Thanksgiving 2016

November 22nd, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

In a year like the one I’ve experienced, it might seem tough to be thankful.

Those of you follow these updates know that I’ve had some health issues. The year began with carotid surgery preceding open-heart surgery, during which I had a stroke. While not major, the stroke left me with a fairly useless right hand – couldn’t type, didn’t even have a signature. And a writer losing his or her signature has lost a key piece of identity.

What followed was a lot of work getting my hand functional again and recovering from the surgery with physical and occupational therapy. Also, in the run-up to the heart surgery, something growing in my lower right lung lobe made itself known, requiring keeping an eye on. Eventually I was scheduled to go in for surgery that would probably be just a closer look, but might result in more serious surgery.

While all of this was going on, my son Nate’s bride Abby gave birth to Sam Collins, a preemie who fought a brave battle for life. Nate and Abby practically lived in the hospital for a month while this little tadpole of a kid fought to be a baby. We visited as often as we could, though this was going on concurrent with my heart condition stuff, and that limited us some.

Then both Barb and I managed to get pertussis, which is to say whooping cough. I got mine in August and she got hers a few weeks later, and we are still coughing (the hundred-day cough, they call it). My adventures, recounted in detail in previous updates, included rushing back from New Orleans the moment I landed because Barb’s pertussis had sent her to the emergency room; and having my lung surgery postponed for a month to allow me to get over my bout with the stuff.

The surgery wound up being more serious. A baseball-size thingie was taken out of my lower right lobe. It’s now been diagnosed as MALT-lymphoma, which has nothing to do with old Pop Jenkins down at the soda shop.

Then, while I was recovering from the lung surgery, glued to the TV, I witnessed Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.

So what the hell do I have to be thankful for?

Almost everything (except for the Trump part).

We can start with this career that has allowed me to concoct stories and get paid for it for four decades. We can move from there to my wife Barb, whose love and support got me through all of the bullshit above – she always knows when I need a tender shoulder and also when I need a kick in the pants. She is not a self-pity fan.

From there we can move to my great son and his equally great wife, who gave me this wonderful grandson who has overcome all of the obstacles and is now smart and healthy and very funny. You may have a baby or a baby grandkid who seems pretty cool, but can yours do an evil maniacal laugh at sixteen months?

As for my travails, I was typing almost immediately when I got home from the hospital. Initially all I could move was the mouse, and for some weeks the sensitivity of the computer keyboard was how my weak right hand was able to register anything. But two weeks home after my three-week hospital stay (two of it in O.T. and P.T.), I was working on my draft of Antiques Frame. Before long I was writing The Will to Kill, the new Mike Hammer, and Executive Order with my pal Matt Clemens. Throughout every stage of various recoveries, I have found that my writing has been unimpeded, that it is a place I can go and think of nothing but the story at hand.

Every day I filled at least a full notebook page with my signature, and within a month I had it back. If you ever need an M.A.C signature, my wife can tear one of out the notebook I filled with them. (Ask for one from a later page.)

The pertussis Barb and I shared brought us even closer together, because we were dealing with it at the same time. I won’t pretend it didn’t suck, but something odd happens when you are sick and have a reasonable expectation to get well – you start to really, really appreciate normal, everyday life. To look forward to the most trivial damn things – a meal out, a movie, a walk on an autumn day.

As for the lung thing, I am in a wait-and-see mode, and have a few more tests to take, but I am assured this is a treatable, very survivable condition…and I may have no recurrence. At this point there’s been no talk of chemo or radiation.

If that comes, rest assured I will do everything I can to keep writing, and taking advantage of the support and friendship my readers, editors and my great agent Dominick Abel have always provided. Do not worry about me. I am fine, and I am blessed.


* * *

Here’s the Brash Books blog with stuff about Road to Perdition the novel and Quarry as well.

Here’s a nice latterday review of Kill Your Darlings, though oddly the Bouchercon aspect of the story (usually the favorite aspect of readers) is not so favored here.

Finally, here’s a cool review of Dan John Miller reading Better Dead.


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15 Responses to “Thanksgiving 2016”

  1. Thomas Zappe says:

    I recently purchased a 1965 vintage Omega automatic wristwatch. It is beautiful and keeps great time. However, it is not put together half as well as QUARRY IN THE BLACK.

  2. Mark Lambert says:

    That’s a hell of a lot to go through. My late wife and I both got whooping cough about the same time a few years back — she probably picked it up from a patient, and then I got it. I actually broke a rib from coughing! We both wondered why no one tells people that those pertussis vaccinations we got as kids wear off after ten years or so. Hang in there pal, sending you positive thoughts. And, hey, a lot of us are thankful for having you and your writings in our lives!

  3. Jane Daufeldt says:

    Al and Barb, Wishing you continued good health and many more blessings!

