Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Giving Away a Girl!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
MP3 CD:Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for the terrific response! –Nate]

Yes, it’s another Max Allan Collins book giveaway, this time of Girl Most Likely. The usual conditions prevail – you must agree to post a review at Amazon with reviews at Barnes & Noble and blogs also welcome. (If you dislike the book, you are encouraged to keep it to yourself and consider your obligation satisfied).

Reviews do not have to be lengthy.

IMPORTANT: Do not post your Amazon reviews until April 1, when the book goes on sale – no foolin’. Amazon won’t run reviews till the book is available (pre-orders don’t count). Blog reviews can appear any time.

Other conditions are: you must include your snail mail address in your e-mail, and we can accept only USA requests.

I have ten advance copies to give away. Technically, these are Advanced Reading Copies and are uncorrected…only I didn’t make any corrections after this stage of publication, so you’ll be getting the real book. No hardcover is being published, so the trade paperback is it.

This grass roots support is vital. The book is published by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s suspense line, so I really encourage reviews at Amazon most of all, since they keep a close eye on their publications. T & M are giving me a great deal of support, and I will be doing everything I can to help in that effort. You’ll be seeing guest blog entries from me elsewhere, for example.

Whether or not you send in for one of the ten freebies – and act quickly, because these tend to go the first day – I can really use the support of those of you interested enough in my work to drop by here.

I will soon be composing an essay for Crime Reads about the attractions – and dangers – of an author known for one thing (noir in my case) writing a change-of-pace novel. And Girl Most Likely certainly is that. Oh, it’s got violence and suspense, all right. But the protagonists are not the tough guys/gals I often write about in my overtly hardboiled fare – rather, Krista and Keith Larson are non-genre figures, reminding you (I hope) of real people you know.

Both father and daughter are law enforcement – Krista is a police chief who previously was a detective on the Galena PD, Keith a retired homicide cop from Dubuque – so you won’t find them foreign in any way. But Heller or Quarry or Hammer, they ain’t. And no first-person in sight.

So that’s a danger. I’ve already encountered that with the Barbara Allan books, which despite being good mysteries and funny as hell – and in that regard very much cut from the same cloth as my other work – do not please all of my longtime readers. Some of those readers refuse to even try the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” Antiques mysteries. And some who do don’t like them. Different strokes.

Girl Most Likely is not as radically different as the Antiques books are from other things I’ve done (often with Matthew Clemens), like the CSI books, What Doesn’t Kill Her, the Reeder and Rogers trilogy, USS Powderkeg, (did you order that yet?) and the Barbara Allan-bylined standalones – Bombshell and Regeneration. But this Girl is different. It flows from my desire to follow the example of Nordic noir, for one thing.

We’ve had two advance reviews from the “trades” – a patronizing one from Kirkus and a bad one from Publisher’s Weekly. This demonstrates the dangers of a change-of-pace book. Kirkus thinks Girl Most Likely reads more like a novel written by Barbara Collins, tacking on the left-handed compliment of that not being altogether a bad thing. The problem with that is, Barb has never published a novel that I didn’t collaborate on with her (I am the “Allan” in “Barbara Allan,” remember). As for PW, they hope next time I’ll “return to form,” which means obviously that I should stick to hardboiled noir.

Both those reviewing services, by the way, publish only unsigned reviews.

As long as real people read Girl Most Likely – that’s you I’m talking about – these snarky, sullen reviews from the trades won’t hurt the novel. Maybe library sales could suffer a little, but I am pretty firmly placed in those ranks.

An author like me, who only occasionally rises to the bestseller lists, depends on library sales. I’m always amused when a reader apologizes to me for checking my books out from the local library, rather than buying them. Well, no apologies are necessary – those libraries buy the books!

I will be talking more about Girl Most Likely as we approach the pub date. In the meantime, I will be writing the prequel, Girl Can’t Help It (yes, it’s about rock ‘n’ roll).

As for the attractions of a change-of-pace novel, that’s obvious, isn’t it? The chance to do something new, to flex different muscles, and maybe to attract new readers, who otherwise wouldn’t have tried any of my books.

Hey. Everybody. Thanks for the support. More free books to follow!

* * *

Saw Stan & Ollie today and loved it. In this part of the world, finding a theater that had this snapshot of “the boys” at the end of the team’s career was tricky as hell. But we did it. The leads (Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly) were sublime, the supporting cast damn near as good, and the script a sensitive but not overly sentimental job of it.

Also, you will understand why it was tough for the very popular likes of Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis to stay together. You can extrapolate why rock acts split, as well, when fans can’t understand why their favorites (who are making such great money) can’t just get along.

