Posts Tagged ‘Antiques Bizarre’

The Maltin Falcon

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I’ve posted a number of links lately to reviews of THE BIG BANG, YOU CAN’T STOP ME and ANTIQUES BIZARRE, as well as older books of mine. But this week I’m happy to report that some nice write-ups appear in current issues of bigtime national newstand magazines. You know – the kind you can hold in your hand and turn the pages.

Antiques BizarreANTIQUES BIZARRE – due out next week – received a splendid four-star review in the March 2010 RT BOOK REVIEWS (RT standing for ROMANTIC TIMES). The magazine always leads off with a review followed by a spoiler-free plot summary. Among other things, RT describes the novel as “a cozy with a twist” and “hysterically funny as well as a solid mystery.” An insightful comment notes that our protagonist Brandy “has an unusually realistic life in all its messiness.”

Jon Breen leads off his Jury Box column in the March/April ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE with high praise for Hard Case Crime, singling out three books for excellent three-star reviews (Jon does not bestow 1/2 stars, a three-star review is second only to a four-star one in the Jury Box). He describes yours truly as “one of the best and most prolific and versatile crime writers currently practicing,” and QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE as a “most welcome 1980’s flashback,” and wraps up saying, “Neat plot, fine style, fast reading.” Jon – just about the best scholar in best mystery fiction, and a fine mystery novelist in his own right/write – has been a supporter of my work for decades, and to whatever degree I have a respectable reputation, he has played a major role. The first review I ever received in a national magazine was from Jon in EQMM…for one of the early Quarry novels.

And I know you will want to read the March PLAYBOY for its articles – particularly one small, snazzy one. PLAYBOY gives the forthcoming THE BIG BANG a solid write-up under the heading KILLER FICTION – HAMMER LIVES, including a full-color shot of the ‘60s pop-art front cover of the novel. Among other nice things, the review/mini-article says, “Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s collaborator and author of Road to Perdition, has expertly completed a second Spillane novel, The Big Bang, out this spring. The book will transport you back to gritty 1960s Manhattan, where Spillane’s antihero Mike Hammer drops acid and takes on the mob.” What a thrill to get such great coverage from the very magazine I used to steal out of the mailbox before my father knew it had arrived.

There are few movie reviewers that I admire or trust, but Leonard Maltin is one of them. Time for one of those “full disclosure” things: we are friends. We became friends after I did a DICK TRACY movie interview for him and ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT back in 1990 – he called me up and dubbed me, “Mr. Sound Bite.” Our mutual obsessive love for movies, particularly of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, fed a wonderful friendship. Yes, he has given me occasional good reviews, but he doesn’t always like what I do (he was a fan of MOMMY, for example, but didn’t think much of MOMMY’S DAY). I find myself agreeing with him more often than not, and you can follow his reviews and pop culture commentary at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

He is also, of course, the author of the annual, indispensable LEONARD MALTIN’S MOVIE GUIDE. Five years ago, he was forced to publish a second book to include the older movies that time and space had shoved out of his regular guide – LEONARD MALTIN’S CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE. For those of us who live by Turner Classic Movies and who spend way too much money at Warner’s Archive (at, this book is similarly indispensable. The second edition of this has just come out. If you love movies, you need both of these books stacked in a handy place in your home theater (in my case, next to my recliner in the living room).

151 Best Movies You've Never SeenAt the same time, a book that I would rank with Leonard’s best has also been published: 151 BEST MOVIES YOU’VE NEVER SEEN. I am a movie buff, pretty hardcore, but I had heard of only about half of these, and had seen only around 25. These are short – page and a half – chatty reviews in Leonard’s deceptively easygoing style, personal without being obnoxious, informative without being pedantic, one of those books that go down in wonderful handfuls, like popcorn. Most of the films are of fairly recent vintage – last ten years or so – and perhaps a third are foreign; one of the surprises is how few Golden Age era films Leonard discusses.

But one of the vintage movies he praises really made me smile – the much-maligned 1931 version of THE MALTESE FALCON. He does not make a case for it being superior to the 1941 John Huston/Bogart classic – even I wouldn’t do that – but he does sing its praises in a manner that makes you want to drop everything and watch it right now. That’s true of every essay in the book, and you – like me – will likely make a list of movies you want to find on DVD or on cable, as soon as you have finished this great book.

Musical note: Crusin’ had a capacity crowd for the Valentine’s Day dinner dance at Piazza Bella. Lovely evening. For those concerned, please know that we did not play “Pussy Whipped.”


The Little Death Recording in Chicago, Trash ‘n’ Treasures

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

This Monday (July 13), at a recording studio in Chicago, my novel for audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: THE LITTLE DEATH, was recorded with Stacy Keach and a gifted cast, including Second City/SNL star Tim Kazurinsky. The cast did great and producer/director Carl Amari was generous enough to allow me to sit in and give occasional direction myself. My pal Mike Cornelison (ELIOT NESS himself) came along from Des Moines to play Captain Pat Chambers of Homicide.

