Posts Tagged ‘Mourn the Living’

Tweaking (Not Drug-Related)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
Better Dead by Max Allan Collins

The work over the past week, and the work ahead during the week after Christmas, is a part of the career of writing that is little discussed. But it’s key to the process.

Over the period of a week, I read and corrected the galley pages of three novels of mine – THE BIG SHOWDOWN (the second Caleb York), ANTIQUES FATE (by Barb and me as “Barbara Allan”), and BETTER DEAD (the McCarthy-era Nate Heller). The latter is a long manuscript, almost the length of the previous two combined.

This stage marks the last chance for a writer to catch goofs, seek out typos and make final revisions and tweaks. Oftentimes, the production person scolds the writer in advance about making any changes. The attitude is that the book is finished and it would be too costly to make any changes that don ‘t address typos or outlandish errors. I ignore this admonition, although I keep my tweaking to a minimum and rarely rewrite unless I really have come across an outright error.

But these final tweaks are often the difference between a smooth read and a rough one. I noticed with BETTER DEAD something that happens too frequently in my work: the last few chapters can have a rushed quality, because I am gathering steam and racing toward the ending – much as a reader of an exciting novel reads faster, even skimming, to get to the end. In BETTER DEAD’s near 400 pages, I found next to nothing in the first 2/3’s, but quite a bit in the final third. These tweaks represent nuance via word choice and sometimes the elimination of repeated words.

To me this is vital part of the writing process – that final polish, and a read that occurs several months after the initial writing, which breeds better objectivity. True, I’ve had a chance to view the novel in the copy-edited form a month or so before the galley proofs arrive. But with a copy-edited manuscript, my focus goes to the changes that the copy editor has made, each of which has to be thought through – sometimes copy editors are right, like a stopped clock.

Next up are the galley proofs of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (the Mike Hammer novel previously announced as DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU) and QUARRY IN THE BLACK. I also hope to put together a collection of the Mike Hammer short stories I’ve developed from shorter fragments in Mickey’s files; these have appeared in the STRAND, mostly. I’m talking about such a collection with Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press. I need to read my stories and determine what order they should appear in, and I’ll want to write an introduction.

For me it’s a luxury not to be working on a novel over Christmas week – as I often have – and attending to some of the less-glamorous aspects of the writing trade (well, there aren’t really any glamourous aspects to it, unless Hollywood buys something) is a good way to get something done without spoiling your own holiday season, and that of the others in your life.

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I’ve discussed the oddity of reading current reviews of early works, but nothing tops reading a write-up about MOURN THE LIVING, which was my first novel and introduced Nolan…and was written almost fifty years ago. It’s a book I would be loathe to re-read, but in some respects it’s the most important one I ever wrote, as it’s the novel that Richard Yates read that convinced him to invite me into his Writers Workshop class at the University of Iowa. So much of my career has flowed from Yates as my mentor. On the other hand, I always like reading good reviews like this one.

Of course, Hard Case Crime has been reprinting the early QUARRY novels, but late in 2016 they will be publishing a brand-new one, QUARRY IN THE BLACK. Read about it here and get a look at the fantastic cover.

One of those QUARRY HCC reprints has made a stocking stuffers list at the Geek Hard Show. Festive little write-up!

Here’s yet another one of those “best movies that you didn’t know were based on comics” lists. But ROAD TO PERDITION is treated very nicely, so check it out.

That same website – Talking Comic Books – has an interesting podcast (well over an hour) in which a number of film buffs discuss the film of ROAD TO PERDITION in a lively fashion. One oddity, at least from my POV: the guy who says ROAD TO PERDITION is his favorite movie has never bothered to read the graphic novel. In fact, for a podcast that’s part of Talking Comic Books, one might think the graphic novel would get more than one fleeting mention. But that’s all it rates. Still, there’s some fun to be had and some intelligent commentary to be heard.

Finally – Merry Christmas! Or Merry Whatever You Celebrate, as long as it doesn’t involve sacrificing a goat.

M.A.C.

Bloody House

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
IMPA 2013

In Des Moines over the weekend, Barb and I attended the 22nd annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards banquet. My screenplay “House of Blood” was nominated for Best Screenplay (Unproduced), and won the Award of Excellence.

The IMPA is an organization I was extremely active in from the mid-90s until maybe five years ago. I am a three-time president, and Barb and I ran the award shows (with me hosting and Barb giving out the awards) for maybe half a dozen years. I was on the IMPA board for ten or twelve years, and this required a monthly drive (about a three-hour one) into Des Moines, which finally wore us down. But I made a lot of friends there, some of whom I got to see at the Saturday night event – we had the fun of sharing a table with screenwriter Shirley Long, the “godmother” of the IMPA, and documentarian Kent Newman, also a multiple past prez of the organization. The evening of course brought to mind my late friend and prized collaborator, Mike Cornelison, who won numerous IMPA awards himself. A number of people spoke to me about Mike. Being on his home turf brings the loss sharply into focus.

