Posts Tagged ‘Murder Never Knocks’

New Mike Hammer Novel

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Hardcover:
E-Book:

Available March 14, The Will to Kill is the ninth Mike Hammer novel I’ve completed from material in Mickey Spillane’s files.

Most people taking the time to read this weekly update already know that Mickey, in the last weeks of his life, asked me to complete his final Hammer novel in progress, The Goliath Bone, and that he told his wife Jane to round up everything in his files that wasn’t completed and give it to me – that “Max would know what to do.”

No greater honor has ever been paid me. Mickey’s work, which I discovered at age 13, was what made me transfer my enthusiasm for becoming a cartoonist to an obsession with becoming a writer…specifically, a writer of tough mystery fiction. Ironically, Mickey had been a comic book writer before the Mike Hammer novels turned him into a superstar, and one of the major projects we did together was a comic book – a science fiction variation on Hammer called Mike Danger (the original name for Hammer in the unsold comic book Mickey created right after the war that he turned into the novel I, the Jury).

I had six substantial Hammer manuscripts to deal with – usually around 100 pages (of 300) and sometimes notes on plot and character, and even roughed-out endings. In some cases Mickey had told me what ending he had in mind for an uncompleted book. (Mickey’s shocking surprise endings were his trademark, or anyway one of them.)

A number of very short (two to five page) fragments became short stories, published in various magazines, and were collected last year as A Long Time Dead: A Mike Hammer Casebook. If you’ve never read a Hammer story, that’s a great place to start.

Another half dozen significant unfinished manuscripts remained, and so far they have become the novels Kill Me, Darling; Murder Never Knocks; and now The Will to Kill. Both Darling and Knocks are out in mass-market paperback now – Knocks came out in that format about a week ago. (I am contracted to do three more.)

The Will to Kill is an unusual Hammer, as Bill Crider’s review indicates. (See link below.) Before the success of I, the Jury, featuring what was then a shocking amount of sex and violence, Mickey appeared to have in mind for his private detective a more traditional approach. But the vengeance aspect of the surprise bestseller-list response to I, the Jury sent him down a path of Hammer rarely taking a client, and usually being on a mission of I’ll-find-the-killer-and-kill-him (or her).

I had only the first couple of chapters of The Will to Kill to deal with from Mickey, and while the opening is shocking, the set-up is like something out of Agatha Christie – a bunch of spoiled rich grown kids chasing their late daddy’s fortune in the mansion they share. In about thirty pages, Mickey set up the entire book and its characters. There are aspects that aren’t anything you’d find in Poirot or Miss Marple – a serial killer targeting young women who are on vacation in the Catskills (the setting of the story) – but Hammer is doing a favor for his cop pal, Pat Chambers, looking into the wealthy man’s “accidental death”…not seeking vengeance for a murdered friend (tip: don’t be Mike Hammer’s friend in a Mickey Spillane novel, unless you’re Pat Chambers).

I like the book a lot. It was fun and somewhat challenging to keep the novel and its main character feeling right in a story unusual for them. This is not to say that a bad guy or two don’t get bumped off by the impetuous hero, who also thumps some nasties who deserve it, here and there. And beautiful women come along, too, so…so it’s still Mike Hammer, and I hope you’ll also think it’s a lot of fun.

By the way, the murder victim that starts the story up is the rich man’s butler. So this may be an old-fashioned mystery, but the butler definitely did not do it.

* * *

The new Quarry novel – Quarry’s Climax – has been delivered to editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime. Charles is crazy fast and has already read, and approved, the book.

Usually I take a few weeks off between projects, but because of my various health issues last year, I fell desperately behind, and now must move immediately from one project to another, until I catch up.

Well, I still plan to take a few days off between finishing one project and starting another. We spent the weekend – my 69th birthday weekend (!) – with our son Nate and grandson Sam and daughter-in-law Abby. A lovely time. Sam is the cutest child I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure his resemblance to me hasn’t colored my opinion.

This week I start Scarface and the Untouchable, the massive dual bio of Al Capone and Eliot Ness. My co-authors, A. Brad Schwartz and George Hagenauer, have delivered their rough drafts of their respective sections (Brad, Ness; George, Capone) reflecting incredible, groundbreaking research on both their parts. My job: not screw it up.


Nate and Sam Collins
* * *

Here’s Bill Crider’s lovely Will to Kill review.

Check out this nice review of the early Quarry novel, Quarry’s Deal, from the UK.

Here’s an article about fifteen people other than Bruce Wayne who have been Batman – and wait till you see who’s number one! Hint: more late-coming unexpected love for my Batman work.

Finally, more nice words about the Quarry TV series.

M.A.C.

