Posts Tagged ‘What Doesn’t Kill Her’

Branded?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
What Doesn't Kill Her

Barb and I are preparing to attend On the Lam, a conference in Seattle next weekend put on by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery/suspense publisher that’s part of Amazon. The attendees are authors published by T & M, with some fans and writer’s groups in Seattle receiving invites to the Saturday panels.

I’m on one, and the topic is “Building Your Brand.” Usually when I’m on a panel – I’m scheduled for two at this year’s Bouchercon – I frankly give the topic little if any thought. I prefer winging it. But this topic really has me thinking. In fact, it’s giving me fits.

Why? Because I’m pretty sure I don’t have a brand. I think “Barbara Allan” has already developed a brand as a humorous cozy author, and of course that penname for Barb and me was very calculated, from its folk-tune resonance to the female nature of the byline. Otherwise, I have rather stubbornly written almost everything else as by M.A.C.

And, accordingly, I have no overall brand-name. There’s a group of readers that thinks “Max Allan Collins” is a guy who writes movie and TV novels. There’s another that thinks I’m a hardboiled writer. Yet another considers me a historical thriller specialist. Some think I’m a comics writer or maybe graphic novelist. The most successful of my series – Nathan Heller, Quarry, and Mickey’s Mike Hammer – are their own brand names. For stuff I’ve done – like the upcoming WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER – that doesn’t fall conveniently into any of those boxes, I don’t have a brand at all…other than (judging by some of the advance Amazon reader reviews) my historical brand serving to piss some readers off when I do a straight thriller. I started noticing this on the two J.C. Harrow thrillers that Matt Clemens and I did for Kensington.

Thomas & Mercer have done a really good job in packaging my novels to suggest a sort of brand – starting with the Hellers, they have used typeface, photography and overall design to create a look that is less than uniform but still connective. This has extended chiefly to their reprints of the Disaster series, but also Mallory and even the “Barbara Allan” reprints, REGENERATION and BOMBSHELL (the latter an historical thriller). Amusingly, Amazon often lists Mallory novels among “historicals,” due to the books being so firmly entrenched in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

I should note that a few Amazon reviewers, attracted to REGENERATION by the “Barbara Allan” byline of ANTIQUES fame, were outraged at finding themselves stuck with a rather nasty thriller. Was it asking too much for them to read the description and look at the cover, before ordering? Here is where “brand” is a hindrance.

If you are Stephen King or Dean Koontz, and work at least vaguely in the horror/suspense area, you can publish any damn thing you like and your brand holds up. Interestingly, J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous mystery novel sold squat before she was outed, but once exposed, her brand has carried it into bestsellerdom, cushioned and boosted by the way the secret came out.

I’m not sure a writer below King/Koontz level can have a brand, not unless that writer creates stories in a very narrow way. I suppose I could have used pseudonyms for each area I explored, but the one time I was talked into using one – Patrick Culhane – the results were near disastrous.

My wife invokes Bobby Darin here, who many of you know is my favorite pop star and an obsession of mine equal to my Spillane one. Darin was a chameleon, who was (as DOWNBEAT magazine put it) “the only real competition Sinatra ever had,” a rock ‘n’ roller whose “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover” are classics of the form, an exponent of “blue-eyed soul,” a singer-songwriter pioneer in country rock, folk rock, and even a credible protest singer…and an actor whose small body of work includes some incredible performances, like those in PRESSURE POINT and CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). Still, he is often dismissed as dilettante by fans of each of those kinds of music (and largely forgotten as an actor), though I have been pleased to see him in the last decade or so reassert himself in the public consciousness. Often he’s mistakenly referred to as part of the Rat Pack, and it’s clear his big-band vocalist persona is the lasting one (fine by me). If you could choose only one singer/musician to represent popular music in the Twentieth-Century time capsule, Darin is the only logical choice, because only through him would you find excellent examples of just about every kind of pop music that that century provided (such British Invasion groups as Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Seekers covered songs of his). But he will never be a superstar in the way Elvis, Sinatra, the Beatles or even Sammy Davis Jr. or Dean Martin are.

His only brand was talent. Oh, and excellence.

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Bill Crider, that terrific writer who runs my favorite site on the Net, has given WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER a lovely and (in my opinion) insightful review. Check it out.

My work as Mickey’s collaborator is discussed in an article about ghost writers in the AV Club. Worth a look, even if I am not exactly a ghost writer in this case. Scroll down to page 3 (page 4 now) for some comments by me and others.

Ed Gorman, another fine writer with a great blog, has published a short but solid interview with me, discussing the newest publications (including forthcoming ones).

Kevin Burton Smith at Thrilling Detective, the definitive private eye web site, has a Quarry entry up. I consider Quarry a private eye of sorts, so I’m glad to see him included.

I think this great video review of TARGET LANCER has been posted before, but it got a new lease on life recently.

I will report next week on the Seattle trip.

M.A.C.

Navigating the Weeds

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Let me wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July. I will be playing an outdoor gig with Crusin’ in Muscatine (the Brew, five p.m. till 9 p.m.) and I am hopeful the current decent weather will hold up. Last year, playing a similar gig on the Fourth in a heat wave damn near killed me.

This will be a short update, because I am very deep in the writing of KING OF THE WEEDS, which is a difficult but rewarding project. I hope to finish the novel before San Diego Comic Con, which comes up soon (July 17 – 21), where I’ll be meeting with the Titan folks to discuss the possibility of three more Hammer novels from shorter Spillane fragments.

