Archive for April, 2021

Caleb York Rides…One Last Time?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Hardcover: Indiebound Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

Today the sixth – and, for now at least, final – Caleb York western, Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek, goes on sale. Those of you who won advanced copies are now free to review it. It’s a hardcover. The previous Caleb York, Hot Lead, Cold Justice, is out simultaneously in mass market paperback.

I usually just provide a link, but this review from that first-rate writer Ron Fortier at his Pulp Fiction Review blog is too good not to share.

Here it is, and thank you, Ron:

A Caleb York Western
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Kensington Books

The sixth chapter in the Caleb York series picks where the fifth ended, with the people of Trinidad New Mexico dealing with the aftermath of the worst winter recorded in the west. Many of the local ranchers, having lost most of their stock, have packed up and left the territory, while Willa Cullen, owner of the big Bar-O, is struggling with a decimated herd and a lack of clean running water to support them. The only unfouled source is Sugar Creek which sits on neighboring Circle G land.

As the story opens, the once abandoned ranch is bought by a beautiful widow named Victoria Hammond, who entertains grandiose plans to become the richest, most powerful figure in the county. Events get off on less than desirable footing when Sheriff Caleb York is forced to shoot and kill Victoria’s youngest of three sons for raping and savagely beating a local working girl. Upon meeting the woman to respectfully report the circumstances of the shooting, York discovers that she has no intentions of allowing any other ranchers access to Sugar Creek. She is also planning on buying out Willa for pennies on the dollar. No stranger to past range wars, York finds himself in the precarious role of peace-keeper, between the woman he loves and the ambitious widow Hammond.

Along about this time, we found ourselves musing over Collins’ ingenuous plot with its echoes of a several classic television settings. Thus far the adventures of Caleb York and Trinidad have seemed much like Matt Dillon in the popular Gunsmoke series. Whereas with this book, he offers up a dark-mirror image of another well known oater, The Big Valley; what with Victoria Barclay (note the same first name) and her three boys. That the two, York and Victoria Hammond are on a collision course is obvious from their first scene together. Then, in his usual masterful touch, Collins ups the ante and violence erupts quickly towards the tale’s second half leaving blisters on our fingers. We simply could not put it down. The end was so Mickey Spillane, it was eerie.

We’ve enjoyed all the Caleb York books but this one clearly stands out as a high mark. Nobody spins a yarn like Max Collins. Nobody.

As for why this is the last Caleb York, at least for a while, it’s simple: Kensington didn’t ask for any more. I have strong interest, however, from Wolfpack, who have (obviously) been incredibly supportive of my work of late, and they are a top publisher of westerns. So Caleb may saddle up there in the (as Mystery Science Theater puts it) not too distant future.

Well, somewhat distant, because I am booked up for the rest of the year and into the next. Ironically, a lot of this has to do with getting ready for the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer next year. This includes a new Hammer novel, developed from an unpublished Spillane manuscript, and I haven’t started that yet. Very much under way is a biography of Mickey for Mysterious Press, which Jim Traylor and I are doing. I’m also considering an expanded version of my documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, if I can work it in. Also on the docket is a possible non-Hammer novel based on an unproduced Spillane screenplay, which I may do for Wolfpack – still in the talking stages, but….

In addition, I have an Antiques novel to co-write and a Nate Heller(although that will slop over somewhat into next year). And currently I’m doing the third John Sand novel with Matt Clemens – working from his draft, I’m half-way through mine. It’s called To Live and Spy in Berlin.

Besides all this, I’m involved with getting my ‘40s female PI Fancy Anders out to the reading public. She will appear in three novellas: Fancy Anders Goes to War; Fancy Anders For the Boys; and Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood. These are written. When they are collected into book form, I intend to title it Meet Fancy Anders. These are for Neo-Text, who will be bringing them out initially as e-books.

Neo-Text will also be doing e-books of the three-part serialized The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me. That will be the title of the eventual collected edition. I’m pleased to announce that the incredible Howard Chaykin will be illustrating Jimmy Leighton.

As I’ve mentioned here before, artist Fay Dalton, a fantastic talent, is doing the illos for Fancy Anders. She’ll be doing cover illos as well as one illustration per chapter (numbering 10 per novella, not counting covers). Some will be in color, a few in black-and-white or partial color for a noir effect. We have not seen Howard’s work on Jimmy yet, but I know it will be outstanding. This is not comics, or graphic novels, rather prose novels that include a good amount of strong artwork, perhaps invoking the classic magazine illustration of the ‘30s through the ‘50s.

