Posts Tagged ‘You Can’t Stop Me’

Mickey Spillane’s Birthday

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Today is Mickey Spillane’s birthday, and after a few announcements, I’m featuring a short piece I did about the first film of I, THE JURY by way of tribute. It appeared in Classic Images last year – Classic Images is a great magazine in newspaper tabloid format that is extremely well-edited by Bob King out of the back of my hometown paper, the Muscatine Journal, where I had my first professional writing job.

Barb’s father, William Mull, passed away yesterday. Bill had been suffering from pancreatic cancer (the killer that took Mickey Spillane out, too, coincidentally). But Bill survived over a year with the disease, which enabled his family to spend time with him in person and on the phone, and say goodbyes properly. He was a fine man with a sly sense of humor, a WW 2 combat vet, a great trumpet player, a successful businessman and the father of seven kids, all of whom grew up just fine. To me, his greatest achievement was helping bring Barbara Mull to the planet.

I am working on ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF, which already had been dedicated to Bill by his daughter. Barb did an exceptional job on the rough draft. I think this will be the best Brandy and Mother mystery yet, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the current ANTIQUES BIZARRE.

Also, I have already done a series of revisions on QUARRY’S EX – Charles Ardai is the most lightning fast editor on the planet – and that book has been put to bed and is off to the typesetter.

You Can't Stop MeAntiques Bizarre

We got a great review from Bill Crider for YOU CAN’T STOP ME. If you don’t follow Bill’s great blog, start doing so now. He obviously has incredible taste.

Craig Clarke, another great blogger, had wonderful things to say about ANTIQUES BIZARRE.

The Court Reporter website recently posted a very controversial list of the top 100 crime novels of all time. I mention this because (oddly, it seems to me) I am represented on that list for…ready for this?…my novelization of AMERICAN GANGSTER. Now I’m proud of that book, and it made the NY Times bestseller list, and won the Scribe from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. But of everything I’ve ever written (say, TRUE DETECTIVE or ROAD TO PERDITION or THE FIRST QUARRY)…why that? But I’ll take it, since my policy is that any such list is utter bullshit…unless I’m on it.

And now, in honor of Mickey’s birthday….

by Max Allan Collins

I, The Jury 3DMickey Spillane was not a fan of the films British producer Victor Saville fashioned in the 1950s from the mystery writer’s bestsellers, I, the Jury, The Long Wait, Kiss Me Deadly and My Gun Is Quick. So incensed by what he considered a mishandling of his famous private eye, Mike Hammer, Spillane wrote and co-produced THE GIRL HUNTERS (1963) in which he starred as Hammer himself.

Time has been kind to several of the Saville films, notably KISS ME DEADLY (1955), starring Ralph Meeker, directed by Robert Aldrich and written by A.I. Bezzerides. The film had a strong anti-Spillane subtext but was nonetheless a brilliant evocation of Mike Hammer’s violent, sexually charged world. Late in life, Spillane came to appreciate KISS ME DEADLY, which is now considered a noir classic; but he never warmed to the others. With MY GUN IS QUICK (1957), wherein Robert Bray portrayed Hammer, Spillane had a point: it was a slipshod quickie. THE LONG WAIT (1954) (with Anthony Quinn as a non-Hammer protagonist and an array of beauties including Peggie Castle) does have its admirers, with a particularly strong climax involving starkly expressionistic lighting.

Though he counted Biff Elliot a friend, Spillane disliked I, THE JURY (1953). He thought Elliot was too small, though his chief complaints were with the script and such details as Mike Hammer’s trademark .45 automatic being traded in for a revolver, and he howled about Hammer getting knocked out with a coathanger. He found director/screenwriter Harry Essex obnoxious and disrespectful, and was irritated that his handpicked Mike Hammer – close friend, ex-cop Jack Stang (for whom the hero of the posthumous novel Dead Street is named, and who appears briefly in I, THE JURY in a poolroom scene) – was turned down for the part.

In 1999, Mickey and I were invited to London where the National Film Theater was showing my documentary, “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane,” as part of a retrospective of Spillane films. Mickey did not bother to attend any of the screenings except my documentary. But I was eager to attend a rare 3-D screening of I, THE JURY.

I’d always liked the film, and had argued its merits (and those of KISS ME DEADLY) to Mickey over the years. Of all the Saville films, I, THE JURY seemed to catch best the look and flavor of the novels; it was fun and tough and sexy, and the dialogue had crackle. What had disappointed moviegoers at the time remains disappointing: the most overtly sexual aspects of the plot (a dance studio may or may not be a brothel, several characters may or may not be homosexual) became incoherent due to censorship issues, and the famous striptease finale reduced lovely Peggie Castle’s disrobing to taking off her shoes!

