The Weird Ways of the Net

May 8th, 2012 by Max Allan Collins

For yet another week, I spent much of my time on a sort of internet tour for LADY, GO DIE! (out this week). Later in this update, I will provide links to various pieces I’ve written and interviews I’ve given. How odd it is, to be doing most of my promo on the web – not in book stores or even on TV or radio.

On the other hand, I should note that Barb and I have a book signing this coming Saturday, May 12, at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, Iowa, from 1 p.m. to 3. This is the first signing for both ANTIQUES DISPOSAL and LADY, GO DIE! It’s at North Park Mall, 320 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport, IA 52806.

But isn’t the internet weird? Sometimes wonderfully so. For decades, I wondered and even searched for Ennis Willie, author of the Sand novels that had (along with Richard Stark’s Parker series) inspired me as a teenage writer, in particular Nolan, the series Perfect Crime has recently reprinted in trade paperback. Then one day, out of the blue, I hear from Ennis Willie himself – neither a penname nor an African American (both had been speculated) – in my e-mail box. Since then, he was published two collections of his “Sand shockers” and I have written introductions to both.

Now I’m about to share with you an e-mail and my response. It comes from Ennis Willie’s 1960s editor at Merit Books. When I was 15 I wrote this gentleman, asking him if he’d look at my first novel, without telling him my age (the book was called The Gray Flannel Thugs). He said he’d look at the book. Meanwhile, forty-eight years later, this turned up in my e-mail box:

Max -

As an old man now, I was thinking about fiction I had enjoyed and Ennis Willie popped into my head. Wondered if he had written anything lately. Picked up “A Sand Shocker” from Amazon. Was surprised to see my name in it at least four times. Also, your editor used the short stories I had Willie do for Rascal. He never wrote any before I came onboard.

If you are interested, I might be able to fill you in on some of the Camerarts details. Although not there from the beginning, I did spend four years there.

Lastly, I was/am a big Dark Angel fan. Liked very much what you did on Before the Dawn. You’ve come a long way, baby.

Cheers,

Tony Licata

This was my somewhat astonished response:

Dear Tony –

How amazing to hear from you.

You have the honor of being the only editor who rejected me who I look back on fondly and with gratitude.

As you may recall, I had my parents drive me to your office in Chicago to deliver my first novel manuscript in person. I was, I believe, 15.

You wrote me a very long, helpful, encouraging editorial letter, and when I tried a novelette for Rascal, you responded with a similarly long and helpful letter. You didn’t have to do that. Hard to know just how much you aided me in my career at that very important juncture.

I wound up writing four novels in high school, and then the novel I wrote in community college (Mourn the Living) — very much a Sand imitation — got me into the undergrad Writers Workshop at Iowa City. Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, was my instructor and mentor. The next two books I wrote sold before I got out of grad school, and that community college novel eventually got published, as well.

How odd and sweetly strange it is that you read one of my DARK ANGEL novels as a reader and not an editor. Somehow that’s the greatest compliment of all. I’d love to send a few other books of mine, not based on anybody else’s concepts, to show you how really far I’ve come.

Thank you for getting in touch with me, and thank you for the time you spent with an enthusiastic kid from Iowa, who was writing sex scenes long before he ever had any. Of course, I never did shoot anybody, either, and I’m still writing about that….

Warmly,

Max

* * *

I wrote a very in-depth piece about the process of putting LADY, GO DIE! and the other “lost” Hammer novels together for Lit Reactor.

Here’s a well-conducted interview about LADY, GO DIE! at Slacker Heroes.

The Slacker Heroes interviewer also did this nifty review of the book.

Another nice interview with lots of comics images can be found at CBR’s fun site.

MTV.com asked me to rate my top ten crime comics.

Flavorwire wanted a beginner’s guide to crime fiction, and I chose these ten books.

Finally, Criminal Element presented an excerpt from LADY, GO DIE!, but you won’t need to read that, will you? Since you’re going to buy the book this week….

M.A.C.

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