Real Life Intrudes

March 10th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins


This will be a short update because I am very much in the bunker, working on the second Reeder & Rogers novel, FATE OF THE UNION (I changed the title from STATE OF THE UNION when somebody pointed out there was a Brad Thor novel by that name) (I’ve never read him, is my lame excuse).

The book feels very good, but the work has been exhausting. Matt Clemens, my co­-author, is actually still working on his draft, and I expect the rest of his material by mid-­week or sooner. Matt and I have been on the phone a good deal – not constantly, but frequently – as we consult on the phases each of us is working on. Of all the books we’ve done together – that’s easily approaching two dozen – this one feels particularly collaborative.

Normally Matt would deliver his rough draft (based on our co­-plotting, about two-­thirds the length of what my final draft will be) before I begin writing; but the complications of real life threw both of us curves. Matt got involved driving a good friend to chemotherapy sessions some miles away, later lost that friend, and then his mother­-in­-law passed away. I got sick last year – a bronchial thing – while working on the new Heller. No project of mine is harder than a Heller, and while I never stopped writing, my work days were truncated.

Writers live by deadlines, but deadlines don’t give a damn about illness or family tragedy or really anything approaching real life. This past week, in and around working on FATE OF THE UNION, I have been helping Barb deal with our terrible leaky roof problems due to the suddenly melting snow and ice here in the Midwest. Those of you know how bad my vertigo is will be astounded to learn that I’ve been up on the top roof of our multi-level art deco house with its flat roofs (hence leaks) shoveling snow and chopping up ice like an Eskimo in an old cartoon.

We have severe water damage in several rooms, and even had to move from our bedroom into the guest room. None of this is meant to solicit sympathy. As I’ve said here before, my late friend Paul Thomas always said, “If you want sympathy, it’s between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.” But part of what I’m trying to do in these updates is provide a glimpse into a working writer’s life. And the intrusion of real life into the fantasy we create can cause problems.

I think anyone who likes my work will enjoy FATE OF THE UNION. Some of you, even my most loyal readers, haven’t checked out the first Reeder & Rogers book, SUPREME JUSTICE, because it’s from Amazon, in their Thomas & Mercer line, and isn’t easily found in brick-­and­-mortar bookstores. Its success has been largely as an e­-book. What may surprise you is learning that – excluding various editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and certain movie tie­-ins, like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DICK TRACY – SUPREME JUSTICE is my biggest bestseller.

Like the first novel, FATE OF THE UNION is a political thriller set around fifteen years in the future. It deals with big issues in, I think, an exciting way. SUPREME JUSTICE caught a lot of flack for having a liberal hero (most political thrillers are conservative, I’m told). This time I feel confident I’m being an equal opportunity offender.


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3 Responses to “Real Life Intrudes”

  1. Tom Zappe/St. Louis says:

    Life is what happens while you are making other plans.
    My wife just had a nasty bout of vertigo and was helped ENORMOUSLY with the proper physical therapy. It basically cleared her up after an hour’s worth of treatment.

  2. Joe Menta says:

    Use your chore in a future book, Max, as you now know all the details. Do a scene where Quarry or Reeder is up on a roof chopping and clearing off the ice. Not Heller, though– he’d just pay a local kid to do it.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    My vertigo has never been medically diagnosed — it’s more a fear of heights growing out of seeing the movie VERTIGO when I was very young…

    Also, I sort of did the ice chopping thing in the short story “A Matter of Principal.”