Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

How We Make The Sausage

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Now in Paperback!

A little more behind the scenes stuff this time….

The writing week began with detailed discussions between Barb and me over the plot of the next ANTIQUES novel, which she will be diving into soon. The story takes place outside of our usual setting of Serenity in a village that was founded by Brits and has patterned itself on their model of smalltown life.

Barb struggled some on the previous novel because we’d been a little too open-ended on our plotting, and this time she wanted to try working from a somewhat more detailed plot breakdown. Lots of back-and-forth ensued, I put my ideas down on paper, and finally she developed all of it into a several-page chapter-by-chapter breakdown. I went over this, discussed some possible changes and additions, and then we locked it. Since then Barb has written a second chapter (we had already written the first chapter, a requirement of our Kensington contract – we have to give them a brief synopsis and a first chapter for approval) and we seem to be on our way.

In the meantime, with my desk cleared of all other writing assignments, I dug in full-time on research for the next Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, which deals with the McCarthy era and specifically the Rosenberg case. Lots to read, and some of it fairly mind-numbing. I find at this age I tend to read a lot, nap a little, read, nap, etc. I was trying to get as much read as possible before the arrival of my longtime researcher (and friend) George Hagenauer. In recent years, every Heller novel has included a preliminary visit from George, who arrived Sunday afternoon around two p.m., lugging more reference books for me to read.

At this point George is more on top of the history than I am. Our sessions often involve fairly heated discussions reflecting our conflicting takes on the material. George tends to be more fixed on the historical accuracy issues (although he’s loosened up) while I am the guy reminding him that first and foremost a Heller novel is a private eye thriller. He is very good at the underlying political currents and at spotting material that can link us back (and in this case forward) to other Heller novels.

Three hours of discussion and brainstorming finally had the first (longer) section of the novel revealing its shape. The story I want to tell was fitting into, and flowing out of, the history. The timeline was behaving itself, too, so that little or no compression would be needed. But the final aspect that needed attention was (private eye thriller, remember): where will the sex and violence come from?

However much the Heller novels are historically accurate, and outpace other such novels, they still need to have the classic hardboiled PI elements – murder, lust, betrayal, action…the good stuff. So the conversation turned to: who’s trying to stop Heller in his investigation? We kicked around possibilities and came up with something fresh, largely thanks to George.

Over supper at Salvatore’s Restaurant (Barb stayed behind, as George had a cold she didn’t want to catch), we hashed out more issues. Tomorrow morning (I’m writing this on Sunday evening) we will get back to it, and talk about the final section of the book, which concerns CIA dosing its employees with LSD to see what would happen. You know, like teenagers at a party in 1968.

George will probably be on the road shortly after lunch (he came here straight from a Minnesota comic con – and ended Sunday with some comic art trading, which is how we met three-plus decades ago).

By the way, the most recent Heller, ASK NOT, has just been published in mass market paperback by Forge.

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The moderator on my upcoming Bouchercon panel has taken to reading the QUARRY novels by way of prep. He’s even posted this very nice essay on the books.

And check out the Forge/Tor web site where they promote the ASK NOT paperback.

A Real Bookstore

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Centuries and Sleuths Signing 2014
Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins with fan Andy Lind

Barb and I did a signing at one of our favorite bookstores, Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illiniois, this Sunday past. The turnout was modest but included some of our most dedicated fans – one of whom brought two cartons of doughnuts! (Thanks, Rick!) The relatively small group meant that these hardcore fans could ask all kinds of knowledgeable questions, and that was a real pleasure. Among them were Andy Lind – Cedar Rapids fan relocated to Rockford who came all that way – and Mike Doran, old TV expert par excellence and frequent poster here.

Hosts Augie and Tracy Aleksy are ever gracious, good-humored and interested in what authors have to say. We signed some stock for Augie, and since we are doing no more signings this year (and probably few to none next), you may want to pick up signed copies from Centuries and Sleuths. You can call Augie at 708-771-7243, and the e-mail is csn7419@sbcglobal.net. He has signed copies of KING OF THE WEEDS, ANTIQUES CON, THE WRONG QUARRY, and – yes – SUPREME JUSTICE. He has a good quantity of signed ANTIQUES and Hard Case Crime QUARRY titles, too.

What makes Centuries and Sleuths unique is the combination of history and mystery – not just historical mysteries, but books on history. Right now Augie is concentrating on World War One (“celebrating” its 100th anniversary), and has all sorts of non-fiction titles available on the subject, but also fiction. He’s ordering in THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, for instance, in its Thomas & Mercer paperback edition.

Walking into a bookstore like Centuries and Sleuths is a reminder of what makes book buying such a pleasure in a real store with an expert hand-selling owner who really cares. If you are lucky enough to have a good indie bookstore, particularly a mystery bookstore, within your home area, please support them.

