Archive for March, 2022

Perdition Years Later, Proofing Copy-Edits & New Spillane

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

As you may know, the Antiques books – the current one, Antiques Carry On is out now in trade paperback – are now published by Severn, based in the UK but also distributed here (and of course Mike Hammer’s publisher, Titan, is in England as well). So perhaps that explains the photo of a satisfied reader that we received, courtesy of our friend, Gene Eugene.

The Queen's Restorative Reading
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Screening of Road to Perdition last week at the Figge art museum in Davenport was fun – it was nicely attended by a somewhat captive audience of Scott Community College students who’d been assigned the graphic novel, among others whose arms had not been twisted to attend.

There was a hitch that took it from the auditorium to the lobby, where the presentation was not ideal but it served the purpose. Matt Clemens and Barb and I took questions after, and I talked too much. Apologies to one and all on that score.

I hadn’t seen Road to Perdition since the Blu-ray came out in 2010 – twelve years! I was struck that my reaction to everything I liked about the film on first seeing it and everything I hadn’t liked (big and small and in between) remained exactly the same. I still wish I’d had a crack at the dialogue, some of which I find stilted, and that the ending were mine – that Jack Lemmon hadn’t died and left the narration (obviously written for an adult looking back on his life, as in the graphic novel) to young Tyler Hoechlin, the book’s real ending scrapped for a Hollywood one.

But I still love the thing. It has such a nice mood, and it picks up on so many visuals from the book (Richard Piers Rayner, God bless you), and stays mostly true to my story. I was after a combination of big city gangster film and rural outlaw movie, and the filmmakers got that. The Paul Newman/Daniel Craig father-and-son relationship is handled better than I did. The cast remains amazing, and I still feel like I’ve won the lottery. And the speech in the church basement is beautifully written.

Over the weekend, Barb and I watched the new 4-K remastering of the three Godfather movies, and how much influence the first Godfather had on the Perdition film was incredibly obvious – in a good way. Several critics at the time called Perdition the best mob film since The Godfather and Godfather 2, and I don’t disagree.

One of my few career regrets is that we never got Road to Purgatory made. My buddy Phil Dingeldein and I worked mightily to get that done. I still have a script for it that I’m proud of…and which I hold the rights to.

If anybody’s interested, now’s the time. Hoechlin has grown up in a super fashion, and Stanley Tucci can be found in a kitchen somewhere. (We killed everybody else.)

* * *

Things in publishing have two speeds: slooooooooow, and effing fast.

I just delivered The Big Bundle to editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime last week, and he had it copy-edited and back to me by the weekend. Charles is incredibly fast, and has a terrific eye. He is respectful of what I write but calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, which is to my benefit. Amazingly, the book has been put to bed but for my eventually proofing the final copy-set copy.

On the other hand, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction took quite a while to get to me from the editors at Mysterious Press (which is more typical). They have been gracious about giving me the time I need, but I will be tackling the job this week, which should be sufficient. A non-fiction book is a more demanding thing, at this stage, but I will face all kinds of fact-checking questions.

I dread the copy-editing stage, as I’ve made clear here many times. About one out of three times at bat, I get saddled with a copy editor who appoints him- or herself my collaborator, and not the person preparing the text for typesetting. I have been rewritten more times that the Holy Bible, and I take it just a little worse than God.

But this goes with the territory.

I also proofed the type-set version of The Menace, the crime/horror novel by Mickey Spillane and me, coming from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press. It’s a book developed by me from an unproduced film script Mickey wrote probably in the early 1980s. He had Stephen King on the brain, I think, seeing that King was developing into the kind of celebrity bestselling author that he (Mickey) had been.

In addition I read the galleys of Mickey’s The Shrinking Island (introduced by yours truly), which collects the three young adult adventure novels he wrote in the ‘70s. The title story has never been published before. It comes out soon – April 7 – and if you’re an adult Spillane fan, it’ll make a grinning kid out of you.

The first of the three Larry and Josh adventures, The Day the Sea Rolled Back, was a big influence on The Goonies. I was at Mickey’s house when he got a call from Steven Spielberg (not sure whether it was Spielberg himself or one of his “people”), inquiring about the availability of The Day the Sea Rolled Back for the screen. Mickey told whoever it was that he wasn’t interested in dealing with anybody in Hollywood except Jay Bernstein (his Mike Hammer TV producer). And before long came…The Goonies.

