A Tale of Two Birthdays

March 6th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Before I dig in this week, be sure to check out the incredible Wall Street Journal article on Mickey’s centenary and my role in it.

I was born March 3, 1948. Mickey Spillane was born March 9, 1918. I just turned 70. Mickey is about to turn 100. My friend, mentor and collaborator was almost exactly thirty years older than me.

When I told my agent, the great but always skeptical Dominick Abel, that I was going to do everything I could to get notice for Mickey’s centenary, he had his doubts. I reminded him that Mickey was the best-selling American mystery writer of the 20th Century (possibly best-selling writer of that era period), and he reminded me that the 20th Century was a long time ago.

As we say in comics, sigh.

But I had a plan, involving the first, previously unpublished (unfinished-till-now) Mike Hammer novel (Killing Town) and the very last novel Mickey completed on his own (The Last Stand). I felt those bookends could attract attention, and a PR person at Titan (which includes Hard Case Crime) agreed with me. Her name is Katharine Carroll and she has done a stellar job, and continues doing so. That Wall Street Journal piece is her doing, as is coverage in Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal (see below), Booklist and much more. She also landed a Playboy spot for the opening chapter of Killing Town – that issue of Playboy is on the stands now. If you buy it, you will see how big I like to see my byline (a combination of healthy ego and poor eyesight). I have spent so much time staring at my huge byline that I keep forgetting to look at the nude women.

The Titan news release about the Mike Hammer serialized graphic novel (four issues to be followed by a collection) is all over the Net, as well as the Hollywood Reporter (link provided last week). What Titan’s publisher, Nick Landau, and Hard Case Crime’s editor, Charles Ardai, have done for Mickey and me is fairly amazing.

I just completed a massively long interview with J. Kingston Pierce, who is scary in the knowledge and precision of his questioning. That will, I presume, appear on his essential mystery-fiction site, The Rap Sheet, before long.

So Mickey is 100. And I am 70 (a fact noted fairly widely on the Net also). I admit I find this a sobering birthday. When you are in your sixties, life still seems to stretch ahead some. When you are in your seventies, not so much. I look around and my film collaborator, actor Mike Cornelison, is gone…for some time now. Ed Gorman has passed. Bill Crider is gone. That the universe can reclaim that kind of talent and energy is unspeakably sad.

I now look at the books I still want to write and don’t know if I’ll be able to get to them all. I wonder if an indie film project rears its head if I can still direct. Stress is a motherhumper after you’ve had open-heart surgery. I find myself working harder than ever, and as fast as I can manage without a negative impact on the quality of the work and the state of my health. Barb wants me to slow down, but I quite honestly feel my best when I’m working.

We spent the birthday weekend with son Nathan, daughter-in-law Abby and the preternaturally smart and funny Sam, our two-and-a-half-year old grandson. It is with sadness and humility that I must report to you that Sam is smarter than all of your grandchildren (put together), should you have any. Don’t bother trying to correct me. You might as well tell a Trump voter the truth about their guy.

At my birthday I reflect on how lucky I am and continue to be. Let’s start with the smartest, most beautiful and talented wife on the planet, Barbara Collins. Let’s continue with a great son and his growing little family. Let’s continue with my ability to avoid a real job while making impossible career dreams come true…continuing Dick Tracy after Chester Gould, completing Mike Hammer from Mickey’s unfinished manuscripts (for a dozen years!), Ms. Tree, the unstoppable Nate Heller, the resurrection of Quarry, making an unofficial sort of sequel to The Bad Seed with Patty McCormack herself, finally (with brilliant Brad Schwartz) setting the record straight on Eliot Ness and Al Capone (the upcoming Scarface and the Untouchable), playing in a band with some of the most gifted musicians in the Midwest, and, oh hell…lots of other stuff. Little things, like a Grandmaster “Edgar” from the MWA (did I ever mention that to you?).

It’s always seemed special and (ridiculous, I know) that Mickey Spillane and I have birthdays just a few days apart – his 9 is even divisible by my 3 (and you thought I couldn’t do math). And yet here we both still are, writing books together.

Even if the 20th Century was a long time ago.

* * *

Here’s some nice coverage of The Last Stand and the centenary at Library Journal, by way of an interview with me.

Check out this great review of The Bloody Spur at Gravetapping.

To help celebrate Mickey’s centenary, that gifted writer Raymond Benson has reviewed Mickey Spillane on Screen (by Jim Traylor and me) at the Cinema Retro web site.

Here’s a quirky (I think) positive review of Quarry’s Climax.

You have to scroll down a ways for it, but there’s a nice look at the Quarry TV series at Hardboiled Wonderland.

Finally, I was wished a nice happy birthday by Comics Reporter…and an old friend of Terry Beatty’s and mine.


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4 Responses to “A Tale of Two Birthdays”

  1. Mike Doran says:

    The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away.
    Psalm 90:10

    – …which I guess means that King David would have made a lousy actuary …

    I have another two and a half years before hitting the Magic Number.
    I have to say that it’s wearing on me more than a little.
    Have you reached the point where you watch an old favorite movie or TV episode – and you find yourself toting up how many of the actors you’re looking at have died?

    This is the wrong way to look at it …
    The here and now is what matters; the there and then is fun to look at, but you need perspective.
    There is much cause for dismay (and we still have to get through disMarch and disApril), but that’s incentive to stick around.
    I wanna know how it’s gonna come out at the big finish – and so do you.
    So do all of us.

    Anyway, people are living longer these days; no reason to believe that you and I (and Barb and Nate and Abby and Big Sam and all their heirs and assigns) won’t be among the lucky ones.

    Well, I started by stealing from the Old Testament, so I’ll close by stealing from Rex Stout.

    The John McAleer biography tells us of how Rex Stout and his sister Mary took to writing verses to each other when they were in their eighties.

    Many of them are in McAleer’s book, and they all strike the same tone of optimism that we seem to need, now more than ever.

    I’ll just quote Rex’s late verse to Mary:

    If eighty-eight is not too late
    Than eighty-six is early;
    So hip-hooroy, you bearded boy,
    And hip-hooroo, you girlie.

    Stick around, you guys – OK? OK!

  2. Aaron Hilton says:

    Thanks for everything you do and write about, Max. Your stories are an inspiration, and I’m grateful (as a devout reader and independent writer/publisher) that you’ve been able to expand upon Mickey Spillane’s work. I’m excited to read The Last Stand at a beach trip while my wife and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. And I just finished reading the preview of Killing Town in Playboy. Classic Mike Hammer. Best regards.—Aaron

  3. Thanks, guys, for these lovely posts.

  4. Ron says:

    Maybe it helps to think of 70 as the new 50? That’s a tone of optimism, right? I love your books and look forward to reading them for many years to come. (Please tell me there will be another Quarry this fall from Hard Case.)