M.A.C. on Noir Alley & Come Spy With Me Mania!

November 17th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

Come Spy With Me will officially be available this Wednesday, Nov. 18, as both an e-book and as a “real” book.

In a week or so, I’ll announce a ten-book giveaway (waiting for my copies, due any moment now).

The first of at least three John Sand novels by Matt Clemens and me, Come Spy With Me is available on Kindle at Amazon and as physical media (i.e., a trade paperback) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line bookstores. But Amazon has it exclusively in the e-book format.

Kiss Me Deadly theatrical poster

Also, on Saturday, November 21, 9:15 PM & Sunday, November 22, 7:00 AM, I will be appearing with the great Eddie Muller as Noir Alley presents Kiss Me Deadly (1955), which TCM describes this way: “In this terrific apocalyptic film noir, a vain and corrupt Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) tries to solve the murder of a beautiful hitchhiker (Cloris Leachman) whom he had picked up one night after she escaped from a mental institution. Mobsters, a corrupt psychiatrist, women, and a mysterious package complicates things for him. Dir. Robert Aldrich.” This is the greatest of all Mike Hammer films, and I’d imagine many of you have already seen it…but I think you’ll get a kick out of watching Eddie and me jaw about it.

Getting back to Come Spy With Me, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the early ‘60s spy craze and how it relates to this new novel, which features the “real-life” espionage agent on which Ian Fleming based James Bond. Now, of course that’s just a literary conceit, but back in the day any number of non-fiction books about real spies who’d inspired Fleming in creating Bond were almost as prevalent on the newsstands as Bond imitations.

Few commentators discuss it, but the British Invasion of the Beatles and other UK pop groups was intrinsically linked to the success of James Bond (and vice versa). The success of the Sean Connery films was absolutely part of the same pop cultural phenomenon.

Come Spy With Me Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was a fan of Fleming and Bond before they really took off, that is, before the film of Dr. No appeared. Fleming was presented as the British Mickey Spillane and Bond the British Mike Hammer by Mickey’s own publisher, NAL, as well as countless reviewers. The early Bond novels have Spillane touches all over them, particularly Casino Royale and Live and Let Die.

My thirst for Spillane extended to his imitators, of whom Fleming (at least initially) clearly was one, and a damn good one. I gobbled up the NAL Fleming reprints – I was in junior high – and when the film of Dr. No came out, I somehow how talked my parents into driving me out of town to see it – on a school night.

Just as the Beatles opened the flood gates on Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Them, the Zombies and many others, the popularity of Bond led to countless films (none of which caught the flavor of the Bonds) like the truly awful Dean Martin-starring Matt Helm series (a travesty of the Donald Hamilton-penned books), the first-rate Michael Caine-starring Harry Palmer movies, and a number of TV shows, notably the import Secret Agent and the home-grown Man from UNCLE and I Spy. (If you are an Archer fan, you should know that the great animated spy series began a direct parody of Man from UNCLE.)

My friends and I went to the Bond films on opening day and sat through them twice, at least. We also went to the re-release double features, which in those pre-home-video days were the only way to see the films again. We watched every episode of the various spy TV shows, even the bad ones, and The Man from UNCLE got pretty bad fairly quickly, with The Girl from UNCLE a sheer embarrassment.

We didn’t care.

We carried briefcases to school like the one Bond took with him on the train in From Russia With Love. For a while, we carried in those briefcases starter pistols. My friend Jon McRae (partial basis for Quarry) created an elaborate plan, filling a fat notebook, of how we would take over the school and execute teachers we didn’t like.

I’ll let you reflect on that for a moment.

But here’s the thing – times were so innocent, none of that would have raised a single alarm bell. No one, including…especially…those of us with our assignments in Operation Muscatine High School took any of it seriously; it was a big, dark, sick joke, and about as threatening as a letter to Santa Claus.

I do recall the starter pistols got us mildly in trouble. We had purchased them at a place called Mac’s Bargain Mart for maybe five dollars each. That place of business got in some hot water, as did we, but only mildly so.

One of my friends from those days, Mike Lange, passed away recently. He sang with me (and Joyce Courtois and Kathe Bender) in a quartet that went to All-State Chorus every single year of high school – the only such quartet in the state of Iowa to do so. You will not be surprised to learn that this distinction did not get me laid.

Mike was an eccentric, a science-fiction nerd before it became fashionable (much as I was a comic book nerd before it became fashionable). He introduced me to Star Trek and The Prisoner, and wore suits to high school. Got it? In a restaurant, he would say, to a befuddled waitress, “What is the ETA of a tenderloin?”

When we went to All-State in Des Moines, Mike was driving me so crazy I decided I would either have to kill him or become his friend. I opted for the latter. He wasn’t worth going to the chair over. Well, maybe he was, after we became friends. He sang at Barb and my wedding.

Tonight, a sleepless night, I sat down to write this update and learned that another friend of mine going back to high school – actually junior high – had passed away unexpectedly. Suzi Webb was the heart and soul of our class reunions; I based a character on her in Girl Most Likely.

I share this with you, particularly those of you younger than myself, as a kind of warning. This is an ephemeral world. You can turn around and Sean Connery is gone, and so are two of your high school friends.

If there’s somebody you haven’t talked to for a while, from those days? Pick up the phone.

