Collins Hits The Third Rail

February 2nd, 2010 by Max Allan Collins

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.


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17 Responses to “Collins Hits The Third Rail”

  1. Brian_Drake says:

    Don’t worry, Max, I knew you were a bleeding heart the moment you made Nate Heller use a rubber.

    True story: Grandpa was reading my copy of “True Detective” way back when (who would have been Heller’s age during the time frame of the book), and I heard him laugh. I said, “What’s so funny?” And he said, “Heller uses a rubber.” Until then, I had no idea Grandpa knew anything about sex.

    But seriously, not all Republicans stand behind Bush. I can complain about one or two or even three things. Not all of us liked McCain, either. In fact, when I found out my mother (herself slightly left of center) liked him, I knew he was bad news, and he drags Vietnam around with him the way Ellroy drags his mother.

    Not all Tea Party people are weird. The Obama Birthers are a sideshow looking for a circus, and even their friends don’t like them, but maybe they can hang out with the 9/11 Truthers. I gave one of the speaches at the first tea party in my town, and mom still isn’t speaking to me. I’m trying to decide if that’s a bad thing. The GOP has a ton of cute girls within the ranks, too, so the extra attention brought to me by that speech didn’t hurt, either.

    But enough. I’m finally getting around the “A Killing in Comics” so look for a review of that soon; also, I cannot wait to get my hands on “You Can’t Stop Me” (just ordered it from Amazon). The concept sounds fantastic.

  2. Dana King says:

    I’m more or less a lefty myself. I take no offense from any political argument presented reasonably and factually. Factually is the key element. Someone wants to debate the value of end-of-life care, I’m happy to. I’m not talking about death panels, though.

    Would it affect my book-buying decisions? Maybe, but the author would have to be way, way out there, and in my face about it, as well. I love Wagner’s music, though he was one of the most contemptible humans who ever drew breath.

  3. Brian — thanks for the comments. Funny thing is a lot of people over the years have assumed I am right-leaning, probably because of all the revenge in my books. But Heller didn’t use a rubber — he used a lambskin. Not sure there even were rubbers in 1931.

    Dana, I do worry about revealing my political leanings, and this column was not meant to be a screed, just a few observations. Mickey Spillane and I were very far apart politically, and his lovely wife Jane is very, very much a Republican of the conservative stripe…but politics doesn’t come between a great friendship.

  4. Brian_Drake says:

    Rubber, lambskin–I’m at work so I must type the first thing that comes to mind. :) Grandpa used the word “rubber” though. He always knew when to edit himself around us kids but he let the cuss words fly when he thought we weren’t anywhere near the room.

    You’ve been more than clear in some of the afterwards and introductions (mainly the Nolan books, I guess) that you weren’t exactly a Reaganite, so I don’t know why anybody would be surprised. Then again, maybe they don’t read every single word same as I do. An author’s opinions or philosophy can’t always be determiend by what he or she writes. If you read my work, you’d think I’m this dark, brooding, quadi-Goth type; in reality, I’m quite the goof off, so I guess I never formed an opinion on your beliefs. Who cared? I was too busy reading. :)

  5. Dana King says:

    I never interpreted it as a screed; as I said, reasoned commentary is always appreciated. I have friends who think I pretend to be as liberal as I am just to jag them. It doesn’t affect our friendship, though there is one guy I don’t speak to anymore who called me a traitor and terrorist sympathizer one time too often when I disagreed with anything George W. Bush.

    I’ve read a couple of your books. Whatever political leanings you have don’t come through in any obvious way, and they certainly don’t detract from the story.

  6. Dana, Brian,

    thanks so much for dropping by. You prove that we can at least dip a political toe in, on a blog like this, and everything remains cool.

  7. mike doran says:

    Long ago, I tricked onto the following Immutable Truth:

    Politics is never about Us Winning.
    It’s always about Them Losing.

