The Name’s Sam Plus Hammer Suits Up

August 11th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

I mentioned this in a reply to a comment last week, but for those of you who missed it: our grandson has a name – Samuel Allan Collins. Sam. Some of you may recall that Sam is Nate Heller’s son’s name, and of course there’s Samuel Dashiell Hammett and a man called Spade. So I like the resonance, although I didn’t come up with the moniker.

He’s a little guy – he was early – and he’s dealing with a few problems, but he’s a scrapper, and his parents are with him all the way.

* * *
Don't Look Behind You

I am prepping for the next Mike Hammer, which I intend to start very soon (by the time you read this, it’ll be under way). You might be curious as to my process.

Of course it varies every time, because I am generally dealing with manuscripts from Mickey in various states and shape. This time I have about thirty pages of his to start with, but I also have plot and character notes, and the roughed-out ending.

One problem I deal with every time is dating the manuscript. My policy has been to maintain continuity with the existing Hammer books as they were written and published. The idea is to capture Mickey and Mike in the right creative context, as opposed to me just writing my idea of a general Mike Hammer book. Sometimes it’s a snap, as with LADY, GO DIE!, which was clearly designed to be the second novel.

This time I had to search out clues in the manuscript. It feels like an early work, a ‘50s piece, but evidence in the narrative finally led me to realize it was written around 1967. The evidence, specifically, is that Hammer mentions three major New York newspapers that have recently died. Researching them, I found all three folded in 1966.

Next step is to read some Mickey and get in the mood and the swing. What I like to do is read material that was written around the same time as the manuscript I’m completing. In this case (as someone once said), “It was easy.” Mickey published THE BODY LOVERS in 1967. So I am currently reading that novel, which I have grown to like and respect more and more as I’ve read and re-read it over the years. I mark the copy up with a highlighter, as if it were a text book for school.

In addition, Barb and I listened to the fine Stacy Keach abridgment of KISS ME, DEADLY on a recent day trip to Galena, Illinois. That book obviously wasn’t written in the ‘60s, but it always help to get some genuine Spillane vitamins into my system. An upcoming trip to St. Louis, to visit the grandson and his parents, will have me going all the way to the start, listening to the new Mike Dennis-read unabridged I, THE JURY.

These thirty pages will be expanded into around sixty, at least. The plot outline (there are several, somewhat contradictory) will need some serious thought. But I am itching to start and will probably deal with Mickey’s existing material before I plot the rest of the novel (from his notes).

The book will be called DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU (a Mickey shout out to his favorite mystery writer, Fredric Brown) and the cover already exists, shared with you here.

* * *

Rich Whitney Turner has written a lovely tribute to, uh, well…me. Do please check this out.


Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “The Name’s Sam Plus Hammer Suits Up”

  1. Tom Zappe/St Louis says:

    Just out of idle curiosity, is there anything of interest in Galena, IL for the general public?

  2. Bill Crider says:

    Samuel Allan Collins is an excellent name. I hope he’s doing fine now. And I’m looking forward to reading DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    Barb and I are new to Galena, though we’ve heard about it for years and it’s not terribly far away from us. I wrote it off as a winter sports resort area, but it’s much more. The downtown is quaint and nicely old-timey with lots of interesting specialty shops. Our favorites include a popcorn shop and a store that specializes in root beers from around the country. There are two used bookstores (both owned by the same guy) where I’m always making finds — I completed my Richard Bissell collection (he was a native of nearby Dubuque) with signed copies, reasonable prices, too. This time I picked up a novel by Mel Torme, signed. Quite a few signed books available. There are something like 60 restaurants in this little town, and we have several favorites. Great food. We stayed overnight the first couple times, but it’s turned into a day trip place for us.

    Bill, thanks for your good thoughts.

  4. Annie says:

    I am a young and newly found fan of your work. I was wondering if you are going to be writing anymore books for the Bones series?

  5. Mike Dennis says:

    Thanks for the mention, Max. Hope you like I, THE JURY.

  6. Max Allan Collins says:

    Annie, I wrote my BONES novel before the show debuted, though I had access to a version of the script. I believe the author of the book series had second thoughts about having anybody else writing about her character. The book did well, but no more were requested. Also, I am not writing many tie-ins these days (really, only my Mike Hammer novels).

    Mike Dennis did a very good job on I, THE JURY on audio. Nice to have a credible version of it out there, unabridged.