Posts Tagged ‘The Big Bang’

The “Lost” Mike Hammer Novels

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

PlaymorCharlie Koenigsacker (Crusin’ sound man during Bruce era), his sister Karlyn (longtime friend), and M.A.C.
at theBAR at Plamor on March 17.

Before I discuss the upcoming BIG BANG in particular and the new Mike Hammer novels in general, I want to share several more great reviews with you.

A site called Reader Musings has a nice YOU CAN’T STOP ME review.

And Bookreporter has a really wonderful YOU CAN’T STOP ME review.

The lovely Kim Morgan, whose great Sunset Gun is one of my favorite web sites, has posted a typically fine piece on HAROLD AND MAUDE, a movie I love; she was nice enough to quote from something I wrote her about the film a while back.

We also have a great review from Jon Breen in the current ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE. Don’t have a link handy, so I’m taking the liberty of quoting it:

Big BangMickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: The Big Bang
Penzler/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.00

*** – In New York of the 1960’s, Mike Hammer confronts the counterculture and battles the drug trade. The tough private eye is sent on an unusual journey late in the going. This one is vastly better than the first posthumous Hammer, The Goliath Bone (reviewed here in March/April 2009), probably because Spillane’s part was written when he was closer to his prime and collaborator Collins was left with more to do. There’s a clever concept at the center of the plot, a fine finishing twist, and plentiful humorous examples of the older writer’s influence on his younger acolyte, a far superior writer.

I have to point out that Jon Breen is not a Spillane fan. He has been a huge booster of mine, for many years, but he has never, ever warmed to Mickey and Mike. Getting a three-star review out of him for THE BIG BANG means that both Mickey and I did something very, very right. Or that I have finally worn him down….

While I like THE GOLIATH BONE a lot, I agree with Jon that THE BIG BANG is much better – it is probably the best ‘60s Hammer after THE GIRL HUNTERS (I exclude THE TWISTED THING, because it was written in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s and withheld for publication until 1966). But I also think KISS HER GOODBYE (the third posthumous Hammer, the “lost” ‘70s novel, out sometime next year) is probably the best of the trio. This shocked me, because I was so happy with THE BIG BANG. But ultimately I think KISS HER GOODBYE is even better.

It’s very important that anybody caring enough to read this update buy THE BIG BANG, and if you haven’t picked up THE GOLIATH BONE, please do so in August when it hits mass-market paperback. It’s crucial that you support these books, and encourage others to buy and read them. I make this plea because there are three other substantial Hammer manuscripts that need completion, and for me to be able to finish those three remaining Hammer novels, these first three have to sell very well. Right now we’re doing okay, but just okay…bewilderingly, foreign publishers have not picked up on GOLIATH BONE or BIG BANG (with the exception of the UK). Considering that Mickey was the most widely translated American author of the 20th Century, that one has me shaking my head.

I’ve discussed this several other places, but here are the three remaining, as yet-to-be-completed Hammer novels:

COMPLEX 90 – a cold war thriller, a sequel to THE GIRL HUNTERS, started around 1964. Mike Hammer goes to Russia and kills lots of Rooskies. Amazing stuff from Mickey in his prime.

LADY GO DIE! – the second, never-completed Mike Hammer novel, written between I, THE JURY and MY GUN IS QUICK (and the postponed TWISTED THING). Mike and Velda vacation in a small town, where a killer is slaying left and right, and Velda gets kidnapped. Written in 1948, the year I was born! A major discovery in the Spillane files.

KING OF THE WEEDS – a book begun in the ‘80s by Mickey, a sort of response to the TV show. It’s a serial killer novel and deals with the impending retirement of Pat Chambers. Mick intended this to be the final Hammer, until 9/11 inspired him to set this book aside and start THE GOLIATH BONE. The lost ‘80s Mike Hammer novel.

All three of these are substantial manuscripts – 100 finished pages or more, with plot and character notes. Some people have the idea that I am writing these by myself, maybe working from scraps of paper or something. Bullshit. These are novels that were well under way when Mickey (for various reasons) set each aside, in every case intending to return to them.

Why is this so important? So what if Spillane left half a dozen half-finished Mike Hammer novels in his files?

