You Say Hello, I Say Bye Bye

May 22nd, 2012 by Max Allan Collins

The mass market paperback of the latest Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, is out today, with a cover I much prefer over the hardcover edition’s. I also made a few corrections to the text, so completists may wish to double dip to get the final version.

Speaking of covers, here is the revised cover of the next Heller, TARGET LANCER. The version on Amazon has yellow lettering that I found nauseating, and my editor went to bat for me and got this big improvement.

Bye Bye Baby
Target Lancer

Something happened yesterday that was not a big deal but demonstrates the odd position I find myself in at times. A guy called at 8:30 Sunday morning, leaving a message that I should call him – a stranger. Now maybe 8:30 Sunday morning is late for you. For us, it’s early, very damn early (while we live in Iowa, we are not farmers), particularly when I get in at 3 a.m. after a band job. In addition, the ringing phone woke my wife, who does not always have the gentle disposition you might imagine.

Fifteen minutes later, he called again – 8:45 a.m., finding us up and awake (thanks to him). He was calling Sunday morning because he was writing a book about the Irish in Iowa and thought I would like to help him. He was not in particular a fan, although he was familiar with ROAD TO PERDITION (which takes place in Illinois, not Iowa). I tried not to be rude – he seemed friendly and good-natured – but I told him his project was not in my wheelhouse, but that I could give him one useful piece of advice: don’t call strangers at 8:30 Sunday morning.

Writers have a lot of trouble with this kind of thing. Most of us don’t have unlisted numbers, because we want to be accessible as freelancers. A controversial essay has bounced around the net by a successful screenwriter who says (I’m quoting from memory here), “No, I will not read you f**king screenplay. I will also not ask you to clean my f**king house, or wash my f**king car.” Professional scribes are always having people – seldom anyone close to them – expect them to read manuscripts and help them on their way to a successful career.

And it gets awkward. I often have reviewers with blogs ask for blurbs for books they’ve written. This reeks, not so vaguely, as of tit for tat. They’ve given me good reviews, now I’m expected to do likewise for them. It’s harder when a fan, particularly one you’ve corresponded with or know from frequent book signings, wants you to read a manuscript or a self-published book. I get it – they want my approval, on one level, and on another they, too, have a vague sense of having supported me, so I should support them.

When I decline – or worse, say yes, and the book goes on a pile of things I intend to get to, but never do – I feel guilty. I was once a fan who approached Don Westlake, after all – although in fairness, I don’t recall ever asking him to read my stuff (although my first agent, knowing Don and I were friendly, did). And I should note that by the time Mickey Spillane and I became friends, I was about a decade into my career.

For me the greater problem is time – I am reading research all of the time. I am working on my own fiction all of the time. And I avoid reading fiction while I’m writing it, because I don’t want to be stylistically influenced. What little recreational reading I did is, frankly, in the bathroom. I recently finished Rick Harrison’s excellent book on his show “Pawn Stars” (don’t remember the title). I read something else light before that, but I don’t remember what.

Further complicating this is that I am frequently asked to blurb books by other authors. Often directly or through editors, sometimes my own editors, who I don’t want to alienate. And I am put in a position of having to ask other writers to blurb me, a spot editors put writers in constantly. So this makes me a hypocrite and, possibly justifiably, a rude jerk, if I say no.

On the other hand, if you are interested in cleaning my house or washing my car, let me know.

* * *

The cyber tour for LADY, GO DIE! seems to have wrapped up, and the fruits of my labors are blossoming all over the web.

Here’s a fun write-up by Jedidiah Ayres who picks his top five M.A.C. projects.

And here’s a well-done interview with me, about my continuing the Spillane legacy.

The interviewer above takes an in-depth look at the Spillane films here, and follows with a nice review of LADY, GO DIE! (although like a lot of critics who like the book, he seems ashamed of himself).

I was asked to pick my top ten films noir by Film School Rejects. I expected lots of heat (big heat) on my picks, but so far my choices have not been unduly attacked.

This very good interview/article appeared in the Oklahoman and got picked up all over the place.

Here’s an excellent LADY, GO DIE! review at Comic Attack.

Another UK response to LADY, GO DIE! is a tad condescending, but on the whole smart and positive.

A really nice review here, though the comments show what Mickey remains up against.

