Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Allan’

Collaboration Again

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

This week I begin serious work on the second Reeder & Rogers novel, STATE OF THE UNION. Prior to this, work on my end has been limited to creating a synopsis for both the original proposal and a work document, and ongoing story conferences with co-author Matt Clemens, who has for some months been working on a rough draft for me. I am meeting with Matt today – he’s coming down from Davenport to Muscatine – and he will turn over materials to me and we’ll talk about what I’ll be doing as well as the final chapters of the rough draft that he’s still working on. (We’ll also discuss doing a proposal for another, very different series.)

So I will be heading into the bunker again, but the process of collaboration is much easier on me than working on a Heller or even a Quarry, where I am starting with blank pages, with a lot of research left to do. Matt will have done most of the research – there’s always some research to do on the fly – and that makes my life easier.

People often ask about the collaborative process. My three collaborators – Barbara Collins, Matthew V. Clemens and the late Mickey Spillane – have only one thing in common: a lot of talent. In each case, I start with a short manuscript and expand and polish it to the desired length and the finished product. For an ANTIQUES book, Barb gives me 200 to 250 doubled-spaced pages, which is the basis of my draft, which comes in around 325 pages. With Matthew the length of the projects vary, but with Reed & Rogers, I probably get 50,000 to 60,000 words from Matt and take it up to around 80,000 or 90,000. For the first six Mike Hammer novels I completed (ditto THE CONSUMMATA), I had about 100 double-spaced pages of Mickey’s, which I turned into around 300. KILL ME, DARLING – coming out soon – is the first Hammer that starts with less of Mickey’s work (44 double-spaced pages) but I think stacks up well with the prior collaborations. My process turned those 44 pages into around 100, and of course Mickey had set the entire plot in motion in his opening chapters.

But I don’t think looking at these collaborations as numbers games tells the real story. The real reason to collaborate is not to save time – I could frankly do original works in about the same time that it takes me to do my drafts from Barb’s and Matt’s – rather the combination of talents, the merging of two voices into another unique voice that reflects both writers.

For the record, Matt co-wrote all of my CSI novels, both CRIMINAL MINDS, the trio of DARK ANGELS, the BONES novel, and doubtless other things that are slipping my mind (he contributed to RED SKY IN MORNING, for example). And of course we’ve written quite a few short stories together, and are in the early stages of putting together a rather massive collection of them. One of these days I’ll assemble a complete list of the books we’ve worked on together.

I am very lucky that both Barb and Matt never bitch about the changes I make. If anyone ran roughshod over me the way I do them, I would be homicidal. But understanding that the process means providing me with rough-draft material may be helpful to the egos of these two gifted writers, both of whom have shown their individualistic stuff in short stories. And Mickey seems to have done just fine without me….

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Local papers often produce dreadful stories out of interviews with local celebrities. In my case this week, I got very lucky. Muscatine Journal writer Ky Cochran did an excellent article on the Quarry books and upcoming TV series. Check it out.

Chester Gould and Max Allan Collins
Chester Gould and M.A.C. in 1981 (photo credit: Matt Masterson)

There’s a Chester Gould documentary – which I haven’t seen yet, but I’m featured as one of the interviewees – that airs next Sunday on Chicago PBS. There’s a special INVITE ONLY event that same day at Woodstock, Illinois (filming site of the brilliant GROUNDHOG DAY). Barb and I are planning to attend, and I may be speaking, briefly. Read about it here, but I’ll report back next week.

M.A.C.

Davenport Events & Phantom Release

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

This has been such a busy writing year so far, Barb and I did not set up a signing tour. We figured between San Diego Con this summer and Bouchercon in Long Beach this fall, a good number of fans would have access to us. But this coming weekend, we are doing two events in our home area.

First, Barb, Matt Clemens and I will be signing on Saturday, August 9, at Books-a-Million in Davenport, Iowa, 4000 East 53rd Street, from 1 pm till 2:30 (approximately). We’ll be signing SUPREME JUSTICE, ANTIQUES CON and KING OF THE WEEDS. That particular BAM! has a deep shelf of Collins (and Barbara Allan) books going beyond the new releases. Barb, Matt and I have done very few of these joint signings.

Second, the very next day – Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm – I’ll be speaking and then signing at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, 320 W. Kimberly Road. Barnes and Noble has been doing a salute to comics and pop culture over the last few weeks, and my talk will touch on ROAD TO PERDITION going from book to film. Barb will be there. Not sure yet about Matt – it will depend on whether this B & B was able to get copies of SUPREME JUSTICE in (the chain has a policy against stocking Amazon-published titles).

Also, on Paula Sands Live (KWQC TV, Channel 6, 3 PM) this coming Wednesday, August 6, Barb and I will be appearing in support of these events. Some of you outside the Channel 6 viewing area may recall Paula Sands from MOMMY 2: MOMMY’S DAY, where she appeared as herself very good-naturedly kidding her own show. I realize this appearance only means something to our section of the Midwest, but Paula has the highest-rated local show in the region.

