Posts Tagged ‘Nolan’

San Diego Comic-Con & Hammer Interview

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
It's in the Book French Edition

As it happens, Barb and I won’t be able to go the Comic-Con this year. So the listings that have me hosting the Scribe awards, doing a signing, and having a Quarry panel are now all inaccurate. Likely I’ll be there next year, but this time, no. My pal Jonathan Maberry will be hosting the Scribes for me.

I have two nominations: Best Novel, KING OF THE WEEDS; and Best Short Story, “It’s in the Book.” Both are Spillane/Collins collaborations.

Coincidentally, a French publisher (Ombres Noires) is translating “It’s in the Book” for their own edition (it’s available in English only in a small book, as well, published by Otto Penzler). They asked me to do an interview, which they will include in the small book, in French of course.

I thought you might like to see it in English.

Interview with Max Allan Collins
It’s in the Book

You wrote the end of a story by Mickey Spillane, who passed away in 2006. You were friends, how did you two meet?

As a young teenager, I idolized Mickey and wrote him dozens of fan letters. He never responded until I published my first novel, BAIT MONEY, in 1973, and sent him a copy, He wrote me a warm, lengthy letter of welcome to the community of professional writers.

Over the years I have been a defender of Spillane, who remains controversial in the United States. Because of that, I was asked in 1981 to be the liaison between Mickey and the Bouchercon mystery convention in Milwaukee, where he was a guest of honor. We immediately hit it off and I began to visit him at his home in South Carolina once or twice a year.

How did you come to complete his manuscripts?

On my various visits to Mickey’s home, he would send partially completed manuscripts home with me. He said this was just because he thought I’d be interested, but on one occasion he said, “Maybe we can do something with these someday.” He was referring to two partial Hammer novels, THE BIG BANG and COMPLEX 90. We had begun to collaborate on projects – a number of noir anthologies of his work and the work of others, a science-fiction comic book called MIKE DANGER, and a biographical documentary I wrote and directed, “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane.”

When Mickey became ill, with a particularly virulent strain of cancer, we stayed in close touch by phone. He was working desperately to finish what he described as the last Mike Hammer, THE GOLIATH BONE. Shortly before his death, he called and said he didn’t think he’d be able to finish it. And he asked me to do it for him, if that proved necessary. I of course said yes.

Around the same time, Mickey told his wife Jane to gather all his unfinished material and give it to me – “Max will know what to do.” No greater honor could be paid me. There were six major Hammer manuscripts, often with notes, and another half dozen shorter Hammer novels in progress. There were also short openings for novels, running from six to ten pages, that I thought would make good short stories. “It’s in the Book” is one of those.

You wrote several stories from his manuscripts. What did you like in this one in particular?

It had a beautifully written opening, with two cops coming to see Hammer in his office, to take him to see a U.S. Senator for some mysterious, important job. Mickey’s manuscript ended before that job was fully described by the client, and that enabled me to use the missing ledger that made the story a bibliographic mystery. You see, editor Otto Penzler had requested that specific kind of story.

What sort of shape did the manuscript have – was it just a few lines, a structure, several chapters?

It was basically that opening, right up to where Hammer meets with the senator. I thought it was a lovely, traditional opening for a private eye story.

It must be a very special experience, and a challenge, to finish a story more than 20 years later. Did you try in any way to modernize the style, the story, or anything – or did you try to remain faithful to Spillane’s style?

I’ve done seven Hammer novels now, and the unfinished Spillane manuscripts spanned his entire career – from 1947 to the month he died. I always try to determine when Mickey was writing the story, and then I immerse myself in material that he wrote around that same time, so I can catch the flavor and capture Hammer at that specific time. Hammer is a much changing character, and a story conceived by Mickey in the ‘50s is vastly different from one written in, says, the 1980s. I don’t try too overtly to mimic Mickey’s style — it’s collaboration, not pastiche. I concentrate on getting Mike Hammer right. It’s a matter of character.

I am a very traditional, Old School mystery writer, so this comes naturally to me.

Did he influence you in your writing, or help you in your own work?

Mickey was a huge influence on me. The key writers for me were Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Thompson and Westlake. These are very different writers in their approaches, and I think having such variant influences has worked well for me. Mickey never really gave me any writing advice – I was already a pro when our friendship developed. But he was supportive and provided blurbs for many of my book covers.

What is it that makes the character of Mike Hammer so special, compared to other popular characters?

