Posts Tagged ‘The Consummata’

The Big Showdown

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

[Nate here:] Before we get to M.A.C.’s pre-written blog update, I have a quick update on M.A.C. Dad’s recovery has been going great (aside from the food, but they got the important things right, at least!) and he should be on his way home today. Here’s a picture from this weekend:

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The Big Showdown


THE BIG SHOWDOWN, second of the Caleb York westerns – there will be at least three – will be published April 26.

This is the first time I’ve published a novel where I share a byline with Mickey Spillane despite there being no Spillane content. As regular readers of these updates (and my novels) know, I have been completing Mike Hammer manuscripts (and a few other novels) that were unfinished in Mickey’s files. He specifically directed his wife Jane and me to do so.

But also in the files were three unproduced screenplays. Two are noir horror pieces that I hope to find a home for, but one was THE SAGA OF CALLI YORK, a screenplay written for John Wayne. I took Mickey’s script and essentially novelized it (could I hate that term more?); I changed “Calli” to “Caleb,” which Calli was short for, though I never use that nickname in the novels, and “Saga” to “Legend,” because the latter term plays better for the narrative at hand.

The trouble was, my terrific editor at Kensington, Michaela Hamilton, wanted at least three books. Rather than leave Caleb hanging (so to speak), I said yes…then for many months drove my wife Barb crazy as I speculated on what to do with the other two novels.

Mickey’s backstory indicated York was a famous detective for Western Union, and I considered doing prequels to THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK, possibly focusing on real desperados. But it was Barb who rode to the rescue (sorry), suggesting that instead I write a sequel (possibly a series of them) utilizing the setting, characters and conflicts Mickey had created – taking Mickey’s story and letting it really play out. That made it feel more proper to share byline with him.

“Stay in his world,” Barb advised.

So that’s what I did. I had a blast writing it and have already plotted the third, again playing off of what Mickey wrote. Again, I tried to do a western in the Hollywood tradition of Randolph Scott, Joel McRea and Audie Murphy, but with the violence ratcheted up a notch.

I just read the galley proofs and liked it a lot. You may, also.


[Nate here for the review round-up:]

A nice review for Murder Never Knocks showed up from across the pond on Crimetime, originally posted on Irresistible Target. (“one of the best of the Max and Mickey Mike Hammers.”)

Halifax’s (The) Chronicle Herald gave Kill Me, Darling a much appreciated mention in a recommended reading list for winter vacation, which is apparently a thing. (“Not just a great Mike Hammer novel; a great crime novel, without qualification.“)

The Open Book Society posted a flat-out rave for Quarry’s List. (“The plot is Mickey Spillane and Mario Puzo balled into one and spit out faster than the gout of flame from a jet engine.“) It’s been fun seeing the earlier Quarrys get some nice attention lately, especially since I’ve been reading them again, too, for the first time since pulling them out of my father’s basement library when I was younger than I should admit here.

J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Covers blog gave a shout-out to The Consummata. Definitely click that link (here it is again) because he features some supremely cool covers there.

The X-Files anthology, Trust No One, got a nice review from the Lawrence Public Library blog, with Max’s short story “The House on Hickory Hill” garnering a special recommendation. (“[Trust No One] brings new life into an area that bookish fans of the program have sorely missed.“)


San Diego Comic-Con & Hammer Interview

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
It's in the Book French Edition

As it happens, Barb and I won’t be able to go the Comic-Con this year. So the listings that have me hosting the Scribe awards, doing a signing, and having a Quarry panel are now all inaccurate. Likely I’ll be there next year, but this time, no. My pal Jonathan Maberry will be hosting the Scribes for me.

I have two nominations: Best Novel, KING OF THE WEEDS; and Best Short Story, “It’s in the Book.” Both are Spillane/Collins collaborations.

Coincidentally, a French publisher (Ombres Noires) is translating “It’s in the Book” for their own edition (it’s available in English only in a small book, as well, published by Otto Penzler). They asked me to do an interview, which they will include in the small book, in French of course.

I thought you might like to see it in English.

