Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

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.

Get Together Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Last week Barb and I met with Ed and Carol Gorman and Bob Randisi and Marthayn Pelegrimas for one of our periodic get-togethers at a restaurant in the toursity/rustic Amana Colonies. Every one of us is a published writer, though the “girls” tend to gather at one end of the table (after a family-style repast) and the “boys” at the other. Too bad both ends of the table aren’t recorded secretly, because the conversation is quick and funny and very “inside baseball.”

Ed and Bob are my two oldest and best friends in publishing (not counting collaborators). We were all three involved in the creation of MYSTERY SCENE magazine (me the least – I was the movie reviewer there, serving in that capacity for almost a decade….Being in at the beginning and helping mold MYSTERY SCENE has not led me to a cover story there, more’s the pity). What a pleasure spending time with working writers, discussing the current ever-shifting state of publishing. Anecdotes of recent and fairly ancient vintage got shared, and all of us – with large backlist catalogues – are seeking various ways to get our stuff back out there. Mostly it’s e-book-driven, of course.

Speaking of Ed, he later e-mail interviewed Barb for his terrific blog, and Barb is very hard to nail down for that sort of thing, so enjoy.

Otherwise a slow week for M.A.C. news/attention on the web, with the exception of this very nice WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER review.

On Labor Day (today, as I write this), Matt Clemens came down to deliver some materials on the in-progress thriller, SUPREME JUSTICE. We also explored possible new thrillers and discussed the possibility of publishing an expanded version of our long-out-of-print short story collection, MY LOLITA COMPLEX.

It’s been a while since I commented on movies here, so let me give you a very brief rundown on what Barb and I have seen lately:

Les Daniels’ THE BUTLER – a mess, but fun, unless you are an Obama hater.

ELYSIUM – a mess but no fun. We walked out.

THE WORLD’S END – a wonderfully funny, quirky Brit beerfest and a perfect conclusion to the trilogy that also includes SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. I met Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at Comic-Con a few years ago and they were swell blokes.

M.A.C.

Laughing On The Lam

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The ON THE LAM conference, put on over the weekend in Seattle by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer crime/mystery imprint for their authors, was unlike anything I’ve experienced in forty years of publishing. The T & M crew flew in 75 authors from hither and yon – “yon” being the UK, and hither being places like “Iowa” – simply to give those authors a chance to interact with each other, and the T & M editorial and marketing team. Editors have taken me out for lunch or breakfast many times, and publishers often have cocktail parties at Bouchercon and/or take authors out for a group dinner. But this was different.

For one thing, this conference was almost exclusively attended by one publisher’s writers. For the Saturday panels, family and friends and some local writers group members were in the audience, but mostly this was writers talking to other writers (and to editors). All weekend, the kinds of conversations usually only heard in secluded corners of bars at Bouchercon hotels was the up-front order of the day.

Barb and I both found it interesting and illuminating, and the generosity of T & M toward their authors was damn near mind-boggling. Everybody had a gift bag with a Kindle Paperwhite in it, for example. A Friday morning visit to the Amazon HQ proved the place not to be the stronghold of a Bond villain, rather a campus that reminded me of a well-funded community college right down to friendly students eager to help (and to herd). A fun, tasty lunch on a tour boat on Friday morning was followed by various Seattle touristy options in the afternoon, after which came perhaps the best buffet supper I’ve ever eaten at an event with a Clue-theme (no “mystery game” aspect, thankfully) in the Glasshouse of the frankly eye-popping Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. The next evening, small groups of authors with a T & M editor or other staffer or two woven in, were treated to terrific dinners at a variety of top Seattle restaurants.

MAC on the lam

What was perhaps most impressive were the Saturday panels. I was on one, and saw two others, and they were as good as anything I’ve seen at a Bouchercon. The lead-off panel, with Lee Goldberg, Marcus Sakey, Johnny Shaw and Greg Widen, was a hilarious inside look at Hollywood’s treatment of writers, but also an insightful discussion of adapting one’s own work (as well as the work of others) to the screen. I was on the following panel, and the topic (as I revealed here last week) was branding. After the incredible first panel, I decided the only thing I could do to compete was be an outrageous ham, and I opened by pretending that I was wholly unprepared, because I’d thought I was going to be on an S & M panel – “but I guess this is a different kind of branding.” I shamelessly went for laughs, and got them, but the panel was informative as well. T & M’s Gracie Doyle had done her homework and her questions were spot on. My fellow panelists, Barry Eisler and L.J. Sellers, explored the topic with insight and humor. Eisler is a charming guy with a sharp mind, very serious about his work but always ready with a winning smile. Sellers had a lot of focus on the branding issue and shared her approach of really staying in touch with her readers.

