Posts Tagged ‘Triple Play’

“The Will to Kill” Coming to Audio

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

This is one of those Good News/Bad News situations, only it’s really Good News/Bad News/Good News.

Stacy Keach
Stacy Keach

Many Mike Hammer fans – myself included – were dismayed when Blackstone Audio ceased releasing the new Hammer novels on audio, performed by the great Stacy Keach, starting with the current Will to Kill.

All of the previous Spillane/Collins “Hammer” collaborations, read by Stacy, remain available on Audible and elsewhere – they include The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye, Lady, Go Die!, Complex 90, King of the Weeds, Kill Me, Darling, and Murder Never Knocks. In addition are the two Audie-honored radio-style, full-cast audios, The New Adventures of Mike Hammer Vol. 2: The Little Death and The New Adventures of Mike Hammer Vol. 3: Encore for Murder. (There’s also a volume one that Stacy appears in but I did not write, more keyed to the ‘80s TV show than the novels).

Now a new audio publisher, JournalStone, has stepped in, with The Will to Kill first on the docket. Efforts to secure the rights to the short story collection, A Long Time Dead, are under way (I don’t personally hold those). That’s the very good news.

But the bad news is that Stacy Keach is stepping down.

Having ten works of mine (and Mickey’s) with the participation of perhaps the most famous screen Mike Hammer has been a privilege and a gift. I can’t convey what a thrill it’s been hearing Stacy’s voice roll out of those speakers, playing Hammer in stories I co-wrote. I remain thrilled and grateful to Stacy, and he and I will continue to explore projects (both Spillane and otherwise) to do together.

In the meantime, JournalStone has accepted my suggestion for a new audio Mike Hammer in the form of Dan John Miller.

Dan John Miller and his very Velda-like wife Tracee Mae Miller
Dan John Miller and his very Velda-like wife
Tracee Mae Miller

Dan is singer-songwriter and actor from Detroit, currently guitarist and lead vocalist for the gothic country-garage band, Blanche, which also features his lovely wife, Tracee Mae Miller. He has appeared in a number of films, notably Walk The Line, playing Johnny Cash’s guitar player Luther Perkins. Among his many outstanding musical accomplishments, Dan collaborated with Jack White in the band Two Star Tabernacle. (He is also a man of great musical taste, once calling Crusin’s “First Step” on the Bullets CD “the perfect rock ‘n’ roll song.”)

For our purposes, however, it’s his work as one of the top audiobook narrators in the field that is most pertinent.

Dan was named a Best Voice by AudioFile magazine for performances of Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline and Philip Roth’s My Life As a Man. In 2009, he was nominated for two Audies, as well garnering an Audiofile magazine Golden Earphone award, and a Listen Up! award from Publishers Weekly.

Even more important, for anyone likely to be looking at this update, is that Dan John Miller has been the voice of Nate Heller for several years now. He has recorded every Heller novel to date, from True Detective to Better Dead, as well as the short story collection (Chicago Lightning) and novella omnibus (Triple Play). He has done an outstanding job and – much as I’ve looked forward to hearing Stacy as Hammer – the new Heller novels of recent years have only seemed “real” to me after Dan has brought them to life.

At my urging, other audio publishers have tapped on Dan’s shoulder for the Mallory series, entries in the Disaster series, a Quarry (The Wrong Quarry), and the Reeder and Rogers series, currently Executive Order. He brings tough characters to life with both an edge and warmth, and I am very fortunate to have him agree to pick up where Stacy left off with Mike Hammer.

No release dates yet. In fact, I may be a trifle premature here, because some of the negotiations remain under way. But everything looks good – and will sound good.

If you’re a fan of my work, I couldn’t recommend Stacy and Dan – and their respective contributions to the Collins canon – to you more highly. The JournalStone releases will be available on CD, and as downloads from Audible.

Stay tuned.

* * *

Appropriately, Ron Fortier has posted a nice review of The Will to Kill.

Here is a rather unflattering review of the same Mike Hammer book. I generally do not respond to critics, but I have asked my grandson Sam to reply for me. You will see his reply below the link to the review.

Finally, here’s a positive review of The Wrong Quarry, one of my favorite books in the series.

M.A.C.

Criminal Music

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Jazz on Film: Crime Jazz

An 8-CD set called JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ! has just been released in the UK. The “film” part of the title somewhat misrepresents the set, which is dedicated almost entirely to the TV private eye and crime TV shows of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The liner notes are written by yours truly, an assignment I eagerly accepted although there was no money involved – which is the kind of career decision that keeps me semi-known, and in Iowa.

