Posts Tagged ‘Caleb York’

The Big Showdown

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

[Nate here:] Before we get to M.A.C.’s pre-written blog update, I have a quick update on M.A.C. Dad’s recovery has been going great (aside from the food, but they got the important things right, at least!) and he should be on his way home today. Here’s a picture from this weekend:

– – – – – –

The Big Showdown


THE BIG SHOWDOWN, second of the Caleb York westerns – there will be at least three – will be published April 26.

This is the first time I’ve published a novel where I share a byline with Mickey Spillane despite there being no Spillane content. As regular readers of these updates (and my novels) know, I have been completing Mike Hammer manuscripts (and a few other novels) that were unfinished in Mickey’s files. He specifically directed his wife Jane and me to do so.

But also in the files were three unproduced screenplays. Two are noir horror pieces that I hope to find a home for, but one was THE SAGA OF CALLI YORK, a screenplay written for John Wayne. I took Mickey’s script and essentially novelized it (could I hate that term more?); I changed “Calli” to “Caleb,” which Calli was short for, though I never use that nickname in the novels, and “Saga” to “Legend,” because the latter term plays better for the narrative at hand.

The trouble was, my terrific editor at Kensington, Michaela Hamilton, wanted at least three books. Rather than leave Caleb hanging (so to speak), I said yes…then for many months drove my wife Barb crazy as I speculated on what to do with the other two novels.

Mickey’s backstory indicated York was a famous detective for Western Union, and I considered doing prequels to THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK, possibly focusing on real desperados. But it was Barb who rode to the rescue (sorry), suggesting that instead I write a sequel (possibly a series of them) utilizing the setting, characters and conflicts Mickey had created – taking Mickey’s story and letting it really play out. That made it feel more proper to share byline with him.

“Stay in his world,” Barb advised.

So that’s what I did. I had a blast writing it and have already plotted the third, again playing off of what Mickey wrote. Again, I tried to do a western in the Hollywood tradition of Randolph Scott, Joel McRea and Audie Murphy, but with the violence ratcheted up a notch.

I just read the galley proofs and liked it a lot. You may, also.


[Nate here for the review round-up:]

A nice review for Murder Never Knocks showed up from across the pond on Crimetime, originally posted on Irresistible Target. (“one of the best of the Max and Mickey Mike Hammers.”)

Halifax’s (The) Chronicle Herald gave Kill Me, Darling a much appreciated mention in a recommended reading list for winter vacation, which is apparently a thing. (“Not just a great Mike Hammer novel; a great crime novel, without qualification.“)

The Open Book Society posted a flat-out rave for Quarry’s List. (“The plot is Mickey Spillane and Mario Puzo balled into one and spit out faster than the gout of flame from a jet engine.“) It’s been fun seeing the earlier Quarrys get some nice attention lately, especially since I’ve been reading them again, too, for the first time since pulling them out of my father’s basement library when I was younger than I should admit here.

J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Covers blog gave a shout-out to The Consummata. Definitely click that link (here it is again) because he features some supremely cool covers there.

The X-Files anthology, Trust No One, got a nice review from the Lawrence Public Library blog, with Max’s short story “The House on Hickory Hill” garnering a special recommendation. (“[Trust No One] brings new life into an area that bookish fans of the program have sorely missed.“)


Tweaking (Not Drug-Related)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
Better Dead by Max Allan Collins

The work over the past week, and the work ahead during the week after Christmas, is a part of the career of writing that is little discussed. But it’s key to the process.

Over the period of a week, I read and corrected the galley pages of three novels of mine – THE BIG SHOWDOWN (the second Caleb York), ANTIQUES FATE (by Barb and me as “Barbara Allan”), and BETTER DEAD (the McCarthy-era Nate Heller). The latter is a long manuscript, almost the length of the previous two combined.

