On The Quarry Set — And A Giveaway!

May 26th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

The handful of pictures here will give you an idea of how great a time Barb and I had on the QUARRY set in New Orleans.

We spent one full day on set and another half day. Those days are long – they work twelve hours – but that was not a surprise. The indies I’ve worked on ran the same kind of schedule. The set-up was reminiscent of ROAD TO PERDITION – giant warehouse space (PERDITION actually used an armory) turned into a studio. There were a trio of these massive adjacent warehouses, one a studio, the other a workshop, the last an enormous prop room with stuff from various decades that you might see in 1972 (Coke machines, lamps, phones, phone booths, TVs, record players, kitchen tables, etc.).

I spent minimal but pleasant time with director Greg Yaitanes, who was a little busy (he’s directing all eight episodes as one big movie). Barb and I watched in one of several “video villages” as half a dozen scenes were shot. Several of the actors – notably Logan Marshall-Green and Nikki Amuka-Bird – recognized Barb and me from the pilot shoot in Nashville in the summer of 2013, and greeted us warmly. Both of these actors are terrific as pros and people.


Logan Marshall-Green, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Max Allan Collins

I’m sure Quarry fans want to know how I feel about Logan in the part – well, he’s spot on. He gets the dark humor, he has screen presence to burn and conveys the deadly side of our man effortlessly. What will be disconcerting to the more literal-minded is Quarry’s Southern drawl. And in fact, the entire switch of settings to the south from the midwest will trouble some. But it lends great flavor and mood to the proceedings.

I can’t talk about the specifics of the season – that, as they used to say on THE PRISONER, would be telling – but it’s fair to say that this is an expanded, in-depth look at Quarry’s origin.

I also spent about half an hour talking to Damon Herriman, who plays Buddy, Quarry’s gay hitman partner. In the novels, Buddy is called Boyd, but the name was changed because of the well-known Boyd character in the great JUSTIFIED. Here’s the irony – Damon was, as they say, a fan favorite on that very series, playing the sublimely hapless Dewey Crowe. As I gushed over how great he was as Dewey Crowe (one of those names that require both halves when spoken), Damon at one point went into some Dewey Crowe speechifyin’. Startling to have this articulate Australian suddenly burst into Kentucky patois. And so very cool to sit there and hear. A sweet man capable of depicting bitter darkness.


Max Allan Collins, Damon Herriman

Matching the time I spent with these terrific actors (and I met several others, each a delight) was the lengthy session I had with the two writers who believed in bringing Quarry to TV, Graham Gordy and Michael Fuller. We mostly just made each other laugh, but also discussed possibilities for a second QUARRY season, should that come to pass. In that case, I would again be writing one of the eight scripts. I shared my thoughts on where a second season might go.

For a source writer, the most impressive thing about a set visit is seeing the size of a production like this. It’s mindboggling to think that something I cooked up in college in 1972, just trying to out-crook Don Westlake’s third-person thief with my own first-person hitman, could lead over forty years later to this mammoth assemblage of humans and machines, an army battling to entertain.

Still, as with my PERDITION set visit, I am always reassured that the process is the same as on my little indies. Some writers are ill at ease and bored on a film set.

I’m home.

* * *

It’s a tad late to be doing this, but we have come up with four Advanced Reading Copies of ANTIQUES SWAP and four more of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. They are available first-come-first-served by writing to me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Ask for one or the other, and indicate if you’d settle for either. IMPORTANT: include your mailing address. And sorry, but US residents only please.

As I say, this is free, and like everything that’s free, there’s a price: a review at Amazon and/or other similar sites, including your own web site. No strings.

* * *

Here’s an interesting review of QUARRY’S CHOICE.

And another here.

Finally, Just a Guy That Likes to Read likes to read both Mike Hammer (COMPLEX 90) and Quarry (THE LAST QUARRY).

M.A.C.

Way Down Yonder

May 19th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

This will be a brief update, and something of a teaser for next week.

As I write this on Sunday evening, May 17, Barb and I are about to visit the set of the Cinemax production of QUARRY, tomorrow. We’ll be visiting the set again on Tuesday. I hope to have some photos, but HBO is pretty careful on that front, so we’ll see. But I will report next time.