I, The Jury Japanese TPBI, THE JURY, Japanese edition, 1958.
Image from Japanese blog Holmes, Doyle, Out-Of-Print Books: Piecemeal Records by Hirobou

Mickey’s first seven novels were the bestselling American mystery novels of all time. In the 20th century, he outsold everybody – from Erskine Caldwell to Stephen King, from Jacqueline Susann to Dean Koontz. In mystery fiction, only Agatha Christie has outsold him worldwide. In America, during Mickey’s heyday, only Erle Stanley Gardner came close.

But the difference is this: Christie wrote 33 Poirot novels and 54 Poirot short stories; Gardner wrote over 80 Perry Mason novels and stories. The great Rex Stout wrote 33 Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin novels and dozens of Wolfe/Archie novellas.

Mickey wrote no formal Mike Hammer short stories (there are a couple of exceptions that I helped find their way into print) and a mere 13 Mike Hammer novels.

For a fictional detective of Hammer’s fame, popularity and influence to have appeared in such a relative handful of books is remarkable in itself. That another six stand to be added to the canon – completed by the writer Spillane chose himself, in his final weeks – is unique in the genre.

It’s particularly interesting (if merely coincidental) that Spillane made his fame and fortune based on six Mike Hammer novels, published between 1947 and 1952 – I, THE JURY; MY GUN IS QUICK; VENGEANCE IS MINE!; ONE LONELY NIGHT; THE BIG KILL; and KISS ME, DEADLY. The entire private eye novel revival of the fifties and the TV show craze it spawned grew out of the success of those half dozen novels.

Now we have six more to add to the canon. Three are a done deal. Three more will not happen unless readers step up to the cash register and sign up as Mickey Spillane’s favorite kind of human: customers.

As a postscript to the above, I must note that there are a number of smaller Hammer fragments in Mickey’s files. I have already turned one of those into a short story, “The Big Switch,” for The Strand Magazine, and just fashioned another Hammer story for The Strand, “A Longtime Dead,” plus the audio Hammer novel in progress, ENCORE FOR MURDER, derives from a one-page novel outline of Mickey’s.

I have four or five potential Hammer novels beyond the six mentioned above, but these would be based on a chapter plus plot notes, in most cases. Not the truly substantial half-dozen manuscripts mentioned. There are several other interesting manuscripts in the files – a rough draft of a Mike Danger novel from the ‘80s; one hundred-plus pages of a second Morgan the Raider novel; a third young adult novel about his Josh and Larry kid characters; and several completed screenplays (all non-Hammer) that could be novelized.

So if Spillane got hot again, there could be ten or fifteen years of wonderful new/old material. But making that happen is not my primary goal.

Adding six more real Mike Hammer novels to the canon is what this effort is about. Three have been done. Readers, help me build enough support to get the other three finished, as well.


More on Collaboration and Reviews

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

You Can't Stop MeThis is a big week for us, with ANTIQUES BIZARRE and YOU CAN’T STOP ME going on sale everywhere. Hard to imagine two more different books, but I’m starting to hear from fans who are into both the cozy-ish if wacky mysteries about Brandy and her eccentric mother, and my more noir-ish stuff, like YOU CAN’T STOP ME, Nate Heller and Quarry.

Speaking of Quarry, over the weekend I delivered the new Quarry novel, QUARRY’S EX. It will be out this fall from Hard Case Crime. And yes, we do actually meet Quarry’s ex-wife, the woman whose faithlessness sent our anti-hero into the tailspin of professional killing. It has an indie movie set setting, and takes place in 1980. I have now done four Quarry novels for editor Charles Ardai – tying the four written back in the mid-‘70s for editor Patrick O’Connor at Berkley Books. There is serious talk of the first four novels coming out in uniform trade editions from a small publisher.

And I am sorry to inform Heller fans that the new Nate Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, will not appear until June 2011. I have done everything I can to ask the editor to move it up the list, but publishing moves in mysterious ways.

Last week, Barb wrote a very well-received column here about our collaboration as “Barbara Allan.” This week, Matt Clemens discusses collaborating with me at my pal Ed Gorman’s great blog.

Here’s a really fun QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE review that explores the RED HARVEST connection.

Publisher’s Weekly has reviewed the audio novel THE LITTLE DEATH and gives it a rave.

