Quarry’s Latest Hit

June 15th, 2010 by Max Allan Collins

QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE has racked up another nomination, this time for the Barry Award (given via George Easter’s fine magazine Deadly Pleasures). This news popped up all over the internet, on the mystery-oriented sites anyway, but here’s the Deadly Pleasures site’s own coverage with the other nominees and a few comments from editor Easter.

This puts me in an increasingly tough spot – Barb and I had decided not to attend Bouchercon this year, due to both time and financial concerns, but both of these awards (the Barry and the Anthony) are given at the con. So is the Shamus – actually, at an event away from the con but held during it – and if I am lucky enough to snag a Shamus nom for QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE, Barb and I may have to reconsider. On the other hand, there are those who would not consider that novel a P.I. novel (although it actually is, in its twisted way), which could work against its chances for a nomination.

I continue to get great feedback on THE BIG BANG, and one of the coolest reviews yet has appeared at Book Reporter. Check it out.

The Goliath Bone Audio CD Barb and I listened to Stacy Keach’s reading of THE BIG BANG on a roadtrip last week, and I couldn’t have been more tickled. He does an incredible job, bringing out all the wry humor and toughness. If you are a fan of mine and/or Mickey’s, and haven’t checked out Stacy’s readings of THE BIG BANG and THE GOLIATH BONE, you are really, really missing out.

Speaking of THE GOLIATH BONE, a mass market paperback will be out in August from Vanguard. Mike Hammer’s future is tied closely to the success or failure of this edition, so any way you can support it will be appreciated. I know some fans have indicated they prefer to buy Mickey in mass market, because that’s how they’ve always bought the books. (Some collectors like to have editions of equal height to line up nicely on a shelf.)

I’m going to make a few recommendations. If you haven’t seen the excellent Starz comedy PARTY DOWN (just wrapped up its second season), you need to check it out via the recently released DVD of the first season. This great, little-known show has an incredible cast, sports surprising guest stars, and is at least as good as 30 ROCK and THE OFFICE (both of which I like). It’s a work place comedy – caterers in Hollywood, mostly actors forced into a mildly degrading day job – co-created and sometimes written by Rob Thomas, VERONICA MARS creator. Kristen Bell, Veronica herself, appears in several episodes (hilariously), and any number of veterans of that great P.I. show turn up as regulars (Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen) and guest stars (Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni). The great Jane Lynch is in the first ten episodes, and Martin Starr of FREAKS & GEEKS is a regular as a nerd snob. Lots of faces from THE STATE, from which RENO 911 sprang. You should watch from the beginning, though – Barb, Nate and I picked up midway first-season, and it’s just enough of a continuing story that your enjoyment will suffer if you don’t start at the top.

We have enjoyed several recent films: the very funny GET HIM TO THE GREEK, the surprising sleeper s-f thriller SPLICE, and Jackie Chan’s genuinely moving KARATE KID remake. I work at home, and I love movies – actually I love movie popcorn – and we try to get out to a movie once a week, which means I often force myself to go to something that seems only of middling interest. All of these fell into that category, and each one proved much more worthwhile than movies I’d expected to enjoy (and didn’t) like the idiotic ROBIN HOOD, the abysmal ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and the over-stuffed IRON MAN 2.

I want to thank those of you who stopped by to discuss what the title of the JFK assassination Heller might be. Right now it’s ASK NOT. Research proceeds apace, and my biggest job right now is figuring out what – and what not – to read of the perhaps sixty books I’ve assembled. I hope to be writing by August.

In the meantime, “Barbara Allan” has submitted the first chapter and synopsis of ANTIQUES DISPOSAL, and Matt Clemens and I are awaiting editorial reaction to the second Harrow, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Wish us luck, or maybe “break a leg,” since this is after all show business….


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15 Responses to “Quarry’s Latest Hit”

  1. mike doran says:

    Reading your blog and those of other writers, I’m struck by an increasingly recurring theme: how book publishing has turned into an obstacle course even for reasonably established writers such as yourself.

