Posts Tagged ‘The First Quarry’

Barbara Collins on Barbara Allan

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

This week I’m turning the update over to Barb, in celebration of ANTIQUES BIZARRE going on sale this week (the pub date isn’t till March 1 but on sale date seems to be Feb. 23).

Before I do, though, we have had a lovely review of the book that you might like to check out.

Also, Quarry continues to attract attention – for example, this fun review of THE FIRST QUARRY.

In addition, here’s a retro review of the Quarry novel PRIMARY TARGET. PRIMARY TARGET is available as the bulk of QUARRY’S GREATEST HITS from FiveStar.

And now the better (and better-looking half) of the Barbara Allan team, on collaboration – a piece that expands and updates a piece she wrote for CRIMESPREE a while back. She refers to me as “Al,” which many of you know is my nickname.

Antiques BizarreAntiques Bizarre, the fifth book in our Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery series from Kensington, will be hitting the stores this week. This latest collaboration between Al and me, under the name Barbara Allan, is more of a who done-it than the previous books, but there is still plenty of turmoil in the personal lives of Prozac-popping Brandy Borne, bi-polar Mother, and their blind, diabetic dog Sushi. The mystery revolves around the auction of the newly discovered last Faberge egg that had been commissioned by the Russian Tsar, its disappearance and the death of the buyer.

Often Al and I are asked about collaboration. Why do it? Why risk a friendship, a business association, or (gasp) even a marriage?

Collaboration happens successfully in movies, of course, when the collective efforts of writer, director, and actors come together to make something wonderful – Road to Perdition comes to mind. And collaboration works beautifully in musical theater, too. Where would Rodgers be without Hammerstein? Or a certain composer named Bernstein without the brilliance of a young lyricist named Sondheim? But can the joining of two minds and one computer work as well in novel writing? Quick, name your favorite book written by a duo. Hummmmm…me neither.

My own experience with collaboration came after I’d published a number of short stories, and my next assignment left me with unhappy results.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked my veteran writer-husband after pressing the pages I had just written into his hands, as if it were a patient in need of resuscitation.

“It’s missing a key scene,” he said a while later, adding, “You got lazy.”

“Awwh, I don’t wanna write it,” I whined. “Will you?”

“Sure…but then my name goes on it, too.”

Well, that seemed reasonable; after all, writing a key scene was much more of a contribution than plot suggestions given to me over breakfast at Country Kitchen, or suggestions jotted in the margins of my work. And so, my first foray into the tricky world of collaboration was quite, quite painless.

Barbara AllanSince then, Al and I have collaborated on other short stories, two stand-alone novels, and – having confidence that the marriage would hold – signed a five-book contract. Our Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries – the first of which, Antiques Roadkill, came out from Kensington in fall of ‘06 – have a female voice, with back story that leans more on my life than Al’s, although the antiquing aspect is a shared interest.

Our collaboration process is simple: we plot the novel together, often on a long car trip or over several restaurant meals; usually I take notes. Then I write a complete first draft without Al seeing any of it. If I run into trouble along the way, we discuss the problem over another lunch (there’s a very famous restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa – perhaps you’ve heard of it: Applebees).

Then, when I’m finished with the first draft (and good and sick of it), Al takes his pass, bumping up the word count because I’m a short story writer at heart, and he can flesh out scenes and descriptions, in particular amplifying dialogue. He also fixes any plot holes or too-girly fight scenes.

During this phase there can be some shouting – but only because Al’s office is on the second floor and mine is on the first, and we haven’t sprung for an intercom system yet – as he asks, “What did you mean by this?” or “How about doing it this way?” As Al revises each chapter, I read his second draft for corrections and any final additions or changes I’d like to lobby for. The end product, then, is something we both feel satisfied with.

So. For those of you who dare to follow in our footsteps, here are a few observations and suggestions we’ve learned along the way.

Do not attempt to collaborate if you and your partner have incompatible writing styles. Exception: one person does the research; the other writes. (The great team of Dannay and Lee behind Ellery Queen divided up the work in a fashion that didn’t require compatible styles of expression.)

