New Mike Hammer Mini-Book Plus Quarry Raves

January 14th, 2014 by Max Allan Collins

My friend Otto Penzler, who published the first three Spillane/Collins “Mike Hammer” novels at Harcourt, asked me to develop a bibliophile novella for him. He has a series of these small books that are sold exclusively through his Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. The story, called “It’s in the Book,” has Mike Hammer searching for…a book. I think it’s one of best the short stories I’ve developed from Mickey’s shorter Hammer fragments, and you can order it here for $4.95.

There’s also a signed limited hardcover edition for $100, for the more demented among you. You can find it at the Mysterious Bookshop website.

Courtesy of Iowa-based stand-up comic Dwayne Clark (he’s terrific) comes this screen cap of Chris Christie. No political point here, just bragging on how a certain title of mine has gotten into the language.

Road to Contrition

The WRONG QUARRY reviews, mostly raves, keep rolling in. Very good response to this one. It’s been interesting and a little odd to have all this discussion of what is from my perspective the previous Quarry novel while I am working on the current one. It’s especially odd because a lot of the reviews focus on the “list” approach of WRONG QUARRY, whereas QUARRY’S CHOICE takes place while Quarry is still working for the Broker. When he’s a hitman killing citizens and not a hitman killing other hitmen.

One reviewer, generally a fan of my work, has trouble with Quarry himself. That he talks to the reader. That he seems fairly normal. That he is a killer. I get this, and always knew the character would not work for all of my readers. Going back to the character’s creation in the early ‘70s, Quarry is perhaps the first series protagonist with PTSD. He is us, post-Vietnam – numb, less human while still recognizably human. The arc of almost any Quarry novel is the character starting as a cold killer, meeting a good woman, and becoming something more like who he’d been pre-Vietnam. But faced at the conclusion with a decision that could be answered any number of ways (one of them violence), he will always choose violence. Like America, that war ruined him.

I understand that readers who like Mallory or Heller (or the ANTIQUES series!) may find Quarry a hard go. The books are black comedies, and he is not a hero in the traditional sense. He’s not even an anti-hero in the traditional sense. I like it when readers are disturbed or uncomfortable with him and his behavior. When in 1972 I showed the first two chapters of QUARRY to my workshop class at the University of Iowa, many students objected to Quarry killing a man dispassionately in chapter one and screwing a woman dispassionately in chapter two. I just smiled and said, “That was the point – bang bang.”

Also, there are Quarry fans who don’t like Heller and really don’t like Mallory (and would probably puke reading an ANTIQUES novel). I’m okay with that. You don’t have to like everything on the restaurant’s menu. But do keep in mind that I primarily write melodrama, and that I don’t necessarily approve of everything that my protagonists do. Do you really think Mike Hammer and I vote for the same candidates?

Well, that’s unfair. Mike Hammer doesn’t vote.

Not even for Chris Christie.

* * *

Let me share some of these mostly incredible WRONG QUARRY reviews, starting with this rave from Book Reporter.

Another nice one can be seen at the Eloquent Page, though I hardly agree with the reviewer that Quarry is depicted as “a real man’s man, all booze, violence and broads.” Mostly he drinks Cokes, and he doesn’t really think about women in those terms. Violence – okay, you got me there.

As a guy who never served in the military, I love it when a reviewer digs Quarry. (Quarry was, as I mentioned, in part based on my late friend Jon McRae, who served many tours in Vietnam as a Marine.)

The Mystery People folks chose THE WRONG QUARRY as one of their three picks for January.

Here’s a cool one from Nerd Like You. I love it when nerds like my stuff – I was one before it became cool.

Here’s a very intelligent write-up from Mystery Maven.

And another great one from Terry Ambrose.

Geek Hard finds THE WRONG QUARRY righteous.

This brief, positive review prefers Heller and Mallory to Quarry, and recommends Mallory as the place to start with my work. As I mentioned above, I can see that a Mallory fan might struggle with Quarry.

And Nerds of a Feather likes THE WRONG QUARRY, too.

The mixed review I discussed above can be seen here. You have to admire a balanced approach like this – so easy these days to write a rave or a pan.

Finally, on a non-Quarry note, here’s a scan of a BATMAN story courtesy of current fans who like my work on that feature. Bless you, my children!


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6 Responses to “New Mike Hammer Mini-Book Plus Quarry Raves”

  1. Joe Menta says:

    I’m guess I’m more of a sociopath than I think, because I don’t have much of an issue with Quarry as a person. Sure, the violence is (intentionally) disquieting, but it’s not like Quarry drowns puppies, kittens, and- on the human front- people who are generally innocent. I remember, back when I read a lot of comics, a scene in “Camelot 3000” where we saw King Arthur drown a whole bunch of babies because of a prophecy that one would grow up and defeat him. According to the writer, Mike W. Barr, the scene was included to demonstrate that the otherwise heroic King Arthur was a flawed person. To me it just ruined the rest of the mini-series for me, because I could no longer root for the guy. I’ve never had that problem with Quarry. At least in the realm of the fictional story, the ol’ “they had it coming” thing counts for a lot. Anyway, “The Wrong Quarry” was terrific and I look forward to the next one.

  2. I do think Quarry behaves understandably within the context of his world. He is not gratuitously violent or murderous.

    When I was asked to develop the first novel (QUARRY) into a series, I came up with the “list” idea, so that I wouldn’t be dealing with a hitman doing straight hits. It presents a challenge when I’m doing a novel or story set within the five-year period that Quarry was filling contracts for the Broker, as in THE FIRST QUARRY and the book I’m working on, QUARRY’S CHOICE. Dealing with an anti-hero requires surrounding him with people who are far worse that he is.

  3. mike doran says:

    Warning: Off-topic.

    In today’s Chicago SUN-TIMES, Michael Sneed reports that our two US Senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk, are sponsoring a measure which will name the new ATF headquarters building after Eliot Ness.
    This in turn has led to Jonathan Eig, a Capone-author/Ness-debunker, giving Sneed an interview wherein he opposes memorializing Ness in this fashion.
    The usual stuff – Ness was a press hound, other people did all the real work, Capone only got sent up on a tax beef – you know the drill.
    Assuming you saw this, I’m guessing that you’ll likely have a formal response to this by next Tuesday.
    But troublemaker that I am, I did want to get the mention in.

    When I get the money in, I’ll be ordering up the mini-books from Otto Penzler.
    All best to you and yours.

  4. Eig is a joke.

    Typical recycling of the inaccurate and under-researched revisionist history of Ness.

  5. mike doran says:

    Gee, that was quick.

    I guess that’s it – unless Mike Sneed gives you a call (or you give her one).

    Or you could call the Senators and offer yourself as a spokesman …

    Wouldn’t that be something – MAC at the dedication of the Eliot Ness Building.

    (Great way to plug the other books too …)

    (OK, maybe not the Quarrys …)

  6. mike doran says:

    I already regret bringing it up in the first place …

    In today’s SUN-TIMES, Michael Sneed is reporting that two important Chicago aldermen, Ed Burke and Jim Balcer, have joined the chorus to not name the new ATF building in DC after Eliot Ness.

    Sneed doesn’t stop there; she also found a former IRS man, Bob Fuesel by name, who debunks Ness’s role quite irately.

    Sneed concluded her story with “Stay tuned …” , which I guess means she’s going to be talking to some more people down the line.

    If you hear from Sneed, be sure and let us know.

    And if you don’t, well ….