The other YA yarn is The Ship That Never Was. Check out this new collection. The cover, which I’m including here, is (obviously) a stunner.

The Shrinking Island
Trade Paperback:
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Mystery Tribune lists its favorite Irish mob movies and Road to Perdition is included (no mention of the book’s author, though – who was that again?).

Syfy rates the top best eleven R-rated movies based on comic books and suggests that Road to Perdition may be the best one.

Here’s a great Bookgasm review of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

And another great Bookgasm review of Fancy Anders Goes to War.


A Late Announcement and Heller Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

This announcement is criminally late, and will serve only to inform potential attendees in the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities area. How criminally late? The event takes place the evening of the day this update is posted.

I will be appearing at a screening of Road to Perdition at the Figge Art Museum, doing a post-film Q and A joined by my frequent collaborators, Barbara Collins and Matthew V. Clemens.

Here are the details as reported by Tristan Tapscott at

‘Road to Perdition’ Screening and Author Panel
March 22 at The Figge

Scott Community College, with the generosity of the Figge Art Museum, will host a screening of the award-winning film, Road to Perdition (2002), starring Tom Hanks on March 22, 2022, at the Figge Art Museum, 225 W. 2nd Street, in Davenport. The film screening will begin at 4 p.m. with the author question and answer panel to follow.

Following the film will be an author question and answer panel with Max Allan Collins, author of the graphic novel, Barbara Collins, critically acclaimed author and short story writer, and Matthew Clemens, author and frequent collaborator of Max Allan Collins.

This event is free and open to the public.

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins has been selected as the Great Scott Read 2021-2022. The graphic novel and text versions of Road to Perdition are being used by Scott Community College instructors in the classroom. Copies of the book and graphic novel are available to check out from the Scott Community College Library.

For general information, please call 563-441-4150. For venue information, please call 563-326-7804.

Okay, why such a late announcement? Two reasons – the official date of this event was originally announced at a time Barb, Matt and I had not cleared with our schedules. The correct information about a new date did not get announced until just recently, and that announcement did not fall neatly into when my weekly update/blog appears (each Tuesday morning).

Now, I could have done a special posting earlier last week, but I was caught up in writing the final chapters of the new Nathan Heller novel (for Hard Case Crime), The Big Bundle.

I’m going to talk about that now.

* * *

As I’ve said here before, the Heller novels are my proudest achievement and the series is what I consider my signature work. Quarry, which after Heller is my favorite among my series, has become my signature work in the eyes of some. I don’t resent that at all – I like that two things of mine are viewed with such enthusiasm by readers. And of course Road to Perdition (and its sequels and subsequent graphic novels) is the most famous…though I should note that Road to Perdition was an off-shoot of the Heller saga.

Keeping Heller alive throughout my career has been tricky. The day when a mystery series could keep going at the same publisher over many decades had already ended when True Detective (the first Heller novel) was published in 1983. Spillane, Stout, Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and any number of less household-name authors were able to stay with one publisher and one series for a long, long time. But for some while we have been in a situation where publishers cancel a series – somewhat in the network TV mode – as soon as they deem it to have run its course, i.e., as soon as sales begin to drop at all. Often after one or two of three entries.

Heller has been cancelled and pronounced dead (even by my own agent) more times than Dracula at Hammer Films. I have been encouraged to leave him behind and write something new. Well, writing something new is no problem – I like doing that. But when I have hold of something special, I want to stick with it.

That’s why, when I had the opportunity decades later to pick back up with Quarry, I grabbed the chance. I knew Quarry was among the handful of innovative things I’d done in my career – a first-person hitman “hero” was, in a field that is built on recycling the ideas of others (and your own), something unique. When you have writers as gifted as Lawrence Block and Loren Estleman following your lead, you must be doing something right.

