Posts Tagged ‘Quarry’

Heart-Felt Pt. 7

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

[Update Thurs. Feb. 18 @ 3:25 PM CST] Nate here with another quick update — We’re allowed to visit Dad every two hours, and every time he’s a little bit better. We talked with the cardiac surgeon, and so far it looks like they were able to fix everything that needed fixing. They’re gradually getting him off of the machines, and he’s already started on the physical therapy, but there’s a long road to go. Thanks again for all the kind words and support.

[Update Wed. Feb. 17 @ 2:50 PM CST] Nate here: Dad came through the surgery well. It sounds like everything got put back in the right place, and he’s in recovery right now. Thank you everyone for your words and thoughts and prayers of support.

It appears, at long last, that I will be going in for the open-heart surgery – scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, a day after this update is posted. I suppose anything could happen, but right now this seems carved in stone.

I have complained here about the various postponements, but I have to admit that some part of me always relished them. I am scared shitless, frankly. Not afraid to admit that. I think Heller and Quarry would feel the same. But I have great confidence in my surgeon, and as for the aftermath, my wife and son will be there to prove my point that there are no two better examples of those roles.

Barb has been both a soft shoulder and a rock, and everything in between, as needed. I am very, very lucky, as those of you who’ve met her already know. Whenever fans come around to get to know me, and encounter Barb at my side, they go away saying, “What an incredible woman! Max Allan who?”

Now I want to thank you for your patience with this ongoing soap opera/Republic serial. Barb had warned me about posting information about this surgery, rather wisely advising me to wait till after-the-fact. And I didn’t write about it, till I knew the update would appear on the day of the surgery…and then it got postponed again, when I had complications from the initial surgery, an unclogging of a carotid artery.

But the upside is that so many of you – from close friends to acquaintances to fellow writers (many of the latter not knowing me personally at all) – have approached me with support and good wishes, which are gratifying and warmly received. I am something of a loner – only child that I am. Barb is similarly a loner, though she is one of seven. So we are loners together, not terribly social, though I like social situations, if they relate to my work and interests. What I dislike is being at a social event and, once people find out who I am and what I do, having to play performing monkey.

When I look back, my closest friends have been my bandmates and other writers, and various collaborators of assorted kinds. Not a week goes by that I don’t think of my late friend Paul Thomas, my musical collaborator for decades; or my late friend Michael Cornelison, who was at my side on all of my features and both of my documentaries, as well as my short films. Writers like Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi, and of course my longtime collaborator Matt Clemens, represent friends made through the writing trade, though they are certainly not alone.

But the nature of my business, and my personality, make me a loner. Even the names mentioned above I rarely socialized with – get-togethers tended to be work-related. So it comes as a very nice shock to me to get the support and even love of those whose paths have crossed mine, even in minor ways or sometimes just through the pages of my books and stories.

So thank you, everybody. As I’ve mentioned, I wrote several updates in advance, dealing with upcoming book releases, and they will appear over the early weeks of my convalescence. Nate will post updates here and on Facebook about my progress, and I’ll get back to my weekly updates as soon as possible.

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I’m pleased to share with you this great dual review of QUARRY’S DEAL and QUARRY’S CUT at the review-site-among-review-sites, Bookgasm.

And here’s a nice review at the San Francisco Book Review of QUARRY’S LIST.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt Pt. 5

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
Quarry's Cut

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. The day this is posted I will be getting an out-patient procedure that will determine whether I will finally get my heart surgery, which if so, will likely (pause while I laugh hysterically) be next week. I never dreamed that I would be so eager to get an operation like this, but this has been going on since last June.

I will continue to keep you posted, and either Nate or I will provide updates here and on Facebook (our weekly ones will continue to be posted each Tuesday morning).

My apologies for this unintentional cliffhanger serial – I’m usually not quite this corny – but I continue to appreciate the support from my readers, friends and acquaintances. It’s been a great boost to the spirits.

Perhaps in honor of my inevitable surgery, the Quarry reprint out this month is QUARRY’S CUT. Also coming out this month are mass-market paperbacks of ANTIQUES SWAP and KILL ME, DARLING.

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A piece of good news for longtime readers of my stuff: my complete novel version of ROAD TO PERDITION the movie is due to be published along with reprints of ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. You may recall that my PERDITION novelization was reduced to a pale shadow of itself back in the day – a 40,000 word condensation of the 70,000-word novel is what was foisted upon the public (it even made the New York Times best-seller list). As a great man once said, “Pfui.” But we appear to be on the verge of vindication.

