An “Antiques” Stocking Stuffer and the Walmart Big Time

December 11th, 2018 by Max Allan Collins

Yes, here I am with another selfless suggestion for something you might give to your loved ones or yourself at Yuletide.

Amazon Indiebound Books A Million Barnes and Noble

Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides collects, for the first time, the three e-book novellas Barb and I did over the last five years. It’s a paperback (hence a perfect stocking stuffer), and I know some collectors out there prefer hardcovers, but “Barbara Allan” is thrilled that these stories are finally gathered in a real book.

If you are one of the hold-outs who like my stuff but can’t bring yourself to cross the cozy divide, Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides is an inexpensive way to see Brandy and her mother Vivian in action. A sampler, if you will, and much tastier than those Whitman samplers some people insist upon giving you at Christmas.

I’ve discussed this before, but I still get questions about how Barb and I work together on the Antiques books, and how we stay married doing them. One aspect is that my office is on one floor and Barb’s is on another. But basically it’s this: Barb writes the first draft, and I write the final draft.

The less basic explanation is that Barb is the lead writer. Although I have more experience, and have been doing this longer, the books reflect her sensibilities and storytelling skills. We plot them together, but I stay out of the way while Barb prepares her draft. Sometimes we’ve described that as a rough draft, but really it’s not. Barb polishes each chapter thoroughly and, after at least six months of work, she gives me a perfectly readable and well-crafted novel that happens to be fifty or sixty pages shorter than what our contract requires.

My job is to further polish, and expand, and do lots of jokes. Barb has already done plenty of humor at this stage, but then I add more, with the result being that these novels are damn funny. Barb is wonderful about staying out of my way (as I’ve stayed out of hers, unless asked for input, during her creation of the initial draft). She claims to be so sick of the book at this point that she doesn’t care what I do to it.

This is not true.

She cares a lot, and will ask me why I’ve cut or changed something, and – when I tell her – will either agree or explain why (for plot or character reasons) (these are female point-of-view first-person novels) I need to restore what she originally wrote. Which I do.

The only time we’ve squabbled is when I’ve gotten crabby because I’m overworked. She will not tolerate snippiness. And I’ve been known on rare occasions (somewhat rare) (tiny bit rare) to be snippy, so there you go.

Consider Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides our Christmas gift to you, except for the part where you have to pay for it.

Kensington publishes the Antiques novels, and also the Caleb York westerns. The accompanying photo will demonstrate that these Spillane/Collins westerns have hit the big time: we are in the Muscatine, Iowa, Walmart with The Bloody Spur! In fact, the Walmart chain bought a whole bunch of copies, and you can buy your copy at your local temple to the memory of Sam Walton.

The Antiques books haven’t made it into Walmart and probably won’t – the chain is very narrow about the kind of books they buy…mostly it’s romances, romantic westerns and westerns, plus a few bestsellers. Not a cozy in sight – not even an hilarious one like Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides. How do they expect to stay in business?

Speaking of Antiques, here is a terrific review of Ho-Ho-Homicides at King River Life Magazine, which will give you a good idea of what to expect, including discussions of each novella.

Okay, now what you’re wondering is…what can I give Max Allan Collins for Christmas? I will be facetious and serious at the same time: you could write reviews (however brief) for my novels at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your own blogs and whatever site you deem appropriate. There is a real reason why you might want to consider doing this, if you want new work from me.

The books I write – Mike Hammer, Quarry, Antiques – are seldom reviewed by the mainstream (including lots of Internet reviewers). I do not have the cachet or sales punch of a Lehane or Connelly, who are always reviewed. I am largely ignored, even by people who love my work, in “Best of” lists at the end of the year. This is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it’s a reality. Even the widely, glowingly reviewed non-fiction book Scarface and the Untouchable: The Battle for Chicago isn’t turning up on such lists.

I probably write too much. That keeps work that, if other people did it, would be taken more seriously. I am not whining or complaining (well, I guess I am) but I do understand that even readers who follow my work can’t always keep up with me.

Here’s the deal. If I don’t write, publishers do not send money to my house. That’s one thing. The other is that I am 70, have had some harrowing health issues (that I seem to have either overcome or am handling well) and realize that I don’t have forever to tell my stories.

And I have a lot more stories I want to tell.

Actually, I do not work as hard as I used to. Over the years, most Heller chapters were written in a day (25 to 30 double-spaced pages). I was a boy wonder till I got old. I slowed down starting with Better Dead. In general, my work load now is ten finished pages, six days a week. (Sometimes only five days.) It’s no different than with people with a “real” job – they work five or six days a week, and nobody applauds them, or tries to talk them out of it.

As I’ve mentioned, I have friends who have done these sort of interventions to get me to retire and get Barb and me to go take a cruise with other aging couples. I would rather write. Barb and I treat ourselves well and have a great time together, and don’t feel the need for a lot of travel to do that. She is a beautiful woman and lovely company, and is the one thing in my life that is worth hating me over.

She and I are watching one Christmas movie or television episode per evening right now. I may write about this soon. But I will say this – Holiday Inn is a wonderful movie, and White Christmas sort of stinks. Maybe my son Nathan is right: Die Hard is a better Christmas movie than White Christmas.