3 Movies We Made it Through

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Now that Barb and I are feeling a little better after our bout with pertussis – and are not contagious – we’ve started going out to movies again. As regular readers of these updates should recall, she and I have walked out of an inordinate number of movies this year – on one occasion, two in one day.

So I am pleased – make that relieved – that the last three movies we’ve seen found us making it through the entire presentation, even when the pop, popcorn, and Milk Duds had run out. Here’s a brief rundown:

MASTERMINDS is an odd one that has left some reviewers cold, but both of us liked this one quite a bit. It’s a true-crime film that is also an over-the-top comedy. Here’s the cast: Zach Galifianakis; Kristen Wiig; Kate McKinnon; Jason Sudeikis; Owen Wilson; Leslie Jones; and Ken Marino. With four of the principals veterans of Saturday Night Live (Wiig, McKinnon, Sudeikis, Jones), and another from The State (Marino), and with SNL’s Lorne Michaels one of the producers, you should have some sense of how this differs from, say, IN COLD BLOOD.

The odd thing of it for us is that as we watched, we began to slowly realize the true incident being loosely depicted was one Barb and I had considered turning into a novel ourselves, a few years ago (the clipped newspaper articles remain in our story files); we just couldn’t figure out how to handle this unlikely, goofy story of a crew of trailer-park “masterminds” who pulled off a $17 million Loomis Fargo robbery. The slapstick nature of the real crime makes great fodder for the improv style of the cast, though (as I say) some found this marriage of true-crime and comedy off-putting. We howled.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – I almost passed on this one, since the screenplay was by Taylor Sheridan, whose SICARIO I despised. But the high Rotten Tomatoes rating got us there, and both Barb and I loved this throwback to the character-driven crime films of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, with its strong nod toward BONNIE AND CLYDE. Sheridan and director David Mackenzie follow two sympathetic pairs – Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, Texas Rangers, and Chris Pine and Ben Foster, bank robbers – on a course of inevitable, tragic confrontation. Criminal Pine comes across as an antihero of sorts, and Foster pulls off the very tricky role of Pine’s somewhat unhinged, borderline sociopathic brother, bringing to it unlikely charm. Bridges is the almost crotchety Texas Ranger just days from retirement who needles his Native American partner unmercifully in politically incorrect ways that create nervous laughter. The points of view of both sides of these teams are understandable, and it’s increasingly uncomfortable knowing collision is coming. When it does, no punches are pulled. The cinematography is striking in its depiction of a barren, even ravaged modernday Texas, and echoes of the Wild West past of outlaws and lawmen lurk on the fringes of this melancholy but always entertaining film. Best of the year so far.

GIRL ON THE TRAIN – We didn’t walk out of it, but this one barely eked out our attention. For a more compelling melodrama, try watching a snail crawl across a patio. All of the characters are unsympathetic, and – possibly explaining the sleep-inducing pace – there’s about a short story’s worth of plot here, stretched out and arranged in two hours of pointless flashbacks that don’t announce when they’re over (including some flashbacks within flashbacks, depictions of false memories, and flashbacks remembered by people who weren’t there). The screenwriter is female and so is the author of the novel, and if a man wrote a novel hating women as much as this film hates men, he would be dismissed as a sexist boor. Worst movie we didn’t walk out of in recent memory. Slight compensation: the performances of Emily Blunt (though she’s mostly playing drunk) and Allison Janney as a cop (who ought to be more on top of things).

* * *

Stacy Keach is a nominee for best narrator of a crime & thriller audiobook for MURDER NEVER KNOCKS by Spillane & Collins. Stacy does a fantastic job on his readings of the novels, and if you’re a Mike Hammer fan, you shouldn’t miss any of them.

Another top narrator, Stefan Rudnicki, has done QUARRY IN THE BLACK on audio. I’ve not heard this yet, but Stefan always does a good job. He has a deep voice that suggests the older Quarry (of, say, THE LAST QUARRY) ruminating about the adventures of his younger days.

Speaking of QUARRY IN THE BLACK, the positive reviews keep coming, like this one from Criminal Element.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

From Australia comes this great review of the QUARRY TV show, with lots of references to the original books.

Here’s a review of the early novel in the series, QUARRY’S DEAL.

And finally, in German (but you may have a Google translator or something), is a career piece on me the likes of which nobody in the USA has ever done. It comes from the very knowledgeable Martin Compart, who was my editor at several publishing houses in Germany. Martin, the epitome of cool, was an early advocate of both Quarry and Nate Heller. Scroll down the article and you’ll see a great picture of him, next to some young punk.

M.A.C.

Quarry TV Sept. 9; Mike Hammer Book Sept. 6

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

How bizarre it seems – in a sense, it hasn’t registered – that the novel I began at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in late 1971 has spawned a 2016 TV series.

