Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

Short and Sweet

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

My son says that I am turning into “that guy at the end of 60 MINUTES” (he wasn’t sure whether that was Mickey Rooney or Andy Rooney), meaning that I am starting to make this update the home of weekly curmudgeonly rants. So this week I’ll devote myself to mostly positive short takes.

Last week was spent writing a long Mike Hammer short story (almost 12,000 words) for Otto Penzler’s series of mini-books with a bibliophile theme. Otto sells these in his legendary Mysterious Bookshop in NY. Otto says he will publish the mini-book, entitled IT’S IN THE BOOK, late summer. We’ll provide a link when the time comes.

Speaking of Mike Hammer short stories, you’ll find “So Long, Chief” in the new issue of The Strand. These Mike Hammer short stories are developed from fragments in Mickey Spillane’s files, usually five or ten pages. I’ve worked up half a dozen short stories so far (two more fragments await) with an eye on an eventual Hammer short story collection.

Last week something delightful happened – Harlan Ellison called to say how much he liked SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT (mine, not Dr. Wertham’s). Harlan is one of my two favorite science-fiction writers (the other being Ray Bradbury) and one of my favorite writers, period. He was a huge influence on me as a young writer. I admire not only his prose but his passion, and his willingness to fight authority. That he likes my work means more than I can say, and that he occasionally takes the time to call me up and say so just flat out amazes me. It’s an honor to be sharing a publisher with him – Hard Case Crime has just brought out a new edition of his first novel, WEB OF THE CITY, which I bought back when it was called RUMBLE. Thank you, Harlan.

Our local Blockbuster went out of business and had a blow-out sale that to this Blu-ray/DVD collector was like Black Friday times ten – the final two days, Blu-rays and DVDs were a buck a piece. I am just starting to plow through my finds ($150 or so of ‘em), but already I have found a real gem, a Jackie Chan movie from 2010 that I’d never heard of: SHINJUKU INCIDENT. Some of you know that I used to have a regular column in Tom Weisser’s great Asian Cult Cinema magazine, and this film would have rated a rave and a full column there. Jackie plays a Japanese illegal in China in the ‘90s, a good-hearted soul shaped by circumstance and necessity into a crime boss. This is unlike any Jackie Chan movie I’ve ever seen, and it really is an Asian take on SCARFACE, as the DVD cover promises, right down to the shocking violence.

On a wholly different note, I have been watching Warners Archives’ new Wheeler and Woolsey collection. I like a lot of vintage comedy teams that other people (like everybody in my family) find irritating and/or revolting. For example, I am a fan of the Ritz Brothers (do you own a sign photo by the team?) and Olsen and Johnson (if you have a signed photo by them, I’ll buy it). But, yes, I also like the more accepted teams, from the Marx Brothers to Abbott and Costello and of course Martin and Lewis. Wheeler and Woolsey arguably belong in this last group. They were very popular (21 films in the late twenties and thirties for RKO) but because of Woolsey’s death in 1938, they were prematurely over…and Wheeler was unable to shape a film career on his own. Woolsey wears horn-rimmed glasses and smokes a constant cigar, sort of a combo of Groucho and George Burns (who lifted much of his schtick from Woolsey), and is a wiseguy con man character, while Wheeler is a lovable simpleton constantly eating an apple or a banana. Neither is the straight man, and both sing and dance, with Wheeler playing the romantic leads, often with Betty Boop-ish cutie Dorothy Lee. They are very much in the Marx Brothers theater of the absurd wheelhouse, and often share that team’s writers (of both scripts and songs). Some of their early movies are very creaky (DIXIEANA is worse than a trip to the dentist), and their later ones range from okay (HIGH FLYERS) to dreadful (SILLY BILLIES). But at their best, they are terrific, as in HIPs, HIPS HOORAY and COCKEYED CAVALIERS (both with Thelma Todd, a onetime Nate Heller squeeze). HIPS is in the Wheeler-Woolsey collection, and so is the very good mystery comedy THE NITWITS, and of the early ones another comedy crime entry, HOOK, LINE AND SINKER, is fun. The collection is mostly good, and on single discs or double features the Archive has such wonderful Wheeler and Woolsey titles as PEACH O-RENO, KENTUCKY KERNELS (with Spanky from Our Gang), and the crazed political satire DIPLOMANIACS (co-written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz). Their pre-code stuff is extremely racy, by the way (when a dish asks Woolsey if he’s looking at her knees, he says, “Oh, I’m above that”).

