Stacy Keach Kills Me!

April 7th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

Kill Me, Darling Blackstone Audiobook

This week, the audio book of KILL ME, DARLING will be released with the great Stacy Keach as the reader. The book is already available from Audible for download, and Barb and I started listening to it in the car on a trip to the Quad Cities this weekend, and are saving the rest for our next, longer-distance car trip. What a wonderful job Stacy is doing.

Check out the great audio book cover, which I actually prefer to the Titan one (which is very cool, but ignores the Florida setting).

It’s hard for me to express what it means for me to hear Stacy Keach read these novels (he’s done the prior six Spillane/Collins “Hammer” collaborations). Stacy – and I know him well enough to name-drop with that familiarity – is the most famous and certainly the most popular screen Mike Hammer of all time. I was not always crazy about producer Jay Bernstein’s TV version of HAMMER, but Stacy was consistently terrific and he captured the character beautifully, even perfectly. He became the Hammer of several generations.

Of the various Hammer projects I’ve been involved with, the two audio “radio play”-style full-cast, full-length dramatizations for Blackstone are among my favorites. The first one, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME TWO: THE LITTLE DEATH won the Audie for best original work, and the second, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOLUME THREE: ENCORE FOR MURDER, was similarly nominated. I am very proud of those two audios, and owe a big thanks to producer Carl Amari. Also, since my late friend Mike Cornelison played Pat Chambers in both, they hold a special place in my heart.

We almost missed out on having Stacy read the audio of KILL ME, DARLING – in fact, we almost missed out on having an audio at all. For reasons I can’t fathom, although I may have been asleep at the wheel myself, Blackstone Audio was not approached in a timely fashion. Audio publishers like to be publish simultaneously with the books themselves. I didn’t check on this until early February, and when I found the ball had been dropped somewhere along the line, rushed to get Blackstone and Stacy together on this. Bless them both for jumping on board with little notice. As it is, the audio is appearing a couple of weeks after the book’s initial availability.

If you’re a Hammer fan and you haven’t listened to Stacy Keach read these new Hammer novels, you are really, really missing out.

From my point of view, a Hammer novel doesn’t feel real to me until I’ve heard Stacy read it.

I was nervous about KILL ME, DARLING – although frankly I love the book – because it was the first time I had a shorter chunk of Mickey’s work to expand and complete (less than fifty double-spaced pages as opposed to one-hundred). Would readers and reviewers find this as authentic a Hammer novel as the previous ones? So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Partly, I think, that’s because this is only the second of the Hammer’s I’ve completed that dates to Mickey’s most popular period (late forties/early ‘50s – the other being LADY, GO DIE!, chronologically the second Hammer novel). KILL ME, DARLING is the book that would have followed KISS ME, DEADLY – in other words, it picks up right where that hugely popular novel left off…right where Mickey left Hammer fans dangling for what would be a decade.

The next partial Spillane “Hammer” manuscript I complete will also be from the ‘50s. I feel privileged and thrilled to be able to fill in those missing years.

* * *

Regular readers of these updates will know that KILL ME, DARLING was created from a false start on THE GIRL HUNTERS. So it’s fun and interesting that (thanks to the Scorpion Blu-ray/DVD releases) that the Spillane-starring movie version of that novel is getting fresh attention.

Here’s one fun look at the film, with some mentions of my contributions to the blu-ray.

And here’s another.

In the meantime, I’m back to work on ANTIQUES FATE.


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13 Responses to “Stacy Keach Kills Me!”

  1. Jeff Flugel says:

    Congrats on the release of KILL ME, DARLING, Mr. Collins! And thanks a bunch for the link to my THE GIRL HUNTERS movie review. Best wishes for your continued success.


    Jeff Flugel

  2. Bill says:

    Mixed feelings. Still some anachronisms, and a couple, to me, very un-Spillane like comments from Mike. And the dying girl’s last words very clumsily handled, but wouldn’t be in the audio version.

  3. Mike Dennis says:

    Many congrats on KILL ME, DARLING, both the print/digital and the audio versions. And thanks for mentioning my review in one of your earlier blogposts. I’ll be getting the audio version for sure. I listened to Stacy do LADY, GO DIE! and of course, he was terrific. I’m sure KM,D will be as good or even better.

