Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Justice’

Supreme Resolutions

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

This is the time for making New Year’s Resolutions, and mine are fairly typical – lose weight, spend less, that kind of thing. It may not be possible at this late date, but I would like to spread my work out over the year, instead of having it front-loaded as it’s been the last several, punishing years. Though it feels like a plot against me, the reality is that the various editors and publishers I work for have their own agendas, and by accident those agendas want me to deliver promised books in the first six or seven months of the year.

Part of why I’ve gone along with that is to save the second half of the year for a Nate Heller novel. I have been working on the new Heller novel, BETTER DEAD, for several months now (much longer, factoring in the research, which remains on going). It’s been a tough one because it covers two cases and the research just never lets up. The process is start/stop because each chapter – frequently covering two major scenes – requires in depth research. Thank God for the Internet, and a pox upon ye all non-fiction works that lack an index.

The relative slowness of the process this time (not slow by almost anybody else’s standards, I admit) means I’ll be delivering the book a little late – not much, probably a week or even a few days (it’s due Jan. 1). But those days eat into the time allotted for the next book, and endanger the break of a week or so I need to take between projects just to recharge, and to do smaller promised projects, and guide my brain onto a new track. On top of this (not seeking “get well” cards or anything), I am still fighting, after two weeks, a bronchial virus that has hit this part of the Midwest pretty bad.

Writers don’t get sick leave, and deadlines don’t give a damn. The answer here is for me not to be so quick to say yes to deadlines suggested by editors with their own needs. I don’t have a handle on this, but I’m going to have to get one. Fortunately, this virus is limited strictly to a nasty cough, so I have been able to work through it, admittedly at a slower pace than normal.

Not looking for sympathy here – my late friend Paul Thomas used to say, “If you’re looking for sympathy, it’s been ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis’ in the dictionary.” But there are some opportunities on the horizon – having to do with television – that could change the way I organize my writing affairs drastically.

Stay, as they say, tuned.

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Check out the TV program “Books Live: Books We Love,” featuring Amazon editors talking about their favorite book picks in the mystery and thriller, science fiction, romance, and general fiction categories. SUPREME JUSTICE is featured as a top pick in the mystery genre – discussed by Thomas & Mercer editor Alison Dasho and host Laure Roppe. In addition, a reader “thank you” I taped at Bouchercon is included in the segment. You can view the program here: http://www.amazon.com/b/?node=10126410011

I’m pleased to say that SUPREME JUSTICE was also chosen by Suspense Magazine as one of the Best Books of the Year.

Best of Suspense 2014

The editors of Suspense Magazine asked me to answer a few questions, and here they are:

If your book had a soundtrack what would be its signature song?

“America the Beautiful” sung by Ray Charles.

If you could go ‘into’ a book (any book) and live there for a bit, which book would it be? And which character would you be?

I’d like to be Archie Goodwin in just about any Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout.

What is the best book you read in 2014?

Fiction: Jack Carter’s Law by Ted Lewis (I did the introduction for this American edition of the prequel to the classic British crime novel, Get Carter).

Non-fiction: Masters of Sex by Thomas Meier

I’d also like to announce that starting with the next Reeder & Rogers thriller, my collaborator Matthew V. Clemens will be receiving cover billing. This is much deserved and I’m grateful to Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to do this.

By the way, SUPREME JUSTICE is well over 3000 reviews at Amazon now.

Here’s a nice year’s-end recognition of KING OF THE WEEDS.

THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS (published some time ago) somehow made a “best of” list, too!

SUPREME JUSTICE shares the spotlight with Ed Gorman’s RIDERS ON THE STORM as two great year’s end reads. Nice company to be in!

Finally, SUPREME JUSTICE hit this ten best list, as well. Remember, none of these lists is valid or worth your consideration…unless one of my books is on it.

M.A.C.

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.

* * *

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.

Hooray For…

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Barb and I spent most of last week in Hollywood (California, not Florida). I rarely make trips out there, but this trek was to make “pitches” to various networks about a Heller TV show, and to take a few meetings (there’s a nasty phrase) about the QUARRY TV show.


Beautiful blonde spotted in the Beverly Hills Hotel lobby. Movie star?

First, QUARRY. Though a pick-up has not been announced, everything looks good – promising, let’s say. The meetings I took, both with the writers heading up the potential series and with the top execs at Cinemax, were encouraging.

As for Heller, the pitch meetings went very well and we have some interest. If you’re Heller fan, it’s premature to start doing cart wheels. At this stage, assuming a HELLER series will happen is like sending out birth announcements on your way out to a singles bar hoping to pick somebody up. But it’s a start.


Confused tourist outside CAA shortly before being seized by security.

The pitch process was interesting and a little odd, from a book writer’s point of view, anyway. For a long time – almost a year – I have worked with a top management company to develop a “pitch document.” I don’t remember ever polishing a piece of writing more times or more thoroughly, and I had expected I’d either be reading it or working from an outline of it. I practiced doing it both ways with Barb (don’t take that out of context) and hated the two approaches equally. One of the handful of things I do well is speak extemporaneously, and neither approach tapped into that.

Early in our marriage, when I was starting to publish novels and would do speaking engagements for the Rotary or whatever, I would prepare not at all, and it would make Barb very nervous, very anxious. She insisted that I prepare, that I do the next speech from notes. I did, and I sucked. After that, Barb gave her blessing to me winging such speeches, and never got nervous for me that way again.

I was relieved when, last Monday, my prep for the pitch meetings (set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) included the news that I would not be using the pitch document. That I would be talking extemporaneously to the network execs. I don’t get nervous or anxious in front of audiences, and these pitch meetings included very high ranking people at some of the most famous cable networks. But I was loose and not intimidated, and pretty funny frankly, which I think helped.