Interest in the TV series is being stoked by the efforts of Hard Case Crime, who are bringing out new editions (late this year) of the first five QUARRY novels, versions that will now be definitive, correcting problems that have existed since the very first ‘80s printings. When the books had to be offered by the sales force before photographs from the show were available for cover art, I suggested to editor Charles Ardai that we approach the great Bob McGinnis to provide paintings. See those paintings, and read more, right here.

As many of you know, we have lost another great, and another star of Hard Case Crime’s wonderful retro look: Glen Orbik. I never met Glen, but we communicated about various ideas for what became his magnificent cover of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Read about more about this awful loss here.

* * *

I am happy to report that I have completed the second book in the Caleb York saga, THE BIG SHOWDOWN, and was able to do revisions and corrections before leaving for New Orleans. I hate going on a trip, even a brief one, with only a chapter or two left to write on a novel. Really, I dislike traveling at all during the writing of a novel.

Barb and I arrived in New Orleans last night (Saturday), and have had a wonderful time here thus far, with the exception of a bizarre experience at a movie theater near the French Quarter. It’s a very upscale set-up with the dubious idea of serving meals and all sorts of cocktails and fancy this and that during the film. It’s a terrible notion even worse in execution – people are ordering food, and wait staff are taking orders in front of the screen, and instead of elegance, a kind of “everybody’s at home eating TV dinners” vibe is created, meaning even dumber, more intrusive reactions from the audience. It was very expensive, but we walked out anyway after about forty-five minutes, because the theater stank. Literally stank. A woman sitting next to me was eating pork sliders, even as she childishly reacted to every button the movie was pushing (“No!” “Oh no!”). The smell wafting off of her was only slightly worse than the ridiculously bad movie, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD. I’d never seen the original movie, much less read the Thomas Hardy novel (I’m more an Andy Hardy man), but Barb had seen the Julie Christie version, on HBO, though had come in a few minutes late and didn’t know the title. When she realized this sub-Harlequin novel romance was what we were subjecting ourselves to (not to mention the hummus and chips that were being eaten next to her), she began sadistically reporting to me every five minutes what ludicrous plot twist was coming next (“He’s going to get left at the altar,” “The sheep are going to get sick”). Incidentally, for all of you who like hummus, please understand that hummus was only invented to make tofu seem reasonable.

Next: set report!

M.A.C.

Nate Heller’s A Big Deal

May 12th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
Triple Play

The latest Kindle “Big Deal” sale runs through May 28. Of the 500 books selected, an impressive number are Nathan Heller titles:

True Detective
True Crime
The Million-Dollar Wound
Neon Mirage
Stolen Away
Carnal Hours
Blood and Thunder
Damned in Paradise
Flying Blind
Majic Man
Angel in Black
Chicago Confidential
Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories
Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook

If you’ve never read a Nathan Heller novel, then…well, first of all, how the hell did you wind up here? But let’s say you drifted in looking for some other Max Allan Collins. I guess I’d suggest starting with the first written/published novel, TRUE DETECTIVE, although chronologically the later STOLEN AWAY and DAMNED IN PARADISE come before it. Another possibility for newbies (my God, what a horrible word) would be the short story collection, CHICAGO LIGHTNING, or the novella one, TRIPLE PLAY. The latter has the added value of the lovely Barbara Collins appearing on the cover.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

I continue work on THE BIG SHOWDOWN. I should wrap up the novel this week, although the process of re-reading, checking for continuity goofs, doing minor rewriting, and assembling the manuscript itself will take me into next week.

If this turns into a full-blown series – I’ve committed to three – the new book may be more indicative of where subsequent ones will go. LEGEND is something of a crime novel set in western terms; but SHOWDOWN is a mystery, with the protagonist operating as a detective. I don’t know how my editor will react, but my feeling is that with Spillane and Collins as the byline, readers should expect a genre-cross between hard-shooting western and noir mystery.

Response to THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK has been very good. Check out Tom McNulty’s fine review here.

And here’s another great one. Wow, you people are smart.

This may be the biggest LEGEND rave yet.

Of course, CALEB YORK isn’t the only Spillane/Collins title out there right now. There’s KILL ME, DARLING…which Mystery Maven says is the best of the Mike Hammer series!

Here’s some unexpected coverage for THE LUSITANIA MURDERS.

Finally, here’s some Cinemax News including QUARRY.

M.A.C.

Antiques Swap — Collect it!