    See you at Bouchercon.

  4. Mystery is the Man says:

    With all of these release updates, I’m surprised you haven’t posted about the MOD DVD of the 1982 version of I, THE JURY, released almost a month ago:

    Or, if you did, I missed it. Would have preferred an extras-laden Blu-ray, but something’s better than nothing.

  5. Max Allan Collins says:

    This week’s update covers the I, THE JURY release.

  6. Max Allan Collins says:

    In response to Bill — I frankly wasn’t sure what you were talking about, but I guess you’re criticizing KILL ME, DARLING…frankly, the first vaguely negative response the book has received (that I know of).

    A couple of things. Despite what some people may think, I am not consciously trying to write like Mickey on these projects. My prep always includes re-reading the books adjacent to the one I’m doing (in terms of when they were written) and even taking notes, marking up copies with a highlighter. I do this not to create a pastiche of Mickey, but to look for continuity issues and check for the kind of slang he uses and just get in the general vibe and so on. As I’ve said elsewhere, I never just plop down Mickey’s fragment and then start writing at that point. I take Mickey’s material — by definition rough draft — and expand and shape it. In the case of KILL ME, DARLING that material extends to around the first third of the novel. It’s by definition collaborative from page one.

    To some degree, of course, I write like Mickey anyway, because he was my major influence when I began writing.

    I view these as collaborations, which is what I believe Mickey intended. He didn’t want me to imitate him as much as be true to the character of Mike Hammer. That, of course, is tricky, because Hammer himself grows and changes and evolves, and consistently reflects where Mickey was at, at the point where he wrote them. I am proud that the Hammer of GOLIATH BONE and KING OF THE WEEDS is consistent with the Hammer of THE KILLING MAN and BLACK ALLEY, though I know some Hammer fans would like the character to behave more like he did in I, THE JURY and ONE LONELY KNIGHT in all of the “new” novels.

    With KILL ME, DARLING, I am venturing into a period where Mickey wrote no Hammer at all, except for these few fragments. But in the fragment that spawned KILL ME, DARLING — where Hammer is dealing with the pain of Velda leaving him, and is trying to crawl out of a bottle — reflects Spillane’s personal issues with his famous character, particularly in terms of his (Mickey’s) new religion, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s significant — and I admit I was thrilled to come across it — that fairly early in KILL ME, DARLING we have the very moment when Hammer stops smoking. (A Witness no no.) Also — as in KISS ME, DEADLY — Hammer does not sleep with any of the beautiful women he encounters. (In the ’60s, when Spillane left the church for a while, Hammer got randy again — as in THE BIG BANG and COMPLEX 90).

    Ultimately, these are not Spillane novels. They are Spillane/Collins novels. No apologies.

  7. Bill says:

    Thanx for the reply. I’m aware how much weight you carry in these partnerships, and I’ve never read a review where the word “seamless” wasn’t invoked. But there are to me glaring anachronisms: “beard” used in a sexual sense, “arm candy”. Even the dying girl’s revelation hinges upon a phrase that wouldn’t have been, to my knowledge, commonly used then. Or even conceivable then. And having it spelled out on page ruins it anyway. It’s at points like that the books cease becoming partnerships, and instead just you writing from the 21st century. Though having Doris Day’s “Secret Love” on the radio a nice touch. Add to that Mike’s “so long, chum” , a line that Roger Moore’s James Bond would balk at, and that “Mrs. Hammer’s little boy” which just sounds wrong. That said , I have no problem with your Hammer’s italicized, internal “voice”, which is the more important aspect. Rereeading this, I hope I don’t sound arrogant, but we’re the same age, and if these admittedly minor points stand out for me, they should for others.

  8. Max Allan Collins says:

    What you cite are hardly “glaring anachronisms.” “Beard” in the sense I use it dates to the early ’50s. “Arm candy” may not have been a common phrase but is certainly something Hammer could assemble himself. SPOILER ARERT: Bisexuality was obviously known and commonly so (“his gate swings both ways”). “So long, chum” utilizes a common Hammer word (“chum”) and the Hammer black humor, as when he causes an explosion by phone and says, “Wrong number,” or he leaves dead bad guys under a DEAD END sign. “Mrs. Hammer’s little boy” is out of Mickey — it’s from my notes from reading the books.

