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

Antiques Frame Just Published

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
MP3 CD:

This week Antiques Frame, the latest “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery by Barb and me (writing as Barbara Allan), goes on sale. There’s also an audio book, which we’ve sampled but haven’t listened to all the way through, though the narrator this time is much more to our liking.

I realize that certain of my readers may not be inclined to pick up a “cozy” mystery, but some reviewers have realized that the series is in part a tongue-in-cheek send-up of that genre, and also that the novels have a certain edge, even if they aren’t Mike Hammer or Nate Heller or Quarry.

This particular novel has special meaning for me – not because it’s my favorite in the series (that might be Antiques Fate, just out in mass market paperback) but because it represented a real breakthrough for me. Antiques Frame was the first book I (co-)wrote after my open-heart surgery and the stroke I had, just for fun, on the operating table. As regular readers here may recall, I woke up in the hospital to a right arm and, to some degree, right side that were as useful as a broken hinge.

At the hospital I had both physical therapy and occupational therapy, and was helped by a number of terrific people in those disciplines. My right side came back within days – I was walking well and able to do the exercises asked of me, from riding stationery bikes to going up and down stairs. But my right hand remained feeble. The idea of typing with it again seemed abstract. The most disheartening thing was that I had lost my signature.

The doctors and therapists assured me I would get my right hand back, and the doctors especially implied the use would just back on its own. Not true. I had to work hard at it, with exercises ranging from rubber band contraptions to just flat out trying to write my name over and over again.

For a writer, the loss of his or her signature is a blow to the ego, to the very idea of identity. I was determined to get it back. But my biggest fear was losing the ability to type with both hands. Fortunately, almost immediately, I had some ability to use the hand – weak as hell, though. At home I soon found that a computer keyboard is sensitive enough that very faint pressure is all that’s required. My typing style is two-fisted, having trained on (and for a long time using) manual typewriters.

So my left hand was typically strong and my right weak as a kitten. This required backing off on my left. I began writing e-mails and this weekly blog. Very soon I was able to type passably well, and the first project I tackled – still spending time with physical and occupational therapy, for several weeks here at home before going to a facility – was my draft of Antiques Frame.

Again, if you’re a regular visitor here you may know how Barb and I operate on these books. We come up with a title and a basic plot, and sometimes plot the books together and sometimes our plotting session has been good enough that Barb can break down the chapters in an outline of sorts herself. She also does character lists and time lines. The book had been plotted, roughly, before my hospital stay.

She writes a rough draft, usually 200 to 250 pages. I then write my draft of 300 to 325 pages, mostly adding jokes and polishing, plus expanding dialogue. This time she wrote a good deal of her draft in my hospital room on a laptop. As the books are humorous mysteries, I’m not sure how she managed that.

When I began working on the book, I discovered that she had (not surprisingly) done a fine job, but (somewhat surprisingly) the humor quotient was typically high. In my diminished state, I hoped I could keep the thing funny, too. Frankly, I was hoping it would just be in English. But the effort went well, and working on a “Barbara Allan” was the perfect way for me to get back up on the writing horse and write/ride.

My right hand came back within a couple of months, pretty much strong as ever. And several more months later, when the galley proofs arrived of Antiques Frame, I swallowed hard and sat down to read them. I was amazed to find out the book was not only in English, but a solid and very funny entry in the series. It’s a reminder that writers live chiefly in their heads – their physical state is something they have to deal with, obviously, but as long as the mental engine is firing on all cylinders, the rest is incidental.

The other thing I learned is how good my wife has gotten at writing, and how generally wonderful a woman she is – actually, I already knew, but the experience of taking my pass on Antiques Frame was sweet confirmation.

* * *

Barb and I are preparing for our NYC trip for the Edgar awards and my receiving the Grand Master award. That’s on Thursday evening. For those of you in the New York area, here’s the line-up for the Wednesday Edgar-week symposium, which includes Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime interviewing me.
Symposium Schedule

Cost: $95 members; $125 non-members – with a $15 retroactive discount for those who join MWA within 30 days after.

