Posts Tagged ‘King of the Weeds’

Choice Reviews!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
Quarry's Choice

QUARRY’S CHOICE comes out this week, and I’ve been a little worried because there hadn’t been a single advance review, despite Hard Case Crime sending out a bunch of ARC’s.

Just recently, though, two of my favorite writers – Ed Gorman and Bill Crider – have posted excellent reviews of the novel, one of which is getting some decent play at other blogs (more about that below). But QUARRY’S CHOICE could still use a boost, so if you’re a Quarry fan, and get and like the book, please consider posting an Amazon review.

Also, if you have a blog or some other place where you review books, contact me at and I’ll try to rustle up a review copy for you. (Please, no one tell Nero Wolfe I used “contact” as a verb.)

I thought THE WRONG QUARRY was about as good a Quarry as I could muster, but I have to admit CHOICE seems to me at least its equal. It’s set very early in Quarry’s career (still working as a hitman for the Broker), so if you haven’t read one, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Meanwhile, I have completed the new Heller – BETTER DEAD – and I feel like I fell out a high window, which is not coincidentally one of the crimes covered in the novel. This one is about the McCarthy era and Bettie Page is in it. Do you suppose Heller gets frisky with her? No, I better not spoil it for you….

When I say I’ve completed the book, I should say “completed,” because I will spend the next couple of days giving it a last read-through, looking for typos and tweaking things, hoping to God it all hangs together. I always feel that I’ve got a solid chapter written before going onto the next, but I also always fear that the pile of chapters will not assemble coherently into a book. This has never happened, but I live in terror of the time it does.

* * *

I’m going to discuss something at the risk of sounding like a total prick. For some, that will mean only the added adjective. But here goes….

I have helped a lot of writers in my time. I taught for twenty-some years at a summer writer’s conference, for example, out of which a good ten published writers emerged from my classes. Matthew Clemens was a student of mine there, and he turned out not half-bad. I also taught a summer program at the University of Iowa a couple of times. The great Hugh Holton was one of my students.

So I am not against helping writers. I probably won’t teach again, but I’ve put in my time, and have nothing to apologize about.

But I keep running into a kind of writer locally – I mean right here in Muscatine, Iowa – who imposes on me in a way that drives me crazy. Or at least, I feel imposed upon – I might be wrong (that’s where the total prick thing comes in). Here are a couple of examples.

On three different occasions in the last few months, the same man – friendly, nice – approached me at various functions…two parties, once a dance my band was playing at (during a break where I needed to catch my breath)…and pumped me hard for writing advice. Well, not writing advice so much as publishing advice. This ranged from where he should send his stuff to how to approach the people he would send it to, etc. I don’t know this man, particularly – he was a friendly acquaintance of my father’s. But he buttonholed me three times and pumped and pumped.

What I suppose makes me feel like this is an imposition is this: not once did he mention anything I’d written, not even saying he’d seen the film of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was not a fan. I sensed he’d either not read me or had and wasn’t impressed. What impressed him was that I was a professional who lived in his hometown who he could utilize.

Not long ago Barb and I went to a fall cook-out down the street. A woman from our neighborhood who I did not recognize came over to the picnic table where I was sitting and handed me a five-page essay she’d written. She was taking some kind of college class and wanted to know why she hadn’t received a better grade. At this social function, with people around me roasting and eating hot dogs and S’mores, I sat and for at least half an hour dealing with her, reading the paper, giving her a critique, showing her the good, the bad. Here’s the ugly: when I was done, she wanted to know if she could e-mail me her future papers for my critiques, apparently to have me check them before she handed them in. I said no, I just didn’t have time. She was offended.

This next example isn’t a writer. It’s a nice guy down the street who comes out and talks to me when Barb and I are out for a walk, and who at neighborhood parties gravitates to me for a talk. Generally I find him pleasant and smart. But he continually talks to me about mystery and suspense writers he’s reading, telling me his opinions, which is mostly how good they are – I know more about Lee Child than most people who have actually read him. He never mentions my work. Never indicates he’s ever read me. Finally I gave him a couple of books of mine. He’s never said a word about either (one was TRUE DETECTIVE).