The best price is directly from Amazon UK right here (though you can order it through the USA Amazon, too).

My liner notes discuss each of the albums. Check out this astonishing line-up: “77 Sunset Strip,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Checkmate,” “Shotgun Slade,” “The Naked City,” “Richard Diamond,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “M-Squad,” “The Untouchables,” “Peter Gunn,” “Mr Lucky,” “Staccato” and “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer” (both the TV series soundtrack and the music from the rare Stan Purdy “Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story” LP).

This is an incredible bargain, and features the likes of Henry Mancini, John Williams and Nelson Riddle.

Here is the opening of my liner notes (you’ll have to buy the set to read my CD by CD discussions).

CRIME JAZZ – AN INTRODUCTION

Full disclosure: I’m not a jazz buff. I was invited to the party because of crime-writing credentials, and a love for the late ‘50s/early ‘60s wave of TV private eye shows in America, an enthusiasm I’ve never been shy about sharing.

On the other hand, jazz is in the ears of the beholder. It’s a term that cuts a wide swath, and is defined in so many ways by so many fans that it nearly falls into the all-things-to-all-people category. I mean, we’re talking about a term that covers everything and everybody from Al Jolson to Miles Davis.

Similarly, “noir” is defined in many ways by many fans of crime fiction and films. Its roots are French, the term “noir” borrowed by film critics (several of whom went on to be noted filmmakers) from “Serie Noire,” a line of books from Gallimard that after the Second World War began translating and publishing such American crime writers as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Chester Himes and many more, including the author of this introduction.

But the term noir – chiefly designed to discuss American crime films of the war years that disguised a dearth of budget by a maximum of creative, moody lighting effects – has come to refer to all tough crime fiction, replacing the antiquated-sounding “hardboiled.” Arguments about what truly is noir occur constantly. Some critics, including the esteemed Otto Penzler, insist that private eye stories aren’t truly noir, because they aren’t bleak tales told from a criminal’s point of view. This will come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Mickey Spillane’s One Lonely Night (1951) or seen Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947).

Spillane is a key figure here because his brutally tough, sexually active, war-haunted Mike Hammer created a boom in the private eye field at a point where radio had trivialized this mythic character into self-parody. Hammett’s prototypical tough P.I. Sam Spade became a figure of fun as a radio series, and Jack Webb’s various pre-Dragnet P.I.’s were all send-ups.

But Spillane revitalized the genre and – perhaps as a conscious follow-up to the craze for westerns on American television in the mid- to late fifties – a new wave of private eyes grabbed TV viewers like hoodlums they were roughing up. Generally considered to be first, and the gold standard, was Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn and its cool jazz score by Henry Mancini, whose impact forever changed the way television series utilized music. (The interesting connection between Blake Edwards and Gunn and Spillane and Hammer will be discussed below.)

Mancini’s bestselling soundtrack created a whole new genre of vinyl entertainment for hi-fi enthusiasts, as well as an additional revenue stream for TV studios. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, such soundtracks – like comedy albums showcasing stand-up comics – were a craze unto themselves. Several P.I. series that pre-dated Peter Gunn (which first aired September 22, 1958) revamped their formats, often including an exciting movie-credits style opening inspired by Gunn’s, bringing a jazz-infused style to the scoring…as well as the opportunity for a soundtrack album.

This collection gathers many of the best of those albums, and while the Gunn influence can easily be discerned again and again, each has its own personality and merits, like the various TV series for which the scores were composed.

(Continued on the liner notes of JAZZ ON FILM – CRIME JAZZ.)

Though nobody at DC has notified me about it, apparently a collection of most of my controversial BATMAN work is coming next year:

Batman: The New Adventures
Max Allan Collins, Dave Cockrum
On Sale Date: July 21, 2015
$19.99 USD
272 pages
Trade Paperback
Comics & Graphic Novels / Superheroes9781401255183, 1401255183
Summary: After an encounter with Gotham City street criminals, Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, is injured. When Batman goes into action on his own, he meets a young hoodlum called Jason Todd. Determined to guide Jason away from a life of crime, Batman takes him under his wing. These 1988 stories take Batman into police procedural territory, and set the stage for the bestselling BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. Written by acclaimed mystery novelist Max Allan Collins, best known for his graphic novel THE ROAD TO PERDITION, which was made into a Academy Award winning movie starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Collects BATMAN #402-403, 408-416 and BATMAN ANNUAL #11.

