Posts Tagged ‘Murder Never Knocks’

Murder Never Knocks

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

[Before we get to this week’s post, a quick update from Nate: Dad has graduated from the ICU to the step-down unit and now on to the inpatient rehabilitation unit where he’s working hard to get back on his feet. Thank you everyone for your outpouring of support, which gave us something we could always turn to when we needed a boost.]

Murder Never Knocks

Hardcover:

E-Book:

Audio MP3 CD:

Audible:

As some of you may know, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS was originally announced – and even listed at Amazon, including cover art – as DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU. I was asked to come up with a different title, more overtly noir/PI, when the Titan sales force noted that sales were better for LADY, GO DIE! and KILL ME, DARLING than for COMPLEX 90 and KING OF THE WEEDS.

Stacy Keach pointed out to me, when we were doing the radio-play-style novels-for-audio, THE LITTLE DEATH and ENCORE FOR MURDER, that all of the Hammer TV movies he starred in had “murder” in the title. That steered me toward the title I finally picked for this novel…or I should say that Titan finally picked, as I gave them half a dozen possibilities.

Mickey’s title, DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU, was in part a tribute to his favorite crime writer, Frederic Brown, who wrote a famous and wonderful story of that title about a demented typesetter. Mickey had two alternate titles, THE CONTROLLED KILL and THE CONTROLLER, which I didn’t think were right for the novel as it developed. Mickey devised some of the greatest titles in mystery fiction – hard to top I, THE JURY and KISS ME, DEADLY – so it’s important that I go with titles that serve him well. I happen to like both COMPLEX 90 and KING OF THE WEEDS as titles – both were Mickey’s choice – but I understand that neither one immediately suggests mystery or suspense. Still, terrific titles, I think.

This time I worked from around thirty pages of Mickey’s, plus some plot notes and the ending of the book. Mickey often spoke about writing the ending first, but this is only one of two times (the other being THE GOLIATH BONE) that I found those endings. By the way, Mickey’s ending for THE GOLIATH BONE was reworked into that of the second-to-the-last chapter of that novel; the actual last chapter is mine, as Mickey’s manuscript was a thriller and did not contain a murder mystery aspect…and I felt it necessary to add that.

On the other hand, several of our collaborative novels reflect endings that Mickey told me about – THE BIG BANG and KING OF THE WEEDS in particular.

It’s also necessary for me to try to figure out when Mickey’s partial manuscripts were written, so that I can set them properly within the chronology, as well as know what books of Mickey’s to read to get me in the right mind set. Initially, I thought MURDER NEVER KNOCKS/DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU was a ’50s manuscript. But interior evidence – for example, mention of certain NYC newspapers that had recently gone out of business – indicated the late ’60s. That allowed me to do some Greenwich Village characters and scenes that reflect the hippie era.

The basic plot has Hammer up against a Moriarty-type villain (as was the case in KING OF THE WEEDS). This time Hammer has been selected by the superstar hitman among hitmen, preparing to retire, for the honor of being his last kill.

MURDER NEVER KNOCKS will be out March 8 – in time for Mickey’s 98th birthday on March 9.

In celebration of that, here’s a fun excerpt from a great interview with Woody Allen in the January issue of WRITTEN BY, the Screen Writer’s Guild magazine. The interviewer notes that the filmmaker became a great reader, despite a lack of a university education. Woody says:

“I read because the women that I liked when I was a teenager lived down in Greenwich Village and they all had those black clothes. The Jules Feiffer women with the black leather bags and the blonde hair and the silver earrings and they all had read Proust and Kafka and Nietzche. And so when I said, ‘No, the only thing I’ve ever read were two books by Mickey Spillane,’ they would look at their watch and I was out. So in order to be able to carry on a conversation with these women who I thought were so beautiful and fascinating, I had to read. So I read. But it wasn’t something I did out of love. I did it out of lust.”

M.A.C.

[Nate here:] Two early reviews came in for MURDER NEVER KNOCKS this week. One from the great Mike Dennis (“Score another winner for Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins,” and another from the Garbage File that was decidedly not garbage (“Very enjoyable indeed!”).

Heart-Felt Pt. 4

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

I apologize. I really do. But there’s been another postponement of the surgery. I was supposed to go in for the operation on Jan. 26 (the day this is posted), but now I have to take another pre-op test that day. With some luck, the surgery will be rescheduled yet this week – maybe Thursday, but that’s a guess.

Barb had warned me not to post about my pending surgery until after-the-fact. She is always right. Still, it’s nice to find out people prefer you to be alive. I’ll see what I can do.

Since I am in total limbo as I write this, I can only say that I – or possibly Nate – will be providing brief updates here and on Facebook, as we know more.

Many thanks to all of you for your support and patience.

* * *

Throughout these fun and games, I have continued working – not at my usual pace, but working. As I may have said, I’ve done two TV scripts as well as a Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. I received advance but finished copies of that over the weekend, and it’s a handsome book. What’s more, I like the story within the handsome covers.

In addition, I’ve done various short projects, including a Sherlock Holmes story with Matt Clemens, one of two we were asked to do (the other one I may be working on this week, depending on how things go down). A few of you may recall that Matt and I, a few years ago, collaborated on short stories to accompany and supplement various puzzles, including some famous licenses, like CSI and its spin-offs, THE MENTALIST and NCIS. The Holmes stories will be attached to jigsaw puzzles, as well.

I’ve always wanted to do a Holmes story – well, a Holmes novel, really – so this has been fun. On the other hand, I did not have time to re-read any Doyle, which I would certainly have done had this been a novel project. As usual, Matt and I plotted both tales together, and he has written rough drafts. As indicated, I have completed a final draft of one, entitled “The Adventure of Professor Moriarty’s Notebook.”

One of the other small projects I’ve done in recent months is a Mike Hammer story for THE STRAND, “A Dangerous Cat.” I believe it will be in the next issue.

That story completes eight that represent short but useful Hammer fragments from Mickey Spillane’s file of unfinished stories and novels. One of these became “So Long, Chief,” which was Edgar-nominated and Shamus-winning. With all eight completed, I have a book, the first ever Mike Hammer short story collection (Mickey wrote very few short Hammer tales). I have assembled these in roughly chronological order, and written an introduction discussing how the stories came to be. Otto Penzler, who published THE GOLIATH BONE, THE BIG BANG and KISS HER GOODBYE when he was at Morrow, is going to publish the collection later this year, as A LONG TIME DEAD: A MIKE HAMMER CASEBOOK from his Mysterious Press.

The book will have a very limited print run of perhaps 1000 trade paperback copies before going into POD status (and will obviously be available as an e-book). In addition – pay attention, fanatics – a limited hardcover edition of only 100 copies (signed by me and Jane Spillane) will also be available. This will quickly become the hardest-to-find hardcover first-edition in the Spillane canon.

M.A.C.

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.

* * *

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.