Posts Tagged ‘Ask Not’

Holiday Edition

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Santa delivered an early present to the M.A.C. household by way of an award for MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN (by Jim Traylor and me), courtesy of the great movie-fan publication CLASSSIC IMAGES, for “Best Film Noir Book of 2013.” Specifically, it was given by reviewer Laura Wagner in her year’s end Book Points column. Ms. Wagner also singled out MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN for one of the Best Covers of 2013 as well as honoring the book’s Photo Layout. These last two honors were shared with several other books, but the Best Film Noir Book is mine and Jim’s alone.

To help celebrate, why not pick up a copy? Yes, yes, it’s expensive, but it so happens McFarland is running a 20% off sale on not just MICKEY SPILLANE but all of their titles till December 31st. Here’s a link for those of you who didn’t blow everything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

And speaking of the holidays, my personal favorite of my short stories – “A Wreath for Marley,” my CHIRSTMAS CAROL MEETS THE MALTESE FALCON yarn – is included in the terrific new fat-as-Santa anthology, THE BIG BOOK OF CHRISTMAS MYSTERIES, edited by my jolly old friend (well, maybe not jolly) Otto Penzler. What an honor to be included with such personal heroes of mine as Rex Stout, Agatha Christie and Donald E. Westlake. I have arrived, even if I had to sneak down the chimney to do it.

A Bird for Becky

“A Wreath for Marley” features Richard Stone, a Heller-like detective in Chicago in the forties; it’s the basis for my as yet unproduced screenplay, BLUE CHRISTMAS. There is one other Stone story, “A Bird for Becky,” also with a holiday theme – Thanksgiving. It’s just come out as an e-book, available on Amazon, for a mere 99 cents. Yes, I should have promoted this in time for Thanksgiving, but since you’re full of holiday spirit (and maybe undigested turkey), maybe you’ll give it a try, anyway.

A couple of movie recommendations. FROZEN, which should be seen in 3-D, is a Disney CGI musical about princesses…hey, wait! Hold up! Come on! Listen for a second….It’s very good and often witty, incredibly well-animated, with music by the co-writer of THE BOOK OF MORMON score, and the lead – complete with excellent singing – is VERONICA MARS herself, Kristen Bell, who hasn’t been given a shot a vocalizing like this since the wonderful REEFER MADNESS TV movie. And for a completely inappropriate second feature, try HOMEFRONT, with Jason Stratham in redneck Louisiana up against that peckerwood James Franco, in a ‘70s Bronson-style melodrama from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone (also a producer). If you trade your brains in for a bucket of popcorn before entering, you will have a fine violent time (I did).

* * *

ASK NOT reviews continue, like this very strong one (if a bit patronizing) from Woody Haut. Seems Woody thinks it’s unlikely that Nate Heller could be involved in so many famous crimes – really, Woody? Never occurred to me….

Here’s an ASK NOT interview with a bit of a forensics slant.

LADY, GO DIE! has received a nice write-up here.

And here’s a strong review about Stacy Keach’s reading of GOLIATH BONE on audio.

Finally, you’ll enjoy this reassessment of Mickey Spillane from a reviewer who followed my suggestion to read more than just I, THE JURY before giving his final verdict. (Get it? Jury? Verdict?)

M.A.C.

Embarrassing Media Performance

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I couldn’t stomach much of the media coverage last week, for the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Am I supposed to care what Angelina Jolie thinks of Kennedy? Or where a tearful Jane Fonda was when she heard? Hand me the air sickness bag, please.

The shameful media emphasis on Oswald as lone gunman and conspiracy theorists as fools came to a surprising head Friday night when Bill Maher, of all people, shrugged the assassination off as “shit happens.”

That’s the standard take of the pro-lone nut crowd – people like me just can’t accept that a great man like JFK could be taken down by a little nobody. Hearing the ridiculous Warren Commission findings taken seriously while the later HSCA  finding for conspiracy are ignored shows just how all-pervasive this new whitewash is.

It doesn’t come from the government. It comes from my fellow liberals wanting to deify Kennedy, to make him a marble figure on a statue like Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, how many people out there think John Wilkes Booth was a lone nut “like Oswald”? That will come as a surprise to Booth’s co-conspirators, who swung from ropes.

I’m an admirer of JFK, but also a realist. I understand that a president who sanctions assassinations of other heads of state might just trip over a whole lot of karma. I understand that when you team the CIA up with the Mob (not a theory – an historical fact) to bump off Castro, some nasty ramifications might ensue.

On Maher’s REAL TIME panel, Paul Begala stated that his fellow George magazine founder John F. Kennedy Jr. made a point of saying their new magazine wouldn’t be looking into the assassination. JFK Jr. reportedly said he could spend his whole life doing that, and had decided to move on. The implication was, we should all do the same.

Maher accepted this strained logic – if a son doesn’t give a shit who killed his old man, why should we? But the Kennedy family has always kept a tight control over assassination documents – they knew the dirty laundry that would come out. RFK’s first reaction to hearing about the shooting was that Chicago had done it, and he used his own Rackets Committee veteran investigators to do a sub rosa inquiry (part of the basis for Heller’s activities in ASK NOT).