To give you the first look at Fancy, I’ve included one of her roughs, which I predict will knock your eyes out and your socks off. I am incredibly excited about both of these Neo-Text projects. They are at once typical of my work even as each charts a new course.

Cover sketch for Fancy Anders Goes to War

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There was a bit of fuss last week over my stating that if a winner in a book giveaway here didn’t like that book, the responsibility to review the book could be considered optional.

A bait and switch went on to some degree, because the complaining parties seemed not to be winners in the book giveaways, but actual paying customers…and of course an actual paying customer can dislike a book and say so in an Amazon review with my (grudging) blessing.

But this seemed to be really about those who don’t like my complaining (which I did) about self-professed “big fans” advising other big fans not to read the book – scaring off other paying customers. No law against that, but I don’t think they understand the concept of Amazon reviews. When you write a review for Amazon, or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads, you are not a professional reviewer with the status and credibility of a critic in, say, Entertainment Weekly or for that matter The New York Times. You’re just a reader expressing an opinion. Which is fine. But the public forum you’re in does carry weight, and particularly at Amazon with its averaging of reviews, its reliance on the number of reviews, and policy of showing a “top” negative review.

I went into some detail about this in the comments last week, and so did people on both sides of this fence, and you may wish to check that out.

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This is a long, freewheeling interview (audio only) with my buddy Andrew Sumner, one of my favorite people on the planet.


Not Another Book Giveaway! Live Fast….

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021
Live Fast Spy Hard cover

Yes, another book giveaway!

I have ten copies of the second John Sand novel, Live Fast, Spy Hard by Matt Clemens and me, and ten copies of the new Wolfpack edition of Regeneration by Barb and me. It’s first-come first serve. You must include your address (include your name as part of your address, so I can copy paste) and agree to write a review for Amazon (Barnes & Noble and review blogs are also welcome). USA only, please – foreign postage is prohibitive.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your participation! –Nate]

Give me an order of preference, or if you are only interested in one title of these two.

If you read and then don’t like the book, you are released from your pledge to review it, and in fact I’d rather you didn’t. The purpose of these exercises is not to show you what a fine, generous man I am (though of course that’s true), but to attract favorable attention to these books.

You know – get others to buy them.

Live Fast, Spy Hard represents the second of what will be at least three John Sand novels. I’ve mentioned the premise here – that Sand is the spy who (reading between the lines) Ian Fleming based James Bond upon. The secondary conceit is that what happened at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (SPOILER ALERT: Bond marries and his wife is killed) was not reflected in John Sand’s “real life.” He does marry, but the wife – and, so far, the marriage – survives.

I have heard through the grapevine that some readers have avoided Come Spy With Me and now Live Fast, Spy Hard because they are assuming that these are spoofs of spy novels. This may be a result of the lead espionage agent being married and teaming up with his wife for duties with a new spy agency called GUILE, which is vaguely like UNCLE in, you know, THE MAN FROM.

A couple of things.

First, these novels derive from my love for the Ian Fleming novels and the Sean Connery-starring Bond films. I only tolerate Roger Moore, and defend Timothy Dalton because his Bond is like the book Bond, and enjoy the two later Bonds (Brosnan and Craig) because they are loyal to Fleming and Connery each in his own way. As for George Lazenby, he was a faithful to Fleming Bond, too.

I’ve told the story here many times that when – at around age 14 – I ran out of Mickey Spillane books to read, I turned to the author advertised as “the British Mickey Spillane” – Fleming, Ian Fleming. And you may recall that, in junior high, I talked my parents into taking me to see the opening of Dr. No on a school night.

Second, while I was very much caught up in the spy craze that accompanied Beatlemania while I was in high school – watching every dreadful spy spoof from Dean Martin as Matt Helm to James Coburn as Flint (actually walked out of In Like Flint) – I have no love for any spoofy spy thing of the period with the exception of Get Smart. (I do love the latterday OSS 117 films from France. Also, for the record, I love both Dino and Coburn, just not in those films – though I own all of them on Blu-ray, so go figure).

