Heart-Felt Pt. 5

February 2nd, 2016 by Max Allan Collins
Quarry's Cut

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. The day this is posted I will be getting an out-patient procedure that will determine whether I will finally get my heart surgery, which if so, will likely (pause while I laugh hysterically) be next week. I never dreamed that I would be so eager to get an operation like this, but this has been going on since last June.

I will continue to keep you posted, and either Nate or I will provide updates here and on Facebook (our weekly ones will continue to be posted each Tuesday morning).

My apologies for this unintentional cliffhanger serial – I’m usually not quite this corny – but I continue to appreciate the support from my readers, friends and acquaintances. It’s been a great boost to the spirits.

Perhaps in honor of my inevitable surgery, the Quarry reprint out this month is QUARRY’S CUT. Also coming out this month are mass-market paperbacks of ANTIQUES SWAP and KILL ME, DARLING.

* * *

A piece of good news for longtime readers of my stuff: my complete novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION the movie is due to be published along with reprints of ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. You may recall that my PERDITION novelization was reduced to a pale shadow of itself back in the day – a 40,000 word condensation of the 70,000-word novel is what was foisted upon the public (it even made the New York Times best-seller list). As a great man once said, “Pfui.” But we appear to be on the verge of vindication.

In addition, new editions of BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING are in the works, to be published under my own name for the first time (R.I.P. Patrick Culhane).

All five of these books will be published by Brash Books, which is in part the brainchild of my buddy Lee Goldberg.

I now have in hand all five Hard Case Crime reprints of the first five QUARRY novels, each with a stunning Robert McGinnis cover. Or I do, assuming this isn’t an hallucination, which is kind of what it feels like. This latest publication of QUARRY continues to stir up reviews of a novel that was first published in 1976 – that’s forty years ago – and written a few years before that.

For example, there’s a splashy QUARRY review, featuring the McGinnis cover, in the second issue of the amazingly slick and colorful (and expensive) UK magazine, CRIME SCENE. On your newsstands now. Nice write-up, but one that includes the now-usual complaint about Quarry’s non-PC gender attitudes – again, a forty-year old book is accused of being somewhat “dated.” No one seems to mind that he’s an assassin. I guess some things just never get old.

Check out this QUARRY review from Col’s Criminal Library.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

QUARRY’S DEAL is given a fine review at Everything Noir.

Finally, here are a couple of splendid reviews from Bill Ott at Booklist that you may have missed:

QUARRY.
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 271 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298839).

Originally published in 1976 as The Broker, this first novel in Collins’ series starring the Vietnam-vet-turned-hit-man finds Quarry five years into his career as an assassin for hire, getting his assignments from a middleman called the Broker. Trained to kill in Vietnam, Quarry finds he quite likes the work and has no trouble distancing himself emotionally from what he does. But he doesn’t like complications, and when the Broker adds a wrinkle involving drugs to Quarry’s latest job, the hit man protests. So begins the severing of the Quarry-Broker connection, a relationship that we learn much more about in succeeding novels in the series.

Collins didn’t know Quarry would lead to a series when he was writing it, but he set the table perfectly, even so. Quarry was the first hit-man antihero in crime fiction, and, unlike most of his successors, he remains the most “pure,” in the sense that he isn’t somehow a good guy who only kills those who need killing (Dexter, et al.); no, Quarry kills for money and tells you so. Yes, he has his own sense of justice and will sometimes kill (pro bono) those he feels are on the wrong side of his very personal scales of right and wrong, but he’s still a killer more than a knight errant. And, yes, Collins makes us root for Quarry, or he draws us so completely into Quarry’s world that rooting for anybody becomes beside the point. That, after all, is the real trick to creating a compelling antihero.

Collins also pairs his antihero with a writing style that is perfect for the man and the premise: mainly straightforward, no-nonsense declarative sentences, more Hammett than Chandler, more Spillane than Hammett. Killers shouldn’t be fancy talkers, especially those who work the drab mean streets of places like the Quad Cities, spanning the Mississippi and connecting Illinois and Iowa, where the action in Quarry takes place. And, yet, just to keep us off balance, Collins will occasionally show some Chandlerian chops, as when he describes a cluster of trees “bent over green and graceful in the less than gentle afternoon breeze, like oversize, out-of-shape ballet dancers trying in vain to touch distant toes.” Even hit men can wax poetic now and again.

Although Collins originally saw Quarry as a stand-alone, he did leave his protagonist in a major pickle at the end of the book. The implication seemed to be that Quarry was doomed—a fitting end for a one-off noir—but when an editor asked the author to write more about the character, Collins was happy to find a way to get Quarry out of his pickle. When Hard Case finishes its reissuing of the first five Quarries, there will be a total of 11 pickle jars on the shelf (the original five plus the six Collins has written since he brought back the series in 2006)—and plenty of room for more.