This stage marks the last chance for a writer to catch goofs, seek out typos and make final revisions and tweaks. Oftentimes, the production person scolds the writer in advance about making any changes. The attitude is that the book is finished and it would be too costly to make any changes that don ‘t address typos or outlandish errors. I ignore this admonition, although I keep my tweaking to a minimum and rarely rewrite unless I really have come across an outright error.

But these final tweaks are often the difference between a smooth read and a rough one. I noticed with BETTER DEAD something that happens too frequently in my work: the last few chapters can have a rushed quality, because I am gathering steam and racing toward the ending – much as a reader of an exciting novel reads faster, even skimming, to get to the end. In BETTER DEAD’s near 400 pages, I found next to nothing in the first 2/3’s, but quite a bit in the final third. These tweaks represent nuance via word choice and sometimes the elimination of repeated words.

To me this is vital part of the writing process – that final polish, and a read that occurs several months after the initial writing, which breeds better objectivity. True, I’ve had a chance to view the novel in the copy-edited form a month or so before the galley proofs arrive. But with a copy-edited manuscript, my focus goes to the changes that the copy editor has made, each of which has to be thought through – sometimes copy editors are right, like a stopped clock.

Next up are the galley proofs of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (the Mike Hammer novel previously announced as DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU) and QUARRY IN THE BLACK. I also hope to put together a collection of the Mike Hammer short stories I’ve developed from shorter fragments in Mickey’s files; these have appeared in the STRAND, mostly. I’m talking about such a collection with Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press. I need to read my stories and determine what order they should appear in, and I’ll want to write an introduction.

For me it’s a luxury not to be working on a novel over Christmas week – as I often have – and attending to some of the less-glamorous aspects of the writing trade (well, there aren’t really any glamourous aspects to it, unless Hollywood buys something) is a good way to get something done without spoiling your own holiday season, and that of the others in your life.

* * *

I’ve discussed the oddity of reading current reviews of early works, but nothing tops reading a write-up about MOURN THE LIVING, which was my first novel and introduced Nolan…and was written almost fifty years ago. It’s a book I would be loathe to re-read, but in some respects it’s the most important one I ever wrote, as it’s the novel that Richard Yates read that convinced him to invite me into his Writers Workshop class at the University of Iowa. So much of my career has flowed from Yates as my mentor. On the other hand, I always like reading good reviews like this one.

Of course, Hard Case Crime has been reprinting the early QUARRY novels, but late in 2016 they will be publishing a brand-new one, QUARRY IN THE BLACK. Read about it here and get a look at the fantastic cover.

One of those QUARRY HCC reprints has made a stocking stuffers list at the Geek Hard Show. Festive little write-up!

Here’s yet another one of those “best movies that you didn’t know were based on comics” lists. But ROAD TO PERDITION is treated very nicely, so check it out.

That same website – Talking Comic Books – has an interesting podcast (well over an hour) in which a number of film buffs discuss the film of ROAD TO PERDITION in a lively fashion. One oddity, at least from my POV: the guy who says ROAD TO PERDITION is his favorite movie has never bothered to read the graphic novel. In fact, for a podcast that’s part of Talking Comic Books, one might think the graphic novel would get more than one fleeting mention. But that’s all it rates. Still, there’s some fun to be had and some intelligent commentary to be heard.

Finally – Merry Christmas! Or Merry Whatever You Celebrate, as long as it doesn’t involve sacrificing a goat.


Pre-Bouchercon Edition

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Next week I’ll have a report from Bouchercon for you. For now, I have a few random thoughts to share.

The last few work days have been consumed by going over the copy-edited THE BIG SHOWDOWN (the second Caleb York). As I’ve made clear here, I despise copy editors (except for those who follow these updates). This one has taken a light touch but still is comma happy. Copy editors need to know that there’s a difference between “hard cold eyes” and “hard, cold eyes” and that an author chooses between them for effect, Chicago Manual of Style be damned (I don’t own a copy).

The copy-edited manuscript of BETTER DEAD arrived today and Barb won’t even let me open the fat, forbidding-looking package until we get back from Bouchercon. She knows that just thumbing through to see what the copy editor did will send me into a frenzy worthy of Hitchcock.