My instructor, William Price Fox, didn’t like it. Most of the class didn’t, either. But several smart people thought the first two chapters of QUARRY were the best thing they’d ever read in a Workshop class. Fox, a writer I admired, was spotty as a teacher. He shared some good stories about his Hollywood perils, but he also spent several classes reading his own stuff to us. The class was only two hours once a week, and I had to drive from Muscatine (forty miles) to attend. I thought then that Fox reading his own work was lazy and self-indulgent, and I still do. But he did teach me the “Indian behind a tree” concept (ask me sometime).

A week or so after my Workshop class with its mixed reviews of QUARRY’s first two chapters, I sold my first novel, BAIT MONEY, and, a couple of weeks later, I sold the second one, NO CURE FOR DEATH. Both were written at the Workshop when Richard Yates was my teacher and mentor – a great writer and a great guy. The NYC editor wanted sequels to both, so I put QUARRY aside (probably a third of it written) and proceeded with THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF and BLOOD MONEY. I had graduated in early ‘72 by then.

Then I got back to QUARRY, probably in ‘74, and it sold in ‘75 and was finally published in ‘76 (initially published as THE BROKER).

How vividly I remember sitting in my office in our apartment in downtown Muscatine (over a beauty shop – the smells wafting up were not heavenly) and pounding away at those early books. I thought QUARRY was the best thing I’d come up with, as the Nolan books were glorified Richard Stark pastiches and Mallory was just me filtering my private eye jones through an amateur detective. QUARRY was something original. I was going places! This would, in a good way, leave a mark.

And at first it seemed it would. The editor wanted three more novels about the character, and of course I eagerly complied. By the fourth book, two things were obvious – QUARRY was not setting the world on fire, and I was having trouble keeping the black-comedy element from spinning out of control. THE SLASHER seemed to me over-the-top, or anyway a subsequent novel would have been.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed that no more books were requested by the editor. But the QUARRY series seemed, at four entries, to be complete. I was going places, all right – back to the typewriter to try again.

But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity – a small cult of interest arose in QUARRY. Smart people like Jon Breen, Ed Gorman and Bill Crider said nice things about the books. The series started getting fan letters. So when I had some success with the Nate Heller novels, I decided to do just one more QUARRY – and I did, PRIMARY TARGET (since re-pubbed as QUARRY’S VOTE). The book was well-received, but that was the end of it.

The end of it, anyway, till the new millennium dawned and a young filmmaker named Jeffrey Goodman came knocking, and a new publisher/editor named Charles Ardai got in touch. From Goodman’s enthusiasm for the QUARRY short story, “A Matter of Principal,” came an award-winning short film written by me, and then a feature-length version co-written by me, THE LAST LULLABY. More or less simultaneously, Ardai asked me to do a QUARRY novel for his new retro-noir line, and I jumped at the chance to give the series a real ending – THE LAST QUARRY, a novelization of my version of the screenplay of the Goodman feature.

The surprisingly strong response to THE LAST QUARRY resulted in a conversation between Ardai and me that went something like this:

“I wouldn’t mind you doing another QUARRY for us,” he said.

“I wouldn’t mind myself.”

“But you ended the series. What book can you write after you’ve done THE LAST QUARRY?”

“Why not…THE FIRST QUARRY?”

Now we’re at eleven novels – QUARRY IN THE BLACK next month – and, after a somewhat rough birth going back to 2012, the QUARRY TV series will debut on Cinemax this Friday, at 9 pm Central time.

I’ve seen all eight episodes and they are excellent. It’s essentially an extended origin story of how returning Marine Mac Conway (the character’s real name, according to the show anyway) becomes hitman Quarry. Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy, the creators of the series, initially did not reveal the character’s “real name,” but it became clumsy for the lead character not to have, well, a name. They dubbed him “Mac” after me – M.A.C. Nice gesture.

And they were smart enough to set the show in the early ‘70s. It’s a nice fit with my current approach, which is to do my new QUARRY novels in ‘70s/‘80s period. You know you are old when a series you began as contemporary is now historical.

So I hope you like the TV series. If you don’t, and are a fan of the books, pretend to, will you? If the show becomes a hit, I may get to write more QUARRY novels.

Stranger things have happened.

* * *
A Long Time Dead

Softcover:

E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo iTunes

Limited Signed Hardcover: Mysterious Bookshop

Also this week, the Mike Hammer short story collection, A LONG TIME DEAD, will become available in print and e-book editions from Mysterious Press. This is an exciting project for me, as it represents the first collection of Hammer stories, and possibly the last, since I have exhausted the shorter fragments in the Spillane files.

My sincere thanks to Otto Penzler for publishing it. Otto, who edited and published the first three posthumous Hammer novels, has been a great friend to Mickey, Mike Hammer and me.

* * *

The advance reviews for the QUARRY TV show are strong, like this one.