Speaking of my controversial BATMAN run (controversial in the sense a lot of fans think my work sucked and I don’t), here’s a fair-minded discussion of the Robin character as revamped by me and killed off by homicidal phone-call poll.

A very nice write-up about my Nathan Heller novella “Dying in the Post-War World” (available in TRIPLE PLAY) appears at the Gravetapping blog site. It was widely picked up in the mystery community.

Here’s a dandy review of the blu-ray of THE GIRL HUNTERS.

And here’s a solid discussion of the DICK TRACY strip, including my years on the feature.

Finally, I was pleased and honored that reviewer J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet chose BYE, BYE BABY as one of his ten favorite mystery novels of the past ten years.

M.A.C.

O’Collins Obects

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

An Irish crime writer, whose work I’m not familiar with, has been hired to write a new Phillip Marlowe novel. It got tons of play, particularly on the Net, and my name was mentioned (with Robert B. Parker’s) in a short list of mystery writers who have previously written Marlowe material. Parker, of course, finished POODLE SPRINGS and later wrote a sequel to THE BIG SLEEP. I didn’t care for either of Parker’s efforts – they surprisingly seem half-hearted, from such an avowed Chandler fan – although a fun TV movie was made out of SPRINGS. My contribution was in the Phillip Marlowe centennial collection (a story that subsequently was rewritten as a Heller and can be found in CHICAGO LIGHTNING as “Perfect Crime”).

As the guy who is continuing the Mike Hammer books, I am probably hypocritical and way out of line in suggesting that this new Marlowe novel seems like a terrible idea. I will defend myself by pointing out that my situation is different, even unique – I was asked by Mickey himself to complete unfinished works in his files. And the truth is, I would have taken the Marlowe gig if offered to me, because Chandler is on my really, really short list (the one that includes Spillane, Hammett and Cain). What rankles – and I am aware of Chandler’s British upbringing – is that the choice wasn’t of an American writer. I’m not the only American typewriter-pounder who would have done this job well – I can think of a dozen off the top of my head, from Bob Crais and Loren Estleman to John Lutz and Ed Gorman. Bob Randisi wrote a hell of a good Marlowe story in the centennial collection. Maybe one of the big boys like Michael Connelly or Dennis Lahane or Jeff Deaver…anyway, there are plenty of better choices than somebody from the UK. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.

Some years ago (probably at least twenty), I was approached to continue the Lew Archer books. I turned the job down (pshaw, to those of you who think I never say no to a gig) because (a) I have never been a Ross Macdonald fan, and (b) it was a suicide mission. Now I would have taken on any number of other suicide missions (I would still do a Sam Spade novel if anybody offered it), but I felt somebody more attuned to Archer ought to do it. As it turns out, nobody did.

By the way, I am not a Macdonald detractor. I read him when I was a teenager, devouring private eye novels. I liked his books. I just didn’t love them. He seemed to keep writing the same book over and over, and his writing seemed forced and, well, arch. He reached for the similes and metaphors, where they mostly flowed right out of Chandler. But he was serious about what he did and the books were readable, the people more real than most in the genre, and he provided a more overtly literary alternative to Mickey Spillane and Hammer that invited a whole other crowd of writers into the game. So props to him. I just didn’t want to step into his shoes.

I haven’t decided whether I’ll try to read the Irish guy’s book. Probably not. Somebody from South America or Spain or someplace wrote one that I couldn’t get past page one on. But it’s interesting how much attention it’s attracted.

* * *

Ron Fortier has given a good, lively review to TRIPLE PLAY. Check it out.

Unexpectedly, Craig Clarke – long a Heller supporter – has written a fine, insightful review of STOLEN AWAY, perhaps sparked by the new Amazon Encore edition.

And my BATMAN stuff keeps attracting attention, often from people who still want to tar-and-feather me (who was it that said, “Get a life?”), but now and then something surprisingly positive shows up, like this piece.

There seems to be an audio book collecting the Fangoria Dreadtime Stories, many of which are written by me. Here’s a mostly good review here that scolds me for including gratuitous sex. Who, me?

A British web site published a mostly negative but interesting review of Mickey’s early non-Mike Hammer novel, THE LONG WAIT. I waded in disagreeing, and a very interesting, lively bunch of comments followed. Worth looking at.

M.A.C.

You Say Hello, I Say Bye Bye

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The mass market paperback of the latest Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, is out today, with a cover I much prefer over the hardcover edition’s. I also made a few corrections to the text, so completists may wish to double dip to get the final version.