Copy editors, of course, serve a valuable purpose, particularly in the area of continuity – like a character who starts out blond and becomes brown-haired, or a cousin who mysteriously transforms into a brother. I also appreciate any copy editor who alerts me to word repetition and/or phrases that don’t seem to track. But I like these pointed out for my revision, not revised for me.

They are very young, most of these copy editors, and I am not. Therefore I have to explain to the copy editor of THE BIG SHOWDOWN the meaning and derivation of “grew like Topsy,” although Google could have easily done the trick.

I ran into this kind of thing as early as the mid-‘80s when I had to explain who or what “Jack Armstong, All-American Boy” was to some precious young thing.

I trust some day, probably too soon, some copy editor will query an author about the meaning and derivation of the phrase “road to perdition.”

* * *

Last year around this time, I wrote a scathing review of the season opener for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I seriously doubted that – after following the show since its inception, through thick and sometimes very thin – I would keep watching. As it turned out, I did, and the season wasn’t bad and sometimes was wonderful.

This year’s season opener was excellent, and was stolen by a comedy newcomer named Hillary Clinton. Even host(ess?) Miley Cyrus did well in sketches, her Disney sitcom training coming through – she is definitely at ease in front of the camera. She was also the musical guest, wearing Emperor’s-New-Clothes outfits that could not distract us from noticing that her voice resembles that of an octogenarian smoker somewhere in Florida rasping out, “Bingo!”

One of the sketches was about Taylor Swift’s “squad,” which I guess is celebrities (or in my parlance, “celebrities”) who are summoned to come up out of the audience to wander about the stage while she sings. I know who Taylor Swift is, I know what she looks like, and I’m sure I’ve heard some of her songs…but I couldn’t connect her to any of them if my life depended on it.

As it happens, the Taylor Swift “squad” phenomenon is the subject of a piece in this week’s ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. I’ve talked here before about how, once or twice a year, some national magazine suddenly makes me realize how out of touch I am – usually it’s ROLLING STONE. EW wins out this time.

Here are some of the “celebrities” in Taylor Swift’s squad: The Weekend (a human being called “The Weekend,” due next week on SNL), Andreja Pejic, Fatty Wap (a human being called…), Rachel Platten, Gigi Hadid, OMI (a human being…), Lily Aldridge, and Walk the Moon (a human…?).

In fairness, I had heard of a few squad members: Ellen DeGeneres, Nick Jonas, Matt LeBlanc and Mick Jagger. Watch for them on HOLLYWOOD SQUARES 2021.

The SNL sketch was a take-off on zombie movies, cleverly suggesting that eventually everyone on the planet would be invited on stage at a Taylor Swift concert. But let’s stay with EW for a while.

Most of the movie and TV stuff I could track. The music section is always rough on me, because I used to pride myself on following the music scene and now I can’t recognize the “oldies” on Sirius XM. The last new band I got excited about is Weezer, introduced to me by my son Nate when he was in high school. Nate is in his early thirties. Once your kids are out of high school and out of the house, you will likely cease to be in touch with contemporary pop music except the occasional big deal like Lady Gaga (who is already an “oldie,” I believe).

Even more depressing is EW’s “10 Great Fall Thrillers.” You may be aware that this is my field – books, suspense, etc. I had heard of exactly one of the ten authors (Lee Child). Now you might remind me that I read almost no contemporary fiction, making this largely my fault, and you would be right. But usually I have a sense of the successful writers in my line of endeavor. And this strikes me as one area where I can’t just sit back and let the world pass me by.

But before I either sit back or sit up, let me bitch about the dreadful visuals in EW. Not long ago they went to an orgy of small print, mixed fonts, floating sidebars and arbitrary color. It now looks like a really wretched web site. And, by the way – there’s nothing an aging baby boomer likes more than trying to read tiny black type on a purple background.