Barb and I went to the new GI JOE movie at the fancy new theater in town, and it’s entertaining enough, though it makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN look like a Ken Burns documentary. Mostly I’m just glad I didn’t get hired to turn it into a novel. The previous GI JOE was the only time I wrote a movie novel and felt I hadn’t been able to transcend a poor script (as I did with DAYLIGHT and I LOVE TROUBLE, for instance). With GI JOE, I just fought the thing to a draw. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that I haven’t had a movie novelization gig since….

Today I start on my draft of ANTIQUES A GO GO – Brandy, Vivian and Sushi in New York at a comic book convention.

* * *

Bill Crider, whose website is one of my favorites, and who is a terrific writer his own self, has delivered a COMPLEX 90 review that is, in the author’s immodest opinion, spot on. One of my favorite reviews ever.

M.A.C.

Galley Slave

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
Flying Blind

I am working on the galleys of the upcoming TRUE DETECTIVE reprint. I am never crazy about reading my old stuff, because I want to rewrite it. I am doing very, very minor tweaks and correcting historical mistakes. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to proofread all of the books myself because (at least as it’s now scheduled), all twelve Hellers are coming out in their new editions in August.

As I write this, it’s July 4th morning, with my son Nate (and girl Abby and dog Toaster) wrapping up a long-weekend visit, and tonight Crusin’ has an outdoor gig overlooking the Mississippi.

In the week or two after I wrap up a big project (like the recently completed JFK Heller, TARGET LANCER), I have smaller projects that I’ve been waiting to get to. One of those is a short story about Damon Runyon, “The Devil’s Face,” that Matt Clemens and I have collaborated on for a Bob Randisi anthology. We’re also doing a write-up on the Spenser TV series for an Otto Penzler project.

Next project – which I will begin very soon – is LADY GO, DIE! That’s the late ‘40s Mike Hammer novel – finishing Mickey’s second Hammer book!

A very nice and insightful review of THE LAST QUARRY popped up recently.

And the first review (although it’s more a plot summary) of THE CONSUMMATA has appeared.

The Criterion KISS ME DEADLY DVD/Blu-ray continues to get rave reviews, often with nice mentions of my documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE. There’s a fun one here.

And another here.

And the Mike Hammer novel series gets a write-up here.

Watch for news here soon of my San Diego Comic-on panels (Barb is making her first San Diego panel appearance!) and of our first west coast book tour in many years, which will happen in August. Details to follow.

M.A.C.

Heller of a Week

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I’ve made passing references to the Nate Heller backlist coming back into print, but now it’s official. AmazonEncore has put out a press release on upcoming titles, and this paragraph should be of interest:

“Award-winning author Max Allan Collins’ Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories, to be published by Thomas & Mercer on October 4, features Chicago PI Nathan Heller as the narrator of thirteen crime stories based on real cases from the 1930s and 1940s. Known for his graphic novel, Road to Perdition, the basis of the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, Max Allan Collins is a recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America lifetime achievement award, the Eye, and is the writer and director of five feature films and two documentaries. Leading up to the publication of Chicago Lightning, AmazonEncore will re-release twelve other Nathan Heller books in August.”

Every one of the previous Heller novels (from TRUE DETECTIVE through CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL) will be reprinted in handsome, uniform trade paperback editions as well as e-books. CHICAGO LIGHTNING and the forthcoming TRIPLE PLAY are two new collections that take the place of (and expand upon) the previous Heller collections, DYING IN THE POSTWAR WORLD and KISSES OF DEATH. CHICAGO LIGHTNING is all the short stories thus far (including several never before collected) and TRIPLE PLAY will include the three Heller novellas-to-date (“Dying in the Postwar World,” “Kisses of Death,” and “Strike Zone”).

Obviously I am thrilled to have Heller climb back into print, timed to support and cross-promote the new Heller novels from Forge.

