Archive for the ‘Message from M.A.C.’ Category

Action!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Shooting has begun on QUARRY in New Orleans.

I have read all eight scripts (including the one I wrote!) and series creators Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller have put together an excellent in-depth look at the origins of Quarry. It’s exciting, sexy, violent, character-driven and takes on important topics, which I like to think is a reflection of my fiction. I am particularly pleased that the show is being done in period with a real emphasis on the Vietnam aspect of the source material.

Break a leg, guys!

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It’s been a very busy year already. Now I begin work on ANTIQUES FATE, working from Barb’s rough draft. Maybe writing FATE OF THE UNION (another FATE!) in between QUARRY IN THE BLACK and this latest Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery will ease the jolt between the very dark world of most of my work and the lighter world of Brandy and her mother Vivian. On the other hand, Barb had the idea of really littering this one with murder victims, so we’ll see.

We’re doing an English-style cozy, consciously invoking the likes of MIDSOMER MURDERS and MISS MARPLE with a village in Iowa that plays up its British heritage. Working on these books is always fun, because Barb puts in so much comedy, which inspires me to put in even more.

One thing will make this year less busy than it would have been: Barb and I (and Nate and Abby) won’t be going to San Diego Comic-Con. We’ve gone regularly for over two decades, so this is kind of the end of an era, or anyway an interruption of one. The con has become so big, sprawling and unwieldily, it can be daunting for older fans and pros. It’s also difficult to get into many of the most interesting panels because to do so requires standing in line for a long, long time (in some cases, overnight).

It will probably mean the Scribe Awards (which I have regularly hosted since their inception, given out at the San Diego Comic-Con) will likely be looking for a new home. This I really regret, as co-founder (with my pal Lee Goldberg) of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers, who honor tie-in writers with these awards. The con gave us a nice high profile.

Why are we staying home? Simple – the wretched situation where lodging is concerned. The con throws all of the hotel rooms out there at a specified time, and if you’re not a computer whiz, you don’t stand a chance – everything at all close to the convention center is gone in about sixty seconds, and within five minutes even the bad rooms are taken. Even with Nate at the computer keys, we wound up with a hotel in Mission Valley – far, far away from the con. Well, we’re already far, far away from the con, and we’ll stay there – home, I mean.

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The new Dover edition of STRIP FOR MURDER has inspired this nice write-up.

Here’s a wonderful review of KILL ME, DARLING from the UK.

The paperback edition of COMPLEX 90 inspired this great review.

And here’s a piece on KILL ME, DARLING by someone who hasn’t read it yet…but it’s good!

M.A.C.

Kill Me, Darling—Today!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
Kill Me, Darling
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The day this update appears, so will KILL ME, DARLING on the shelves of B & N, BAM! and other brick-and-mortar bastions of bookselling, and of course the on-line forces of Amazon and others will have it available, too.

The response so far has been really gratifying, since this is the first of at least three Hammer novels that will have me fashioning a novel from shorter novel fragments that Mickey Spillane left behind. The previous six novels have all had around 100 pages for me to deal with, and sometimes notes and even roughed-out endings. This time I had around 50 pages, including the first chapter from a completely other tale but similar enough that I could rework it for this one (an earlier take on THE GIRL HUNTERS, with Velda disappearing off to Florida, not Russia) without repeating the first five or six pages that were identical in both manuscripts.

So I was nervous that this one might be perceived differently than the ones that were more heavily Mickey. Thus far, that’s not been the case.

Since this is pub day, I am going to share with you here (rather than just provide a link to) the terrific Bookgasm review of KILL ME, DARLING. Here goes:

Prolific crime author Max Allan Collins continues his role as literary executor and posthumous collaborator for the late Mickey Spillane with KILL ME, DARLING, the first of three intended Mike Hammer novels found among Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts.