Interview with Max Allan Collins
It’s in the Book

You wrote the end of a story by Mickey Spillane, who passed away in 2006. You were friends, how did you two meet?

As a young teenager, I idolized Mickey and wrote him dozens of fan letters. He never responded until I published my first novel, BAIT MONEY, in 1973, and sent him a copy, He wrote me a warm, lengthy letter of welcome to the community of professional writers.

Over the years I have been a defender of Spillane, who remains controversial in the United States. Because of that, I was asked in 1981 to be the liaison between Mickey and the Bouchercon mystery convention in Milwaukee, where he was a guest of honor. We immediately hit it off and I began to visit him at his home in South Carolina once or twice a year.

How did you come to complete his manuscripts?

On my various visits to Mickey’s home, he would send partially completed manuscripts home with me. He said this was just because he thought I’d be interested, but on one occasion he said, “Maybe we can do something with these someday.” He was referring to two partial Hammer novels, THE BIG BANG and COMPLEX 90. We had begun to collaborate on projects – a number of noir anthologies of his work and the work of others, a science-fiction comic book called MIKE DANGER, and a biographical documentary I wrote and directed, “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane.”

When Mickey became ill, with a particularly virulent strain of cancer, we stayed in close touch by phone. He was working desperately to finish what he described as the last Mike Hammer, THE GOLIATH BONE. Shortly before his death, he called and said he didn’t think he’d be able to finish it. And he asked me to do it for him, if that proved necessary. I of course said yes.

Around the same time, Mickey told his wife Jane to gather all his unfinished material and give it to me – “Max will know what to do.” No greater honor could be paid me. There were six major Hammer manuscripts, often with notes, and another half dozen shorter Hammer novels in progress. There were also short openings for novels, running from six to ten pages, that I thought would make good short stories. “It’s in the Book” is one of those.

You wrote several stories from his manuscripts. What did you like in this one in particular?

It had a beautifully written opening, with two cops coming to see Hammer in his office, to take him to see a U.S. Senator for some mysterious, important job. Mickey’s manuscript ended before that job was fully described by the client, and that enabled me to use the missing ledger that made the story a bibliographic mystery. You see, editor Otto Penzler had requested that specific kind of story.

What sort of shape did the manuscript have – was it just a few lines, a structure, several chapters?

It was basically that opening, right up to where Hammer meets with the senator. I thought it was a lovely, traditional opening for a private eye story.

It must be a very special experience, and a challenge, to finish a story more than 20 years later. Did you try in any way to modernize the style, the story, or anything – or did you try to remain faithful to Spillane’s style?

I’ve done seven Hammer novels now, and the unfinished Spillane manuscripts spanned his entire career – from 1947 to the month he died. I always try to determine when Mickey was writing the story, and then I immerse myself in material that he wrote around that same time, so I can catch the flavor and capture Hammer at that specific time. Hammer is a much changing character, and a story conceived by Mickey in the ‘50s is vastly different from one written in, says, the 1980s. I don’t try too overtly to mimic Mickey’s style — it’s collaboration, not pastiche. I concentrate on getting Mike Hammer right. It’s a matter of character.

I am a very traditional, Old School mystery writer, so this comes naturally to me.

Did he influence you in your writing, or help you in your own work?

Mickey was a huge influence on me. The key writers for me were Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Thompson and Westlake. These are very different writers in their approaches, and I think having such variant influences has worked well for me. Mickey never really gave me any writing advice – I was already a pro when our friendship developed. But he was supportive and provided blurbs for many of my book covers.

What is it that makes the character of Mike Hammer so special, compared to other popular characters?

Hammer had an enormous impact on popular culture worldwide, well beyond the private eye genre. James Bond is a version of Hammer, for example. Prior to Hammer, detectives did not display the emotions – love, hate, fear – that Spillane gave his hero. Hammer was the first avenger of modern fiction, a hero who used the methods of the villain to triumph over that villain. In addition, Hammer as a combat veteran brought a traumatic backstory to the detective, much imitated since. Finally, Hammer slept with women, unashamedly. While Sam Spade had sex with his femme fatale, just about no detective since had done so. Chandler said disparaging things about Mickey, but after the success of the Mike Hammer books, Marlowe began having an active sex life.