Hammer had an enormous impact on popular culture worldwide, well beyond the private eye genre. James Bond is a version of Hammer, for example. Prior to Hammer, detectives did not display the emotions – love, hate, fear – that Spillane gave his hero. Hammer was the first avenger of modern fiction, a hero who used the methods of the villain to triumph over that villain. In addition, Hammer as a combat veteran brought a traumatic backstory to the detective, much imitated since. Finally, Hammer slept with women, unashamedly. While Sam Spade had sex with his femme fatale, just about no detective since had done so. Chandler said disparaging things about Mickey, but after the success of the Mike Hammer books, Marlowe began having an active sex life.

Say what you will about Mickey, but he was the most influential mystery writer of the 20th century…and the bestselling, with the possible exception of Christie.

How did you come up with the idea of this ending?

That idea jumped to mind at the outset. I knew it was a good one. Mickey loved surprise endings, and this was right up his alley.

Are you yourself interested in rare books and first editions?

I am. I have a good collection with many signed books – all the writers I mentioned above, and more. I have a very strong Rex Stout collection, for instance.

What do you enjoy most about writing short novels?

I’m not a short story writer by inclination. I’m very much a novelist. But I’ve grown to like the form. It’s nice to have a project that lasts a week and not several months. My wife, Barbara Collins, is an excellent short story writer.

Who are the authors that inspire you today? Why?

I read very little contemporary fiction. I don’t care to be influenced by trends, and anyway my reading time is taken up largely by research for my historical thrillers. I continue to read and re-read the greats – again, Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Spillane and so on.

Do you read French thrillers?

I’m very traditional on that front, as well – Boileau-Narcejac. Jean Pierre Melville is one of my favorite film directors.

* * *

Speaking of Spillane/Collins collaborations, here’s a look at THE CONSUMMATA at Detectives Without Borders.

The same site followed up quickly with a piece speculating about the Spillane/Collins collaboration process. You’ll see a lengthy comment from me explaining that process in some depth.

Here is a lovely, gracious review of SPREE by one of our great noir writers, Ed Gorman.

M.A.C.

Quarry Pilot Casting News

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The producers of the HBO/Cinemax pilot QUARRY have added two more cast members to an already impressive roster:

Nikki Amuka-Bird of the top-notch British series LUTHER and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose many credits include the wonderful SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.

I got a fun e-mail from reader Lee Grant relating to the QUARRY pilot, and I’d like to share it with you:

My introduction to your work came back in the 1980s with The Baby Blue Rip Off and Kill Your Darlings. I graduated to the Nathan Heller novels and rediscovered comics again with Ms. Tree. The Nate Heller and disaster novels remain my favorites, though your treatment of Mike Hammer is right up there with the Mick. Now, if you could only do some Travis McGee or Nero Wolfe novels that would be the icing on the cake. Anyway, my wife and I are at home in Bartlett, TN last night when we receive a call from a woman who is doing advance location work for a movie to be set in an old house in Mississippi. She is interested in using my wife’s old family farm house in it – one that looks like it may have been used by Machine Gun Kelly (BTW) who did spend some time in this area. I don’t think much of the conversation other than it is interesting. I ask what the film is and my wife, Jayme, says the advance scout didn’t remember the title but that it was a mystery. So, Jayme goes to visit the scout today at the house in Independence, Mississppi and when she comes out she literally stuns me saying it is for a film based on a mystery by Max Allan Collins. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She tells me, “Yeah, it is about some hit man. I think his name is Quarry.” As my teenage daughter would say, “OMG.” I don’t say that myself, I would be more like Nate Heller, but I try to avoid that can of language in emails. The sad news is that the farm house, though no one has lived in it for 25 years, may be too nice to use according to the scout. So it probably won’t be in the film, but to think that it was considered for a Max Allan Collins’ film made my day. Anyway, good luck with the film. If you ever visit the set and need someone to show you some undiscovered BBQ places, or need a driver to Graceland, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be happy to act as a guide. It would be my way of saying thank you for all of the hours of great reading you’ve given me these past 30+ years.

Any other readers out there who have a close encounter of the QUARRY kind are urged to let me know.

A few comments on recent movies and TV, just briefly….

MAN OF STEEL is well-cast, with both Superman (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) quite wonderful; like Glenn Ford in the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN, Kevin Costner gives the Smallville sections a nice homespun weight. But the last act is borderline dreadful, with oh-so-serious co-writer Christopher Nolan meeting up with the excesses of director Zack Snyder in a perfect storm of missteps – i.e., relentlessly idiotic and uninteresting TRANSFORMERS-style destruction of downtown Metropolis, topped off by Superman actually taking a life. And some of the screenwriting is truly abysmal – the movie opens with a lengthy, detailed study of Krypton’s final days, somewhat ponderous but not bad. Then when Russell Crowe as Marlon Brando, I mean Jo-El (Superman’s father), shows up as a ghost or something, he spends five minutes telling Kal-El (Superman) what happened in the first half hour of the movie! Wow. Exposition at its most clumsy, and pointless.

