More on Collaboration and Reviews

March 2nd, 2010 by Max Allan Collins

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!


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3 Responses to “More on Collaboration and Reviews”

  1. Dana King says:

    The PW review of THE BIG BANG points out my major frustrations with reviewers. It’s a sensitive issue, as I review about 12-15 books a year, but I try to stay clear of these pitfalls.

    The first one is easy: no anonymous reviews. The author stand behind what he wrote; so should the reviewer, if for no other reason than to give the reader a fighting chance as to how much credence to place in the review. If I know Sara Weinman (to pick a name at random) likes the same kinds of books I do, I’m more likely to be influenced by her review. It’s a big help, and helps to defuse anonymous snark.

    My other peeve–which I actively work against, though I know I used to do it when i was less experienced–is reviewers who review the book based on what they thought it should have been, or make up their own comparisons. You’re absolutely right: why should a Spillane/Hammer book read like Heller? And, while I’m sure you’re delighted to bring new Spillane fans into the fold, let’s face it: Mickey’s estate picked you to do these books because they thought you’d do them justice in the eyes of his fans. The book should have been evaluated on those grounds. There are always to put caveats into the review. (For example, not that it applies here: “This book will appeal most to die-hard Spillane fans…)

  2. dan luft says:

    On behalf of the Quarry fans out there, I want to say THANK YOU!!!! The recent Quarrys are a lot more fun than the re-booted James Bond or Star Wars movies. Now if you could just interest a publisher in that final Nolan novel you’ve been pondering for the last 20 years…

  3. I don’t review as much as I used to, Dana — I wrote movie reviews for MYSTERY SCENE for almost ten years, but when I became a filmmaker in the mid-1990s, and appreciated how impossible an art form film is, I decided not to review them anymore. When my friend Tom Weisser began ASIAN CULT CINEMA magazine, he asked me to do a movie column, and I did, but on the condition that I could only review films I liked. I did do a few negative reviews and a number of mixed ones, but mostly got the word out about stuff I liked.

    To me the first rule of reviewing is to meet a work on its own terms. What’s it trying to do, and does it pull that off? Ditto with books, any work of art, really. Why reviewers (this happens in the bigtime magazines and papers) review something in an area that doesn’t appeal to them is bewildering to me. The handful of negative reviews GOLIATH BONE got usually came from people who hated Spillane. The other negative reviews fell into that category you mentioned: people who didn’t like that GOLIATH BONE was written about the older Mike Hammer. They wanted the ONE LONELY NIGHT Hammer. Well, that wasn’t the book Mickey conceived. I think it’s a remarkable book because it adds Hammer to the list of great fictional detectives who got a final story (chronologically): Morse, Poirot, uh, Quarry….

    Speaking of whom — Dan, I spent yesterday (my 62nd birthday) doing rewrites for editor Charles Ardai on QUARRY’S EX, which has now been officially put to bed. And I do hope to do one more Nolan novel, but I admit my focus at the moment is getting Heller up and running for another five to ten books.