Posts Tagged ‘Killing Town’

The Scarface and the Untouchable Show Hits the Road

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

The recent mini-tour for Scarface and the Untouchable – with co-author Brad Schwartz as well as my other collaborator, Barbara Collins – went extremely well. Barb and I do very few signings these days, but all three of these – Saturday afternoon, August 18, at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock (where both Chester Gould and Rick Fletcher lived), Sunday afternoon at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, and Monday evening at Anderson’s Bookshop in Woodstock (where Dick Locher lived) – were well-attended and a lot of fun. Books were sold – plenty of them.

This was the first time Brad and I have done appearances together, and with no prep whatsoever, we were a team ready and willing to do this again and again. Brad is at ease in front of an audience and has a command of the facts that would have eluded me even at his, ahem, somewhat younger age than mine. Barb is also great with audiences, funny and comfortable with herself. Scarface took centerstage, but the Antiques series was not neglected.

To see how Brad and I interact (although I hog it a little here), check out our WGN appearance on the Monday morning of the Anderson’s signing.

And for a good write-up about the Centuries and Sleuths presentation, check out the Donald G. Evans piece on the event right here.

Several interesting things occurred. At Woodstock, a car show of vintage automobiles was in full sway around the quaint town square during our signing. The classic cars required parking places, and one such vehicle found a space right in front of the bookstore (one of the few such spaces remaining). That car had an Untouchables license plate belonging to its Ness enthusiast owner who had known nothing of the signing. He saw the signage about the book signing out front of Between the Lynes, came in to attend the event, and bought a book.

In Naperville, where Dick Locher’s wife Mary could not attend because of a club meeting at her home, the gracious Mrs. Locher had left for me a Sunday page original from early in the Locher/Collins run of Tracy. Dick had never got around to sending me an original for my office wall, and when he and I re-bonded a few years ago, he apologized and said he’d given all of his art to a university. He pledged to write and get one from them for me, but the university did not cooperate. For some time now, Mary had been looking through Dick’s materials to see if she could find anything for me. No luck. Then, before the signing in Naperville, she tried one more time…and found a page, a perfect example with plenty of Tracy and famous villains, as if it had been set aside by Dick himself for me. I found her gesture – and this posthumous gift from my Tracy collaborator – a thrill and quite touching.

Check out the photos below, then return for a few more links.


Brad, M.A.C., Barb

Brad looks on as M.A.C jokes with Bob Goldsborough.

Brad and “Barbara Allan”

M.A.C. discussing a variety of topics with the notorious Mike Doran.

M.A.C. speaking with David & Cynthia who traveled from McCordsville, Indiana.

Centuries and Sleuths

M.A.C. with Nero Wolfe author, Robert Goldsborough at Centuries and Sleuths.

Anderson’s in Naperville

Andserson’s in Naperville – readers lining up to get books signed after Brad and I spoke.

Anderson’s in Naperville

At Anderson’s in Naperville, Dick Locher’s wife Mary sent over a Sunday original from the Locher/Collins period of the strip

Brad and M.A.C. pose in Naperville with Dick Locher’s incredible Dick Tracy sculpture.

M.A.C. and Brad Schwartz at the downtown Woodstock, Illinois, Dick Tracy mural (featuring images from the Fletcher/Collins period of the strip)

Brad and M.A.C. signing at Between the Lynes Bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois.

M.A.C. and A.B.S. talk to a nice crowd at Between the Lynes bookshop in Woodstock, Illinois.

Brad and M.A.C. pose with Untouchable license plate on a fan of the show who just happened to pull in right in front of the book store where we were signing — and came in, taking time out from the car show on the town square, to listen to our presentation…and buy a book!

* * *

Attention for Scarface and the Untouchable continues, as this impressive New York Daily News spread indicates.

I am honored that Quarry has been chosen one of the top ten Greatest Men’s Adventure Series Ever in a November 2017 “highly-scientific and totally statistically valid poll” of 4,000 members of the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks Facebook Group. Richard Stark’s Parker came in first, followed by Matt Helm and Travis McGee, with Quarry coming in fourth. Heady company to be in.