* * *

Our pal Mike Doran made a very funny comment about old rockers emerging on PBS fund-raisers “looking like John Houseman.” In fairness to old rockers, I should point out that Flo and Eddie always looked like John Houseman. So did most of the Grateful Dead. On the other hand, Creed Bratton of “The Office” was once a long-haired cutie-pie when he was in the Grass Roots.

Also, the Happy Together concert featured some very well-preserved rockers – Mark Lindsay looked great (at least from the cheap seats) and he’s in his early seventies, and the Cowsills (some of whom were kids back in the day) had a youthful vibe. Both the Vanilla Fudge and the Zombies, who I saw in recent years, were vital-looking and eternally youthful.

But, yeah, Mike – there are a ton of John (Rock and Roll!) Housemans out there….

* * *

Here’s a nice review of A KILLING IN COMICS. The Jack and Maggie Starr series is getting a nice lift from the Dover reprints.

Check out this piece on how to build suspense in fiction – I’m quoted.

Finally, here’s a short, sweet review of QUARRY’S CHOICE.


Mike Hammer Shoots .500

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Death Sentences

Actually, Mike Hammer probably has shot five-hundred in his career, but I refer not to bad guys but the fact that at the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers “Scribe” Awards, KING OF THE WEEDS did not win Best Novel, while the Hammer short story, “It’s in the Book,” did win Best Short Story.

No complaints. The Scribes have been great to the Spillane/Collins collaboration – we’ve won once for Best Novel (KISS HER GOODBYE, twice for Best Short Story (“Book” and “So Long Chief”) and once for Best Audio (“Encore for Murder”).

I am particularly pleased to see “It’s in the Book” honored, because it’s my favorite of the Hammer short stories (and it was overlooked by the Edgars and Shamuses, which had both singled out “So Long, Chief”). Right now I have one more Hammer fragment that would work as a short story, and I may save it for an eventual collection.

“It’s in the Book” is available as a small book and has been collected in a book club collection (see Mike Doran’s comment last time) and in the UK in a collection called DEATH SENTENCES.

Here are all the Scribe nominees with winners in bold face:
24: Deadline by James Swallow
Murder She Wrote: Death of a Blue Blood by Don Bain
Mike Hammer: King of the Weeds by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Homeland: Saul’s Game by Andrew Kaplan
The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R. A.
Grimm: Chopping Block by John Passarella
Star Trek: Disavowed by David Mack
Star Trek: Foul Deeds Will Rise by Greg Cox
Grimm: The Killing Time by Tim Waggoner
Pathfinder: The Redemption Engine by James Sutter
Fringe: Sins of the Father by Christa Faust

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Alex Irvine
Noah by Mark Morris
War of the Worlds: Goliath by Adam Whitlach

Spirit Animals: Blood Ties by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Battletech: The Nellus Academy Incident by Jennifer Brozak
Penguins of Madagascar by Tracey West

Pathfinder: Hunter’s Folly by Josh Vogt
Mike Hammer: It’s in the Book by Max Collins and Mickey Spillane
Stargate: Perceptions by Diana Botsford
Pathfinder: Queen Sacrifice by Steven Savile
Tales of Valdemar: Written in the Wind by Jennifer Brozek

Dark Shadows: The Darkest Shadow by Nev Fountain
Dark Shadows: The Devil Cat by Mark Thomas Passmore
Blake’s 7: Fortuitis by George Mann
Doctor Who: Iterations of I by John Dorney
Pathfinder Legends: The Skinsaw Murders by Cavan Scott

* * *

I note with sadness the passing of writer Tom Piccirilli, a very gifted man who reviewed many of my novels, and always favorably. When a writer as fine as Tom likes your work, you figure you’re doing something right.

Many tributes have appeared, but I’ll provide just this link to my friend Jeff Pierce’s write-up at the Rap Sheet.

* * *

Here’s a lovely review of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK from James Reasoner, who – like my pal Bill Crider – is a real western writer. When I pass muster with guys like James and Bill, I breathe a sigh of relief.