As he explains in his brief introduction, Collins noted that Spillane envisioned the novel as a follow-up to KISS ME, DEADLY (1952). So Collins revised the opening chapter and placed the entire narrative in the 1953-54 time frame. And, as has been the case with previous collaborations, Collins does the Mike Hammer creator proud.

It’s been a tough time for PI Mike Hammer. As the novel opens his secretary and true love of his life, Velda, has walked out on him, leaving a note with a terse goodbye and no further explanation. And Hammer is just surfacing from a four-month bender. Then a highly respected old cop from the NYPD Vice Squad turns up murdered. Hammer visits the scene of the murder, but before long is picked up by a squad car and taken to the home of his pal, Captain Pat Chambers.

Chambers tells Hammer that Velda has been seen in Miami, Florida, and reportedly is the moll of gangster and suspected drug runner Nolly Quinn. What’s more, Chambers suspects that Velda’s disappearance is connected with the murdered cop – especially since Velda once worked undercover for the cop before she was introduced to Hammer. Hammer sobers up as quickly as he can and drives to Miami to find Velda and bring her home.

Once in Miami Hammer enlists the help of a veteran local newspaperman and a police detective to get information on Nolly Quinn. But the more Hammer learns about Quinn and his Miami operation, the more he fears that whatever Velda is involved in is way over her head and could cost her life.

The dust jacket promotes the novel as “The Lost Mike Hammer Miami Thriller,” and at first the thought of Hammer, the archetype of the urban tough guy, in the land of sun and beaches seems horribly out of place. But Spillane and Collins know that when the sun sets the streets of Miami can be as mean as any in New York. So it doesn’t take long for Hammer to get tangled up with the criminal bosses running the gambling and whorehouses that keep tourists busy after dark.

Collins’s contributions, although mostly seamless, can be felt mainly in his research of the historical time frame of the novel’s setting. So he takes full advantage of the knowledge of Miami’s reputation as the place where even underworld bosses brought their families on vacation, the tempting strategic location of Cuba for moving contraband, and most notably the specter of the Kefauver Committee senate hearings on organized crime that hang over Miami like a veiled mist.

But make no mistake; this is a Mike Hammer story, so it’s filled with bullets shot from speeding cars, brutal hand-to-hand fights, plot twists and sudden revelations right up to the novels’ final pages, plus plenty of hard-boiled observations and dialogue. Even the attitudes about sex and sexuality are firmly and bluntly within the period. And while Hammer carries a devoted torch for his beloved Velda, he finds the lure of the scantly clad Miami women hard to resist.

Spillane popularized those characteristics we now know as “pulp fiction,” and set the stage for most of the impulsive, tough-talking detectives that followed Mike Hammer in print, movies, and TV. So it’s reassuring to know that his spirit and influence are in the ultra-capable hands of Collins.

KILL ME, DARLING will delight new and long-time Spillane fans, and effectively whets our apatite for the forthcoming collaborations Collins has in the pipeline. —Alan Cranis

A review like that is gratifying any time, but in this case it feels extra sweet.

Strip for Murder

Also, I’d like to announce that Dover Books is bringing out nifty new editions of the first two Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries, leading with the second one, STRIP FOR MURDER. The first, A KILLING IN COMICS, will follow soon. The covers are not by Terry Beatty this time, but all his wonderful interior art remains. Thanks, Terry!

This past week, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller, FATE OF THE UNION, went off to my editor at Thomas & Mercer. Matt Clemens worked on it with me and will receive a cover credit. Matt’s story treatment, developed from our co-plotting, gave me a very solid structure to base the novel on, and we were joined-at-the-hip during the writing of my draft. We both think it’s superior to the first novel (which we – and several hundred thousand readers – also like). No pub date yet.

Very soon the QUARRY TV series for Cinemax starts shooting in New Orleans. Barb and I will probably go to the set in April or early May. My episode is now #6 of eight.

This coming week I will be working on the pilot outline for another potential series based on one of my series. More than that I dare not say.