But PW also gave THE BIG BANG a less good review (presumably a different reviewer – and I’m not providing a link for this) which indicates how much of a crap shoot even the bigtime reviews are. This reviewer complained that the book would appeal only to Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane fans (who else was it supposed to appeal to?) and complained that it didn’t read like one of my Nate Heller books (should my Nate Heller books read like Mike Hammer?). Dumb. In the same PW issue, though, a presumably different reviewer seems to like Hammer and his appearance in a forthcoming MWA anthology, CRIMES BY MOONLIGHT: MYSTERIES FROM THE DARK SIDE, saying:

“Mike Hammer gets into X-Files mode in Max Allan Collins’s and Mickey Spillane’s ‘Grave Matter,’ which successfully introduces a supernatural element into the case of a series of mysterious deaths in the ironically named town of Hopeful, N.Y.”

Meanwhile, the first Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer outing, THE GOLIATH BONE, is still getting positive reviews, including this fun one from a blogger.

Here’s an insightful review of the collection MEAN STREETS, which includes the Nate Heller story, “House Call.”

And, yup, THE LAST LULLABY keeps getting great notices, as on this blog.

Finally, courtesy of Nate Collins who saw it, ROAD TO PERDITION has been listed as one of the 75 must read’s in DC Comics’ 75 years of publishing. That will be 76, when RETURN TO PERDITION comes out!


The Maltin Falcon

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I’ve posted a number of links lately to reviews of THE BIG BANG, YOU CAN’T STOP ME and ANTIQUES BIZARRE, as well as older books of mine. But this week I’m happy to report that some nice write-ups appear in current issues of bigtime national newstand magazines. You know – the kind you can hold in your hand and turn the pages.

Antiques BizarreANTIQUES BIZARRE – due out next week – received a splendid four-star review in the March 2010 RT BOOK REVIEWS (RT standing for ROMANTIC TIMES). The magazine always leads off with a review followed by a spoiler-free plot summary. Among other things, RT describes the novel as “a cozy with a twist” and “hysterically funny as well as a solid mystery.” An insightful comment notes that our protagonist Brandy “has an unusually realistic life in all its messiness.”

Jon Breen leads off his Jury Box column in the March/April ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE with high praise for Hard Case Crime, singling out three books for excellent three-star reviews (Jon does not bestow 1/2 stars, a three-star review is second only to a four-star one in the Jury Box). He describes yours truly as “one of the best and most prolific and versatile crime writers currently practicing,” and QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE as a “most welcome 1980’s flashback,” and wraps up saying, “Neat plot, fine style, fast reading.” Jon – just about the best scholar in best mystery fiction, and a fine mystery novelist in his own right/write – has been a supporter of my work for decades, and to whatever degree I have a respectable reputation, he has played a major role. The first review I ever received in a national magazine was from Jon in EQMM…for one of the early Quarry novels.

And I know you will want to read the March PLAYBOY for its articles – particularly one small, snazzy one. PLAYBOY gives the forthcoming THE BIG BANG a solid write-up under the heading KILLER FICTION – HAMMER LIVES, including a full-color shot of the ‘60s pop-art front cover of the novel. Among other nice things, the review/mini-article says, “Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s collaborator and author of Road to Perdition, has expertly completed a second Spillane novel, The Big Bang, out this spring. The book will transport you back to gritty 1960s Manhattan, where Spillane’s antihero Mike Hammer drops acid and takes on the mob.” What a thrill to get such great coverage from the very magazine I used to steal out of the mailbox before my father knew it had arrived.

There are few movie reviewers that I admire or trust, but Leonard Maltin is one of them. Time for one of those “full disclosure” things: we are friends. We became friends after I did a DICK TRACY movie interview for him and ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT back in 1990 – he called me up and dubbed me, “Mr. Sound Bite.” Our mutual obsessive love for movies, particularly of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, fed a wonderful friendship. Yes, he has given me occasional good reviews, but he doesn’t always like what I do (he was a fan of MOMMY, for example, but didn’t think much of MOMMY’S DAY). I find myself agreeing with him more often than not, and you can follow his reviews and pop culture commentary at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

He is also, of course, the author of the annual, indispensable LEONARD MALTIN’S MOVIE GUIDE. Five years ago, he was forced to publish a second book to include the older movies that time and space had shoved out of his regular guide – LEONARD MALTIN’S CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE. For those of us who live by Turner Classic Movies and who spend way too much money at Warner’s Archive (at, this book is similarly indispensable. The second edition of this has just come out. If you love movies, you need both of these books stacked in a handy place in your home theater (in my case, next to my recliner in the living room).