Oddly, Mike Hammer did not make the list, but Killing Town scored a particularly fine review, right here.

M.A.C.

Black Hats & A Book Giveaway!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

[Note from Nate: The giveaway is over! Thank you for participating!] The book giveaway this week is for the upcoming Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago, which will be published August 14. I have five finished copies and five bound galley proofs (ARC’s). The first five to respond get the finished book, the next five the bound galley. Winners are requested to post a review at Amazon, a blog, Barnes & Noble or any combination thereof.

This week’s update, however, is mostly about Black Hats, a new edition of which has just been published by Brash Books. For the first time, the book has my real byline, and not “Patrick Culhane.”

Brash has done a spiffy job on it, and I hope to get some copies from them for another book giveaway like the one above. Brash is also going to be bringing out Red Sky in Morning under my preferred title, and that will have the Max Allan Collins byline for the first time, too.

Black Hats is a good companion piece to Scarface and the Untouchable, because it’s about young Al Capone encountering old Wyatt Earp. Though their meeting is fanciful, the research for the book was on the order of the Heller saga and it is one of my favorite novels, and one that continues to attract very serious Hollywood attention.

Harrison Ford has been interested in playing Earp pretty much ever since the novel first came out, and he is still part of the mix – nothing signed-sealed-delivered, mind you. But that he has maintained this continued interest in the novel is exciting.

That’s all I can say at the moment, but if you’ve never read this one, send for the Brash Books edition, please. You will not find it in many book stores – the e-book will drive this one, though the “real” book that Brash has produced is handsome indeed.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

How did the byline “Patrick Culhane” come to appear on both Black Hats and Red Sky? Forgive me if you’ve heard this one, but I believe it’s one of the truly remarkable fuck-ups of my career, and one of the rare ones that I didn’t cause myself.

Shortly after Road to Perdition was a huge movie and the novelization made the USA Today bestseller list and the graphic novel made the New York Times bestseller list, some guy at Border’s (remember them?) told my then-publisher that he was a huge M.A.C. fan, but could sell more M.A.C. books if only the name M.A.C. wasn’t on the cover. I was too well-known, it seems, as a guy who wrote series novels. He promised huge sales if we did some standalone thrillers under a new byline.

Oddly, my real identity was never hidden. It’s prominently revealed on the jackets of both books.

I did not want to do this. My editor stopped short of insisting that I go along with it, and my agent suggested alienating my editor was a really bad idea. And Border’s was really, really powerful, right? So I came up with “Patrick Culhane,” the “Patrick” after my mother Patricia and “Culhane” as a Collins variant.

Understand that I hate pseudonyms. I fought to have my name go on my movie and TV tie-ins, figuring (correctly) that having my byline on things like Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, American Gangster, CSI and so on would only building my audience. All of those titles either made the New York Times list or USA Today’s or both.

The only time I used a pseudonym was on the novelization I Love Trouble, because it was going to be out at the same time as another novelization, plus the movie stunk. I used Patrick again, but also my mother’s maiden name, Rushing, which seemed apt for a book written on a crazy deadline.

I use my name on all but the above exceptions because I am proud of my work, and I want to keep myself honest. I don’t want to hide. I want to acquire readers, not run away from them.

Anyway, I am very pleased that Brash Books – the people who brought you the complete Road to Perdition prose novel, something I thought I would never see – are restoring my name to two of my favorite books. They will also soon be publishing Red Sky under my preferred title, USS Powderkeg.

Now the only thing still unpublished is my original, very loose adaptation of the Dick Tracy movie, in which I fixed all its problems and sins. Getting that in print, however, is a real long shot….

* * *

The advance buzz on Scarface and the Untouchable keeps building.

The Strand’s blog has published a list by my co-author and me looking at ten surprising facts about Al Capone and Eliot Ness.

We are one of the Saturday Evening Post’s top ten late summer reads, for example.

And the History News Network has published an article that Brad and I wrote about the Trump/Manafort/Mueller parallels.

Mystery People showcases us, too.

Out of the blue, here’s an interesting look at Quarry’s List, the second Quarry novel, with lots of comments from readers.

