Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Lightning’

O’Collins Obects

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

An Irish crime writer, whose work I’m not familiar with, has been hired to write a new Phillip Marlowe novel. It got tons of play, particularly on the Net, and my name was mentioned (with Robert B. Parker’s) in a short list of mystery writers who have previously written Marlowe material. Parker, of course, finished POODLE SPRINGS and later wrote a sequel to THE BIG SLEEP. I didn’t care for either of Parker’s efforts – they surprisingly seem half-hearted, from such an avowed Chandler fan – although a fun TV movie was made out of SPRINGS. My contribution was in the Phillip Marlowe centennial collection (a story that subsequently was rewritten as a Heller and can be found in CHICAGO LIGHTNING as “Perfect Crime”).

As the guy who is continuing the Mike Hammer books, I am probably hypocritical and way out of line in suggesting that this new Marlowe novel seems like a terrible idea. I will defend myself by pointing out that my situation is different, even unique – I was asked by Mickey himself to complete unfinished works in his files. And the truth is, I would have taken the Marlowe gig if offered to me, because Chandler is on my really, really short list (the one that includes Spillane, Hammett and Cain). What rankles – and I am aware of Chandler’s British upbringing – is that the choice wasn’t of an American writer. I’m not the only American typewriter-pounder who would have done this job well – I can think of a dozen off the top of my head, from Bob Crais and Loren Estleman to John Lutz and Ed Gorman. Bob Randisi wrote a hell of a good Marlowe story in the centennial collection. Maybe one of the big boys like Michael Connelly or Dennis Lahane or Jeff Deaver…anyway, there are plenty of better choices than somebody from the UK. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.

Some years ago (probably at least twenty), I was approached to continue the Lew Archer books. I turned the job down (pshaw, to those of you who think I never say no to a gig) because (a) I have never been a Ross Macdonald fan, and (b) it was a suicide mission. Now I would have taken on any number of other suicide missions (I would still do a Sam Spade novel if anybody offered it), but I felt somebody more attuned to Archer ought to do it. As it turns out, nobody did.

By the way, I am not a Macdonald detractor. I read him when I was a teenager, devouring private eye novels. I liked his books. I just didn’t love them. He seemed to keep writing the same book over and over, and his writing seemed forced and, well, arch. He reached for the similes and metaphors, where they mostly flowed right out of Chandler. But he was serious about what he did and the books were readable, the people more real than most in the genre, and he provided a more overtly literary alternative to Mickey Spillane and Hammer that invited a whole other crowd of writers into the game. So props to him. I just didn’t want to step into his shoes.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll try to read the Irish guy’s book. Probably not. Somebody from South America or Spain or someplace wrote one that I couldn’t get past page one on. But it’s interesting how much attention it’s attracted.

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Ron Fortier has given a good, lively review to TRIPLE PLAY. Check it out.

Unexpectedly, Craig Clarke – long a Heller supporter – has written a fine, insightful review of STOLEN AWAY, perhaps sparked by the new Amazon Encore edition.

And my BATMAN stuff keeps attracting attention, often from people who still want to tar-and-feather me (who was it that said, “Get a life?”), but now and then something surprisingly positive shows up, like this piece.

There seems to be an audio book collecting the Fangoria Dreadtime Stories, many of which are written by me. Here’s a mostly good review here that scolds me for including gratuitous sex. Who, me?

A British web site published a mostly negative but interesting review of Mickey’s early non-Mike Hammer novel, THE LONG WAIT. I waded in disagreeing, and a very interesting, lively bunch of comments followed. Worth looking at.

M.A.C.

The “H” Word

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
The Comedy is Finished

The rediscovered Donald E. Westlake novel, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED, is getting some great reviews. Regular readers of these updates know that I had the manuscript for the novel in my basement (actually a drawer in a cabinet in my basement, with other Westlake materials). Don and I had explored revising the novel for publication under both our names (or possibly a joint pseudonym) after he had difficulty finding a publisher for an unfunny Westlake novel about a Bob Hope-style comedian. The book didn’t really need any work, but he was sick of looking at it, and I had some ideas about streamlining, and addressing some complaints editors had expressed about the political content. But when the similarly plotted film “King of Comedy” came out, Don called me and scrapped the project. As I’ve said before, when MEMORY came out as the “final” Westlake novel (a book I also knew about but didn’t have a copy of – I could never get Don to loan it to me), I got in touch with Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai about THE COMEDY IS FINISHED.

Most of the reviews are mentioning my efforts to get this book into print, and several have been very kind – this one is typical.

Another good review began oddly, stating that there might be something fishy about this discovery if it hadn’t come from me, because after all I can be trusted. You see, the reviewer (Steve Donoghue) says “a more honest thousand-word-a-day hack isn’t living.”

Here’s the thing. I resent the word hack. Any writer would. It is the “n” word of the writing world. Further, if Steve Donoghue thinks that a “hack” is anybody who can turn out a thousand words a day, he is (in my case at least) 1500 words short. And trust me, Donald E. Westlake never had a thousand-word writing day in his life. Ed McBain probably never had a day under 5000 words.

Anyway, speed or lack of it has no bearing on the quality of writing, which should and does speak for itself. I rewrite heavily, but my practice is not to rewrite the life and spontaneity out of a work. Barb considers herself slow – 1000 words would be a good day – but the result is terrific and has an off-handed feel as if she just threw it off quickly. That’s an art in itself.