Maintain separate offices and computers. One person seated at a desk while the other stalks the floor smoking a stogie only worked on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Ditto for sitting side by side.

Before writing a word, have a clear and singular vision of what the writing project is to be. This is more than just plotting, but attitude and even thematic concerns. Before beginning our novel Regeneration, we discussed at length the notion of the selfishness of baby boomers, and how they had failed to properly save for retirement.

Think of the collaboration as two builders teaming to construct a house: one writer takes the lead and fashions the structure (to specifications already agreed upon); the other writer then takes over and decorates the interior. The interior decorator should not go knocking out supporting walls; conversely the original builder should not re-arrange the furniture, at least without discussion.

Those who think collaboration is somehow a time-saving approach are, well, confused. It is actually harder – although if each writer has a sense of his or her strengths and weaknesses, that’s a great help. If writer A and B agree that A is better at dialogue, for example, writer B can write short dialogue scenes knowing that writer A will come along later and effectively expand.

Sometimes it comes down to sheer knowledge – I don’t think I’ll be handing over the fashion do’s and don’ts, or even the antiquing tips, to Al any time soon. But why should I break my back writing a fight scene with the creator of Nathan Heller in the house?

Beyond shoring up each others weaknesses through your own strengths, why should a writer embark on such a perilous enterprise? The answer is as simple as collaboration is complex: a third writer is created.

A successful writing collaboration creates a distinct third voice in an end product that – because of the strengths each writer brings to the work table – could not have been accomplished alone.

That’s when two plus two can equal five. Even my husband can do that math.

Quarry at Large

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Quarry in the Middle

We’ve another great QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE review, this one from Craig Clarke. Check it out at his Somebody Dies blogsite:

http://somebodydies.blogspot.com/2009/10/quarry-in-middle-by-max-allan-collins.html

And my friend Ed Gorman, who has long been a booster of the Quarry novels, interviewed me about the series. It’s been linked lots of places, but in case you missed it, here goes:

http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2009/10/max-allan-collins-talks-about-his-hit.html

And the Fresh Fiction website has singled out the previous Quarry, THE FIRST QUARRY, for some unexpected love:

http://freshfiction.com/book.php?id=2508

Bill Crider posted a nice review and general Quarry write-up:

http://billcrider.blogspot.com/2009/10/quarry-in-middle-max-allan-collins.html

My LAPD cop pal Paul Bishop, who been helping me via e-mail on BYE, BYE BABY research questions, has a great website, and he’s been kind enough to showcase Quarry…and the last time I visited, he was playing Bobby Darin’s “All By Myself”!

Anyway, see the man at:

http://bishsbeat.blogspot.com/2009/10/max-allan-collins-quarry.html

That novel is up for both Barry and Anthony awards at the upcoming Bouchercon. Speaking of which, here are my two panels at the Indianapolis event:

Oct. 15, Thursday:
“This Pen for Hire,” 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Oct. 16, Friday:
“PI Novel through the Years,” 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Presumably these will both be followed by one-hour autograph sessions.

Matt Clemens is attending the con, and so is Barb, though neither are doing panels this year.

I’ll be at the Shamus Awards, where the Nate Heller short story “The Blonde Tigress” has been nominated (it appeared in EQMM). That’s Friday evening at 7:00 pm. at the evocatively named Slippery Noodle.

I continue on my insane effort to wrap up the new Heller, BYE BYE, BABY, before Barb and I leave early Thursday morning. I have been maintaining a punishing pace, but I enjoy being immersed in a novel I’m writing. Even if I get the three remaining chapters written, however, the book will not be “done” done. I will still have to put together the bibliographic end note, which is chapter-length, as well as I do a complete polish of the whole thing. So another week’s work awaits. Why batter myself like this? It’s an artificial deadline, to replace the real one I missed long ago, plus I want to avoid the frustration and distraction of going away for four or five days with the story nearly told.