Third, the UNCLE reference, which puts some people off, has a basis in Ian Fleming, thank you very much. First of all, the acronym thing was a big deal in real life, and in the reality of the spies Fleming wrote about (SMERSH being real, with of course SPECTRE a Fleming invention). Fleming named both Napoleon Solo and UNCLE, but was forced off the TV project by the producers of the Bond film series. Hardcore Bond fans may recall that “Solo” was the name of a gangster in Goldfinger.

So the presence of GUILE does not indicate that Matt and I are going down a spoofy path.

Readers who think John Sand marrying a beautiful woman means there is no sex in these books need to either (a) if single, start dating, or (b), if married, buy their wives some flowers and see what happens.

And readers who like the harder-edged side of my work – who value Quarry, Mike Hammer and Nate Heller – should not misconstrue the nature of the John Sand books, which are extremely tough with brutal action and lots of plot twists and turns. Heller fans may in particular enjoy the historical aspect. In pursuing the conceit of John Sand being the “real” James Bond, Matt Clemens and I have devised stories within the early ‘60s time frame that bring in the likes of Castro, JFK and the Rat Pack. These are at once historical novels and espionage thrillers, as well as bloody valentines to Ian Fleming.

But in some ways John Sand is a change of pace, simply because I haven’t written much espionage, although such movie tie-ins as I Spy, Air Force One and In the Line of Fire seem to qualify, as well does the Reeder & Rogers trilogy (Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order) that Matt and I did for Thomas & Mercer.

Here is an interview Matt and I did with Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop.

As I mentioned above, the point of these book giveaways is generating good reviews to in turn generate sales. That’s how I keep food on the table, the lights on, and you entertained. When I – or any writer whose work you enjoy – change things up with a different type of book, and you don’t like it, might I make a suggestion? If you usually like the writer, don’t write an Amazon review advising other fans to steer clear of it. Have some respect for the author, and give your fellow fans the opportunity to judge for themselves.

Now and then I see an Amazon review that begins, “I’m a big Max Allan Collins fan,” followed by a blisteringly bad review. Either I’m not writing as well, or these readers may just not really be “big” fans.

Regeneration book cover, Wolfpack edition

The other book in this week’s giveaway, Regeneration, has generated many terrific Amazon reviews, but I am always up against resistance when I try to break out of my specific noir/historical niche. I write different kinds of things to stay fresh, to stay interested. Particularly when I collaborate, as with Barb or Matt or recently Dave Thomas, I am looking to do something different. That’s on purpose.

Regeneration is a novel I’m particularly proud of. It began as a short story of Barb’s in which I saw possibilities for a novel. As the Mommy movies indicate (and the Mommy novels for that matter) (available from Wolfpack), I am interested in horror and dark suspense. My anthology Reincarnal is packed with specifically that kind of tale. And Regeneration, thanks to Barb’s terrific idea as well as her draft on the novel, is definitely in that cubicle of my wheelhouse.

Regeneration explores ageism on the one hand, and the failure of Baby Boomers to save for retirement on the other, putting them together in a darkly comic and intentionally disturbing mix that reflects Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone as influences on both Barb’s and my work.

Check out the knockout cover Wolfpack has come up with for this new edition.

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Here’s a podcast interview with me, nicely handled by Joe Meyers.


Ladies and Gentlemen – Brian Van Winkle

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Those of you who are nice enough to stop by here from time to time, because of interest in my fiction writing, may also know my other creative interest has always been music, specifically rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve been a rock fan since early childhood, after seeing Elvis on Ed Sullivan, and my enthusiasm for Bobby Darin is well-known by, well, those who know me. The Beatles infected my generation and I was no exception – an interest in vocal and instrumental music in junior high and high school led me into playing in “local pop combos.” In 1965, the first of those, briefly, was the Barons (Barrens was more like it), but the Daybreakers arrived in mid-1966 and made a certain mark.

How big a mark? Well, in 1967 our one national single, on Atlantic subsidiary Dial, “Psychedlic Siren,” charted regionally and over the years became a cult favorite among garage band enthusiasts. A footnote about this will follow.

But first I need to say that in over fifty years of rock and roll, playing in a surprisingly small number of bands (really, only three – the Daybreakers, Crusin’, and Seduction of the Innocent) I performed with some remarkable musicians, who were always able performers and a few were incredible ones; but every single one became my close friend and road-warrior comrade and touched my life in a profound way. It’s the closest thing to what soldiers in foxholes experience, and I say that without embarrassment though I know it’s an exaggeration. But perhaps less of one than you might think.