Let’s keep this very simple. The problem with dismissing as a fool or a crank anyone who thinks a conspiracy took down JFK is this: it only takes two to make a conspiracy, and in this case we have at least two – Oswald and Ruby.

Or let’s look at it this way – to believe Oswald was a lone nut who shot JFK, you also have to accept Ruby as a lone nut who shot Oswald. So the media/Maher theory isn’t the Lone Nut Theory – it’s the Two Lone Nuts theory…which is particularly ludicrous when you consider that Ruby was a mobbed-up guy from Chicago with ties all the way back to Capone and a history in Cuba with the Marcello crowd.

I’m generally a Maher fan. He’s a smug prick, but he’s funny and smart. But he can also be glib and shallow, and this is one of those times. Him and the rest of the media.

* * *

The ASK NOT signing went very well at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, Iowa, Saturday afternoon. Big bookstore chain signings often suck, but at this one – despite a Hawkeye game (even my collaborator Matt Clemens didn’t attend the signing) – we had a steady flow. A good stack of ASK NOT sold, quite a few TARGET LANCER paperbacks, plus a whole lot of ANTIQUES books, which Barb and I signed.

Speaking of ANTIQUES, three of the paperback reprints are going back to press – ANTIQUES ROADKILL, ANTIQUES DISPOSAL and ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF – which reflects just how well this series continues to do. If you’re a hardboiled M.A.C. fan and haven’t tried one, now’s as good a time as any, and the current ANTIQUES CHOP is one of our best.

As for ASK NOT, we had some nice attention last week, although with so many JFK books out there, mine got a little lost in the shuffle. An appearance on Paula Sands Live on KWQC-TV Davenport no doubt boosted the Barnes & Noble appearance. Paula is so great – some of you will remember her from her acting stint (as herself!) in MOMMY’S DAY.

The reviews for ASK NOT at Amazon are generally raves, but we only have around a dozen at this point. If you’ve read and liked the book, could you please post a short review? If you didn’t like the book, keep in mind that I don’t come to where you work and criticize you.

My “WHY I WRITE” piece for Publisher’s Weekly was picked up by two of the best blogs in mystery fiction: Ed Gorman’s and Bill Crider’s.

The other non-Gorman Ed’s Blog posted a nice ASK NOT review here.

One of several radio interviews I did last week is available at this link.

My old pal David Burke at the Quad Cities Times did this short but sweet interview/write-up, promoting the Barnes & Noble signing.

Tony Isabella, great guy/terrific writer, gave his blog followers a nice heads up about the forthcoming WRONG QUARRY.

And here’s a fun review (read the comments, too) of THE GIRL HUNTERS. By the way, a blu-ray is coming and I will likely be involved.

M.A.C.

Ask Not Why I Write

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Ask Not Audiobook

The audio of ASK NOT, read by Dan John Miller (the great actor who read all of the preceding Heller novels and short story collections for Brilliance), is available now at Amazon. Recorded Books offers no CD retail edition, but the rather expensive library edition on CD ($102.75) is available, though not through Amazon.

For those of you used to downloading audios, Amazon appears to have it right now. The Recorded Books site lists the download as available December 1, and the CD version for libraries not until Feb. 22. I have contacted the publisher to see if those dates are correct.

I am as anxious as anyone to hear Dan’s reading, because he really is the definitive voice of Nate Heller. I will be leaving my buggy and butter churn behind very soon and getting an MP3 player, so I can download ASK NOT as well as the Audible downloads (first time on audio!) of QUARRY, QUARRY’S LIST, QUARRY’S DEAL, QUARRY’S CUT, QUARRY’S VOTE and (in January) THE WRONG QUARRY.

Publisher’s Weekly asked me to write a piece for their “Why I Write” series, and it’s in this week’s issue. I can’t provide a link because the PW site is for subscribers only. So I’ll share the piece with you here:

WHY I WRITE
by Max Allan Collins

Why do you write?

Many writers have a glib comeback for this question. Samuel Johnson famously said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Asked what inspired him, Mickey Spillane would reply, “The urgent need for money.” And I have often described my career as an ongoing effort to avoid a real job.

Certainly earning a living is a valid reason to write; but really, getting paid is what allows me to write – and has made me a full-time writer since 1977. I take pride in not having a day job, and when asked why I write so much, I usually say, “To keep the lights on.” Anyway, what else am I supposed to do with my time?

The ranks of successful authors include lawyers, doctors and in particular teachers – noble professions, but part-time scribes all. Early on I taught at a college myself, though never more than half-time, having sold my first two novels at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. Teaching drains the creative juices that writing requires, and I got out of academia as soon as possible.

Stories have been my main interest longer than I can remember. My mother read me Tarzan books at bedtime and encouraged me to read Dick Tracy comic books (her favorite strip). Chester Gould’s famous dick led me into Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen and the Saint, and – by junior high – Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe and Mike Hammer, an interest fostered by the wave of TV private eyes of the late ‘50s. My sixth-grade teacher told me I would never be successful because I insisted on writing “blood and thunder” (the title of my 1995 Nathan Heller novel, by the way).