My friend Stu Kaminsky passed away a few days ago. We were often talked about in the same breath, because of his Toby Peters character and my Nate Heller, and in the late ‘80s we seriously considered doing a crossover novel (we even had a subject picked out). Stu was a fine writer, but what I most remember is the warm way he treated me. We spent a day together once, which included seeing ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (his first time seeing this film for which he wrote the English dialogue in its uncut form), and thereafter whenever he saw me, he treated me the way you would your best friend. We were not close, rarely spoke on the phone, but when we were together, we might have been brothers. This is unique in my experience and I won’t forget it.

M.A.C.

Seduction Live @ San Diego / Daybreakers CDs

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

This has been a week of catch-up and recovery — the San Diego Comic Con is an intense experience, this time for Nate, Barb and me heightened by one of those nightmarish trips home you hear about. Weather delays and the need to go to an airport where our car and luggage would not be waiting had us enlisting my collaborator Matt Clemens for a ride from Cedar Rapids to the Quad Cities, and us not getting our luggage for another 24 hours.

So for the almost-a-week of the con, there seems to be almost-a-week of aftermath, writing e-mails to follow-up on meetings, sorting purchases, and just waiting for the world to stop reeling under your feet.

From the con I returned with a small stack (around ten) of signed SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT — LIVE AT SAN DIEGO 1999 CD’s. The signatures are mine, Bill Mumy’s, Steve Leialoha’s and Chris Christensen’s. (Miguel Ferrer was filming, though we hope to have the full band back together for whatever our next gig is.) Anyway, I can offer a few of these for $25 postpaid. Or you can get an unsigned copy for $15 postpaid. This was a limited edition of 200 and less than 75 remain.

We have about a dozen of the DAYBREAKERS — HALL OF FAME COLLECTION CD’s that are signed by all five original members (Collins, Bunn, Busch, Bridges and Maxwell). Those are $25 postpaid for signed ones, and $15 postpaid for unsigned (about 25 of the DAYBREAKERS CD’s are all that are left). The CD charts the history of the band from 1966 to date, and includes the songs heard in the two MOMMY films, as well as the infamous “Psychedelic Siren.”

Anyone who would like signed copies of both CD’s can get the pair for $40 postpaid.

Oh — all international orders must add an additional $5.

You can pay via PAYPAL…right, Nate?

[Right!]

[2013 EDIT: Actually….wrong!! All options temporarily sold out! We’ll recheck our remaining stock and make a new post soon!]

Some very nice reviews have appeared lately on the web. Here is a great write-up on my CSI work — books that are among my all-time bestsellers and yet have rarely been reviewed. Reading this made me wish Matt and I were still doing the CSI series:

http://somebodydies.blogspot.com/2009/08/mortal-wounds-by-max-allan-collins.html

One of the really sweet things about the con this year was the surprising number of fans who sought me out to say how much they liked the Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries. I only got to do two of those (though I do hope, one day, to do at least one more), and those books didn’t get a lot of reviews, either, so the following was much appreciated:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1574067/stripping_for_murder.html?cat=38

Quarry, however, has attracted a lot of incredible reviews — and THE FIRST QUARRY in particular has received some stellar ones. I think this one was particularly insightful, though:

http://www.helium.com/items/1349593-review-the-first-quarry

See you next week.

M.A.C.

Seduction of the Innocent: Live @ San Diego Liner Notes

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

First off, I should note that THE FIRST QUARRY has now received two nominations, for an Anthony and a Barry Award, both for best paperback. The fields of other nominees are tough but it’s nice to see the book noticed. It is frankly weird to have started back up a series I began in college in the ’70s…but fun. Both awards are given at Bouchercon, and I’ll be there.

Second, for eastern Iowa fans and friends: Crusin’ is playing July 4 on the Pearl City Plaza patio for the Underground restaurant. This is the same location where we played not long ago to a capacity audience. We’ll start around 6:45 PM and play up to and for a while after the fireworks (with a great view from the patio). We are doing a mix of originals and classic rock, leaning on bands we appeared with.