Oddly, the pitch document was not left behind at any of the five networks we saw. Apparently you need to have such a document in case somebody asks to see it. But nobody did.

It was a stressful trip (my God I hate those freeways), and expensive, which is why I’ve only gone out to LA for pitch meetings on two prior occasions in the last ten years. But HELLER is important to me, and is a series I would like to be involved in myself, as opposed to just handing it off to talented writers and doing the occasional script.

We’ll see.

Did I mention it was expensive out there? It’s a shock to a couple of Iowa rubes to go out for a light lunch at a casual corner cafe and spend sixty bucks for it (a salad for Barb, fish tacos for me). But I was able to stop at my two favorite places in LA – Amoeba Records and Book Soup. At the latter, a customer recognized me as I was buying a magazine, and was dismayed at not having any of my books along for me to sign. Here’s a tip: everywhere you go, bring my books along. You never know when I’m going to show up.


A director and his star on the red carpet.

On the social side, Barb and I had dinners with Leonard and Alice Maltin; actor (Second City vet) Larry Coven of MOMMY’S DAY and REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET; and Mommy herself, Patty McCormack. The latter was a splurge evening for us – we took Patty to supper at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and sat in a booth talking up a storm for almost four hours. I was a director taking his star to the Polo Lounge, and it felt very good.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of SUPREME JUSTICE, which has drifted down the Kindle bestseller charts some but is still hanging on nicely.

M.A.C.

Farewell Tour(ing)?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Books-A-Million Signing August 2014
Barbara Collins, M.A.C. and Matthew Clemens at the Davenport BAM!

We had some nice people stop by our two signings in Davenport this weekend, both new readers and old. But the turn-out was modest, even though we’d scored major publicity in the Quad Cities area, like this article in the Quad City Times.

It was enough for us (Barb and me) to admit that signings just aren’t effective any more. Oh, there are exceptions. If an indie bookstore owner is really a first-rate retailer – like Augie at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, where we will continue to sign now and then, or the remarkable Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona – really knows their onions (and carrots and peas), a signing can be highly successful and worthwhile for the author. Lots of people there, lots of books sold. Enough to justify flying to Arizona? Well, that’s up to the publisher.

But publishers are funding fewer and fewer tours these days, and if you aren’t a superstar author or superstar period (Hillary Clinton, say, whose own book tour was pretty rough actually), a tour is hard to justify. For many years, we alternated funding our own tours with publisher-funded ones. Recently we scaled back to Midwestern tours, typically hitting Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Chicago and Milwaukee. More lately we cut back to just Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Chicago. But Cedar Rapids’ Mystery Cat (where the signings were extremely successful) is closing at the end of this month.

These Davenport signings were at best modestly successful in a way that just doesn’t justify us losing a work (or, frankly, play) day. Last week we lost a day to doing the Times interview and then driving to Davenport to do TV. On the weekend, the signings consumed both Saturday and Sunday. The promo we did for the signings focused on SUPREME JUSTICE and ANTIQUES CON. When got to the Bam! store, we were told they couldn’t get SUPREME JUSTICE, apparently because of the corporate decision not to carry Amazon-published books. No one bothered to call us and inform us of this, and in fact we’d been assured the opposite – I’d called a few days before to see if books were in and was told they were, including SJ. When we arrived, there were stacks of KING OF THE WEEDS (which had not been the focus of our promo), no SUPREME JUSTICE and a handful of ANTIQUES CON. The first customer in the door asked for SUPREME JUSTICE.

The Barnes and Noble did have SUPREME JUSTICE, thanks to the efforts of the hard-working assistant manager who arranged the signing, despite B & N’s corporate attitude toward not carrying a book that has been a bestseller since June (admittedly in the Kindle world).

Barnes & Noble Signing August 2014
Barbara Allan at the Davenport Barnes & Noble Signing

Incidentally, these corporate wars are wearying. I seem to be one of a handful of writers working both sides of this particular street, so I need to keep my opinions to myself, for the safety of my career. But take a look at what my pal Lee Goldberg had to say in response to the New York Times ad signed by lots and lots of writers in protest of Amazon.

All I can say about Amazon is that they – at least their crime fiction publishing arm, Thomas & Mercer – have treated me very well, from involving me in packaging decisions to paying me better royalties than I receive elsewhere. I am frustrated that SUPREME JUSTICE isn’t more readily available as a real book (as opposed to an e-one). But right now we still sit high on several Kindle mystery lists, and have generated a mindboggling 2100-plus reader reviews.

Anyway, touring. Book signings. As I said to Matt Clemens after our Books-a-Million signing for a book the store didn’t stock, “Signings are so ‘90s.” What can we do to replace them?

Well, one of the things is this weekly communication with you. And if you want to get in touch with me, it’s not that hard. Both Barb and I (and for that matter Matt) are happy to sign and return books sent to us, as long as postage and packaging is included. Bookstores are encouraged to send books for us to sign. Barb and I will continue, for the foreseeable future, to do both Bouchercon and San Diego Con. Smaller conventions I will not likely do unless I (or we) are invited as a guest. At 66, I feel no shame at all in suggesting “Guest of Honor” next to my name would feel just fine. (Bouchercon did it back in 1999.)

We love talking to readers. Anybody who hasn’t figured out that I like praise just isn’t paying attention. But our days, our time, is precious to us. I am writing more now than ever, in part because of the sense that time has suddenly become goddamn finite. I still have stories to tell. Barb said, fairly grouchily Sunday evening, “I lost three days I could have been working on the new ANTIQUES novella.”

She’s right.

In the meantime, come see us at Centuries & Sleuths in September. There are exceptions to every rule.

M.A.C.