    Once I figured this out, people’s personal politics ceased to be a factor (pardon the expression) in how I regarded them. I learned to steer clear of hard-line Ideologues of all stripes (and some plaids); once someone’s views are set in stone, any kind of reason is impossible. Mind you, I haven’t learned completely; I can’t resist asking the occasional impertinent question, even when I know I’m going to get a bumper sticker in reply. (This is what usually happens to me at Roger Ebert’s blog, where both extremes regularly set at each other – slowly I’ve learned to just observe and try to keep the groans and giggles to myself.)

    That said, I find that I still have to look in now and then at the newswrestlers on Fox and MSNBC… if only to marvel at how they’ve all managed to make an institution of discourtesy.

    My own politics: Dad always voted only for Democrats because he was a union man and the Republicans weren’t. I believe the last Presidential vote he cast was for Humphrey in ’68 (he might have voted for Clinton in ’92, the year before he died, but I’m not sure). My brother went from right (John Campbell’s editorials in ANALOG) to left (clean for Gene McCarthy) in four years of high school. My own high school years, I got to hear all kinds of mid-to-late ’60s nuttinesses to put me off politics for life. In my so-called adulthood I think I became center-to-left: I’m a registered Dem, but I’m not a party-liner. Generally I’m looking for whoever will do the least damage. Actually, with all the negativity abounding on all sides, I’m surprised that I still vote at all – and yet I do.

    Damn. This is my third try at writing this, and it’s coming out all wrong. Maybe I ought to just give up and read a good book.(On the lookout for your new ones.)

    Or maybe I should just watch my mountain of ancient TV (just got an unsold pilot package that includes THE GREAT MERLINI and COOL AND LAM. I’m holding these for when I’m really blue).

    Enough of my blather. Hope you have better luck making sense of this than I have.

    *rap sheet still ‘not responding’*

  8. Great post, Mike. Lots of good insights.

    That package of lost TV pilots sounds interesting — I assume it’s a gray market item…?

  9. Christopher Mills says:

    I’m an Independent, though I tend to lean to the left these days, and my wife is a full-bore, tree-hugging bleeding heart liberal.

    But, I also tend to keep my political opinions to myself, especially in public forums or online socializing, because, since I’m still struggling to forge a writing career, I don’t want to alienate any potential fans (or as Mickey called them, “customers”).

    If pressed, I express my current political views as “disgusted,” and leave it at that. These days, few can argue with that.

    Just finished QUARRY IN THE MIDDLE and am looking forward to QUARRY’S EX.

  10. I really understand the point you’re making — Nate used to be a huge fan of Orson Scott Card’s, and got alienated by his politics at some point (he may write about that himself) — and that’s why the toe I dipped in here will be about as far as I go.

    Separating the art from the artist is tough. I have met actors who turned me off their movies, and writers who turned me off their books — that is, actually meeting them and not liking them. On the other hand, Al Capp and Frank Sinatra — two of my favorite artists — seem to have been pretty sketchy human beings, particularly Capp, and yet nothing can disuade me from loving their stuff.

    The night before I met Mickey Spillane was a sleepless one, really a night sweats horror, because I was so afraid my hero would have feet of clay. There had been reports of Mickey misbehaving, so I was really fearful. But he turned out to be the sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet.

    Weird, in a way — what is more personal than art? And yet somehow we have to learn not to hold the artist against the art.

  11. mike doran says:

    Thanx for your encouraging words.

    About that “grey market” you mentioned:
    Am I on some shaky legal ground if I admit to patronizing such a place? At my age I can get worried about things like that.So if I were to tell you where I found the DVD would it get me in trouble? (Even if the GM is the only place to get the certain title?)

    Pardon my jitters. I know that much of this stuff is now Public Domain, but that’s what makes the grey market grey, isn’t it?

