Memorable or Favorite or Best or Greatest…?

May 14th, 2013 by Max Allan Collins
Complex 90

I am writing this in our hotel room in St. Louis, where Barb and I have spent a delightful Mother’s Day weekend with our son Nate and his bride Abby. Great food, great company, even great weather. We caught a crime movie called MUD, easily the best film I’ve seen this year, with a definite SLINGBLADE feel (and that’s a good thing) – writer/director Jeff Nichols has a real feel for the South and its rhythms, and has assembled an amazing cast. See it.

But I hate this keyboard, so this will be short. Also, I spent last week writing two lengthy articles for the Huffington Post and Flavorwire (I have one or two more to do) to promote COMPLEX 90, and am “talked” out. These will be posted in the next week or so. This is hard work that doesn’t pay, strictly PR, and the subject this time – spy novels – is not one I’m as familiar with as the previous ones I did Huff Post pieces on (detective novels and controversial comics).

What I hate about these things is that I say my piece and then get beat up over my choices. That most of the responses are from idiots doesn’t help much. I have asked that my list be labeled “memorable” spy novels (the Huff piece is movies from spy novels), to get away from this “best” or “greatest” concept that always causes dissent. Of course, these people will argue with your “favorite” choices, too, as if that weren’t inherently a personal call.

This coming week I will do some more of this freebie writing to promote the new book, and will begin prep work on KING OF THE WEEDS, the last of the substantial Spillane/Hammer manuscripts. The new novel is a sequel to BLACK ALLEY, so I’ll be spending a lot of time with it. Then I’ll spend time with Mickey’s manuscript, reading and re-reading it, making notes, marking up my work copy. Probably two weeks prep before writing begins. This is bittersweet, because KING will mark the completion of the basic goal I set for myself in taking on Mickey’s unpublished work – getting these six additional Hammers completed (and DEAD STREET and the Morgan the Raider sequel, THE CONSUMMATA). I very much want to keep going with the shorter but significant manuscripts that remain, but I am relieved and even thrilled that I’ve been able to see these major works see completion and publication.

COMPLEX 90 reviews are starting to roll in, like this great one from Crime Fiction Lover.

This is a very cool one, too, from Impedementia.

This one from Bullet Reviews is quirky but favorable.

Boing Boing has a first chapter excerpt.

David William continues his short but sweet Nate Heller reviews with sharp looks at DAMNED IN PARADISE and BLOOD AND THUNDER.

My old buddy Ed Gorman (such a great writer – you’re missing out if you’re not reading him) was nice enough to post an article I did a while back on my favorite crime novels.

Finally, here’s part two of the Gary Sandy-starring live production of ENCORE FOR MURDER.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “Memorable or Favorite or Best or Greatest…?”

  1. Paul.Griffith says:


    Loved the reviews. By the way, have you considered having Heller run into, or perhaps team up with, Hammer while in New York? I

    think it would work! Hammer & Heller, has a nice ring to it don’t you think? Now, if we can just get the other manuscripts of Mickey’s

    published we’ll be in the cat-bird seat. Really looking forward to seeing what will transpire…

  2. Paul, I don’t think Heller and Hammer exist in the same universe. I’ve indicated that the ROAD TO PERDITION and Heller world are the same, and Quarry, Nolan and Mallory all exist in a world with Port City, Iowa, in it.

    Crossovers are tempting, but Christie never let Poirot meet Miss Marple, and I always keep that in mind….

    When I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, I will set about getting the next three Spillane/Hammer unfinished books out there. Beyond that, it will take converting some non-Hammer fragments into Hammer, which frankly won’t be terribly tough. It’s possible, if anybody cares, that there could be another six Hammers.

    One wrinkle in this is that I have three non-Hammer (and non-convertible-to-Hammer) unproduced Spillane screenplays that I would like to novelize, and right now one Spillane project per year seems about right. The question is, should I alternate Hammer with the non-Hammer material? My gut has been, Hammer first, last and always.

  3. Paul.Griffith says:


    That’s great news about the unfinished manuscripts, and yes Hammer first. Concerning the existence of Hammer and Heller’s

    universe, consider this: It worked for the Avengers and Capt. America was from another era and Thor from another world, universe,

    dimension? there is always hope and the D.C. Justice League were also made up of differing hero’s. Just keep an open mind, you

    never know.

  4. Paul.Griffith says:

    Hey Max,

    It’s hard to let this go. Remember Black Hats? If Capone and Earp weren’t from different worlds I don’t know what different worlds

    are, and it worked! That was a very enjoyable novel. Also, Batman was (is) from Gotham City, Superman from Metropolis, let’s face it

    they were both New York! Hammer and Heller can work, but only if you want it to. At least consider it for future reference. Just a

    thought shared with one of the greatest mystery writers still producing great work. Thanks Max!

  5. I don’t rule anything out.

    For me, it’s more a matter of tone than anything else. Also, Heller and Hammer are fairly similar characters.

    I have toyed with butting Hammer up against some other famous detectives. There may be some famous ones who are drifting into public domain about now….

  6. mike doran says:

    Picked up COMPLEX 90 the other day; ANTIQUES CHOP is proving elusive.
    I would have loved to buy both of these at the same time, hoping the clerk would give me a strange look in re the wildly varying books I was getting – and then be stunned to learn of their common authorship.