In addition, new editions of BLACK HATS and RED SKY IN MORNING are in the works, to be published under my own name for the first time (R.I.P. Patrick Culhane).

All five of these books will be published by Brash Books, which is in part the brainchild of my buddy Lee Goldberg.

I now have in hand all five Hard Case Crime reprints of the first five QUARRY novels, each with a stunning Robert McGinnis cover. Or I do, assuming this isn’t an hallucination, which is kind of what it feels like. This latest publication of QUARRY continues to stir up reviews of a novel that was first published in 1976 – that’s forty years ago – and written a few years before that.

For example, there’s a splashy QUARRY review, featuring the McGinnis cover, in the second issue of the amazingly slick and colorful (and expensive) UK magazine, CRIME SCENE. On your newsstands now. Nice write-up, but one that includes the now-usual complaint about Quarry’s non-PC gender attitudes – again, a forty-year old book is accused of being somewhat “dated.” No one seems to mind that he’s an assassin. I guess some things just never get old.

Check out this QUARRY review from Col’s Criminal Library.

And this one from the San Francisco Book Review.

QUARRY’S DEAL is given a fine review at Everything Noir.

Finally, here are a couple of splendid reviews from Bill Ott at Booklist that you may have missed:

QUARRY.
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 271 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298839).

Originally published in 1976 as The Broker, this first novel in Collins’ series starring the Vietnam-vet-turned-hit-man finds Quarry five years into his career as an assassin for hire, getting his assignments from a middleman called the Broker. Trained to kill in Vietnam, Quarry finds he quite likes the work and has no trouble distancing himself emotionally from what he does. But he doesn’t like complications, and when the Broker adds a wrinkle involving drugs to Quarry’s latest job, the hit man protests. So begins the severing of the Quarry-Broker connection, a relationship that we learn much more about in succeeding novels in the series.

Collins didn’t know Quarry would lead to a series when he was writing it, but he set the table perfectly, even so. Quarry was the first hit-man antihero in crime fiction, and, unlike most of his successors, he remains the most “pure,” in the sense that he isn’t somehow a good guy who only kills those who need killing (Dexter, et al.); no, Quarry kills for money and tells you so. Yes, he has his own sense of justice and will sometimes kill (pro bono) those he feels are on the wrong side of his very personal scales of right and wrong, but he’s still a killer more than a knight errant. And, yes, Collins makes us root for Quarry, or he draws us so completely into Quarry’s world that rooting for anybody becomes beside the point. That, after all, is the real trick to creating a compelling antihero.

Collins also pairs his antihero with a writing style that is perfect for the man and the premise: mainly straightforward, no-nonsense declarative sentences, more Hammett than Chandler, more Spillane than Hammett. Killers shouldn’t be fancy talkers, especially those who work the drab mean streets of places like the Quad Cities, spanning the Mississippi and connecting Illinois and Iowa, where the action in Quarry takes place. And, yet, just to keep us off balance, Collins will occasionally show some Chandlerian chops, as when he describes a cluster of trees “bent over green and graceful in the less than gentle afternoon breeze, like oversize, out-of-shape ballet dancers trying in vain to touch distant toes.” Even hit men can wax poetic now and again.

Although Collins originally saw Quarry as a stand-alone, he did leave his protagonist in a major pickle at the end of the book. The implication seemed to be that Quarry was doomed—a fitting end for a one-off noir—but when an editor asked the author to write more about the character, Collins was happy to find a way to get Quarry out of his pickle. When Hard Case finishes its reissuing of the first five Quarries, there will be a total of 11 pickle jars on the shelf (the original five plus the six Collins has written since he brought back the series in 2006)—and plenty of room for more.

QUARRY’S LIST
Collins, Max Allan (Author)
Oct 2015. 219 p. Hard Case Crime, paperback, $9.95. (9781783298853).

