Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

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.

MAC on NPR

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

If you missed Max on NPR, they’ve posted the seven minute COMPLEX 90 interview (streaming and download), along with a transcript of the highlights, and an excerpt from the book.

Here’s the link:

http://www.npr.org/2013/06/01/187093598/pulp-fictions-bad-boy-mike-hammer-returns-in-complex-90

And don’t forget to check back on Tuesday for the weekly update!

Carry On Spying

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

This week my update will be primarily links to the three articles and the several interviews I’ve done to promote COMPLEX 90, plus an encouraging round of reviews for the novel…as well as reviews for other books. With the links to the articles and interviews, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to hear me pontificate.

All I’ll say, by way of anything personal, is that Barb and I loved the new STAR TREK movie (STAR TREK INTO THE DARKNESS) and I may discuss it next week. The reviews and audience response has been great, but a small vocal minority hates the film, and somehow it’s being labeled a box-office disappointment despite being the top movie of the weekend, pulling in over $70 million. Longtime readers of this blog/update may remember that Barb and I have been fans so long that we go back to when “Trekkie” wasn’t an insult. How much did we like the new film? We went on Thursday, and we went back on Sunday. We haven’t seen a movie twice in a theater in ages. It’s a great movie, if you have any real liking for STAR TREK at all, and I would put it slightly above the first (also wonderful) film with this cast and director.

This week, I am working on the galleys of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER and will be continuing preliminary work on KING OF THE WEEDS. I will also be doing my draft of the first chapter of ANTIQUES SWAP – we have to turn in the first chapter of each of the antiques novels early, so it can be previewed in the new book.

* * *

There are a few days left to enter the giveaway for a free copy of COMPLEX 90 at My Bookish Ways.

Here is my Huff Post piece on memorable spy films from novels. There’s accompanying video.

And here are ten memorable Cold War-era spy novels that I write briefly about.

At Military.com I wrote about “The Friends of James Bond” – really, the imitators of James Bond.

Here’s a well-conducted interview at the Geek Girl Project.

And another well-done interview (by the interviewer, anyway) at Fanboy Comics.

The reviews for COMPLEX 90 keep rolling in. Here’s a nice one at Celebrity Cafe.

Here’s another good one at City of Films.

This is a very interesting if patronizing review from a writer who gets that Mike Hammer is a characterization and not a blueprint for behavior. It’s a fun read from someone who clearly dug the book but is a little ashamed about it.

This write-up at Unreality Mag is more an article than a review, but certainly worth a look.

I particularly liked this review from a young woman who doesn’t allow her dislike of the ‘60s era male hubba-hubba view of women get in the way of having a good time.

This is from Ed’s Blog – not Ed Gorman, another smart guy named Ed. (Ed Gorman, by the way, was kind of enough to link to the Huff Post piece at his blog. Thanks, Ed!)

Here’s another smart, fun review of COMPLEX 90. Something about the book seems to inspire entertaining reviews.

This is a disappointing though not entirely negative review from, surprisingly, Bookgasm, where my stuff is generally well received. Are some reviewers getting jaded, as I deliver a new Hammer every year? Well, that’s not gonna go on forever….

Here’s a swell review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Jerry’s House of Everything.

And yes, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is still generating some nice reviews.

The reprints of the early Quarry novels are starting to get some attention from reviewers, as in this write-up from Just a Guy That Likes to Read.

This review links the recent Lawrence Block “Keller” novel with QUARRY. Nice company, but, uh…I was first. Ungracious of me? Don’t care.

A West Virginia newspaper has a review of the Frank Nitti Trilogy from a high school junior who does a bang-up job. You don’t know how much it pleases me to see a new generation picking up on Nate Heller.

David Williams has been reviewing the Hellers in smart, succinct fashion for a while now. Here’s a link to some of his Heller reviews, starting with the most recent of his write-ups, on ANGEL IN BLACK. He doesn’t care much for two of my favorite entries in the series, FLYING BLIND and MAJIC MAN, but nobody’s perfect.

M.A.C.

Memorable or Favorite or Best or Greatest…?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Complex 90

I am writing this in our hotel room in St. Louis, where Barb and I have spent a delightful Mother’s Day weekend with our son Nate and his bride Abby. Great food, great company, even great weather. We caught a crime movie called MUD, easily the best film I’ve seen this year, with a definite SLINGBLADE feel (and that’s a good thing) – writer/director Jeff Nichols has a real feel for the South and its rhythms, and has assembled an amazing cast. See it.

But I hate this keyboard, so this will be short. Also, I spent last week writing two lengthy articles for the Huffington Post and Flavorwire (I have one or two more to do) to promote COMPLEX 90, and am “talked” out. These will be posted in the next week or so. This is hard work that doesn’t pay, strictly PR, and the subject this time – spy novels – is not one I’m as familiar with as the previous ones I did Huff Post pieces on (detective novels and controversial comics).

What I hate about these things is that I say my piece and then get beat up over my choices. That most of the responses are from idiots doesn’t help much. I have asked that my list be labeled “memorable” spy novels (the Huff piece is movies from spy novels), to get away from this “best” or “greatest” concept that always causes dissent. Of course, these people will argue with your “favorite” choices, too, as if that weren’t inherently a personal call.

This coming week I will do some more of this freebie writing to promote the new book, and will begin prep work on KING OF THE WEEDS, the last of the substantial Spillane/Hammer manuscripts. The new novel is a sequel to BLACK ALLEY, so I’ll be spending a lot of time with it. Then I’ll spend time with Mickey’s manuscript, reading and re-reading it, making notes, marking up my work copy. Probably two weeks prep before writing begins. This is bittersweet, because KING will mark the completion of the basic goal I set for myself in taking on Mickey’s unpublished work – getting these six additional Hammers completed (and DEAD STREET and the Morgan the Raider sequel, THE CONSUMMATA). I very much want to keep going with the shorter but significant manuscripts that remain, but I am relieved and even thrilled that I’ve been able to see these major works see completion and publication.

COMPLEX 90 reviews are starting to roll in, like this great one from Crime Fiction Lover.

This is a very cool one, too, from Impedementia.

This one from Bullet Reviews is quirky but favorable.

Boing Boing has a first chapter excerpt.

David William continues his short but sweet Nate Heller reviews with sharp looks at DAMNED IN PARADISE and BLOOD AND THUNDER.

My old buddy Ed Gorman (such a great writer – you’re missing out if you’re not reading him) was nice enough to post an article I did a while back on my favorite crime novels.

Finally, here’s part two of the Gary Sandy-starring live production of ENCORE FOR MURDER.

M.A.C.