The graphic novel, Quarry’s War, gets a boost here, in a somewhat surprising context. [Note from Nate: This is so bizarre.]

On the Mike Hammer/Spillane front, here’s an interview I did at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago.

And another.

Finally, here is a terrific, smart review from the smart, terrific J. Kingston Pierce about Killing Town.

M.A.C.

The Original Max Allan Collins

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

I had many lovely responses to my shameless Golden Anniversary tribute to my lovely wife, Barb. Several people inquired about where the photo of us was taken: that was on May 31 on our anniversary overnight getaway to Galena, at our favorite Italian restaurant there, Vinny Vanucchi’s.

We stayed at the Irish Cottage (which is not a cottage, of course, but a very nice hotel on the outer outskirts of Galena). We dined at our other favorites – Otto’s Place, a breakfast spot on the Galena River across from the old, restored train station, and the Log Cabin, a restaurant that’s been there since the ‘30s and is a classic steakhouse that has the look and feel of somewhere the Rat Pack would hang out. We took a trolley tour of the town (though we’d been there many times) and soaked up some history and saw lots of Painted Ladies (i.e., Victorian mansions and homes).

This was in part research, because I have agreed to do a follow-up to The Girl Most Likely, a thriller set in Galena that I delivered to Thomas & Mercer last year for publication later this year. The police chief there, Lori Huntington, has been most helpful. But we were mostly having fun – the downtown shopping, half-a-mile of it, is gift shops and antiques shops and two wonderful used bookstores. We also visited (by appointment) Main Street Fine Books, which gave up its Main Street location some time ago and is now on the lower level of a beautiful modern home. Bill Butts and his wife Yolanda welcomed us, and Bill had set aside a first edition of Audie Murphy’s To Hell and Back for me.

You know, Barb and I talked about going somewhere special – like Ireland or France or England – but instead settled on doing what we wanted to do, as opposed to what was expected of us. We went to Galena, a place we love, and chose the Irish Cottage over Ireland.

On June 2nd, still celebrating, we dined at our favorite Muscatine restaurant, DaBeet’s, where I’d arranged for chef Awad Dabit to prepare Barb’s favorite, Dover Sole. Earlier that day was a nostalic trip for both us, at the Muscatine Art Center, a wonderful museum in the historic Musser mansion. How wonderful? They display works by Renoir, Chagall, O’Keefe, Picasso, and Grant Wood, among many others.

But Barb and I were there to see the Elks Chanters exhibit. The Chanters was a male chorus that my father, Max A. Collins Sr., directed for fifty years, up to his passing in 2000. The original Max Collins was a remarkable guy. He went to Simpson College on a combined music and athletics scholarship. He was an incredible singer, who turned down offers to pursue professional opera, and a high school music teacher whose students racked up record wins at state music contests. He also put on the first high school productions of Oklahoma and Carousel – in the nation. When he left teaching after ten years for a better-paying job at HON Industries, the office furniture company, he kept his musical hand in with church choirs and, in particular, the Chanters.

How good were the Chanters? Well, in the fifties they entered the national Elks chorus competition and won, beating men’s choruses from the biggest cities in America. The next year they won again. The year after that they won yet again, although other choruses tried to block them, claiming the Muscatine outfit was clearly professional. They weren’t, but after that year, the competition was ended and the Chanters were made the permanent national champs.

Dad took his group all over the state and various parts of the country, including of course Muscatine, to schools and nursing homes; they also put on an annual Christmas concert. Every year around June they presented an elaborate show, with a concert portion divided between religious and popular works, and a Broadway-style revue with costumes, dancing, and the wives and kids of the Chanters participating. Each revue had a theme my father had been working on all year – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Legends of Popular Music, Grand Ole Opry and on and on.


Small part of Museum Art Center exhibit

His chorus had a uniquely masculine sound and he created it from everyday guys in all walks of life here in Muscatine. The Muscatine Art Center, thanks to Donna Reed (whose late husband Morrie Reed was one of Dad’s stars), has mounted an impressive display of Chanters memorabilia and has a big-screen TV showing the Chanters (and my Dad) in action. The exhibit goes through mid-August.

