Archive for July, 2009

Comic-Con 2009

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

This update is being written from San Diego, where the comic con is over, and Barb, Nate and I are about to head back to Iowa.

Before I get into a blog-ish report, let me repeat announcements regarding M.A.C. that made some news at the con: Vertigo Crime Line will be doing RETURN TO PERDITION, a graphic novel sequel to ROAD TO PARADISE and the last story, chronologically anyway, in the PERDITION saga. Terry Beatty was announced as artist, which means the MS. TREE team is back. The Vertigo Crime Line books are lovely little hardcovers of about 200 pages.

Although the ink hasn’t dried (actually, hasn’t been applied), informally it was announced that MS. TREE would be reprinted in uniform volumes with a new graphic novel. This will (if all goes well, and it will) be a Comics Mix/IDW affair. Lots of great comments from people about this, all around the con. Also wonderful comments about Quarry and especially the currently in hiatus Jack Starr “comics” mysteries illustrated by Terry.

The con, for once, has not grown. They capped it last year and it has been at capacity ever since. The aisles are packed by ten a.m., and even the preview night is like laundry day along the Ganges. Because I was a special guest this year — as part of the con’s in-house rock band, Seduction of the Innocent — I was able to score Exhibitor badges for both Nate and me. This was even somewhat legit because on Wednesday night we had to schlep in 200 copies of the new Seduction CD (a terrific recording of our most recent performance at the con…in 1999!).

Anyway, that meant Nate and I could get in every day for an hour ahead of the rabble, I mean, other attendees, and that was a joy. A dream-like sensation, walking down wide nearly empty aisles bathed in air-conditioning, surrounded by pop culture imagery absurd and sublime.

I did not abuse the guest privilege, but asked for three things: helping get Nate into a panel on which one of his heroes appeared, Hayao Miyazaki; getting Barb, Nate and me into the jam-packed, a thousand-turned-away Riff Trax performance (front row!), and — this was very tough — getting to privately meet with probably my favorite actor on the planet, Canadian star Paul Gross of SLINGS & ARROWS and DUE SOUTH fame. Paul was as gracious and friendly and warm as he was charistmatic — for example, I used my all-access pass to get into the green room (Nate, also a fan, could not get in). Paul had no problem leaving the safety of the green room to go out into the hallway and talk to Nate for fifteen minutes. Incredible guy, and the experience I will treasure from this con — he would make a great Nate Heller, by the way. (He has a new show, in America, coming up, and that’s what he was promoting: Eastwick.) What did I have him sign? The Blu-Ray of PASSCHENDAELE, the Sirk-like Canadian war epic he wrote, directed and starred in, which inexplicably has not received distribution in the USA.

Seduction of the Innocent: Live @ Comic-Con 1999

This was easily my most hectic con. I’ll start with the Seduction of the Innocent stuff. First, Miguel Ferrer had a filming conflict, but I was there with Bill Mumy, Chris Christensen and Steve Leialoha, debuting our LIVE AT THE SAN DIEGO ComicCon 1999 OFFICIAL BOOTLEG CD. Though we did not play (we weren’t asked), we sold around 100 of the limited 200 edition, meaning you’ll soon be able to snag a copy here (we will have around 10 signed copies available). We spent much of the con together at various events and signings, and I was reminded by how much fun it is to be with Bill, Chris and Steve. Bill also debuted the first new Barnes & Barnes album in 18 years — he is talented, funny guy, sweet and witty but be careful not to get sent to the cornfield…it CAN happen. Chris knows music better than anybody I know, and I get a warmth being around him that reminds me of my late buddy Paul Thomas. Steve Leialoha, whose FABLES racked up several Eisner awards, is as slyly funny as his smile is sunny.

Seduction presented a couple of Eisners at the awards and were well received. We do not really understand why they would invite us, a rock band, and not have us play, and frankly all of us spent much of the convention being asked, and not being able to answer, the question, “Why aren’t you guys playing?” There were in fact several opportunities — a reception, the after-event at the Eisners. There does seem to be a possibility we will do so next year, and we were informally approached by another con, as well.

I did panels on noir comics, on mystery fiction, as well as the Vertigo panel and — trumpets here — the Scribes awards. Link over, courtesy of Nate, and see the winners (I was not one of them, though had two nice nominations).

