9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend…

March 17th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

…staying home and reading my two new novels, Do No Harm and Girl Can’t Help It. Available in traditional hardcover and trade paperback respectively, and in easy-to-swallow e-book form.

And if you don’t feel you can go safely out to the movies anymore, why not stay in and watch Mommy and Mommy’s Day? I was thrilled to get this review from the top Blu-Ray review site of ‘em all, DVD Beaver (get your mind out of the gutter – it’s a Canadian web site!).

We’re getting some nice reviews on Girl Can’t Help It, with Do No Harm surprisingly not getting much play yet, though the trade reviewers love it. Those of you who received review copies will, I hope, begin posting reviews – some already have, though we’re at only 4 at Amazon at the moment on Do No Harm (three glowing, one anonymously trashing it) and Girl Can’t Help It is at 14, all very good (the worst is three stars and most are five). I’m grateful for this support and interest.

At the bottom of this update are links to some very strong Girl Can’t Help It reviews.

Barb and I (and Nate and Abby and the two grandkids) are taking the corona virus pandemic very seriously, as most of you likely are, too. Our habit (Barb and mine) is to take most meals out, since we work at home; but at present we are essentially in a semi-self-quarantine, going out only on supply runs – food, medicine, some work errands. Right now that’s a once-a-week thing.

We are both High Risk, probably me a little more than Barb, as I have underlying health issues, although all of those seem to be in check. This is a house full of books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and even laserdiscs, so we have plenty to amuse ourselves. And in the meantime work goes on and we may even wind up getting more done than usual.

I have cancelled a number of band gigs – leaving some outdoor ones on the books, for down the road. Even just last week when I inquired about whether an early June gig was still a go, the person who hired us seemed bewildered that I even brought it up – the committee hadn’t even discussed the matter…it wasn’t even on the radar.

Maybe now it is.

Just a week ago I declined a doctor’s check-up type visit and the nurse on the phone seemed bewildered at why I might not want to sit in a waiting room with a bunch of sick people. The facility where I get chiropractic and massages seemed mildly offended when I called to cancel my next visit and queried about what steps they were taking – they would call back, I was told. They haven’t.

That was days ago, admittedly. The reaction today might be different, since every day seems a (literal?) lifetime.

My bass player lives in nearby Iowa City, where the bulk of Iowa’s corona virus cases are located presently, so band rehearsal is off for a while. Barb and I have the luxury of already working at home and aren’t depending on regular paychecks to stay afloat on the short term.

She is working on Antiques Carry On (a visit to the UK is part of the plot) and I have just done the finishing touches on the Nolan, Skim Deep, going over the galleys, and have done the copy-edited manuscript of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. On the docket this week is a chapter of the Antiques book (I am revising the first four chapters before we break the rest of the novel down for Barb to do her drafts, while I go off and write the next Caleb York book). I also have an introduction to the second Ms. Tree collection to write for Titan, and Matt Clemens and I are working up a proposal for a new Reeder and Rogers novel (we met several weeks ago but are now operating long-distance, in the telephone sense among others). Last week Dave Thomas and I (also operating long-distance) did a revision on our novel proposal and sample chapters, responding to suggestions from our agent.

That’s one thing about being a professional writer, particularly if you’ve been around a while and have projects in the pipeline – there’s always work to do.

I urge you to stay in (and of course read my books to stay sane) and take whatever steps are necessary to weather this storm. I know some people think some of us are overreacting. I hope we are. The opposite approach is just too dangerous.

* * *

Skim Deep is a rather short novel, about the same length as several of the vintage Nolan books – probably around 55,000 words. So to plump up the physical book a little, and to advertise the forthcoming republication of the rest of the Nolans (in two books per volume format), editor/publisher Charles Ardai included the prologue and first two chapters of Bait Money, written fifty years ago.

I seldom go back and read my stuff – mostly, the last I see of them is when I read the galley proofs. I do like to listen to them as audio books, though I cringe now and then.

UK edition of Bait Money
Courtesy Existential Ennui

As it happens, I did revise Bait Money slightly when it came back out in the early ‘80s, and of any book I ever wrote, I spent more time working on (and re-working) that novel, in part because I was in college at the time and studying with Richard Yates at the Writers Workshop. Also, it was written (and re-written and re-written) on a manual typewriter. So I am familiar with it in a special way.

On the other hand, I had not revisited Bait Money since the early ‘80s. So reading those three chapters was an interesting experience. My takeaway was that in Bait Money I was pretty good at making it seem like I knew what I was doing, as opposed to Skim Deep, in which I really do know.

Stylistically, I am in that first Nolan novel one-third Richard Stark (mostly structure and subject matter), one-third James M. Cain (the ping-pong dialogue), and one-third Mickey Spillane (everything else). I always thought of myself as more of a combination of Stark, Cain, Spillane, Chandler, Hammett, McBain, and Thompson, with my own quirks mixed in to the degree that the influences didn’t stick out awkwardly. I think that’s probably more true of me today, though I would add Rex Stout, Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie.

But seeing a Nolan story I have just written juxtaposed with three chapters of the first one (Mourn the Living sort of doesn’t count) was (if not a shock) a revelation. For better of worse, for all my influences, I am writing like Max Allan Collins now.

Bait Money will be available as part of a new edition of Two For the Money (which includes the immediate sequel, Blood Money).

* * *

If you would like a signed copy of Do No Harm, there are some available, still at the pre-order price at VJ Books.

Jolene Grace has a lovely review of Girl Can’t Help It here.

