O’Collins Obects

August 14th, 2012 by Max Allan Collins

An Irish crime writer, whose work I’m not familiar with, has been hired to write a new Phillip Marlowe novel. It got tons of play, particularly on the Net, and my name was mentioned (with Robert B. Parker’s) in a short list of mystery writers who have previously written Marlowe material. Parker, of course, finished POODLE SPRINGS and later wrote a sequel to THE BIG SLEEP. I didn’t care for either of Parker’s efforts – they surprisingly seem half-hearted, from such an avowed Chandler fan – although a fun TV movie was made out of SPRINGS. My contribution was in the Phillip Marlowe centennial collection (a story that subsequently was rewritten as a Heller and can be found in CHICAGO LIGHTNING as “Perfect Crime”).

As the guy who is continuing the Mike Hammer books, I am probably hypocritical and way out of line in suggesting that this new Marlowe novel seems like a terrible idea. I will defend myself by pointing out that my situation is different, even unique – I was asked by Mickey himself to complete unfinished works in his files. And the truth is, I would have taken the Marlowe gig if offered to me, because Chandler is on my really, really short list (the one that includes Spillane, Hammett and Cain). What rankles – and I am aware of Chandler’s British upbringing – is that the choice wasn’t of an American writer. I’m not the only American typewriter-pounder who would have done this job well – I can think of a dozen off the top of my head, from Bob Crais and Loren Estleman to John Lutz and Ed Gorman. Bob Randisi wrote a hell of a good Marlowe story in the centennial collection. Maybe one of the big boys like Michael Connelly or Dennis Lahane or Jeff Deaver…anyway, there are plenty of better choices than somebody from the UK. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.

Some years ago (probably at least twenty), I was approached to continue the Lew Archer books. I turned the job down (pshaw, to those of you who think I never say no to a gig) because (a) I have never been a Ross Macdonald fan, and (b) it was a suicide mission. Now I would have taken on any number of other suicide missions (I would still do a Sam Spade novel if anybody offered it), but I felt somebody more attuned to Archer ought to do it. As it turns out, nobody did.

By the way, I am not a Macdonald detractor. I read him when I was a teenager, devouring private eye novels. I liked his books. I just didn’t love them. He seemed to keep writing the same book over and over, and his writing seemed forced and, well, arch. He reached for the similes and metaphors, where they mostly flowed right out of Chandler. But he was serious about what he did and the books were readable, the people more real than most in the genre, and he provided a more overtly literary alternative to Mickey Spillane and Hammer that invited a whole other crowd of writers into the game. So props to him. I just didn’t want to step into his shoes.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll try to read the Irish guy’s book. Probably not. Somebody from South America or Spain or someplace wrote one that I couldn’t get past page one on. But it’s interesting how much attention it’s attracted.

* * *

Ron Fortier has given a good, lively review to TRIPLE PLAY. Check it out.

Unexpectedly, Craig Clarke – long a Heller supporter – has written a fine, insightful review of STOLEN AWAY, perhaps sparked by the new Amazon Encore edition.

And my BATMAN stuff keeps attracting attention, often from people who still want to tar-and-feather me (who was it that said, “Get a life?”), but now and then something surprisingly positive shows up, like this piece.

There seems to be an audio book collecting the Fangoria Dreadtime Stories, many of which are written by me. Here’s a mostly good review here that scolds me for including gratuitous sex. Who, me?

A British web site published a mostly negative but interesting review of Mickey’s early non-Mike Hammer novel, THE LONG WAIT. I waded in disagreeing, and a very interesting, lively bunch of comments followed. Worth looking at.


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2 Responses to “O’Collins Obects”

  1. Kim Frazier says:

    It’s disappointing that Chandler’s estate didn’t choose an American author to write the newest Philip Marlowe novel, there’s a few authors (yourself included) that I think could do Marlowe justice and keep in tune with the feel of the original series. I admit I wasn’t impressed with Robert B. Parker’s version of Marlowe, the two novels seemed lackluster and bland, lacking the vivid descriptive passages and sharply-drawn characters that made Chandler’s work such a wonderful read. (Nothing against Parker, of course, as I quite liked his Spenser novels, particularly the early ones.) It’s like when Margaret Mitchell’s estate hired Alexandra Ripley to write the sequel to “Gone With The Wind”…the result was a total disaster because Ripley removed every single bit of what made the original novel such a great read, including killing off or quickly resolving the fates of many of the main and secondary characters that played a big part in GWTW, plus she also ruined Scarlett and Rhett’s characters by writing them so against type it was almost like a parody of the original novel. So we’ll see if this Irish writer can accurately replicate Chandler’s lush, lovely prose and jaded hero and fascinating villains, but I’m not holding my breath that he’ll succeed.

  2. A belated thanks for this thoughtful comment, Kim.