As a guy published by Amazon, I buy a good number of books there. But I have a simple rule that I try to follow. If I spot a book in an actual store – and it’s a book of which I was unaware – I buy it there. I don’t look it up on Amazon to get the cheaper price.

I have another rule that pertains to bookstores where I do a signing – I always buy a book there. It amazes me when authors do signings at bookstores and don’t repay the venue with a purchase. Maybe not all authors like books.

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Here’s a nice little write-up about COMPLEX 90.

And out of nowhere comes this fun write-up on the film THE EXPERT for which I wrote the screenplay. The writer doesn’t know the extensive backstory – such as my working for many months on a DIRTY DOZEN version for older actors, then when Jeff Speakman was cast at the last minute had to throw together a very different version – but his views are smart and entertaining.

The Kindle Taproom has a swell write-up on my favorite of the Mallory novels, A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS.

Finally, a writer picks his five favorite Mike Hammer novels, and there are some interesting surprises, including his favorite (the undervalued SURVIVAL…ZERO!) and THE BIG BANG.

M.A.C.

This Week at the Podunk Playhouse

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Supreme Justice

We are a week past Amazon’s promotional campaign for SUPREME JUSTICE, which means the novel’s selling well at its regular price ($11.99 for a real book, $4.99 on Kindle). We have topped 1000 reviews – incredibly enough – and remain in the upper reaches of the Kindle bestsellers list (#1 in political and legal thrillers). That means, for a week anyway, the Amazon push kept us going strong past the promo. I continue to monitor the reader reviews and it’s been something of a revelation – there are a lot of different kinds of readers out there, and some are (frankly) not that bright. We have conservatives who hate the book (and stop reading) because the hero is a liberal. We have liberals who hate the book (and stop reading) because the first chapter is in the point of view of a conservative. We have people revealing the identity of the perpetrator (sans SPOILER ALERT). We have reviewers who complain about my bad writing who are barely literate. We have prudes whose eyes begin to bleed at the sight of a profanity in print (I have been termed a “liberal libertine” – cool!). A certain minority of readers can’t figure out that the book takes place in the future and accuse me of not knowing the age of a certain ball player or when JFK was killed. But we also have mostly smart readers, who give the book a well-reasoned three or four or five stars.

Revelation may be the wrong word – how about “reminder.” This has been a reminder of a basic tenet about reading any book (but especially fiction) that is rarely mentioned much less discussed. Simply, reading a book is a collaborative process. Nobody out there is experiencing a novel of mine the same as somebody else. In a way, it’s my play being cast and staged in the theater of somebody else’s mind. Sometimes I play Broadway, and sometimes I play the Podunk Community Playhouse. Getting back to the collaborative notion, sometimes I have a brilliant collaborator, most times just a damn good one, and now and then a really lousy one.

Elmore Leonard preached leaving all the boring stuff out. He was a genius of sorts but became a lazy writer, leaving so very much to his collaborators. If you wonder (as sometimes reviewers…usually amateur ones…do) why I describe clothing and the exteriors and interiors of homes and buildings and include the weather and various other sights and sounds and smells, it’s because I know if I don’t, you will.

Ironically, the people who really like my books could do that just fine. But it’s a struggle for the Podunk Community Players, and I’m the kind of artist (there, I said it) who wants to control the audience’s experience as much as possible. Knowing that every reader will have a different experience, I want to limit the parameters of that experience so that, for a majority of readers, it’s at least a similar one.

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My son Nate’s new manga is out. I haven’t read it yet, but he will post info on where and how to get it for me here…right, Nate?

[Nate] Right!

Battle Royale: Angels' Border

First, from my editor: “The infamous BATTLE ROYALE lighthouse scene depicted in the film and novel shocked and mesmerized audiences as the girls experienced their own microcosm of joy, love, betrayal and ultimately death. BATTLE ROYALE: ANGELS’ BORDER is author Koushun Takami’s first new work since the publication of his groundbreaking and controversial novel more than a decade ago. It notably expands the BATTLE ROYALE saga in a new way with the story of Yukie Utsumi and the other girls, whose distinct personalities and tragic nature of their deaths made such an indelible impression in the original story.”

As a longtime fan of the original novel and movie (I delighted in showing the latter to my unwitting classmates in high school) (and anyone who survived that got hit with MEET THE FEEBLES), I did a double-take when I saw ANGELS’ BORDER on a “New Release” table in a Japanese bookstore. After almost fifteen years, Koushun Takami was back! I knew I had to translate it and get it to English-speaking fans. Two years later, I landed the gig for Haikasoru’s new translation of the original novel, and the time was right for ANGELS’ BORDER. When I reached out to editorial, they were already thinking the same thing.

This is my first manga translation, and Viz took a real chance by allowing a newcomer (at least in this medium) to steward such a high profile title, but they recognized that by having the same translator handle the novel and the manga, the two works would have a stylistic continuity. I’m admittedly biased, but I think their gamble paid off.