Heller is probably my major contribution to mystery fiction because he went somewhere no private eye had gone before: real crimes, researched as if this author (me) had been preparing to write the definitive non-fiction account of each crime…and with fresh solutions to those crimes. Additionally, he would age and change, would have a father and mother, would marry and produce an offspring, his one-room office would over the years become a coast-to-coast agency, and he would do human things like cry, fart, lie and cheat while not losing his P.I. credentials of having a code and being the best man in his world. I consciously chose to examine the cliches and tropes of the private eye, to find the reality behind them – to take Heller back to when Race Williams, the Continental Op and Sam Spade took the private eye into public consciousness…and when in fact there were real private eyes more or less doing for a few decades the fanciful things fictional private eyes would do for many decades.

But continuing the Heller series over decades has a downside that perhaps publishers anticipated. The novels get less frequently reviewed. New waves of fans ignore the books and don’t even try them. Their cultish status – their historical nature – get them ignored by mystery fandom publications. Reviewers who love the Heller novels and rave about them will forget to include them on their year’s end “best of list,” perhaps because the Hellers are in a sub-genre of their own. Or maybe Heller is just a been-there-done-that for such reviewers.

Keeping him alive meant somehow bamboozling various publishers into picking up a series that another publisher deemed had run its course. I started at St. Martin’s, moved to Bantam, then Dutton, and (after a decade-long break) to Forge. Now, Charels Ardai – who understands the hardboiled field, including its history – has picked up my torch at Hard Case Crime.

What has caught up with me, after all these years, is all these years. By which I mean, I am 74 and doing a Nate Heller book is a bitch. It really is. The joy of writing Quarry or Nolan or Mike Hammer is that a fairly minimal amount of research is involved. Some research is necessary, particularly since all the recent books in those series are set in period. Even though I lived through those eras doesn’t mean I was paying attention. I still have to check things like what songs were popular and what night TV shows were on, and fashions and brand-names, and on and on.

But generally there are great stretches where I can just write – I can just follow one of my protagonists into and through a scene, and dialogue can ensue as well as mayhem and eroticism. That’s when writing fiction is fun – when you have room in the kitchen to cook.

And Google has made much research both possible and easier. For decades, research associate George Hagenauer (who did not participate much in The Big Bundle) and I would both spend hours in libraries and other research-friendly facilities digging out all kinds of things. We both have built voluminous libraries of books and magazines that we have scoured over the years to produce Heller and other historically-themed novels. Google – added to those already assembled personal libraries – has made doing Heller easier.

But not easy.

Let me put it into perspective. Quarry’s Blood was written in three weeks. The Big Bundle took two months of reading/note-taking followed by three months of writing. (I got paid the same for both Blood and Bundle. Not complaining – that’s just the reality.) At my age, the degree of difficulty for doing a Heller is considerable.

I have committed to doing another Heller for Hard Case Crime, Too Many Bullets, which with The Big Bundle will comprise what I will likely call The Kennedy Quintet (Bye Bye, Baby; Target Lancer; and Ask Not being the previous novels in this cycle within the Heller cycle).

I find myself wondering – assuming I’m able to stick around on the planet a while longer – if I have the energy to keep Heller going. I have wanted to do a Watergate novel with him for some time, and have considered a Martin Luther King assassination novel (although in the current climate that may be a bad idea). I had a George Reeves/Superman novel in the research stage, but the film Hollywoodland came out and explored the same subject, so I shelved it; but enough time has passed that I might reconsider. There are several other smaller crimes that might become shorter Heller novels.

Perhaps he will have run his course by the end of Too Many Bullets. Lord knows I don’t want readers to say I’ve written Too Many Hellers. But the practical consideration of the degree of difficulty of these things may decide it for me.

I am picturing this week a page from the manuscript of The Big Bundle. I have circled everything that required me to stop and do research before going on. You will see, I think, what I am up against.

The Big Bundle Manuscript page showing researched text.

And yet I love having written The Big Bundle. Unintentionally, it became – like Skim Deep for Nolan and Quarry’s Blood for Quarry – a meditation on what had come before. Quite accidentally, Heller finds himself in situations that resonate with his past, starting with the case at hand being the kidnapping of a child – summoning both the Lindbergh kidnapping and his own fatherhood. If not a coda to the Heller saga (chronologically it appears before Target Lancer and Ask Not), it is a reconsideration and a revisiting of what has gone before.