This strikes me as peculiar. He obviously thinks because I’m a mystery writer that I would like to hear his opinions on the genre. But if he doesn’t read me, or have any interest in my work, why should he care what I think? And why should I listen?

The phenomenon seems to be strictly hometown – I can’t think of a parallel with (let’s call them) real readers who I encounter at a convention or at a bookstore (sometimes an event, sometimes just somebody who recognizes me and stops to say something nice about my work).

Do I have a right to tell somebody looking for free help that I’m at a social event and don’t care to talk shop? Or something? Should I ask my neighbor why he wants to talk to me about mysteries when he doesn’t read or like mine?

Just wondering.

* * *

What a pleasure to read a great, insightful review from a writer you admire. Here are Ed Gorman and Bill Crider reviewing QUARRY’S CHOICE.

KING OF THE WEEDS has made another ten best list!

Check out this lovely review of BYE BYE, BABY.

Here’s a very solid New York Times article on movie and TV tie-ins, in which I am quoted.

Here’s a great look at the Disaster series.

I have written an introduction for a collection of pre-Disney ZORRO comic books for Hermes Press. It’s a lovely book and the stories are great fun. This reviewer isn’t much impressed, but it’s still worth checking his review out.

And finally here’s a very nice write-up about my work in general and Nate Heller in particular.

M.A.C.

Supreme Resolutions

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

This is the time for making New Year’s Resolutions, and mine are fairly typical – lose weight, spend less, that kind of thing. It may not be possible at this late date, but I would like to spread my work out over the year, instead of having it front-loaded as it’s been the last several, punishing years. Though it feels like a plot against me, the reality is that the various editors and publishers I work for have their own agendas, and by accident those agendas want me to deliver promised books in the first six or seven months of the year.

Part of why I’ve gone along with that is to save the second half of the year for a Nate Heller novel. I have been working on the new Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, for several months now (much longer, factoring in the research, which remains on going). It’s been a tough one because it covers two cases and the research just never lets up. The process is start/stop because each chapter – frequently covering two major scenes – requires in depth research. Thank God for the Internet, and a pox upon ye all non-fiction works that lack an index.

The relative slowness of the process this time (not slow by almost anybody else’s standards, I admit) means I’ll be delivering the book a little late – not much, probably a week or even a few days (it’s due Jan. 1). But those days eat into the time allotted for the next book, and endanger the break of a week or so I need to take between projects just to recharge, and to do smaller promised projects, and guide my brain onto a new track. On top of this (not seeking “get well” cards or anything), I am still fighting, after two weeks, a bronchial virus that has hit this part of the Midwest pretty bad.

Writers don’t get sick leave, and deadlines don’t give a damn. The answer here is for me not to be so quick to say yes to deadlines suggested by editors with their own needs. I don’t have a handle on this, but I’m going to have to get one. Fortunately, this virus is limited strictly to a nasty cough, so I have been able to work through it, admittedly at a slower pace than normal.

Not looking for sympathy here – my late friend Paul Thomas used to say, “If you’re looking for sympathy, it’s been ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis’ in the dictionary.” But there are some opportunities on the horizon – having to do with television – that could change the way I organize my writing affairs drastically.

Stay, as they say, tuned.

* * *

Check out the TV program “Books Live: Books We Love,” featuring Amazon editors talking about their favorite book picks in the mystery and thriller, science fiction, romance, and general fiction categories. SUPREME JUSTICE is featured as a top pick in the mystery genre – discussed by Thomas & Mercer editor Alison Dasho and host Laure Roppe. In addition, a reader “thank you” I taped at Bouchercon is included in the segment. You can view the program here: http://www.amazon.com/b/?node=10126410011

I’m pleased to say that SUPREME JUSTICE was also chosen by Suspense Magazine as one of the Best Books of the Year.

Best of Suspense 2014

The editors of Suspense Magazine asked me to answer a few questions, and here they are:

If your book had a soundtrack what would be its signature song?

“America the Beautiful” sung by Ray Charles.