And this one.

Here QUARRY is seen as one of the nine best shows of the fall season.

And here it’s seen as one of the ten best shows.

You’ll enjoy this interview with Michael Fuller, half of the creative team behind the writing of the QUARRY series.

Here’s a nice write-up on the forthcoming QUARRY comics mini-series.

Check out this terrific review of the Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS.

And, finally, here’s a positive review from Kirkus, of all people, for A LONG TIME DEAD.

M.A.C.

Better Ed

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Normally I would just provide a link, but this BETTER DEAD review from Ed Gorman’s blog is so smart and trenchant (not a word you hear much these days), I just had to share it with you here. By way of full disclosure, Ed and I are friends, but we are also genuine fans of each other’s work.

BETTER DEAD

In 1983, Max Allan Collins created a brand new sub-genre, something very few writers have ever done. In TRUE DETECTIVE, his first Nathan Heller novel, he wedded the street-wise private detective novel with the historical novel.

The advantages to this approach were enormous. The big blockbuster historical novels were all too often stagey and wooden. Heller not only brought a sense of humor to the dance, he treated the historical figures he dealt with as human beings who farted, told dirty jokes and had the kind of mundane personal problems the big blockbusters never dealt with. In other words, he brought reality to the table.

In BETTER DEAD Heller is hired by Senator Joseph McCarthy to prove that all the victims Tail Gunner Joe is pursuing are actually “Commies.” His particular interest is Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who sit in prison awaiting their execution. This is just how I imagined McCarthy, a drunken, ignorant Mick rummy bent on achieving massive power. He is assisted in this by none other than Roy Cohn, a vile and treacherous figure who just happened to be (half a decade later) one of Donald Trump’s mentors.

But Heller also signs on to help an ailing Dashiell Hammett find evidence that the Rosenbergs have been set up and are innocent.

Collins recreates the Zeitgeist of the era very well. Yes, there were a lot of Communist sympathizers back then, mostly older men and women, intellectuals often, who saw the suffering during the Depression and thought—mistakenly—that Communism was the solution. (I started college in 1962 and took a history class from an elderly professor who was still a Stalinist, despite the fact that we now knew that Uncle Joe Stalin had slaughtered millions and millions of his own people.)

But these weren’t “Communist agents,” just disillusioned intellectuals (the Coen Bros. wittily address this in their latest film “Hail Caesar”).

Collins’ sociological eye never fails. Here’s a description I’ve now read three or four times just because I enjoy it so much. Heller is in the Bohemian heart of Greenwich Village.

“The clientele this time of time of night was mostly drinking coffee, and a good number were drunk, some extravagantly so as artists and poets and musicians sang their own praises and bemoaned the shortcomings of their lessers. These were self-defined outcasts, their attire at once striking and shabby, drab and outlandish.”
Bravado writing on every single page.

Max Allan Collins not only created a new sub-genre—he is its undisputed master.

* * *

Speaking of BETTER DEAD, we are sitting at five reviews on Amazon. We sure could use some more (same for THE BIG SHOWDOWN and MURDER NEVER KNOCKS). ANTIQUES FATE is doing better at twelve reviews.

For those who have not written reviews at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble before, you don’t have to be Anthony Boucher – just a couple of lines expressing your opinion is all that’s necessary. But more is welcome.

* * *

Here’s a movie you need to go to: THE NICE GUYS.

If you, like me, consider Shane Black’s KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005) the best private eye movie of recent years, you will be a porker in excrement at this one. Set in 1977, the script co-written by Black nails the era to perfection, paving the way for outstanding art direction.

But you won’t go home whistling the sets. The plot, which has to do with the murder of a porn star, is a twisty thing where the detectives mostly stumble onto the clues, but you’ll only be amused. The dialogue has a witty, naturalistic bounce that stands apart from the story, reminiscent of my favorite TV show, ARCHER. And it’s rare that a crime film can be this funny and yet be so tough. There’s a lot of Spillane in this one, particularly by way of Russell Crowe, heavy-set and menacing and rather sweet.

Crowe and his co-star Ryan Gosling are the surprises here. I thought Gosling was an empty pretty boy until I saw him on SNL a while back and he was funnier than the cast. Here he is hilarious without shortchanging the character. I knew I liked this movie, but I loved it when Gosling found a corpse and did a tribute to Lou Costello by way of his “Hey Abbott!”-type reaction.

Warning: it contains lots of nudity and blood splattery violence, and by “warning” I mean “recommendation.”

* * *

Here’s a really nice and very smart review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS.

Check out this terrific review of the Ms. Tree novel, DEADLY BELOVED.

Finally, you may get a kick out of this look at the Bradbury Building, home of Nate Heller’s LA office. I participate in the comments section.

M.A.C.