I found it moving. I’m at an age where the movies and music I grew up loving get to me in a visceral way. I choked up in this one more than once.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of Quarry’s Climax that does not obsess over the sex scenes! The reviewer dislikes the Quarry TV series, though. I liked it. Of course, I was getting the checks….

And Angel in Black is included in this look at various Black Dahlia books (both non-fiction and fiction).

M.A.C.

My Dozen Favorite Filmmakers

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Here’s just what no one’s been asking for – my list of favorite film directors and why!

First, let me say that some of my favorite films are by directors not on this list – Anatomy of a Murder, Groundhog Day, Army of Darkness, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Harvey, Chinatown and The Maltese Falcon, among others. Blake Edwards and Robert Aldrich gave us The Great Race and Kiss Me Deadly respectively, but also some (let’s face it) real turkeys. Budd Boetticher directed several of my favorite westerns, but his fairly small overall output also included some not terribly interesting films – he should be applauded, however, for doing the first several episodes of Maverick and defining the great James Garner-starring series.

But that’s TV. We’re talking film today.

These are directors who almost always interest me, whose work I collect on Blu-ray and/or DVD, and who have each given me a number of my favorite films. This is a list of a dozen, so don’t look for a lot of detail.

Also, you may be surprised to see me looking at film as if it’s the director who’s responsible, not the writer. Keep in mind a good number of these filmmakers also wrote or co-wrote the films in question. But having both written and directed films, I can tell you the thing writers don’t want you to know (and some of them don’t know themselves, because they have been limited to the writing side): it’s the director, if he or she is any good, who creates the film. A script is a hugely important part, but executing that script – particularly when the director is involved in editing, where the movie is really made – is what it’s all about.

1. ALFRED HITCHCOCK. When I made my little movie Mommy almost twenty-five years ago, and suddenly had the directing chore dropped in my lap, I felt overwhelmed, not having prepared for that job. I was just supposed to co-produce. We made a sequel a year or two later, during which time I watched every Hitchcock film available – all the sound ones, and a good number of the silents. Hitchcock is a school any maker of narrative films can go to and should. Vertigo is only one of half a dozen masterpieces, and plenty more are merely great.

2. JERRY LEWIS. Lewis was the great comedy director of the mid-20th Century. He was not the greatest director of comedies – that was probably Billy Wilder – but the greatest director of a star comedian…and he filled both roles. The Ladies’ Man and The Nutty Professor are both stellar works; so is The Bellboy, and The Patsy is also good. He made some truly terrible films as well – for example, Three on a Couch and Which Way to the Front? – but they were the terrible films of a real filmmaker and unique genius. Yup, the French were right.

3. JOSEPH H. LEWIS. This Lewis is the greatest B movie maker of all time, even better than Ulmer, who was damn good. While Gun Crazy and The Big Combo are the clear masterworks, many other Joe Lewis films – My Name Is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night come to mind – are also first-rate. Unlike Sam Fuller, Lewis tended not to do as well when given an A-film budget.

4. HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT. While his body of narrative film is relatively small, Clouzot’s list includes masterwork after masterwork – Le Corbeau, Manon, Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques among them. Probably the only real competition Hitchcock ever had – both in terms of thrillers and sheer filmmaking skill – Clouzot was controversial because of movies he made during the Nazi occupation (subversive though they were to his masters). He also notoriously treated his actors harshly, to get the right feeling out of them on screen. He would on occasion slap an actress. When he tried this with Brigitte Bardot, she kicked him in the balls.

5. JACQUES TATI. Tati made an even smaller handful of films than Clouzot, but they are all wonderful, and Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle and Playtime are utter genius – comedies quietly satirical, sly and affectionate toward a France that’s slipping into the past and galloping into the future, making you have to pay attention to know how truly great, and funny, they are.

6. DON SIEGEL. Siegel is to the pure crime film as Hitchcock is to the thriller and Ford to the Western. His years as an editor made him the best in the business at putting together shoot-outs and other action sequences. He was another B-movie master, although he slid effortlessly into a later A-movie career, thanks to his Clint Eastwood relationship. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Hell Is for Heroes (with Bobby Darin!), The Killers, Dirty Harry…those are the work of a great filmmaker.

7. BRIAN DEPALMA. DePalma has always had his detractors, and some of his films have been less than great, but even those are of interest. For me, it’s the period of Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise and Obsession that seal the deal. But much of what followed, starting with Carrie, demonstrated that you can study Hitchcock and still be joltingly original. I usually do not like camera work that calls attention to itself. But DePalma makes the technique intrinsic to the storytelling.

