Supreme Debate

June 10th, 2014 by Max Allan Collins

SUPREME JUSTICE continues to ride high on the Kindle bestseller charts. I am under no delusions about this – it’s a book a lot of readers are getting free this month, but it still feels good to have a #1 bestseller and to have so many new readers exposed to my work. (I should say “our” work because Matt Clemens was my co-conspirator on this one.)

The Amazon reviews are pushing 150 at this point. Keep in mind that the recent Heller novels are lucky to get over 30 reviews (hint hint), and Quarry novels often stall out in the mid-teens. SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT has been sitting at 14 Amazon reviews for some time now, and even TRUE DETECTIVE – which also hit #1 on Kindle when it came out a couple of years ago – has yet to break 100, even with the fresh sales from confused readers who think it’s the HBO show’s source (some revenge, anyway).

What’s most interesting about the reviews is the continuing debate over the book’s supposed liberal bias. There continue to be far right readers who give the book a one star rating without having read it – they’ve just heard the book is a liberal screed, or have been misled by the Amazon write-up, which rather overstates that aspect of the book. Others do read the book, or some of it, but are offended by what they see as a caricature of Clarence Thomas. This is of course odd, since Clarence Thomas is a caricature….

On the other hand, a growing number of conservatives who have read the book seem to like it. Some continue to find more liberal bias than I think is in there, but I may be too close to see it. (Note the Clarence Thomas crack above.) But I am grateful when these readers express themselves honestly and react to the book and not what they’ve heard or assume about it.

I’ve done some limited commenting on reviews, and had an extended, civil exchange with one reader who claimed I’d called conservatives “Nazis.” I pointed out that the word appeared nowhere in the novel. He said I’d used “fascists” and that that was the same thing. I said it wasn’t, no more than “Commie” and “socialist” were the same thing, and so on. The back and forth was respectful and even illuminating. And I tried to make the point that I didn’t call anybody anything – one of my characters did.

Anyway, a new post went up from a prospective reader who had read this exchange, and I thought it was pretty great. Here it is with my response:


I am staunchly conservative and staunchly Christian. I was reviewing the options for the Prime First this month and was reading the reviews for your book. I am getting to the point where media has become exhausting as it tends to lean heavily towards the left. Almost all Hollywood politically set movies make the conservative the bad guy. So as I was reading the reviews, I almost decided to skip past your book as the other reviewers have stated it leans left and I figured it would end up bashing my beliefs as most other forms of media do.

Now, let me tell you why I am not going to do that. This exchange between you and Todd has completely changed my outlook on my decision for reading the book. I refuse to watch any movie that Sean Penn is in, regardless of the content, because I choose not to support him. I will however watch anything Tom Hanks is in for 2 reasons. One, he plays amazing characters. And 2, he has his beliefs, and they side with Sean, but he keeps it to himself. So I choose to support him with my money.

So with all that being said, I will read your book even though, I believe I will feel like it leans to the left, but it will be because I want to support you. Seeing that you were willing to come here to have a civil discussion regarding your book was great. Your first line made me think it was going to head in a direction of an angry internet commentor. “I do my best not to respond to bad reviews… (But I’m going to bash you and your conservative beliefs now.)” That’s not what you did and I respect you enough to support your work. So I will read your book and I will give you an honest and fair review when I complete it. Best of luck to you.

MY REPLY: This was a very thoughtful post, and I appreciate you giving my novel a try. I admit to being a little surprised by the fuss, because the novel was not intended to be liberal or conservative. In fact, I strongly considered having a conservative hero defend the lives of liberal justices. The important thing was that a man be put in the position of defending people he disagreed with…powerful people. I think some conservative Christians misread my use of Rowe V. Wade being overturned by a (fictional) conservative Supreme Court. The idea was not to say anything in favor of or against that move, but to choose a topic that dealt with life and death — that could inspire someone to resort to violence to change the balance of justices. There’s a remark in the book about zealots that I think was probably misjudged on my part, because it’s easily taken as a swipe at Christianity when the intent was to criticize someone viewing his opinion about something as if it were a religious belief. On the other hand, readers who limit themselves to books whose protagonists mirror their own beliefs are…well, limiting themselves. Again, as the writer who Mickey Spillane chose to take over the Mike Hammer books, I am quite accustomed to attacks from the extreme left. And if SUPREME JUSTICE does have a political message, it’s the dangers of extremism. It’s been said that the place the far right and the far left meet is a book burning — they’re just bringing different books. Thank you again for these comments.