THIS IS THE END, on the other hand, is a truly great comedy, with star/writer Seth Rogen assembling James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and many other comic stars of his generation to play themselves in an Apocalyptic horror flick that is largely about these talents pimping themselves out. One of the best movies of the summer, maybe the year.

Barb and I binged on two American remakes/revamps of great foreign TV mini-series – HOUSE OF CARDS with Kevin Spacey standing in for the late Ian Richardson in an excellent U.S. take on the acid British political dark comedy. Not quite as good as the original, which is one of the greatest of all UK television mini-series, but damn good in its own right. Think of it as a very dark take on THE WEST WING.

THE KILLING begins as a faithful remake of the excellent Danish series of the same name (well, the UK name, anyway – the Danish name is Forbrydelsen, “The Crime”), but expands upon it and goes its own way, and ultimately rivals and perhaps exceeds the original. The show got a bad rap and rep because it didn’t solve the central murder by the end of the first season (it never pretended it was going to), but viewing the two seasons binge-style is a hypnotic, rewarding experience. And it’s back for a third season and a new central crime. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are the very strong leads, two damaged detectives who combine to make an unlikely and even reluctant team.

* * *

A very nice review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT in the Cedar Rapids Gazette has been picked up around the Net.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case crime collection of the first two NOLAN novels, BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

Here’s a little preview of THE WRONG QUARRY with a nice uncluttered look at the cover art.

Finally, take a look at this terrific review of TRUE CRIME. I’m so pleased Heller is getting a whole new round of readers thanks to the Amazon reprints.

M.A.C.

The Guy Who Was Quarry

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
The Wrong Quarry

Writing this on Memorial Day, I am reflecting on how the novel QUARRY (aka THE BROKER) came to be, especially in light of the recent casting of Logan Marshall-Green in the lead of the HBO/Cinemax pilot. Whether this pilot goes to series or not, it’s almost mind-boggling to me that something I created at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop back in 1972 would have such continuing resonance.

Again, because it’s Memorial Day, I am thinking about my late friend Jon McRae, one of the funniest and most troubled guys I ever knew – and often the troubled side of him was very funny. He was very much the inspiration for Quarry, although Quarry himself is much more me than Jon. But like Quarry, Jon did come home from Vietnam to find his wife cheating on him (he did not murder the guy, though I’m sure it occurred to him), and he was the textbook example of a decent Midwestern kid who went into the military to become a hero, and indeed became one…but a fucked-up one.

Jon used to come home and stay with us on his leaves. I noticed he had begun to drink heavily – lots of vodka. He was a machine-gunner in the tail of a chopper, a job with the highest mortality rate in that war; in that circumstance, I would have been into vodka myself. Jon loved my books and would show up on his leave with a bag filled with whatever weapons I had written about lately. He said I needed to handle the guns that my characters used. We would go out to a garbage dump and shoot the place up. It was great fun.

He was a sweet guy, I swear to God. He was a romantic. He was a huge movie buff, particularly ‘30s and ‘40s ones. He was the first among us to bring a James Bond-like briefcase to school (many of us followed suit).

But after he was in the service, everywhere he went, he packed a gun. I was always a little edgy around him. On leave, he would wear a buckskin coat like Sheriff Brennan’s son John in NO CURE FOR DEATH (that character was directly based on him), and also a longhair wig. He would go with the Daybreakers on band jobs, and when we ate at truck stops afterward, he would bait truckers into calling him a hippie and then hurl them against a wall.

He also went to my classes with me at the University of Iowa, no longhair wig there, rather a full-dress uniform, silently daring any anti-war protester to call him a baby killer.

Jon is gone now, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. He stayed in the Marines for a long time, but I believe he was a civilian, somewhere in the Philippines, when he passed, maybe twenty years ago – again, I have no idea what the details are, or even the vague outlines for that matter.

The Quarry novels are all dark comedies, which is to say tragedies played out so absurdly you have to laugh. The idea of Quarry was always that he was me, and us – that he was a decent, intelligent but fairly ordinary young man who was sent off to fight a meaningless war. We have never been the same since that war. Those of us who did not go would watch body bags getting loaded onto choppers (like the one Jon flew) as we ate our evening dinner on TV trays. It made us numb. But that whole war made us numb. It wasn’t a fight against Hitler or even the imperialistic Japanese. To this day, no one really knows what that war was about. And it damaged us all.

