My Trip to New Orleans

September 20th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

I know a lot of you want to see the QUARRY TV show but don’t have Cinemax. Well, Cinemax has (for how long I don’t know) provided You Tube with the first two episodes. Enjoy!

Here they are:

QUARRY Episode 1: “You Don’t Miss Your Water”

QUARRY Episode 2: “Figure Four”

Most fans of the books seemed to like the series, but I’ve had just a few complaints about how the show differs from the novels. Here’s what James M. Cain had to say on the subject:

“People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf.”

The Cinemax series is a long-form narrative in the manner of BREAKING BAD or MAD MEN. It’s not an episodic, procedural type of approach. Nonetheless, it clearly flows from my work, and I think honors it. I’d rather have a really good show that takes liberties than a flat-footed one that is rigidly faithful. In any event, it certainly attracts people to my stuff. That, and the checks they send me, is good enough for me.

* * *

What I should be writing about this week is my great trip to New Orleans for Bouchercon. And I did get to New Orleans, as you will see.

First, I have to warn you that this is one of those health updates that nobody really wants to read, including me, and yet I’m going to write it anyway. And this is not a veiled request for sympathy and get-well-wish postings. Really.

Here’s what is going on. For better than a month and a half, Barb and I have been battling what we thought was a bad chest cold with cough. I got it first, and Barb got it about a week later. Initially I thought I might have congestive heart failure again, which is what started all the fun and games last year; but my cardiologist said I was okay on that front.

So we settled in to ride it out.

Then I started having these fits or seizures or some damn thing where I would start gasping for breath and couldn’t breathe. It was like drowning without water. The first time I thought I was dying. When I survived, I realized it was just part of the dance.

One night a week and a half ago or so, I woke up with a gasping fit and stumbled downstairs, where Barb was sleeping on the couch, fending off her own “chest cold.” She helped me through it and then had the same kind of fit herself, even worse than mine. I called 911, but then Barb got her breathing going again, so instead of requesting an ambulance, I drove us to the emergency room, where we were given some medication and sent home. But I was swabbed for a test that, the next day, turned out to indicate a bacterial thing and not a virus. Both Barb and I were put on a very strong antibiotic.

I started feeling better. I still had the cough, but not as frequent. I should say during this period that I managed to do two band jobs that were the worst I ever experienced. I do most of the singing and it was brutal. I probably sounded like Tom Waits gargling razor blades. But I got through ‘em.

Meanwhile, Bouchercon was looming. Barb, still having the gasping fits two or three times a day, decided early on to stay home. We packed a bag for me and decided we’d wait to the last minute to decide whether I’d go. I was feeling pretty good, and then Barb went a full day without a fit. So last Thursday morning, she drove me up to the Moline airport, we had a nice breakfast, and she saw me off with a kiss, a smile and a wave.

So I flew first to Chicago, then to New Orleans. I arrived around four p.m. Something odd – kind of booga-booga odd – happened when I got there. At baggage claim, the bell sounded and the light flashed, and one lone bag came gliding down its long path. All by its little self. My bag. In all my life, I’ve never had my suitcase be the first off a plane. And everybody was staring at me, wondering why the hell I rated.

Must be a good omen, I thought, and hauled the bag off.

Right then my cell phone rang – or rather, played “Harlem Nocturne,” my ring tone. I answered and my nextdoor neighbor told me that Barb had stumbled over in the midst of what I later learned was five of those fits in a row. 911 had been called, and she had been taken by ambulance to the emergency room. The neighbor was there with her now.

I got all the info I could from the neighbor, which wasn’t much, and immediately found my way to the American Airlines ticket counter, where a very nice woman waded through my hysteria and got me on another flight back home. It was touch and go, because I had less than an hour to make the flight.

But I made it.

The flight from New Orleans to Dallas was awful. I was so frightened for Barb that I could barely keep from freaking out. When I landed, I called the neighbor’s cell and Barb was still at the hospital, getting X-rays and being well tended to. On the flight back to Moline, I was a little less tense.

Barb was home when I got there (the neighbors picked me up at the airport) and she was glad and relieved I’d come back, but beat herself up for putting me through such a long awful day of flying. I’d hear none of that, and over the weekend I nursed her through a number more of those terrible gasping episodes. She did better, having some really strong codeine cough syrup to help her out, but it was obvious I needed to be at her side.

Coming up this week we have our 50th class reunion and we are hoping she will be in good enough shape to attend. I am playing with Crusin’ for the event and hope my coughing will not still be a problem. Coughing remains a major issue for Barb and talking aggravates it. So that’s a factor. She has really been through a shit storm, but is tough and brave, and though my New Orleans trip lasted only an hour, I’m glad I made it back home that same night.

So that’s why you didn’t get your book signed at Bouchercon.