None of this is bitching by the way, or if it comes across that way, my apologies. These are just the thoughts that occur to me as, with Barb’s help, I prepare to enter my final corrections into The Big Bundle manuscript and get it sent to Hard Case Crime yet today.

* * *

In a list of favorite Paul Newman films, Connie Wilson includes a nice little write-up of Road to Perdition.

This is a lovely review of Quarry’s Blood, but BEWARE – it includes a MAJOR SPOILER.

And here’s a podcast featuring Brad Schwartz, discussing our Eliot Ness non-fiction tomes. (I passed on participating because I was deep in The Big Bundle.)


Rondo Hatton Lives!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

I wound up sending seven copies of No Time to Spy in the latest book giveaway. They just went out – big honking packages!

Now here’s something I need to call your attention to. Matt Clemens and I have are part of the anthology Turning the Tied, recently nominated for the very cool Rondo Award, “fandom’s only classic horror awards.”

Rondo Awards

The ballot is here:

We are in Category 12: Best Classic Horror Fiction. If you’re at all a classic horror fan, check out the other categories, too.

Turning the Tied cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link

Here’s a description of the anthology:

Turning the Tied, edited by Jean Rabe, Robert Greenberger (International Association Media Tie-in Writers, softcover, 453 pages, $19.99). Sherlock, Dracula, Frankenstein all figure in collection of stories by Max Allan Collins, Jonathan Maberry, Stephen D. Sullivan and others.

Back in 2016, Matt and I wrote a Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of Leonardo’s Smile.” We originally conceived it for a mystery puzzle and it was going to be done by the company that did our other puzzles (CSI, CSI: NEW YORK, NCIS: LOS ANGELES, THE MENTALIST, etc.). It was the last story I wrote before going in for heart surgery and at the time I wondered if it would be my last, period. When the puzzle didn’t happen, our Holmes story didn’t have a home.

And then the IAMTW antho came along and we were chosen as the lead story (among a bunch of really strong ones). I also contributed an afterword as the co-founder (with Lee Goldberg) of the organization.

It’s a wonderful book.

And as Al Capone said, “Vote early, and vote often!”

* * *

I am coming down the pike (as Barb puts it) on the new Heller, The Big Bundle…two chapters to go. With luck I’ll finish this week. That’s iffy, because I always re-read the whole manuscript and do final tweaks and sometime rewrites. So it could bleed into next week. But right now I’m caught up in the writing, so this week is a short update.

I had some very good comments come in last week and, rather than answer them in the comments section, I want to bring a few of ‘em centerstage.

Stephen Borer – a reader who has been with me for decades and is one of the nicest, most supportive fans Barb and I have ever been lucky enough to know – responded to my Chuck Berry stuff last week with this: Speaking of Mr. Berry, Max, could you please repeat your meeting him at an airport story for the newer readers?

Here you go, Stephen:

On the passing of CHUCK BERRY (from March 21, 2017):

I met him at an airport where we shared a gate. He was traveling with a guitar in its case, and appeared to be alone. But it was unmistakably him. As a longtime veteran of rock ‘n’ roll, I had to have a moment. I didn’t ask for an autograph, afraid I might start trouble for him, because a lot of people obviously didn’t recognize him.

“I just want to thank you for starting it all,” I said.

He smiled and said you’re welcome, and we shook hands.

I think I said something about having played rock ‘n’ roll for decades, and he said where he was headed, though I’ve forgotten. He was quiet but friendly.

What I said to him was about right. Little Richard and other black artists of the early rock days really were r & b starting to become rock, and Elvis fell in that category as well. But Chuck Berry, with his guitar-driven rock and his teenage subject matter, was not r & b, but at the very forefront of the new genre. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.

He was playing regularly in his home, St. Louis, until very recently.

Regan MacArthur made this observation:

Confession: I was initially intimidated by the heft of Stolen Away and I think it’s one of the best books in the series. Such a varied and interesting cast of characters. I thought, “Man, this is better than Twin Peaks!” Truly, I was riveted from beginning to end.

