Posts Tagged ‘Kiss Me Deadly’

Target Spillane

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

The current issue of MYSTERY SCENE has a splashy Lawrence Block piece on Mickey Spillane. At the magazine’s editor’s request, I offered a few corrections to a reading list to accompany what I assumed would be a career overview of Mickey. Unfortunately it’s a patronizing, smugly casual dismissal of one fine writer’s work by another. This despite Block admitting he’s never much cared for (or read much of) Mickey’s work, ultimately dismissing it as unreadable “crap,” which makes me wonder why exactly a reading list was provided at all. There’s a particularly unfair discussion of Mickey’s famous line, “I’m a writer, not an author,” with Block pretending to be confused about what Mickey meant – that line (one of Mickey’s most frequently quoted) was almost always followed up by an explanation wherein Mickey cited the likes of one-book wonders like Margaret Mitchell or memoir-writing political figures like Churchill as “authors.” Writers, Mickey said, made a career of it. Block interprets the quote as meaning Mickey didn’t reach for the high literary standards of an “author” (Block might easily – and unfairly – be similarly dismissed due to his softcore porn roots and a career far more prolific than Spillane’s). He accepts the conventional wisdom that only the seven early novels are even worth mention, showing no signs he has read any of the later books (including THE TWISTED THING, which was actually the second Hammer novel written, though not published till 1966). He demeans Mickey’s selection as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America by giving his version of backroom discussions between two groups: one that thought Mickey was lousy and a disgrace to the genre, and another that thought Mickey was lousy but had been too commercially important to ignore (Block places himself in the latter camp). Members of both groups were anxious enough to pose for smiling photographs with celebrity Mickey at the Edgars banquet, like the one Block uses to illustrate his piece (though Mickey’s lovely wife Jane goes unidentified in the photo). Block closes out with a postscript saying that Mickey was “a nice guy,” sort of the “you don’t sweat much for a big old fat girl” moment.

I can’t imagine MYSTERY SCENE publishing a piece about any other major writer in the field that takes the approach of this one. “Agatha Christie wrote tripe, but she was a fun old gal at parties.” Who was it that said, “Pfui?”

Sixty-four years later, and the attacks on Mickey just never end, this one published in a magazine I admire and respect, from a writer I have long admired and respected. In the same issue, an article by Tom Nolan discusses current continuations of famous series characters, and my recent fairly high-profile Mike Hammer efforts are not mentioned though the Sam Spade book by Joe Gores (from several years back by a writer who has since passed away) is discussed alongside Jeff Deaver’s new 007 book. A mention in that piece – or perhaps a review of KISS HER GOODBYE, which has elsewhere received a lot of praise and attention – might have balanced things out a bit. Block mentions me at the top of his article, suggesting with false modesty that I would be more qualified to write the piece he’s about to undertake. Of course, I wasn’t asked by MYSTERY SCENE to write such a piece – Block was – and my role (minor) was merely to clairfy some publication data. Ironically, ads by publishers (and authors, including myself) involved in the current Spillane revival, are scattered throughout what is not my favorite issue of MYSTERY SCENE. (It should be noted that advertisers not having an impact on editorial content in a magazine is a positive, not a negative. An odd footnote is that Lawrence Block shares a publisher — Hard Case Crime — with Mickey and me.)

A much better new piece on Mickey – which also discusses the “I’m a writer, not an author” quote – can be found here.

I’m delighted to guide you to an excellent review of my son Nathan’s book SUMMER, FIREWORKS AND MY CORPSE from that very tough-minded critic, David Rachels. This is Nate’s translation for Viz of Otsuichi’s horror/noir tales.

