Hammer, Quarry and TV’s Frank

August 30th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

This coming Thursday (Sept. 1) at the Fleur Cinema & Café in Des Moines, I’ll be hosting a screening of both my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, and the classic Mike Hammer noir, KISS ME DEADLY. Seeing the latter on a big screen will be a treat. The documentary goes on at 6:30 and the film at 7:30. I’ll do a Q and A after, and there should be some books on hand for me to sign.

Here’s more info.

My L.A. stringer Leonard Maltin – think of him as an older, wiser Jimmy Olsen – took and sent me the pic posted here this week, the first reported QUARRY sighting in L.A. The billboard is on Vermont Avenue some blocks down from the old Parker Center.

The premiere of the series will be September 9 at 10 p.m. eastern (10:00-11:15 p.m.). Other CINEMAX playdates, also eastern time: Sept. 9 (11:20 p.m., 12:40 a.m.), 10 (9:00 p.m., 12:35 a.m.), 11 (5:35 p.m.), 12 (11:00 p.m.), 13 (2:05 a.m.), 14 (10:00 p.m.), 15 (9:00 p.m.) and 29 (6:40 p.m.).

As indicated above, the first episode is 75 minutes and plays like a particularly strong indie crime film. I anticipate some fans of the novels will have to adjust to the Memphis setting of the series, but let’s face it – the Broker was born to have a Southern accent.

* * *

I have shipped to Thomas & Mercer the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, which concludes the Branches of Government trilogy begun by SUPREME JUSTICE and continued with FATE OF THE UNION. This was a tough one, as my co-conspirator Matt Clemens will no doubt confirm. For one thing, it was only the second novel I worked on after my heart surgery, and the first was an ANTIQUES novel for which Barb delivered me a great, easy-to-work-with rough draft. We ran into some plotting difficulties with EXECUTIVE ORDER that had me starting it, then interrupting it to write the Mike Hammer novel, THE WILL TO KILL, while Matt re-worked his story treatment to accommodate the new plot elements.

It was a bear.

The final stage of preparing the manuscript is a read-through that takes a day or two and consists of me marking up a hard copy, with Barb typing in the tweaks and corrections. This one had so much rewriting and tweaking and cutting that I admit I have no sense of the book at all, whereas usually I have a real feel for what’s been accomplished. The read-through took three days – it’s a big book, 450 manuscript pages and 80,000-plus words – and today I feel punchy as hell. But sometimes you take your best shot and cross your fingers.

I have a feeling that some of my readers – I might even say “fans” – who are Nate Heller and Quarry followers have not partaken of these political thrillers. Fact is, the first two Reeder and Rogers novels are among my bestselling books, ever. SUPREME JUSTICE has done 300,000 copies. So however punch-drunk I may feel about EXECUTIVE ORDER after the big fight, it’s should be worth a read if you like my work.

* * *

For some reason, fans are always asking writers what they are reading. They seem to want validation for their own tastes, and expect me to say, James Lee Burke or James Ellroy (or some other James whose books I can’t read), and I really don’t get it. If I were talking to Alfred Hitchcock (and I realize that would probably require a Ouija board), the last thing I’d ask him is what movies he watches.

What I read is rarely fiction, since I’m living in the world of fiction every work day – it’s called a Busman’s Holiday, kids, and I’m not interested. Lately I’ve read THE FIFTY-YEAR MISSION about the first 25 years of STAR TREK, SEINFELDIA about the SEINFELD TV series, CURTAIN UP about Agatha Christie’s plays, FOREVER AMBER: FROM NOVEL TO FILM, two NOIR CITY annuals, and COLUMBO UNDER GLASS, a critical study of the series.

But the greatest book I ever read, including MOBY DICK (but excluding of course my own body of work), is TWENTY-FIVE MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 FILMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER by Frank Conniff – TV’s Frank! The book, at 104 pages, is somewhat shorter than MOBY DICK and doesn’t have a single whale in it.

Speaking of MOBY DICK, Barb and I just watched the John Barrymore film version from 1931 and were a trifle surprised to find that it has a happy ending. Ahab not only kills the white whale, he goes home dancing on his peg leg to his sweetheart. I guess I should have put SPOILER ALERT in front of that.

The above discursive paragraph is designed to prepare you for TV’S Frank’s book in which he doesn’t really discuss any of the films that he is supposedly showcasing. He instead goes off on free-form riffs (yes, I said riffs) that careen from one hilarious absurdity to another, and if you’re MST 3000 fan enough to buy this book, you’ll have no trouble hearing TV’s Frank’s distinctive dissipated bored baby tones. Discussing being offered the job on Mystery Science Theater of watching old movies, he says, “I stepped up to the plate in my head and accepted the challenge.”

