The Little Death Recording in Chicago, Trash ‘n’ Treasures

July 15th, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

This Monday (July 13), at a recording studio in Chicago, my novel for audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: THE LITTLE DEATH, was recorded with Stacy Keach and a gifted cast, including Second City/SNL star Tim Kazurinsky. The cast did great and producer/director Carl Amari was generous enough to allow me to sit in and give occasional direction myself. My pal Mike Cornelison (ELIOT NESS himself) came along from Des Moines to play Captain Pat Chambers of Homicide.

Max and Stacy Keach and Carl Amari
Max with Stacy Keach and Carl Amari

Max and Tim Kazurinsky
Max with Tim Kazurinsky

Mike Cornelison with Stacy Keach
Mike Cornelison and Stacy Keach

This three-hour, full-cast audio novel will be released by Blackstone Audio in October, and I have to say I’m really, really excited about it. Hearing Stacy read THE GOLIATH BONE was a thrill, but to be in the studio with him reading my lines (with Tim, Mike and other wonderful Chicago actors) made the thirteen year-old Mike Hammer fan in me very happy indeed.

“Barbara Allan,” which is to say Barb and I, are pleased to announce that we have won the following:

The Romantic Times 2008 Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery

Here is how the Romantic Times editors describe the honor:

“The Toby Bromberg Award is named in honor of RT’s longtime mystery reviewer, who passed away in 2002. To honor Toby Bromberg’s memory and to celebrate her enthusiasm and love for authors and the mystery genre, we have created an annual award to be given in her name.

“This year we are proud to announce the seventh recipient of the Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery Novel, Barbara Allan aka Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, for ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET, published by Kensington.”

Barb and I are thrilled to receive this award, the first such honor for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (although not our first nomination), and are particularly happy that the book and series were singled out for this particular award. The humor aspect of those books — often commented on by EQMM reviewer Jon Breen, who has expressed a suspicion that we are spoofing the cozy genre in the Brandy Borne and Mother mysteries — is second only in our collective mind to character.

We would be the first to admit that the mystery itself is of a secondary concern to us. We often comment on the fact that the series we love most — Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels — is one whose entries we can re-visit again and again, rarely remembering “who did it,” but having so much fun with Archie and his boss that we don’t care. In fact, we like it, because we can enjoy the stories again and again.

Antques Bizarre

This is not to say we don’t care about the mystery. Just that it’s not our major concern, although we’ve tried to work on that side of things, and the forthcoming ANTIQUES BIZARRE (next March, as usual from Kensington) is probably the best mystery we’ve done so far.

ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET will be out in paperback in November, with a terrific new cover. In the spirit of humor, we’ve been lobbying for more comic-oriented artwork and Kensington has really come through for us, as you can see here.

I know some of my fans — the hard-bitten Nate Heller and Quarry bunch — avoid these novels. I often have male fans tell me their wives love the books. Fine. But be secure enough in your masculinity to read these, because humor plays a big part in most of my work, and these novels are the funniest stuff I (help) turn out.

Whether we’re spoofing the genre of not, well…let me fill you in on how we came to do this series. Barb and I had done two standalone novels together. The first, REGENERATION, was a minor paperback original bestseller; the second, BOMBSHELL, our Marilyn Monroe Meets Nikita Khrushchev thriller, wound up at Five Star, where it was one of that small company’s best sellers…but we’d had higher hopes. We thought it was time to find a series to do together.

Antques Bizarre

Michaela Hamilton, who had been my first Nate Heller editor at NAL, had moved to Kensington Books. We were chatting on the phone about how nice it would be to work together again, but she said, “I’m doing cozies…that’s not exactly your cup of cyanide.” (Cozy editors talk that way.) (Actually, they don’t. I made that up.) Anyway, I said Barb and I had been wanting to do a series together, and that we were big Christie fans (although Christie isn’t really that cozy — those are nasty, violent books) and would love to take a swing at the genre.

We wrote a proposal from my notion of doing a Red Hat Society mystery, with an elderly eccentric detective and her forty-something widowed daughter. Michaela wrote back and said we didn’t understand her market. She needed a young-ish female protagonist, although a sidekick older gal was fine, as well as the following: a cute pet, a memorable, even exotic setting and an overall gimmick (i.e., crossword puzzles, recipes, etc.).

As a writing exercise (since I generally don’t believe in writing to market), we took a shot. We made the young protagonist a Prozac-addled divorcee of around thirty who had screwed up her marriage in the big city and went running home to Mama. We made Mama a bipolar diva of local theater who made Auntie Mame look low-key. For the cute pet, we (not caring for cats) gave our girls a diabetic and blind dog (based on a pet of ours we’d recently lost). For the town, the “exotic” setting was just our hometown, changing Muscatine to “Serenity” (after the TV series), making it an “antiquing” town (which to some degree it was). For our gimmick, we had antiques, but didn’t go the big ticket route, Sotheby’s and so on, rather having our girls be flea market, yard sale and even dumpster-diving bottom feeders. We gave our sample chapters outrageous puns for titles, and put on a supposedly helpful (but mostly just funny) tips for collecting antiques.

When we were finished, we really liked what we had (two chapters and a proposal), but thought Michaela would roll her eyes at our blatantly tongue-in-cheek, even subversive approach. We figured we had something Kensington would turn down, but that we might be able to market elsewhere. Instead, we got the best acceptance letter ever — one word in an e-mail: “More.”

We are working on the fifth novel now — ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF. As for how we can collaborate and stay married, I’ll save that for a later update.


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3 Responses to “The Little Death Recording in Chicago, Trash ‘n’ Treasures”

  1. jward says:

    Im really looking forward to listening to these as i So enjoyed the 1st series of Mike Hammer audio’s that was out last year. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t keep hold of the original writer (MJ Elliott) as that would have made for good progression, but I know Max will have done the series proud by keeping it all in the same vein. Fingers crossed they can manage to get Elliott back for some other project as I do adore his witty writing so on the Seattle based “Jim French Productions” shows. (it makes me feel like being back home listening to it on the web !)

    Good Show Max !!!!! (keep up the goos work)

  2. jward says:

    Hmmm yes that should have said “Good work” not “goos” ! my fingers are not what they used to be is my only defense.


  3. […] As you may recall, I got to go to Chicago and watch Stacy Keach and a gifted cast (including Second City veteran Tim Kazurinsky) bring my script to audio life. This is the second volume of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER, but I didn’t write the first (which was two short stories as opposed to one novel). I based it on material Mickey had prepared in the fifties for both a radio version and a television one; I had adapted this during Mickey’s lifetime into the short story “The Night I Died.” And about ten years ago, I had developed it as a screenplay for Mickey and his longtime partner, Jay Bernstein, for a TV or possible theatrical movie. But a film never happened. […]