151 Best Movies You've Never SeenAt the same time, a book that I would rank with Leonard’s best has also been published: 151 BEST MOVIES YOU’VE NEVER SEEN. I am a movie buff, pretty hardcore, but I had heard of only about half of these, and had seen only around 25. These are short – page and a half – chatty reviews in Leonard’s deceptively easygoing style, personal without being obnoxious, informative without being pedantic, one of those books that go down in wonderful handfuls, like popcorn. Most of the films are of fairly recent vintage – last ten years or so – and perhaps a third are foreign; one of the surprises is how few Golden Age era films Leonard discusses.

But one of the vintage movies he praises really made me smile – the much-maligned 1931 version of THE MALTESE FALCON. He does not make a case for it being superior to the 1941 John Huston/Bogart classic – even I wouldn’t do that – but he does sing its praises in a manner that makes you want to drop everything and watch it right now. That’s true of every essay in the book, and you – like me – will likely make a list of movies you want to find on DVD or on cable, as soon as you have finished this great book.

Musical note: Crusin’ had a capacity crowd for the Valentine’s Day dinner dance at Piazza Bella. Lovely evening. For those concerned, please know that we did not play “Pussy Whipped.”


Mickey Spillane & How Sausage Is Made

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The Big BangBill Crider, who has one of the best mystery-related sites on the web, has done the first on-line review of THE BIG BANG, and he likes it. Check out why.

Bill does wonder if the increased size of my byline reflects more involvement than in DEAD STREET (where I was left off the byline but for a title page “prepared for publication by” credit) and THE GOLIATH BONE (where a magnifying glass was required to see my minuscule “with” credit). Each of these endeavors is different – GOLIATH BONE had three or four variant first chapters for me to deal with, and a substantial false start, and next year’s KISS HER GOODBYE again had a substantial false start in addition to a 100-page chunk plus notes.

But the bylines were simply what the publishers wanted – Charles Ardai at Hard Case did not want two books with my byline appearing close together on his rather small list; Otto Penzler and Harcourt wanted Spillane emphasized and me downplayed, for the first of these books, which I condoned (but only for the first book).

The truth is, these are genuine collaborations, all of them. I would put them at 50%/50%. I usually take Mickey’s work, expand upon it, and extend it so that it takes up at least half of the finished product. Probably about 60% of the wordsmithing in these novels is mine. But the plot idea, and various notes, and sometimes rough drafts of endings, plus the other 40% of the writing, are all Mickey’s. That’s how it’s done. I don’t believe anything like it has ever occurred in mystery fiction, a writer of Mickey’s magnitude leaving half a dozen substantial manuscripts behind, having designated a trusted collaborator (me) to complete them.

I should say I also draw upon published Spillane work. In THE BIG BANG, there is a chapter written by me in which Hammer meets with Junior Evello (nephew of KISS ME, DEADLY villain Carl Evello) at a Little Italy restaurant. When the subject comes up, Hammer says he didn’t kill Junior Evello’s uncle; in a typically Spillane italicized style, I flash back to the death of Carl Evello – mostly in Mickey’s words – from KISS ME, DEADLY.

Any time I do New York stuff, I draw upon Mickey, having re-read and annotated and marked-up his Hammer novels. I try to concentrate on novels written around the same time as the manuscript I’m completing. For THE GOLIATH BONE, I concentrated on the last two Hammers, THE KILLING MAN (1989) and BLACK ALLEY (1996). For THE BIG BANG, set in 1964, I concentrated on THE SNAKE (1964) and THE BODY LOVERS (1967). For the forthcoming KISS HER GOODBYE (set in 1975, more or less), I concentrated on SURVIVAL…ZERO! (1970).

Each of the Spillane projects is different. DEAD STREET had a fairly polished manuscript that ended with two or three chapters to go, plus a lot of notes. Of the unpublished works, this one needed the least help from me. The completed chapters I lightly polished, and fixed continuity problems, doing little bits of connective-tissue type writing. The final three chapters were entirely my work. That one’s probably 75% Mickey. The six Hammer novel manuscripts were discovered in various stages of completion, never less than 100 pages, sometimes with false starts that yield benefits, usually with plot notes.

