Posts Tagged ‘You Can’t Stop Me’

Love for Mike Hammer

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

This time around, it’s pretty much strictly links and a few review excerpts. Speaking of which, my essay on the “lost” Mike Hammer novels got picked up all over the place, including such key websites as January Magazine, Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine, and Paul Bishop’s Bish’s Beat.

I am planning a “Lost” Mike Hammer Novels Part Two that will explore why Mickey left so many unfinished works behind, but my webmaster Nathan Collins (currently visiting us with his crazy loveable Australian Blue Heeler, Toaster, in tow) has advised me to post that piece closer to the release date of the novel (MAY 14).

Over the years, I have had many, many terrible reviews from the notoriously tough Kirkus. Well, boys and girls and moms and dads, Hell has frozen over :

The Big Bang
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / May / 9780151014484

Expect Mickey Spillane’s stock to go up, up, up—bang! bang! bang!—when The Big Bang hits in May. Co-written with Max Allan Collins, author of Road to Perdition (2002), this latest Mike Hammer caper should earn Spillane a place in the pantheon of thriller writers. Sentences are packed with gritty detail, action scenes have more kicks and slams than a championship karate playoff and the plot—Hammer takes on the narcotics mob on the eve of a big heroin shipment to Manhattan in the mid-’60s—is tight.”

You will have to scroll down to the Mysteries section to read the entire review, which includes a few quotes from an exclusive interview I did with the Kirkus reviewer.

We also got a very solid review from Library Journal. I don’t have a link handy, so I’ll quote it in its entirety:

Welcome to Greenwich Village, circa the mid-1960s, complete with go-go girls, miniskirts, easy sex, and the acrid smell of hemp everywhere. Onto the scene lumbers Mike Hammer, a self-professed Neanderthal and card-carrying carnivore who happily ogles the goods on display but can’t quite heartily embrace the offerings. That’s the sorrow at the heart of this latest “collaboration” between Spillane (1918–2006) and the prolific, protean Collins (Road to Perdition), who was chosen by Spillane to inherit his incomplete manuscripts. When Mike witnesses a bicycle messenger being mugged, he characteristically retaliates by gleefully killing two tie-dye-wearing druggies and seriously wounding a third. Subsequent murders, though, seem to suggest that it’s Hammer who’s the real target. Who’s out to do in Hammer? The image of a brooding figure contemplating the decline evident all around him, along with characters done in broad strokes, invite comparisons with Batman.

VERDICT To dismiss this as bottom-drawer Spillane would mean missing out on an enormously entertaining confection with its politically incorrect views, giving fans of the Mad Men TV series as well as proponents of vigilante justice something to talk about over the watercooler.

Also, I’d like to thank Craig Zablo for giving THE BIG BANG such a nicely splashy welcome at his site.

And THE BIG BANG makes a big splash at the Murder Mystery Mayhem site, too.

YOU CAN’T STOP ME’s Kindle bestsellerdom has generated an interesting review, whose writer asked me to do a brief interview (the review comes first followed by the interview).

And Kindle has generated a smart review of A KILLING IN COMICS, from my short-lived (so far anyway) Jack and Maggie Starr series. I wanted to do at least one more with Dr. Wertham as the murder victim, and maybe someday it will happen.

The Strand Magazine has two Collins reviews in its current issue, available now at Barnes & Noble, Borders and other outlets. Here’s an excerpt from Neal Alhadef’s review of the audio book, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER, VOL. 2: THE LITTLE DEATH:

Stacy Keach does a fine job as Mike Hammer, as does the rest of the cast. Freed from the constraints of network television, this version of Hammer is closer to what appears in the Spillane novels than anything Keach has done before. Violence, language, and sex are intensified to a Spillanian level. No attempt is made to hide the years of experience that color Keach’s voice. In fact, the story makes reference to Mike being older, much as was done in the most recent Spillane/Collins novel, The Goliath Bone….THE LITTLE DEATH is yet another strong Mike Hammer story from Max Allan Collins. As long as Collins is working on Hammer, Mickey Spillane can be sure that his readers, and now listeners, are well taken care of. THE LITTLE DEATH is highly recommended.

