Report from Killer Nashville

August 29th, 2017 by Max Allan Collins

Barb and I were guests at Killer Nashville, which was actually held in Franklin, Tennessee, at an Embassy Suites, which was an excellent venue for a conference.

And Killer Nashville – our first time there – is a conference, not a convention, although elements of that are present. Specifically, it’s a writer’s conference. When you do a panel, attendees are frequently taking notes, and the questions from the audience are not from fans but from aspiring writers hoping to learn.

While there are many pros presents – J.A. Jance was the big name – many are indie authors, including a good number of self-published ones. And the major award (of many) is given to the best unpublished novel manuscript submitted. The other awards, this time anyway, went almost exclusively to small press and self-published titles. This conference is designed to nurture new authors and there’s a palpable sense of community, aided and abetted by that legendary Southern hospitality.

Host and conference creator, Clay Stafford, is a gentle and welcoming presence, seemingly everywhere. As one of three guests of honor, I was interviewed for the entire conference crowd after a luncheon on Saturday. Clay won me over by bringing two brimming boxes of my books, including an edition of Saving Private Ryan that I didn’t know existed. He was well-prepared for the interview and I was very loose and, frankly, pretty damn funny.

Clay Stafford, right, interviews M.A.C., left.

The panels Barb and I did – including a collaboration one, which was a dry run of sorts for a panel we’ll be doing at the Toronto Bouchercon – were well-handled by the moderators, and mostly well-attended. The better attended panels were oriented toward writing – i.e., how to create a scene – and reflected the interests of the newcomers and aspiring writers attending.

Barb and I don’t do very many conventions – we try to do Bouchercon, as a sort of one-stop-shopping affair where readers from all over the country can get to us, and until lately we’ve regularly done San Diego Comic Con, when health issues got in the way. But this con/conference was fun and welcoming, and we’d certainly recommend it as an event that is designed less for fans and more for writers who are still learning their craft.

I was presented with a very nice award, the Killer Nashville “John Seigenthaler Legends Award.” The Killer Nashville website describes the award this way:

“The annual Killer Nashville John Seigenthaler Legends Award™ is bestowed upon an individual within the publishing industry who, like its namesake, has devoted his or her life to championing First Amendment Rights, advocating for social change, equality, and fairness, or otherwise defending issues of freedom. Recipients of this award have displayed a steadfast commitment to these ideals, and to mentoring the next generation of authors. This is not a lifetime achievement award, as we expect much more of these individuals in years to come.”

Seigenthaler was a distinguished journalist and activist with ties to Robert Kennedy. That resonates with me because my Writers Workshop mentor, Richard Yates, was a RFK speechwriter.

Thank you, Killer Nashville.

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Crusin’ will appear in a charming outdoor setting at Ardon Creek Winery this coming Friday, September 1, from 6 till 9. For info go to, and check under events (for directions look under “contact us”).

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The forthcoming graphic novel from Hard Case Crime Comics, Quarry’s War – which will be serialized as four comic books before being collected – has received a lot of play on the Net…dozens of hits! Here’s a good example, which includes looks at some of the covers of the comics.

Very nice Carnal Hours review here (a reprint but worth looking at).

Jeff Pierce’s wonderful site, Killer Covers, showcases The First Quarry’s great cover.

There is a fairly nice mention of Quarry’s Climax toward the end of this column from the UK’s Crime Time. But I think the suggestion that I’m doing homage as opposed to real hardboiled or noir is b.s. I am continuing a series I began in 1971, when Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Mickey Spillane and Ross Macdonald were still writing, and Erle Stanley Gardner was still publishing when he died the year before. If you characterize me as a modern-day imitator of a distant past, I would respectfully remind you that I am the distant effing past…although no one in the distant past would have been able to be as sexually frank and graphically violent as Quarry’s Climax, because I am also the current effing present. I’ll leave the future to the rest of you.


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7 Responses to “Report from Killer Nashville”

  1. Bill Crider says:

    I think what the Crime Time comment was suggesting that QUARRY’S CLIMAX was a book that recreated an era from the past, not that you were doing an homage to those noir writers. And I think the book does a great job of recreating that era. I need to get a review of it up on my blog.

  2. Max Allan Collins says:

    Thanks, Bill. But I read a patronizing tone into it. Apparently the reviewer doesn’t understand that I am writing about an era I lived through and in which the character was created and first published. I would love to get a review from you on that one — have you been sent a galley of the forthcoming CALEB YORK, THE BLOODY SPUR? If not, I’ll get one right out to you.

  3. Glen Davis says:

    Richard Prather, George Harmon Coxe, and Henry Kane were also still writing. I think the statement is the result of received wisdom and poor research. There’s a lot of that going around these days.

  4. Randy Clark says:

    John Saxon retired to Franklin, Tennessee and there was a John Saxon film festival there just two months ago! Franklin is sounding pretty cool right now.

  5. Max Allan Collins says:

    Glen, I am occasionally described as somebody writing replicas of the work of those who’ve gone before. I think that’s pretty short-sighted. Heller is clearly a descendant of Phllip Marlowe, for example, but he and I break every one of Chandler’s rules for the private eye, and of course I am doing historicals about true crimes, the influence on me coming not from the mystery world but from people like Alexander Dumas and Samuel Shellabarger. I’m told Quarry replicates Richard Stark, when I am working in first-person (not a distancing third) with a killer not a thief as protagonist (of course, Nolan is a Parker pastiche, though with personal flourishes). And the Spillane stuff is literally collaborative. It’s kind of a sore point with me.

  6. Bill Crider says:

    Haven’t received a Caleb York ARC yet. Would be happy to get one!

  7. I had a great time meeting you and Barb at Killer Nashville – and always thrilled when I don’t die in a fiery plane crash, but instead landed in Chicago with enough time for my second leg home. Nice to have that added bonus of chatting with you on the flight. Hope to cross paths with both of you again soon.