Book Reporter likes Girl Can’t Help It, too. The write-up is mostly a lively plot summary, but the last paragraph is a wonderful mini-review in and of itself.

Always With a Book also likes Girl Can’t Help It.

So does that first-rate writer Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews.

Finally, here’s a nice little interview done with me at the Muscatine Journal on the occasion of the publication of Do No Harm and Girl Can’t Help It.


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9 Responses to “9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend…”

  1. My work has shut down, so I am staying home, and I started reading Girl Can’t Help It last night. (And Do No Harm is next, after I finish Girl.) So I told my wife about your post today, and she joked that the tenth doctor recommends Dean Koontz.

  2. Thomas Zappe says:

    Speaking about influences, the great Jazz Trumpeter Clark Terry [he played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Doc Severinsen on the Tonight Show big band and much of the great music coming out of the New York studios in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s] told young players that if they admired someone’s playing that they should copy it the best they could. “The part that sticks is you” he said.

    Besides reading to keep me busy these next several weeks, I have ordered “The Well Tempered Flutist” which consists of 100+ works for unaccompanied flute transcribed from J. S. Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier.

    By itself, this should be enough to keep me busy until my appointment with the gallows.

  3. Tim Field says:

    After the way you shrouded your SCTV co-author in mystery a few weeks ago, I thought you would have a big reveal at some point. Instead this week you off-handedly dropped Dave Thomas’s name. Dave Thomas! The best Bob Hope impression ever (both young and old Bob Hope). Can’t wait to hear more about this project.

  4. Fred Blosser says:

    You were ahead of the curve in canceling those appointments, and both the doctor and chiropractor should be thanking you. At least here in Austin (and now pretty much as a national recommendation, I believe), people are advised to cancel all but essential medical visits to relieve the stress on health-care providers. Back in the day, when I read both BAIT and BLOOD in their Curtis edition, I tended to give BAIT a higher score (no Parker pun intended), but I failed to recognize and appreciate the approach more in evidence in BLOOD. Now I’d rethink my original evaluation without downsizing my liking for BAIT in the least. Good to know that Nolan and Jon will be back in this otherwise dismal year of 2020.

  5. Mike Doran says:

    To the Family Collins (and all who know and love them):

    Subdued greetings from Da Grate City’a Chicaga (or at least the Very Good Suburb of Oak Lawn).

    This morning, I went to the middle school gym (is this a federal law?) and voted in the Democratic primary.
    Ever since that off-year in the ’80s when the LaRouchies sneaked into the primaries and drove Adlai Stevenson III out of the race –
    – well, I missed that primary; I resolved at that point never to miss any vote again.
    I was afraid that the MSG might not be open – but it was, and I did my civic duty, more or less cheerfully.
    Now the endless wait ’til November …

    The first wave of your 2020 literary output has arrived, courtesy of Amazon; the others will follow in due course.
    Query: Will the CoronaCrap have cleared up by mid-May, thereby enabling your annual pilgrimage to Centuries & Sleuths?
    God, I hope so; if I were to miss even one year seeing you and Barb – that’s worse than missing a primary.
    I don’t have that many friends, that I can afford to lose any of them (even long-distance).
    So stay well, guys; if you need to bypass C&S this year, I get it – but I live in hope.

  6. Sean Kelly says:

    I’m still going to work to support my veteran families at the Fisher House in Tampa (Kind of like Ronald McDonald House – we give free housing to families to be close to their patients). The VA is going to be on the front lines of this thing and we’ll support families and veterans however we can.

    That said, the kid (middle school) and wife (high school librarian) are off until April 15th. (for now)

    Like Mr. Doran, the Larouche (or should I say Preston Freed) debacle in Illinois makes me take a thorough look at my candidates and inspires me to vote in every election. I did my duty here in Florida yesterday.

    I am doing the audio book of Girl Can’t Help it right now. (Thanks for the ear worm by the way.) Look for a positive review on Audible and Goodreads as soon as I am finished.

    You guys take care of yourself. We will still be here when you can come out again.

  7. David Nelson says:

    I’m working my way through Do No Harm. I recently read an old interview of you and you talked about how much you liked Bobby Darin. I recently heard a radio program from the BBC on Mack The Knife. Thought you might be interested. Here is the link. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06r50wk

  8. Bryan K McMillan says:

    “I seldom go back and read my stuff – mostly, the last I see of them is when I read the galley proofs. I do like to listen to them as audio books, though I cringe now and then.”

    That’s interesting to discover. I’ve read that from a few authors, actually. Allegedly even the great William Shatner has no interest in watching his performances; once they’re done, they’re done. Keep swimming, like the proverbial shark. I always wonder how you guys can not enjoy these things as much as I do, reading them, but it’s one of those strings I never want to pull too much, lest I unravel the mystery. As you sketch out, when you revisit it, you’re revisiting it from a much different angle, as the creator.

    “For better of worse, for all my influences, I am writing like Max Allan Collins now.”

    Whatever you’re doing, please keep doing.

    I got the Hard Case “Two for the Money” for Christmas and keep circling it – I have a feeling that will be the next one read. (I got wrapped up in Nova Express by Burroughs and have not been able to get out of it. I thought it’d be a quick read and instead it’s been anything but.)

    Hope you and yours are safe, along with all fellow readers here.

  9. Andreas Bengtsson says:

    I am reading The Big Bang now, and it really opens with a big bang. This is possibly my favourite opening to any Mike Hammer I have read, and I’ve read most of the . Great stuff to take you mind off things as they are at the moment.

    Stay safe, Max and everyone here!