I also recorded an interview for a major Blu-Ray release (all I can say at the moment) and the family ate well, saw Demetri Martin in concert, and Barb and Nate got to go to Coronado island (and experience the SOME LIKE IT HOT/SOMEWHERE IN TIME hotel and beach) while I met at the con with Marvel on a top secret project (you didn’t hear it here). I also met with several editors — gave away and signed maybe 300 copies of G.I. JOE: ABOVE AND BEYOND at the Del Rey booth — including discussing the Heller-in-progress with TOR editor Jim Frenkel. Nate entered a Find Waldo (a guy dressed up like Waldo that is) at the Capcom booth, and was the big winner of a thousand bucks worth of stash, including a 360 and a Blackberry.

Next to meeting Paul Gross, the biggest thrill for me was having the three Riff Trax guys (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy) seek me out at the autographing area, standing there with big smiles on their midwestern mugs like an absurd mirage. I love these guys (CINEMATIC TITANTIC, too) and we made each other laugh for maybe ten minutes…and then I suggested a project that we might do together that I guarantee would interest anybody who has read this far.

More later. Time to leave the land of make believe and go back to Iowa.


San Diego Comic-Con 2009 Schedule

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009


12:30 – 1:30 Crime: Usual and Unusual — The heart of crime fiction is a crime committed against people or institutions — but the range of subgenres is diverse and fascinating. Max Allan Collins, also Jeff Marriote, Alexander Irvine, Gregg Hurwitz, Thomas Greanias, Kat Richardson. Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy, moderator. Room 3

Autographing: 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm AA1 (I will sign only the first half hour)

2:00 – 3:00 A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics — Crime comics are back with a bang! Darwyn Cooke (Parker: The Hunter), Greg Rucka (Gotham Central), and Steve Lieber (Whiteout) join moderator/noted mystery and comics writer Max Allan Collins (The Road to Perdition) to talk about the new incarnations of crime and noir in comics. Room 5AB

3:30-4:30 Seduction of the Innocent — No, it’s not the risen corpse of Dr. Fredric Wertham, it’s the superstar San Diego combo that rocked Comic-Con in the ’80s and ’90s. Together reminiscing, debuting their new con-exclusive CD, and taking questions on their comics, show biz, and musical careers are Max Allan Collins, Bill Mumy, Steve Leialoha and John “Chris” Christensen. Miguel Ferrer has a filming conflict and is unlikely to attend. Room 30AB

“SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT” Autographing: 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm AA7 — after panel (new CD for sale — limited to 200 copies!)

6:00 – 7:00 Vertigo New Ongoing Series/Crime Line — DC will be launching the highly anticipated Vertigo Crime Line with some of the top talents in the industry. Moderated by senior VP/executive editor, Vertigo, Karen Berger and senior editor Will Dennis. Max Allan Collins (making a new ROAD TO PERDITION announcement), Peter Gross, Jeff Lemire, Jason Starr, Chris Gage, Fabio Moon and others TBA. Room 5AB



3:00 – 4:30 Scribe Awards/Media Tie-in Writers Panel — Attend the third annual presentation of the International Association of Media-Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) “Scribe” awards, honoring such notable franchises as CSI, Criminal Minds, The X-Files, Star Trek, Stargate, Star Wars, and Dr. Who. The presentation will be followed by a panel of nominees, including James Rollins (Indiana Jones), Matt Forbeck (Mutant Chronicles), Bob Greenberger (Hellboy), Keith R. A. DeCandido (Farscape), Stacia Deutsch (Dark Knight), Nathan Long (Warhammer), and Tod Goldberg (Burn Notice). Moderated by Lee Goldberg (Monk) and Max Allan Collins (G.I. JOE) Room 4

Autographing: M.A.C. plus other tie-in writers AA3 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm


Autographing: M.A.C., Mumy, Christensen, Leialoha AA6 11:00 am – 12:00 pm


UPDATE: Autographing: G.I. JOE signing/book giveaway, Del Rey Booth #1129 – 12:00pm

The Little Death Recording in Chicago, Trash ‘n’ Treasures

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

This Monday (July 13), at a recording studio in Chicago, my novel for audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: THE LITTLE DEATH, was recorded with Stacy Keach and a gifted cast, including Second City/SNL star Tim Kazurinsky. The cast did great and producer/director Carl Amari was generous enough to allow me to sit in and give occasional direction myself. My pal Mike Cornelison (ELIOT NESS himself) came along from Des Moines to play Captain Pat Chambers of Homicide.

