Posts Tagged ‘Bye Bye Baby’

Criminal Music

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Jazz on Film: Crime Jazz

An 8-CD set called JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ! has just been released in the UK. The “film” part of the title somewhat misrepresents the set, which is dedicated almost entirely to the TV private eye and crime TV shows of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The liner notes are written by yours truly, an assignment I eagerly accepted although there was no money involved – which is the kind of career decision that keeps me semi-known, and in Iowa.

The best price is directly from Amazon UK right here (though you can order it through the USA Amazon, too).

My liner notes discuss each of the albums. Check out this astonishing line-up: “77 Sunset Strip,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Checkmate,” “Shotgun Slade,” “The Naked City,” “Richard Diamond,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “M-Squad,” “The Untouchables,” “Peter Gunn,” “Mr Lucky,” “Staccato” and “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer” (both the TV series soundtrack and the music from the rare Stan Purdy “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story” LP).

This is an incredible bargain, and features the likes of Henry Mancini, John Williams and Nelson Riddle.

Here is the opening of my liner notes (you’ll have to buy the set to read my CD by CD discussions).

CRIME JAZZ – AN INTRODUCTION

Full disclosure: I’m not a jazz buff. I was invited to the party because of crime-writing credentials, and a love for the late ‘50s/early ‘60s wave of TV private eye shows in America, an enthusiasm I’ve never been shy about sharing.

On the other hand, jazz is in the ears of the beholder. It’s a term that cuts a wide swath, and is defined in so many ways by so many fans that it nearly falls into the all-things-to-all-people category. I mean, we’re talking about a term that covers everything and everybody from Al Jolson to Miles Davis.

Similarly, “noir” is defined in many ways by many fans of crime fiction and films. Its roots are French, the term “noir” borrowed by film critics (several of whom went on to be noted filmmakers) from “Serie Noire,” a line of books from Gallimard that after the Second World War began translating and publishing such American crime writers as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Chester Himes and many more, including the author of this introduction.

But the term noir – chiefly designed to discuss American crime films of the war years that disguised a dearth of budget by a maximum of creative, moody lighting effects – has come to refer to all tough crime fiction, replacing the antiquated-sounding “hardboiled.” Arguments about what truly is noir occur constantly. Some critics, including the esteemed Otto Penzler, insist that private eye stories aren’t truly noir, because they aren’t bleak tales told from a criminal’s point of view. This will come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Mickey Spillane’s One Lonely Night (1951) or seen Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947).

Spillane is a key figure here because his brutally tough, sexually active, war-haunted Mike Hammer created a boom in the private eye field at a point where radio had trivialized this mythic character into self-parody. Hammett’s prototypical tough P.I. Sam Spade became a figure of fun as a radio series, and Jack Webb’s various pre-Dragnet P.I.’s were all send-ups.

But Spillane revitalized the genre and – perhaps as a conscious follow-up to the craze for westerns on American television in the mid- to late fifties – a new wave of private eyes grabbed TV viewers like hoodlums they were roughing up. Generally considered to be first, and the gold standard, was Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn and its cool jazz score by Henry Mancini, whose impact forever changed the way television series utilized music. (The interesting connection between Blake Edwards and Gunn and Spillane and Hammer will be discussed below.)

Mancini’s bestselling soundtrack created a whole new genre of vinyl entertainment for hi-fi enthusiasts, as well as an additional revenue stream for TV studios. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, such soundtracks – like comedy albums showcasing stand-up comics – were a craze unto themselves. Several P.I. series that pre-dated Peter Gunn (which first aired September 22, 1958) revamped their formats, often including an exciting movie-credits style opening inspired by Gunn’s, bringing a jazz-infused style to the scoring…as well as the opportunity for a soundtrack album.

This collection gathers many of the best of those albums, and while the Gunn influence can easily be discerned again and again, each has its own personality and merits, like the various TV series for which the scores were composed.

(Continued on the liner notes of JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ.)