Here’s a brief, basically very nice review of TRIPLE PLAY. But it demonstrates how odd internet blog reviews can be. The reviewer complains that the language is “dated” (before admitting it’s appropriate to the time frame of the tales) and then claims these stories lack suspense because they are about some of the major crimes of the 20th Century – arguably, the Lipstick Killer is a well-known crime, but the other two are obscure.

M.A.C.

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7 Responses to “You Say Hello, I Say Bye Bye”

  1. Aaron Hilton says:

    Sorry to read about the total stranger calling you up for help on their writing, Max. That’s just insulting and wrong to put it lightly. I know this because for my day job I work in an alarm monitoring station for the biggest grocery store chain in the U.S. and when I have to call a manager-a stranger whom I’ve never met-at home about an alarm problem, it’s the suckiest part of the job. I also understand how uncomfortable it can be when an unproven writer tries to solicit for blurbs or reviews for their book from professionals like yourself. When I go to a reading or signing I make it a point not to even bring up that I’m a writer. Too many amateurs out there like the schmuck that phoned you make it awkward. For instance, my caring and loving wife told an author at an event once that I was a writer and asked whether or not I’d mentioned my work. I downplayed it quick and told the author ‘Yes, I’m a writer, but that isn’t what I’m here for. Tonight is about your new book, and I’m not one of those fans that show up to ask if you’ll read my script or drop my name to your agent.’ The author responded, ‘It doesn’t have to be like that,’ in a kind tone. I know this is a lengthy reply, but I wanted to share a positive example of how an unpublished writer needs to respect a published writer’s knowledge and privacy.

    I’m looking forward to reading Lady, Go Die! So much in fact I’m using it for incentive. I’m not picking it up until the last thirty pages of the novella I’m working on are finished. Here’s to your continuing success and thanks for your storytelling. I find it inspiring.

  2. I didn’t mean to whine (not that anyone but me has raised that as an issue) and really only wanted to explain the positions writers are in…not to propose any solution or a way to handle it. Incidentally, that same guy called on Monday, cheerful and upbeat and wholly ignorant about the writing game (he wanted to know, among other things, who he could show his longhand manuscript to). I had terrible trouble getting rid of him, and it does put me in the position of either being rude/curt or having my time wasted.

    I was a fan who wanted to be a writer, so I get it. But I used to be the exception. Now the exception among fans is somebody who doesn’t want to be a writer — who is just a fan or collector. That strikes me as a bad sign, an indication that the fan base is narrowing.

    Most infuriating, and this is largely local people, are those who don’t read me and aren’t fans, but know I’m a professional writer and that they have access to me, and expect my help. At least buy my effin books first!

  3. Aaron Hilton says:

    It’s infuriating on several levels. When you’re a writer trying to break into the industry, you’re encounters and time with professional writers are overshadowed by fans and collectors squeeling like pigs to increase their merchandise value for EBay.

  4. I have to say that mystery fans are almost always great to deal with. At Bouchercon, they are fun, nice, respectful, all the good words. Sometimes booksellers come with a stack of books, but that to me is positive, and the con limits the number they can have signed on one trip thru the line. I have similar experiences at mystery bookstores.

    Comics fans can sometimes be rude, but it’s fairly rare. That fandom has changed a great deal, mostly positive.

  5. Aaron Hilton says:

    That’s encouraging to know. The events at the tiny mystery bookstore in my hometown are always intimate and pleasant. If the author writes comics too there’s never any condescension about signing graphic novels at an event for prose. I won’t go back to the mystery bookstore in Seattle. Their employees were snarky when I didn’t buy my copies in-store to get signed, even though I explained to them that a few of the titles I brought would not be in their inventory. And Comic-Con. Good grief. I went to the Con once to support my friends getting married. I was completely unprepared for how crowded it was. How do you survive at these events, Max?

  6. Gerard Saylor says:

    As an outsider the 8:30 AM phone call story makes me laugh. I once called another Iowa writer – not in the morning – to ask if he had any novels coming out soon. I also wanted to ask him for a phone interview – which he granted – so I hopefully did not come off as pushy or creepy.

    Reading that you have little time for recreational reading makes me cringe. That’s a big sacrifice for work.

    Are you still writing tie-ins? Lee Goldberg wrote that once he finishes his MONK contract he will not do any more.

  7. jhz1963 says:

    Hi Max! Any chance we’ll see the Nate Heller/George Reeves mystery? If it comes to pass, please don’t have Nate get it on with Noel Neill :)

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