If you could go ‘into’ a book (any book) and live there for a bit, which book would it be? And which character would you be?

I’d like to be Archie Goodwin in just about any Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout.

What is the best book you read in 2014?

Fiction: Jack Carter’s Law by Ted Lewis (I did the introduction for this American edition of the prequel to the classic British crime novel, Get Carter).

Non-fiction: Masters of Sex by Thomas Meier

I’d also like to announce that starting with the next Reeder & Rogers thriller, my collaborator Matthew V. Clemens will be receiving cover billing. This is much deserved and I’m grateful to Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to do this.

By the way, SUPREME JUSTICE is well over 3000 reviews at Amazon now.

Here’s a nice year’s-end recognition of KING OF THE WEEDS.

THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS (published some time ago) somehow made a “best of” list, too!

SUPREME JUSTICE shares the spotlight with Ed Gorman’s RIDERS ON THE STORM as two great year’s end reads. Nice company to be in!

Finally, SUPREME JUSTICE hit this ten best list, as well. Remember, none of these lists is valid or worth your consideration…unless one of my books is on it.

M.A.C.

A Real Bookstore

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Centuries and Sleuths Signing 2014
Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins with fan Andy Lind

Barb and I did a signing at one of our favorite bookstores, Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illiniois, this Sunday past. The turnout was modest but included some of our most dedicated fans – one of whom brought two cartons of doughnuts! (Thanks, Rick!) The relatively small group meant that these hardcore fans could ask all kinds of knowledgeable questions, and that was a real pleasure. Among them were Andy Lind – Cedar Rapids fan relocated to Rockford who came all that way – and Mike Doran, old TV expert par excellence and frequent poster here.

Hosts Augie and Tracy Aleksy are ever gracious, good-humored and interested in what authors have to say. We signed some stock for Augie, and since we are doing no more signings this year (and probably few to none next), you may want to pick up signed copies from Centuries and Sleuths. You can call Augie at 708-771-7243, and the e-mail is csn7419@sbcglobal.net. He has signed copies of KING OF THE WEEDS, ANTIQUES CON, THE WRONG QUARRY, and – yes – SUPREME JUSTICE. He has a good quantity of signed ANTIQUES and Hard Case Crime QUARRY titles, too.

What makes Centuries and Sleuths unique is the combination of history and mystery – not just historical mysteries, but books on history. Right now Augie is concentrating on World War One (“celebrating” its 100th anniversary), and has all sorts of non-fiction titles available on the subject, but also fiction. He’s ordering in THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, for instance, in its Thomas & Mercer paperback edition.

Walking into a bookstore like Centuries and Sleuths is a reminder of what makes book buying such a pleasure in a real store with an expert hand-selling owner who really cares. If you are lucky enough to have a good indie bookstore, particularly a mystery bookstore, within your home area, please support them.

As a guy published by Amazon, I buy a good number of books there. But I have a simple rule that I try to follow. If I spot a book in an actual store – and it’s a book of which I was unaware – I buy it there. I don’t look it up on Amazon to get the cheaper price.

I have another rule that pertains to bookstores where I do a signing – I always buy a book there. It amazes me when authors do signings at bookstores and don’t repay the venue with a purchase. Maybe not all authors like books.

* * *

Here’s a nice little write-up about COMPLEX 90.

And out of nowhere comes this fun write-up on the film THE EXPERT for which I wrote the screenplay. The writer doesn’t know the extensive backstory – such as my working for many months on a DIRTY DOZEN version for older actors, then when Jeff Speakman was cast at the last minute had to throw together a very different version – but his views are smart and entertaining.

The Kindle Taproom has a swell write-up on my favorite of the Mallory novels, A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS.

Finally, a writer picks his five favorite Mike Hammer novels, and there are some interesting surprises, including his favorite (the undervalued SURVIVAL…ZERO!) and THE BIG BANG.

M.A.C.

Farewell Tour(ing)?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Books-A-Million Signing August 2014
Barbara Collins, M.A.C. and Matthew Clemens at the Davenport BAM!