Neal also reviews QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE for the Strand, and here’s an excerpt from that excellent write-up:

Quarry in the Middle is an excellent addition to the Quarry series. Collins begins with a killer sentence that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until all the twists and turns have been navigated. Like all the Quarry books, Quarry in the Middle is highly recommended.

In trolling for these reviews, I was surprised but pleased to see my name turning up in reviews for a lot of other people’s books – linking with Elmore Leonard and other greats in the genre as influences. You can’t imagine how pleased I am to still be alive to see that kind of thing….

Here’s an interesting illustrated history of the MIKE DANGER comic book character, from Mickey Spillane’s original creation of the Mike Hammer prototype to our collaborative science-fiction take on him.

The film ROAD TO PERDITION continues to grow in stature, and this write-up is a good indicator of why.


A photo of me, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Spillane, Leonard Nimoy and Neil Gaiman has been tweeted all over kingdom come. Disneyworld in the early ‘90s, when Techno Comix was getting its launch. MIKE DANGER, the Spillane/Collins collaboration, was probably the most popular of the titles and ran two full years. Regular readers of these updates know that I am a first-generation STAR TREK fan, so you can imagine how giddy I was to be hanging out with Leonard Nimoy. I had brief but lovely chat with him about Sherlock Holmes, who he played on several occasions.

Right now, I’m back to working on the script for THE NEWS ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER Vol. 3: THE LITTLE DEATH, which Stacy Keach will record next month…assuming I finish it. I’m a week away from starting my draft on the second Harrow novel with Matt Clemens.


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.


Misteaks From The Blue-Eyed Boy

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA has been nominated for the International Association of Media & Tie-in Writers “Best Adapted” Novel award. The Scribes Awards are held at San Diego Comic Con.

Barb, Matt and I had a nice turn-out at the Borders in Davenport on Saturday. We’re not really doing a book tour for either ANTIQUES BIZARRE or YOU CAN’T STOP ME because the sequels to both are in process right now, and the time just isn’t there.

In fact, ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF was completed this weekend. By the time you read this, it will be in the hands of Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton. ANTIQUES BIZARRE in particular and the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mystery series in general are doing very well – BIZARRE landed on the Barnes & Noble hardcover mystery bestseller list. And there looks to be a strong possibility a new contract for more Brandy & Mother books is coming…stay tuned….

Meanwhile, YOU CAN’T STOP ME has been on the Kindle bestseller list, sparked by a several-day giveaway but lasting well beyond the freebie stage.

Over the years, David Burke at the Quad City Times has given me lots of coverage. This Sunday he did a very nice write-up about YOU CAN’T STOP ME, ANTIQUES BIZARRE and the collaborative process as it pertains to Barb, Matt and Mickey.

A fun blog from comics writer Valerie D’Orazio called Occasional Superheroine has a list of five female comics characters that deserve revival, and MS. TREE is one of ‘em.

And here’s a blog whose list of the best movies of the past decade includes ROAD TO PERDITION as one of the best five adapted from comics. Cool.

Sean Leary, an excellent writer and all-around talented human, used to be the entertainment writer at the Rock Island Argus and Dispatch. Now he has an entertainment-oriented Quad Cities web site, Get Your Good News. He did individual interviews about the new books and the collaborative process with Matt Clemens, Barb and me. These are good – check ‘em out.

I want to talk briefly about reviews, but I want to talk about a very specific aspect of them. After all, everybody has a right to their opinions. And I strive not to bask in the good reviews because that means I would have to take the bad reviews seriously, too. No, I want to talk about reviews (and this particularly happens on the non-pro reviews at Amazon and other internet sites) that revel in finding mistakes in the text.

A number of Amazon reviewers – not just talking about my stuff, but reviews I encounter all the time when shopping for books – will give a book a low-star rating and a terrible review if that book is (in their view) poorly copy-edited or if it has mistakes that the author or the copy editor should have caught (again, in their view).

A review of YOU CAN’T STOP ME (one of only two less than stellar ones out of a whole flock of positive ones at Amazon) dismisses the book largely because the lead character, J.C. Harrow, is initially described as having brown eyes and later as having blue eyes. The book is over 100,000 words long and I promise you it gets a lot of things right, including the descriptions of its large cast of characters.