And I’m also delighted to report that the long-postponed QUARRY’S EX got a very nice review from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY:

Set in 1980, Collins’s lean, sardonic 10th noir featuring the killer-for-hire who uses the pseudonym Quarry (after Quarry in the Middle) finds Quarry in Boot Hill, Nev., earning his keep in an unusual way. Drawing on his knowledge of the hit-man world derived from his years of working for a murder middleman known as the Broker, Quarry identifies intended targets of hits, then charges a hefty fee to eliminate the hired guns out to kill them. When he learns of a plot against B-movie director Arthur Stockwell, Quarry discovers that Stockwell’s wife is all too familiar–his ex-wife, Joni, whose betrayal led the Vietnam vet to use his murderous talents in civilian life. Leary of coincidence, Quarry works to understand how he can fulfill his professional obligation to Stockwell without Joni getting caught in the middle, even as he wonders whether she’s behind the contract. Collins amply leavens the violence with wit. (Sept.)

Quarry's Ex

Ron Fortier, a writer of comics and prose his own talented self, wrote a lovely review of the upcoming Nate Heller, BYE BYE, BABY. It’s always a thrill when a reader (and in this case a reviewer) really “gets it.” Ron, I’ve been saying that this is the first Heller in a decade, but it’s really only nine years.

An interview I gave a few years ago about ROAD TO PERDITION 2: ON THE ROAD has popped up. This probably is getting space because in addition to the upcoming RETURN TO PERDITION, new editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and RTP: ON THE ROAD will be published soon.

Sean Leary, a talented writer from the Quad Cities, has written a nice piece on the thriller collaborations by Matt Clemens and me, specifically NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU.

And this overview of upcoming Hard Case Crime publications goes out of its way to give my stuff plenty of space.

The KISS ME DEADLY Criterion DVD/Blu-ray reviews just keep a’comin’…with nice things about my new cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE. Check this one out, and this one, too.

Finally, here’s a strong review of KISS HER GOODBYE at the always fascinating Noir Journal.

Oh, in case you haven’t seen the news elsewhere online, Matt and I did not win the Thriller award for Best Paperback (YOU CAN’T STOP ME), nor did I win for my Spillane short story (“A Long Time Dead”). But I was the only writer to lose twice!

M.A.C.

Heller of a Week

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I’ve made passing references to the Nate Heller backlist coming back into print, but now it’s official. AmazonEncore has put out a press release on upcoming titles, and this paragraph should be of interest:

“Award-winning author Max Allan Collins’ Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories, to be published by Thomas & Mercer on October 4, features Chicago PI Nathan Heller as the narrator of thirteen crime stories based on real cases from the 1930s and 1940s. Known for his graphic novel, Road to Perdition, the basis of the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, Max Allan Collins is a recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America lifetime achievement award, the Eye, and is the writer and director of five feature films and two documentaries. Leading up to the publication of Chicago Lightning, AmazonEncore will re-release twelve other Nathan Heller books in August.”

Every one of the previous Heller novels (from TRUE DETECTIVE through CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL) will be reprinted in handsome, uniform trade paperback editions as well as e-books. CHICAGO LIGHTNING and the forthcoming TRIPLE PLAY are two new collections that take the place of (and expand upon) the previous Heller collections, DYING IN THE POSTWAR WORLD and KISSES OF DEATH. CHICAGO LIGHTNING is all the short stories thus far (including several never before collected) and TRIPLE PLAY will include the three Heller novellas-to-date (“Dying in the Postwar World,” “Kisses of Death,” and “Strike Zone”).

Obviously I am thrilled to have Heller climb back into print, timed to support and cross-promote the new Heller novels from Forge.

Speaking of which – and is very big news indeed – BYE BYE, BABY has received a starred PW review. Here it is:

“Set in 1962, Collins’s excellent 13th novel featuring Chicago PI Nate Heller (last seen in 2002’s Chicago Confidential) finds Heller–who’s investigated such high-profile crimes as the Lindbergh kidnapping and Huey Long’s assassination–looking into the death of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The book’s first half covers the movie star’s last two months, as she tries to deal with attacks on many fronts–by the movie studio that fired her; by her abusive ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio; and by the Kennedys. By the time a drug overdose claims her, there’s no shortage of people who wanted her dead. Heller, Monroe’s sometime lover, who refuses to buy the official line that she committed suicide, steps on powerful toes with his usual tenacity and stubbornness to reach the truth. Collins convincingly portrays the real-life players in the drama, who include Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sinatra. Readers with a taste for hard-boiled roman à clef will hope that more Heller is in the offing. (Aug.)”

