Spillane Doc (and Encore for Murder) Pre-Order

November 28th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins
Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane expanded version cover

The new, expanded version of my 1999 documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, is available now for pre-order at Amazon. It ships on December 12.

This Blu-ray disc includes as a Bonus Feature Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder, the Golden Age Radio-style play with Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer, a 90-minute offering. (The doc is 61 minutes, so the Bonus Feature is half an hour longer than the main feature!) As you may know, Gary performed in Encore at Owensboro, Kentucky, and later in Clearwater, Florida. This presentation, about a year ago, was in my home town of Muscatine, Iowa, with Gary appearing with a particularly strong area cast. Many of these cast members are in my film Blue Christmas, currently in post-production.

Encore for Murder DVD cover

Encore for Murder will be available separately as a DVD, also on Dec. 12. It too can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

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Editor Chad Bishop and I have completed the edit of Blue Christmas with the exception of the opening credits sequence, which requires Second Unit photography and editing of stock footage. We have been waiting for snow to do the exterior shots and we have some today, so that may yet happen.

Chad and I met on the production of Encore for Murder and about a year ago began planning Blue Christmas. We thought we had a good shot at a $50,000 grant, but it fell through. We did a crowd-funding effort, in which some of you generously contributed, and raised around $7000 – hardly enough to mount a feature film (the operative term is “Yikes!) but neither Chad nor I nor Director of Photography Phil Dingeldein (my longtime collaborator) took any up-front pay. We share ownership of the final product.

I rewrote the script to utilize a single set and was able to secure the Black Box theater at Muscatine Community College, thanks to their generosity to a former student there (and teacher).

I am very pleased thus far. My underpaid cast was terrific, with Rob Merritt making a perfect Richard Stone (the Heller-ish private eye at the center of this Maltese Falcon/A Christmas Carol mash-up).

Barb swore up and down that she was not going to participate in my return to indie filmmaking; but of course she did. Son Nate did also, filling in on boom operator duties and even running camera at times. I admit pushing the “let’s put on a show” thing past the breaking point. I am pretty sure it was what sent me back into a-fib by the end of the week-long (double “Yikes!”) shooting schedule.

Already I’m very proud of this one.

Stay tuned.

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I continue to need your help with the new Nate Heller novel, Too Many Bullets. And the previous one, The Big Bundle, could use a boost, too.

The accidental collision of these two titles being (essentially) published in the same year has damaged them badly. Unusual for any Heller, neither book had turned up on any year’s end “Best Of” lists – it’s as if they don’t exist at all. As I’ve mentioned before, not one of the trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist) reviewed Too Many Bullets – and in the past they have covered every single Heller novel, including The Big Bundle. But because it appeared as though I had published two Heller novels in the same year, the second of those (yes, Too Many Bullets) got ignored.

In reality, The Big Bundle was published in 2022, but was held up in a dock strike till several months into 2023. That made it collide with the already scheduled Too Many Bullets.

What can you do to help?

Well, as my late friend Paul Thomas used to say (quoting his father), “If you’re looking for sympathy, it’s in the dictionary between ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis.’”

What you can do is buy and read Too Many Bullets, in which Heller reveals what really happened in the RFK murder case, and then (IMPORTANT) review it at Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. In other words, get the word out. Reader reviews have been pretty much excellent, except for the occasional “I’ve been reading him for years but he sucks now” school of thought.

Otherwise, without your help, I can guarantee you that Too Many Bullets will be the last Heller novel.

Too Many Bullets cover
E-Book: Kobo Google Play
Digital Audiobook: Kobo Google Play
Too Many Bullets cover
Paperback (coming Dec. 12):
E-Book: Kobo Google Play
Digital Audiobook:
Audio MP3 CD:
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Road to Perdition is one of fifteen mystery comics that a recommended here.

And Paul Newman’s wonderful performance in the film version of Perdition is discussed here.


Our One-Stop Farewell Tour Is Over!

November 21st, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

We had a nice turn-out at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois, yesterday (Sunday). Barb and I signed copies of Antiques Foe and I signed Too Many Bullets.

Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
Photo by Howard Cohen
Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
Photo by Howard Cohen
Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
Photo by Howard Cohen
Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
Barbara Allan with Tracy and Augie Alseky of Centuries & Sleuths

The occasion was bittersweet, as owners Augie and Tracy Alesky are retiring at the end of the year. This unique bookstore may stay open – two buyers are interested. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, Augie will be sorely missed – a great, friendly bookseller with a unique store.