8. HOWARD HAWKS. Hawks was more concerned with good scenes than good stories, and that should bother me, but damn! Are you kidding? That overlapping dialogue, the strong man/woman relationships, the well-staged action scenes. We’re talking His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, The Big Sleep, Red River, Rio Bravo…the guy justified his time on the planet, all right.

9. JOHN FORD. Do I need to say anything more than THE SEARCHERS? Okay, if you insist: Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance…and on and on.

10. JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE. Clouzot was the great French thriller director, but Melville was the great French crime film director. My favorites are Bob le Flambeur, Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge, and Un Flic. His is a world of cool professionals of crime – some crooks, some cops.

11. JOHN WOO. The great Hong Kong film director (and writer) has been little heard from lately, and none of his Hollywood output has compared to the HK masterpieces – A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow 2, The Killer, Hardboiled. But his distinctive stamp on action scenes, and his mingling of seemingly mismatched influences – Sam Peckinpah, Douglas Sirk, Jean-Pierre Melville (him again) – make a unique contribution to the world of narrative film.

12. SAM FULLER. Fuller was a lunatic, but what a lunatic. He could get so wrapped up in his tabloid approach that the B-movie attitudes of even his A productions could become over-the-top cartoons. And it’s true that even his best work for the major studios – Forty Guns, Pick Up on South Street, House of Bamboo – had over-the-top aspects, making them memorable and distinctly his. He didn’t call “action” on set, he fired off a gun. How can you not love that?

These, and a few other directors, are on my shelves the way writers like Spillane, Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Stout, Thompson and Christie are. They influenced my fiction writing just as much, too.

Please, in responding (and you are welcome and even encouraged to) keep in mind these are personal opinions, matters of taste, not a listing of what I feel you should like or think.

* * *

Here’s a lovely latterday review of the first Nathan Heller novel, True Detective.

The opening paragraphs of Girl Most Likely are teased here.

Finally, Girl Most Likely is discussed as one of the most talked about forthcoming crime novels of 2019. You’ll have to scroll down some – a lot of crime novels are being talked about, apparently!

M.A.C.

Max Allan Ruins Everything

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

I am about to recommend something you are probably already familiar with; but here goes….

Netflix recently added a sampling of the truTV series Adam Ruins Everything to its roster, and it looked interesting enough for me to try it…and now I am hooked. When I ran through the Netflix batch, I immediately bought the various seasons of the show on Amazon Prime and have watched all but a few episodes.

Adam Ruins Everything is the brainchild of stand-up comic Adam Conover, and (in the words of Wikipedia), “The series aims to debunk misconceptions that pervade U.S. society.” It spins off from Conover’s CollegeHumor web series, which I haven’t seen (yet). But it’s a lot more, being as much a comedy show as an educational one.

Adam Conover portrays himself as an overly helpful nerd, a smarty-pants who doesn’t understand why people don’t love him for correcting them. It’s a funny concept which Conover pulls off fearlessly, surrounding himself with some of the best comedic talent around, including veterans of Mr. Show and Reno 911. Recurring characters and story arcs are threaded through, as well.

Conover and his series skewer historical misconceptions, false beliefs fueled by corporate misinformation, urban legends and just plain stupidity. And, uniquely, sources are posted on-screen, and experts on the various subjects often appear in the context of the imaginative episodes. Though I discovered the well-made, entertaining show just a week ago, Conover and his research staff have already changed my behavior. I have sworn off vitamin supplements and Tylenol PM, for example.

He isn’t always right, and to his credit a later episode focuses on some of his mistakes. (When I say “he,” I refer not to the actual Conover but his television character.) For example, the episode about the real Wild West dismisses Wyatt Earp as a nobody con man who tried to peddle the untrue story of his life to Hollywood, implying he wasn’t a gunfighting heroic lawman at all.

Earp, of course, was a controversial figure, but he was famous during his day and well after, surviving several harrowing gunfights, including the O.K. Corral one (which happened in a vacant lot near the corral), which was even covered as news in the New York Times. The show is at its weakest when it accepts its experts at face value.

The Collins/Schwartz Scarface and the Untouchable, for example, debunks the debunkers who falsely represented Eliot Ness and his career. But I fear if Ness came up in a future episode, the research staff would accept the conventional (and wrong) wisdom about the Untouchables and the IRS investigators. Like the anti-Ness writers, many of the anti-Earp writers posthumously attacked the lawman-gambler-prospector because of the exaggerations of a book published after his death, leading to inflated TV fame.

