Early Crimes

August 13th, 2013 by Max Allan Collins
Early Crimes

A new book of mine has just been published, and though I haven’t held a copy in my hands as yet, I’m told it’s available at Amazon and other outlets, as well as directly from the publisher, Perfect Crime Books.

Perfect Crime, as some of you know, is where the first five Quarry novels are available in handsome trade paperback editions (and on e-book) as well as all of the Nolan novels but for the first two, which are available as TWO FOR THE MONEY from Hard Case Crime. Since the Quarry and Nolan novels the publisher carries represent the first phase of my career, it’s fitting that Perfect Crime is now offering EARLY CRIMES.

The book is a collection of sorts, though primarily represents the first publication of my 1974 or ‘75 novel SHOOT THE MOON (aka WYNNING STREAK). The rest of the contents are two very early stories, written when I was in a creative writing class at Muscatine Community College from 1966 through 1968. The short story “Public Servant” reveals my heavy Jim Thompson influence, and “The Love Rack” is a novella that combines Spillane and James M. Cain techniques. These are very hardboiled stories, whereas the novel SHOOT THE MOON reveals that I was at the time as much in the thrall of Donald E. Westlake as I was of his alter ego, Richard Stark.

The short story and novella were first published, back in the mid-‘80s, in HARDBOILED, the prozine whose then-editor, Wayne Dundee, had requested short fiction from me. I didn’t have time to whip anything new up and offered him these two unpublished early stories on the proviso that they be labelled as such. “Public Servant” was later reprinted by Lawrence Block in his collection OPENING SHOTS (2000). Wayne, interviewing me, learned of the existence of the unpublished first Nolan novel, MOURN THE LIVING, and talked me into serializing that in HARDBOILED. Since then, it’s appeared in book form several times, most recently with the other Nolan titles from Perfect Crime.

SHOOT THE MOON is another matter. After over forty years of this, my memory is shot. But I believe I wrote the novel just before QUARRY (aka THE BROKER) sold. It was absolutely a spec novel, and it was as shamelessly a Westlake homage as BAIT MONEY had been a Stark one. When I was finished with it, I sent the novel to Don Westlake, who was a mentor at the time, and he had complained about my overdoing the discursive humor. The version that Perfect Crime is including in EARLY CRIMES reflects me revising according to Don’s notes.

My agent at the time was the notoriously crusty Knox Burger, of legendary Gold Medal Books editorship fame. He did not like the book and didn’t want to handle it. I didn’t even know an agent could reject a book and was stunned. Finally, after my Westlake-advised rewrite, Knox took it on, but I don’t believe he ever really showed it to anyone. (Keep in mind he later also rejected TRUE DETECTIVE, at which time I fired him.) I had all but forgotten about the novel until a few years ago when, after Burger’s passing, some of my manuscripts were returned to me by his widow. Among them was a suspiciously fresh-looking copy of WYNNING STREAK, aka SHOOT THE MOON.

John Boland, the editor at Perfect Crime, originally intended to publish SHOOT THE MOON by itself. I felt the book would be better served in a collection that included the other two early stories. It would take the burden off the book being viewed as the “new” Max Allan Collins novel. But in the context of a collection, it works pretty well. The comic nature of it is slightly offset by the extreme noir of the other two pieces. Or anyway, that’s my opinion.

SHOOT THE MOON, which is a comic caper novel with a klutzy young hero, may be a kind of missing link to the ANTIQUES novels. Certainly it’s the most overtly funny novel I wrote before Barb and I began the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (many decades later); and it shares a small-town sensibility. But for those of you who don’t follow the ANTIQUES books, because you wouldn’t be caught dead reading a cozy, not to worry – SHOOT THE MOON is very much a crime novel, with dangerous felons, jailhouse doings, bank robberies, and some satisfying plot twists. Again, in my opinion.

I hope my readers will support Perfect Crime in the publication of what is clearly the most esoteric book of mine out there. It includes an introduction, by the way, that covers much more than I’ve touched on here. It’s a bargain, too – just ten bucks. (I believe ordering from Perfect Crime directly gets you 20% off.) I hope you’ll give it a try, and if you like it, post reviews at Amazon and elsewhere; and if don’t like it, surely you have something better to do than say bad things about me in public.

* * *

ASK NOT, the new Nate Heller, which comes out in a little over two months, is getting some great advance reviews. Check this out, from Publisher’s Weekly:

“In the solid 17th Nate Heller thriller Ask Not, a sequel to 2012’s Target Lancer, Collins skillfully integrates fact with fiction in service of a plot centering on the suspicious-to-some numbers of witnesses to President Kennedy’s assassination who died in the months after November 22, 1963. In September 1964, a Cuban that the PI knows was involved in an attempt on J.F.K.’s life in Chicago three weeks before Dallas tries to run down Heller and his 16-year-old son on a Chicago street after a Beatles concert. With the permission of senatorial candidate Robert Kennedy, an old friend, Heller joins forces with journalist Flo Kilgore, a fictionalized version of Dorothy Kilgallen (1913–1965), to investigate an apparent conspiracy. Having played a part in facilitating the CIA-Mafia plots to knock off Castro, Heller is well-positioned to talk to those who might know why he’s been marked for death. Warren Commission skeptics will find some innovative theories of interest.”