But Elliot himself was a terrific Mike Hammer – an emotional hothead who could be as tough as he was tender. That he was a little smaller than readers might have imagined Hammer only makes him seem less a bully. He fights hard and loves hard, and may not be as smart as most movie private eyes, which gives him a nice everyman quality. It’s a shame Elliot, with a screen presence similar to James Caan’s, was not better launched by the film.

The revelation of the screening, however, was the 3-D cinematography – seen “flat” on TV, the film doesn’t seem to be much of a 3-D movie, with only a few instances of objects and people coming out of the screen. But the 3-D screening revealed the brilliant John Alton’s mastery at creating depth, bringing the viewer inside the images. As one of a small handful of 3-D crime films, I, THE JURY is an unacknowledged 3-D gem.

More on Collaboration and Reviews

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

You Can't Stop MeThis is a big week for us, with ANTIQUES BIZARRE and YOU CAN’T STOP ME going on sale everywhere. Hard to imagine two more different books, but I’m starting to hear from fans who are into both the cozy-ish if wacky mysteries about Brandy and her eccentric mother, and my more noir-ish stuff, like YOU CAN’T STOP ME, Nate Heller and Quarry.

Speaking of Quarry, over the weekend I delivered the new Quarry novel, QUARRY’S EX. It will be out this fall from Hard Case Crime. And yes, we do actually meet Quarry’s ex-wife, the woman whose faithlessness sent our anti-hero into the tailspin of professional killing. It has an indie movie set setting, and takes place in 1980. I have now done four Quarry novels for editor Charles Ardai – tying the four written back in the mid-‘70s for editor Patrick O’Connor at Berkley Books. There is serious talk of the first four novels coming out in uniform trade editions from a small publisher.

And I am sorry to inform Heller fans that the new Nate Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, will not appear until June 2011. I have done everything I can to ask the editor to move it up the list, but publishing moves in mysterious ways.

Last week, Barb wrote a very well-received column here about our collaboration as “Barbara Allan.” This week, Matt Clemens discusses collaborating with me at my pal Ed Gorman’s great blog.

Here’s a really fun QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE review that explores the RED HARVEST connection.

Publisher’s Weekly has reviewed the audio novel THE LITTLE DEATH and gives it a rave.

But PW also gave THE BIG BANG a less good review (presumably a different reviewer – and I’m not providing a link for this) which indicates how much of a crap shoot even the bigtime reviews are. This reviewer complained that the book would appeal only to Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane fans (who else was it supposed to appeal to?) and complained that it didn’t read like one of my Nate Heller books (should my Nate Heller books read like Mike Hammer?). Dumb. In the same PW issue, though, a presumably different reviewer seems to like Hammer and his appearance in a forthcoming MWA anthology, CRIMES BY MOONLIGHT: MYSTERIES FROM THE DARK SIDE, saying:

“Mike Hammer gets into X-Files mode in Max Allan Collins’s and Mickey Spillane’s ‘Grave Matter,’ which successfully introduces a supernatural element into the case of a series of mysterious deaths in the ironically named town of Hopeful, N.Y.”

Meanwhile, the first Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer outing, THE GOLIATH BONE, is still getting positive reviews, including this fun one from a blogger.

Here’s an insightful review of the collection MEAN STREETS, which includes the Nate Heller story, “House Call.”

And, yup, THE LAST LULLABY keeps getting great notices, as on this blog.

Finally, courtesy of Nate Collins who saw it, ROAD TO PERDITION has been listed as one of the 75 must read’s in DC Comics’ 75 years of publishing. That will be 76, when RETURN TO PERDITION comes out!


Mickey Spillane & How Sausage Is Made

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The Big BangBill Crider, who has one of the best mystery-related sites on the web, has done the first on-line review of THE BIG BANG, and he likes it. Check out why.

Bill does wonder if the increased size of my byline reflects more involvement than in DEAD STREET (where I was left off the byline but for a title page “prepared for publication by” credit) and THE GOLIATH BONE (where a magnifying glass was required to see my minuscule “with” credit). Each of these endeavors is different – GOLIATH BONE had three or four variant first chapters for me to deal with, and a substantial false start, and next year’s KISS HER GOODBYE again had a substantial false start in addition to a 100-page chunk plus notes.

But the bylines were simply what the publishers wanted – Charles Ardai at Hard Case did not want two books with my byline appearing close together on his rather small list; Otto Penzler and Harcourt wanted Spillane emphasized and me downplayed, for the first of these books, which I condoned (but only for the first book).