We had some nice people stop by our two signings in Davenport this weekend, both new readers and old. But the turn-out was modest, even though we’d scored major publicity in the Quad Cities area, like this article in the Quad City Times.

It was enough for us (Barb and me) to admit that signings just aren’t effective any more. Oh, there are exceptions. If an indie bookstore owner is really a first-rate retailer – like Augie at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, where we will continue to sign now and then, or the remarkable Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona – really knows their onions (and carrots and peas), a signing can be highly successful and worthwhile for the author. Lots of people there, lots of books sold. Enough to justify flying to Arizona? Well, that’s up to the publisher.

But publishers are funding fewer and fewer tours these days, and if you aren’t a superstar author or superstar period (Hillary Clinton, say, whose own book tour was pretty rough actually), a tour is hard to justify. For many years, we alternated funding our own tours with publisher-funded ones. Recently we scaled back to Midwestern tours, typically hitting Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Chicago and Milwaukee. More lately we cut back to just Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Chicago. But Cedar Rapids’ Mystery Cat (where the signings were extremely successful) is closing at the end of this month.

These Davenport signings were at best modestly successful in a way that just doesn’t justify us losing a work (or, frankly, play) day. Last week we lost a day to doing the Times interview and then driving to Davenport to do TV. On the weekend, the signings consumed both Saturday and Sunday. The promo we did for the signings focused on SUPREME JUSTICE and ANTIQUES CON. When got to the Bam! store, we were told they couldn’t get SUPREME JUSTICE, apparently because of the corporate decision not to carry Amazon-published books. No one bothered to call us and inform us of this, and in fact we’d been assured the opposite – I’d called a few days before to see if books were in and was told they were, including SJ. When we arrived, there were stacks of KING OF THE WEEDS (which had not been the focus of our promo), no SUPREME JUSTICE and a handful of ANTIQUES CON. The first customer in the door asked for SUPREME JUSTICE.

The Barnes and Noble did have SUPREME JUSTICE, thanks to the efforts of the hard-working assistant manager who arranged the signing, despite B & N’s corporate attitude toward not carrying a book that has been a bestseller since June (admittedly in the Kindle world).

Barnes & Noble Signing August 2014
Barbara Allan at the Davenport Barnes & Noble Signing

Incidentally, these corporate wars are wearying. I seem to be one of a handful of writers working both sides of this particular street, so I need to keep my opinions to myself, for the safety of my career. But take a look at what my pal Lee Goldberg had to say in response to the New York Times ad signed by lots and lots of writers in protest of Amazon.

All I can say about Amazon is that they – at least their crime fiction publishing arm, Thomas & Mercer – have treated me very well, from involving me in packaging decisions to paying me better royalties than I receive elsewhere. I am frustrated that SUPREME JUSTICE isn’t more readily available as a real book (as opposed to an e-one). But right now we still sit high on several Kindle mystery lists, and have generated a mindboggling 2100-plus reader reviews.

Anyway, touring. Book signings. As I said to Matt Clemens after our Books-a-Million signing for a book the store didn’t stock, “Signings are so ‘90s.” What can we do to replace them?

Well, one of the things is this weekly communication with you. And if you want to get in touch with me, it’s not that hard. Both Barb and I (and for that matter Matt) are happy to sign and return books sent to us, as long as postage and packaging is included. Bookstores are encouraged to send books for us to sign. Barb and I will continue, for the foreseeable future, to do both Bouchercon and San Diego Con. Smaller conventions I will not likely do unless I (or we) are invited as a guest. At 66, I feel no shame at all in suggesting “Guest of Honor” next to my name would feel just fine. (Bouchercon did it back in 1999.)

We love talking to readers. Anybody who hasn’t figured out that I like praise just isn’t paying attention. But our days, our time, is precious to us. I am writing more now than ever, in part because of the sense that time has suddenly become goddamn finite. I still have stories to tell. Barb said, fairly grouchily Sunday evening, “I lost three days I could have been working on the new ANTIQUES novella.”

She’s right.

In the meantime, come see us at Centuries & Sleuths in September. There are exceptions to every rule.

M.A.C.