As a kid, I was in Chanters shows and so was son Nate. But I never joined the group. I had my musical path and Dad had his. I think he understood mine was not a rejection but a recognition that he would be seen as favoring me if he used me in any special way. I had appeared in high school productions (King Arthur in Camelot and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady) and many around town expected me to be a Chanter. But I was busy playing rock ‘n’ roll.


M.A.C., Jr., watching M.A.C., Sr. and his group

Here’s one story about my dad, who was an incredible teacher of vocal music, as this will demonstrate.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the chorus director put me (a tenor) with a bass, an alto and a soprano, as a quartet that would try out for the All-State Chorus – this is roughly the nerd equivalent of All-State sports honors. The director, who was new in town, told us that he would not have time to work with us. That he would be working with several quartets of junior and senior students, who had a chance of winning; but this would be a good opportunity for us to see what we were up against in the future.

I reported this to Dad. He told me to assemble my quartet (Mike Lange, Joyce Courtois and Kathy Bender) and that he would work with us. No one in the history of Iowa schools, at least up to that time, had put more students into the All-State Chorus (winners were sent to Des Moines for a big concert) than my father. Well, Dad worked with us all right. And the three quartets the high school chorus director coached all flamed out.

We won.

We won the next year, too, and the next. And at our final year at Des Moines, when the All-State Chorus was assembled to rehearse for its concert, its director asked the group of several hundred, “Who among you have been here before?” Our hands and some others went up. Then: “Who among have been here for all three years? Please stand.”

We four stood.

No one else did.

Thanks, Pop.

* * *

Barb and I have finished listening to Dan John Miller’s reading of Killing Town. I know some of you (myself included) are sorry to see Stacy Keach retire from the audio series. But Dan really knocks it out of the park.

If you enjoy listening to books on audio, and you like my work and/or Mickey’s, get your hands…which is to say your ears…on this one.

* * *

The graphic novel collection of Quarry’s War is out now! I spotted it in Daydreams, an Iowa City comic book shop. Amazon lists the on-sale date as July 3rd, but apparently comic book shops get it earlier.

I’ll post more on this later.

M.A.C.

Our Audie Murphy Film Festival

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Killing Town, the “lost” first Mike Hammer novel, is now available on audio read by the great Dan John Miller. Read about it here. If you support this audio (and the previous Journalstone Mike Hammer release, The Will to Kill), more will follow!

* * *

I am writing this week’s update on Memorial Day Weekend. It seems like a good time to say a few things about Audie Murphy.

First, let me share with you a part of my prep for writing the Caleb York novels for Kensington (under the Spillane & Collins byline) – essentially, how I get into the mood.

I am about to start the new Caleb, Last Stage to Hell Junction. Whenever I do a York novel, Barb and I have an appropriate western film festival, watching an “oater” each evening. For the first novel, The Legend of Caleb York (from Mickey’s screenplay, which started it all), we watched John Wayne westerns, as Mickey had written the screenplay for Wayne’s Batjac productions, though it had never been produced. My favorites, predictably, are The Searchers, Red River and Rio Bravo.

For The Big Showdown, we watched Randolph Scott, including all of his outstanding Budd Boetticher-directed westerns. For The Bloody Spur, our nightly western was a Joel McRae. And I have been gathering Audie Murphy’s westerns (and his other films) for several years now, with an eye on the festival Barb and I are beginning now.

Audie Murphy, of course, is celebrated as the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II. He received every military combat award, including the Medal of Honor, having – at age 19 – held off by himself an entire company of German soldiers for an hour, then (while wounded) leading a successful counterattack.

Murphy was a Texas boy from sharecropper stock who learned his skills with a rifle by putting food on the table for his six brothers and four sisters, after their father left their mother, who died when Audie was a teen. Murphy lied about his age to get into the U.S. Army, not long after Pearl Harbor (the Marines and Navy having turned him down).

After the war, making the cover of LIFE Magazine for his courageous service, he was taken under the wing of the great James Cagney. From the late forties until his tragic young death in 1971, Murphy was a movie star. Aside from a few A-pictures (like The Red Badge of Courage and The Unforgiven, both directed by John Huston), and several contemporary offerings, Murphy specialized in westerns, as well as a western TV series, Whispering Smith.