8:30 – 8:50: Registration

8:55 – 9:00: Welcome – MWA’s Executive Vice President – Donna Andrews

9:00 – 9:50: Meet the Class of 2017 – Best First Novel Nominees
Moderator: STEFANIE PINTOFF, 2010 Best First Edgar Winner (City on Edge, Bantam)
Panelists: Flynn Berry (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Under the Harrow, Penguin Books)
Bill Beverly (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dodgers, Crown Publishing)
Joe Ide (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – IQ, Little, Brown & Co – Mulholland Books)
Nick Petrie (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Drifter – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Lili Wright (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – Dancing with the Tiger – Marian Wood/Putnam)
Heather Young (2017 Best First Edgar Nominee – The Lost Girls – William Morrow)

10:00 – 10:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 1
Grand Master Max Allan Collins interviewed by Charles Ardai

11:00 – 11:50: Just the Facts – If you’re not writing what you know, you’re writing what you want to know – and today’s savvy reader will send you a note if you get it wrong, How do writers of fiction and nonfiction crime approach research? When do they know they’ve researched enough?
Moderator: LAURIE R. KING, MWA NorCal Chapter President (Murder of Mary Russell – Bantam)
Panelists: Ruth Franklin (2017 Best Critical/Bio Nominee – Shirley Jackson – W.W. Norton)
Laurence Leamer (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Lynching – William Morrow)
Kate Summerscale (2017 Best Fact Crime Nominee – The Wicked Boy – Penguin Press)
Caroline (Charles) Todd (2017 MHC Award Nominee – The Shattered Tree – William Morrow)
James Ziskin (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Heart of Stone – Seventh Street Books)

11:50 – 1:00 Lunch Break (On Your Own)

1:00 – 1:50: Nursery Noir – Writers of mysteries for young readers may have the toughest audience of all. How do dark stories translate for the teen and tween set? How do adult writers get into the minds – and hearts – of kid readers?
Moderator: LORI RADER-DAY, MWA Midwest Chapter President (The Day I Died – William Morrow)
Panelists: Brent Hartinger (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Three Truths and a Lie – Simon Pulse)
April Henry (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – The Girl I Used to Be – Christy Ottaviano Books)
Sarah Lariviere (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – The Bad Kid – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
James Ponti (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Framed! – Aladdin)
Billy Taylor (2017 Best Young Adult Nominee – Thieving Weasels – Penguin YR – Dial Books)
Susan Vaught (2017 Best Juvenile Nominee – Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry – Paula Wiseman Books)

2:00 – 2:50 Liars Club – Liars, cheats, thieves, murderers – and, sometimes, those are the protagonists. How do writers create characters that keep readers up at night? How do they create empathy in characters who make bad guys look pretty good?
Moderator: JEFFERY DEAVER, 2017 MWA President (The Burial Hour – Grand Central Publishing)
Panelists: Laura Benedict (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “A Paler Shade of Death” – St. Louis Noir)
Alafair Burke (2017 Best Novel Nominee – The Ex – HarperCollins)
Robert Dugoni (2017 Best PBO Nominee – The 7th Canon – Thomas & Mercer)
Lyndsay Faye (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Jane Steele – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Alison Gaylin (2017 Best Novel Nominee – What Remains of Me – William Morrow)
Martha Hillier (2017 Best TV Episode Nominee – “Dark Road” – Vera)

3:00 – 3:50: #AuthorLife – There’s no one way to be a crime writer. Agent/no agent. Small press/big five. Plotter/pantser forever. How did these authors get into the life of crime – and what advice do they have for aspiring writers taking a stab at mystery?
Moderator: MARK STEVENS, MWA Rocky Mtn Chapter President (Lake of Fire – Midnight Ink)
Panelists: Megan Abbott (2017 Best Short Story Nominee – “Oxford Girl” – Mississippi Noir)
Patricia Abbott (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Shot in Detroit – Polis Books)
Reed Farrel Coleman (2017 Best Novel Nominee – Where it Hurts – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Tyler Dilts (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Come Twilight – Thomas & Mercer)
Adrian McKinty (2017 Best PBO Nominee – Rain Dogs – Seventh Street Books)
Wendy Corsi Staub (2017 MHC Award Nominee – Blue Moon – William Morrow)