For me, the the anti-conspiracy theory episode is unfortunate on a show that routinely exposes government and/or corporate conspiracies. It conflates the risible “moon landing was fake” theory with the Kennedy assassination. While my Nathan Heller novels have their fanciful aspects, the extensive research I’ve done (often with the help of George Hagenauer) has often shown the official versions of things are false…something Adam Ruins Everything often does.

Let’s not give conspiracy a bad name. Watergate and its cover-up was a conspiracy. The JFK assassination was almost certainly a conspiracy. Robert Mueller is not a guy in a tin-foil hat.

Also, sometimes conspiracies are not really conspiracies at all. Let me tell you about it! The railroading of Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was nothing engineered, rather a bunch of cops backing each other up, plus some reporters manufacturing evidence, all filtered through a general hatred of Germans post-World War One. These folks didn’t get together in a room and conspire. They just had mutual views/assumptions of who did the crime.

For the record, when I write a Nathan Heller novel, I go in with an open mind. For JFK, the most outrageous thing I could have done was come to the conclusion that Oswald was the Lone Gunman. For Lindbergh, I’d have been swimming against the tide if I said Hauptmann was guilty; but if that’s where my research led, so be it. When I wrote the Roswell novel, Majic Man, I went in ready to report whatever I came away believing – including the existence of aliens. But my research indicated something else was going on.

With Do No Harm, the Sam Sheppard murder case novel that will be out in a year or so, I had no opinion about who did it…and did not decide till well into the work – not only the research period but the writing one.

So Adam Ruins Everything isn’t perfect. But it’s funny and informative, and – most important – it gets you thinking. It even got me thinking! Also, you need to stop using sleep aids and vitamin supplements.

* * *

I will admit to being disappointed on two fronts by various end-of-the-year “best of” lists.

Both The Last Stand and Killing Town, the final Spillane solo novel and the collaborative first Mike Hammer novel (begun in 1945 by Mickey and completed by me last year), have been pretty much roundly ignored…despite fairly stellar reviews.

One nice exception is this selection of Killing Town as the Best Retro Read of the Year, here.

More disappointing is how Scarface and the Untouchable by A. Brad Schwartz and myself has been overlooked, again despite stellar reviews. The book is a completely new approach to Eliot Ness and his contribution to the downfall of Capone, and the previously unnoticed collaboration between the government and Capone’s fellow mobsters to put the Big Fellow away. I fear the length of the book has scared away reviewers. And I am now officially nervous that we’ll be overlooked by the Edgars.

(But a nice exception is this gift guide from the Entertainment Report.)

If you haven’t tracked down the Titan graphic novel edition of Mike Hammer in The Night I Died, this good review might convince you.

By the way, I signed ten copies of The Night I Died for vj books, available here.

Here’s a nice advance look at Girl Most Likely from Col’s Criminal Library.

This is a mediocre review, but at least it’s a review, of the Quarry graphic novel, Quarry’s War. The reviewer complains about the alternating pages that intersperse the Vietnam war sequence with Quarry during his hitman years, considering what I’m proudest of about the work “annoying.” He complains that Quarry doesn’t open up enough about himself. Sigh.

On the other hand, both Quarry’s War and The Night I Died get nice mentions in this wrap-up of comics in 2018.

This is my first post of 2019, by the way, written in 2018. Happy New Year to all of you.

M.A.C.

An “Antiques” Stocking Stuffer and the Walmart Big Time

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Yes, here I am with another selfless suggestion for something you might give to your loved ones or yourself at Yuletide.


Amazon Indiebound Books A Million Barnes and Noble

Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides collects, for the first time, the three e-book novellas Barb and I did over the last five years. It’s a paperback (hence a perfect stocking stuffer), and I know some collectors out there prefer hardcovers, but “Barbara Allan” is thrilled that these stories are finally gathered in a real book.

If you are one of the hold-outs who like my stuff but can’t bring yourself to cross the cozy divide, Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides is an inexpensive way to see Brandy and her mother Vivian in action. A sampler, if you will, and much tastier than those Whitman samplers some people insist upon giving you at Christmas.

I’ve discussed this before, but I still get questions about how Barb and I work together on the Antiques books, and how we stay married doing them. One aspect is that my office is on one floor and Barb’s is on another. But basically it’s this: Barb writes the first draft, and I write the final draft.