    When I was a kid back in the late ’50s-early 60s, the spinner racks at the drugstore and the wall-racks in bookstores were always well-stocked with all the genres you could want – mysteries, westerns, science fiction, romance. and all the rest. If you found a writer who hit home with you, it was possible to track down all his earlier works; what wasn’t available right then was bound to be reissued sooner or later. You could build up sets of your favorites, and maybe they weren’t matching sets, but so what? A writer (and his characters) could develop a following over time, perhaps spanning several generations (thank God that no one had heard of demographics in those days; what modern-day sales type would believe that a ’60s teenager would want to read a ’30s-’40s vintage detective novel?)

    Unfortunately, as we all know too well, that situation no longer exists.
    The modern publisher wants the “breakthrough” book. Any book that might not appeal to more than a “niche” audience need not apply. The big book chains think the same way: they want the exploitable title, the marquee author, the built-in promotional sizzle. The good genre writer (if he’s lucky) might get his latest on the shelf, where his fans might find it if they look hard enough.Maybe he’ll even pick up a new fan or two – but God help the new fan if the book he likes is #4 in the series; finding the first three could turn into a life’s occupation.

    People our age find it hard to believe (and impossible to understand) that the classic writers we grew up reading are mostly out of print, except through specialty houses who can’t get into big-box bookstores. The internet helps a little, but not all of us have that access.

    Lately I’ve been reading forecasts of “the death of the midlist”. For all our sakes, this had better not happen.

    End of diatribe.

    For the JFK book, put my vote for ASK NOT. Novels like this should always have titles that lend themselves to multiple meanings. (That is what you have in mind, right?)
    What I remember most clearly about JFK’s assassination was that it took place the week before Thanksgiving. I was in 8th grade at the time; nobody explained irony to me until much later.

    Best of luck with any and all awards.
    Till next time at C&S…

  2. Brian_Drake says:

    You could go bonkers doing JFK research, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff is a book in and of itself. I think the best television program I saw on the topic was something the History Channel did, where they revealed, because of the odd sitting position on the Texas governor’s car (where Kennedy’s back seat position was high and to the right of where Connally sat), just how the “magic bullet” did its twists and turns. and they had a rifleman duplicate the shot. For me it was a huge piece of the puzzle, and the program explained that nobody had taken a serious look at the construction of the car and the role it played in the bullet path to explain how the wounds developed as they did. I’m leaning nowadays to the lone gunman theory (and, oh please, let’s not get started on that), but my father is less-so. The one or two times we’ve really discussed the matter, he usually ends the argument with “I was there” (as in “alive at the time”, in Montana) and that’s all she wrote!

  3. dan luft says:

    Wow, the audio book has a great cover.

    I’m one of those guys who likes the rack-sized paperback. I spent most of my childhood with a sci-fi novel shoved in my pocket where my wallet is now.

    And what I really like were the even shorter, Mike Shayne sized paperbacks that I used to buy in the used stores. Whenever I read a shorter Dell book, a Gold Medal with a medallion on the spine, a Daw sci-fi book from the yellow-spine era or an old Mickey Spillane with the yin-yang Signet symbol on the cover, it just feels right. Maybe it just feels like childhood

  4. Thanks, Mike, for the wonderful comment (actually commentary!). All so true. Imagine — I have three more Spillane manuscripts, Mike Hammers!, and I am worried about getting them published…only the bestselling writer of the 20th Century, and a character who ranks with Tarzan, Batman, and James Bond.

    Brian, see if you buy the Lone Gunman theory after you read my book. The magic bullet is a non-issue. The real issues are: Oswald’s connections to the mob, the FBI, the CIA and anti-Castroites; Ruby’s mob connections; and the likelihood, based on the Zapruder film, that JFK got shot from the front, supported by what audio experts now count as five shots. The magic bullet is bullshit on both sides, because bullets can do many a weird dance, depending on what they bump into or not, and the so-called pristine bullet found on a stretcher has a chain of evidence so rusty no court in America would admit it. As you can see, I am deep into this thing. Hard part is staying on track, and not going down the rabbit hole….

    Dan, I love those paperbacks. Love them. Spillane had great covers — the first batch was fantastic, with covers by Meese and others; the second batch was I believe Barye Phillips; and the covers I grew up with (around 1960) were by the great Avati. Phillips did those Shell Scotts, and of course McGinnis did the Mike Shaynes…as well as a little book called (ahem) THE LAST QUARRY…..