QUARRY’S LIST
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 219 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298853).

His relationship with the man known only as the Broker irretrievably broken in Quarry, the first in the series, Collins’ hit-man-for-hire hopes to develop a new business plan. Without the Broker to act as middleman, setting up clients for Quarry and others to kill, it could prove difficult to find marks, but Quarry has grown disenchanted with working through someone else and wants to go another way. But before that can happen, he must deal with the other hit men he knows will be coming for him, as various lethal entrepreneurs vie for the prize of taking over the Broker’s business. Quarry is ready when they come and dispatches a pair of killers with little trouble, but that’s only the beginning. Tracking back to find the man who wants him killed, he falls hard for a blonde in a swimming pool, only to discover that she’s the Broker’s wife and, further, that the man he is hunting is setting up a hit on Mrs. Broker. A plan is forming in Quarry’s mind: the killers in the Broker’s employ will all contract with other brokers eventually and go back to work. If Quarry can find the Broker’s list of killers, he can start his own business by tracking them to their next jobs and hiring himself out to their would-be victims: pay me, and I’ll kill the guy hired to kill you. It’s an ingenious scheme, but there’s lots of preparatory killing to do first.

Hats off to Collins: he needed a scheme to keep his series going, and he found a doozy. As Quarry puts it, “I’d still be killing people, but for the most part it would just be other hit men, like myself, and that seemed a step up somehow.” Originally published in 1976 as The Broker’s Wife, Quarry’s List is being reissued by Hard Case Crime along with the four other early Quarry novels (Collins took a 30-year hiatus from the series before bringing Quarry back in 2006). This one shows Collins developing the storytelling skills that eventually will define his long career as a genre writer. His plots are tricky but never overly so; like the late, great Ross Thomas, he knows how to build a maze but not lose his readers in it before showing them a way out. So it is here, as Quarry must juggle various pieces on a moving chessboard: the list, the widow, the killers, the plan. Fortunately for genre fans, Quarry (and Collins) are up to the challenge.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt Pt. 4

January 26th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

I apologize. I really do. But there’s been another postponement of the surgery. I was supposed to go in for the operation on Jan. 26 (the day this is posted), but now I have to take another pre-op test that day. With some luck, the surgery will be rescheduled yet this week – maybe Thursday, but that’s a guess.

Barb had warned me not to post about my pending surgery until after-the-fact. She is always right. Still, it’s nice to find out people prefer you to be alive. I’ll see what I can do.

Since I am in total limbo as I write this, I can only say that I – or possibly Nate – will be providing brief updates here and on Facebook, as we know more.

Many thanks to all of you for your support and patience.

* * *

Throughout these fun and games, I have continued working – not at my usual pace, but working. As I may have said, I’ve done two TV scripts as well as a Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. I received advance but finished copies of that over the weekend, and it’s a handsome book. What’s more, I like the story within the handsome covers.

In addition, I’ve done various short projects, including a Sherlock Holmes story with Matt Clemens, one of two we were asked to do (the other one I may be working on this week, depending on how things go down). A few of you may recall that Matt and I, a few years ago, collaborated on short stories to accompany and supplement various puzzles, including some famous licenses, like CSI and its spin-offs, THE MENTALIST and NCIS. The Holmes stories will be attached to jigsaw puzzles, as well.

I’ve always wanted to do a Holmes story – well, a Holmes novel, really – so this has been fun. On the other hand, I did not have time to re-read any Doyle, which I would certainly have done had this been a novel project. As usual, Matt and I plotted both tales together, and he has written rough drafts. As indicated, I have completed a final draft of one, entitled “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook.”

One of the other small projects I’ve done in recent months is a Mike Hammer story for THE STRAND, “A Dangerous Cat.” I believe it will be in the next issue.

That story completes eight that represent short but useful Hammer fragments from Mickey Spillane’s file of unfinished stories and novels. One of these became “So Long, Chief,” which was Edgar-nominated and Shamus-winning. With all eight completed, I have a book, the first ever Mike Hammer short story collection (Mickey wrote very few short Hammer tales). I have assembled these in roughly chronological order, and written an introduction discussing how the stories came to be. Otto Penzler, who published THE GOLIATH BONE, THE BIG BANG and KISS HER GOODBYE when he was at Morrow, is going to publish the collection later this year, as A LONG TIME DEAD: A MIKE HAMMER CASEBOOK from his Mysterious Press.

The book will have a very limited print run of perhaps 1000 trade paperback copies before going into POD status (and will obviously be available as an e-book). In addition – pay attention, fanatics – a limited hardcover edition of only 100 copies (signed by me and Jane Spillane) will also be available. This will quickly become the hardest-to-find hardcover first-edition in the Spillane canon.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt Pt. 3

January 19th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

I know, I know – those of you kind enough to be following the saga of my heart surgery must be saying, “Enough already! Get it over with!”