4:00 – 4:50: From the Writer’s Desk, Part 2
Grand Master Ellen Hart – Interviewed by Oline Cogdill

* * *

All the books have been mailed out on our “free books” offer. Just about everyone who requested one got one.

The newly published Executive Order has received some nice notices, like this one.

And another one here.

This article includes me as a mystery writer doing some TV scripting.

Finally, and I kid you not (as Jack Paar used to say), here’s a review of the 1985 trade paperback, The Files of Ms. Tree Vol. 1.

M.A.C.

The Big Time

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

The picture was taken at the Muscatine, Iowa, Wal-Mart, showing the paperback edition of The Big Showdown for sale on its shelves. This, my friends, is truly the big time. I haven’t spotted a book of mine here since the heyday of the CSI tie-ins.

I’d had reports of sightings of The Legend of Caleb York at Wal-Marts here and there around the USA, but it didn’t make it to my hometown, where the book area is fairly modest. Romances make up the biggest number of titles, but westerns are also a staple. Mysteries/thrillers of mine don’t make the cut.

While the new Mike Hammer novels, and the several non-Hammer Hard Case Crime posthumous Spillane titles, have all done modestly well, the success of Spillane as a western byline might just have more impact. And Wal-Mart is a big part of that, because they are one of the few book outlets that support Westerns, big time.

And the Spillane byline has real resonance with the older audience that buys Westerns. Not all Western readers are Baby Boomers like me, who recognize the name of the bestselling fiction writer of the 20th Century. But a good share are. Mickey’s friend Louis L’Amour, who died in 1988, is still one of the top names in the Western field.

Mickey, of course, viewed Mike Hammer as a Western-style hero moved to the urban frontier. He often said that Hammer “wore the black hat,” but was a good guy nonetheless.

Though I’ve been a fan of Western movies and TV since childhood – what Baby Boomer male wasn’t? – I never considered writing a Western novel. I’ve only read a handful in my life. But one of my earliest obsessions was the Maverick TV show, and a good deal of Bret Maverick got into Nate Heller. And I watched all those shows – Bat Masterson, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Gunsmoke (when it was thirty minutes), Yancy Derringer and so many more.

And some of my favorite films are westerns – The Searchers, Ride the High Country, Rio Bravo, Red River, The Tall T, Comanche Station, Ride Lonesome, Seven Men from Now, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. My character Nolan drew from the Italian westerns of Lee Van Cleef – The Big Gundown, Death Rides a Horse, For a Few Dollars More.

So maybe it was inevitable that, before I rode off into the sunset, I’d be writing some Westerns. I had already written the novelization of the movie version of Maverick and the Wyatt Earp Meets Al Capone novel, Black Hats (new edition coming from Brash Books).

Plus the unproduced screenplay of Mickey’s that started it all, The Saga of Calli York, was written for his pal John Wayne. (“Calli” a now inappropriate nickname for “Caleb,” the former dropped from the books.) You’ll note quite a few Wayne titles among those listed above. I had only intended to write the one book, novelizing that screenplay, but my editor at Kensington Books insisted on three novels. And now I’ve signed to do two more.

This marks the first time Mickey’s byline appears with mine on books to which he didn’t contribute any writing. But the Caleb York yarns use his characters and situations and are a legitimate extension of the vision he developed in the screenplay – a winning combination of the Western myth of those John Wayne and Randolph Scott westerns and a more violent, pre-Leone approach.

The sex is there, too, but somewhat soft-pedaled. Apparently Wal-Mart will go for the tough stuff, but nothing smutty. Maybe that’s why Nate Heller never made it on their shelves….