    You guys are great to comment. Thanks.

  5. Edmond D. Smith says:


    I agree with your observations about the book industry with the exception of your belief that getting out of print titles is a chore. I think the internet is so ubiquitous at this point that searching up most out of print books is fairly easy. Most of the Heller books can’t be found in your local Barnes and Noble but I’ve gotten many of them online and will get more when I’m through with the ones I have. This is isn’t the same as being able to going out and picking one up on the other side of town, but I’m also not cut off from pursuing my interests.

    And Max, I love those covers, too. In fact I printed up a bunch of them, put them in frames and hung them up in my bathroom, or as I like to call it, the Crime Bathroom. LOL I added in a replica Maltese Falcon, replica pistol, a hanging fedora and other such ephemera and it is quite cool. My wife finds it me utterly mad but a lot of people agree with me about its coolness. The covers are works of art, without question.

  6. Brian_Drake says:

    I cannot wait to see how you weave all that stuff together.

    Five shots????? That’s a new one to me!

  7. mike doran says:

    To Edmond D. Smith:

    I paraphrase Senor Wences: “Easy for you, difficult for me.”

    I don’t have a computer in my home; I’m paycheck-to-paycheck and can’t afford it. I send my screeds out on my office computer, thus limiting my access to business hours Monday thru Friday (allowing of course for those pesky bits of actual office work I have do in any given day). With my Internet mobility thus proscribed, There’s not a whole helluva lot I’m able to accomplish by way of tracking down lost classics.

    Mind you, I ain’t complainin’. Over the past few years I’ve managed to replenish my diminished library quite a bit. The time and place limits are what move it into the chore category.

    And of course the office screen comes in handy for blogs, off-trail reading and YouTube. Few betterways to wrap up the long workday than listening to “Humba Wumba Schokoladeneisverkaufer” von Bill Ramsey. Check that one out if you dare.

    One last note for Good Old Reliable Nathan:
    Remember all those problems I had with The Rap Sheet?
    The IT guys here solved the whole thing.
    Replaced my whole workstation. NOW everything works just dandy.
    *for now*

  8. A History Channel documentary from around 2008 showed an audio expert — who had been asked to evaluate the now ancient audio evidence from the Church committee (which at the time said “four shots,” leading to their conspiracy verdict) — now discerning five shots.

    I’m sure there are other experts who dispute this, but it seemed convincing to me. And with the exception of the UK MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY, History Channel leans toward debunking the conspiracy notions.

    I am struggling to find sources that don’t have an axe to grind. I am interested neither in those who discuss flying saucers and “the government did it” notions to the kind of embarrassingly strident, sarcastic prosecutorial nonsense of Buglosi. I read Posner years ago and felt he was also proving a point. I’m not interested in anybody who has written a book to prove something — that’s bad science. You have to have an open mind. I went into this ready to believe Oswald did it, if that’s where the evidence landed.

    Already I’m leaning toward Oswald as patsy, though. I will admit his demeanor, which I noticed as a 13 year-old kid at the time, struck me as that of a guy thinking, “Shit — I should have seen this coming — I’ve been suckered.” We all know that feeling — and we all know that expression. Look at Oswald — you’ll probably see it.

    Mike — another great post! You remind us that not everybody has the same situation. I’m always running into people who only have computer access at work or at a library.

  9. Edmond D. Smith says:


    Although I do have a home computer, believe me I hear you about living paycheck to paycheck. It is a sad and frustrating thing, for sure.

    Despite your very valid point that not everybody has a computer I think that since studies show that well over half of Americans have home computers (and the percentage is growing), and we were discussing TRENDS in the publishing industry I think my caveat still holds on the macro level. As I stated earlier, I’m pretty much in line with everything else you said.

  10. mike doran says:

    TRENDS in the publishing industry?