Though we’re not doing a tour by any means, Barb and I will also be appearing this coming September 14 at Centuries & Sleuths in Chicago (actually, Forest Park). We have cut way back on book signings, for lots of reasons, but C & S is one of our favorite bookstores. It’s devoted to history and mystery and couldn’t be a better fit for us. Owner/manager Augie Alesky is one great guy – fun, funny and knowledgeable…even if he doesn’t believe in author’s discounts. (More about this signing later).

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Phantom of the Paradise Blu-Ray

The terrific Shout! Factory has released a wonderful blu-ray of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which regular readers of these updates may recall is one of my favorite movies. Here’s what I said about it here a few years ago:

How ironic that that steaming piece of cheese, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, is so popular, and the great rock ‘n’ roll PHANTOM remains a cult item. Paul Williams delivers a fantastic performance and a score equal to it, parodying various rock styles and prescient about several fads to come (a Kiss-style group pre-dates Kiss here). Jessica Harper is charismatic and sings hauntingly well, and William Finley is the perfect sad, crippled, demented Phantom. For a long time Brian De Palma was my favorite contemporary director. He’s had some bad stumbles over the years, but at his best he’s hard to beat. This is the only time, however, that he perfectly merged his comic and melodramatic impulses.

Some day I may write about PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in more depth, as I think it’s a masterpiece and one of the best films of the ‘70s – certainly my favorite film of the ‘70s. The Shout! Factory release is superior to the foreign blu-rays previously snatched up by PHANTOM phans like me, with a great transfer and wonderful special features stretched out over the blu-ray and the DVD version that’s also included. A new Paul Williams interview is particularly good, making me realize that the film is so special in the careers of Williams and De Palma because the two collaborated on this (and only this) film. Williams is revealed as virtually co-director/writer, when you realize how thoroughly he controlled the songs and their presentation. There’s a minor but annoying glitch in the commentary, where Gerrit Graham and Jessica Harper recordings overlap, but Shout! Factory (rating the only “boo” related to this release) is just shrugging that off as minor, not offering replacement discs. Get it anyway.

If you think you don’t like Paul Williams because you consider “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainbow Connection” and so on to be easy-listening fluff, well…two things. First, you’re wrong – he’s always been a great songwriter; his Three Dog Night material alone proves that (“Out in the Country,” “Family of Man,” “Old-Fashioned Love Song”). Second, the genre-hopping/slicing songs in PHANTOM are his greatest, most sophisticated work, and many of them genuinely rock. If you have avoided this film because it’s a musical (I’m talking to you, Matt Clemens), it isn’t, not in the Broadway sense. All songs here are either performed for an audience (the “Paradise” theater of the title) or on the soundtrack.

Williams, having had post-PHANTOM substance problems, cleaned up in a major way and is having a nice third act in a unique career. He is on the very short list of celebrities I’d love to meet. There’s an interesting recent documentary about him (STILL ALIVE).

By the way, I once said here that I’ve never seen a movie more times than I have KISS ME DEADLY. It’s possible I’ve watched PHANTOM more often. Back in the day, Terry Beatty and I (often accompanied by Barb) saw PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in various movie theaters every chance we got. I’m guessing a dozen times, easy. And I’ve owned it on Beta, VHS, laserdisc and three different blu-rays.

If you’ve never seen it, get real, get with it, and you are such a lucky bastard.

A few other quick movie notes: don’t miss LUCY, the best thing Luc Besson (admittedly a wildly uneven filmmaker) has ever done. It’s a cross between a Hong Kong action movie and 2001. Very few of the critics have been smart enough to get this one. Once again, the rule pertains: if you have exposition to deliver, hire Morgan Freeman.

Don’t go near SEX TAPE. I am a Jason Segel fan going back to FREAKS AND GEEKS, but every laugh in this wretchedly written film is in the trailer…and work better in the trailer.

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SUPREME JUSTICE continues to ride the Kindle bestseller charts, and has racked up (as of this writing) a dizzying 1938 reviews and an averaged four-star rating.

Here’s a very favorable SUPREME JUSTICE review from Bookgasm.

Here’s another from Bob’s on Books.

And one from Coastal Breeze News.

And this from Kingdom Books, though you have to dig a little.

For a change of pace, here’s a WRONG QUARRY review from the aptly named Point Blank.

The articles about non-superhero comic-book movies continue, with ROAD TO PERDITION scoring well.

Finally, here at my pal Lee Goldberg’s site is the full list of Scribe winners. We’re sending out the UK trophies today!

M.A.C.

