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.

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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.

Road to Pernicious

March 17th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

A while back, I commented on JOHN WICK and how I thought I detected my fingerprints on it. Didn’t bother me, and (unless I was just being typically self-deluded) I even felt a little flattered. It’s nice to move out of the “being-influenced” category and into the “influence” one.

But I had a very different reaction to RUN ALL NIGHT, the Liam Neeson crime drama that co-stars Joel Kinnaman (of the American KILLING), whose presence is what got Barb and me there, since we are both fans of that series and in particular Kinnaman’s work. This is where I would normally give you a review, but I wasn’t able to tell much about the movie, other than the direction was distractingly flashy and that Ed Harris delivered another one of his strange over-acting and under-acting at the same time performances. Neeson was just doing his patented middle-aged-good-guy-who’s-depressed-he’s-been-a-killer-most-of-his-life turns.

Why I can’t discuss this film rationally is because it lifts so outrageously and shamelessly from both the film and graphic novel of ROAD TO PERDITION. There are differences – Kinnamon plays a grown son with a killer father, with whom he’s fallen out because daddy used to kill people…oh, and it’s present day. But almost every major story beat is PERDITION. Neeson is Michael O’Sullivan, Kinnamon is Michael O’Sullivan, Jr. (even named Michael!), Ed Harris is Paul Newman, and the conflict initiates when an innocent kid witnesses a vicious murder by Harris’ homicidal worthless son. The critics haven’t noticed this blatant borrowing (that I know of), but Barb and I picked up on it almost immediately. Maybe ten minutes in, I said to her, “I guess this is kind of a compliment, but it seems wrong that I should have to pay to see this.”

Barb would lean over and point out the parallels: “Now they’re doing the church scene,” “This is Newman calling Jude Law,” “This is Jude Law getting his face messed up so he can appear later ravaged-looking” (which he does – at a cabin on a lake, in the fucking kitchen!).

Some scenes from the graphic novel appear that weren’t in the Sam Mendes film – including one that I wish had been included, where Michael O’Sullivan takes a meeting with the top gangster (here Ed Harris as an amalgam of Looney/Rooney and Frank Nitti) in their stronghold and then shoots his way out.

Much of what I did in ROAD TO PERDITION drew upon novels and books I read as a kid and of course John Woo and LONE WOLF AND CUB (though there’s more Richard Stark in there than anything Japanese). There’s also some GUN CRAZY and BONNIE & CLYDE, because I wanted to merge the classic gangster story with the outlaw saga. My own Quarry was in the mix, and Nolan and Jon, and even MOMMY. But I didn’t lift, not even from myself. I wasn’t lazy. I put together something of my own, or at least I think I did.

I’m not shouting plagiarism, understand. But I am crying shamelessly lazy screenwriting that is an even bigger insult to the audience than it is to me.

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Here’s a write-up that appeared on Mickey Spillane’s birthday a week ago, with a brief review of KILL ME, DARLING.

And if you scroll down to the bottom review here, you’ll find a nice one on KILL ME, DARLING (amusing referred to, at one point, as KILL ME, DEADLY).

M.A.C.

Real Life Intrudes

March 10th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

REAL LIFE INTRUDES

This will be a short update because I am very much in the bunker, working on the second Reeder & Rogers novel, FATE OF THE UNION (I changed the title from STATE OF THE UNION when somebody pointed out there was a Brad Thor novel by that name) (I’ve never read him, is my lame excuse).

The book feels very good, but the work has been exhausting. Matt Clemens, my co­-author, is actually still working on his draft, and I expect the rest of his material by mid-­week or sooner. Matt and I have been on the phone a good deal – not constantly, but frequently – as we consult on the phases each of us is working on. Of all the books we’ve done together – that’s easily approaching two dozen – this one feels particularly collaborative.

Normally Matt would deliver his rough draft (based on our co­-plotting, about two-­thirds the length of what my final draft will be) before I begin writing; but the complications of real life threw both of us curves. Matt got involved driving a good friend to chemotherapy sessions some miles away, later lost that friend, and then his mother­-in­-law passed away. I got sick last year – a bronchial thing – while working on the new Heller. No project of mine is harder than a Heller, and while I never stopped writing, my work days were truncated.

Writers live by deadlines, but deadlines don’t give a damn about illness or family tragedy or really anything approaching real life. This past week, in and around working on FATE OF THE UNION, I have been helping Barb deal with our terrible leaky roof problems due to the suddenly melting snow and ice here in the Midwest. Those of you know how bad my vertigo is will be astounded to learn that I’ve been up on the top roof of our multi-level art deco house with its flat roofs (hence leaks) shoveling snow and chopping up ice like an Eskimo in an old cartoon.

We have severe water damage in several rooms, and even had to move from our bedroom into the guest room. None of this is meant to solicit sympathy. As I’ve said here before, my late friend Paul Thomas always said, “If you want sympathy, it’s between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.” But part of what I’m trying to do in these updates is provide a glimpse into a working writer’s life. And the intrusion of real life into the fantasy we create can cause problems.