    It’s true that the bisexuality issue would not be something 1954 readers would have been as familiar with as somebody like Hammer and others in the underworld/underground milieu of those times. But the book wasn’t published in 1954. I don’t make it a goal to create a book that could have been published the year Mickey began writing it, though among my goals is to make Hammer consistent with the Hammer (and Spillane) of the year Mickey began writing it. There’s a difference. On the other hand, I don’t use “fuck” or “shit” in the books before Mickey and Mike would have.

    These are period pieces, even historical novels. Mickey would not have referenced Kefauver as directly as I do (though his section does reference the senate probe that had changed things in Miami) and he certainly wouldn’t have described Miami and Miami Beach in as much detail. He was doing a contemporary novel. I am doing, again, a period piece/historical novel. I face the very same issues when I write a Quarry book that is set in the ’70s or ’80s — unlike my original Quarry novels, they are period pieces and not contemporary. They require a somewhat different approach.

    There are compromises that have to be made for the 21st Century audience. I can’t allow Mike to be as harsh in attitude toward gays, for example, as he might have been in the late ’40s and early ’50s. I have to sort of split the difference. I am dealing with 21st century editors/publishers. The compromise is minor.

    I’m sorry these things bothered you. I suspect they will continue to.

  9. Bill says:

    At least you assume I’ll still buy the books. In that we are in agreement. Not to belabor it, but any anachronism that stands out is, by definition, a glaring one. The use of “beard” was not in common usage or knowledge. And I’ll stand by my comment that as far as the public was concerned then the bisexual concept was unthought of. You were either Liberace or John Wayne. You’d have to go back to the Dietrich films of the early thirties to find veiled references. Even tho you defend theses as period pieces, in these examples they are not. At least purely. Maybe a relevant example is Victor Victoria, Blake Edwards’ ’30’s set gender confusion comedy. He freely used phrases like “anxiety attack”, and “alternate lifestyle” to make the movie more relevant to his contemporary audience. It worked. but not as a period piece. And I don’t even recall ONE reviewer taking him to task for it. But in any case, thanx for your replies. And the books. As I say, I’m still a “customer”.

  10. Max Allan Collins says:

    I appreciate that you are still a customer.

    But I will take one small final swing at explaining something. KILL ME, DARLING is not meant to be a book that could have been published in 1954. It’s a book published in 2015 for a 21st Century audience. That a 1954 mainstream reader — even one familiar with VENGENANCE IS MINE! — would not be familiar with the gender issues in this 2015 work doesn’t bother me a bit. I believe that someone like Mike Hammer, in his world of 1954, would be familiar with bisexuality. And I knew that some people’s gates “swung both ways” by the early ’60s in Iowa as a young teen.

    But I do thank you for your comments…and patronage.

  11. Mike Dennis says:

    “I can’t allow Mike to be as harsh in attitude toward gays, for example, as he might have been in the late ’40s and early ’50s. I have to sort of split the difference. I am dealing with 21st century editors/publishers.”

    Great way of putting it, Max. It’s a very fine line you have to walk as a 21st century writer bringing a 1950s novel to life. I recently finished narrating the audiobook version of I, THE JURY, and as I’m sure you know, Mike Hammer’s attitude toward gays in that novel was, to put it mildly, not the most tolerant. Those passages made me uncomfortable, and I’m wondering if the publisher will leave them in, since they’re pretty harsh in places and most definitely a thing of the past.

  12. Max Allan Collins says:

    Thanks, Mike. Hammer’s attitudes change over the years, but that doesn’t help when a story is set in a specific time (like ’54 here).

    I really look forward to your I, THE JURY reading! Keep me posted and we’ll promote it here.

  13. Bryan McMillan says:

    Hey, thanks so much for the link to my review of The Girl Hunters. Very happy you enjoyed it. I’ve only just started dipping my toes in the Mike Hammer ocean, but I’m enjoying the hell out of myself. I’m ordering Kill Me, Darling (and when I finish I will definitely leave a review/ rating on Amazon) and will be tracking down all of it as time and funds allow – I’m a bit of a completist. I really look forward to Stacy’s reading of it.