Speaking of which – and is very big news indeed – BYE BYE, BABY has received a starred PW review. Here it is:

“Set in 1962, Collins’s excellent 13th novel featuring Chicago PI Nate Heller (last seen in 2002’s Chicago Confidential) finds Heller–who’s investigated such high-profile crimes as the Lindbergh kidnapping and Huey Long’s assassination–looking into the death of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The book’s first half covers the movie star’s last two months, as she tries to deal with attacks on many fronts–by the movie studio that fired her; by her abusive ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio; and by the Kennedys. By the time a drug overdose claims her, there’s no shortage of people who wanted her dead. Heller, Monroe’s sometime lover, who refuses to buy the official line that she committed suicide, steps on powerful toes with his usual tenacity and stubbornness to reach the truth. Collins convincingly portrays the real-life players in the drama, who include Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sinatra. Readers with a taste for hard-boiled roman à clef will hope that more Heller is in the offing. (Aug.)”

Chicago Lightning

Mike Hammer remains very much in the public eye. An amusing review of KISS HER GOODBYE from AV Club is getting a lot of web distribution. Once again, the reviewer spends most of his time apologizing for liking the novel. But by the end he grudgingly, embarrassedly admits he did enjoy it (and bestows a B grade, not at all bad for the snarky AV Club). You may wish to read some of the comments, which are often hilarious in their idiocy (one guy doesn’t read my stuff because I look like a “nerd” in my author photos) and the knee-jerk political correctness rants that Spillane, even deceased, even in the 21st Century, can still inspire. Also, mention Spillane and “experts” will announce a predictable list of other hardboiled writers you should be reading instead.

This web review of KISS HER GOODBYE is fun and right on the money. Worth checking out.

So is this brief but lovely review of the audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER.

Here’s a nice review of the new Criterion Blu-ray of KISS ME DEADLY. I have an advance copy and it’s a lovely package, and the film looks great. So, I say unblushingly, does my new updated cut of the documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, there as a bonus feature. I am grateful to Criterion for including it, because the sharp-looking booklet and some of the other features (notably the disappointing commentary) make the usual uniformed, sloppy, prejudiced comments about the original material. Constantly we’re told director Aldrich and screenwriter Bezzerides just “threw the novel away.” In fact, Bezzerides used Mickey’s basic plot, most of the characters (including their names), many memorable sequences (the opening of the film, for example, and the death of mobster Carl Evello) and even the fiery ending is a variation on Mickey’s. For Hollywood of the period, it’s quite faithful to its source, and evokes the surrealistic, fever-dream feel of early Hammer uncannily. Commentators continually talk about Hammer as if the books are predominantly about the P.I. taking on “Commies” (the only book of the first impactful six that does so is ONE LONELY NIGHT – a book in which SPOILER ALERT the bad guy turns out to be a thinly disguised Joe McCarthy). END SPOILER ALERT. Director Alex Cox has a piece where he’s enthusiastic about the film, but makes many dubious observations, including that Hammer is stupid in the novel and even more stupid in the film. At least Cox seems to have skimmed the book, which is more than most of the commentators have.

Finally, I recently did a little project with my frequent collaborator, actor Mike Cornelison (Pat Chambers on THE LITTLE DEATH and ENCORE FOR MURDER, and narrator of my Spillane documentary). It was a competition to write and produce a short play in just under a week. I hope to have a You Tube link to the production, called “Alley Cats,” soon.

In the meantime, here’s how we did:

The Judge’s Choice Award for night of competition, Friday, June 10, 2011.

This award signifies that the three-judge panel found “Alley Cats” the best theatrical presentation among the nine shows presented that night. That which most represented the spirit of the 711 competition, created the most engaging theatrical experience and adhered most closely to the rules of the game.

In addition, “Alley Cats” received the “Technical Excellence” award, which is voted by the technical staff of the 711 Project, and given to that production that shows the clearest vision, best use of lighting, sound and design and most concise and effective communication of their needs to the technical staff.

“Team Caligula,” which presented “Alley Cats,” is made up of Max Allan Collins (playwright), Michael Cornelison (director/actor), Nick Cornelison (producer/actor) and Jared Hammer (actor).