Speaking of covers, here is the revised cover of the next Heller, TARGET LANCER. The version on Amazon has yellow lettering that I found nauseating, and my editor went to bat for me and got this big improvement.

Bye Bye Baby
Target Lancer

Something happened yesterday that was not a big deal but demonstrates the odd position I find myself in at times. A guy called at 8:30 Sunday morning, leaving a message that I should call him – a stranger. Now maybe 8:30 Sunday morning is late for you. For us, it’s early, very damn early (while we live in Iowa, we are not farmers), particularly when I get in at 3 a.m. after a band job. In addition, the ringing phone woke my wife, who does not always have the gentle disposition you might imagine.

Fifteen minutes later, he called again – 8:45 a.m., finding us up and awake (thanks to him). He was calling Sunday morning because he was writing a book about the Irish in Iowa and thought I would like to help him. He was not in particular a fan, although he was familiar with ROAD TO PERDITION (which takes place in Illinois, not Iowa). I tried not to be rude – he seemed friendly and good-natured – but I told him his project was not in my wheelhouse, but that I could give him one useful piece of advice: don’t call strangers at 8:30 Sunday morning.

Writers have a lot of trouble with this kind of thing. Most of us don’t have unlisted numbers, because we want to be accessible as freelancers. A controversial essay has bounced around the net by a successful screenwriter who says (I’m quoting from memory here), “No, I will not read you f**king screenplay. I will also not ask you to clean my f**king house, or wash my f**king car.” Professional scribes are always having people – seldom anyone close to them – expect them to read manuscripts and help them on their way to a successful career.

And it gets awkward. I often have reviewers with blogs ask for blurbs for books they’ve written. This reeks, not so vaguely, as of tit for tat. They’ve given me good reviews, now I’m expected to do likewise for them. It’s harder when a fan, particularly one you’ve corresponded with or know from frequent book signings, wants you to read a manuscript or a self-published book. I get it – they want my approval, on one level, and on another they, too, have a vague sense of having supported me, so I should support them.

When I decline – or worse, say yes, and the book goes on a pile of things I intend to get to, but never do – I feel guilty. I was once a fan who approached Don Westlake, after all – although in fairness, I don’t recall ever asking him to read my stuff (although my first agent, knowing Don and I were friendly, did). And I should note that by the time Mickey Spillane and I became friends, I was about a decade into my career.

For me the greater problem is time – I am reading research all of the time. I am working on my own fiction all of the time. And I avoid reading fiction while I’m writing it, because I don’t want to be stylistically influenced. What little recreational reading I did is, frankly, in the bathroom. I recently finished Rick Harrison’s excellent book on his show “Pawn Stars” (don’t remember the title). I read something else light before that, but I don’t remember what.

Further complicating this is that I am frequently asked to blurb books by other authors. Often directly or through editors, sometimes my own editors, who I don’t want to alienate. And I am put in a position of having to ask other writers to blurb me, a spot editors put writers in constantly. So this makes me a hypocrite and, possibly justifiably, a rude jerk, if I say no.

On the other hand, if you are interested in cleaning my house or washing my car, let me know.

* * *

The cyber tour for LADY, GO DIE! seems to have wrapped up, and the fruits of my labors are blossoming all over the web.

Here’s a fun write-up by Jedidiah Ayres who picks his top five M.A.C. projects.

And here’s a well-done interview with me, about my continuing the Spillane legacy.

The interviewer above takes an in-depth look at the Spillane films here, and follows with a nice review of LADY, GO DIE! (although like a lot of critics who like the book, he seems ashamed of himself).

I was asked to pick my top ten films noir by Film School Rejects. I expected lots of heat (big heat) on my picks, but so far my choices have not been unduly attacked.

This very good interview/article appeared in the Oklahoman and got picked up all over the place.

Here’s an excellent LADY, GO DIE! review at Comic Attack.

Another UK response to LADY, GO DIE! is a tad condescending, but on the whole smart and positive.

A really nice review here, though the comments show what Mickey remains up against.

Here’s a brief, basically very nice review of TRIPLE PLAY. But it demonstrates how odd internet blog reviews can be. The reviewer complains that the language is “dated” (before admitting it’s appropriate to the time frame of the tales) and then claims these stories lack suspense because they are about some of the major crimes of the 20th Century – arguably, the Lipstick Killer is a well-known crime, but the other two are obscure.

M.A.C.