I think anyone who likes my work will enjoy FATE OF THE UNION. Some of you, even my most loyal readers, haven’t checked out the first Reeder & Rogers book, SUPREME JUSTICE, because it’s from Amazon, in their Thomas & Mercer line, and isn’t easily found in brick-­and­-mortar bookstores. Its success has been largely as an e­-book. What may surprise you is learning that – excluding various editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and certain movie tie­-ins, like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DICK TRACY – SUPREME JUSTICE is my biggest bestseller.

Like the first novel, FATE OF THE UNION is a political thriller set around fifteen years in the future. It deals with big issues in, I think, an exciting way. SUPREME JUSTICE caught a lot of flack for having a liberal hero (most political thrillers are conservative, I’m told). This time I feel confident I’m being an equal opportunity offender.

M.A.C.

Leonard Nimoy And Me

March 3rd, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

The eccentric and self-aggrandizing mystery writer Michael Avallone liked to show people pictures of himself and Gene Kelly, standing together in a suburban front yard, with the great song-and-dance man’s arm slung around the pulp writer’s shoulder, both men grinning. Donald E. Westlake said to me about this photo, “The only way that could have happened is if Gene Kelly fell out of a plane.”

So the fact that I have a couple of photos of Leonard Nimoy, with me in them (that’s the back of my head in one), doesn’t mean we were pals. I doubt I made much of any impression on him. But he made an impression on me.

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when I was commuting to the University of Iowa in Iowa City from Muscatine (where I still live), Barb and I were in the early days of our marriage. We lived in a little two-room apartment with kitchenette and bath, where I wrote BAIT MONEY while Barb worked at the bank (the one I had Nolan and Jon rob in that novel).

Our first big shared enthusiasm (okay, our second big shared enthusiasm) was STAR TREK, which we began watching during its third season (I was aware of the show but my band the Daybreakers had our regular rehearsal on the night it aired) (no VCRs yet). Shortly after that, STAR TREK reruns began to appear in the late afternoon. I usually got home in time to see an episode.

When my schedule didn’t allow that, I lingered in Iowa City at my pal Mike Lange’s apartment, which he shared with three or four other nerds. Mike and I had been in a vocal quartet that won State every year of high school. He was one of the original sweater-vest-and-briefcase geeks and was very funny, sometimes on purpose. Barb and I called him an “incompetent Spock.” The best way to understand who Mike was is best demonstrated by his asking a waitress, “What is the ETA of a tenderloin?” Years later, Mike would join us for the various STAR TREK movies, invariably on opening night, starting with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, which we stood in the snow for several hours to see.

I suppose Barb and I were Trekkies, but the word wasn’t in wide use yet, at least not in Iowa. We went to one of the first ST conventions, in Detroit, where we met Gene Roddenberry, James Doohan, Majel Barrett (later to appear in my film MOMMY) and various writers from the show; I believe “The Menagerie” in black and white was shown. Around that time, I also somehow got in touch with Walter Koenig, who was a Big Little Book collector; we made some trades, and became friends, meeting up at several comic-book conventions. Very smart, nice guy, and an excellent writer. We’ve stayed in sporadic touch over the years.

We also went to see William Shatner, appearing in “The Seven Year Itch” at Pheasant Run dinner theater in Illinois; he was funny and energetic, as you might expect. This was in the early ‘70s. He signed autographs (including my copy of THE TRANSFORMED MAN) and was friendly but bewildered by the many STAR TREK fans who wanted to discuss a series that had been cancelled five or six years before. He said unequivocally that STAR TREK was dead (I asked him, “What about the rumors of rebirth for the series?” and he said, “More like afterbirth.”) I remain a big Shatner fan.

But of course the STAR TREK character and actor who had the Baby Boomers most in his thrall was Spock/Nimoy. The dignity, the humor, the humanity of that characterization spoke to so many things in my generation, not the least of which (pun intended) a shared alienation. Even more than Shatner, however, Nimoy felt captive to his ST role – the ears played a part in that – and it took him decades to understand the importance of his pop-cultural contribution, and to embrace it.

It needs to be said that the chemistry between Nimoy, Shatner and the great Deforest Kelley was the real engine of the show, thrusters be damned. That stroke-of-luck casting for three well-defined characters is the real reason why we are still looking at and talking about that 79-episode, late-‘60s science-fiction series.

In the ‘70s, Barb and I went to see Nimoy in a number of plays. One was THE FOURPOSTER, at another Illinois dinner theater, a matinee in a huge theater-in-the-round with maybe a dozen of us in attendance. Nimoy and his co-star, whose name I don’t recall, gave their all. I was very impressed. Later we saw Nimoy as a very strong Sherlock Holmes in a big, revamped version of the wheezy Gillette play; this was in a big Chicago theater and co-starred LAUGH-IN’s Alan Sues as Moriarty.