Here are a few more examples:

(Supposedly discussing SIDEHACKERS but instead talking about PSYCHE-OUT with Jack Nicholson): “PSYCHE-OUT is like an episode of the late-sixties DRAGNET series but with only the hippies and no Sgt. Joe Friday to berate them for being a bunch of freak-show screw-ups. Now that we have the technology, somebody should digitally restore this film so that it includes Sgt. Friday. Any film about hippies dropping acid seems incomplete without him, but I’m of the opinion that every movie would benefit from having Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday as a character.” Me, too, Frank!

(Supposedly discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the Disney film, THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND): “You might not have heard of this film, perhaps because its incendiary, iconoclastic message was too edgy for 1968. This was a film that declared, ‘you may think you’re cutting edge, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Stooges, MC Five, Blue Oyster Cult, but we’re the One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band, motherfuckers!’”

(Supposedly still discussing CATALINA CAPER but instead talking about the LOST HORIZON musical that destroyed the Bacharach and David songwriting team), TV’s Frank bemoans the film’s box office failure because it meant “that album of Peter Finch singing show tunes – I’m as Busy as a Spider Spinning Daydreams and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore – never came to pass.”

(Supposedly discussing ROCKET ATTACK U.S.A. but instead contemplating atomic Armageddon in general): “A New York City decimated by a nuclear war would kind of suck, but it might at least be slightly more affordable to live in. And walking amid radioactive wreckage in Brooklyn would no doubt be a depressing experience, but at least there would be no hipsters around, except maybe zombie hipsters, or as they’re also known, hipsters.”

These brief excerpts don’t do the book justice, because this deadpan sarcasm continues without a let-up, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. You certainly have my permission to read Burke or Ellroy, if you must; but you owe it to yourself to experience 104 pages of TV’s Frank.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Jon Landau says in the advance praise on the back of the book: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

* * *

Here’s a brief but much appreciated positive review of ANGEL IN BLACK.

This is a terrific review of A LONG TIME DEAD, the Mike Hammer short story collection coming out September 6. But there’s an odd goof – Mickey Spillane is credited throughout as creating a private eye character called…Mickey Spillane!

And here’s a cool interview with Damon Herriman, who plays Quarry’s partner, Buddy. In the novels, this character is called Boyd, but because of Walton Goggins on JUSTIFIED, Boyd got changed to Buddy. Ironically, Damon Herriman had a major role on JUSTIFIED – Dewey Crowe.


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6 Responses to “Hammer, Quarry and TV’s Frank”

  1. Great to hear that Quarry is on film. Sadly, I don’t have cable TV and will not see it.

    Any chance of Ms Tree coming to her own movie or TV show?

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    QUARRY will no doubt be available on DVD and Blu-ray sometime next year.

    MS. TREE has been optioned for TV and movie numerous times. Nothing in the works at the moment. The novel, DEADLY BELOVED, is a novelization of my screenplay for what would have been a pilot movie for the Oxygen network.

  3. Brian says:

    I have GOT to pick up Frank Conniff’s book. :-)

  4. Greg Daniel says:

    When I ask a writer what they’re reading, I hope to discover something new and undiscovered (at least by me). My rationale is that I like this writer (based on style, subject, etc.) and since the stuff that comes out of his head entertains my head, then there is a good chance I might like to read some of the stuff he likes to read. So if I ask, who/what you’re reading, I don’t really want to hear a writer or work that I already know, I want something new and different (with “new” being relative), whether it be fiction or not. And, sir, you delivered that here with TWENTY-FIVE MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 FILMS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER by Frank Conniff. Thanks for the recommendation; now I must web-run over to Amazon.

  5. Wayne Keil says:

    I saw on BleedingCool.com that Titan Comics is launching a comic book series based on your Quarry character in April 2017. Will you have any involvement in that project?

  6. Max Allan Collins says:

    I do recommend books in the genre, Greg, but almost always vintage ones — Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, Thompson, Horace McCoy, W.R. Burnett, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner, Chester Himes (to name a few). I’m glad my out-of-genre reading inspired you to go after Frank Conniff’s hilarious (if short) book.

    Wayne, I will be writing the QUARRY comic book series. Wouldn’t think of letting anyone else do it.