Max and Stacy Keach and Carl Amari
Max with Stacy Keach and Carl Amari

Max and Tim Kazurinsky
Max with Tim Kazurinsky

Mike Cornelison with Stacy Keach
Mike Cornelison and Stacy Keach

This three-hour, full-cast audio novel will be released by Blackstone Audio in October, and I have to say I’m really, really excited about it. Hearing Stacy read THE GOLIATH BONE was a thrill, but to be in the studio with him reading my lines (with Tim, Mike and other wonderful Chicago actors) made the thirteen year-old Mike Hammer fan in me very happy indeed.

“Barbara Allan,” which is to say Barb and I, are pleased to announce that we have won the following:

The Romantic Times 2008 Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery

Here is how the Romantic Times editors describe the honor:

“The Toby Bromberg Award is named in honor of RT’s longtime mystery reviewer, who passed away in 2002. To honor Toby Bromberg’s memory and to celebrate her enthusiasm and love for authors and the mystery genre, we have created an annual award to be given in her name.

“This year we are proud to announce the seventh recipient of the Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery Novel, Barbara Allan aka Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, for ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET, published by Kensington.”

Barb and I are thrilled to receive this award, the first such honor for the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (although not our first nomination), and are particularly happy that the book and series were singled out for this particular award. The humor aspect of those books — often commented on by EQMM reviewer Jon Breen, who has expressed a suspicion that we are spoofing the cozy genre in the Brandy Borne and Mother mysteries — is second only in our collective mind to character.

We would be the first to admit that the mystery itself is of a secondary concern to us. We often comment on the fact that the series we love most — Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels — is one whose entries we can re-visit again and again, rarely remembering “who did it,” but having so much fun with Archie and his boss that we don’t care. In fact, we like it, because we can enjoy the stories again and again.

Antques Bizarre

This is not to say we don’t care about the mystery. Just that it’s not our major concern, although we’ve tried to work on that side of things, and the forthcoming ANTIQUES BIZARRE (next March, as usual from Kensington) is probably the best mystery we’ve done so far.

ANTIQUES FLEE MARKET will be out in paperback in November, with a terrific new cover. In the spirit of humor, we’ve been lobbying for more comic-oriented artwork and Kensington has really come through for us, as you can see here.

I know some of my fans — the hard-bitten Nate Heller and Quarry bunch — avoid these novels. I often have male fans tell me their wives love the books. Fine. But be secure enough in your masculinity to read these, because humor plays a big part in most of my work, and these novels are the funniest stuff I (help) turn out.

Whether we’re spoofing the genre of not, well…let me fill you in on how we came to do this series. Barb and I had done two standalone novels together. The first, REGENERATION, was a minor paperback original bestseller; the second, BOMBSHELL, our Marilyn Monroe Meets Nikita Khrushchev thriller, wound up at Five Star, where it was one of that small company’s best sellers…but we’d had higher hopes. We thought it was time to find a series to do together.

Antques Bizarre

Michaela Hamilton, who had been my first Nate Heller editor at NAL, had moved to Kensington Books. We were chatting on the phone about how nice it would be to work together again, but she said, “I’m doing cozies…that’s not exactly your cup of cyanide.” (Cozy editors talk that way.) (Actually, they don’t. I made that up.) Anyway, I said Barb and I had been wanting to do a series together, and that we were big Christie fans (although Christie isn’t really that cozy — those are nasty, violent books) and would love to take a swing at the genre.

We wrote a proposal from my notion of doing a Red Hat Society mystery, with an elderly eccentric detective and her forty-something widowed daughter. Michaela wrote back and said we didn’t understand her market. She needed a young-ish female protagonist, although a sidekick older gal was fine, as well as the following: a cute pet, a memorable, even exotic setting and an overall gimmick (i.e., crossword puzzles, recipes, etc.).

As a writing exercise (since I generally don’t believe in writing to market), we took a shot. We made the young protagonist a Prozac-addled divorcee of around thirty who had screwed up her marriage in the big city and went running home to Mama. We made Mama a bipolar diva of local theater who made Auntie Mame look low-key. For the cute pet, we (not caring for cats) gave our girls a diabetic and blind dog (based on a pet of ours we’d recently lost). For the town, the “exotic” setting was just our hometown, changing Muscatine to “Serenity” (after the TV series), making it an “antiquing” town (which to some degree it was). For our gimmick, we had antiques, but didn’t go the big ticket route, Sotheby’s and so on, rather having our girls be flea market, yard sale and even dumpster-diving bottom feeders. We gave our sample chapters outrageous puns for titles, and put on a supposedly helpful (but mostly just funny) tips for collecting antiques.