    So if I now just mention how much I enjoy Martin Grams’s reference books, which can be ordered from his website, I’m sure you would realize that it’s purely coincidental… right? ;)

  12. Brian_Drake says:

    Max, No prob. Just don’t start quoting the Huffington Post, unless you want me to quote Limbaugh in return–they’re both extreme opinions that are not necessarily the truth. In fact, I stopped listening to Limbaugh a long time ago because he’s become too liberal. :)

  13. I may be seriously overestimating how much my politics/beliefs matter to the (greatly appreciated) few who read my work, but I’ve already had one fan “friend” attack me on Facebook, provoked only by the fact that I have “athiest” on my profile under “Religious Views.”

    I “unfriended” him (Man, the Internet’s really doing a number on the English language), and resigned myself to one less sale of FEMME NOIR… but it did make me even more wary of disclosing *any* personal information (esp. religious or political) in public forums.

  14. We reveal so much of ourselves in our work, it’s odd to think that revealing a little of ourselves on a blog or whatever can do damage with readers. But fiction requires interpretation, and a flat-out statement of opinion encourages unshaded reactions.

    I was raised a Republican, and a lot of my likes and dislikes were formed when I was living with my parents. I loved Ayn Rand’s FOUNTAINHEAD and even read her philosophical essays, and thought I was conservative until an influential teacher at Muscatine Community College turned me around. That this was in the thick of the Vietnam war and all that cultural upheaval should come as no surprise. I believe in personal responsibility, which comes from my Republican roots, but in social responsibility, too, which comes from the left-leaning side.

    I was also raised a Methodist, and forced to go to church every Sunday. My mother made a fetish out of my having perfect attendance pins. Now I despise going to church. I consider myself philosophically Christian (which is essentially having a leftist or Democrat view — i.e., suffer the little children to me, easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle, that kind of thing) but that’s about as far as I will go on a public declaration. I think I would probably join a denomination that actually preached and followed the teachings of Christ, but I don’t know of any. And I still wouldn’t attend services.

  15. Edmond D. Smith says:

    Completely disagree with your politics and love your writing which I imagine I will continue to do as long as you don’t start writing stories about the evil military despoiling the the pristine ecology of wise, noble savages (although I understand there’s a market for that kind of flapdoodle on the big screen. LOL)

    What I dislike about writer’s who inject their personal politics too overtly into their stories is the assumption (which usually accompanies such an insertion,) that anybody who disagrees with them is a dolt, so unsophisticated. I generally don’t enjoy being insulted so such “works of art” usually end up decorating the bottom of my garbage can. Too often and more and more over the past couple of years you see people throwing in a desparaging line or two against (usually) conservatives in general in odd places: a put down of GWB in a sports story, a slap at Rush Limbaugh in a travel article, that type of thing. If I’m looking for political commentary (and I frequently am) I’ll go to places where I expect it to be. But I kind of like to escape politics in my detective stories and mysteries.

    I can’t say I’ve ever found anything in-your-face political in any of the books of yours that I’ve read and for that I give thanks. I wish more writer’s had such mature restraint.

  16. Thanks for the great post, Edmond.

    I don’t think it’s my business to inject politics directly into my fiction. In fact, I think it’s my business to reflect the beliefs of the characters I’m writing about, so if I’m in Mike Hammer’s POV, I am conservative; Wyatt Earp was a Republican through and through and I wrote him that way in BLACK HATS; Nate Heller is an FDR Democrat but a deeply cynical guy about politics and people in general; Quarry is apolitical, although at the heart of those stories is the damage I feel was done to this country in so many ways by Vietnam, so I guess that’s politics. But mostly Quarry is about black humor. The next Heller is the first of two books that will probably be hated by a lot of people on the left, because of what I have to say about the Kennedys.

    Here’s the thing: I strongly believe that a writer who wants to tell us what he thinks should write essays, editorials, commentaries. A writer like me writes fiction in part to discover what he thinks (and feels). Fiction isn’t a lecture, it’s a voyage of discovery, for both writer and reader.

    I also think because I was raised a Republican and considered myself a conservative in my teenage years, I have a feel and understanding for such views…and share some of those views to this day.