As far as branding is concerned, I came to a couple of conclusions during and after the panel. Because I’m lucky enough to have created something famous – ROAD TO PERDITION – that becomes a brand: BY THE AUTHOR OF. And thanks to PERDITION being historical crime fiction (never mind that it’s a graphic novel), that’s helpful to my historical- crime-fiction brand. I also think individual series are “brands” – and certainly not all readers who consider themselves Max Allan Collins fans read everything. Some Quarry readers are not (surprisingly) at all interested in Nate Heller, and (surprisingly) vice versa. Plenty of my regular readers ignore anything that smacks of tie-in. And a good number haven’t tried the Barbara Allan ANTIQUES fare, while the considerable number of readers that series has generated are unlikely potential Quarry or even Nate Heller fans.

But it was Barb who nailed it: “Your brand is ‘Max Allan Collins.’” Thank you, doll. (Yes, I call Barb “doll” – I am the guy who collaborates with Mickey Spillane, you know.)

Anyway, the T & M event was both fun and educational, our hosts unfailingly warm and generous, and I had a number of conversations with editorial, PR and marketing folks who make me feel that WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER is in good hands.

Which brings me to Amazon reviews. One thing I come back from the On the Lam conference with is a better understanding of how that system works. So I’m going to repeat something I’ve said before: if you like my stuff, please post reviews at Amazon. A sentence or two will do, though by all means express yourself at length if so inclined. If you review a book of mine at your blog, post it as an Amazon review as well. Four- and five-star reviews really boost sales (they are averaged, so a book gets an averaged star rating). Marking good reviews as helpful and bad ones as not helpful is also beneficial.

This doesn’t just go for me. Any book by any writer whose work you enjoy will benefit from your positive review at Amazon (and at Barnes & Noble). Do an Amazon search for a writer you like (for example, Max Allan Collins) and look at the averaged star-rating of individual novels. If the overall rating is under four stars, that book could use some love. By the way, what often brings the ratings down is another Amazon practice that is mostly positive – offering a title at a (temporary) bargain e-book price. The bargain pricing of TRUE DETECTIVE, when the Amazon reprints/e-books first came out, helped get a 1983 novel to number one on the Kindle fiction list. But the low price brings in readers who are looking for a cheap thrill and who are not necessarily a good fit for a given book – readers who don’t like mysteries say, “What the hell, I’ll try this.” Sometimes you get a new reader; but lots of times you don’t. Not a good author/reader fit. So an author winds up with a bunch of one- and two-star ratings. Anybody reading this blog knows that TRUE DETECTIVE is not a novel that deserves that kind of rating.

So go back and see what kind of ratings your favorite writers have racked up for their various books, and when it strikes you a book has been under-valued, drop in a review – again a sentence or two will do: it’s the star rating that matters most. Give your favorite books a nice boost. It’s free.

Which brings us to EARLY CRIMES. Right now EARLY CRIMES, not a T & M publication, has no reviews. Nada. I was told by an Amazon marketing expert that books with terrible reviews and lousy star averages do significantly better than a book that has no reviews at all.

A while back, I offered ARCs (bound galleys) of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER to a limited number of readers willing to do an Amazon review. I screwed up a little, because those reviews can’t be posted till the book is out – September 17, kids! Well, EARLY CRIMES is out now, and is, so far, decidedly a non-event.

So I am offering copies of the book to the first ten readers of this blog who are willing to do a review. (If you read it and hate it, you are excused from class.) Request one at my e-mail address: macphilms@hotmail.com. But this is only for readers who live in the United States. The overseas and Canadian postage damn near broke me last time I tried this. My apologies.

I want to emphasize that readers should get in the habit of supporting their favorite authors and books by writing these short reviews for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And don’t forget Goodreads. The more reviews that appear, the more important the book seems to potential new readers; the higher the star rating, the more new readers will be attracted. This is an easy grass-roots thing you can do for all of your favorite writers.

* * *

I was one of many authors who noted the passing of the great Elmore Leonard last week for J. Kingston Pierce at his fine Rap Sheet blog.

My old buddy (and editor) Chris Mills did a nice post about the forthcoming THE WRONG QUARRY, including the cover shown without cover copy – nice.

Here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT.

And here’s an interview I did that I’d forgotten about, from a December 2004 sitdown for a documentary about crime in Chicago that never happened. I talk a good deal about DICK TRACY, Ness, Capone and Frank Nitti.

M.A.C.

Branded?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
What Doesn't Kill Her

Barb and I are preparing to attend On the Lam, a conference in Seattle next weekend put on by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery/suspense publisher that’s part of Amazon. The attendees are authors published by T & M, with some fans and writer’s groups in Seattle receiving invites to the Saturday panels.