And this starred review from Booklist:

“The third in Collins’ trilogy of Nathan Heller novels about JFK, this one jumps from a few weeks before the assassination (Target Lancer, 2012), when a planned attempt on the president’s life in Chicago was aborted, to several months after the events of November 22, 1963. Heller becomes involved when he and his son are nearly run down as they leave a Beatles concert. Recognizing the driver as one of the Cubans involved in the Chicago plot, Heller sets out to take his family off the assassins’ radar and soon finds himself even deeper in hot water, as he follows the trail of a host of spurious suicides by witnesses of the shooting in Dallas whose versions of what happened conflict with the official, “one-man, one-shooter” version being promulgated by the Warren Commission. Teaming with TV star and investigative reporter Flo Kilgore (read Dorothy Kilgallen), who is on the verge of exposing the cover-up – and its ties to several LBJ cronies – Heller ruffles feathers at the CIA, in the Mob, and possibly even in (or very near) the White House. A master at thoroughly believable historical re-creations of unsolved or covered-up crimes, Collins is the perfect fiction writer to tackle the JFK assassination, and he does so brilliantly, working the edges of the story by focusing on the little-known raft of questionable suicides – all documented in the historical record – and making great use of the Kilgore/Kilgallen character, who was herself one of the unlikely suicides. Even readers who aren’t conspiracy theorists will find themselves utterly drawn into the story and convinced by Collins’ version of what happened. And, best of all, it’s a terrific detective novel, compelling and well constructed even without the historical connection.”


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12 Responses to “Early Crimes”

  1. JSweet says:

    Any tour plans for Ask Not?

  2. No major touring plans presently. I’ll be doing a Chicago appearance, also Davenport, probably Cedar Rapids, and will be at Bouchercon in Albany, although the book won’t quite be out. Details of these signings will be posted here.

  3. Joe Menta says:

    The editor in me can’t resist saying that I hope the cover copy above your name was eventually smoothed out to something like “Includes the first publication of the novel Shoot the Moon”. Looks a little choppy the way it is now. More importantly, I’m looking forward to the book. I’m revisiting a lot of your early stuff now (mainly the “Mallory” titles) and really enjoying the experience. So, some “new” early stuff? Wow.

  4. Brian_Drake says:

    The writer in me can’t help but laugh at the revolver sitting next to the typewriter. One wonders if a bullet will be used when writer’s block sets in.

    Thanks for telling us about this one, Max. I was thinking just this morning that I need to get the new Quarry books so I might as well add the new one to the shopping cart.

  5. Yes, I noted that — I’ll link it officially next week. They are wrong in their assumptions, however — with the exception of DEAD STREET (which lacked only the closing chapters, though some minor revisions for consistency of plot and character were necessary), the Spillane manuscripts have all been around the same length — 100 double-spaced pages. Often there have been notes, as well. GOLIATH BONE was somewhat longer, but the size of my byline had to do with launching these completed novels in a way that emphasized Mickey. After that, by contract, our names are of equal size, with Mickey in first position.

  6. SPKelly says:

    Normally I love the AV Club inventories, but this one was a swing and a miss. The examples are forced and poorly researched. And a couple of them don’t fit their premise. Down in the comments, the only mentions seem to deride Stacy Keach for his audio narrations. I guess people never learned “If you can’t say anything nice…”

    On a sunnier note, the son of a friend played “Harlem Nocturne” on his saxophone for my wife’s birthday. She’s a big Mickey Spillane fan.

  7. Joe Menta says:

    Went to the publisher’s site to buy my copy of “Early Crimes”, but then remembered that, as an Amazon Prime member, I get free two-day shipping at Amazon. At Amazon, though, I learned that I could borrow the Kindle edition for free (again, ’cause of my Amazon Prime status). So that’s what I did. By the way, Amazon prices are very good across the board for this title: only $8.00 or so for a paper copy and under $3.00 to buy the Kindle edition. I don’t feel too guilty over picking the free “borrowing” option, though, as you once pointed out (if I remember correctly) that you DO see some bucks from those lending transactions.

    I tried to buy the Kindle edition of “Antiques Bizarre”, too (to take advantage of the sale), but Amazon helpfully told me that I already owned it! Sure enough, it’s there in my archives. Don’t feel bad, it was due to reading other titles of yours that distracted me from the fact that I owned that one, too.

  8. Paul.Griffith says:

    Hey! Good News! Amazon is now pre-ordering “KING OF WEEDS”. I just ordered my copy to be released May 6, 2014. By the way, what is the deal with INTENTIONAL SAFETY from Barnes & Noble? What is the background? I my want to order it as well.

  9. Paul.Griffith says:

    I was checking out the cover-it is black & white with Mick’s and your name in Blue. There is a shadow of someone standing on the street, but it is blacked out. Pretty neat cover. The cost from Amazon.com is $18.57 (or less) plus $3.99 shipping. Really got excited as I am thrilled to have KING OF THE WEEDS finally released!

  10. Nathan Collins says:

    INTENTIONAL SAFETY seems to be a small press book by a pilot named Max Collins—not our Max Allan Collins. (Unless my father has been moonlighting with the Royal Australian Air Force for forty-eight flying years…we do all have our secrets.) I’ve contacted B&N about their mix-up. By all means, buy the book if it looks interesting, but be warned, it’s not M.A.C.!