The truth is, these are genuine collaborations, all of them. I would put them at 50%/50%. I usually take Mickey’s work, expand upon it, and extend it so that it takes up at least half of the finished product. Probably about 60% of the wordsmithing in these novels is mine. But the plot idea, and various notes, and sometimes rough drafts of endings, plus the other 40% of the writing, are all Mickey’s. That’s how it’s done. I don’t believe anything like it has ever occurred in mystery fiction, a writer of Mickey’s magnitude leaving half a dozen substantial manuscripts behind, having designated a trusted collaborator (me) to complete them.

I should say I also draw upon published Spillane work. In THE BIG BANG, there is a chapter written by me in which Hammer meets with Junior Evello (nephew of KISS ME, DEADLY villain Carl Evello) at a Little Italy restaurant. When the subject comes up, Hammer says he didn’t kill Junior Evello’s uncle; in a typically Spillane italicized style, I flash back to the death of Carl Evello – mostly in Mickey’s words – from KISS ME, DEADLY.

Any time I do New York stuff, I draw upon Mickey, having re-read and annotated and marked-up his Hammer novels. I try to concentrate on novels written around the same time as the manuscript I’m completing. For THE GOLIATH BONE, I concentrated on the last two Hammers, THE KILLING MAN (1989) and BLACK ALLEY (1996). For THE BIG BANG, set in 1964, I concentrated on THE SNAKE (1964) and THE BODY LOVERS (1967). For the forthcoming KISS HER GOODBYE (set in 1975, more or less), I concentrated on SURVIVAL…ZERO! (1970).

Each of the Spillane projects is different. DEAD STREET had a fairly polished manuscript that ended with two or three chapters to go, plus a lot of notes. Of the unpublished works, this one needed the least help from me. The completed chapters I lightly polished, and fixed continuity problems, doing little bits of connective-tissue type writing. The final three chapters were entirely my work. That one’s probably 75% Mickey. The six Hammer novel manuscripts were discovered in various stages of completion, never less than 100 pages, sometimes with false starts that yield benefits, usually with plot notes.

I have also turned shorter Hammer fragments of Mickey’s into short stories – one appeared last year in THE STRAND, and another will appear in that magazine later this year. I have the makings for perhaps another five such short stories. I also used a Spillane novel outline (sans any actual manuscript) to plot the next NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER audio novel for Blackthorne.

There are also four shorter incomplete novel manuscripts that could lead to another group of Hammer novels, if publishers and readers are interested. Right now we are at the end of the three-book contract with Harcourt, so the three other substantial Hammer manuscripts are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how THE BIG BANG and KISS HER GOODBYE do. If you have any interest in seeing the rest of Mickey’s Mike Hammer canon completed and published, you need to support those two novels (and, if you haven’t already, pick up THE GOLIATH BONE in one of its several editions…a mass-market paperback is coming).

I’ve had many questions about the Mickey Spillane posthumous projects, with people often assuming my role is larger (or sometimes smaller) than it is. It’s a collaboration. Very similar to how I work with Barb on the Barbara Allan bylined “Antiques” novels, and with Matthew Clemens on such tie-ins as CSI and our new serial killer thriller, YOU CAN’T STOP ME, which comes out in a couple of weeks. Collaborations vary from team to team, though. I would say Barb does up to 70% of the “Antiques” books; but my 30% and overall polish earns me my collaborative stripes.

You Can't Stop MeOn tie-in stuff (never with shared byline), Matthew’s role began primarily as a researcher and co-plotter submitting a story treatment (based on a brainstorming session with the two of us, with me in the lead), to finally doing full rough drafts from our co-plotting efforts, although usually on the short side.

That’s true for both Barb and Matt – they know that I am going to not just polish but expand the work, and in particular add dialogue, so they will give me a rough draft half to three-quarters the length the book needs to be.

Occasionally I will throw out entire chapters written by one of them, and start over (but only very occasionally – this happened for the conclusion of one of the CSI: MIAMI novels Matt and I did, and for the wrap-up chapter of the forthcoming Barbara Allan ANTIQUES BIZARRE).

Why collaborate? Well, with Mickey, it’s obvious – only 13 Mike Hammer novels were published in Mickey’s lifetime, 13 of the bestselling mysteries of all time, including such classics as I, THE JURY, ONE LONELY NIGHT, KISS ME, DEADLY and THE GIRL HUNTERS. Ours is an opportunity to add six more titles to the canon, not only with Mickey’s content but with his blessing.

