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.

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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.

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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.

The Legend of Caleb York

April 28th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
The Legend of Caleb York
Hardcover:

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Audio MP3 CD:

Audio CD:

Audible:

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK is available as a hardcover right now. I can wait while you order it. (Collins humming themes from “Maverick” followed by “Rawhide,” concluding with a rousing rendition of the title song of “The Gunfight at O.K. Corral”). (You have to admit the song would not be as cool if it were “The Gunfight in the Vacant Lot Between Two Buildings Adjacent to the O.K. Corral.” Not only do we sometimes have to print the legend, sometimes we have to sing it.)

Okay, you’re back? Just for your info, there’s an audio book, too, which I’ll report on once I’ve listened to it, and a large print edition for people with eyesight even worse than mine.

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s, or mine, or both, you will surely want to grab this. In the late 1950s, Mickey wrote a screenplay, “The Saga of Cali York,” for his pal John Wayne that never got produced. It was one of three unproduced screenplays waiting for me in the Spillane files that Mickey had his wife Jane turn over to me. I based the novel on Mickey’s screenplay, which I thought was very good – it’s a traditional 1950s western in the vein of a really top-notch Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae or Audie Murphy flick.

What separates “York” from other westerns is the Spillane-style toughness and the explicit violence. Wayne presumably did not produce the film because his company Batjac got in financial hot water due to the way-over-budget production of THE ALAMO. But it’s also possible the over-the-top violence, at times anticipating Sam Peckinpah, made it a problematic project. It’s somewhat sexually steamy for the 1950s, too.

Writing the novel was tricky. I am right now in the early days of writing a sequel, utilizing material from Mickey’s notes and various drafts of the “York” script, and I spend as much time on Google doing research – and utilizing two shelves of my office library cart with books on the Old West – as I do writing.

Just the same, nobody should expect the level of historical accuracy that I bring to the Nathan Heller (or other historical crime) novels of mine. While I try to drop in tidbits of authenticity, Mickey was clearly operating in a movie/TV world, specifically of the ‘50s. Think of the Warner Bros. westerns of that period, or movies by Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Budd Boetticher. That’s the world.

So I don’t know how western fans will react. And I’m not sure how Heller fans will, either. BLACK HATS showed me taking the Heller approach to Wyatt Earp, but the Spillane westerns I’m doing for Kensington (there will be at least three) are definitely exploring the myth. Exploring it violently, but exploring it.

Not many reviews yet, but two really nice ones popped up last week, including one by modern-day pulpster, Ron Fortier.

And here’s a good one, very smart I think, from the Kindle Taproom.

Speaking of Spillane, I was thrilled to get another Mike Hammer review from the UK’s great Mike Carlson. He really digs KILL ME, DARLING.

Another Hammer review popped up for a title released a few years back, THE BIG BANG.

And, finally, out of nowhere came this write-up about the DICK TRACY comic strip collection, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE.

M.A.C.

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