Barb and I appeared on Steve and Johnnie’s Saturday night show on WGN radio. I’m glad they are back on the air! They are skilled and natural interviewers who make such appearances a real pleasure. I’m told they’ve written a book about Les Paul, the genius guitarist. Can’t wait to read it.

This, I believe, is our first (or maybe second) Chicago trip since the Pandemic, and it was a kick being around so many familiar landmarks…though on the retail front much had changed. Certain key stores were out of business, although our favorite restaurants were all up and running.

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I am late with this – by about two weeks – but here’s a pic of me with the great Robert Meyer Burnett, who is collaborating with me on the Nathan Heller podcast. Rob is a YouTube celebrity with a fascinating background in film and TV – he directed the great Free Enterprise, a wonderful Star Trek-related comedy. His several weekly shows have been kind to me, with many plugs for Nate Heller and me in general and Too Many Bullets specifically. This pic was taken at a place called the Speakeasy in Davenport, Iowa.

I am proud to say that Rob was astounded by the depth and extent of my physical media collection. Somehow Barb is less thrilled about it.

Barbara Allan at Centuries And Sleuths
M.A.C. with Rob Burnett

Here’s a great notice for Seduction of the Innocent, third in the Jack and Maggie Starr trilogy.

And take a gander at this good review of Dig Two Graves.

Here’s a nice review of Too Many Bullets.


One-Stop Book Tour at Centuries & Sleuths – Plus Heller’s 40th

November 14th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

Despite some further health-related adventures (more about that below), Barb and I are embarking on our final book tour – which is one stop at our favorite Chicago-area bookstore, Centuries and Sleuths, in Forest Park, Illinois.

The appearance is next Sunday, November 19, 2023, from 2 PM to 4 PM. It’s the only scheduled signing to support our new novels Too Many Bullets and Antiques Foe.

More info here.

Again, I am hoping you will (if you haven’t already) review Too Many Bullets, the new Nate Heller novel, at Amazon and/or Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. We had something of a disaster (reported here in recent weeks) that led to all of the trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist) failing to review the book. This costs us bookstore sales and library sales and could be the death knell for Nate Heller.

Hard Case Crime is doing its best to get the word out, tying the hardcover Too Many Bullets to the soon-to-be-published trade paperback of The Big Bundle. They have done a great job on a press release that I will share with you here.

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Best-selling and award-winning novelist Max Allan Collins, author of Road to Perdition (which inspired the Oscar-winning movie starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig), is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his groundbreaking, million-copy-selling historical detective series about private eye Nathan Heller with the release of two new books: THE BIG BUNDLE (coming in paperback on December 12) and TOO MANY BULLETS (new in hardcover, available in stores now).

The Nathan Heller novels have sold more than 1 million copies since debuting 40 years ago with True Detective in 1983, and the series has won the Shamus Award twice, as well as the Private Eye Writers of America’s “Hammer” Award for lifetime contribution to the genre. In 2017, Collins was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, the organization’s highest honor, one he shares with John Le Carre, Alfred Hitchcock, and Agatha Christie.

Each of the Heller novels investigates a headline-making true crime, with all the authenticity and detail of a definitive non-fiction account – but seen through the eyes of fictional private eye Nathan Heller. In THE BIG BUNDLE, Heller is brought in to help solve the notorious Greenlease kidnapping, involving the highest ransom ever paid in U.S. history. In TOO MANY BULLETS, Heller seeks the truth behind the assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

Featuring appearances by real-world figures ranging from Kennedy and the reclusive Howard Hughes to sports celebrities and filmmakers of the 1960s, these novels immerse the reader in the last century with a powerful sense that you are there, witnessing the events that seized the world’s attention.

“The Heller novels tell the story of the 20th century through the eyes of a cynical, tough-minded detective who takes you on a tour of America’s darker side,” said Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai. “The series is a tremendous accomplishment, and we are thrilled to publish these new cases to celebrate its 40th anniversary.”