But his biggest success was starring as himself (a role he reluctantly accepted) in the film version of his autobiographical war account, To Hell and Back. He was a skilled horseman and a successful songwriter, his work recorded by such stars as Dean Martin, Harry Nillson, Eddy Arnold and Jimmy Dean, among many others. And, not surprisingly, he suffered from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He slept with a .45 automatic under his pillow.

Stopped for speeding, Murphy pulled over and, when the officer noticed the .45 on the seat next to the easily recognizable Audie, the cop smiled and said he was a big fan and wanted an autograph. Murphy provided it. Accosted by a gangster at a horserace, Murphy stared him down and said, “I killed sixty of you bums in Sicily – one more won’t make a difference.” The thug moved on. Many a brawny challenger who figured he’d pick a fight with Murphy was quickly and brutally dispatched by the five-foot-five war hero turned movie star.

Or so go the stories. More easily verified is Murphy’s refusal to do ads for cigarettes or liquor, not wanting to set a bad example for young people. He died in a small plane crash.

My character, Quarry, was in part inspired by Murphy. David Morell told me Rambo had the same source. And Robert Stack said his Ness portrayl was inspired by Murphy.

Around Memorial Day, and all year frankly, Audie’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery is among the most visited. He is probably remembered more for his incredible valor as a teenaged war hero than for his movie career, and while that’s understandable, I’m here to tell you he was a fine actor.

In his day – and still today – his ability to star in a film is perceived as a sort of “talking dog” thing – the dog doesn’t haven’t to say anything impressive to qualify for that distinction. My feeling is the studios (chiefly Universal) often felt they had to pair Murphy with a strong character actor – Walter Matthau, Dean Jagger, Barry Sullivan – to carry him.

But anyone at all savvy about film and film-acting can look at Murphy in almost any of his pictures and see how his instinctive, charismatic under-playing seems modern and real while many of the actors around him appear to be shouting and hamming it up. He is present in every scene, quietly reacting, watching, then delivering lines naturally and effectively.

And in scenes of violence, just who this baby-faced boy/man is always comes to the fore. He’s a killer. Real deal. Not a murderer, but a soldier who unflinchingly does what he has to. But he’s not one note: he can be boyish, he can be scary, he can be romantic, he can be funny, he can be tough as hell – as much as I like Randolph Scott (and that’s a lot), Murphy has far more colors to his palette.

We’ve been watching him for a week or so now, and not all of the movies are good – toward the mid-1960s (particularly when he’s not working at Universal), his films are programmers, bottom-bill fodder for drive-ins. But he made some fine westerns, too, and worked with such great genre directors as Don Siegel, Budd Boetticher and Jack Arnold.

My favorite, the latter director’s work, is No Name on the Bullet. Murphy is an assassin who comes to a small western town, quietly checks in at the hotel and minds his own business – only his business is killing someone while he’s in town…but who. Everyone in the community seems to have a secret worth killing for. It’s a very Quarry-like role. The quiet killer side of him is in evidence – the film is thoughtful, a sort of High Noon turned inside out, and Murphy is great. Just great.

In collecting Murphy’s films, I’ve had to order DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world. A few are available here (including No Name on the Bullet), and there’s a nice boxed set from Turner Classic Movies – check it out.

Oddly, Murphy is considered a major star in Germany. Think about that – our decorated hero is revered by the losers, and patronized and even ignored by the winners. This is much odder than Jerry Lewis being lionized in France (though the French are right about Lewis, and they like Murphy, too, for that matter).

Salute this Texas sharecropper’s son, while Memorial Day is still in the air, won’t you? For his service to his country, by all means. But track down some of his movies. He was a real movie star, and – unlikely as it seems – a fine actor.

* * *

The forthcoming Scarface and the Untouchable is one of the ten summer books Chicago Magazine recommends.

Here’s a fine review of Killing Town.

Check out this advance look at the first issue of the Hammer four-issue comic book mini-series.

The Quarry TV series gets some love here.

Finally, here is a wonderful review of Antiques Wanted by a reviewer who really gets what Barb and I are up to.

M.A.C.