  4. Bill Crider says:

    You have a better attitude than anybody I know. Especially me. If I’d gone through a year like that, I’d be curled up in the fetal position in a dark room. Maybe you continue to get even healthier, and may that MALT-lymphoma never trouble you again.

  5. Jerry House says:

    Beautiful baby. Lucky, too, to have such a loving family.

  6. Randi Day says:

    Wow…there was much to be said for making it through a year like you have experienced. There is nothing like actual experience is there. ;) I am sure that you are pleased to have that litany of issues in your past. I am saying a prayer for healing and a much better 2017 and beyond for you and Barb. May you experience good health, happiness and prolific writing from here on. Mom sends a big hug and her prayers (which may be more effective than mine…) :)

  7. Linda Zimmer Gilbride says:

    So glad you are through most of the tough stuff! Nothing helps more than a strong, loving spouse. Praying that the lung thing will be a minor issue. Enjoy the holidays with those near and dear to you! Happy writing so we can happily read those books.

  8. William Zimmer says:

    Look at it this way Al, 2017 can only be a better year! Happy Holidays!

  9. Annabell Williams-Blegen says:

    What an adorable baby. We send to you and your family our prayers. Happy Holidays!!

  10. Les Roberts says:

    Al – great hearing from you. Difficult year health-wise, I’m sure. I’ve had a few of those, too—but your Thanksgiving message is SO uplifting, and I truly admire that—as well as I admire your astonishing work. You’re like me—as long as you’re able to sit up straight in front of a computer, you WRIITE. That’s what real writers DO. So we’ll be reading your work for many years to come.

    Sam is a cutie-pie. Hard to believe his dad is the forever-young Nate, as I remember him as a young kid. I have two grandkids myself. My grandson, Parker Roberts, is eight years old. My granddaughter, Shea Thompson is—TWENTY-FIVE!!! Yikes!!!

    The happiest of holidays to you and Barb. Great people—and a jewel in the mystery-writing treasure chest.


  11. Max Allan Collins says:

    Thanks for the lovely QUARRY IN THE BLACK thoughts, Thomas.

    Always great to hear from my CAVEMAN collaborator, Mark Lambert.

    Thanks, Jane, for the warm thoughts.

    Bill, you may wish to run your thoughts about my “good attitude” past Barb. To tell the truth, you’re my role model for facing adversity with calm dignity.

    Yeah, Jerry, Sam is one beautiful baby! Looks just like me at his age! (And Nate.)

    Randi, always lovely to hear from you.

    Linda, you are on point in your strong, loving spouse remark! Thanks so much.

    Bill Zimmer, wish we’d spent more time at the reunion. Thanks for the nice thoughts.

    Annabell, you are so right about that adorable kid!

    Les Roberts — great writer, great guy, with some great comments! Thanks so much.

  12. Jan Griffin O'Reilly says:

    Hi, Al and Barb, Happy belated Thanksgiving wishes to the Collins’ family. That Grand baby, Sam, is adorable and what a miracle story! I’m so thrilled for all of you. I wish you didn’t have any further health

  13. Jan Griffin O'Reilly says:

    issues to deal with or such worries. You two have been through enough. Seeing Barb at the Reunion, so lovely, coughing, was heartbreaking. You were astonishing and the fact you never mentioned your non-stop set of fantastic, perfect, rock ‘n roll at our 50th gives a clue to the kind of year you really did have. Not to mention the marvelous Quarry series on Cinemax!!! We’really so proud of you and profoundly thrilled you’re still here. I’ve enjoyed our connection and love going back decades and look forward to everything the New Year holds for Barb and you and your family! Take care, Jan

  14. Max Allan Collins says:

    Jan, thanks for the lovely post. I really should have mentioned the QUARRY show among my blessings, but I guess that I left it out shows what kind of year I’ve had. I worked very hard on the band for the reunion. It was somewhat doomed from the beginning, because the plan to regroup the original Daybreakers got derailed at the last minute by illness on the part of two members and another’s member’s wife. I brought in my current group, Crusin’, plus Joe McClean (who was going to play bass with the Daybreakers), and worked many hours on getting the material together and rehearsing with the group, doing strictly stuff from the class of ’66 era. I was hampered by still having pertussis enough that my singing was interrupted by coughing and the loss of my upper and lower registers. I’ve done this long enough to be able to work around the latter. But I admit the reunion was a disappointment to me where the dance was concerned. Only a couple of people bothered to comment to me about the performance (you and Ron Parker) and the dance floor was always in play but never full. When nobody rushed out to the likes of “You Really Got Me” and “We Gotta Get Out of the Place,” I knew we were all, alas, old people. Your positive comments mean a lot. And I’m very glad to renew our friendship.

  15. Thomas Zappe says:

    Donde es?