That’s roughly my own sentiment, as Barb and I have been dealing with this since late May 2015, and have been told seemingly countless times that the surgery was two weeks away, or even days away. I would estimate at least half a dozen postponements.

On the other hand, the doctors have always had good reasons for doing so, and I certainly want to undergo this procedure at the optimal moment. This postponement, as I mentioned on Facebook, has to do with the need for me to recuperate more fully from the initial carotid surgery. I am doing much better and feel confident that I’ll be ready for the scheduled Jan. 26 (a week from the day I’m posting this) surgery.

Recovery time is hard to judge, but I won’t be able to attend the Iowa Democratic caucus, although Barb probably will. We are, not that it matters, Hillary supporters. Bernie is a one-note candidate (mean evil nasty billionaires) and a self-avowed socialist (and the Republicans are salivating to have that to go after in a Democratic nominee). Either way, I am almost convinced we will have Donald Trump as a President (it’s a lock if Bernie gets the nomination). If Bernie thinks Americans hate billionaires, he’s just not paying attention – many of them love money-bags Trump, and just look at the recent Powerball mania. We don’t hate billionaires. We want to be one!

My apologies for the mini-political rant. But whichever, whatever political views you hold, the more rabid among you will understand my frustration at being benched on the night of the big game.

I continue to be grateful to my friends and readers (again, lots of crossover there) for the show of support and even love. Barb had discouraged me from posting here and at Facebook about my medical follies, having been through all of these postponements and fearing more. She was, not surprisingly, right about the postponements. But I don’t mind the support and love one little bit. It’s encouraging. Those of you who want to read more books by me are in line with my desire to write them for you.

If all goes as planned, a week from now – when the next update is posted – I will be in the operating room, getting fixed (not in the veterinarian way, one would hope). I may write another update prior to that, but as things stand, my son Nate has four updates I’ve provided, each looking at a different upcoming book. I may add to some of these, depending on how my recovery goes. The first week will be in the hospital and I’ll definitely be out of pocket, and I’m told the second (first at home) will be rough, and I’ll likely be even more goofed up than usual, on pain meds. At some point I may be able to report in and add to these written-in-advance updates.

And in the meantime – particularly the day and day after the surgery – Nate will post updates here and on Facebook.

Good thoughts and vibes, prayers and positivity, all appreciated. Speaking for the entire gang – Nate Heller, Quarry, Brandi and Vivian Borne, Mike Hammer, Dick Tracy, Mommy and Jessica Ann, Ms. Tree, Nolan, Mallory, Eliot Ness, Jack and Maggie Starr, Joe Reeder and Patti Rogers, and all the rest – we love the lot of you.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt Pt. 2

January 12th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

Last week I anticipated going in for my heart surgery on Tuesday, but time is being allowed for me to recuperate from my carotid surgery first. I may be going in this coming Thursday (Jan. 14), but won’t know till Wednesday. If it doesn’t happen then, it will likely be Jan. 25.

Since we’ve spent many months having this surgery face one postponement after another, Barb warned me not to do a posting like the one I did last week. She said I didn’t want to sound like the Little Boy Who Cried Surgery. I had wanted to keep my situation to just family and a small handful of friends, until the surgery was literally under way, not wanting to put people in a position where they had to comment or show support or feel concerned.

In retrospect, while Barb was (typically) right, I am not sorry I posted last week, because I found myself – recuperating somewhat uncomfortably at home – comforted and complimented and touched by the messages here and on Facebook (and some e-mail ones, too). It’s nice to know that people prefer you alive.

Among the joys was hearing from long-out-touch friends going back decades, and from folks – particularly in the writing game – who know me only in passing but who nonetheless showed support and indicated the mystery genre would be a lesser place without me. I happen to agree with that, but it would be ungracious of me to say, wouldn’t it? Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not entirely delusional.

I will keep you nice people posted here and on Facebook, and if I’m not able to – the first several days after the surgery are tough, I’m told – my son Nate will. You may have already guessed that Barb and Nate have been incredible in this situation. I think when you’re faced with something like this, which is (let’s face it) a matter of life or death, you realize – at least if you’re lucky like me – that there’s a wonderful, boring little existence waiting for you that you do not want to let go of.

My thanks and love to all of you who took time to send support. Those who didn’t can make it up by buying books.

* * *

Here’s a delightful review of QUARRY – described as a “classic.” I begin to suspect that the word “classic” might be a synonym for “f**king old.”

The QUARRY TV series – not yet scheduled by Cinemax, with summer 2016 looking more and more likely – has its own Wikipedia entry.

Here’s a very positive and, I think, intelligent take on my BATMAN issues, as reprinted in BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES.

The great Jeff Pierce at Killer Covers shows off the cover of QUARRY IN THE BLACK here.

Finally, here’s a really smart review of Mickey’s 10th Mike Hammer novel, THE BODY LOVERS.

M.A.C.

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