Though nobody at DC has notified me about it, apparently a collection of most of my controversial BATMAN work is coming next year:

Batman: The New Adventures
Max Allan Collins, Dave Cockrum
On Sale Date: July 21, 2015
$19.99 USD
272 pages
Trade Paperback
Comics & Graphic Novels / Superheroes9781401255183, 1401255183
Summary: After an encounter with Gotham City street criminals, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, is injured. When Batman goes into action on his own, he meets a young hoodlum called Jason Todd. Determined to guide Jason away from a life of crime, Batman takes him under his wing. These 1988 stories take Batman into police procedural territory, and set the stage for the bestselling BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. Written by acclaimed mystery novelist Max Allan Collins, best known for his graphic novel THE ROAD TO PERDITION, which was made into a Academy Award winning movie starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Collects BATMAN #402-403, 408-416 and BATMAN ANNUAL #11.

Speaking of my controversial BATMAN run (controversial in the sense a lot of fans think my work sucked and I don’t), here’s a fair-minded discussion of the Robin character as revamped by me and killed off by homicidal phone-call poll.

A very nice write-up about my Nathan Heller novella “Dying in the Post-War World” (available in TRIPLE PLAY) appears at the Gravetapping blog site. It was widely picked up in the mystery community.

Here’s a dandy review of the blu-ray of THE GIRL HUNTERS.

And here’s a solid discussion of the DICK TRACY strip, including my years on the feature.

Finally, I was pleased and honored that reviewer J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet chose BYE, BYE BABY as one of his ten favorite mystery novels of the past ten years.

M.A.C.

Cover Story

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Supreme Justice

Over the last two weeks, Matt Clemens and I have been going over potential covers for the upcoming SUPREME JUSTICE, coming out June 1.

Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s mystery/suspense line, has been very good about making me – and Matt, because he contributed so mightily to both novels – part of the book cover process for both WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER and SUPREME JUSTICE. This is hardly common in publishing – in fact, it’s the opposite of common.

What often happens is that I’m asked for my opinion – in the context of how important that opinion might be, given my background in visual arts like comics and film – but rarely has my input been given much if any consideration.

That’s been improving in recent years. Our editor at Kensington always asks Barb and me for ideas for the covers of the ANTIQUES books, and those ideas have been used for the most part.

Titan is careful to run covers past me, and I had considerable input on the Mike Hammer mass market editions, where initially the depiction of Hammer was wrong. The publisher of Titan himself, Nick Landau, enthusiastically presented the hardcover Hammer dust-jacket art over drinks at San Diego Con a few years ago.

At Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai often discusses what artists might be available for my next book – obviously the first thing out of my mouth is, “How about McGinnis?” But I essentially chose the cover artists for THE WRONG QUARRY (Tyler Jacobsen) out of three or four Charles showed me examples by. And THE WRONG QUARRY seems to be universally regarded as one of (if not the) strongest of my Hard Case covers.

As I may have mentioned here before, those covers are usually done before I’ve written the novel, with just a paragraph precise of the unwritten book for the artist to go by. That means I often have to work to get the cover image into the book.

On the other hand, I provided Forge with lots of input into BYE BYE, BABY’s hardcover jacket that was eventually ignored, due to worries that the Monroe estate would sue. I hate that cover (though the mass market paperback is much better). Where both TARGET LANCER and ASK NOT were concerned, however, I was given the opportunity to give my two cents, and was listened to. Often I write the cover copy, even the front “reading lines” (blurbs), when what is submitted to me seems weak.

So it has improved a lot. I’ve come a long way from when I received BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY in the mail in December 1972 and found fairly terrible photo covers and my name changed from Allan Collins to Max Collins, and my character Nolan given an unwanted first name (“Frank”) which to this day dogs both Nolan and me. Then there’s the day I opened a package and saw that my novel QUARRY and its sequel HIT LIST were now THE BROKER and THE BROKER’S WIFE, the latter title a spoiler for a major plot turn…again, with photo covers, though slightly better ones.