* * *

I had a fun e-mail from my old pal Steve Noah that I’d like to share with you.

“Max,
Am in Kigali, Rwanda at 1:20 AM finishing EXECUTIVE ORDER and thought you might be interested to know that the clever lighting of the Washington Monument you mention on page 233 was provided by Musco Sports Lighting, with ties to Muscatine.
Best,
Steve”

My thanks to Steve for this fascinating info.

Musco is a very famous lighting company, much used in big-time sports and by Hollywood. The “Musc,” as you may have figured out, stands for Muscatine, the river town of 23,000 where Barb and I have always lived.

The Musco operation is adjacent to the junk yard where the climax of my movie Mommy was shot in 1994. They provided the lighting. I often joke that they just turned their lighting trucks around and pointed them our way, but really they did much more than that.

I’m honored that this incredibly famous company supported my small filmmaking endeavor.

* * *

Wild Dog is a regular on Arrow, now. Still haven’t seen any episodes. I’ll watch when I receive a check.

M.A.C.

Hey, Kids! Free Books…Again!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:

Once more, we are going to offer copies of our work – and I’m talking in the editorial “we” to some extent, but also about Barb and me – to the first responders (and not just cops and fireman) among readers who agree to post an Amazon review. Barnes & Noble works, too, and if you have your own blog, that’s great also. But Amazon seems to be where sales get an impact.

As has happened to me too many times to mention, I have a bunch of books coming out more or less at once. So here’s what’s on offer…

The Will to Kill by Mickey Spillane and You Know Who. The new Mike Hammer that I wrote working from Spillane material, and something of a change of pace, with an Agatha Christie-type set-up complete with greedy offsprings in a big remote house.

Antiques Frame by Barbara Allan. Brandy goes to jail accused of murdering the wife of the man she’s been dating for much of the series, and Mother must investigate, including contemplating attracting attention by going “the partial Vivian” (as opposed to the Full Monty). These are funny novels and if they don’t make you laugh, you’re dead from the neck up. Available are a mix of trade paperback advance copies and a few hardcovers.

Antiques Fate by Barbara Allan. This is the paperback reprint of last year’s hardcover. Brandi and her mother go to an English-style village where Vivian will do her one-woman show of “the Scottish play,” and murder most foul will ensue.

The Big Showdown by Mickey Spillane and me. The second Caleb York western, now in paperback. The crazy brothers of somebody Caleb killed in the first book are on the warpath, and they aren’t even Indians. There’s also a mystery growing out of the murder of a recurring character. (Well, not recurring anymore….)

Executive Order by M.A.C. and Matthew V. Clemens. The conclusion to the “Branches of Government” trilogy of political thrillers which are almost as bat-shit crazy as the real world. Have you met Reeder and Rogers yet? If you haven’t tried one of these, what are you waiting for?

Five copies of each are available. Write me at [REDACTED] and list, in order of preference, the books that interest you. You’ll only get one of the titles. If there’s something you already have or aren’t keen on getting, don’t list it.

IMPORTANT: include in your e-mail your snail-mail address. You’ll likely be skipped over if you don’t. Also, this is only for the USA. Canadians must buy the books to read them. Don’t feel bad – Trump isn’t your president.

Okay? Got the rules?

These go fast, but it usually takes at least a few days, so don’t give up without trying.

And if you’re already a paying customer for any of these, picture me on my knees begging: write Amazon reviews of the books of mine/ours you’ve read lately. Post those reviews on your blogs and Facebook pages, but make sure to do so at Amazon. Will to Kill, a novel people really seem to like, is very under-reviewed. Quarry in the Black could also use some love, and the same goes for Better Dead.

Grass roots attention is important. The trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus) are reviewing less and less of my material, apparently because when a series runs a while, they just don’t bother. Or maybe they just think I write too much. Even Mystery Scene and Ellery Queen are spotty – the last Queen review just lumped a bunch of my books together.

