s also decidedly better than It.

If you haven’t checked the series out, you should. Stranger Things is on our list with Fargo as top-tier current (or anytime) TV.

Also on the list is season five of Endeavour, the Morse prequel which has been good from the start but really shines in this latest go-round. It hasn’t aired on American PBS yet, but presumably it will. (We watched it on PAL DVD from the UK.) Each ninety-minute episode of this fine mystery series is better than most theatrical movies.

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Finally an objective view of me – turns out I’m a legend! Check this out.

And here’s a short but sweet piece on Mickey.

M.A.C.

aug 19, 2003 visitors since August 19, 2003.