Getting back to Come Spy With Me, I think in this nightmare of sheltering in place and hovering death, going back to the innocence – and as hard-edged as it at times is, it is a return to a kind of innocence – of a spy novel set in the James Bond ‘60s is something that a couple of Baby Boomers called Clemens and Collins got a real kick out of.

Think you will, too.

But leave your starter pistol at home.

* * *

Come Spy With Me gets a nice mention – actually, more than that – on the great podcast, Paperback Warrior.

Ron Fortier gives Girl Can’t Help It a lovely review here.

M.A.C.

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8 Responses to “M.A.C. on Noir Alley & Come Spy With Me Mania!”

  1. Jeff Elsom says:

    Another great article from Max. An interesting reflection back in time, with a subtle and meaningful message to us all. Mortality affects us all, spend time with those you care about. I am a great fan of your books, especially the Quarry and Nolan series. So glad the terrific Hard Case Crime publisher is re releasing all the Nolan books!

  2. Jeff Elsom says:

    Another great article from Max. An interesting reflection back in time, with a subtle and meaningful message to us all. Mortality affects us all, spend time with those you care about. I am a great fan of your books, especially the Quarry and Nolan series.

  3. Peter says:

    I am looking forward to “Come Spy With Me!” I have pre-ordered it even though I can read it for free. I am a big fan, and have received some advance copies of your books (from you, and the duo- “Barbara Collins” ) which I have read and reviewed! I may toss my hat in for one of your advance copies of “Come Spy….,” regardless of that action, as long as you keep writing, I will keep reading your work!

  4. JohnJ says:

    Those times you give for Noir Alley on TCM seem to be Pacific Coast time. The good old CST has always been 9 AM on Sundays and a little more flexible on Saturday night, depending on the length of the movie before it. I’m definitely looking forward to it, especially since Eddie seldom has guests on the show.
    i still remember my 007 sweatshirt from my teens. I doubt I’d seen any of the movies at that time but I had read Dr. No early. Didn’t JFK mention Fleming as one of his favorite authors??

  5. Thomas Zappe says:

    I thought I was the only one who wore a suit or sport coat with ascot to public high school every day for a year and a half.

    To be sure, I got laid, but in spite of, not because thereof.

    I was the tenor sax soloist in Jazz Band.

  6. Russell Fish says:

    Received my pre-ordered copy of Come Spy With Me on Monday, half way through it now, good stuff.

  7. Mike Doran says:

    Semi-irrelevant, perhaps:

    I had occasion at another site to mention another early ’60s phenomenon, the Civil War Centennial.
    You and I were both Midwestern kids at that time, so you probably remember the commercial aspect: toys, songs, games, and those dumb cardboard caps of blue and gray (“Yank or Reb?”).
    And the periodic casual mentions of that slavery thing …

    Meanwhile, there was that Cold War thingy, Us (the US of A) versus Them (the Commies), with the Noble Brits sending over Mr. Bond to help out and such (and remember that the Bond movies had much Yank input in their content).
    All that music and stuff was a collateral asset that helped enrich the Western World – synergy (a word nobody knew back then, but that’s what it was).

    Well, here we are, sixty years on (60 freakin’ years!), and the world has become A Different Place – and not necessarily for the better.
    Nowadays, Millennials (God, how I hate these words!) are telling those of us who are A Certain Age that we should have anticipated how they would react to the portrayals of the world we knew (“Just because we weren’t born yet is No Excuse!“).
    These days, everything is a Period Piece; you have to include a glossary of what were current terms for any past era (and ‘past’ means any time before last year), and attitudes always have to be explained – and apologized for.
    As ’50s Kids, we were lucky: the past was closer to hand, and if we had to figure out – on our own – what the landscape was in older entertainments – that was part of the fun of it.

    Funny – lately, Bill Peschel has been putting out annotated editions of early Agatha Christie novels, so a modern reader will know what’s being referred to by the ’20s characters, which is a good thing for him to do –
    – but as a high school kid in the ’60s, I had unannotated paperback books, where I had to dope the stuff out by myself –
    – and I liked it!
    (Maybe you were the same …)

    Just ranting here; I had to get it out of my system.
    Anyway, yesterday I took delivery of Come Spy With Me (thanx Amazon), for which deep gratitude from here.
    I don’t dismiss newer stuff out of hand, but there’s a bar that these things have to meet for me in all media.
    By and large, cussing and grossouts seem to be the ultimate short cut – which you mainly steer clear of (along with some few others I can think of … but that’s another story).

    Now that the voting part of the Election is over, we now have the Afterburn to deal with.
    My cable has been out for about a week, and the sheer relief of having no access to the NewsWrestlers has been the briefest of blessings.
    But the AT&T Guy is coming today, so there’s that …

    Have I mentioned before that my Old Age is becoming less and less fun as it slogs ahead?
    Since I most likely won’t see you or Barb in person before 2021, I’ll just get the Happy (Sappy) Holidays stuff out of the way here.
    Hoping that you and Nate are showing the grandkids lots of Old Things in print and on screen – History Is FUN!

    “Until that time, Eustis – until that time …”

  8. Dan Collins says:

    I just saw “Kiss Me Deadly” and you on TCM. Thanks for the tip it is a great movie. It looks like I’m up for the Thomas Crown Affair too.

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