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

Days in the Life

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Normally I don’t take my work – that is, the novel in progress – along on trips. Business or pleasure or a mix, I like to do the work in my office at home. Also, I hate the smaller, flat-keyed keyboard of a laptop, so generally writing in the hotel room is a non-starter.

Occasionally there are exceptions. On the recent Florida trip, we left Iowa with two chapters remaining to be written on the new Heller, Do No Harm. The second-to-the-last chapter was the action climax, which I was still working on in my mind. It drives me crazy to have to walk away from a book at that late stage because of some event I agreed to do months and months before, never realizing when that event would fall within my writing life.

We were in Clearwater five days. Between rehearsals and performances of Encore for Murder, we were busy and most of what we did, beyond the theater, was look for good eating places and do a little shopping. Took in one movie (Proud Mary, a black version of Gloria that was a nice throwback).

Every night as I tried to go to sleep, my brain was working on that second-to-last chapter. I had outlined that chapter, and knew what needed to be done with it, but something was wrong, or at least wasn’t satisfying. Several nights into the trip, what I needed to do crystalized. And it had hold of me but good.

So the next day I wrote that second-to-the-last chapter in the hotel room, on my laptop, working all afternoon and a few hours after we got back from the opening night performance. I ran it off the next morning in the lobby’s business center and gave it to Barb to read on the plane, and proof and critique. When we got home that night, I incorporated her fixes and suggestions and did a final tweak.

That meant I was able to finish the book ahead of schedule, writing the final chapter and the bibliographic end notes on the day after we got back.

It’s no big deal to write in a hotel room. I have many writer friends (Bob Randisi especially comes to mind) who regularly write on their latest project when they are traveling. But for me it’s a rarity. And it indicates how thoroughly a book I’m writing can take hold of me.

That opened up the following week for other things. In the first few days, I proofed and tweaked the novel, and assembled the manuscript for e-mailing to my editor and my agent. On Wednesday and Thursday I did a rewrite of the other Mike Hammer radio play, The Little Death, for Zev Buffman in Clearwater. Finally Barb and I went to Galena, Illinois, for two days on a combination work-and-pleasure jaunt. The work part was researching Galena for my next novel, The Girl Most Likely (for Thomas & Mercer).

In Galena we met with the charming and very helpful Chief Lori Huntington. This was a particularly important meeting because the protagonist of the novel is the chief of police of Galena. We also drove around the area and got to the know the town a little better than on our previous visits, where we were pretty much strictly downtown shopping and eating. We even toured the historic Galena home of President Grant, the town’s most famous former citizen.

That was Friday and Saturday. On Sunday I wrote a short story, “The Big Run,” for the Strand magazine from an unproduced 1954 Mickey Spillane teleplay — part of the centenary celebration. We also went to a crime movie, Den of Thieves, which has a nice surprise ending, though it suffers from having nobody worth rooting for among either the cops or the crooks.

All in all, a productive couple of weeks.


M.A.C. and Galena police chief, Lori Huntington
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Here’s a nice Publisher’s Weekly interview with me about things Spillane, by fellow Mick fan, Michael Barson, who is a bigtime pop culture expert.

The great James Reasoner likes The Last Stand and tells you all about it here.

M.A.C.

Hammer on Stage!

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Barb and I are back in Iowa after a lovely sojourn to Florida for five days, where my play Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder was produced at the Murray Theater of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The roster of name artists who have appeared at this venue is mind-boggling – Encore premiered the same night that another stage at the complex featured Jackson Browne. We had a full house of 200. So did Jackson – of 4200.

The mastermind of this event is legendary Broadway producer Zev Buffman. He is the President and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall, and has produced more than 40 Broadway shows. He partnered with Elizabeth Taylor to present her in her Broadway debut, The Little Foxes. He’s also the co-founding General Partner of the NBA Champion Basketball team the Miami Heat.


The set of Encore for Murder with the radio sound effects table and the looming screen that set the scenes — here showing the play’s poster.

In addition to all that and much more, Zev is a wonderful guy with impeccable theater instincts. Encore for Murder was designed to be a play presented in the “old radio” format. But Zev got the idea (which I frankly was not sold on) to open the play up by having the central character (named Mike Hammer – ring a bell?) be played more theatrically, with Hammer off script, a full music score, a looming projector with dozens of scene-setting images somewhat in Sin City style, and with even the radio actors in costume and participating in theatrical blocking and action. Zev’s hybrid – beautifully executed by director Richard Rice with his son Devin providing noir-ish music and a solid mostly local cast supporting consummate pro Gary Sandy – made me a believer. Yes, you heard it here first – I was wrong. The preview and opening night audiences loved it.


Barb was amused and probably a little appalled that within the first fifteen minutes of us arriving at the theater, I began “directing” director Richard Rice.