Say what you will about Mickey, but he was the most influential mystery writer of the 20th century…and the bestselling, with the possible exception of Christie.

How did you come up with the idea of this ending?

That idea jumped to mind at the outset. I knew it was a good one. Mickey loved surprise endings, and this was right up his alley.

Are you yourself interested in rare books and first editions?

I am. I have a good collection with many signed books – all the writers I mentioned above, and more. I have a very strong Rex Stout collection, for instance.

What do you enjoy most about writing short novels?

I’m not a short story writer by inclination. I’m very much a novelist. But I’ve grown to like the form. It’s nice to have a project that lasts a week and not several months. My wife, Barbara Collins, is an excellent short story writer.

Who are the authors that inspire you today? Why?

I read very little contemporary fiction. I don’t care to be influenced by trends, and anyway my reading time is taken up largely by research for my historical thrillers. I continue to read and re-read the greats – again, Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Spillane and so on.

Do you read French thrillers?

I’m very traditional on that front, as well – Boileau-Narcejac. Jean Pierre Melville is one of my favorite film directors.

* * *

Speaking of Spillane/Collins collaborations, here’s a look at THE CONSUMMATA at Detectives Without Borders.

The same site followed up quickly with a piece speculating about the Spillane/Collins collaboration process. You’ll see a lengthy comment from me explaining that process in some depth.

Here is a lovely, gracious review of SPREE by one of our great noir writers, Ed Gorman.


Sex And Violence

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

When I set out to write hardboiled mystery novels, very much influenced by Mickey Spillane and the Gold Medal writers, I made sure my work was strong on sex and violence. I still do. Not only are these ingredients key to the noir sensibility, they represent (as I’ve said numerous times) the big topics: life and death.

And while my historical novels have an element of education/information in them, the primary purpose is to entertain, and usually in the fashion that I established early on – meaning there will be sex and violence.

Over the years this has been commented on occasionally by reviewers, but not really that often – the subject tends to come up in a more general way, i.e., why is there so much sex and violence in noir fiction?

But in the past several years, I have been getting criticized much more often about the sexual component of the books. I don’t mean to defend myself here or to complain about those reviews – I am just observing that there seems to be something afoot in the culture, something more staid, even more prudish. I graduated high school in 1966, so the sexual revolution was all around me, reflected in popular culture from underground comix to nudity-flung films.

So what’s up lately with this anti-sex scene sentiment? And almost always coming from men. Men who don’t want to read about sex. Which strikes me as bewildering. These comments often come from readers who otherwise like the books. Here’s an excerpt from an Amazon Review of CARNAL HOURS that is otherwise a rave:

“The author seems determined to inject some short, steamy sex episodes in each book. These are gratuitous and serve no purpose other than to establish the ‘ladies man’ reputation of Heller, which could be accomplished without the silly detail. I’m not prudish but each time these short episodes struck me as stupid and juvenile.”

I might wonder why any reader of book with the word “carnal” in the title would be surprised to find sex scenes in that book. But this Amazon reviewer is joined by a handful of professional reviewers who have lately made similar comments. George Easter, for example, in the fine magazine Deadly Pleasures, made that his sole carp in a very positive review of BYE BYE, BABY.

Again, I mention this because I find it odd, not to complain about it or defend myself. I will say this: anyone who considers the sex scenes in Nathan Heller novels to be mere gratuitous porn isn’t really paying attention. I don’t believe there is a single Heller sex scene involving my guy with some casual pick-up in a bar or whatever – there are references to such happenings, but they remain off-stage. The sexual encounters are there for characterization reasons, usually to build emotion and establish a closeness, even a love, between Heller and a woman who is crucial to the tale being told, often tragic romances as in TRUE DETECTIVE, TRUE CRIME, THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND, FLYING BLIND and BYE BYE, BABY. Some of these are real women, like Amelia Earhart, Sally Rand and Evelyn MacClean Walsh, and this gets me nasty letters at times (“How dare you?”). I had death threats over my depiction of Earhart as bisexual. Here’s the thing: Nate Heller didn’t have sex with any of these women, because Nate Heller is a fictional character.

