Books, Wonderful Books

March 11th, 2014 by Max Allan Collins

Two wonderful new books by writers who should be of interest to readers of these updates are respectively about to come out and already out.


Coming soon is my son’s terrific translation of the modern Japanese classic, BATTLE ROYALE. He’s very happy right now, because – as you can see – the book had been blessed with an outstanding cover. The book itself was the basis of a very popular film, but also is the obvious inspiration for a little thing called HUNGER GAMES.

Jane Spillane’s memoir MY LIFE WITH MICKEY has been published and it’s a delight. Jane’s gift at storytelling is something that would make Mickey smile. It’s warm, funny and frank, and the design of the book – and the pictures throughout – are as charming as the memoir itself. No Spillane fan should miss this.

The links I’ve provided above are Amazon ones, but other online retailers will certainly have BATTLE ROYALE, and the MY LIFE WITH MICKEY link takes you to the only place where you can get the regionally-published book.

I’ve had some lovely comments – both here and on Facebook – about my birthday post, and several top mystery-fiction bloggers – including Bill Crider and Ed Gorman – picked it up to share with their readers. (My NAKED CITY post was similarly picked up, including by J. Kingston Pierce at the prestigious Rap Sheet.) But I’d also like to share a fun “present” I received first thing, birthday morning.

As you may remember, I was asked to change the title of the Spillane western THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK to something short and punchy. For reasons that I won’t go into (because they get us into spoiler territory), I strongly felt that we needed to stick with the original title, which was Mickey’s own. I wrote a long, impassioned e-mail to my editor that morning, making my case. Kensington is notorious for controlling their titles – for example, neither J.C. Harrow novel had the title that Matt Clemens and I had wanted. But they had a specific kind of title that was considered right for a serial killer thriller, and we went along. I got a similar vibe about westerns at Kensington’s, with a very specific approach to titles (short, punchy, with suggested violence, followed by “A Caleb York Western”).

So I made my Don Quixote type stand, fully believing I would get no where. In five minutes, both my editor Michalea Hamilton – after consulting the resident westerns guru at Kensington – wrote me back to say…they both agreed we me. THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK it would be.

That rare if small victory on the battlefields of publishing was how I started my 66th year. Which makes me think this may be a good one.

Further, my smart, lovely editor then composed and sent me this birthday greeting, which I got permission to share with you:

There once was an outstanding writer,
Whose talents shone brighter and brighter,
In the land of Spillane,
He rekindled the flame,
And brought to life York, the gunfighter!

* * *

Here’s an intelligent review of BYE BYE, BABY, generally positive, where the blogger is not particularly interested in Marilyn Monroe though she has a strong Kennedy fascination. She raises the perhaps troubling point (to me anyway) that the book may only appeal to readers who are either MM or JFK (or both) fanatics. My hope is always that the Heller books work as novels, particularly as private eye thrillers, and that you don’t need a familiarity with, or obsession for, the case at hand. I really hope I’m right and this reviewer isn’t. I liked her reviewing style, which is chatty in a way that seems easy but isn’t.

On a somewhat similar note, this UK reviewer finds all the JFK assassination fuss boring, and he doesn’t care for ASK NOT much, though likes the writing and Heller himself enough to say he’ll try another. Admittedly, ASK NOT is a rough place to start reading the Heller saga. But what troubles me most is the notion that if you’re not from the USA, this subject will be dull (if so, it’s dull with lots of murders!).

Finally, here’s a nice WRONG QUARRY review.


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5 Responses to “Books, Wonderful Books”

  1. Paul.Griffith says:

    The limerick works! Glad you secured the title you (and Mickey) wanted. As far as the review of BYE BYE, BABY goes: I would read a Nathan Heller no matter what the subject matter! I didn’t read the trilogy because of the Kennedy’s, MM, or the conspiracy. I read it because Nathan Heller was involved! Same with Hammer or Quarry, I follow the character of the novel. Of course the fact that Max Allan Collins wrote it didn’t hurt either! I understand new readers might pick it up because of the subject matter, but Heller followers purchased the book because of the P.I. Anxiously awaiting news of the next release!

  2. mike doran says:

    This wil be off-topic, and very brief:

    Effective today, I have been “retired” from my job – involuntarily.

    This means that I will no longer have access to this computer, and since I don’t have one at home, this is the last you’ll be hearing from me in the foreseeable future.

    I think you have my home address, if you’d like to commiserate.
    But if not:

    Mike Doran
    9740 South Pulaski Road #603
    Oak Lawn IL 60453-3333

    Meanwhile, all the best to you, Barb, and all the Collins dynasty.

  3. Mike, this news could not distress me more. I hope you find a computer, perhaps in a library, where you can log in and participate. And I hope to see you at future signings in Chicago. A writer could have no better fan and friend than you.

  4. SPKelly says:

    This will make the third edition of the novel of Battle Royale that I will buy. (or fourth if you count the audio book – and will there be a new audio version with the new translation?) But with that cover who could resist?

    I just loaned my copy (with the MAC foreword) to my petty officer who was trolling the internet for something to read and recommended it for our Yokosuka Base Library reading club.

  5. By parental bias aside, you have not read BATTLE ROYALE in English until you read this translation.

    Nate knocked it out the park. Way out.