Quarry & Mike Hammer News

April 14th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

The New Orleans Times-Picayune interviewed me recently and if you will follow this link, you’ll find pictures from the set of the Cinemax QUARRY TV series as well as a three-part interview with me that is the most in-depth look at Quarry and his creation that I’ve ever provided.

I admit I was shocked that they used my entire interview – I had thought I was being interviewed for background on a broader piece, and expected a handful of things I said to be used as “pull” quotes. But they ran the whole thing, which is great, although occasionally I seem to be speaking English as a second (or perhaps third) language.


For Mike Hammer fans, there’s good news – the under-rated Armand Assante I, THE JURY has received its first (albeit no frills) DVD release in America. I would have much preferred a Blu-ray with special features (like a commentary from yours truly), but we take what we can get.

For years what I had was a Japanese laser-disc that blurred all the sexy bits, and there’s a lot of ‘em. This is a made-on-demand DVD from Fox Cinema Archives and can be found at Amazon and elsewhere for around twenty bucks. Some people are gun-shy about MOD DVD’s, but I have tons of ‘em and have never had a problem. One proviso: While the DVD is in my house as I type this, I have yet to break the shrink wrap and screen it. If I’m disappointed in the transfer, I’ll let you know next week. [Note from Nate: Amazon instant video also has it in HD.]

Mickey did not like this version of I, THE JURY, but I am a fan. I would put it in the upper tier of Spillane films, probably in this order: KISS ME DEADLY; I, THE JURY (‘53) and THE GIRL HUNTERS (a tie for second place); and the I, THE JURY remake with Assante. The latter was a hard movie to see back in ‘82. Terry Beatty and I drove to a Chicago suburb to see it (returning the same night).

Here’s a brief excerpt on the I, THE JURY remake from MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN by Jim Traylor and myself:

Assante’s performance has a psychotic edge that makes his Hammer, updated or not, the definitive screen portrayal to date of the young Mike Hammer. Somewhere in there with the Brando and Stallone bits is a sense of the Mick himself: Assante has watched Spillane, obviously, and has the bantam walk down pat – as with Biff Elliot and Spillane, Assante confirms that a small, broad-chested Hammer has a bulldog rather than bully quality needed for character empathy in the page-to-screen transfer of the brawling hero.

The Assante Hammer is outraged; he’s prepared to risk anything for his goal, because his Hammer simply does not give a damn; if he dies in the course of his quest, so be it – “You take life too serious,” he advises several terrified unwilling participants in his various war games. Another time he tells Charlotte that he “may take a few suspects out along the way – I’m not perfect.” Dat’s Mike Hammer, ‘80s style.

Predictably, Spillane despised the film; most of his objections stemmed from (Larry) Cohen’s script, understandably displeased that his straightforward detective plot had been abandoned. He reserved his most dismissive comment for Assante: “He wore Italian heels,” as if this were enough to invalidate the film.

Even the update’s most obviously strong point did not impress Spillane – he dismissed the portrayal of Velda as “a preppie.” If so, this is a pistol-packing preppie, who likely shot the alligator on her shirt.

Very proud of that book, by the way. I believe it’s sold under 100 copies, and I wish I were kidding. If you like Hammer/Spillane, don’t be put off by the high price.

Elsewhere on the Hammer front, KILL ME, DARLING seems to be very well-received, but we could really use some more Amazon reviews. Last time I looked we only have five. I realize this is a very old song I’m singing, but if you like a book, if you like an author, take time to post at least a brief one or two sentence review and a nice high-star rating, to boost them. I speak mostly of myself here, obviously, but you really should be doing this for any author whose work you like.

Today (Monday as I write this), Barb and I will dig in on the first of two-days work on prepping ANTIQUES FATE for Kensington. I finished my draft on Friday, and we took Saturday off, meeting my research associate George Hagenauer for lunch at a great Italian restaurant in Dubuque called Vinnie Venucchi’s. Among other things, George and I (with Barb kibitzing) discussed the next Heller. The rest of the day Barb and I spent in that cool tourist trap Galena, where I was able to pick up the last two Richard Bissell books I needed at a used bookstore (Bissell wrote 7 ½ Cents, the basis for the musical Pajama Game, and is my favorite Iowa author other than Barb and me) (and Ed Gorman).

Sunday I did a draft of the pilot outline for the TV project that I can’t talk about yet.