    Don’t get me started on that…
    *but you already have*

    I started buying books when I was about 10 years old – paperbacks priced at 25 to 35 cents (this would be about 1960, when the prices started to go up). Really large ones would go for as much as 50 cents (but they had to be those Big Best Sellers to justify that kind of expenditure).
    When I discovered mysteries in high school, I found that I could build a collection of my new favorites, covering all eras and styles, at 35 – 45 – 50 – 60 cents a pop.
    When I got old enough to work for a living, many of the classic writers were still producing new work in hardcover editions, priced new at $3.95 -$4.95 and up (rarely as much as $10).
    As I got older, of course, the prices rose incrementally, never so much that you’d really notice, but looking back did it really take so seemingly brief a time for the quarter Pocket Book to evolve into the $7.99 mass-market pb of today?
    My point may be that people my age (60 in September) were the lucky ones. We could become aficionados on a budget. We could develop a range of taste and interest, made easy by the simple fact of availability. Additionally, it seems to me (or to my memory) that books stayed in print longer back then than they do today. When young Al Collins found a new Gold Medal writer who caught his fancy, he could find other books by the same guy within his reach , both physically and financially.

    But as we all know too well, that’s not the case any more.
    The genre book has become almost as perishable as any other commodity to which the term “shelf life” can apply.
    Unless you luck into an exploitable “franchise”, or you have the means to become a Bestseller manufacturer, – well, if I was starting out just now, I’d probably get discouraged in record time.

    Every time I start one of these I wind up depressing myself even more than my usual level.
    I hereby resolve to be of better cheer next time I send one of these off.
    *barring certain unforeseen events of course*

  11. Brian_Drake says:

    Mike, As somebody in my 30s, I can relate to some of what you say, as I was always able to find whatever books I wanted. Now? Not so much, not even in used bookstores. And the trends in publishing, coupled with the economy, are what pushed me to putting out an ebook on Amazon to try and build an audience so I can show publishers that I’m already making money so why don’t I make money for them, too?

    Max, I’ve had the discussion many times about JFK writers either having an ax to grind or an agenda behind their point of view. Some want Oswald to be the only guilty one because they’re afraid of what a conspiracy suggests; others think it was a conspiracy because how could “one little communist” kill such an important person as simply as he did; it’s the same psychology, I think, that makes people continue to advocate that Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe and Brandon Lee (and others) were murdered or died from circumstances other than accidents, suicides or natural causes because the simple explanation doesn’t measure up to how larger than life those people were (though I’m sure you’ll have an opinion on Ms. Marilyn that we will see shortly). It’s always a fascinating discussion, and I can’t wait to see how you handle the subject.

  12. Brad Schwartz says:

    I’m by no means an expert on the JFK assassination, but I’m also somebody who’ll need to be convinced that Oswald didn’t act alone. Occam’s Razor says that the simplest explanation that fits all the facts is often the best, and I’ve never seen evidence strong enough for me to doubt the lone gunman explanation. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to the possibility of another explanation; I’m just not convinced by any. I agree with you on the fact that everybody seems to want to prove a new pet theory and not really solve the mystery, if there is one, and so I’m inherently skeptical of the various crackpot theories. That’s part of the reason why I’m so looking forward to your book, because I know from experience that I can trust your research instincts and that if anybody can do this right, it’s you. So if you’re going to go in with an open mind, then I will too.

    And let me also say that you get my kudos for tackling this one. Not just the crazy amount of research you’ve got to slog through, but also the fact that people are probably more fanatical about this than they are for Roswell (which was one I think you handled quite well). This, I’m sure, is a whole new ballgame, but it’s definitely something Heller deserves to be a part of.

  13. Doing a Heller, I obviously take a contrary and often conspiratorial outlook, because otherwise there’s no story. Sometimes I feel I’m absolutely right (TRUE DETECTIVE, STOLEN AWAY, BLOOD AND THUNDER), other times probably right (FLYING BLIND, MAJIC MAN, ANGEL IN BLACK), other times maybe right (TRUE CRIME, CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL).

    The thing about the lone gunman theory, in the Occam’s Razor sense, is that it holds up…till you read the material. Then you’re more in the area of the Holmes dictum about whenever you’ve ruled out everything else out, the unlikely remainder is what happened.