May 5th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
Antiques Swap
Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

The latest entry in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (usually referred to as the ANTIQUES series) hit the bookstores last week. Barb and I (the co-authors, as “Barbara Allan”) spotted ANTIQUES SWAP nicely displayed in the Davenport Barnes and Noble.

This one begins at a swap meet but actually touches upon other, more risque meanings of “swap,” in a plotline we feared might be frowned upon by our editor, though we got away it. Cozies are supposed to be…cozy. The murders are supposed to be…nice. But for all the humor we put into the books – and we put a lot in – we try not to take homicide too lightly.

We also realize that our audience may include some readers – possibly you – who don’t regularly read cozy mysteries. After all, the great reviewer Jon Breen has called us a “subversive” take on the form, which he meant as a compliment. When we created the series, and were asked to include certain elements (exotic setting, cute pet, gimmick premise), we did so in an overtly tongue-in-cheek way that we thought would get us rejected.

Obviously we weren’t.

By the way, neither of us love the term “cozy,” and I suspect a lot of mystery writers feel that way. But the term seems to be the reigning one, much as “noir” has supplanted “hardboiled.” Cozy mysteries are more properly called “traditional.”

Ours are definitely in a sub-genre of comic mysteries. We don’t, however, consider ourselves to be spoofing the form or doing satire. Just as we take the murders in the stories seriously, we take our two main characters seriously and follow them through problems and challenges in their lives. Vivian Borne, Serenity’s theatrical diva, may seem larger-than-life, but I’ve met her at various times in various forms. You probably have, too.

Of everything I work on, the ANTIQUES series is the one that maintains the most constant presence. That’s largely because Barb spends almost all of her writing time on it. Of late we’ve been doing a novel and a novella every year, and that keeps her in production all but a few months in the summer. So we’re discussing the stories pretty much year-round.

Also, the nature of the book business is that once you’ve “finished” a book, you’ve just begun – a copy-edited manuscript will roll in unannounced for you to check through (and we both have to do that), and then galley proofs (which we both have to deal with). These never arrive at a good time, and always are due yesterday.

Barb and I had barely finished next year’s ANTIQUES FATE when the upcoming novella, ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, arrived in galley proof form. She’s gone through it already. I haven’t yet.

In the meantime, I continue work on THE BIG SHOWDOWN, the sequel to the current THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. I admit to feeling something of an imposter, as I have read precious few western novels in my time. On the other hand, I love movie westerns and have a huge collection of them on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ve said here many times that MAVERICK was my favorite show in childhood (and still ranks high) and that the episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” is the greatest hour of episodic television ever…an opinion that hasn’t changed.

While working on CALEB, I have subjected Barb to a festival of western movies…but “subjected” really isn’t right, because loves western movies, too. Right now we’re in the midst of a Joel McCrea festival. I rank McCrea in the upper reaches – in the top five western stars (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy and Gary Cooper being the others). Regular readers of mine know I am an Italian western fan, since Nolan was largely based on Lee Van Cleef’s screen persona in those films.

What I find really difficult in the CALEB YORK novels is balancing the myth with the real west. Despite my reputation for historical accuracy with the Nathan Heller novels, I am much more interested in the mythic west than the real thing.

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK seems to be a little tough to find in bookstores, so I recommend you order it online. It’s already in a second printing.

Incidentally, while writing ANTIQUES FATE – which touches upon the British school of mystery writer – we spent our evenings in a festival of UK crime fare, leaning heavily on MIDSOMER MURDERS and the new Blu-rays of the great Joan Hickson as MISS MARPLE.

* * *

This terrific ANTIQUES SWAP review just came in from one of our favorite writers (and favorite people), Bill Crider.

My writer pal Ed Gorman used this review of the Dover reprint of STRIP FOR MURDER at his terrific blog.

The QUARRY series gets great play in this article about Memphis trying to lure the series back there (it’s shooting in New Orleans currently with limited Memphis footage scheduled to be shot later).

A recurring cast member has been added to the QUARRY series.

Here’s another of those articles about movies you didn’t know were based on comics, with ROAD TO PERDITION included. But either I am getting very old or the world is getting very young when such movies include ANNIE and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (!!!).

And finally, of all things, here’s a review of the audio of DEAD STREET, the first Spillane novel I completed (though I took only limited credit for my polish and concluding chapters).

M.A.C.

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