The organization has hit some rough patches in recent years, reflecting the film industry in Iowa getting tarnished when an ambitious tax-credit program went belly up in a haze of scandal and buck-passing. I don’t know what really went on, but I do know this multi-million dollar program was run by one man in an OFFICE SPACE-style cubicle at the Department of Economic Development. This was a huge government bungle, and is responsible for me having to seek doing my indie film work in Illiniois and Louisiana (and California, of course). There is talk, among some legislators, of the industry making a comeback in this area, and a new Film Office chair person will be named soon. I am guardedly hopeful.

The “House of Blood” screenplay that won was the feature film version. It now looks like I will be converting the script into a one-hour TV anthology format, bringing it back closer to its original form as a 45-minute Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories radio play. Serious talk is afoot for both a series, which I’d be heavily involved in, and a slate of four movies, which I have been told would include two M.A.C. properties, possibly with me directing. I’ll keep you informed.

The keynote speakers – very informal and funny – were Darryl and Darryl from Newhart – Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad. I spoke to John and he was a very sweet guy, and a fan of ROAD TO PERDITION. He was one of the many great comic actors in one of our family’s favorites, STRIPES.

On the way to and from Des Moines, Barb and I listened to the Brilliance audio of THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS. That novel, which I was quite proud of at the time, received little attention when originally published, and has received some harsh reviews at Amazon and particularly Amazon UK. So I was a little gun shy about listening to it. But I was pleasantly surprised – I think I did just fine, writing a true-crime story set in the UK with Agatha Christie as the detective, even if some of the Brits at Amazon UK think I was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke in MARY POPPINS. My credibility takes a huge jump thanks to the reader, British actress Anne Flosnik, who does an incredible job. To my ears, she really brought Agatha and the book to life. After hearing her (and Simon Vance on THE HINDENBURG MURDERS), I would be tempted to have all of my books read by actors with English accents. On the other hand, I can’t imagine a better Nate Heller than Dan John Miller. (Unfortunately, Brilliance won’t be doing the forthcoming ASK NOT – another company will be, TBA – but I will certainly recommend Dan.)

If you are a longtime reader of my work, I think you might have a really good time revisiting my novels in audio form. Brilliance has done a fantastic job with the Hellers, the “disaster” novels, the Mallorys (Dan John Miller again), and assorted others (REGENERATION, BOMBSHELL, MIDNIGHT HAUL).

Speaking of Amazon reviews, let me remind readers that a great way to support the writers you enjoy is to write and post a review at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and other sites. A two- or three-line positive review at Amazon, and nice high star rating, takes little time and is most helpful to authors. There are some dumb readers out there, and nasty ones, who do authors damage, and you can help. I speak not just for myself, but for any author whose work you enjoy. Those star ratings are important, because they are averaged. And so often the bad ratings are not for the book, but for perceived bad service, or in my case now and then, a reader angry that ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI: SERIAL turned out to a “comic book.”

End of telethon, although your continued contributions would be appreciated.

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Here’s a nice SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT review from Blogcritics, which got lots of play on the Net.

And another one from BookSteve’s Library. The reviewer has some problems with the front end of the novel, because he’s so familiar with the history already, but gets on board when the mystery kicks in. It’s been interesting to see how many readers really love the front end of the book, with its fairly detailed account of the comic-book witch hunt, and how many others prefer the mystery portion that kicks in half-way. This reviewer falls into a small but distinct category of readers who are a little bored by encountering history they’re already familiar with.

Here’s a very nice and flattering review of the new edition of NO CURE FOR DEATH, from a Kindle site. This was my second novel (well, third if you count MOURN THE LIVING) and it’s a relief to see a reviewer liking it at this late date.

Finally, here’s a terrific review of ANTIQUES CHOP from Bill Crider (himself a helluva writer).

M.A.C.

New Edition Nolan Trade Paperbacks 20% Off

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

To celebrate the new editions of heist artist Nolan’s adventures, Perfect Crime Books is offering a 20% discount through the end of May when ordering straight from the printer’s secure store at createspace.com. Each book comes with a new introduction from Max (aside from Mourn the Living, which includes the intro from the Five Star Press run). For me, shipping on one book came out to be around $3.50, and was only a couple dollars more for an order of all six, so the deal is better the more you buy.

Click on the covers below and enter the following code at checkout:

LX2E2WBF

For the maxallancollins.com book pages:
Fly Paper | Hush Money | Hard Cash | Scratch Fever | Spree | Mourn the Living