Fans everywhere should check out this review of G.I. JOE: ABOVE AND BEYOND at Bookgasm.

When I did that 4 favorites thing last week, I inevitably left some favorites out. There were many of ’em, but I should probably have included LI’L ABNER as one of the four musicals/comedies I could watch over and over. Can’t believe I left that out. It has my favorite exchange in any movie, when Abner (Peter Palmer) asks Appasionata Von Climax (Stella Stevens) about the arrangement with General Bullmoose:

“Does you get bed and bored?”

“Extremely.”

Among the many TV shows I listed, I should have included THE MATCH GAME, particularly the Richard Dawson years. Apparently he didn’t get along with Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, but they were a great comic trio. You need to seek out THE LIFE OF REILLY, by the way, the wonderful one man show movie with CNR near the end of his life. Very talented and funny man.

Elvis Costello would have been among my favorite male singers but I am among those he continues to irritate with his non-rock ‘n’ roll albums. The current blue grass thing is listenable, at least, unlike the opera singer one (the woman sang horribly off-key) which I threw off the Centennial Bridge crossing from Davenport to Rock Island (the CD, not the female opera singer, though I would have if I’d had the chance).

Seduction of the Innocent: The Golden Age CD Cover

The San Diego Con is coming up, and Seduction of the Innocent — my “comic book” rock band — is a guest. We aren’t playing, because the con doesn’t have the right venue for us. But we will be doing several signings (dates TBA), and will have 200 copies of an official bootleg of our 1999 gig at San Diego. It includes lots of garage band stuff and a few originals. If we bring any copies home, they will be available here.

I wrote liner notes, but eventually had to edit them way down. I thought you might like to see the longer first draft:

It started with my son Nate, in 1987 only five years old and listening to Dr. Demento. Which meant I was listening to Dr. Demento, too, and got interested in “Fish Heads” and “Party in Your Pants” and other great bad-taste tunes from Barnes & Barnes. I knew Bill Mumy was half of that duo, and approached him at a San Diego Comic Con dance honoring Jack Kirby. He signed something for me, we chatted, I got introduced to Miguel Ferrer, and (since I was a comics pro) got invited to hang out. I knew Steve Leialoha through cartoonist Trina Robbins, and he joined this informal gang as we stood taking in a band that none of us liked. I said to Bill, “We could go up there cold and do better.” (I knew Miguel had been a session drummer.) Bill agreed. Steve, in his low-key way, smiled and said, “I play bass.” Somebody from the con (Jackie Estrada?) eavesdropped all this, and by the end of the evening we had been invited to play at the next San Diego Con. Miguel named the band “Seduction of the Innocent” that very night.

My ‘60s revival band Crusin’, back in Iowa (still together!), had a list of garage-band stuff that Seduction built its set list around. Bill added in some very hip things, like “Cinnamon Girl,” “All Along the Watch Tower” and “Shake Your Hips,” and we practiced in his living room, blowing out all the speakers on his stereo (I don’t believe we ever reimbursed him). It fell together pretty easily and we liked each other’s company, and laughed a lot. That’s all it takes for a band to work.

Over the next decade, we played San Diego numerous times and had a few other assorted gigs (Wondercon, Charlotte Heroes Con, a private party at the Santa Monica Pier). Chris Christensen (who had produced a Will Eisner LP) offered to put out a Seduction CD. We wrote songs for it, recorded it at Bill’s (not using his stereo speakers) and it came out well. “Pussy Whipped” got some airplay, even back in Iowa (Crusin’ had to learn it). Around then, Chris joined the band (playing drums when Miguel sang out front, and guitar when Miguel drummed) and was a terrific addition. We made a music video of “The Truth Hurts” (with our friend Brandon Lee) and played the original stuff at cons. Finally San Diego got too big and unwieldy to find room for us, and this live performance was our last to date…although smaller cons are free to inquire about gigs. We are actors and artists, and can be bought.

Max Allan Collins

2009