The less basic explanation is that Barb is the lead writer. Although I have more experience, and have been doing this longer, the books reflect her sensibilities and storytelling skills. We plot them together, but I stay out of the way while Barb prepares her draft. Sometimes we’ve described that as a rough draft, but really it’s not. Barb polishes each chapter thoroughly and, after at least six months of work, she gives me a perfectly readable and well-crafted novel that happens to be fifty or sixty pages shorter than what our contract requires.

My job is to further polish, and expand, and do lots of jokes. Barb has already done plenty of humor at this stage, but then I add more, with the result being that these novels are damn funny. Barb is wonderful about staying out of my way (as I’ve stayed out of hers, unless asked for input, during her creation of the initial draft). She claims to be so sick of the book at this point that she doesn’t care what I do to it.

This is not true.

She cares a lot, and will ask me why I’ve cut or changed something, and – when I tell her – will either agree or explain why (for plot or character reasons) (these are female point-of-view first-person novels) I need to restore what she originally wrote. Which I do.

The only time we’ve squabbled is when I’ve gotten crabby because I’m overworked. She will not tolerate snippiness. And I’ve been known on rare occasions (somewhat rare) (tiny bit rare) to be snippy, so there you go.

Consider Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides our Christmas gift to you, except for the part where you have to pay for it.

Kensington publishes the Antiques novels, and also the Caleb York westerns. The accompanying photo will demonstrate that these Spillane/Collins westerns have hit the big time: we are in the Muscatine, Iowa, Walmart with The Bloody Spur! In fact, the Walmart chain bought a whole bunch of copies, and you can buy your copy at your local temple to the memory of Sam Walton.

The Antiques books haven’t made it into Walmart and probably won’t – the chain is very narrow about the kind of books they buy…mostly it’s romances, romantic westerns and westerns, plus a few bestsellers. Not a cozy in sight – not even an hilarious one like Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides. How do they expect to stay in business?

Speaking of Antiques, here is a terrific review of Ho-Ho-Homicides at King River Life Magazine, which will give you a good idea of what to expect, including discussions of each novella.

Okay, now what you’re wondering is…what can I give Max Allan Collins for Christmas? I will be facetious and serious at the same time: you could write reviews (however brief) for my novels at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your own blogs and whatever site you deem appropriate. There is a real reason why you might want to consider doing this, if you want new work from me.

The books I write – Mike Hammer, Quarry, Antiques – are seldom reviewed by the mainstream (including lots of Internet reviewers). I do not have the cachet or sales punch of a Lehane or Connelly, who are always reviewed. I am largely ignored, even by people who love my work, in “Best of” lists at the end of the year. This is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s a reality. Even the widely, glowingly reviewed non-fiction book Scarface and the Untouchable: The Battle for Chicago isn’t turning up on such lists.

I probably write too much. That keeps work that, if other people did it, would be taken more seriously. I am not whining or complaining (well, I guess I am) but I do understand that even readers who follow my work can’t always keep up with me.

Here’s the deal. If I don’t write, publishers do not send money to my house. That’s one thing. The other is that I am 70, have had some harrowing health issues (that I seem to have either overcome or am handling well) and realize that I don’t have forever to tell my stories.

And I have a lot more stories I want to tell.

Actually, I do not work as hard as I used to. Over the years, most Heller chapters were written in a day (25 to 30 double-spaced pages). I was a boy wonder till I got old. I slowed down starting with Better Dead. In general, my work load now is ten finished pages, six days a week. (Sometimes only five days.) It’s no different than with people with a “real” job – they work five or six days a week, and nobody applauds them, or tries to talk them out of it.

As I’ve mentioned, I have friends who have done these sort of interventions to get me to retire and get Barb and me to go take a cruise with other aging couples. I would rather write. Barb and I treat ourselves well and have a great time together, and don’t feel the need for a lot of travel to do that. She is a beautiful woman and lovely company, and is the one thing in my life that is worth hating me over.

She and I are watching one Christmas movie or television episode per evening right now. I may write about this soon. But I will say this – Holiday Inn is a wonderful movie, and White Christmas sort of stinks. Maybe my son Nathan is right: Die Hard is a better Christmas movie than White Christmas.

* * *

Here six great books (available inexpensively) are recommended, and one of them is True Detective (and I’m pleased and grateful, but it’s not “Allen,” okay?).

Shots looks at upcoming Titan titles, including the new Hammer, Murder, My Love.

The Strand magazine is on the stands now, with the key Spillane “Mike Hammer” short story, “Tonight, My Love.”

We’ve linked to this review before, but this time it’s attached to the mass market paperback of The Bloody Spur, out right now.

Finally, here’s a lovely write-up on the three Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries.

M.A.C.