This doesn’t go for just me – any writer you like, any writer you follow, will benefit (and stay in business) by you writing an Amazon review and/or a Blog entry. A good place to start? My stuff.

Thank you.

Speaking of reviews, here’s a nifty one of The Will to Kill.

Here’s a piece wondering if there will be a second season of Quarry, wishing there would be. From your lips to Cinemax’s ear.

Some coverage of the Stacy Keach Mike Hammer audios can be found here.

And Ms. Tree gets some love here, including a podcast (that I haven’t heard yet).

M.A.C.

A Showdown and a Ghost

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The mass-market edition of The Big Showdown, the sequel to The Legend of Caleb York, has just come out. It continues with the characters and stories that Mickey Spillane developed in the (unproduced) screenplay he wrote for his friend John Wayne in the late 1950s.

Response to this new series, representing my first westerns (unless you count the movie novelization Maverick and maybe my Wyatt Earp meets Al Capone novel, Black Hats), has been positive. In fact, I’ve completed a third Caleb York story, The Bloody Spur, and have signed to do two more.

The novels are in part mysteries, befitting the two bylines, and are otherwise very old-fashioned westerns in the manner of Randolph Scott and Audie Murphy movies of the fifties and early sixties…but with a higher, more Leone-like level of violence, which is only appropriate with the name Spillane invoked. Mickey’s York screenplay was far more violent than anyone in the western film or novel field was doing at the time. The sexual content was adult for its time, but that time has passed.

The book was one of the last that I completed before I went in for my heart surgery – one of a handful on my docket that I wanted to make sure got done in case…well, you know. I thought it came out well and am particularly proud of the finale, a shoot-out – you might say, a big showdown – in a rainstorm…also typically Spillane.

If you like my crime novels but don’t usually read westerns, give these a try anyway. I’m pretty sure you’ll like them.

* * *

The movie Ghost in the Shell, based on a famous Japanese animated film (which spawned an anime series and many sequels) has been getting a rough time of it. Only 43% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it received a scathing review on Facebook by my pal, Terry Beatty, with whom I rarely disagree on films. He hated it so much that I’d decided not to go, though based on the previews I’d been looking forward to it.

But the workload right now is so brutal, I needed a break, and took a risk. I’d read the positive reviews among the pans and caught hints that I might not agree with Terry. And I didn’t.

Barb and I are becoming infamous for walking out of movies, and we fully expected this to be one of them. Instead we both loved it. Scarlett Johansson is Major, whose human brain has been inserted in a robot body, designed to be the perfect terrorist fighter. She inhabits a world futuristically Asian, influenced by Blade Runner’s city but even more complex in its imagery.

Johansson is very good, much as she was in Lucy, moving with a certain robotic gait though not overstating it, her dialogue delivered in a similar fashion. She has a team of cyber-enhanced soldiers, one of whom is her partner, played by “Pilou” Asbæk, the Swedish actor who was so good in the TV series Borgen, the nordic West Wing. Major is having flashes of memory and humanity that are intruding on her search for an uber-terrorist, but of course everything is not as it seems.

A special treat is the presence of Takeshi Kitano, director/writer/star of Violent Cop and Boiling Point, among other great Japanese crime films. He’s essentially M to Major’s Jane Bond, but he gets out from behind the desk and kicks ass, late in the proceedings.

Themes of identity, family and loyalty are explored, but not to the detriment of well-staged action scenes that don’t indulge in that speeded-up crap. The art direction is stunning throughout, and seldom has CGI been better employed. We saw it in 3-D, which really enhanced the levels of the design work.

I have hesitated till recently to review movies again. I know how hard it is to make one. And I realize that taste is individual, and smart people can disagree. If you skip a movie because I don’t like it, you may be making a mistake. And if you go to one because I did like it, you might also be making a mistake.

But I don’t think so.

* * *

This review of The Big Showdown first appeared last year about this time, but if you’re considering picking up the paperback, you might want to check this out.

M.A.C.