Short and Sweet

September 11th, 2012 by Max Allan Collins

Very brief update today. Barb and I are still in St. Louis (on Monday) and will be heading back to Muscatine today. Nate and Abby’s wedding (and the entire wedding weekend) went beautifully and was hugely fun. We will have pics next week. Other than a couple of links I want to share, I’m giving Nate the week off from Update type duties.

Here’s a fun “Skin” review. If you’re a Spillane fan, don’t miss this short story.

And here’s a mostly good TRUE DETECTIVE review. Check out the comments, because the blogger and I have a discussion about the pros and cons of the second chapter (the historical background of Heller and his family).


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5 Responses to “Short and Sweet”

  1. At the risk of sounding like a brownnose, it was the backstory chapter in True Detective that turned me into a Heller fan in the first place. Without it I doubt I’d enjoy that series half as much; I certainly wouldn’t have been thrilled to hear about Bye Bye Baby and Target Lancer a couple of years ago. Louis

  2. I appreciate hearing that. This reviewer reminds me of the conventional wisdom that a lot of smart people (like Don Westlake and my then agent Knox Burger) were laying on me at the time — you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’re breaking this rule or that one. I don’t believe in writing rules — I believe in strategy. Some strategic decisions are unconventional. By any yardstick, TRUE DETECTIVE is one of my most successful books — it spawned a long-running series, and two spin-offs (Eliot Ness and PERDITION). But that doesn’t mean that my strategy in Chapter 2 of TD will work on every reader. That’s a hard if obvious pill for a writer to swallow — that not everybody is going to love your work. When an idiot doesn’t like it, who cares? But smart people not liking it…well, that takes getting used to. And I’m still not there yet.

  3. Just so you know about one of your fans (and a future reviewer of more of your books), I was a history grad student when I read True Detective. I have always been fascinated with the 1930s and ’40s and to a lesser extent with the ’50s and ’60s. What I have enjoyed most about this series from the start is the way you wear your research and erudition lightly. In other words, you never let the facts get in the way of a highly entertaining story. What you have down pat is the feeling that Nate Heller lived through these decades and is in no way anachronistic. Most importantly for me, I felt you created Nate Heller just for a kid who loved history and had not read many mysteries to that point. I’m thrilled to be sending you this e-fan letter after a quarter-century of reading your books.

  4. This is a lovely comment and I appreciate it very much.

    I loved detective stories and historical fiction as a kid and I wound up mashing them together. I do struggle with the historical side — it’s a constant battle. I’m working on a Heller now, and it’s always push and pull as to how true to history I stay. The mandate was “true detective,” but sometimes you have to compromise. The most obvious one is time compression. The story I’m telling now unfolds over a two year period, in history, which is all wrong for the flow of a detective story — so while much will be accurate, the narrative will span only a few weeks. George Hageanuer and I wrestle over this all the time — George prefers I stay very true to history, and really so I. But the play’s the thing.

  5. Spike says:

    Hi Max. Been reading your books for 20 years. You and I are the same age, with two months more on you. I have most (all?) of your books and recently re-read both ‘True Detective’ and ‘True Crime’, both of which I have in hard cover first editions, and had forgotten how great these books were. There’s nothing like good historical fiction to make you feel like you were involved in the period. I put you right up there with George MacDonald Fraser and his Flashman series, for sheer reading pleasure. You’re research seems to be as aggressive and spot on as his was. Its masterful how you assume the reader knows a bit about the subject to begin with, and you weave the lessor known facts into the narrative. This was especially true in ‘Stolen Away’, I didn’t know how woefully uninformed I was about the Lindbergh kidnapping I was until I read your book. Same thing with Amelia Earhart. Good job..

    I’m a huge Sinatra fan and love the little tidbits you’ve thrown in about him in a couple of your books. Its obvious from what you said about him in ‘Bye Bye Baby’ that you read the George Jacobs book about his life with Sinatra. Having read a dozen Sinatra biographies before I read Jacobs, he sure tied up a lot of loose ends for me. I bet the Sinatra family hated it.

    Is it possible Nate Heller will have any dealings with Ernest Hemingway in the future? He’s already met Ava Gardner, who was Sinatra’s wife in the early 50’s. Ava was a great friend of Papa’s, its not a stretch that Nate could have done a job or two for Ernesto. He had his share of enemies and intrigue. And being in Cuba for so many years, he probably knew a few gangsters too. Key West, NY, even Montana in the summers, he must have run into Nate Heller somewhere. I’m just sayin..

    Keep up the good work, I’m in the process of re-reading all your books right now, am starting ‘Angel in Black’ tonight. Its like being with old friends, reading books you’ve enjoyed before. Thank you for all of them.