I understand that – like Don – I am a prolific writer. This does not mean that I don’t work hard at writing. In fact, I work very hard at it, and if I write 2500 words of a Nate Heller or Jack Starr or some other historical novel, many hours of research have gone into it. And it’s not just research. One thing that Barb and I share in our approach is a propensity for thinking about what we’re going to write for at least as long as it will take to write it.

For me writing is an art, yes, but first and foremost it is a craft, and selling what I’ve crafted is my business – you know, like trouble was Phillip Marlowe’s. When a reviewer – whether in the New York Times or on a blog – dismisses a writer as a “hack,” or talks about a writer “churning out” or “grinding out” a book, that reviewer is indulging in a lazy, prejudiced, sloppy way of thinking…and writing. Those of us who do this for a living – and are not lawyers or doctors or teachers who write on the side, and are not blockbuster writers who can afford to write a thousand words a day, or less – deserve more consideration if not respect than being called the “h” word.

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Here’s a nice review of CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

Here’s a fun review of a short story that Barb and I did a while back, “Flyover Country.” [From Nate: Most recently published in the anthology ONCE UPON A CRIME, 2009]

And here’s a column on the great film noir, GUN CRAZY, from writer Mike Dennis. The comments below include one by me.

George Hagenauer is spending a few days here at La Casa Collins in our first meeting about the new Nate Heller novel, tentatively titled ASK NOT (the second JFK book). We’ll be mostly brainstorming, strategizing, and assigning homework to each other.

M.A.C.

Crying “Wolf”

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

“Wolf,” the second of my horror-tinged radio plays for Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories, is available for a free listen right here, all through January. Producer Carl Amari, as usual, did a great job.

Amazon is making a number of the Nate Heller novels available on Kindle at bargain prices, for a limited time. Steal of the deal is STOLEN AWAY at $1.99. A number of others are available for well under their usual eight bucks or so, for example…

Also, the first four Quarry novels from Perfect Crime are finally available on e-book. All five are available at Amazon at $4.99.

Perfect Crime’s Nolan reprints are imminent, and received a nice advance notice from the Violent World of Parker.

I’ve done a number of interviews lately, but this one from Comic Book Resources – which is slight comics-centric – strikes me as one of the best. It was an actual phone interview (not an e-mail one) and the interviewer asked solid questions and my answers don’t stink up the joint. Give it a look.

I am also proud to announce that in a forum choosing the best Batman writer of all time, I am coming in with a perfect score: zero. That really hurts, or it would if my BATMAN issues hadn’t sold so well.

Ron Fortier, himself a keen pulpmeister, had nice things to say about CHICAGO LIGHTNING.

Finally, I’d like to share a few photos from our recent trip to St. Louis, where we visited the Star Trek exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. Consider carefully the shot of me channeling my inner Shatner – new author photo, you think?

Star Trek Experience
Star Trek Experience

M.A.C.

How You Can Help

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Okay, so it’s 2012, and I know what you’re wondering – what can I do to help Max Allan Collins. “Buying all of his books just isn’t enough,” you’re saying to yourself. “What more can I do?”

Thanks for asking. And the answer is one that applies to every writer you like to read, not just me. With publishing in chaos right now, nothing matters more than grass-roots word of mouth, Internet-style. If you like a book you’ve read (particularly the books by me), comment at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites. These don’t have to be full-fledged reviews – just a line or two and a rating.

At Amazon, those ratings are key. Amazon pays attention to customer ratings – they make decisions based upon them – and of course browsers are often swayed by the star-rating of a book. Unfortunately, Amazon ratings are one of those places where democracy goes a little too far – there is little or no supervision. Routinely people give books lousy ratings (recently Return to Perdition suffered because of this) due to the reader having problems with receiving a damaged copy or other complaints having to do with mailing or other aspects of service – not the content of the book. You can balance this out – for any writer you like – by posting a brief review…again, a positive line or two and a high star rating will do it. If you have a blog or any kind of site where you review books, be sure to post those reviews on Amazon (Barnes and Noble, too).

And if you see an unfair or in particular an inaccurate review on any web site, write a comment in response. I’m not saying argue with somebody’s taste – just their fairness or accuracy. I do this myself, and a lot of people (including my son Nate) tell me not to. But I don’t respond to negative reviews unless they are unfair or especially inaccurate.

These are challenging times for authors. Support them not only by buying their stuff, but commenting favorably on it. If you’re disappointed with a book, you should also comment, but strive to fair, accurate and avoid glibness. If you accuse a writer of something – using cliches, maybe, or poor dialogue or anything really – be sure to give examples. Avoid what we used to call in English class “glittering generalities.”

Here are some nice things that appeared on the web over the last week or so.

Terry and I made a Best 10 Graphic Novels list for Return to Perdition. Once again, I consider such lists nonsense, useless, pointless and offensive…unless I am on one.

Dick Tracy

Read online at Go Comics

The current team on DICK TRACY gave me a nice shout-out in the strip recently. Thanks, guys!

Here’s a thoughtful if a little patronizing review of CHICAGO LIGHTNING. Look below the review for my comment.

Every now and then a CRIMINAL MINDS novel gets review. Here’s a nice example.

This is actually the first writing for me of 2012. I’m doing this update in advance a day or so, because Barb and I (and Toaster, who we’ve been dog-sitting) are about to head to St. Louis to see Nate and his girl Abby. We’ll spend several days there, and probably will see the English-language version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Recently we’ve seen the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (outstanding), the new Downey Holmes movie (I fell asleep), TINTIN (wonderful) and, on Blu-Ray, ATTACK THE BLOCK, one of my favorite films of the year. I am dismayed to see the abysmal DRIVE topping many Best of film lists for 2011. I told you those lists were worthless.

M.A.C.