This Week at the Podunk Playhouse

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Supreme Justice

We are a week past Amazon’s promotional campaign for SUPREME JUSTICE, which means the novel’s selling well at its regular price ($11.99 for a real book, $4.99 on Kindle). We have topped 1000 reviews – incredibly enough – and remain in the upper reaches of the Kindle bestsellers list (#1 in political and legal thrillers). That means, for a week anyway, the Amazon push kept us going strong past the promo. I continue to monitor the reader reviews and it’s been something of a revelation – there are a lot of different kinds of readers out there, and some are (frankly) not that bright. We have conservatives who hate the book (and stop reading) because the hero is a liberal. We have liberals who hate the book (and stop reading) because the first chapter is in the point of view of a conservative. We have people revealing the identity of the perpetrator (sans SPOILER ALERT). We have reviewers who complain about my bad writing who are barely literate. We have prudes whose eyes begin to bleed at the sight of a profanity in print (I have been termed a “liberal libertine” – cool!). A certain minority of readers can’t figure out that the book takes place in the future and accuse me of not knowing the age of a certain ball player or when JFK was killed. But we also have mostly smart readers, who give the book a well-reasoned three or four or five stars.

Revelation may be the wrong word – how about “reminder.” This has been a reminder of a basic tenet about reading any book (but especially fiction) that is rarely mentioned much less discussed. Simply, reading a book is a collaborative process. Nobody out there is experiencing a novel of mine the same as somebody else. In a way, it’s my play being cast and staged in the theater of somebody else’s mind. Sometimes I play Broadway, and sometimes I play the Podunk Community Playhouse. Getting back to the collaborative notion, sometimes I have a brilliant collaborator, most times just a damn good one, and now and then a really lousy one.

Elmore Leonard preached leaving all the boring stuff out. He was a genius of sorts but became a lazy writer, leaving so very much to his collaborators. If you wonder (as sometimes reviewers…usually amateur ones…do) why I describe clothing and the exteriors and interiors of homes and buildings and include the weather and various other sights and sounds and smells, it’s because I know if I don’t, you will.

Ironically, the people who really like my books could do that just fine. But it’s a struggle for the Podunk Community Players, and I’m the kind of artist (there, I said it) who wants to control the audience’s experience as much as possible. Knowing that every reader will have a different experience, I want to limit the parameters of that experience so that, for a majority of readers, it’s at least a similar one.

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My son Nate’s new manga is out. I haven’t read it yet, but he will post info on where and how to get it for me here…right, Nate?

[Nate] Right!

Battle Royale: Angels' Border

First, from my editor: “The infamous BATTLE ROYALE lighthouse scene depicted in the film and novel shocked and mesmerized audiences as the girls experienced their own microcosm of joy, love, betrayal and ultimately death. BATTLE ROYALE: ANGELS’ BORDER is author Koushun Takami’s first new work since the publication of his groundbreaking and controversial novel more than a decade ago. It notably expands the BATTLE ROYALE saga in a new way with the story of Yukie Utsumi and the other girls, whose distinct personalities and tragic nature of their deaths made such an indelible impression in the original story.”

As a longtime fan of the original novel and movie (I delighted in showing the latter to my unwitting classmates in high school) (and anyone who survived that got hit with MEET THE FEEBLES), I did a double-take when I saw ANGELS’ BORDER on a “New Release” table in a Japanese bookstore. After almost fifteen years, Koushun Takami was back! I knew I had to translate it and get it to English-speaking fans. Two years later, I landed the gig for Haikasoru’s new translation of the original novel, and the time was right for ANGELS’ BORDER. When I reached out to editorial, they were already thinking the same thing.

This is my first manga translation, and Viz took a real chance by allowing a newcomer (at least in this medium) to steward such a high profile title, but they recognized that by having the same translator handle the novel and the manga, the two works would have a stylistic continuity. I’m admittedly biased, but I think their gamble paid off.

Buy your copy here:
Amazon | BAM! | RightStuf! | B & N

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After an absence of several weeks, the excellent book review site Bookgasm (with editor Rod Lott) is back. A really terrific and very smart ANTIQUES CON review just went up there.

Last week Bookgasm posted this very positive review of KING OF THE WEEDS.

A number of book review blogs are looking at SUPREME JUSTICE, as in this nice write-up at Bilbliotica.com.

Check out this SUPREME review at Author Exposure.

And finally here’s a delightful review of THE WRONG QUARRY.

M.A.C.

Davenport Books-A-Million Signing Postponed Until August 9

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The Davenport, Iowa Books-A-Million signing with Max and Barbara Collins and Matthew Clemens has been postponed until August 9, still at 1 – 3 pm. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you all at the new time!

Updated info:

Event: Max Allan Collins, Barbara Collins, and Matthew Clemens signing for Supreme Justice, King of the Weeds, Antiques Con, and more.
Location: Books-A-Million, 4000 E 53rd St, Davenport, IA
Time: August 9, 2014; 1 – 3 PM