Gary – who was Lt. Anderson in my film Mommy’s Day (1995) – was a bundle of energy, the engine of the piece, perfectly playing Hammer for tongue-in-cheek humor where appropriate but turning on a dime into tough-guy brutality. This didn’t occur to anybody till I pointed it out, but Gary is the first and only actor to date to play Hammer on stage – all previous Hammer actor portrayals have been in the movies or on radio and TV. (Gary was star of the radio-style production of Encore for Murder in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 2010).


Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer at the start of the play — the trenchcoat and hat go quickly on a coat tree, returning in full only at the close, with the hat returning now and then during the proceedings.

There’s serious talk of the other Hammer radio-style play, The Little Death (which won the Audie), being presented later this year.

What a wonderful way to kick off Mickey’s centenary!


M.A.C. and Gary Sandy (center) and the entire cast of Encore for Murder at the post-preview night panel.

M.A.C. finding Gary Sandy an easy audience at the panel.

The reviews and press coverage in Florida for Encore were terrific. A sample follows, starting with this behind the scenes article.

And here is the same paper’s rave review of opening night.


Producer Zev Buffman, M.A.C., Gary Sandy, director Richard Rice.

Meanwhile, in the rest of my career….

A cry goes out for DC to reprint the comic strip Batman continuity written by me and drawn by Marshall Rogers. I hope this happens, and I hope I get billing – at the time, the warm and wonderful folks at the Tribune syndicate made me take my name off, threatening to sue me if I didn’t and also to fire me (which they anyway a little while later).

This column talks (favorably) about the Quarry comic book mini-series and The Last Stand.

Here’s a nice Quarry write-up.

And finally this piece presents a Spillane cover gallery that even J. Kingston Pierce would envy. (I own one of these covers. Guess which one and win absolutely nothing.)

M.A.C.

Mike Hammer Goes to Florida

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

This week I will be on hand for the premiere night of Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder, Thursday, January 18, in Clearwater, Florida. Get the details for attending here.

And this article from the Tampa Bay Times will give you the rest of the story.

Plus here is an interview with Encore’s Mike Hammer – Gary Sandy (who some will recall was a star of my film Mommy’s Day, in which he appeared with Mickey Spillane).

The play runs through February 3rd, and kicks off the Mickey Spillane centenary year in a big way.

Here’s more on the show right here.

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Check out this Publisher’s Weekly rave for Mickey’s final solo book, The Last Stand.

This is a nice Will to Kill review, with a look at the paperback’s cover.

Here’s another nice write-up on Crusin’ getting into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

M.A.C.

Crusin’ to the Hall of Fame

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

I am very pleased to announce that my band Crusin’ has been named to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The current line-up will be inducted on Labor Day Weekend at Arnold’s Park, Iowa (more on this later). My previous band, the Daybreakers, which performed from 1966 through 1972, was inducted to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

That both of my bands have been chosen for this honor means a great deal to me – just having two bands from Muscatine, Iowa, in the Hall of Fame would be impressive. That two members of the first band (myself and the late Paul Thomas) formed the second one is really special and an accomplishment I’m proud of.

I have requested that all of the past members, as well as the current line-up, be inducted into the Hall, and that request will be honored.

Here is a new bio of Crusin’, for those of you who came in late (or who have memories like mine).

M.A.C.

CRUSIN’ TO BE INDUCTED INTO THE IOWA ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME

Steve Kundel, drums; Bill Anson, guitar; Max Allan Collins, keyboards; Brian Van Winkle, bass.

The Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame will include Crusin’ in its class of 2018. The band will perform at the induction concert on September 1 in Arnold’s Park, as will others of this year’s honorees.

Crusin’ was among the first — if the not the first — ’60s-revival bands anywhere. The band was founded by keyboard player/lead singer Max Allan Collins, leader of the Daybreakers, the celebrated Muscatine, Iowa, combo (1966 – 1972) whose cult single, “Psychedelic Siren,” is one of the most anthologized garage-band recordings of the 1960s. The Daybreakers were inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Led by bestselling mystery writer Collins (Road to Perdition), Crusin’ continues to present its engaging mix of classic rock and their own ’60s-style originals. The current line-up includes Collins and longtime Crusin’ members, drummer Steve Kundel and bassist Brian Van Winkle, with recent addition guitarist Bill Anson. Bill is a veteran Muscatine musician who over the years has been in groups with Crusin’ members Chuck Bunn, Steve Kundel and Jamie Hopkins.

Crusin’ began in 1974. After the Daybreakers broke up in 1972, several members continued recording together and occasionally performing in coffee houses. Meeting socially, Collins and Paul Thomas (bass player in the final Daybreakers line-up) bemoaned the disco and other unappealing music then on the radio. Both expressed an interest in starting up another rock band, but neither could tolerate the current fare.