Buy your copy here:
Amazon | BAM! | RightStuf! | B & N

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After an absence of several weeks, the excellent book review site Bookgasm (with editor Rod Lott) is back. A really terrific and very smart ANTIQUES CON review just went up there.

Last week Bookgasm posted this very positive review of KING OF THE WEEDS.

A number of book review blogs are looking at SUPREME JUSTICE, as in this nice write-up at Bilbliotica.com.

Check out this SUPREME review at Author Exposure.

And finally here’s a delightful review of THE WRONG QUARRY.

M.A.C.

A “New” Writer Reflects

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As I write this, SUPREME JUSTICE has hit 548 reviews and maintains a four-star average. This is a testament to Amazon’s marketing ability, and has taught this old dog some new things, if not tricks.

I continue to be surprised by the confidence of readers who are quite sure that I’m imitating writers who I’ve never read. Any number have scolded me for trying to do Jack Reacher, and are particularly annoyed that my character Reeder’s name is so similar.

Those of you who have followed these updates for a while know that I am notoriously unfamiliar with the work of other suspense/mystery writers of my time. I am strictly a Hammett/Chandler/Cain/Spillane guy. The last hardcover mystery I bought and read was the final 87th Precinct novel. My idea of a new mystery writer is Donald E. Westlake.

I did the original synopsis of SUPREME JUSTICE – and this pre-dates Matt Clemens’ involvement – seven years ago. I’d never heard of Jack Reacher, and frankly my first familiarity with the character was the Tom Cruise movie – I obviously go to a lot of those. Reeder’s name had nothing to do with Reacher. I’ve never read Tom Clancy either, though I’ve seen most of the Jack Ryan movies.

But Amazon reviewers are confident in this case, and many others, that I’m doing Lee Child or Clancy or Grisham or Sandford or any number of writers I’ve never read. By the way, I mean no insult to them or any writer. I have stated here numerous times that (a) my reading time is largely taken up by research, and (b) I am a natural mimic and avoid reading other suspense fiction for that reason.

There’s another reason, and it goes something like this…other people’s mystery novels fall into one of three categories: worse than me, about the same as me, better than me. Why would I want to read something worse than my stuff? Why should I bother reading something that I could write myself just as well? As for those better than me, well, screw them!

Yes, I’m kidding, sort of, and I do occasionally read contemporary crime fiction, as when I’m on an Edgar or Shamus committee, or when one of my writer friends has something out. Thankfully my writer friends are very good – people like Ed Gorman, Steve Mertz, Bob Goldsborough, Bill Crider, Bob Randisi, John Lutz, and half a dozen more.

And I know that a lot of writers continue to read voraciously in their own fields, so this is probably a weakness on my part. But I mention this chiefly to make the point that if I’m setting out to work in another writer’s wheelhouse, it’s more likely to be Mickey Spillane or Rex Stout than John Grisham or Lee Child.

But there’s something else odd – and frankly disturbing, and certainly humbling – that turns up in a good number of these Amazon reader reviews. A lot of these readers think I’m a “new” writer; a fair amount of ‘em go out of their way to say they’ve never heard of me.

I realize I’m not John Grisham or Lee Child, but while I have not read either of those very popular writers, I am aware of their existence. As someone who spends plenty of time wandering in bookstores, and studying the section where my work is shelved, I have a strong awareness (without reading them) of scores of writers in my genre. I read Mystery Scene, Crimespree, The Strand, Deadly Pleasures, always read the review column in EQMM, and attend Bouchercons frequently. So I know who my contemporaries are.

Yet these mystery fans, writing Amazon reviews…some of them, anyway…haven’t noticed I’m alive during this forty-year career of mine. Haven’t noticed my byline on ROAD TO PERDITION or CSI or the Spillane collaborations or…anything. It’s as if they know only the authors whose names they’ve encountered in airport gift shops.

So when I see SUPREME JUSTICE with 500-plus Amazon reviews, and, for example, KING OF THE WEEDS sitting at 21 reviews, I am as disappointed about the latter as I am thrilled about the former.

And sadly convinced that marketing is king.

Here I thought it was writing. What a schmuck!

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Speaking of EQMM, reviewer Steve Steinbock has nice things to say this month about THE WRONG QUARRY and ANTIQUES CON, and other projects of mine. Here’s where you can see it on line; the reviews in question are toward the end.

A very cool new Facebook page dedicated to Mike Hammer and Stacy Keach is here.

The SUPREME JUSTICE reviews on the Net are starting to hit, like this one from Crimespree’s site.

Here’s another…

and another[Note from Nate: This one's got a drawing for a free copy too!]

and another.

ROAD TO PERDITION continues to make best comics-to-movies lists.

Finally, here’s a very nice KING OF THE WEEDS review from Nerdspan.

M.A.C.