Chicago Lightning

Mike Hammer remains very much in the public eye. An amusing review of KISS HER GOODBYE from AV Club is getting a lot of web distribution. Once again, the reviewer spends most of his time apologizing for liking the novel. But by the end he grudgingly, embarrassedly admits he did enjoy it (and bestows a B grade, not at all bad for the snarky AV Club). You may wish to read some of the comments, which are often hilarious in their idiocy (one guy doesn’t read my stuff because I look like a “nerd” in my author photos) and the knee-jerk political correctness rants that Spillane, even deceased, even in the 21st Century, can still inspire. Also, mention Spillane and “experts” will announce a predictable list of other hardboiled writers you should be reading instead.

This web review of KISS HER GOODBYE is fun and right on the money. Worth checking out.

So is this brief but lovely review of the audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER.

Here’s a nice review of the new Criterion Blu-ray of KISS ME DEADLY. I have an advance copy and it’s a lovely package, and the film looks great. So, I say unblushingly, does my new updated cut of the documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, there as a bonus feature. I am grateful to Criterion for including it, because the sharp-looking booklet and some of the other features (notably the disappointing commentary) make the usual uniformed, sloppy, prejudiced comments about the original material. Constantly we’re told director Aldrich and screenwriter Bezzerides just “threw the novel away.” In fact, Bezzerides used Mickey’s basic plot, most of the characters (including their names), many memorable sequences (the opening of the film, for example, and the death of mobster Carl Evello) and even the fiery ending is a variation on Mickey’s. For Hollywood of the period, it’s quite faithful to its source, and evokes the surrealistic, fever-dream feel of early Hammer uncannily. Commentators continually talk about Hammer as if the books are predominantly about the P.I. taking on “Commies” (the only book of the first impactful six that does so is ONE LONELY NIGHT – a book in which SPOILER ALERT the bad guy turns out to be a thinly disguised Joe McCarthy). END SPOILER ALERT. Director Alex Cox has a piece where he’s enthusiastic about the film, but makes many dubious observations, including that Hammer is stupid in the novel and even more stupid in the film. At least Cox seems to have skimmed the book, which is more than most of the commentators have.

Finally, I recently did a little project with my frequent collaborator, actor Mike Cornelison (Pat Chambers on THE LITTLE DEATH and ENCORE FOR MURDER, and narrator of my Spillane documentary). It was a competition to write and produce a short play in just under a week. I hope to have a You Tube link to the production, called “Alley Cats,” soon.

In the meantime, here’s how we did:

The Judge’s Choice Award for night of competition, Friday, June 10, 2011.

This award signifies that the three-judge panel found “Alley Cats” the best theatrical presentation among the nine shows presented that night. That which most represented the spirit of the 711 competition, created the most engaging theatrical experience and adhered most closely to the rules of the game.

In addition, “Alley Cats” received the “Technical Excellence” award, which is voted by the technical staff of the 711 Project, and given to that production that shows the clearest vision, best use of lighting, sound and design and most concise and effective communication of their needs to the technical staff.

“Team Caligula,” which presented “Alley Cats,” is made up of Max Allan Collins (playwright), Michael Cornelison (director/actor), Nick Cornelison (producer/actor) and Jared Hammer (actor).

M.A.C.

Collins’ Spillane on Criterion

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

As a home video fanatic – the demented owner of thousands of DVDs, Blu-rays and laser discs – I am in particular a fan of the Criterion Collection, who consistently live up to their promise of putting out the highest quality DVDs and now Blu-rays of “classic and important contemporary films.” I have scores of Criterions in my collection, on all three formats, and as an indie filmmaker, having one of my films available from Criterion would be the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail or maybe that atomic box from KISS ME DEADLY.