Both books’ covers feature new painted art by celebrated artist Paul Mann, whose work was recently seen on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

About Max Allan Collins
Celebrating his 50th year as a mystery novelist, Max Allan Collins has reached the pinnacle of his field, receiving the highest lifetime-achievement honors from both the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America. His books have been New York Times and USA Today bestsellers and adapted both to television (a Cinemax series based on his Quarry novels) and feature films (including the Academy Award-winning movie based on Collins’ graphic novel Road to Perdition). Collins is also a star in the field of comic books, having penned the adventures of Batman and Dick Tracy and created the longest-running private eye comic in history (Ms. Tree), and he was hand-picked by his friend and fellow MWA Grand Master Mickey Spillane to continue the legendary Mike Hammer novels after Spillane’s death. A native of Iowa (and a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop), Collins is also a screenwriter, a film director, and for more than five decades a professional touring rock-and-roll musician.

About Hard Case Crime
Called “the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade” by Neal Pollack in The Stranger, Hard Case Crime has been nominated for and/or won numerous honors since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, the Ellery Queen, and the Spinetingler Award. The series’ books have been adapted for television and film, with a series based on Max Allan Collins’ Quarry novels airing on Cinemax and Haven, based on Stephen King’s novel The Colorado Kid, running for six seasons on SyFy. Hard Case Crime titles also include Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestsellers Joyland and Later; James M. Cain’s lost final novel, The Cocktail Waitress; lost early novels by Michael Crichton (writing under the name “John Lange”) and Gore Vidal (writing as “Cameron Kay”); Are Snakes Necessary? by filmmaker Brian de Palma and former New York Times editor Susan Lehman; and Brainquake, the final work of writer/filmmaker Samuel Fuller. Hard Case Crime is published through a collaboration between Winterfall LLC and Titan Publishing Group. www.hardcasecrime.com

About Titan Publishing Group
Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, comprising three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise. Titan Books is an established publisher of exceptional genre fiction in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery fields. Recent authors of Titan Books include Kareem Abdul Jabbar, V.E. Schwab, Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins, Alice Blanchard, Tim Lebbon, Sarah Pinborough, Andrew Cartmel, Chris Ould and many more. Titan Books also has an extensive line of media- and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, and art and music books. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the U.S. and Canada being handled by Random House. www.titanbooks.com

THE BIG BUNDLE | Max Allan Collins | December 12, 2023 | Trade Paperback | 304 pp
ISBN: 978-1-78909-948-5; e-ISBN 978-1-78909-853-2
US $15.95; CAN $19.99; UK £8.99

TOO MANY BULLETS | Max Allan Collins | October 10, 2023 | Hardcover | 304 pp
ISBN: 978-1-78909-946-1; e-ISBN 978-1-78909-947-8
US $22.99; CAN $29.99; UK £16.99

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For all the attention I’ve paid to Mickey Spillane’s anniversaries, I neglected to notice that Nate Heller’s 40th anniversary is…right now! True Detective was published in 1983, after all. I owe thanks to J. Kingston Pierce of the outstanding blog The Rap Sheet who pointed out Heller’s birthday to his clueless creator.

In fairness, I have been busy. In addition to directing my first indie movie since 2006 – the forthcoming Blue Christmas, currently being edited by Chad Bishop and me – I somehow managed to get myself back into a-fib despite having an ablation procedure. The doctor in charge of that got me back almost immediately in for a cardioversion (that’s when they jump-start you like an old Buick) and I am currently taking it easy, post-procedure, to be ready for next week’s Sunday signing in Forest Park.

This is liable to be our final signing in the Chicago area, so we hope readers/fans in that part of the world will come around to see us.

Here is a nifty pic from the set of Blue Christmas that has both me and my son Nate in it (he’s the one working the boom pole).

Blue Christmas behind the scenes
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The great private eye site Thrilling Detective singles out Stolen Away as one of the Big Reads in the field.

Here’s a terrific Too Many Bullets review from Craig Zablo.

If you scroll down, you’ll see Ms. Tree get some love at the 13th Dimension site.

Also, Kino Lorber has a DVD and Blu-ray sale on noir titles that features the Assante I, the Jury and My Gun Is Quick for chump change. Check it out!

And watch Robert Meyer Burnett’s various YouTube shows for info about the Nate Heller dramatic podcasts that you can help get produced.


Two Tributes and a Nice Salute

November 7th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

I have commented here before that being at my ripe old age means that too often I have to pay tribute to heroes and friends who have passed on. This week I am saluting one of each.

