January 5th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

I have mentioned in passing some health issues I’ve been dealing with, and perhaps I’ve even been a little coy about it. It’s not been my intention to burden my friends and readers (not mutually exclusive categories) with a boring account of what we’ve been dealing with. I say “we” because Barb has been at my side throughout, as you might imagine, but your imagination cannot do justice to just how fantastic she’s been.

I’m going to make this brief, because even if you’re concerned – and if so, thank you – you shouldn’t have to be bored with the details of somebody else’s health problems. Still, I’m a novelist, so this will most likely go into the situation in more depth than I should.

We’ve been dealing with this for a good eight months. I first got sick (somewhat ironically) when we visited the set of QUARRY in New Orleans late last May. The path has been torturous and frustrating, as it took a while to get this diagnosed, and it really shouldn’t have been. The roughest patch was a period of three weeks when I couldn’t sleep – couldn’t find a position that was comfortable enough – and for that period, I was getting maybe an hour a night.

The problem is a heart valve that needs replacing. There’s also a bypass, and before any of that can happen, I need to get one of my carotid arteries unclogged. The latter appears to be a fairly routine procedure. Open-heart surgery, however, is rather more sobering. But I have top-notch surgeons for both operations, and I feel confident I’ll be back at the old stand before too long.

This has stretched out maddeningly because when the condition was discovered, I was already in pretty bad shape. I needed to get myself back in shape, which consisted of medication and a few preliminary procedures (i.e., getting a jump start to correct an irregular heartbeat that had presented itself). For frustrating reasons (but good ones), I’ve had this surgery postponed on me something like eight times. In fact, Barb wishes I weren’t writing this, because that could happen again.

But right now the plan is for me to go in for the first of the two surgeries on Monday, January 4 (tomorrow, as I write this). And the heart surgery is set for January 5. If you are one of those loyal souls who check out this update the moment it appears each Tuesday morning, it’s likely I’ll be in the operating room as you read this.

There’s a chance – I honestly think not much of one – that my heart surgeon may postpone again, if he thinks I need more time to recover from the first procedure. If that’s the case, my son Nate will update this. He will also post updates on my status here and on Facebook in the several days following the procedures.

[Update from Nate: (Monday Jan. 4, 10 PM) Dad did have a minor complication after the first, successful procedure, and the docs are erring on the side of caution by (again) postponing the second surgery until some time next week. He is doing well and should be back home Tuesday to begin recuperating for the main event.]

You are welcome to post encouragement here and on Facebook, but I held this back so things wouldn’t get out of hand. I also accept prayers and positive thoughts and cash money.

The heart valve/bypass procedures will be followed by some rough weeks of recuperation – the first several, obviously, the most challenging. My next novel deadline isn’t till April 1 (no fooling), so I intend to take my first protracted “vacation” from writing in, well, as long as I can remember. I have been healthy as a horse my whole life (I was asked if I’d ever had surgery before, and I said, “Just my birth”) so there’s no precedent. Before you feel too sorry for me, know that I will be watching a lot of Blu-rays and reading a good number of the books that have piled up around here, and will be given even better treatment than usual by my lovely wife.

It’s possible I may get back to work sooner than the projected six weeks. I’m proud of myself that during this nasty period, I still wrote two episodic TV episodes (one of them for QUARRY) and the Mike Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. And you may have already realized that I never missed one of these weekly updates.

Okay, we all know what’s important here – these weekly updates. I am going to write another three updates, in advance, dealing with forthcoming books. At that point, I am hopeful that I will be back doing this.

I am told I am “low risk.” Like anybody, I don’t hear the “low,” just the “risk.” So without getting too sentimental (or for that matter pessimistic) about it, I want to give all of you my heart-felt thanks. This has been a great career, and it will continue to be.

* * *

My pal Ed Gorman has been kind enough to pay tribute to Quarry by reviewing two of the recent books in the series. The review of THE WRONG QUARRY is a reprint, but the QUARRY’S CHOICE write-up is brand-new and a real corker.

The first novel in the series, QUARRY, got itself onto this fun top-reissues-of-last-year list. I’m on it with one of my favorites, the late great Ted Lewis. As usual, I deplore all such lists…unless I’m on them.

Here’s a nice (if somewhat guarded) Kindle Taproom review of FATE OF THE UNION.

Now check out this even-better FATE OF THE UNION review.