The most memorable Nimoy appearance for us was at a small political rally in the basement of the student union at NIU in DeKalb, Illinois, in October 1972. Nimoy was appearing to encourage young, first-time voters to get out and put anti-war candidate George McGovern in the White House. He gave a warm, smart speech, and we were in or near the first row. While we were McGovern supporters, Barb and I were there for Nimoy, of course. (This event, oddly enough, was just written up by me as a part of QUARRY IN THE BLACK.)

Leonard Nimoy at NIU
Leonard Nimoy speaking at NIU, 1972.

Barb and I were, in those years, very dedicated TREK fans. We still are, but as the fan phenomenon grew sillier and more shrill, we kind of reluctantly faded into adulthood. At the same time, as I said above, opening day for a STAR TREK film was our church (we also still worshiped at the temple of James Bond opening days) (still do). And Nimoy was an actor, and later director, who I continued to follow with admiration.

In the early ‘90s, when Tekno-Comics – by way of my late good friend Marty Greenberg – invited Mickey Spillane and me to create a comic book (MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE DANGER), the various celebrity creators of the various titles in that line were gathered at several events. Leonard Nimoy had created an s-f title, LEONARD NIMOY’S PRIMORDALS, which put me in the same room with him a number of times.

Max, Mickey, Mickey, Leonard, Neil
M.A.C., Mickey Spillane, Mickey Mouse, Leonard Nimoy, Neil Gaiman

At a Disneyworld event, specifically a luncheon, I mentioned that Barb and I had seen him in several plays, including SHERLOCK HOLMES. We spoke about Holmes for a while – Nimoy played him in a short film, as well – and he had a clear love for the character (according to Nicholas Meyer’s STAR TREK: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, Holmes is an ancestor of Spock – and Meyer should know). I found Nimoy reserved but friendly, very Spock-like actually.

Later that same year, at a Griffith Observatory event, he was coming down an aisle with his lovely wife and I was coming up the aisle with my lovely wife. Surprisingly, he remembered me, sticking out his hand for me to shake, and flashed that great smile that is always so shocking coming from Spock. We spoke for just a minute or so, but…well, it was a moment I won’t forget. Maybe I am a Trekkie.

He died at 83. As someone said, that sounds really old, unless you’re a man of 82. I am a man of 66, who will turn 67 on the day this update appears, and 83 sounds less old than it used to. But it’s tough to have a better life, at least in terms of art and career, than Leonard Nimoy. He turned Spock into a cultural icon as well as a character of enormous appeal and power, mostly by underplaying. He appeared in numerous other TV shows and movies, and directed some as well; he was a skillful writer, one of the few poets I ever bought books by, and was a respected fine-arts photographer. Yes, I am going to say it. He lived long and prospered.

Just not long enough.

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Here is an absolutely terrific, starred review of KILL ME, DARLING by Spillane/Collins.

March 15, 2015. KILL ME, DARLING. Spillane, Mickey (Author) and Collins, Max Allan (Author) Mar 2015. 246 p. Titan, hardcover, $22.95. (9781783291380).

It’s the mid-1950s. Four months ago, private eye Mike Hammer’s partner and girlfriend, Velda, left him without any sort of explanation. Mike leapt feet first into a bender, a four-month drunk; when this superb, old-school crime novel opens, he’s addicted to the booze and uninvolved in the world. His best friend, NYPD captain Pat Chambers, tells Mike he had better get his act together because Velda has turned up in Florida, hanging on the arm of a big-time gangster, and Velda’s boss from her undercover-cop days has turned up dead, the victim of a mugging that looks suspiciously like murder. So Mike heads off to the Sunshine State, determined to pull his head out of the bottle and find out why Velda left him—and, just maybe, to pull her out of whatever hole she’s put herself in and bring her back home. This latest collaboration between Hammer’s creator, the late Spillane, and noted crime writer (and frequent Spillane coauthor) Collins is based on an unfinished Spillane manuscript, but it reads seamlessly; in fact, it’s impossible to tell which parts were written by Spillane and which were written by Collins. Yes, it’s a new book, but it feels like something from 60-odd years ago, when Spillane’s prose was young and raw and full of energy. For Mike Hammer’s fans—yes, there are still plenty of them out there—it’s a sure bet. — David Pitt

Ron Fortier, fine writer in his right (righter in his own write?) is among the first to review KILL ME, DARLING.

This review of QUARRY’S CHOICE is favorable but suggests you may need a shower after reading it. Why not? I’m all in favor of cleanliness.

Here’s an interesting if patronizing essay/article on Mickey Spillane.

Here’s a nice mention of QUARRY’S CHOICE from my old pal Chris Mills (he did the great Perfect Crime “Van Cleef” covers for the NOLAN reprints). Beautiful look at the McGinnis cover.

Finally, check out this excellent, darn near in-depth look at MS. TREE.

M.A.C.

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