His relationship with the man known only as the Broker irretrievably broken in Quarry, the first in the series, Collins’ hit-man-for-hire hopes to develop a new business plan. Without the Broker to act as middleman, setting up clients for Quarry and others to kill, it could prove difficult to find marks, but Quarry has grown disenchanted with working through someone else and wants to go another way. But before that can happen, he must deal with the other hit men he knows will be coming for him, as various lethal entrepreneurs vie for the prize of taking over the Broker’s business. Quarry is ready when they come and dispatches a pair of killers with little trouble, but that’s only the beginning. Tracking back to find the man who wants him killed, he falls hard for a blonde in a swimming pool, only to discover that she’s the Broker’s wife and, further, that the man he is hunting is setting up a hit on Mrs. Broker. A plan is forming in Quarry’s mind: the killers in the Broker’s employ will all contract with other brokers eventually and go back to work. If Quarry can find the Broker’s list of killers, he can start his own business by tracking them to their next jobs and hiring himself out to their would-be victims: pay me, and I’ll kill the guy hired to kill you. It’s an ingenious scheme, but there’s lots of preparatory killing to do first.

Hats off to Collins: he needed a scheme to keep his series going, and he found a doozy. As Quarry puts it, “I’d still be killing people, but for the most part it would just be other hit men, like myself, and that seemed a step up somehow.” Originally published in 1976 as The Broker’s Wife, Quarry’s List is being reissued by Hard Case Crime along with the four other early Quarry novels (Collins took a 30-year hiatus from the series before bringing Quarry back in 2006). This one shows Collins developing the storytelling skills that eventually will define his long career as a genre writer. His plots are tricky but never overly so; like the late, great Ross Thomas, he knows how to build a maze but not lose his readers in it before showing them a way out. So it is here, as Quarry must juggle various pieces on a moving chessboard: the list, the widow, the killers, the plan. Fortunately for genre fans, Quarry (and Collins) are up to the challenge.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt Pt. 2

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Last week I anticipated going in for my heart surgery on Tuesday, but time is being allowed for me to recuperate from my carotid surgery first. I may be going in this coming Thursday (Jan. 14), but won’t know till Wednesday. If it doesn’t happen then, it will likely be Jan. 25.

Since we’ve spent many months having this surgery face one postponement after another, Barb warned me not to do a posting like the one I did last week. She said I didn’t want to sound like the Little Boy Who Cried Surgery. I had wanted to keep my situation to just family and a small handful of friends, until the surgery was literally under way, not wanting to put people in a position where they had to comment or show support or feel concerned.

In retrospect, while Barb was (typically) right, I am not sorry I posted last week, because I found myself – recuperating somewhat uncomfortably at home – comforted and complimented and touched by the messages here and on Facebook (and some e-mail ones, too). It’s nice to know that people prefer you alive.

Among the joys was hearing from long-out-touch friends going back decades, and from folks – particularly in the writing game – who know me only in passing but who nonetheless showed support and indicated the mystery genre would be a lesser place without me. I happen to agree with that, but it would be ungracious of me to say, wouldn’t it? Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not entirely delusional.

I will keep you nice people posted here and on Facebook, and if I’m not able to – the first several days after the surgery are tough, I’m told – my son Nate will. You may have already guessed that Barb and Nate have been incredible in this situation. I think when you’re faced with something like this, which is (let’s face it) a matter of life or death, you realize – at least if you’re lucky like me – that there’s a wonderful, boring little existence waiting for you that you do not want to let go of.

My thanks and love to all of you who took time to send support. Those who didn’t can make it up by buying books.

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Here’s a delightful review of QUARRY – described as a “classic.” I begin to suspect that the word “classic” might be a synonym for “f**king old.”

The QUARRY TV series – not yet scheduled by Cinemax, with summer 2016 looking more and more likely – has its own Wikipedia entry.

Here’s a very positive and, I think, intelligent take on my BATMAN issues, as reprinted in BATMAN: SECOND CHANCES.

The great Jeff Pierce at Killer Covers shows off the cover of QUARRY IN THE BLACK here.

Finally, here’s a really smart review of Mickey’s 10th Mike Hammer novel, THE BODY LOVERS.

M.A.C.

Heart-Felt

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

I have mentioned in passing some health issues I’ve been dealing with, and perhaps I’ve even been a little coy about it. It’s not been my intention to burden my friends and readers (not mutually exclusive categories) with a boring account of what we’ve been dealing with. I say “we” because Barb has been at my side throughout, as you might imagine, but your imagination cannot do justice to just how fantastic she’s been.

I’m going to make this brief, because even if you’re concerned – and if so, thank you – you shouldn’t have to be bored with the details of somebody else’s health problems. Still, I’m a novelist, so this will most likely go into the situation in more depth than I should.