That’s great to hear, but I understand the reluctance of some to dive in to such big books. The Hellers do vary in size, however, and a couple – Chicago Lightning (short stories) and Triple Play (three novellas, with my beautiful wife on the cover) – are a way to try Heller out more bite-size. But, really, anybody who likes Quarry, Hammer or Nolan will probably like the Nathan Heller books. They have the same kind of violent action and steamy sex as my shorter noir novels. Because they endeavor to recreate eras, you might flip through and think the text looks at times dense (not in the dumb dense way!), but I like to think of them as rich.

Bruce Jones says:

I’m nearing the end of True Detective, and the insights into your process are fascinating. You’ve been using interesting locations from the start with Heller. The Chicago World’s Fair is beautifully recreated, and the Miami section with Cermak and FDR is a master class in historical crime fiction. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Nitti trilogy.

That’s great to hear, but I’d like to know if you are Bruce Jones the writer, because if you are, I’m a fan. And if you aren’t, that’s what you get for having a common last name like Jones or Smith or Collins.

Bill P is back to ask:

Max, I saw you gave recommendations on an earlier thread about where to start with Quarry. Any similar recommendations for places to start with Nate Heller?

That’s a tricky one to answer, and very similar to the Quarry dilemma. The books are written out of order. The excellent chronology from Bill Slankard will point you to reading the books and stories in chronological order.

But I am of several minds here. I would suggest reading The Frank Nitti Trilogy first: True Detective, True Crime, The Million-Dollar Wound. From an artistic standpoint, reading the books in order of publication follows the arc of my development as a writer…and Heller himself probably benefits from that. I am sure there are continuity goofs – I have been working on this saga since 1981, which is…forty years?

When someone asks me what a good book to try the series out on, I would suggest Carnal Hours and I think Angel in Black and Stolen Away are strong.

From a selfish standpoint, I’d say start with whatever is out there right now – The Big Bundle will be out this year! And supporting that one will get more written.


Nate Heller, Chuck Berry, and Five Free Books!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022
No Time to Spy Cover
E-Book: Amazon
Paperback: Amazon

Finally, our book giveaway of No Time to Spy, the massive collection of the John Sand trilogy, has arrived. We have only five (5) copies to give away. As usual, you agree to write an Amazon review (and/or at any other review site, like Barnes & Noble, Good Reads, your own blog, etc.). [All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! — Nate]

We really need the reviews, as No Time to Spy has stalled out at a meager 18 ratings. By way of contrast, the new Quarry’s Blood already has 34 (and thank you for that!). Now, I understand John Sand and Quarry are two different animals, but the individual titles in the Sand series have fared very well (229 ratings for Come Spy with Me for an average of four stars).

If you have read the trilogy as it came out, novel by novel, and liked what you read, please consider reviewing the collection at Amazon to help build up interest. Right now it’s looking like the fourth Sand, resolving a hell of a cliffhanger (if Matt Clemens and I may be so bold to suggest), will never be written.

On this subject – and I think I’ve made this clear before – I am well aware that not everything I write appeals to the same group of readers. Right now I’m working on The Big Bundle, the new Nate Heller novel (about 2/3’s in), and am cognizant of the fact that what some readers relate to in my work is my first-person voice. That’s not just one voice, of course – Mike Hammer and Quarry and Heller are not the same voice, but they are variations on my voice and reflect whatever facility I may have in first person. Some readers may not relate as well to a third-person voice, as used in John Sand, Nolan, the Perdition prose novels and more.

And some people who like, say, Quarry like to lambast me when I write anything else. But I need to stay fresh and nimble and that requires writing different things, although mostly I work in suspense/mystery. But I get it. I have writers whose work I like who occasionally throw me a curve I can’t catch. One of my favorite writers is Mark Harris – his baseball trilogy (The Southpaw is the first, Bang the Drum Slowly is the most famous) is to me a marvel of first-person storytelling.

Harris, who I met and then corresponded with, saw himself as a literary writer and throughout his career he tried all kinds of things. Usually I at least like what he did, at times I loved what he did, but on a few occasions I didn’t connect with him at all. When someone dislikes my work in general, I like to say the reader and I are not a good fit. When someone who likes some of what I do complains about a work that doesn’t work for him or her, I chalk it up similarly – that reader isn’t a good fit with that particular work.