* * *

Finally, I need to mark the passing of actor Wayne Rogers, who provided one of the best classic PI performances of all time in the too-brief CITY OF ANGELS TV series (1976). That series, and the Huggins/Cannell-created character Jake Axminster, had a huge impact on Nate Heller. Rogers, despite the short run of ANGELS, made such an impact as a private eye that he wound up playing a similar recurring character on MURDER SHE WROTE. He also portrayed real-life private eye Raymond Schindler in PASSION AND PARADISE (1989), about the Massie case, which I wrote about (including Schinder) in DAMNED IN PARADISE.


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30 Responses to “Heart-Felt”

  1. Tom Zappe/St Louis says:

    Get well immediately, goddamnit!!!

  2. Max–You have my best wishes. I believe we are of similar age and I too, have never had health problems but at this age keep waiting for the shoe to drop. I just finished “Fate of the Union” and really enjoyed it. Put reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Hang in there and don’t be TOO stubborn–I think that’s the bugaboo of having health issues when you normally don’t. :)


  3. Bill Crider says:

    Well, shoot. This just ain’t right. I’m really sorry this has happened, but I know you’ll bounce back. You do keep a secret well, I must say. At Bouchercon you seemed just as energetic as ever, and that’s mighty damn energetic. My father had bypass surgery more than 30 years ago, and it improved his life immeasurably. I hope it will do the same for you. You have a lot of people in your corner, and I’m one of them. I wish you and Barb all the best.

  4. Jan Griffin O'Reilly says:

    Hi, Max! There’s a great story in there or a plot device once you get through this, and I know you will, with Barb by your side taking such good care of you. My thoughts and prayers and all good wishes are with you, as always. If you’ve been healthy, you’ve got even better chances of a great recovery. Besides, we’ve got that Big Reunion coming up in September and, frankly, the world can’t do without you just yet. We’re babies don’t forget!!! Take care, old friend, be well, recover quickly, and see you both, soon! Love, Jan

  5. Joe Menta says:

    Thanks for linking to my “Fate of the Union” review at “Kindle Taproom”– but, darn, for the first time in ages, I write a review of a Collins book that’s merely positive instead of an outright rave, and it has to be when you’re laid up in the hospital! Talk about me being an ungrateful fan, sheesh. But, seriously, get well soon. Thankfully, more and more, modern medicine is like something out of “Star Trek”, so I’m sure all your issues will be addressed efficiently and expertly before you know it.

  6. Jerry House says:

    Best wishes to you and your family. Heal fast and well.

  7. Mike Doran says:

    “You Gotta Have HEEEEAARRTT!!!
    All You Really Need Is HEEEAARRTT!!!
    When The Odds Are Saying …”

    Oh, you know the rest, right?

    I guess this puts the C&S visit off by a bit …

    Do what you must.
    Stand your ground.
    Fifty-four Forty Or Fight!
    …and all like that there.

  8. Gene Rewers says:

    Get well soon…we need you…

  9. David Bishop says:

    Hi, Max:
    We’ve never met. I am a reader of some of your books. Like you, I write mysteries. One of my series, the Matt Kile Mystery series has a noir feel to it, but is written in current times. My one exception was Find My Little Sister, a Matt Kile Mystery was positioned in L.A. Calif, in the late 1930s. Our reader rating are quite similar, although my career (13 stories) is not as long and, as yet, not as illustrious as your own.
    In any rate, my note is not about my books, but about my best wishes for the success of your surgery, your speedy recovery, and return to your wonderful writing career and the pleasure it brings to so many.

    David Bishop

  10. stephen borer says:

    To quote W. C. Fields, ‘Godfrey Daniels!’. Yes, Al, you were being coy about your health. Ditto with everyone on the best surgery/recovery wishes, and i’ll ask someone with brains [mine left long ago] how to suggest to you and Barb “don’t worry”. Ok, at least someone in town or over the ‘phone has logically mentioned the doc and his/her staff have done the surgery before.

  11. Kim says:

    Best wishes to you, you and your family are in my prayers!

  12. Tim P says:

    Beat wishes…just think of all the tv you can catch up on, maybe even a show called Quarry and then Real Housewives of Whatever

  13. Mike Curtis says:

    Good wishes and prayers from all of us at Team Tracy.

  14. Paul. Griffith says:

    We never know what we may face in life or what we may have to go through, yet to know there are those that love us, pray for us, and support us in our trials in this journey that we call life, is truly a blessing! There are countless numbers of fans and friends who are affected by this. We are pulling together to lift you and the family in our thoughts and/or prayers. Your work has touched many of us and through your sharing your talent we feel as though you are part of our family. We will be anxiously awaiting the result’s of the procedure and want you to know you are not alone in this. Hang in there my friend!