There are stories I could tell, but not right now.

The sad truth of it is, over fifty years – particularly among rock musicians – there are a lot of ways to die. Terry Beckey, a great bass player and fine singer with the Daybreakers, was murdered in his motel room. Guitarist Paul Thomas died of sleep apnea. Cancer got Daybreakers/Crusin’ bassist Chuck Bunn and Seduction drummer Miguel Ferrer. Guitarist Larry Barrett was a suicide. I can’t say for sure, but an early member of the Daybreakers appears to have died, as they used to say, of drink. Singer/guitarist Bruce Peters died due to over-medication (by his doctors, not himself).

About a week ago we lost Brian Van Winkle.

After Chuck Bunn’s passing in 2011, our then-guitarist Jim Van Winkle asked us to give his brother Brian a try. Jim is one of the best guitarists the band has ever known – and that is saying something, when the list includes Bruce Peters, Rob Gal, Paul Thomas and Bill Anson. It took about half-way through one song to know Brian was right for the band, and a shorter time than that to realize he was sweet and fun and just a pleasure to be around. Not everybody in a band has those attributes. Bands tend to break up after a few years, but Crusin’ began in 1974 with little to no bad blood when someone left the group.

I wish I could convey what a joy Brian was to be around. He was sunny and funny, but he carried some heavy baggage. His brother Jim was such an outstanding player that Brian had to feel he was performing in that shadow. But Brian was a military veteran who had seen combat and who suffered periodically – and seriously – from PTSD. He shared his experiences with me, and had me read some journal entries about those traumatic experiences. His writing blew me away, and I told him so. I encouraged him to write a book. If pretenders like me could get away with it, the real deal like Brian should really tell his story.

About mid-way through 2018, Brian was having difficulty feeling comfortable in crowds and stepped away from the band. Our current, very talented guitarist Bill Anson suggested his son, Scott, who is our current and also very gifted bassist. We have always been something of a family affair. DeWayne Hopkins was our drummer for many years and when he left (to run successfully for mayor, among other things) his son Jaimie ably took over the drum kit.

We did not perform in 2020 and haven’t had our first rehearsal yet this year, but intend to perform this summer and early fall. We had looked forward to Brian sitting in with us, and lending his uniquely warm presence. I will get a little crude here, so forgive me. He could give and take shit as well as anyone in the history of the band.

And that is saying something.

He was in the hospital for several harrowing weeks, and was diagnosed with Covid but other factors were at work. When I last spoke with him, not that long ago, he was feeling fine and felt and looked fit. Finding out, a few weeks later, that he was in intensive care came as a shock.

One last thing about Brian – he was a sensitive soul. He cared deeply about others and had a deep spiritual side that not everyone might have guessed, since he had a fun, sometimes silly, sometimes raunchy sense of humor. Now and then, as a writer, I encounter a person whose complexity would challenge me to recreate on the page – and I am failing to this wonderful guy justice here. Nor does this brief write-up, but check it out anyway and bask in Brian’s smile for a few moments.

Here is our performance at the 2018 induction concert, when Brian and the rest of the band (Steve Kundel on drums, Bill Anson on vocals and guitar, myself on vocals and keys, with founding Daybreakers member Denny Maxwell guesting on a few numbers) were inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. You can hear Brian’s excellent bass playing clearly and enjoy his loose, easy stage presence…and is it my imagination or can you see just what a sweet, nice guy he was?

By way of the promised footnote…when I was checking YouTube to find the above recording of our 2018 performance, I ran across a number of other performances by the Daybreakers at our 2008 induction as well as any number of other Iowa Hall of Fame performances at various induction concerts over the years. Most of these videos have scored perhaps a couple of hundred viewers; the Daybreakers clips are mostly between 400 and 700 views – very respectable.

And then there’s “Psychedelic Siren.” Which, as some of you may know, has been covered quite a bit by other bands with names like the Tellers, the X-Ray Harpoons, and the Outta Place, and the original record has been anthologized numerous times, in particular Sundazed’s Garage Beat ‘66. Some of these cover versions are in live performance by various bands on YouTube, and rack up decent numbers – the Tellers an impressive thousand views.

The Daybreakers performing in 2008 at the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is right here, right now, for your enjoyment – with the great Chuck Bunn on bass, and the four surviving original members – Mike Bridges, guitar, Buddy Busch, drums, myself on keys/lead vocal, and guitarist Denny Maxwell on siren.