I have also turned shorter Hammer fragments of Mickey’s into short stories – one appeared last year in THE STRAND, and another will appear in that magazine later this year. I have the makings for perhaps another five such short stories. I also used a Spillane novel outline (sans any actual manuscript) to plot the next NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER audio novel for Blackthorne.

There are also four shorter incomplete novel manuscripts that could lead to another group of Hammer novels, if publishers and readers are interested. Right now we are at the end of the three-book contract with Harcourt, so the three other substantial Hammer manuscripts are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how THE BIG BANG and KISS HER GOODBYE do. If you have any interest in seeing the rest of Mickey’s Mike Hammer canon completed and published, you need to support those two novels (and, if you haven’t already, pick up THE GOLIATH BONE in one of its several editions…a mass-market paperback is coming).

I’ve had many questions about the Mickey Spillane posthumous projects, with people often assuming my role is larger (or sometimes smaller) than it is. It’s a collaboration. Very similar to how I work with Barb on the Barbara Allan bylined “Antiques” novels, and with Matthew Clemens on such tie-ins as CSI and our new serial killer thriller, YOU CAN’T STOP ME, which comes out in a couple of weeks. Collaborations vary from team to team, though. I would say Barb does up to 70% of the “Antiques” books; but my 30% and overall polish earns me my collaborative stripes.

You Can't Stop MeOn tie-in stuff (never with shared byline), Matthew’s role began primarily as a researcher and co-plotter submitting a story treatment (based on a brainstorming session with the two of us, with me in the lead), to finally doing full rough drafts from our co-plotting efforts, although usually on the short side.

That’s true for both Barb and Matt – they know that I am going to not just polish but expand the work, and in particular add dialogue, so they will give me a rough draft half to three-quarters the length the book needs to be.

Occasionally I will throw out entire chapters written by one of them, and start over (but only very occasionally – this happened for the conclusion of one of the CSI: MIAMI novels Matt and I did, and for the wrap-up chapter of the forthcoming Barbara Allan ANTIQUES BIZARRE).

Why collaborate? Well, with Mickey, it’s obvious – only 13 Mike Hammer novels were published in Mickey’s lifetime, 13 of the bestselling mysteries of all time, including such classics as I, THE JURY, ONE LONELY NIGHT, KISS ME, DEADLY and THE GIRL HUNTERS. Ours is an opportunity to add six more titles to the canon, not only with Mickey’s content but with his blessing.

As for Barb and me, we enjoy collaborating (that’s how Nate got on the planet). We enjoy plotting the stories together, and as the books are on one level comedies, we enjoy having the humorous input of two people with sharp senses of humor. Simply put, she puts in every joke she can think of, and I put in every joke I can think of. Result: lots of jokes.

Matt came aboard primarily as a researcher, and then – because I knew of his writing abilities – I thought having him write rough drafts would be an effective time-saver. It wasn’t, really, because I always did a complete draft (once he said to me, “I thought I recognized one of my sentences in the last one!”), but what I came away liking was the third voice we created. A good collaboration is synergistic – two plus two equals fourteen. While there are plenty of Matt’s sentences in YOU CAN’T STOP ME, it is about as fifty/fifty a project as you can imagine…and neither of us could have done it alone.

Bill’s comment that my bigger byline on THE BIG BANG may indicate a bigger contribution by me is at odds with the truth of publishing. Often times, the bigger name of a dual byline did the least amount of work. YOU CAN’T STOP ME is very much a fifty-fifty novel by Matt and me, but my name is much larger, because I am the bigger name (at the moment). But usually with such a situation, you could safely guess that the smaller name did more or even most of the writing.

So, anyway, here at the Collins plant, that’s how the sausage is made. Bring your own buns – stone-ground mustard optional.

Dr. Hermes’ Retro Reviews has done a really nice, and in my opinion very smart, in-depth review of my novel THE HINDENBURG MURDERS (out of print but easily found at ABE or Amazon’s used book service). That’s the novel that features Saint creator, Leslie Charteris.

A while back I started a Facebook Friends page, and it was a disaster because I didn’t know how to deal with it. Nate has helped me set up a Facebook Fan page (the Friends one is an abandoned amusement park, now). But I encourage you to become a fan at that new page, even those of you who are just friends and to whom the idea of being my fan is quite ridiculous. You know who you are.