I am writing this in a St. Louis hotel room (at the Moonrise in the Loop), on a visit to son Nate and his bride Abby, who have moved from a West End apartment to suburban O’Fallon, so that Abby has a shorter work commute. Very cute house where we helped the couple set up Nate’s work desk and a dining room table, both of which we magically got into the back of our Chevy Equinox for delivery. Wonderful seeing them, and our granddog Toaster as well. Nate is working on a video game translation currently. Together we watched several episodes of my favorite new series, THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW.

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Top-notch crime writer Mike Dennis also has nice things to say about KILL ME, DARLING – and Mr. Dennis knows his Mike Hammer.

And here’s a very generous appraisal of my career, focusing on the Nathan Heller short story collections, CHICAGO LIGHTNING and TRIPLE PLAY.

M.A.C.

Road to Pernicious

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

A while back, I commented on JOHN WICK and how I thought I detected my fingerprints on it. Didn’t bother me, and (unless I was just being typically self-deluded) I even felt a little flattered. It’s nice to move out of the “being-influenced” category and into the “influence” one.

But I had a very different reaction to RUN ALL NIGHT, the Liam Neeson crime drama that co-stars Joel Kinnaman (of the American KILLING), whose presence is what got Barb and me there, since we are both fans of that series and in particular Kinnaman’s work. This is where I would normally give you a review, but I wasn’t able to tell much about the movie, other than the direction was distractingly flashy and that Ed Harris delivered another one of his strange over-acting and under-acting at the same time performances. Neeson was just doing his patented middle-aged-good-guy-who’s-depressed-he’s-been-a-killer-most-of-his-life turns.

Why I can’t discuss this film rationally is because it lifts so outrageously and shamelessly from both the film and graphic novel of ROAD TO PERDITION. There are differences – Kinnamon plays a grown son with a killer father, with whom he’s fallen out because daddy used to kill people…oh, and it’s present day. But almost every major story beat is PERDITION. Neeson is Michael O’Sullivan, Kinnamon is Michael O’Sullivan, Jr. (even named Michael!), Ed Harris is Paul Newman, and the conflict initiates when an innocent kid witnesses a vicious murder by Harris’ homicidal worthless son. The critics haven’t noticed this blatant borrowing (that I know of), but Barb and I picked up on it almost immediately. Maybe ten minutes in, I said to her, “I guess this is kind of a compliment, but it seems wrong that I should have to pay to see this.”

Barb would lean over and point out the parallels: “Now they’re doing the church scene,” “This is Newman calling Jude Law,” “This is Jude Law getting his face messed up so he can appear later ravaged-looking” (which he does – at a cabin on a lake, in the fucking kitchen!).

Some scenes from the graphic novel appear that weren’t in the Sam Mendes film – including one that I wish had been included, where Michael O’Sullivan takes a meeting with the top gangster (here Ed Harris as an amalgam of Looney/Rooney and Frank Nitti) in their stronghold and then shoots his way out.

Much of what I did in ROAD TO PERDITION drew upon novels and books I read as a kid and of course John Woo and LONE WOLF AND CUB (though there’s more Richard Stark in there than anything Japanese). There’s also some GUN CRAZY and BONNIE & CLYDE, because I wanted to merge the classic gangster story with the outlaw saga. My own Quarry was in the mix, and Nolan and Jon, and even MOMMY. But I didn’t lift, not even from myself. I wasn’t lazy. I put together something of my own, or at least I think I did.

I’m not shouting plagiarism, understand. But I am crying shamelessly lazy screenwriting that is an even bigger insult to the audience than it is to me.

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Here’s a write-up that appeared on Mickey Spillane’s birthday a week ago, with a brief review of KILL ME, DARLING.

And if you scroll down to the bottom review here, you’ll find a nice one on KILL ME, DARLING (amusing referred to, at one point, as KILL ME, DEADLY).

M.A.C.

Real Life Intrudes

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

REAL LIFE INTRUDES

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.

M.A.C.