We have 3800 views.

Rack a few more up for us, would you?


New Editions of Regeneration and Kiss Her Goodbye

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021
Regeneration by Barbara Allan, 2021 Wolfpack Edition cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link

The Zoom presentation Barb and I made Saturday morning (for the DSM Book Festival) was attended by around seventy people, and went very well. This is the first online dual appearance we’ve made. We concentrated on five writing tips each, which not only gave participants some decent advice, but highlighted the differences in our approach as well as how we go about collaborating.

We spoke for about forty minutes, followed by answering questions from attendees.

As it happens, our first collaborative novel – Regeneration – is out this week in a new edition from Wolfpack, with another of that company’s stunning covers. The novel – which I’d classify as Dark Suspense, but could be a Psychological Thriller or even Horror – began as a short story by Barb, which we expanded into our debut collaborative novel. Bombshell would follow, and of course we began the Antiques/”Trash ‘n’ Treasures” cozy mystery series after that. (Wolfpack is planning an edition of Bombshell as well.)

Regeneration was originally published by Leisure Books, and a while back by Thomas & Mercer under our joint “Barbara Allan” byline. In many respects, this book was Barb’s baby as the idea was hers, as was the original plot of the short story, and nicely reflects the way she explores some social concern of hers in her fiction (a topic we discussed in that Zoom “Master Class”).

She really deserves top billing, but for marketing reasons I’ve reluctantly taken it.

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The recent book giveaway (and more will follow, possibly including Regeneration) was nicely successful, and all thirty books were gone in 23 hours and signed copies have gone out in the mail to the winners.

Kiss Her Goodbye – one of the three books in that giveaway – is out tomorrow (April 6). My mentioning that it has the previously censored ending has attracted some attention, including questions like, “What previously censored ending?”

The editor of the original hardcover edition (and there was a trade paperback as well) of the third of the first three of my “Mike Hammer” Spillane/Collins collaborative novels objected to what he saw as an ending too similar to a certain famous Mike Hammer novel. I am dodging exactly which novel, and what ending, by way of avoiding a spoiler.

But I should say this editor was and is a friend to my efforts to get the unpublished, unfinished Mike Hammer novels in Mickey Spillane’s files finished and published. He aggressively went after those first three novels, and would have continued on with them, but his relationship with the publisher came to an end.

Publisher Nick Landau of Titan then stepped up immediately to take over publishing the Hammer novels as part of a greater Mike Hammer Legacy Project. Also, Nick went after mass market publication rights of the first three of those collaborative Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novels (The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye), to bring the entire run under one imprint.

When this occurred, I asked my editor, the great Andrew Sumner – a true Hammer fan and expert – if I might restore the ending of Kiss Her Goodbye. Andrew thought it was a great idea, both in terms of honoring my artistic vision and to give the mass market edition something special to set it apart. (Ironically, I rather like the rewritten ending – if less than the previously unpublished one – and hope diehard fans will put both the original and the restored version on their shelves.)

Call it double-dipping if you like, but – as I’ve said elsewhere – double-dipping never hurt a hot fudge sundae.

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I was very excited about HBO Max, specifically after the announcement that all Warner Bros movie releases for the next year would be streaming in tandem with actual theatrical presentations.

Then came the Wonder Woman 1984, as pathetic a major super-hero release as has come down the pike since Green Lantern.

Now Barb and I have endured Godzilla Vs. Kong, a movie we had been looking forward to for months. One of the definitions of insanity is to keeping doing the same thing over and over, always expecting a new result. That’s me and American Godzilla movies – I am always excited, thrilled by the preview, and the movie always disappointments.

Some people like this film – it’s 73% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – but that’s just Covid Derangement Syndrome. So starved are theatergoers (and streamers) for entertainment, they embrace this vapid, stupid exercise in SFX artistry and screenwriting incompetence. Only Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown emerges with her dignity. Well, also the great Kyle Chandler, wasted in a walk-on.

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The print edition of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers anthology, Turning the Tied, is available now (the e-book too, of course) (Paperback: | E-Book: ). It features many terrific writers doing famous characters in new short stories, including a Sherlock Holmes by a couple of guys named Collins and Clemens.

Check out this lovely gallery of Hard Case Crime Quarry covers.