Here’s what happened, or anyway how it happened. If you’re at this site, you know that YOU CAN’T STOP ME is a collaboration. My co-author Matt Clemens likes to “cast” a story – he puts actors and sometimes other celebrities in the roles, and even sends me photos of the cast. Which, frankly, I ignore, because I don’t work that way. Matt likes to start with the reality of a real human to describe and an actor’s voice to hear in his brain – it helps him, and it’s not a bad technique. But it’s not mine. As it happens, he “cast” Pierce Brosnan as Harrow. I said I thought Harrow was more like Dennis Farina in CRIME STORY, but only vaguely so – a craggy guy in his forties, not James frickin’ Bond. This started a cheerful disagreement between us, which actually became a running gag. I would say, “It’s possible our lead character is under-characterized, if one of us thinks he’s Pierce Brosnan and the other thinks he’s Dennis Farina.”

We were shocked and distressed when we went over the copy-edited manuscript and discovered that Harrow’s eyes were described as having two colors (we had settled on Farina brown, but the initial Brosnan blue crept in). As it happens, we had a copy editor who had taken a fairly heavy hand to the work – my pet peeve – and I put a lot of it back the way it had been, and in fairness to the production folks at Kensington, they got a fairly messy copy-edited manuscript back. Still, we had caught the blue/brown thing – yet it crept through into the galley proof stage, too. We caught it and corrected it again…

…and yet it still got through wrong. How? Who knows? Mistakes and typos happen, particularly with a book the size of YOU CAN’T STOP ME. With typos, sometimes a new typo happens when a change or correction is made that requires new, last-minute typesetting. It’s easy for tiny screw-ups in a book this size.

At the final read-through stage (like the one Barb and I just did with ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF), we discover all sorts of stuff – little things like a very minor character’s name shifting, or fairly big things, like plot points that somehow (over the many months of writing) got confused.

A review of one of the ANTIQUES books has an Amazon review that makes a very big deal out of a reference to Aunt Bea from the “Andy Griffin Show.” This ruined the book for the reviewer and earned us a very low star rating. Talk about mysteries – both Barb and I are longtime fans of Andy Griffith. I was a fan of his well before his famous TV show – I remember as a little kid seeing the live TV play of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS before it went to Broadway! I saw NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS the film in the theater. I bought all of Griffith’s comedy records (“What It Was Was Football”). Barb also is a fan. I can’t believe either of us – and remember, we read the book after we turn it into the publisher in copy-edited form, and then at least once more in galley proof form (usually twice in the latter stage). The only thing we can think of is we spaced out, thinking of SCTV’s parody THE MERV GRIFFITH SHOW, on which Merv Griffin is transformed into Andy Taylor. We are stumped. Did a copy editor or someone in production catch “Griffith” and think it was a goof and change it to “Griffin”? It’s a mystery. Who the hell knows?

I do know it’s unfair to dismiss the rest of the hard work that went into the big writing project that is a novel by seizing upon such occasional goofs, whoever made them.

But I know from long experience, with Nathan Heller, that reviewers and readers love to find historical inaccuracies. Such mistakes would appear to be the prize in the Cracker Jacks for a lot of readers. I can’t tell you how many fan letters I’ve received that tell me how much they love a Heller book or maybe one of the disaster novels, and then without referring to one specific thing that they liked, tell me about the error they spotted. Sometimes these are real errors, and sometimes not (as when someone in Louisiana insisted a road in BLOOD AND THUNDER hadn’t been built yet when I had a vintage research book that said it had).

A very supportive reviewer (whose name I won’t mention) has consistently mentioned a mistake or two found in the Heller and other historical novels despite his very brief per-book review space. This is a reviewer who apparently really loves my work, but rather than comment on the voluminous research I’ve done and the thousands of things I get write (I mean, “right”) in one of the massive Heller novels, insists on grabbing that Cracker Jacks prize and displaying it in public.

Do I sound frustrated? I am. I hate knowing that every copy of YOU CAN’T STOP ME has Harrow with brown eyes and blue eyes. But it can’t be helped. It’s human error. Anyway, Matt and I will reveal in the second Harrow novel that those bastard executives in the first novel had made the TV host wear blue contact lenses on his reality show, CRIME SEEN! He will now have thrown them away….