Lenny Sloat has passed away. He was the first guitar player in my band Crusin’, and performed with us (if my fading memory serves) for about a year, probably in 1974. A handsome man in the All-American mode, he was a terrific member of the band, a guitarist who had been among the first in the area to perform in what we used to call a “local pop combo.”

His first group was, again if memory serves, the Coachmen, who played instrumentals in the Ventures vein. His second group, the Rogues, was perhaps the first band in Muscatine, Iowa (my home town, where I still live) to play their instruments and sing, following the path of the Beatles. They were good, both musically and as super cool showmen, and justifiably popular, and were – with my pals the XL’s of Wilton – the inspiration for me to get into playing rock ‘n’ roll with my own band, for money ($25 a gig, a rate that lasted longer than I care to remember).

A more sophisticated band called Depot Rains (one of those inexplicable band names of the era) was the effective and popular follow-up to the Rogues.

When my longtime musical collaborator Paul Thomas (gone too long now) and I decided, in the wake of the film American Graffiti, to resurrect our list from the days of our previous band, the Daybreakers, and call it nostalgia, we needed a guitar player. Our frequent collaborator, Bruce Peters, was pursuing his musical dreams in California. I think both Paul and I came up with contacting Lenny almost immediately – he had been a local idol to the Muscatine High School kids, which included us.

Lenny came on board and brought his low-key, charismatic demeanor to the party, as well as his skill at playing and singing ‘60s music. We practiced for long hours in the basement of our drummer, Ric Steed. We were decent from the start and, after a lot of time and effort, got to be pretty good. We were ready. Somebody – maybe Lenny – approached the owners of the local nightclub, the Warehouse Four (coincidentally in the former warehouse of my wife Barb’s family before their grocery distribution business went under), who gave us a try.

Nobody was doing ‘60s nostalgia yet. It was only a handful of years since the real ‘60s! But Paul and I had the itch to play again in a period where the music on the radio didn’t appeal to us. We hoped others would respond to the ‘60s material, too.

They did.

We were a smash at Warehouse Four, and became a staple there, and at the wonderfully named Tuffy’s Talk of the Town in Grandview. We played every weekend here in the Eastern Iowa area, and were enormously popular. (Which is part of what landed Crusin’ in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, an honor that pleased Lenny very much).

Black and White Crusin' Gig Poster drawn by Terry Beatty.
Crusin’s poster (the first) drawn by Terry Beatty

Lenny and I got along great, and he was a fine singer, too – we harmonized well. We never had a lick of trouble in the band, no arguments about material or performance style or anything. Trust me, that’s unusual. The problem was how popular we got. We started getting offers that took us out of state and got the yen to go pro. But Lenny, who had a family and a really good job at HON Industries (my late father had been the personnel man there, and I think may have hired him), could not go full time with Crusin’. It would have been crazy for him to.

After he left the band, I was devastated to lose him. I am not embarrassed to say tears were shed. But it was the right choice for him, the only one really, and our longtime musical accomplice Bruce Peters came back from California to step into the Lenny’s slot and build on what this fine local musician had accomplished. We were very nervous on our first gig at Warehouse Four, minus Lenny, but fortunately we were accepted, despite the predictable grumblings.

Crusin’ evolved into the Ones, and I left the band, largely because I’d landed writing the DICK TRACY comic strip and had family and work responsibilities similar to Lenny’s that kept me from devoting all my time to music. And I hated the travel. When that version of the band split up, I put a version of Crusin’ back together to play our high school reunion (I’m guessing in the mid-‘80s) and Lenny rejoined us briefly to play that final gig with much of the original line-up, Paul Thomas included.

Lenny always had a smile and some friendly conversation for me when I ran into him here in Muscatine. If he had any resentment toward being put on the spot where going pro or staying behind was concerned, he never showed it. He was pleasant and kind, and that smile. What a smile.

Thanks, Lenny.

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When someone iconic passes, it’s always a shock.

And I guess I thought Richard Roundtree would live forever. Well, in a way he will, because John Shaft will certainly live forever.