We’ve been dealing with this for a good eight months. I first got sick (somewhat ironically) when we visited the set of QUARRY in New Orleans late last May. The path has been torturous and frustrating, as it took a while to get this diagnosed, and it really shouldn’t have been. The roughest patch was a period of three weeks when I couldn’t sleep – couldn’t find a position that was comfortable enough – and for that period, I was getting maybe an hour a night.

The problem is a heart valve that needs replacing. There’s also a bypass, and before any of that can happen, I need to get one of my carotid arteries unclogged. The latter appears to be a fairly routine procedure. Open-heart surgery, however, is rather more sobering. But I have top-notch surgeons for both operations, and I feel confident I’ll be back at the old stand before too long.

This has stretched out maddeningly because when the condition was discovered, I was already in pretty bad shape. I needed to get myself back in shape, which consisted of medication and a few preliminary procedures (i.e., getting a jump start to correct an irregular heartbeat that had presented itself). For frustrating reasons (but good ones), I’ve had this surgery postponed on me something like eight times. In fact, Barb wishes I weren’t writing this, because that could happen again.

But right now the plan is for me to go in for the first of the two surgeries on Monday, January 4 (tomorrow, as I write this). And the heart surgery is set for January 5. If you are one of those loyal souls who check out this update the moment it appears each Tuesday morning, it’s likely I’ll be in the operating room as you read this.

There’s a chance – I honestly think not much of one – that my heart surgeon may postpone again, if he thinks I need more time to recover from the first procedure. If that’s the case, my son Nate will update this. He will also post updates on my status here and on Facebook in the several days following the procedures.

[Update from Nate: (Monday Jan. 4, 10 PM) Dad did have a minor complication after the first, successful procedure, and the docs are erring on the side of caution by (again) postponing the second surgery until some time next week. He is doing well and should be back home Tuesday to begin recuperating for the main event.]

You are welcome to post encouragement here and on Facebook, but I held this back so things wouldn’t get out of hand. I also accept prayers and positive thoughts and cash money.

The heart valve/bypass procedures will be followed by some rough weeks of recuperation – the first several, obviously, the most challenging. My next novel deadline isn’t till April 1 (no fooling), so I intend to take my first protracted “vacation” from writing in, well, as long as I can remember. I have been healthy as a horse my whole life (I was asked if I’d ever had surgery before, and I said, “Just my birth”) so there’s no precedent. Before you feel too sorry for me, know that I will be watching a lot of Blu-rays and reading a good number of the books that have piled up around here, and will be given even better treatment than usual by my lovely wife.

It’s possible I may get back to work sooner than the projected six weeks. I’m proud of myself that during this nasty period, I still wrote two episodic TV episodes (one of them for QUARRY) and the Mike Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. And you may have already realized that I never missed one of these weekly updates.

Okay, we all know what’s important here – these weekly updates. I am going to write another three updates, in advance, dealing with forthcoming books. At that point, I am hopeful that I will be back doing this.

I am told I am “low risk.” Like anybody, I don’t hear the “low,” just the “risk.” So without getting too sentimental (or for that matter pessimistic) about it, I want to give all of you my heart-felt thanks. This has been a great career, and it will continue to be.

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My pal Ed Gorman has been kind enough to pay tribute to Quarry by reviewing two of the recent books in the series. The review of THE WRONG QUARRY is a reprint, but the QUARRY’S CHOICE write-up is brand-new and a real corker.

The first novel in the series, QUARRY, got itself onto this fun top-reissues-of-last-year list. I’m on it with one of my favorites, the late great Ted Lewis. As usual, I deplore all such lists…unless I’m on them.

Here’s a nice (if somewhat guarded) Kindle Taproom review of FATE OF THE UNION.

Now check out this even-better FATE OF THE UNION review.

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Finally, I need to mark the passing of actor Wayne Rogers, who provided one of the best classic PI performances of all time in the too-brief CITY OF ANGELS TV series (1976). That series, and the Huggins/Cannell-created character Jake Axminster, had a huge impact on Nate Heller. Rogers, despite the short run of ANGELS, made such an impact as a private eye that he wound up playing a similar recurring character on MURDER SHE WROTE. He also portrayed real-life private eye Raymond Schindler in PASSION AND PARADISE (1989), about the Massie case, which I wrote about (including Schinder) in DAMNED IN PARADISE.

M.A.C.