But now Thomas & Mercer has given me a chance not only to suggest cover images, but provides me with half a dozen to choose from, and does tweaks on the art that I’ve suggested. I wish I could include the SUPREME JUSTICE rejects here, because they were strong, too. But I don’t know the legality of that.

Maybe next time I do a book for them, I can put the proposed covers up here and seek your input.

For now, I am delighted with the cover for SUPREME JUSTICE.

* * *

Brief movie report.

We liked MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, me more than Barb. It captured the Jay Ward cartoons well and was very smart in its storytelling – a little long, though. See it in 3-D.

NON-STOP was a good thriller, somewhat stupid in the motivation of the villains, but a ride worth taking.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is better than the original, and is a rousing battle picture with an eye-popping sex scene (see that in 3-D, too). But it’s fairly numbing in its more-and-more-of-the-same gory action, and at heart is a very brain-dead right-wing screed. Still, I dug it. I am, as should be evident by now, a sucker for anything in 3-D that doesn’t outright suck.

Speaking of sucking, we walked out of DIVERGENT about half an hour in. I’d read some promising reviews, but this is a really poorly thought-out imitation of HUNGER GAMES (which is a poorly thought-out imitation of BATTLE ROYALE). Really, really dumb, and also dreary and dull. We bailed when some recruits in the Dauntless faction (don’t ask) said, “Let’s do something fun! Let’s get tattoos!”

* * *

Let’s wind up this update with a link to a very nice WRONG QUARRY review from Blog Critics.

Books, Wonderful Books

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Two wonderful new books by writers who should be of interest to readers of these updates are respectively about to come out and already out.

BATTLE ROYALE REMASTERED

Coming soon is my son’s terrific translation of the modern Japanese classic, BATTLE ROYALE. He’s very happy right now, because – as you can see – the book had been blessed with an outstanding cover. The book itself was the basis of a very popular film, but also is the obvious inspiration for a little thing called HUNGER GAMES.

http://amzn.to/1g3vlWN

Jane Spillane’s memoir MY LIFE WITH MICKEY has been published and it’s a delight. Jane’s gift at storytelling is something that would make Mickey smile. It’s warm, funny and frank, and the design of the book – and the pictures throughout – are as charming as the memoir itself. No Spillane fan should miss this.

http://amzn.to/1cstJuN

The links I’ve provided above are Amazon ones, but other online retailers will certainly have BATTLE ROYALE, and the MY LIFE WITH MICKEY link takes you to the only place where you can get the regionally-published book.

I’ve had some lovely comments – both here and on Facebook – about my birthday post, and several top mystery-fiction bloggers – including Bill Crider and Ed Gorman – picked it up to share with their readers. (My NAKED CITY post was similarly picked up, including by J. Kingston Pierce at the prestigious Rap Sheet.) But I’d also like to share a fun “present” I received first thing, birthday morning.

As you may remember, I was asked to change the title of the Spillane western THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK to something short and punchy. For reasons that I won’t go into (because they get us into spoiler territory), I strongly felt that we needed to stick with the original title, which was Mickey’s own. I wrote a long, impassioned e-mail to my editor that morning, making my case. Kensington is notorious for controlling their titles – for example, neither J.C. Harrow novel had the title that Matt Clemens and I had wanted. But they had a specific kind of title that was considered right for a serial killer thriller, and we went along. I got a similar vibe about westerns at Kensington’s, with a very specific approach to titles (short, punchy, with suggested violence, followed by “A Caleb York Western”).

So I made my Don Quixote type stand, fully believing I would get no where. In five minutes, both my editor Michalea Hamilton – after consulting the resident westerns guru at Kensington – wrote me back to say…they both agreed we me. THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK it would be.

That rare if small victory on the battlefields of publishing was how I started my 66th year. Which makes me think this may be a good one.