    Conspiracies happen all the time. Lincoln ‘s assassination was a conspiracy. Julius C. went down conspiratorially. Watergate was a conspiracy. The notion that only nuts believe in conspiracies isn’t supported by history. What confuses things is — as in the Lindbergh kidnapping — you don’t have one monolithic entity railroading Hauptmann — you just have several groups of (and individual) lazy corrupt public officials making wrong assumptions and playing CYA. In JFK, various groups are covering up, for a variety of selfish reasons, which allowed a conspiracy to get away with it (at least, that’s where I’m at currently).

  14. Brad Schwartz says:

    I hope not only nuts believe in conspiracies, because that would make me a nut. I’m with you on most of the Hellers because, as I said, you really do your homework and never have an axe to grind. My father and I still disagree about Hauptmann’s guilt because he read KIDNAP and I read STOLEN AWAY. But the nuts have cried wolf so many times I try to be skeptical if I can. Then again, who was it that said, “the devil’s best trick is to persuade the world he doesn’t exist?”

    I’ve never seen evidence convincing me of a conspiracy, but you’re right that I’ve also never gone into the issue in depth. There’s so much bad information out there that it’s hard to tell what’s legit and what’s b.s….which is why I’m glad you’re around to dig through that stuff for me. I don’t want to know what evidence you’ve got up your sleeve before I’ve got the book in my hands, but I can’t wait to read it and find out. I suppose I’ve got a skeptical nature, which is why I’m giving you a hard time here, but I try to keep an open mind. Really.

  15. mike doran says:

    Oh-oh. Here he goes again…

    The talk about conspiracies just triggered memories of one of my all-time favorite bad movies, Sunn Classics’ THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY. Maybe you all remember that one too – Bradford Dillman was John Wilkes Booth, John Anderson was Lincoln, Robert Middleton was Secretary Stanton, and among the conspirators were no less than two future U.S. Congressmen. (Guess who they were and win a no-prize).

    For those who didn’t see it, the movie posits that there were two separate conspiracies. The original plot was by the Radical Republicans (as they were then known), who opposed Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction. What they wanted to do was kidnap Lincoln, blame the Confederacy, and prolong – later restart – the war.

    John Wilkes Booth, a Rebel sympathizer, was recruited into this plot, but he didn’t think it went far enough; he wanted to kill not only Lincoln but his entire cabinet as well. Booth broke with the RadRepubs and found others who felt as he did, and they formed the second conspriracy.

    On the big night at Ford’s Theatre, both conspriracies were there to implement their respective plots. Booth got there first, and so Lincoln died. The rest of the film tells of multiple cover-ups (more like cover-your-asses) and a lot of industrial-strength coincidences, leading to The Newly-Revealed Truth on your neighborhood theater screen.

    As I said, a bad movie, shot on the ultra-cheap with what looked like a largely amateur cast. The pros on hand, like Anderson, Middleton, John Dehner, Whit Bissell, and a few others, mostly played it straight. As Booth, Dillman hammed it up mercilessly, but I guess you could say the part called for it.

    My reason for bringing it up here is that there was a paperback tie-in for the movie; not a novelization, but rather a gathering of the research materials on which the screenplay was based. The author – his name was Charles Sellier, if I remember correctly (I lost my copy of the book in a move a while back) – based much of his speculations on the missing pages of Booth’s diary which he claimed to have discovered, which implicated by name many Radical Republicans who were supposedly involved in the original kidnap plot.The book gave the appearance of scholarliness; had the movie had a somewhat bigger budget (unlikely under the Sunn Classic banner), it might have a bigger splash than it did. (I still have the VHS, though.)

    Now I’m also remembering EXECUTIVE ACTION, the Mark Lane-Dalton Trumbo version of the JFK shooting, with a bunch of fictionalized Texas oil tycoons deciding to kill Kennedy in order to prolong Vietnam. (Still have this tape too – what can I tell you, I
    I’m a sucker for bad sermon movies) Also bad, but Robert Ryan’s portrayal of a soft-spoken, utterly reasonable racist has stayed with me all these years.

    None of which will prevent me from checking out your take on it all, when the time comes. Unlike everybody else who’s gotten into this over the years, you’ve never been an agendoid, so it should at least be fresh (in several senses of that word).

    Okay, enough from me for this thread. See you whenever.