Getting back to my class reunion…I was supposed to mount a reunion of the original Daybreakers, with Joe McClean of the XL’s subbing for the late Chuck Bunn. It would have been the band’s 50th anniversary in tandem with my class of ‘66 reunion. But then the Daybreakers Curse decided to make the scene (its first appearance was my inability to participate in a Daybreakers reunion last year because of my heart trouble). Our drummer’s wife was diagnosed with lung cancer, sending the two of them into a medical whirlwind. Our lead guitarist then promptly broke his foot. Our other guitarist bailed, in part because he’s recovering from prostate cancer. And of course I had the comparatively minor problem mentioned above.

So my current band, Crusin’, will fill in, with Joe as a special guest on about ten numbers. We’re rehearsing this week, to pick up more mid-‘60s tunes and to work Joe in on his stuff. We will, assuming a plane doesn’t drop on my house, appear Saturday evening at Geneva Country Club in Muscatine.

I hope Barb will be there, too.

* * *

Here’s a mini-interview I did in support of the Mike Hammer collection, A LONG TIME DEAD.

QUARRY seen as one of the most interesting fall shows.

Jeff Pierce at Kirkus likes the complete version of the ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel.

The top ten most anticipated fall shows include QUARRY.

Director Greg Yaitanes talks QUARRY.

Finally, an interesting write-up on QUARRY here, though I disagree with the critic’s take on Logan Marshall-Green.


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10 Responses to “My Trip to New Orleans”

  1. Bill Crider says:

    Damn, what an ordeal. I looked for you at Bouchercon and finally heard a somewhat garbled version of this story. I’m glad Barb is recovering and that you’re much better, too. You gotta stop burning that candle at both ends!

  2. John Platt says:

    Yikes. Take care of yourselves. These things can be hard to kick. I’m glad you’re both on the mend. Best thoughts to you both, as well as your bandmates.

  3. Andy Lind says:

    I am glad to hear that Barb is OK. I will be praying for a speedy recovery for her

  4. Jerry House says:

    Phew. When bad things happen to good people…

    Wishing you both good health.

  5. Max Allan Collins says:

    Barb is still in the thick of it, having at least two of these gasping episodes per day (though it’s mostly at night). Last night she had twenty minutes of this drowning on dry land. i feel helpless but am doing what I can do. Appears to be something you just have to tough it out.

    All the kind words are appreciated.

  6. Tom Zappe says:

    I don’t have Cinemax, so this was my first look at the series. What’s not to like? Totally evocative of the mood, time and place. And the selection and use of the music is as close to perfection as I expect to see in this lifetime.

    You should both get well quickly.

    Despite a lifetime of dissipation, I’m in sufficiently good health to attend my 50th high school class reunion this weekend. I will be merely sitting in with the band, however, not leading it. Other than having to hang out with a bunch of old people, the only regret I have about partaking this after school detention is that the one person I would really like to see won’t be there.

    So… gonna do the novelization of the TV series?

  7. Tim Field says:

    Sorry to hear of the medical maladies. I’ve only met you and Barb on a handful of occasions (book signings in Minneapolis), but having spent many hours in your company via reading (novels, comics, blogs, reviews, etc) I find myself concerned about the well being of two good folks such as you as if you were in my circle of friends. Sending out good wishes for optimum health.

  8. Howard says:

    I hope that you both had CT scans of the chest. I’m not unfamiliar with the drowning in air thing. I’ve had COPD for years, and it recently kicked into high gear, and I’ve been to the ER with similar symptoms three times in the last four months, plus one doctor visit. However, the second ER visit revealed, through the help of a chest CT scan, that I had multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms, i.e., blood clots in my lungs. These were small clots that had broken off a large one in my leg, a deep vein thrombosis. I am now on heavy blood thinners, and the prognosis is good, the clots will dissolve eventually. But pulmonary embolism can be fatal, so I feel fortunate.

    Each time I went to the ER, I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis as well. I was given antibiotics and prednisone and each time I started to feel better soon. It doesn’t seem right that Barb is continuing to have these symptoms.

    I just want you to be sure you’ve both been checked out for this possibility. My best wishes to you both.

  9. Gerard Saylor says:

    Best of luck and I hope Barb’s medication is effective.

    I was resigned to waiting on the QUARRY DVD so I was quite happy to start watching the show online.

  10. Aaron Hilton says:

    I binge watched all three episodes of Quarry on YouTube today. Great show. I’m stoked to re-read the earlier books, and to catch up on the newer titles I haven’t read yet. And thanks for finishing Mickey Spillane’s manuscripts. The first private eye novel I read was a Mike Hammer. Your writing (and Mickey Spillane’s) have had a huge impact on inspiring my own writing over the years.