My sex scenes do make people uncomfortable at times, and I’m rather proud of that. A mystery writer pal of mine, when TRUE DETECTIVE came out, was offended (perhaps the term is “grossed out”) that Heller used condoms and he and the lady in question cleaned up after the act. The sex was too real, apparently. An editor talked me into toning down oral sex passages in ANGEL IN BLACK…between Heller and his wife (oral sex was both characterization and a major clue in that novel).

Anyway, if you guys out there want to skip the sex scenes, fine by me. My generation of guys would more likely have underlined them. If this is progress, count me out.

And isn’t it interesting that none of these reviewers have ever complained about the graphic blood-splattering violence in my work?

* * *

We had a very nice review for the upcoming Barbara Allan, ANTIQUES DISPOSAL, in Publisher’s Weekly.

Our good friend and that good writer Ron Fortier wrote a lovely review of ANTIQUES DISPOSAL on his fun Pulp Fiction web site.

Brandywine Books posted yet another fine Heller review, this time looking at TRUE DETECTIVE.

The low price ($2) this month of FLYING BLIND on Kindle e-book caught some nice attention here.

Perfect Crime Books has announced their Nolan reprint series, with all the covers posted.

The quirky and entertaining Temple of Schlock reviewed THE CONSUMMATA, and back on my birthday took an eccentric look at QUARRY’S EX.

Nate is heading to Japan for a month on a business vacation. He will still be handling the weekly Updates, but they will likely be a little shorter in the near future. Also, I’m working on ANTIQUES CHOP, which means you may be spared these longer entries until I am finished and Nate returns.


Coming Down The Pike

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

This will be another fairly short update, because I am coming down the pike on the new Jack and Maggie Starr mystery, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. I have about a week and maybe a day or two left, assuming all goes well.

I admit to it being a strange experience, because at Berkley Prime Crime, I had to keep myself somewhat in check where the ol’ sex and violence is concerned – the series was conceived to be my Rex Stout tribute, so that seemed in keeping, though Rex did more in the sex and violence department than many seem to notice or recall (or I should say Archie Goodwin did). But writing this for Hard Case, my concern is the opposite. Is it tough and sexy enough? Can I push the envelope a little, and do things Prime Crime would have bridled at, without violating the integrity of the series? We’ll see.

One fun thing: the Des Moines Register called me (well, a reporter did – the paper itself just never calls) and asked me to weigh in on a real-life Iowa mystery. Check it out.

Here’s a nice review of STOLEN AWAY. I love that Amazon making these books available again is stirring new interest in Nate Heller.

Here’s a rare negative review of THE CONSUMMATA. It’s from the very good site, The Violent World of Parker, and you may want to have a look. I responded to the review, and this began an exchange that you may find entertaining. I only respond to negative reviews when I think there’s something unfair or inaccurate in a review. I might note that I may be a rare example of somebody who adores both Richard Stark’s understated style and Mickey Spillane’s over-the-top one. I know I’m the only writer who had those two men as mentors. But I am never surprised when a Stark/Westlake fan does not care for Mickey. (In this case, to be fair, the reviewer liked THE DELTA FACTOR but not the sequel.)

Lynn Myers and I (mostly Lynn) have put together a new Paul Cain collection with a biographical sketch about this mysterious BLACK MASK writer. I haven’t seen the book yet (it’s a limited edition expensive number) but it’s starting to be reviewed, for example here.

And here are some nice comments (if you scroll down the list) on my CRIMINAL MINDS novel KILLER PROFILE. Matt Clemens co-wrote that one.

We had our first public Crusin’ performance with new bass player, Brian Van Winkle, at a fun club called Ducky’s Lagoon ourside Andalusia, Illinois. How well did we do? Immediately got two book-backs for March and May.

See you next week, and I hope to report that SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT has been completed.