The success of the film American Graffiti and of such 1950s acts as Sha Na Na seemed to indicate that a Sixties revival band might also do well, even though that decade was only a few years in the past. Collins and Thomas brought in drummer Ric Steed, veteran of a number of area bands, and guitarist Lenny Sloat, who had been in two well-respected Muscatine mid-’60s combos, the Coachmen and Depot Rains. Their first performance at Muscatine’s popular disco, Warehouse 4, was a smash, with the band immediately booked back on a regular basis.

The quick, surprising success of Crusin’ at local clubs inspired the band to go fulltime, and Sloat opted out. Bruce Peters — the Daybreakers guitarist thought by many to have been one of the Midwest’s greatest rock showmen — was appearing as a solo act at the Improv and other clubs in LA when he wasn’t filling in with Van Halen and other top West Coast bands. Collins and Thomas convinced Peters to come back and join them, and the result was explosive — audiences who had enjoyed the band’s oldies were knocked out by the showmanship and charisma of the new line-up.

In the mid-to-late ’70s, Crusin’ was perhaps Eastern Iowa’s most popular band of any kind, playing to packed houses at such notable clubs of the era as Muscatine’s Warehouse 4, Grandview’s Talk of the Town, Burlington’s Ramp, Davenport’s Al’s Lounge, Conesville’s Thirsty Camel, and especially Dodgeville’s Pub, where for several years Crusin’ played every other weekend to capacity crowds on both Friday and Saturday nights in the Pub’s cavernous “Old Town” setting.

When health problems took Peters out of the group, Iowa City guitarist Rob Gal came in, infusing the group with his New Wave sensibilities. And when Collins left for a time to better pursue his blossoming writing career, the band continued as a three-piece, first as Crusin’ and then as the Ones. This version of the group was enormously successful on the Midwestern college circuit, releasing an LP that won heavy college-station airplay, with the group several times voted Iowa City’s most popular band in radio station competitions.

In the late ’80s, Collins returned and the band appeared under both the Crusin’ and Ones names — depending on the venue. “I Feel Better,” a Gal-penned tune from this period, became a regional hit thanks to Iowa City exposure.

Shortly thereafter, Gal moved to the Atlanta area, performed and recorded with the nationally known band “The Coolies,” and became a successful record producer. Collins and Paul Thomas kept going as Crusin’ with various members — including original Daybreakers bassist Chuck Bunn (who passed away in 2011), but always with Collins and, until his death in 2006, Thomas. The band has performed not only in Eastern Iowa but in Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago, opened for national acts at Davenport’s Col Ballroom, and twice appeared at the famed Williamsburg, Iowa, World’s Biggest Beach Party.

Over the years, the band released three vinyl LPs, a gold-vinyl EP, and three CDs, most recently a live CD, Rock ‘n’ Roll Happened. Crusin’s recording efforts have been widely praised by music-magazine reviewers: Goldmine called the band “eminently danceable and always listenable”; and Option (reviewing their 1991 CD, Bullets!) raved of “a breezy pop-rock sound that recalls the best of the late ‘6Os.” Their track (“Little Bit Me, Little Bit You”) for Here No Evil, the nationally released 1992 Monkees tribute album assembled by old bandmate Gal, was singled out for praise by reviewers. They frequently performed live on Muscatine FM station KFMH for popular, controversial DJ Steve Bridges (a 2017 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee).

In recent years, Crusin’ has contributed around a dozen original songs to Collins’ independent feature films Mommy (seen on Lifetime TV with Crusin’ performing on camera), Mommy’s Day, and Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, all available on DVD.

Crusin’ has appeared in concert with such nationally prominent acts as the Turtles, the Young Rascals, the Buckinghams, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bobby Vee, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, the Kingsmen, Johnny Tillotson, Rare Earth, the Crystals, the Mamas and Papas, Bo Diddley, Iggy Pop and the Romantics.

Their current show is a fun, unusual mix of classic rock, delving deeper into the ‘70s and ‘80s than before, with a sprinkling of originals spanning the group’s many years and many recordings.

Several other talented musicians have been members of Crusin’. Andy Landers, rhythm guitar, is a fulltime performer and recording artist as both a solo act and leader of Mainstreet Struggleville out of Olympia, Washington. Stellar guitarist Jim Van Winkle took over for the late Paul Thomas and was with the band for over a decade. Dennis Maxwell, now in Scottsdale, Arizona, was one of the original Daybreakers; for several years he played bass and guitar with Crusin’. Father and son DeWayne and Jamie Hopkins were both drummers with the band in the ‘90s. DeWayne is the only member of Crusin’ to go on to be mayor of Muscatine.