As for Barb and me, we enjoy collaborating (that’s how Nate got on the planet). We enjoy plotting the stories together, and as the books are on one level comedies, we enjoy having the humorous input of two people with sharp senses of humor. Simply put, she puts in every joke she can think of, and I put in every joke I can think of. Result: lots of jokes.

Matt came aboard primarily as a researcher, and then – because I knew of his writing abilities – I thought having him write rough drafts would be an effective time-saver. It wasn’t, really, because I always did a complete draft (once he said to me, “I thought I recognized one of my sentences in the last one!”), but what I came away liking was the third voice we created. A good collaboration is synergistic – two plus two equals fourteen. While there are plenty of Matt’s sentences in YOU CAN’T STOP ME, it is about as fifty/fifty a project as you can imagine…and neither of us could have done it alone.

Bill’s comment that my bigger byline on THE BIG BANG may indicate a bigger contribution by me is at odds with the truth of publishing. Often times, the bigger name of a dual byline did the least amount of work. YOU CAN’T STOP ME is very much a fifty-fifty novel by Matt and me, but my name is much larger, because I am the bigger name (at the moment). But usually with such a situation, you could safely guess that the smaller name did more or even most of the writing.

So, anyway, here at the Collins plant, that’s how the sausage is made. Bring your own buns – stone-ground mustard optional.

Dr. Hermes’ Retro Reviews has done a really nice, and in my opinion very smart, in-depth review of my novel THE HINDENBURG MURDERS (out of print but easily found at ABE or Amazon’s used book service). That’s the novel that features Saint creator, Leslie Charteris.

A while back I started a Facebook Friends page, and it was a disaster because I didn’t know how to deal with it. Nate has helped me set up a Facebook Fan page (the Friends one is an abandoned amusement park, now). But I encourage you to become a fan at that new page, even those of you who are just friends and to whom the idea of being my fan is quite ridiculous. You know who you are.


Collins Hits The Third Rail

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Ron Fortier has posted a wonderful write-up on YOU CAN’T STOP ME.

Craig Clarke has posted a terrific review of THE LITTLE DEATH at his Somebody Dies review site.

And a great, dare I say insightful review of THE LAST LULLABY just popped up.

Plus, there’s a very nice review of QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE.

My pal Ed Gorman limits himself on talking politics on his blog because, well, politics causes problems. It can alienate people, and that includes readers/fans, so it’s dangerous ground. Ed sends out political stuff to an e-mailing list, material that is always interesting and illuminating.

I am going to dip a toe into this subject, lightly. Some of you know that I’m a Democrat or a liberal or a progressive or something. I think of myself as slightly left of center, but my father thought of himself as slightly right of center, when he was slightly right of Genghis Khan. So who knows? I do know that I veer left when the right is getting out of hand, which they frequently do. I despise Fox News, because it isn’t news, it’s opinion labeled news, and you can always tell when you’re “talking” (i.e, arguing) politics with somebody whose news and info comes from Fox, because it’s always the same bite-size talking points.

But I come to praise Republicans, not to bury them. Republicans stand by their man. They wouldn’t have cared if George Bush bombed Cleveland – he’d have had a damned good reason. Democrats, however, eat their young. They could hardly wait for Obama to get sworn in before ragging on him. The far left is pitiful in the way they assume the President can wave a wand and make all their dreams come true. Full disclosure: I worked for Obama, Nate was a staffer on the Iowa campaign, and Barb, Nate and I all worked hard for him. None of us is thrilled with the past year, but I think it’s clear Obama has accomplished quite a bit, considering the Washington cess pool he has to swim in. I back the guy. I don’t always agree with him, but I keep it to myself, mostly. Possibly I’m keeping my head in the sand. Maybe, after two years of MSNBC and Keith Olbermann “Special Comments,” I just can’t take the stress anymore (I stopped watching that stuff regularly in January).

But if Democrats don’t show a little support for their guy – if they insist on forming a circular firing squad around their leader – we can look forward to President Palin or Brown or God knows what. The only faint hope for the Democrats right now is the Tea Bag bunch (can’t hear that designation without thinking of John Waters), who are forcing the Republicans so far right that even Fox should be getting nervous. Kind of sad when our best hope is a bunch of buffoons who want to prove Obama wasn’t born in America. But keep plugging, kids.

This update appears on Feb. 2 – Groundhog Day. May I suggest to one and all spending the evening with Harold Ramis’ great film, GROUNDHOG DAY – probably my favorite film of the ‘90s, Bill Murray’s finest achievement, and a genuine masterpiece.