Television and movies encouraged my interest in history, with “The Untouchables” a prime contributor. As a kid, I became fascinated in the real people (Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness) who fed our popular culture. I was also taken with the people who created that popular culture. I didn’t want to be Dick Tracy when I grew up – I wanted to be Chester Gould. Didn’t take me long to figure out the only thing more fun than being told stories was telling them yourself.

I have an abiding interest in the history of crime fiction – for example, completing Mickey Spillane’s in-progress Hammer manuscripts – but also the way history has informed crime fiction. This has led to my best-known works, the graphic novel Road to Perdition and the Nathan Heller “memoirs” (Ask Not, the “JFK” thriller recently published by Forge).

My career began in Iowa City forty years ago with the sale of my first crime novels, and a love for language, thanks to Raymond Chandler and other noir poets. Now I find myself working harder than ever, risking my reputation by being too prolific, because I am all too aware that I’m in the third act of my career, and there are many more stories I want to tell.

For money, yes. But mostly for the sheer joy of it.

* * *

The same issue of PW has a nice overview of recent novels with JFK assassination themes, with ASK NOT prominently mentioned (and the cover shown). This, too, is for subscribers only. But the magazine is on the stands, should you want to take a look.

Finally, here’s a very interesting ASK NOT review.

M.A.C.

ASK NOT Appearances

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I’m not doing a tour for ASK NOT, which I admit surprises me a little – I had figured the nature of the novel, its publication date exactly a month from the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, would attract a lot of attention, possibly from the publisher. But I didn’t count on the avalanche of other JFK books that ASK NOT would have to fight its way through. Round-ups in magazines and newspapers about JFK assassination books seem to focus largely on non-fiction works – understandably – although J. Kingston Pierce did right by the novel at his Kirkus blog column, and I was interviewed recently for Publisher’s Weekly about the book (nothing’s appeared yet – when it does, I’ll report).

And I admit Barb and I are weary of book signings. That’s not to imply at all that we don’t enjoy, in fact relish, contact with readers (and bookstore owners/employees). Getting to talk to fans of the books is incredibly gratifying. But the time and expense involved are considerable, and the last time my publisher and I collaborated on putting a tour together, several disastrous appearances marred an otherwise good experience. At the St. Louis stop, for example, exactly one person showed up, not counting my son and daughter-in-law. That one person did not buy a book, by the way.

I have come to feel that attending Bouchercon and San Diego Con puts me in touch with the greatest number of readers, in the most efficient way, and Barb and I are considering adding another con or two to the mix.

Ed Gorman, M.A.C., Barb Collins signing at Mystery Cat Bookstore, Cedar Rapids
Ed Gorman, M.A.C., Barb Collins signing at Mystery Cat Bookstore, Cedar Rapids

For ASK NOT, we arranged only three signings, two of which have already taken place. Both events were a lot of fun and very successful. At Mystery Cat (a hidden treasure in Cedar Rapids), my friend Ed Gorman made a rare signing appearance, and Barb and Matt Clemens joined in as well. The only downside was the unexpectedly large crowd – 75 in a small bookstore, with seating available for maybe thirty. Having four authors, talking up their current books and then taking questions, made the presentation go a little long, and some of those attending fled for the door ASAP, without buying a book. It’s always tough to know how long to speak at these things – you don’t want to bore anybody, but you also don’t want to shortchange people who make the effort of attending.

Augie introduces Max & Barbara Collins to their fans
Augie introduces Max & Barbara Collins to their fans at Centuries and Sleuths

Barb & Max Collins sharing a story with their fans
Barb & Max Collins sharing a story with their fans

We’ve done many signings at Forest Park’s wonderful Centuries and Sleuths bookstore. A nice group met with us on this Sunday afternoon past as Barb spoke about ANTIQUES CHOP and I talked about ASK NOT. Mostly we took questions, and one great fan brought doughnuts for everybody. Everybody bought books, everybody had a question. Augie and Tracy, the owners, were as always gracious hosts. We’ll keep doing signings there as long as they want us.

The final of the three signings is coming up. Here’s the info:

Nov 23, 2013 1:00 PM

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
North Park Mall
320 W. Kimberly Road
Davenport, IA 52806 (map)
563-445-8760

Come see us if you’re in the area. These big chain bookstore signings are always the biggest risk.

* * *

The excellent ASK NOT reviews continue, I’m pleased to report. Check out this very nice one at Jerry’s House of Everything.

And here’s another strong one at Scene of the Crime.

The first review of THE WRONG QUARRY has appeared (at Dangerous Dan’s Bookblog). He likes it.

Here’s a decent review of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER, not a rave but appreciated nonetheless.

A nice appreciation of Mickey Spillane is here.

Finally, here’s a review of the multiple author thriller, INHERIT THE DEAD.

M.A.C.