Well, I have found the atomic box if not the Holy Grail (Monty Python or otherwise). In June, Criterion is bringing out (on both DVD and Blu-ray) what looks to be the definitive release of Robert Aldrich’s great film noir, KISS ME DEADLY…actually, the official title is MICKEY SPILLANE’S KISS ME DEADLY. I was approached about a month ago by representatives of Criterion wondering if they could use my documentary MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as a special feature on this disc. At first they wanted to just use excerpts, but ultimately they asked if I could do a re-edit on the piece to bring it down from around 48 minutes to half an hour.

Kiss Me Deadly

For those of you unfamiliar with MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, it’s a documentary I did in 1998 with the full participation of Mickey, utilizing all sorts of wonderful interview footage with the likes of Stacy Keach, Shirley Eaton, Lee Meredith, producer Jay Bernstein, Leonard Maltin and a galaxy of mystery writers and experts (Donald E. Westlake, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Otto Penzler, Marty Greenberg, Paul Biship, Joe Gores, Stephen Marlowe, Parnell Hall, Loren Estleman and on and on). It was produced for a company that went out of business and it never saw the light of broadcast day, although it won awards at festivals here and abroad, with a particularly memorable screening at the National Film Theater of London as part of a Spillane film festival (Mickey and I were both guests of the British Film Institute). The doc appeared as the major element of my anthology film SHADES OF NOIR a few years ago – which is only available in the boxed set BLACK BOX from Troma (it’s out of print, I believe, but can be found).

Anyway, I agreed to come up with a new edit expressly for Criterion – they wanted an emphasis on Mickey, Mike Hammer and (not surprisingly) KISS ME DEADLY. This was tricky because I did not have the original elements – I had to edit a new version from the existing version. Anyone who knows anything about film or video editing knows what a nightmare that is – this was a fully scored piece, meaning edits involved music at every point (the score was by my Seduction of the Innocent pal, Chris Christensen). Those who follow this update will not be surprised that I turned to my longtime collaborator, Phil Dingeldein, at dphilms in Rock Island. With his help – and that of editor Ryan Orr – we came up with a 39 minute cut that we have delivered to Criterion. A little longer than they had asked for, but in the ballpark.

In many respects, I like this new cut better. We lost a few really nice moments, but because the documentary was segmented, I was able to cut whole sections, including material on the MIKE DANGER comic book and Mickey’s appearances in my MOMMY movies (both were timely when I did the original doc). Some personal stuff about Mickey’s home life and family went, as well – material that played better when, frankly, Mickey was alive and well and among us. This shorter version acknowledges Mickey’s passing and works better, I think, as a career piece at this shorter length. I’m proud of it, and trust Criterion will indeed use the entire new edit (and not just excerpt it). The presence on their KISS ME DEADLY disc of this documentary – and, frankly, of me – is very important, because film critics have a smug tendency to dismiss and even dis Mickey’s source material in regard to Aldrich’s film. I have not heard the commentary tracks or read the Criterion background booklet, but I can guarantee you that there will be nasty things said about Spillane. And now I will be there to counterattack…er, I mean counterbalance.

Some nice web stuff this week.

The great review column Bookgasm did a fanastic write-up on the Quarry reprints from Perfect Crime.

My first Mallory novel (second published, first written), NO CURE FOR DEATH, got a very nice write-up. There’s a lot about the plot, and I remember almost none of it. In my defense, it was written around 1970.

You can pre-order RETURN TO PERDITION here and/or get a sneak look at the cover art.

And here’s a fun story showing how Mickey Spillane’s feisty widow Jane is keeping her local government honest (they promised to re-name a highway after Mickey, then didn’t follow through – bad idea!).

Finally, here is a mostly B.S. list of the supposed top 111 hardboiled heroes. Nate Heller, Mike Hammer and Dick Tracy make the list, but Quarry doesn’t. Irritating Quarry is almost as dangerous as irritating Jane Spillane.

M.A.C.