Further, my smart, lovely editor then composed and sent me this birthday greeting, which I got permission to share with you:

There once was an outstanding writer,
Whose talents shone brighter and brighter,
In the land of Spillane,
He rekindled the flame,
And brought to life York, the gunfighter!

* * *

Here’s an intelligent review of BYE BYE, BABY, generally positive, where the blogger is not particularly interested in Marilyn Monroe though she has a strong Kennedy fascination. She raises the perhaps troubling point (to me anyway) that the book may only appeal to readers who are either MM or JFK (or both) fanatics. My hope is always that the Heller books work as novels, particularly as private eye thrillers, and that you don’t need a familiarity with, or obsession for, the case at hand. I really hope I’m right and this reviewer isn’t. I liked her reviewing style, which is chatty in a way that seems easy but isn’t.

On a somewhat similar note, this UK reviewer finds all the JFK assassination fuss boring, and he doesn’t care for ASK NOT much, though likes the writing and Heller himself enough to say he’ll try another. Admittedly, ASK NOT is a rough place to start reading the Heller saga. But what troubles me most is the notion that if you’re not from the USA, this subject will be dull (if so, it’s dull with lots of murders!).

Finally, here’s a nice WRONG QUARRY review.

M.A.C.

Nero Nom For Antiques Disposal—Satisfactory

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Barb and I (and for that matter our son Nate) are huge Nero Wolfe fans. Our preferred mode of enjoyment is the fine series of audio books read by Michael Pritchard, which Barb and I have listened to perhaps five times. I am also a fan of Bob Goldsborough’s continuation of Rex Stout’s great series – he was a role model for me in my work on Mickey’s unfinished novels.

So it was with particular pleasure and even a little pride that Barb and I learned that we’d been nominated for the Wolfe Pack’s prestigious Nero Award. This award is, rivaled only by the Edgar, the remaining award in mystery fiction that I still dream of winning – in part because it’s physically cool, being a bust of Wolfe himself. Read about it at the Rap Sheet, where you can see who the other three nominees are (like I’m going to tell you!).

The other big news this week is that top-flight actor Stellan Skadrsgard (THOR, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), has been cast as the Broker in the Cinemax QUARRY pilot. This will be a recurring role, if the pilot goes to series, at least for the first season (regular readers of the Quarry books know why the Broker will not likely be around for the long haul…).

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I have learned that reviews of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER cannot go up on Amazon until after the book has been published. So those of you got review copies from me will have to wait until then, although you can post at Goodreads any time and the also on blogs of your own. When the book comes out in September, I will remind you to post those reviews.

By the way – and this was mentioned in a comment response here, but many of you may not have seen it – I am close to signing with Hard Case Crime to do another Quarry novel, which I would write later this year. The title will probably be QUARRY’S CHOICE. It will not be a “list” novel, but will return to the period where Quarry works for the Broker. (THE WRONG QUARRY will be out in January, and I immodestly suggest it’s among the strongest in the series.)

* * *

Favorable reviews of COMPLEX 90 continue to roll in, but I really get a kick out of it when a young woman like the reviewer at Nerds in Babeland connects with Mike Hammer and his world, particularly a smart one who recognizes how strong Velda and the other female characters are.

A very well-conducted interview, part of the COMPLEX 90 blog tour, is here, at Celebrity Cafe.

And here’s another one, nicely handled by the interviewer, at blogcritics.

David Williams continues to review Heller novels in succinct, smart fashion, as in this look at BYE BYE, BABY.

And Just a Guy That Likes to Read liked reading TRUE CRIME very much, as his review indicates.

An annotated reprinting of my BATMAN comic strip story (illoed by the great Marshall Rogers) is here. I’ve posted this before, but this is a revised, expanded version.

And here’s a fun look at the “Barbara Allan” Marilyn Monroe thriller, BOMBSHELL, a book that really got lost between the cracks until Thomas & Mercer gave it a new lease on life.

M.A.C.