Royal Reviews for KING OF THE WEEDS

May 13th, 2014 by Max Allan Collins

Majestic reviews have been pouring in for the new Mike Hammer, KING OF THE WEEDS (I’ll share some of them below).

Barb and I drove to St. Louis for Mother’s Day weekend with son Nate and his bride Abby (see pic taken on Sunday at the Wildflower restaurant, site of their wedding in 2012). On the way there and back, we listened to Stacy Keach’s reading of KING OF THE WEEDS.

Mothers Day 2014

It’s impossible for me to overstate what a thrill it is for me to hear Stacy read these Spillane/Collins collaborations. He’s done an incredible job on all of them, but perhaps because of the vaguely melancholy nature of this tale of an older Hammer, he brought something very special to it.

The book itself was a tricky and challenging one, because Mickey had taken several passes at it, combining chapters from one draft into another. There are three major plot elements – the mob billions from BLACK ALLEY, the mysterious deaths of police officers by seeming accident, and the release of a man convicted of a notorious series of slayings forty years ago (Pat Chambers’ first major arrest). In various versions, Mickey would abandon one or more of these elements, and I determined – in part to use as much of his work as possible – to make all three weave together in a credible and interesting manner. I actually put off the writing of KING OF THE WEEDS till last among the major manuscripts, because I knew it would be a bear, and I feared it might be the weakest of the six. But I feel it turned out very well indeed – thanks in large part to the genius of Mickey Spillane – and reviewers and readers are agreeing, a number singling it out as the best of all six.

I was asked to write about the process of collaborating with the late great author by the first-rate UK site, Crimetime. Check out my article here.

Before we move on to the KING OF THE WEEDS reviews, I need to share a surprisingly tardy but extremely good review of THE WRONG QUARRY from Publisher’s Weekly this week:

Collins’s 10th noir featuring John Quarry (after 2010′s Quarry’s Ex) is easily his best—a sharp-edged thriller with more than one logical but surprising twist. Quarry used to work as a hit man on assignments arranged for him by a middleman known as the Broker, but that work ended when Quarry had to take him out. Making use of the Broker’s records, he has begun a new phase in his killing career. He identifies the targets of other hit men, and then, for a price, offers to take them out on behalf of the intended victims. And, for an extra fee, Quarry removes the threat entirely by killing the person who ordered the hit. The early 1980s find Quarry doing exactly that in the “Little Vacationland” of Stockwell, Mo. He learns that the local dance instructor, Roger Vale, is to be killed because he’s suspected of murdering a teenage girl, and offers to save his life, for a price. The lean prose, brisk pacing, and clever plotting are a winning combination.

Back to KING OF THE WEEDS. The October Country site has this fine review from a first-time Hammer reader.

The Book Reporter has these nice things to say about KING OF THE WEEDS.

My pal Ed Gorman, one of my generation’s best mystery writers, wrote this brief but fun salute to KING OF THE WEEDS.

You’ll have to scroll down to see it, but Comic Book Resources has good things to say about Mike Hammer’s latest at their site.

The UK’s Bookbag reviews the previous Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, a very good review of the “I’m-Embarrassed-But-I-Really-Like-This” school.

Here’s a nice review of the under-seen, under-reviewed FROM THE FILES OF…MIKE HAMMER collection from Hermes Press. I love this book but it’s expensive, so relatively few have seen it (like the McFarland MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN). The reviewer gives nice props to Ed Robbins, but underplays Mickey’s own participation in the strip. Mickey co-plotted all of it and wrote the first two of three Sunday page continuities himself.

Now here’s a peculiar one but gratifying. Despite a painfully politically correct swipe at Mickey Spillane, this reviewer for the Daily Kos has interesting and nice things to say about (ready for this?) THE LUSITANIA MURDERS. Yes, the day KING OF THE WEEDS was published, and a week after ANTIQUES CON came out, the Daily Kos reviewed a book of mine from twelve years ago. But the reviewer likes it, so I’m fine with that.

M.A.C.

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3 Responses to “Royal Reviews for KING OF THE WEEDS”

  1. Mr. Collins,

    I wrote the review for “From the Files of… Mike Hammer” that you discussed in this post. I appreciate your kind words, and for pointing out my oversight regarding Mickey Spillane’s credit. Mea cupla! I have edited the review accordingly.

    I do hope Hermes Press’s books take off to a point where their collections become a bit more affordable to the average reader, or bargain hunting will continue to be the M.O. for many who enjoy their collections.

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    I am frustrated by both the Hermes Press MIKE HAMMER collection and the McFarland MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN being out of reach for so many fans. If it’s any solace, I am a bottom-feeder of a collector from way back!

  3. Mike Doran says:

    Did I mention that my old employers gave me a severance/pension/401K package that has made me, if not wealthy, at least well-off enough to not blanch at dropping $50 on a single item (such as the HAMMER book)?

    Come July, the new RIP KIRBY volume is slated to appear, at the same price.
    I expect to acquire this in like fashion.

    I just realized that I can actually remember when a collection like this would have likely gone for about $19.95 retail, even in hardcover (in the ’60s this would have been top dollar – hardcover novels were still under $10 and paperbacks were just breaking the buck level … remember?).

    I was going to comment on those reviews, the DAILY KOS one in particular, but I find them more bewildering than anything else.
    Years ago, I read an obit for a British entertainer whose name I can’t recall; he’d always been popular, but somehow had never cracked the top.
    A noted UK critic said of him something like “The British public never quite forgave ***** for being that versatile.”

    I seem to have run dry, and I’m not a good enough writer to fake it, so back to waiting for the new stuff.

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