M.A.C.

Bang Bang

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

J. Kingston Pierce over at the great Rap Sheet site has a fun discussion (with plenty of comments, including from me) about the relative merits of the USA and UK covers of THE BIG BANG, the second Spillane/Collins “Mike Hammer” collaboration. But the key piece of news here is that THE BIG BANG trade paperback is out this week, and if you didn’t pick up the hardcover, now’s your chance to get the Best Private Eye Novel of the Year (according to Sons of Spade).

Big Bang Paperback

Another book that’s out is the TOP SUSPENSE anthology, designed to be an e-book but also available in a very nice trade paperback, too. Here’s the pitch:

Don’t forget the blistering anthology TOP SUSPENSE is now available for $2.99 on Kindle and a mere $11.99 in trade paperback. Our authors at the peak of their powers in thirteen unforgettable tales. This pulse-pounding anthology – packed full of cold-blooded killers, erotic tension, shady private eyes, craven drug dealers, vicious betrayals, crafty thieves, and shocking twists – is only a taste of the thrills you will find in the breathtakingly original ebooks by these authors at www.topsuspensegroup.com.

So sit back, bite down on a piece of strong leather, and prepare to get hit by some gale-force suspense and writing so sharp it will draw blood.

CLICK TO BUY YOUR COPY NOW!

Top Suspense includes:

Unreasonable Doubt by Max Allan Collins
Death’s Brother by Bill Crider
Poisoned by Stephen Gallagher
Remaindered by Lee Goldberg
Fire in the Sky by Joel Goldman
The Baby Store by Ed Gorman
The Jade Elephant by Libby Fischer HellmannThe Big O by Vicki Hendricks
The Chirashi Covenant by Naomi Hirahara
El Valiente en el Infierno by Paul Levine
A Handful of Dust by Harry Shannon
The Canary by Dave Zeltserman
The Chase by Top Suspense Group

Press release over, and M.A.C. back again: this is a terrific bunch of writers, all of whom have work well worth sampling, making this a worthwhile purchase (the e-book price is damn near a gift). Several of the Top Suspense Group writers are good friends of mine, but one is among my best friends – Ed Gorman. This week Ed was nice enough to give my Eliot Ness series a push (and me in general). If you haven’t read Ed’s work yet, you are missing one of the great contemporary voices in crime fiction – funny, wry, sad, innately Midwestern.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece about Ed that I wrote a while back, dealing in part with the notion some people had (early in Ed’s mystery-writing career) that he was a penname of mine – a mistake that arose because (a) Ed is an Iowan but never attends conventions and rarely does book signings, and (b) there are at least superficial similarities in our style and approach:

I am proud to have Ed Gorman’s writing mistaken for mine – having him viewed for a time as the Ed McBain to my Evan Hunter was pretty cool, actually. And, for years, when I would tell people that I had, no kidding, really met Ed Gorman, multiple times, it all seemed to be part of my master plan to put this pen name across.

Of course, this mistaken identity couldn’t last – Ed Gorman is too distinctive a writer, with a laconic, wry voice that is his alone, whether in first- or third-person. But it was fun while it lasted….

Ed’s distinctive voice and style are an outgrowth of his interests. He is an endless resource of arcane information and informed opinion about popular storytelling in the 20th Century. That’s why I spent so many hours on the phone with him – we could do half an hour on why Rex Stout was, line for the line, the best wordsmith of all; forty-five minutes on why we both loved Hammett and Chandler but considered the former superior; or an hour on why certain highly regarded crime writers of our day were worthy of Emperor’s New Clothes awards. It’s Ed’s ability to analyze what works in the fiction he reads that has made him such a skillful writer himself.

No writer of the late 20th and early 21st century has mastered so many genres – Ed is equally adept at mystery, crime, horror, science fiction and western. He is a screenwriter and a columnist. He respects and understands these genres and forms, much as he respects and understands his job as a professional storyteller.

Read more about Ed Gorman here (cue the NBC “More you know logo”):

http://topsuspensegroup.com/authors/ed_gorman.php

M.A.C.