I’m on one, and the topic is “Building Your Brand.” Usually when I’m on a panel – I’m scheduled for two at this year’s Bouchercon – I frankly give the topic little if any thought. I prefer winging it. But this topic really has me thinking. In fact, it’s giving me fits.

Why? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t have a brand. I think “Barbara Allan” has already developed a brand as a humorous cozy author, and of course that penname for Barb and me was very calculated, from its folk-tune resonance to the female nature of the byline. Otherwise, I have rather stubbornly written almost everything else as by M.A.C.

And, accordingly, I have no overall brand-name. There’s a group of readers that thinks “Max Allan Collins” is a guy who writes movie and TV novels. There’s another that thinks I’m a hardboiled writer. Yet another considers me a historical thriller specialist. Some think I’m a comics writer or maybe graphic novelist. The most successful of my series – Nathan Heller, Quarry, and Mickey’s Mike Hammer – are their own brand names. For stuff I’ve done – like the upcoming WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER – that doesn’t fall conveniently into any of those boxes, I don’t have a brand at all…other than (judging by some of the advance Amazon reader reviews) my historical brand serving to piss some readers off when I do a straight thriller. I started noticing this on the two J.C. Harrow thrillers that Matt Clemens and I did for Kensington.

Thomas & Mercer have done a really good job in packaging my novels to suggest a sort of brand – starting with the Hellers, they have used typeface, photography and overall design to create a look that is less than uniform but still connective. This has extended chiefly to their reprints of the Disaster series, but also Mallory and even the “Barbara Allan” reprints, REGENERATION and BOMBSHELL (the latter an historical thriller). Amusingly, Amazon often lists Mallory novels among “historicals,” due to the books being so firmly entrenched in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

I should note that a few Amazon reviewers, attracted to REGENERATION by the “Barbara Allan” byline of ANTIQUES fame, were outraged at finding themselves stuck with a rather nasty thriller. Was it asking too much for them to read the description and look at the cover, before ordering? Here is where “brand” is a hindrance.

If you are Stephen King or Dean Koontz, and work at least vaguely in the horror/suspense area, you can publish any damn thing you like and your brand holds up. Interestingly, J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous mystery novel sold squat before she was outed, but once exposed, her brand has carried it into bestsellerdom, cushioned and boosted by the way the secret came out.

I’m not sure a writer below King/Koontz level can have a brand, not unless that writer creates stories in a very narrow way. I suppose I could have used pseudonyms for each area I explored, but the one time I was talked into using one – Patrick Culhane – the results were near disastrous.

My wife invokes Bobby Darin here, who many of you know is my favorite pop star and an obsession of mine equal to my Spillane one. Darin was a chameleon, who was (as DOWNBEAT magazine put it) “the only real competition Sinatra ever had,” a rock ‘n’ roller whose “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover” are classics of the form, an exponent of “blue-eyed soul,” a singer-songwriter pioneer in country rock, folk rock, and even a credible protest singer…and an actor whose small body of work includes some incredible performances, like those in PRESSURE POINT and CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). Still, he is often dismissed as dilettante by fans of each of those kinds of music (and largely forgotten as an actor), though I have been pleased to see him in the last decade or so reassert himself in the public consciousness. Often he’s mistakenly referred to as part of the Rat Pack, and it’s clear his big-band vocalist persona is the lasting one (fine by me). If you could choose only one singer/musician to represent popular music in the Twentieth-Century time capsule, Darin is the only logical choice, because only through him would you find excellent examples of just about every kind of pop music that that century provided (such British Invasion groups as Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Seekers covered songs of his). But he will never be a superstar in the way Elvis, Sinatra, the Beatles or even Sammy Davis Jr. or Dean Martin are.

His only brand was talent. Oh, and excellence.

* * *

Bill Crider, that terrific writer who runs my favorite site on the Net, has given WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER a lovely and (in my opinion) insightful review. Check it out.

My work as Mickey’s collaborator is discussed in an article about ghost writers in the AV Club. Worth a look, even if I am not exactly a ghost writer in this case. Scroll down to page 3 (page 4 now) for some comments by me and others.

Ed Gorman, another fine writer with a great blog, has published a short but solid interview with me, discussing the newest publications (including forthcoming ones).

Kevin Burton Smith at Thrilling Detective, the definitive private eye web site, has a Quarry entry up. I consider Quarry a private eye of sorts, so I’m glad to see him included.

I think this great video review of TARGET LANCER has been posted before, but it got a new lease on life recently.

I will report next week on the Seattle trip.

M.A.C.