Richard Roundtree as Shaft

Barb and I loved that movie, the first Shaft, though truth be told it’s a rather run-of-the-mill private eye tale at heart. What separates it is its setting in Black neighborhoods of New York City, in which the mob boss, the hoodlums, the gangbangers, are all from that part of the world, little seen by white America. But don’t be mistaken – the Blaxploitation genre that Shaft ignited wasn’t strictly aimed at, or enjoyed by, Black audiences – White moviegoers were caught up in this new phenomenon, too. John Shaft, in the cover copy of the first novel featuring him, was described as the Black Mike Hammer. So you know I bought that book, well before the movie existed, and that I was there opening night.

I’ve discussed the thrill of witnessing Sean Connery say “Bond, James Bond,” and I have similar feelings about Darren McGavin and Craig Stevens in the first episodes of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Peter Gunn that swept over me on a tiny TV screen. All three of these were coupled with wonderful, unforgettable music.

But who had a better musical entrance than John Shaft?

That Issac Hayes score, accompanying a confident, cocky Richard Roundtree walking through a Manhattan sidewalk crowd, was among the most unforgettable moments in movie history – arguably the number one entrance of an iconic private eye on screen.

Roundtree was up to the job of conveying everything about Shaft that made the character special – his relationship with his Pat Chambers on the PD, the casual womanizing, the bravado, the masculine sense of humor with a laugh that rumbled up out of him like amused lava. You saw this man winding his way through downtown Manhattan and brazenly striding through traffic and you knew – this was a man, this was a hero, this was an instant legend.

Mistakes were made. The second movie, Shaft’s Big Score, was good with a phenomenal climax, but for some reason the outstanding third film, Shaft in Africa, seems to have been barely released. It was one of those movies I waited for, and waited for, and it never came. I saw it on VHS, years later, and it’s arguably the best of the three. I did at the time watch the much-maligned TV series, starring Roundtree, which is much better than it’s cracked up to be (the complete series is on DVD from Warner Archive, a handsome set).

In recent years there have been two Shaft movies, relegating Roundtree to essentially cameo appearances in his own franchise. That didn’t stop him from stealing the third movie.

And he had a good career. Not the career he deserved, but he always seemed to work. Hollywood did not understand that a superstar had been born – all they saw was Shaft.

But that will be enough to keep Richard Roundtree alive as long as people watch movies.

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Here’s a nice write-up about Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction.

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Chad Bishop and I are already at work on the edit of Blue Christmas and it is going well. I am thrilled to have done another film and in particular of this favorite among my short fiction. Finally, a private eye movie!

I hope our lack of name talent doesn’t do us in. Our best known player is Alisabeth Von Presley, who appeared on national television on American Idol and America Song Contest. The cast is strong, however, with Rob Merritt, Von Presley and Chris Causey (our topbilled actors) in particular standing out.

We got some local publicity, though we didn’t seek it, not wishing our short shoot (six days!) to be compromised by set visits. The Muscatine Journal did a good job, though.

Our First Camera Assistant, the indefatigable Liz Toal, wrote a nice piece about me on Facebook, which I’d like to share.

MAC on the set of Blue Christmas
Earlier this year, I attended a film festival. At the pre-awards party, a nominated young female filmmaker eagerly asked me, “What is your favorite film you’ve worked on?” I have been asked this before and I always reply…

“I have worked on many projects, small, large and everything in-between. What I favor most is working and learning alongside some of the greats! Award-winning cinematographers that take my breath away. Gaffers who have been around the block or two with countless jokes and tricks up their sleeves. Talented Key Grips and AC’s who quickly troubleshoot, build and solve issues under extreme pressure. Experienced Directors who communicate their vision clearly and who are flexible yet knowledgable to know when they should or shouldn’t adjust the script on the fly. Working with and learning from fine-tuned oiled crews will always be my favorite. Without a talented crew, there is no film.”

Fast forward to last week. I was setting up A-Cam for the next shot and glanced up. I saw yet another talented great who was deeply immersed in his script…Writer/Director: Max Allan Collins Jr. (Best known for his graphic novel/script, Road to Perdition).

I have known Max for some time now and just talking with him is an ease. Collaborating and working with Max is not just a privilege but a joy. His highly credited writing does not hinder him, it inspires him. That positive inspiration and determination radiates onto his crew. His nostalgic style and stories have an old timeless Hollywood feel which I find refreshing in this very digital, fast paced, modern world.

Until next time Max, thank you.

That’s a wrap!

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