* * *

Here six great books (available inexpensively) are recommended, and one of them is True Detective (and I’m pleased and grateful, but it’s not “Allen,” okay?).

Shots looks at upcoming Titan titles, including the new Hammer, Murder, My Love.

The Strand magazine is on the stands now, with the key Spillane “Mike Hammer” short story, “Tonight, My Love.”

We’ve linked to this review before, but this time it’s attached to the mass market paperback of The Bloody Spur, out right now.

Finally, here’s a lovely write-up on the three Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries.


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10 Responses to “An “Antiques” Stocking Stuffer and the Walmart Big Time”

  1. stephen borer says:

    This week’s column: it is mindboggling that any friend would ask you to retire. Don’t recall anyone asking Dick Van Dyke or Marcel Marceau or Bob Dylan or Charles M. Schulz to buy a lake cabin and stop performing. So, on behalf of us wingnuts, keep writing and you and Barb stay as healthy as possible.

  2. Thomas Zappe says:

    Given the fact that you have gone to so much time & trouble [not to mention considerable expense, I’m sure] in the research end of things, is there any chance that you might be coerced into squeezing out an autobiography?

    Also, don’t knock the idea of a cruise, especially to Alaska.

  3. Ed Morrissey says:

    Hi Mr. Collins: You made at least one “Best Of” list. Check out entry#21 (page 1) on my library’s Best Of 2018 list at . Merry Christmas! And don’t retire!

  4. Brain Drake says:

    Max, Writers don’t quit, and we don’t retire, because how can you retire your imagination? Best wishes for the holiday season, and keep up the great work! You’ve convinced me that I need to try an Antiques book.

    Also, if you ever take a cruise, take a three-day to see how you like it. My new wife and I took a five-day to Mexico and we were done by day three. After that, we felt like Papillon when he was in the hole. You’re trapped on that darn boat and the food is awful, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise: overcooked, too salty, etc.; basically prison cafeteria food. Never again.

  5. Paul.Griffith says:

    Hey Max, your readers, fans, customers or however you want to refer to us, are selfish fanatics that think only of ourselves and our collections. That said, what would I do without my yearly Mike Hammer fix? Plus, all of the other great books you put out (i.e. Quarry, Nathan Heller, Caleb York, Antiques and the great additions such as ROAD TO PERDITION, and of course, SCAREFACE AND THE UNTOUCHABLE: THE BATTLE FOR CHICAGO. I can see my world crumbling with your retirement. You make a difference Max Allan Collins! Thank you!

    By the way, Holiday Inn IS better than White Christmas, I’ve always loved that movie. Wishing you, Barb and the family a wonderful and blessed Christmas holiday!

  6. Louis Burklow says:

    Max, I agree with you about Holiday Inn and White Christmas. The latter feels like a warmed-over remake of the former; except for Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s version of “Sisters” in semi-drag there’s nothing about it as entertaining as Holiday Inn. Have a great Christmas full of writing.

  7. I appreciate the support, but I have no intention of retiring. If I do, it will be over health issues, but even then it would have to be dementia, which my mother and grandfather fell victim to, so I take every clear-headed (relatively speaking) day seriously and as a blessing. My work is driven by the ticking clock and the welcome fact that my work is still wanted by editors and readers, right now anyway.

    I don’t remember whether I discussed this here, but I was writing within two weeks of getting out of the hospital after having a stroke on the operating table during my heart surgery. My right hand was almost useless, but I had just enough to be able to lightly touch the computer keyboard. The trick was bringing my left hand into some kind of harmony with that. It took a couple of months for me to get my signature back, which required lots of practice. But I was writing fiction right away — first project was (if I remember right) ANTIQUES FRAME. Barb wrote a good share of her draft in my hospital room. I probably wrote about this before…apologies.


    Thanks to all of you. And as for writing an autobiography — what do you think I’ve been doing every Tuesday?

  8. Thomas Zappe says:

    In defense of cruises, I have been on quite a few; five Jazz Cruises in the Carribean, one in Alaska and an entire summer working on a ship that went from Detroit to Montreal for Expo ’67. I have always found the food to range from Very Good to Too Damed Good. The ship acted as our island hopping hotel in the Carribean and offered topless sunbathing for the European vacationers on the upper deck.

    The Carribean scenery was everything one could hope for.

  9. Barb and I went on a cruise with a lot of other mystery writers, including Bob Randisi and Warren Murphy. We wrote a book while on the cruise, everybody taking a couple of chapters. The food was good but excessive, the Caribbean island hopping was sometimes nice but often depressing because of the poverty, and we got very tired of it soon (it lasted about a week). There was a casino on board that kept some people busy. Our room was tiny. Being with Barb was fun, but otherwise the most fun I had was reading a Perry Mason novel partly set on a cruise ship. Never again. Best moment: hearing somebody asked a steward what time the midnight buffet started.

  10. Sean Kelly says:

    I did indeed use Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides as a stocking stuffer. Now I need to go and get a copy for my own shelf.