When we were finished, we really liked what we had (two chapters and a proposal), but thought Michaela would roll her eyes at our blatantly tongue-in-cheek, even subversive approach. We figured we had something Kensington would turn down, but that we might be able to market elsewhere. Instead, we got the best acceptance letter ever — one word in an e-mail: “More.”

We are working on the fifth novel now — ANTIQUES KNOCK-OFF. As for how we can collaborate and stay married, I’ll save that for a later update.


The Goliath Bone in Paperback

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The Goliath Bone

THE GOLIATH BONE, the first of the Mike Hammer novels I’m completing from Mickey Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts (and notes), is just out in trade paperback from Harcourt. The cover is the same as last year’s hardcover, but it’s slightly smaller, taking my “with Max Allan Collins” byline from tiny to microscopic. Magnifying glass sold separately.

I loved doing this book, which is chronologically the final Hammer. Mickey was working on it at the time of his death in 2006, and asked me to complete it just days before he passed; around the same time he told his wife Jane that there would be a “treasure hunt” after he was gone, and to “give everything to Max — he’ll know what to do.” I don’t know if I’m prouder of anything in my career than having Mickey express that vote of confidence.

The novel was very well received, with several reviewers (including one by Thomas McNulty in the excellent fanzine The Mystery News) calling it “the best book of the year.” Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective website fame did a really nice review/article in Mystery Scene, and Bookgasm was glowing (great review web site, who called THE FIRST QUARRY the best novel of 2008). Some reviewers (and readers at Amazon, for one online source) complained that Hammer wasn’t the man of ONE LONELY NIGHT, which is among the dumbest comments I’ve read in any review (and not just of my books). I mean, Mickey stopped writing about the young psycho Hammer in 1952, and the subsequent Hammer novels from THE GIRL HUNTERS through BLACK ALLEY were about a post-crazed Hammer (both those novels are about a weakened Hammer having to bluff his way on his old reputation). Several reviewers bitched about “constant” references to Hammer’s age in THE GOLIATH BONE, when there are probably about half a dozen such references at most. A few did the math and decided it was unrealistic for Hammer to still be around fighting Al Qaeda, to whom I ask: at what point did you decide Mickey Spillane was doing “realism”?

The novel is designed to be that rarity — like THE REMORSEFUL DAY, CURTAIN and THE LAST QUARRY — a final novel in a series. Let me go on record about reviewers professional, semi-pro and amateur: if you review a novel on your terms and not the author’s, then stop writing reviews and write your own damn book (to paraphrase Lloyd Kaufman).

Mickey Spillane

The second of the Spillane/Collins Hammer novels, THE BIG BANG, will be out in the Spring of 2010. I got an even bigger bang (deal with it) out of this one, as it was a 1964 manuscript and is really vintage Hammer, probably tougher and sexier than any of the Hammer novels Mickey completed and published in the 1960s. It has hippie chicks and LSD and Mafiosi and is pure Swinging Sixties. The next one, KISS HER GOODBYE, is a ’70s Hammer that I’ll be doing late this year for 2011 publication. That will conclude the current contract, but there are three more substantial Hammer manuscripts — including one from 1948! — that I hope to complete as well. There’s also a sequel to THE DELTA FACTOR that may be done for Hard Case Crime.

Some may recall that KING OF THE WEEDS has been mentioned as one of the first batch of Hammers. That novel is another one about the older Hammer, and I decided to move it to the last position among the six unfinished novels, because I believe GOLIATH BONE and KING OF THE WEEDS will bookend nicely.

On a different note, I hope you’ll support the film PUBLIC ENEMIES, which is Michael Mann’s very good take on the Dillinger story. I have a typically selfish agenda here, because if this movie is popular, any number of my projects (the ROAD TO PURGATORY film in particular) will benefit. Interestingly, PUBLIC ENEMIES has a fair amount of Frank Nitti material — which I frankly (sorry) don’t think would be the case if not for the film of ROAD TO PERDITION. Similarly, the fine nonfiction book that spawned Mann’s film explored theories and information first developed by me and my research associate George Hagenauer for TRUE CRIME and for our infamous trading card series that was later collected in another book called TRUE CRIME. Though I really admire the book PUBLIC ENEMIES, I am not mentioning the author’s name. He didn’t mention mine or George’s in his bibliography, so — in the true Mike Hammer spirit — I’m getting even, a little.