What makes this one especially tricky is that Mickey started the book twice, with one version containing only one of the two major plot strands. Then he combined the manuscripts, but when he set the book aside to do THE GOLIATH BONE instead, he had not yet done the carpentry to merge the two versions. This makes for a dizzying task as in most cases even the names of characters are different between versions, and some scenes appear twice, accomplished in two different ways. This means I have to make choices as well as weave and blend material together, in addition to adding my own connective tissue and input.

But it’s a most interesting book, conceived by Mickey as the final Mike Hammer novel (much more overtly than he did in his GOLIATH BONE manuscript). It’s not as rip-roaring as LADY, GO DIE! or COMPLEX 90, but it should be very strong.

More on it later.

Quick movie recommendation: THE HEAT is a very funny buddy cop movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, populated by any number of funny people in character parts.

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Here’s our first WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER review. Just a reminder that this thriller, which Matt Clemens worked on with me, comes out in September.

Here is a lovely valentine to Mickey Spillane with some nice nods to my work on the unfinished novels.

And this terrific COMPLEX 90 review is well worth a look.

M.A.C.

Nero Nom For Antiques Disposal—Satisfactory

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Barb and I (and for that matter our son Nate) are huge Nero Wolfe fans. Our preferred mode of enjoyment is the fine series of audio books read by Michael Pritchard, which Barb and I have listened to perhaps five times. I am also a fan of Bob Goldsborough’s continuation of Rex Stout’s great series – he was a role model for me in my work on Mickey’s unfinished novels.

So it was with particular pleasure and even a little pride that Barb and I learned that we’d been nominated for the Wolfe Pack’s prestigious Nero Award. This award is, rivaled only by the Edgar, the remaining award in mystery fiction that I still dream of winning – in part because it’s physically cool, being a bust of Wolfe himself. Read about it at the Rap Sheet, where you can see who the other three nominees are (like I’m going to tell you!).

The other big news this week is that top-flight actor Stellan Skadrsgard (THOR, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), has been cast as the Broker in the Cinemax QUARRY pilot. This will be a recurring role, if the pilot goes to series, at least for the first season (regular readers of the Quarry books know why the Broker will not likely be around for the long haul…).

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I have learned that reviews of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER cannot go up on Amazon until after the book has been published. So those of you got review copies from me will have to wait until then, although you can post at Goodreads any time and the also on blogs of your own. When the book comes out in September, I will remind you to post those reviews.

By the way – and this was mentioned in a comment response here, but many of you may not have seen it – I am close to signing with Hard Case Crime to do another Quarry novel, which I would write later this year. The title will probably be QUARRY’S CHOICE. It will not be a “list” novel, but will return to the period where Quarry works for the Broker. (THE WRONG QUARRY will be out in January, and I immodestly suggest it’s among the strongest in the series.)

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Favorable reviews of COMPLEX 90 continue to roll in, but I really get a kick out of it when a young woman like the reviewer at Nerds in Babeland connects with Mike Hammer and his world, particularly a smart one who recognizes how strong Velda and the other female characters are.

A very well-conducted interview, part of the COMPLEX 90 blog tour, is here, at Celebrity Cafe.

And here’s another one, nicely handled by the interviewer, at blogcritics.

David Williams continues to review Heller novels in succinct, smart fashion, as in this look at BYE BYE, BABY.

And Just a Guy That Likes to Read liked reading TRUE CRIME very much, as his review indicates.

An annotated reprinting of my BATMAN comic strip story (illoed by the great Marshall Rogers) is here. I’ve posted this before, but this is a revised, expanded version.

And here’s a fun look at the “Barbara Allan” Marilyn Monroe thriller, BOMBSHELL, a book that really got lost between the cracks until Thomas & Mercer gave it a new lease on life.

M.A.C.

Complex 90 Now On Kindle!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

After an inexplicable screw-up has finally been resolved, the new Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novel, COMPLEX 90, is available as a Kindle e-book.

This week’s blog entry will be very short, because my son Nate was in Georgia over the weekend with his wife Abby, at a wedding, and will still be on the road when normally he would post this. So I am making his life (and, well, mine, a little) easier with this brief entry.

I will be starting the sixth and final Mike Hammer novel (of the substantial Hammer manuscripts in Mickey’s files), KING OF THE WEEDS, today. I was supposed to do that last week, but more galley proofs came in as well as some other unexpected writing chores. Chronologically, this is the penultimate novel in the saga – it was conceived to be the last Hammer, until 9/11 inspired Mickey to put it aside to write THE GOLIATH BONE. It is, in some respects, a sequel to BLACK ALLEY, the last Hammer published during Mickey’s lifetime.

Again, for those of you who want to see more, the best way to make that happen is to encourage other readers to pick up COMPLEX 90 (in whatever form) and post reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There are three more significant (if shorter) Hammer manuscripts, all from the 1950s, that could be the next three novels.

By the way, the offer of advances proofs of WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER saw the ten copies disappearing quickly, ditto the five offered review copies of ANTIQUES CHOP. Of the former, I am trying to get another five or six copies to fill the requests that trailed in. Many thanks to those of you who offered to read and review these novels – the books are going out today.

Reviews of COMPLEX 90 continue, like this A-plus one from Pullbox Review.

Finally, the very sharp UK reviewer, Mike Carlson, is less effusive but mostly positive about COMPLEX 90 here.

M.A.C.