Max and Stacy Keach and Carl Amari
Max with Stacy Keach and Carl Amari

Max and Tim Kazurinsky
Max with Tim Kazurinsky

Mike Cornelison with Stacy Keach
Mike Cornelison and Stacy Keach

This three-hour, full-cast audio novel will be released by Blackstone Audio in October, and I have to say I’m really, really excited about it. Hearing Stacy read THE GOLIATH BONE was a thrill, but to be in the studio with him reading my lines (with Tim, Mike and other wonderful Chicago actors) made the thirteen year-old Mike Hammer fan in me very happy indeed.

“Barbara Allan,” which is to say Barb and I, are pleased to announce that we have won the following:

The Romantic Times 2008 Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery

Here is how the Romantic Times editors describe the honor:

“The Toby Bromberg Award is named in honor of RT’s longtime mystery reviewer, who passed away in 2002. To honor Toby Bromberg’s memory and to celebrate her enthusiasm and love for authors and the mystery genre, we have created an annual award to be given in her name.

“This year we are proud to announce the seventh recipient of the Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery Novel, Barbara Allan aka Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, for ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET, published by Kensington.”

Barb and I are thrilled to receive this award, the first such honor for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (although not our first nomination), and are particularly happy that the book and series were singled out for this particular award. The humor aspect of those books — often commented on by EQMM reviewer Jon Breen, who has expressed a suspicion that we are spoofing the cozy genre in the Brandy Borne and Mother mysteries — is second only in our collective mind to character.

We would be the first to admit that the mystery itself is of a secondary concern to us. We often comment on the fact that the series we love most — Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels — is one whose entries we can re-visit again and again, rarely remembering “who did it,” but having so much fun with Archie and his boss that we don’t care. In fact, we like it, because we can enjoy the stories again and again.

Antques Bizarre

This is not to say we don’t care about the mystery. Just that it’s not our major concern, although we’ve tried to work on that side of things, and the forthcoming ANTIQUES BIZARRE (next March, as usual from Kensington) is probably the best mystery we’ve done so far.

ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET will be out in paperback in November, with a terrific new cover. In the spirit of humor, we’ve been lobbying for more comic-oriented artwork and Kensington has really come through for us, as you can see here.

I know some of my fans — the hard-bitten Nate Heller and Quarry bunch — avoid these novels. I often have male fans tell me their wives love the books. Fine. But be secure enough in your masculinity to read these, because humor plays a big part in most of my work, and these novels are the funniest stuff I (help) turn out.

Whether we’re spoofing the genre of not, well…let me fill you in on how we came to do this series. Barb and I had done two standalone novels together. The first, REGENERATION, was a minor paperback original bestseller; the second, BOMBSHELL, our Marilyn Monroe Meets Nikita Khrushchev thriller, wound up at Five Star, where it was one of that small company’s best sellers…but we’d had higher hopes. We thought it was time to find a series to do together.

Antques Bizarre

Michaela Hamilton, who had been my first Nate Heller editor at NAL, had moved to Kensington Books. We were chatting on the phone about how nice it would be to work together again, but she said, “I’m doing cozies…that’s not exactly your cup of cyanide.” (Cozy editors talk that way.) (Actually, they don’t. I made that up.) Anyway, I said Barb and I had been wanting to do a series together, and that we were big Christie fans (although Christie isn’t really that cozy — those are nasty, violent books) and would love to take a swing at the genre.

We wrote a proposal from my notion of doing a Red Hat Society mystery, with an elderly eccentric detective and her forty-something widowed daughter. Michaela wrote back and said we didn’t understand her market. She needed a young-ish female protagonist, although a sidekick older gal was fine, as well as the following: a cute pet, a memorable, even exotic setting and an overall gimmick (i.e., crossword puzzles, recipes, etc.).

As a writing exercise (since I generally don’t believe in writing to market), we took a shot. We made the young protagonist a Prozac-addled divorcee of around thirty who had screwed up her marriage in the big city and went running home to Mama. We made Mama a bipolar diva of local theater who made Auntie Mame look low-key. For the cute pet, we (not caring for cats) gave our girls a diabetic and blind dog (based on a pet of ours we’d recently lost). For the town, the “exotic” setting was just our hometown, changing Muscatine to “Serenity” (after the TV series), making it an “antiquing” town (which to some degree it was). For our gimmick, we had antiques, but didn’t go the big ticket route, Sotheby’s and so on, rather having our girls be flea market, yard sale and even dumpster-diving bottom feeders. We gave our sample chapters outrageous puns for titles, and put on a supposedly helpful (but mostly just funny) tips for collecting antiques.

When we were finished, we really liked what we had (two chapters and a proposal), but thought Michaela would roll her eyes at our blatantly tongue-in-cheek, even subversive approach. We figured we had something Kensington would turn down, but that we might be able to market elsewhere. Instead, we got the best acceptance letter ever — one word in an e-mail: “More.”

We are working on the fifth novel now — ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF. As for how we can collaborate and stay married, I’ll save that for a later update.