So, anyway, today I will be reading the ANTIQUES FATE manuscript and making corrections and revisions in red pen, and Barb will be entering those and tweaking as she goes. For those keeping count, this is the third novel I’ve finished this year (two of them collaborative, of course). Actually, I finished four novels this year, but the Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, was completed early in January on the heels of several months of writing last year.

* * *

Here’s a very nice review of KILL ME, DARLING.

And finally here’s a graphic novels to film piece that highlights ROAD TO PERDITION.


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9 Responses to “Quarry & Mike Hammer News”

  1. Bill says:

    Forget the circumstances that caused Larry Cohen’s dismissal as director. If he’s to be believed, a bartender-actor tried out for a small role, didn’t get it, but Cohen told him he’d cast him as Hammer if he could – Bruce Willis.

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    Cohen was over-budget and behind schedule, according to at least one account. Later, he publicly objected to the extreme violence of the film — all of which is in his script.

    His film DEADLY ILLUSION, with private eye Mike Hamburger if I remember correctly, is the Cohen version of VENGEANCE IS MINE and has a bunch of stuff in it that was cut from his I, THE JURY script.

  3. Ed Morrissey says:

    Hi Mr. Collins: Thanks again for posting another link to my blog. Glad (& relieved) you liked my take on KILL ME, DARLING. I’ve enjoyed the recent Hammer books & have tried to convert friends, family & colleagues to them. Been a fan of Spillane’s work since junior high back in the 70s. (And belated congrats for the QUARRY series pick up.)

    As one of the 100 (really?) that purchased MS ON SCREEN, I appreciated the amount of research you & Mr. Traylor did. Having to sit through COME DIE WITH ME went above and beyond the call of duty. Just recently watched for the first time ever THE LONG WAIT this weekend. Your chapter on that film summed it up perfectly. Anthony Quinn, who was great in WAIT, would’ve made a terrific Hammer. Anyway, I’ll start on that review for Amazon forthwith. Maybe even ask my library to consider carrying the book.

    I, THE JURY: I liked Assante’s Hammer, Sorvino’s Pat Chambers, and LOVED Landon’s Velda, and felt, despite some obviously sloppy continuity, the film was fine. Good supporting cast too. With the right PR push, it could’ve led to a successful updated-for-the-80s movie series based on the books. Oh, well. Glad it’s out on DVD finally.

    Good luck with your TV project. Thanks for all the great body of work ( Hammer, Heller, Mallory, Ness, Nolan, Perdition, Tracy, Ms. Tree, Quarry, Wild Dog, etc.) you’ve given us over the years!

    Ed Morrissey AKA The Ed Who Is Not Gorman (but wishes he was!)

  4. Max Allan Collins says:

    Ed, thanks for your consistently great, smart reviews.

    We really have sold only a relative handful of the MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN book. We also didn’t snag an Edgar nomination. That project has been a big disappointment, because Jim and I put our hearts and souls into it. Not sure how many have sold, but based upon the pitiful royalties (and there was no advance) we’re talking 100 or so copies.

    I frankly blame McFarland because it’s hugely expensive, particularly for a trade paperback. If they ever run a significant sale, you can bet I’ll hawk it here.

    Thank you again. And Collins/Traylor, like James Bond, WILL BE BACK.

  5. Jim Traylor says:

    Ed, thanks for all the kind words about MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN. Max is quite correct that we put our hearts and souls into it and were both disappointed at the number of sales. The cover price was much too high, even for the library market. My thanks to you for purchasing one. I think the total count sold is a little over 200, but that’s still not many.

    And count on it, Collins/Traylor WILL BE BACK.

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  7. Tom Zappe/St. Louis says:

    Say what?

  8. Max Allan Collins says:

    I get can that kind of spam all the time, but we catch most of it and spare you….

  9. Mike Doran says:

    Hi-ho from one of The 100 …

    ( … or 200, or whatever …)

    When I brought MSOS to you for your signature that time at C&S, you said to me, “Please tell me you didn’t pay full price for this …”

    Looking back on that, in the context of the current post, I’m wondering:

    What kind of chintzy deal did you have with McFarland, anyway?

    I’ve heard McFarland described as a “vanity press” (I heard this at a meeting of SABR, back when I was still a White Sox fan, in the ’90s; I’m sure that the speaker was not referring to direct experience of his own).
    What little I know about book publishing today …
    … well, there it is; I know little, and what I do know is discouraging, to say the least.


    My point (I think) is that you are at least some kind of a Name in this business – and in my view that ought to count for something.

    Ah Well/Oh Hell …