Net Not A Drag

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

You will note above that a Crusin’ live show is in Muscatine is coming up on St. Patrick’s Day. If you are in Eastern Iowa, check it out. We have a Riverside Casino gig coming up in April – stay tuned.

More nice stuff turning up on the net about M.A.C. projects new and old….

Janet Rudolph of Mystery Readers International kindly asked me to do a guest blog last week about the collaborative process (now all three of us have written such pieces – Barb, Matt and me). In case you missed it, now’s your chance.

Mel Odom, a gifted scribe his own self, has posted a nice YOU CAN’T STOP ME review. This appeared lots of places, but we’re linking you to Mel’s entertaining Bookhound site.

Out of the blue, a really nice review of my DVD, ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE (), has turned up form Cold Fusion Video Reviews. Lots of pics and apt praise for the great Michael Cornelison.

There is a Ten Classic Private Eyes thread at Tony Isabella’s message board. Tony, by the way, is another great guy. Nate Heller and Ms. Tree come up several times, and I even responded a couple of times. Worth looking at.

My pal Chris Mills has posted a lovely tribute to Mickey Spillane.

One of the pleasures of being a writer in the internet age is receiving e-mails from (as Mickey would put it) “satisfied customers.” Here’s a recent one:

Hi Max:

Just a few moments ago I finished THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER and, smile still on my face, I thought I’d drop you a note of appreciation. As with everything of yours that I’ve read I enjoyed it tremendously. The craftsmanship required to produce such little gems as your “disaster” novels shows through on every page. I also must say that as much as I enjoy the novels themselves I find your Acknowledgements a special added pleasure. You write so vividly and set the literary stage so lavishly that I invariably find myself hunting up further information on the times and characters about which you write and I often find myself checking out your source material.

I, like you am a bit of a history and media buff and have been an admirer of both Welles and Gibson for some time. So during my reading of War of the World Murder my interest in them was reawakened and I poked around some of my books and some internet sites about them and was again impressed with the depth of your research. In so doing I found a (very tenuous) connection between myself and Gibson. I read that he spent the last years of his life in a very small upstate NY community of Eddyville. When I was a child I spent every summer in Rosendale, NY, the town right next door to Eddyville. My parents live there today. From the descriptions that I read it sounds like Gibson’s house was a bit like Forry Akerman’s Akermansion, only writ small. I was unable to find any pics of the house on the internet but last week I went to see my parents and made sure to travel Creek Locks Road in Eddyville looking for a house that matched the description I’d read. Eddyville is quite small and I was able to narrow it down to only two possibilities. Even here in my fully adult years I was able to get a bit of a thrill knowing that the man who created (for all intents and purposes) The Shadow lived in one of those two houses, so close to where I’d spent so much of my childhood. It isn’t a big thing, but it is a nice thing and I owe that small satisfaction to you for having made Gibson and his his fictionalized involvement with the War of The Worlds broadcast so real for me.

Please keep doing what you do.



Ed Smith

Here’s my response:

Hi Ed —

thanks for your lovely e-mail.

I’m very proud of my historical stuff, and it pleases me that readers are seeking the books out years later. A book you may not know about that is in a way the capstone to the disaster series is RED SKY IN MORNING by Patrick Culhane. That’s actually me. It’s based on my father’s very interesting experiences in the Navy during WW 2.

You should probably seek out, if you haven’t already, the two books I did recently about the history of comics: A KILLING IN COMICS and STRIP FOR MURDER. They did not do well, so there probably won’t be any more of ’em, but you will like them, I think.

I have gone on many adventures like the one you describe. There’s something about connecting to childhood enthusiasms as an adult that’s very special. These are the things that resonated through our lives and, for better or worse, made us who we are.



I have essentially shut down my Facebook “Friends” page, which I was completely incompetent in handling, and – at Nate’s insistence and with his help – have set up a Fan page. If you are reading this, and are on Facebook, please sign up. I comment on many of the posts and post there fairly frequently. I just (with bandmate Chuck Bunn’s help) put up a whole series of pics about the history of the Daybreakers and Crusin’ – even if you’ve never heard my band, you may get a kick out of these.


Now I am headed back to work on my draft of ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF by Barbara Allan.