* * *

For those keeping track, I have completed KILL ME, DARLING and over the weekend sent it to Titan in the UK via the miraculous Net. I may talk more about the writing experience on this one, much of which occurred while I was on heavy painkillers for my back injury (doing fine, thanks).

* * *

I talk about a lot of movies here, and it must be obvious that Barb and I see a lot of them. We usually go at least once a week. But I can’t remember the last time I reported having seen a great film.

Edge of Tomorrow

EDGE OF TOMORROW is a great film. It’s basically a science-fiction/aliens-attack take on another great film, GROUNDHOG DAY. I don’t want to say much about this other than to advise you to see it, and on a big screen, and preferably in 3-D. Tom Cruise is excellent in the film, and it’s time to admit that whatever we might think about his Scientology lifestyle, he is a superior screen actor who brings passion and commitment to his roles. He’s never been better, and Emily Blunt is every bit as good as he is.

I am, I admit, a sucker for time travel movies. And GROUNDHOG DAY is in my top ten films of all time. I’m also a fan of the 1993 TV movie 12:01 from the Richard Lupoff short story that started it all. EDGE OF TOMORROW is a film I’ll revisit many times. It has genuinely frightening aliens, the likes of which I’ve not seen, and could be viewed as a less overtly satirical STARSHIP TROOPERS. Bill Paxton is wonderful, by the way, as a top sergeant. Does anybody play gung-ho, slightly dim military men better than Paxton?

The ending is controversial. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so mostly I’ll just say, “Works for me.” You can’t take Bill Murray through the GROUNDHOG DAY experience without having him emerge a better and breathing man. When John Wayne screened THE ALAMO for Mickey Spillane and asked his take, Mickey said, “Change the ending.” Wayne said, “Mickey – it’s the Alamo! You can’t change the ending.” And Mickey said, in his politically incorrect way, “Nobody wants to pay three dollars to see a bunch of Mexicans kill John Wayne.” THE ALAMO was a flop that almost ruined Wayne financially.

EDGE OF TOMORROW, incidentally, is from a Japanese novel, ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, from Viz, who have published several books translated by my son Nate, including the current BATTLE ROYALE.

If you’ve seen EDGE OF TOMORROW, here’s a really good explanation of the ending. The comments are worth a read, too.

* * *

Here’s a nice SUPREME JUSTICE review.

Here’s more on SUPREME JUSTICE.

And finally, here’s a lovely KING OF THE WEEDS write-up.


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5 Responses to “Supreme Debate”

  1. Joe Menta says:

    I’m about to start my copy of “Supreme Justice”– the one you sent, thanks! However, your comments about its Amazon reviews intrigued me so I decided to scan a handful of them prior to starting the book. You probably see where this is going… my eye HAD to catch the one brief review where the woman praised the book because (paraphrasing here) “the revelation that ______ was the culprit was so unexpected!” Grrrrr. I guess I can have fun reading the book and seeing how well you hide that fact and divert attention away from that person as those scenes unfurl. But, hey, thanks for trying to get her to edit her review via the comment you left for her. No dice yet, though. I hope not too many other poor saps stumble onto her decidedly unhelpful piece of criticism.

  2. Ryan says:

    I read the except of the book when the Kindle First came out and jumped in it. Loved it. Need to sit down and type up a review. However, I found that you’ve written LOTS of other books and I like your style, so I bought ‘True Detective’ and am busy reading it. I do this frequently, find an author I like and read everything they’ve written. So excuse my tardiness but my review of ‘Supreme Justice’ may come before the end of the year.

  3. Brian Drake says:

    I think the most surprising thing about this update is not the debate over Supreme Justice but that movies once cost $3 per ticket!

  4. Max Allan Collins says:

    Actually I think it was probably $2 — and that was road show prices.

  5. Ben Parris says:

    One mistake on the Edge of Tomorrow explanation from screenrant: They say that Cage would forget his exploits if J troop killed an alpha. Not so; Rita had no trouble remembering her exploits after Cage killed an alpha, so he wouldn’t forget either.