But it damaged guys like Jon most. God bless him, and all the other Quarries who fought for us, despite the vagueness of the mission, heroes we did not treat nearly well enough upon their return.

* * *

The COMPLEX 90 reviews keep coming in, and most are very good, even raves. Check out this terrific one from Noir Journal, where it’s the featured book.

Full disclosure: Ed Gorman is one of my best friends. But he’s always one of our greatest living crime-fiction writers, and somebody who (like me) defended Mickey Spillane back when others threw bricks. I’m delighted that he wrote favorably about COMPLEX 90 at this terrific blog.

Now and then we get reviewed at Not the Baseball Pitcher, and I am always impressed with the blogger’s work. He likes COMPLEX 90.

I get a real charge out of seeing positive reactions to the Hammer books from young people who have never read a Spillane or Collins book before. This is a very cool one.

This is an interesting, mostly negative review that I think says more about the UK reviewer than it does about the book, and reminds me of the kind of hysterical attacks (“wish fulfilment wank fantasy for hardened Republicans”) that used to be leveled against Mickey, though oddly the reviewer does credit Spillane for his importance and power. If you haven’t read the book yet, there are spoilers.

Here’s a really nice piece from a comics fan about the film version of ROAD TO PERDITION.

And finally, here’s a fun review of the reprint of the Nolan novel, FLY PAPER.

M.A.C.

Write and Wrong

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

I will be tweaking THE WRONG QUARRY today, doing final rewrites, and I hope “shipping it” (i.e., e-mailing it) to editor Charles Ardai) today. It was written largely in two frenzied weeks, although my fourteen-day-no-day-off stay in the bunker was preceded by a week of prep and plotting, and now a day (or two) of tweaks and rewrites.

A writer my age should probably not undertake to write a novel in this fashion, working till 1:30 a.m., rising at 7:30 a.m. and starting in again, before going down for orange juice and English muffin. But I have always written Quarry novels in two to three weeks (with the exception of the first one, which took six months) because they are stream-of-consciousness affairs that require me to live inside the story (and Quarry’s head) for the duration.

The story is set in the early ‘80s, and falls into the Quarry sub-category of our hero helping the target of a hit contract. It takes place in a small town in Missouri, during the off-season of its tourist industry. This may sound like a fairly ordinary Quarry set-up, but I assure you it’s wilder than Mr. Toad’s ride. In fact, Barb gave me the best Quarry review ever: “Who is this twisted man I’ve been sharing my bed with?”

This will be, since I obviously have work to do, a brief update. Barb and I saw SIDE EFFECTS, the Steven Sonderbergh thriller starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara (American GIRL WITH THE DRAGON etc.), and Catherine Zeta Jones. Very good twisty piece of work, sort of like ‘70s DePalma but slightly less overt in the sex, violence and style department. Like PARKER, a throwback to kind of grown-up genre piece that the theaters used to regularly offer.

My anti-Super Bowl rant last week got some interesting comments, particularly Mike Doran aptly pointing out that my lack of interest in pro sports may be related to my living outside a metro area. No big sports franchises in Iowa. Good point. The U of I’s Hawkeyes are worshipped in this state. My father fetishitically bought black-and-gold everything, including a Cadillac once.

Odd postscript to my sports “bloviating” (as one commenter termed it): I often love sports movies and sometimes books. Mark Harris’ Henry Wiggins novels are among my favorite novels. DAMN YANKEES is high on the list of my favorite movie musicals. And I’ve already written here about TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, one of my favorite shows.

Ah yes, I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. If an occasionally bloviating one.

Here’s a terrific early COMPLEX 90 review from Ron Fortier, an excellent writer his own self.

And here’s a terrific review of my new collection (as complete as possible) of the MIKE HAMMER comic strip.

My friend (and great excellent crime writer) Ed Gorman was kind enough to post this generous review of SPREE, the final Nolan (to date, anyway).

Just in time for the publication of the third Jack and Maggie Starr (SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT), here’s a nice review of the first one, A KILLING IN COMICS.

Speaking of which, here’s a fun review of SEDUCTION from a gaming site.

And to celebrate finishing THE WRONG QUARRY in 2013, here’s a good review of the 1976 Quarry novel, QUARRY’S LIST.

M.A.C.