  15. Max Allan Collins says:

    TUESDAY Jan 1 2016 3:49 PM

    Thanks to all of your for your gracious and supportive notes.

    I had the first surgery yesterday, dealing with a clogged carotid artery. It went well, though a large hematoma formed that I have to recover from before the larger surgery, which deals with a value replacement, a double bypass and replacing a potential aneurism area with some kind of mesh thing (invented by Michael DeBakey long ago!). Right now that is tentatively scheduled for a week from this coming Thursday. If I’ve recuperated in that time. In any case, I’m assured the surgery will take place this month.

    While I’m frustrated by yet another postponement, it’s all been designed to do right by me, by a really, really top surgeon. Also, yesterday was rougher than I’d expected, but I was discharged this morning – I look like Elton John with a goiter, but I feel fine (a little fatigued). So I’m relieved to be able to have some recuperation time before the next round.

    Your concern means a great deal to me.


  16. Jeff Pierce says:

    Best of luck with your present medical challenges, Max. We all look forward to your swift and complete recovery. There are still plenty of Nate Heller and Mike Hammer tales waiting for you to deliver them!

  17. Rick Ollerman says:

    Get good rest and do good healing. I’m glad that they caught these issues now when they have time to take care of them the best way. Get well soon.

  18. Edmond D. Smith says:

    So sorry to hear about your health problems. Fingers crossed here and prayers sent out. Looking forward updates on a swift recovery. Now stop thinkng about yoursel And get back to writing for us!

  19. Randi Day says:

    Although I would never wish a hematoma on anyone, I think some recovery time between surgeries is a good thing. Sorry you’re having to endure this process/health crisis/bump in the road but I trust you will not be on the sidelines long. Having spent a good portion of my career taking care of cardiac surgery patients, I can already see you with a laptop writing while everyone else yammers about your need to rest. I cannot wait for that update. Just listen occasionally to Barb when she says, “enough, rest now” and give yourself time to heal. I’ll be sending plenty of healing thoughts/energy your way and of course a prayer or two. ;) Mom sends her love and will multiply the number of prayers on your behalf exponentially. (I’m sure!) She has already started! Much love and blessings to you, Barb and Nate.

  20. Ben Stewart says:

    I wish you the very best, and, like everyone else, a smooth recovery. Your fans are pulling for you!

  21. David McLallen says:

    So sorry to hear about your health issues. Seems like we are all aging too damned fast. Last time I got to have a face-to-face with you was – the mid 90s, maybe? – when you did your last signing at the late, lamented Rue Morgue in Boulder. Still trying to keep up with your books, bought second copies (digital) of all the Mallory series. (Still my favorite of an your characters.) Take care of the lovely Barb and let her take care of you. Do what the docs say. Amazingly, it turns out that they usually know what they are doing!

  22. Peter David says:

    I had no idea you were in distress, Al. I have every confidence you will pull through and this will be ancient history by SDCC.


  23. Hi Max, I hope you pull through this okay and the recover is as quick and painless as possible.

  24. Tim says:

    May all your days and nights be filled to overflowing with good health and happiness. God bless ya!

  25. Patti Abbott says:

    Thinking of you and here I am to say half of the people I know have come successfully through these procedures. (The other half have not had to). You will do great and return to write another dozen outstanding novels. And that in the next two years.

  26. David Vineyard says:

    Rest and get better. We need you around for a long time to come.

    Thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. There are not so many talented and interesting good people in the field that we can spare one of the best.

  27. Fred Blosser says:

    Glad the first phase went well. Nolan, Quarry, and the rest of us would have been pissed otherwise. A great support network and good docs are a winning hand.

  28. Max! Just heard the news. Know that all of us here are wishing you the very best with the surgery, and the speediest of recoveries. And, of course tons of good thoughts and even prayers coming your way. Our love and best to the family, too.

    I know people say “If there’s anything I can do…” all the time, but, seriously, if there’s anything I can do, just ask.

    Best Wishes & Prayers — Steve

  29. Ed Morrissey says:

    Just heard about your situation. Keeping my fingers crossed you’re back up & around in no time. Meanwhile, it sounds like you’re in good hands. All the best.

  30. Cap'n Bob says:

    I responded to this on Ed Gorman’s blog but it bears repeating. Get well fast. I know a lot of people who have had these procedures and they all came through with flying colors. I expect no less from you. But really, isn’t this growing old crap for the birds?