    Meanwhile, thanx to Alibris, I was also able (at long last) to get ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE, a process long deferred because of my inability to get VCI’s website to work properly.
    Which brings me to the admission that I can’t always get VCI’s DVDs to work properly on my Memorex player at home.
    For some reason, the menus don’t come up, or if they do, don’t respond properly to my attempts at navigation.
    With some effort, I can usually find some way around this, but it’s a long and frustrating process, and impedes my enjoyment of the product.
    I don’t have this problem with any other manufacturer.
    I don’t even have it all the time with VCI – just on the ones I seem to really want.
    Sorry about this, but I had to vent about this to somebody …

    Meanwhile, I also took delivery yesterday on BOB AND RAY: KEENER THAN MOST PERSONS, by David Pollock, the most long-awaited book I didn’t realize I was long-awaiting, because I didn’t even know of its existence until about a week ago.
    Anyway, I got a good deal at Amazon, and there it is.
    Hoping you get the same (if you haven’t already).

    Friendly aside to Paul Griffith:
    Al Capone and Wyatt Earp were from the same world.
    The REAL world (gee, I wish I could do italics on this site).
    I guess the BLACK HATS movie has gone to Movie-Deal Limbo.
    ” … it might have been …”

    And apropos of that;
    Three unproduced Spillane screenplays …
    Say Max, ever thought of making the screenplays … AS MOVIES?
    Just a thought …

    APB still out on ANTIQUES CHOP.
    ASK NOT, still on the radar.
    C&S appearance – to be hoped for …

  7. Paul.Griffith says:


    Didn’t mean literally different worlds, but kind of like apples and oranges. An 1880’s frontier lawman meets 1920’s-’30s eastern gangster. PI to the stars meets N.Y. vigilante. Not unlike Heller being saved by Ian Flemming, a kind of Heller meets Bond experience. Sometimes reality IS stranger than fiction! But I understand where you’re coming from. Just thought a Heller-Hammer meeting would be interesting.

  8. mike doran says:


    As I’m sure we all remember, Max got the whole Nate Heller idea in the first by noting that the Capone mob and its successors operated at the same time as the classic pulp PIs.
    A well-developed sense of history comes in handy: knowing how some periods overlap can lead to some pretty wild character combos. Max has been making this pay off (creatively, anyway) for years now.
    Heller and Hammer would indeed be interesting.
    But how about Heller meeting up with young Mickey Spillane in’50s NYC?
    Or even later on ?
    There’d be a yarn …

    Which reminds me –
    – I had a cockeyed idea for Max’s Disaster series:
    How about Ellery Queen (Fred Dannay and Manny Lee) solving a murder in Manhattan, when they were just starting out?
    Of course you’d need a Disaster to peg it on …
    …. let’s see – was there any kind of disaster in NYC in 1929 or thereabouts? :-)

  9. Paul.Griffith says:


    You are absolutely correct! Having Heller and Spillane, or a young Hammer from the 40’s or 50’s meet would be intriguing, to say the least! The plot lines are endless but, alas, only Max could bring such creative fantasies to fruition. Of course the good thing is this: If anyone can do it is MAX ALLAN COLLINS!! What I’m curious about is what Max has in store after ASK NOT is released. Those “famous detectives” about to enter into “public domain” have me excited about the possibilities.

    Whatever Max decides we are the beneficiaries of that vivid imagination and I can’t wait to read what lies ahead…”Only the Shadow knows…” ( And Max Allan Collins of course).

  10. You guys are very kind and generous.

    I have toyed with doing more disaster mysteries, but right now a lot of other things are going on. But writers I’ve thought about featuring include Erle Stanley Gardner, Dashiell Hammett and Rex Stout. And this might be the right place to use Mickey as a detective hero.

    But without a publisher to go to with it, a continuation of the disaster series is doubtful. A lot if going to depend on if the original book (WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER) for Amazon is successful enough for me to do new stuff in old series for them.

    Mike, I have read and loved the Bob and Ray book — it’s wonderful and sparks memories that bring lots of laugh. I love Bob and Ray. It’s one of my few enthusiasms I haven’t been able to get Nate to appreciate (I subjected him to too much of them when he was young, on car trips). The biggest problem with his generation appreciating Bob and Ray is that they are, at heart, an absurd satire on radio, the kind of radio that Nate’s generation just isn’t familiar with. How can someone that age know that MR. TRACE, KEENER THAN MOST PERSONS is a satire of MR. KEEN, TRACER OF LOST PERSONS?

  11. mike doran says:

    Max, my old, old friend:
    I guess we should count ourselves as the lucky ones.
    Our generation – the one just post-war (I never use the term “boomer”, which seems dismissive to me) – we’re sort of a human bridge between several eras of history.
    Between Movies and TV, between radio and TV, between hardcovers and paperbacks, between -or maybe among – as many kinds of music as ever came about.
    We had it all.
    But what we didn’t have was the junk science known as “demographics” telling us what we were supposed to like and dislike, based on when and where (and maybe how) we were born.
    These days, whenever I see some example of the “younger generation” trying to do something in “the old style” –
    – most of it makes me wince.
    The two extremes are redolent:
    – Excessive reverence for the original – treating it like an ossified museum piece that can’t be touched; or
    – “Reimagining” – taking the old property and changing everything into a “new” hodgepodge that not only disaffects the old fans but fails to attract the newer audience.
    There’s got to be something in the middle of this.
    Many people I know advocate a TCM for TV -a home for the really old stuff, so younger sorts can see what we saw (and that includes the stuff that was old when WE saw it the first time).
    After all, old books still get revived all the time – and now in Ebooks yet.

    This, I think, goes back to that “sense of history” business I’m always nattering on about.
    Which is my cue to let up on the whole thing.
    We got to hear Bob & Ray first run when we were kids.
    It’s now 23 years since Ray Goulding died.
    And Bob Elliott just turned 90.
    And I’m not feeling so hot myself …

    Hell with it.
    See you somewhere down the line.