A good example is the Antiques series that Barb and I write together. These are cozy mysteries, albeit somewhat of a subversive take on that sub-genre, told in the first person by two narrators. The novels combine what we think are good solid mysteries with a lot of fairly off-the-wall humor. A surprising number (surprising to me) of readers of noir-ish things of mine like Quarry, Heller and Hammer also like these books. But I completely understand the readers who, despite generally being fans of mine, don’t cotton to Brandy and Vivian Borne.

Writing this new Heller raises a number of issues in my aging mind. I understand that some fans of my Quarry and Nolan and Hammer novels don’t respond to Heller, despite my own feeling that the Heller saga is my signature work. While the Heller books have the violence and sex for which I am known and loved, they also are long books…this one will be 80,000 words and I believe Stolen Away was 125,000 words…and they are more detailed and explore the historical crimes they’re dealing with in depth. The violence and sex stuff is there, but not every other chapter.

The Big Bundle cover

Another factor I’m facing is the degree of difficulty. Even now I can write a Quarry novel in a month. The real-life case I’m dealing with in The Big Bundle is not as complicated (or frankly as famous) as, say, the assassination of Huey Long (Blood and Thunder) or the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Flying Blind). But at this age I have to review the research extensively before working on a chapter covered by that material; this includes new research, beyond the several months of reading that preceded the writing, stuff I’m picking up on the fly.

I also find I am re-plotting several times as I go along. That happens with any novel, because I don’t let my synopsis dictate things – if characters want to do something different, I let them. If something occurs to me as an interesting turn to take, I take it.

That’s all well and good, but in a Heller novel I am dealing with history. The first book, True Detective, in the very title established the rules: these would be true stories. I allow myself some liberties – time compression and occasional composite characters are typical elements in a Heller. But mostly it’s just the facts, ma’am, presented in the context of a private eye novel and striving to come up with the truth…most happily (as has been often the case) with a new solution to a controversial real mystery.

What I am up against now is that pesky degree of difficulty. I think I’m writing as well as ever (possibly self-delusion, but it keeps me going). With Heller, however, the amount of time for me to feel I get it right is at odds with the speed at which I was long able to work. I understand that’s a function of old age; but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Just annoying. Frustrating.

I have committed to one more Heller after this one – the two books will complete the cycle of Heller novels involving JFK and RFK. Bobby Kennedy isn’t in The Big Bundle much, but he’s a vital element; next time he will be the focus.

I have been expecting to spend my remaining writing years with a focus on Heller. I am nearing the end of the Hammer manuscripts, and I’ve written and published endings to Nolan and Quarry (two each!). But I question whether I am up to the Heller degree of difficulty in relation to how much time it takes to arrive at what satisfies me.

On top of this are newer projects – like Fancy Anders and John Sand – that interest me. I am extremely proud of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton; it’s one of my best books (thank you Dave Thomas!). Barb and I are developing a standalone thriller, and I’m doing three novellas for Neo-Text on unlikely American heroes. There a few more Spillane/Hammer books left to write.

But Heller is what I’m proudest of. Probably the deciding factor will be if I can’t hit the mark, can’t write about him in a way that pleases me.

One interesting thing about Heller is how writing the books can lead me into rewarding areas that I didn’t anticipate. In Big Bundle, I decided to do a scene in St. Louis at a club where Chuck Berry was playing. Berry isn’t being used as a famous historical character in the novel – it’s just me looking for a fun setting for a scene.

That’s always a problem in private eye novels. The form is basically a series of interviews with witnesses and suspects – look at The Maltese Falcon. So I try in Heller (well, in all novels that touch on the PI form) to use interesting locations. With an historical saga like Heller’s, it’s an opportunity to suggest the times and put the place in context – using famous defunct restaurants, for instance.

Chuck Berry at the Cosmo

I read about the Cosmopolitan Club, where Berry basically put rock ‘n’ roll on stage for the first time, and found that the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987) had refurbished the defunct East St. Louis club for a mini-concert celebrating (and sort of recreating) Berry’s tenure there. I got caught up in the documentary and it got me interested in Berry and his music, which I had frankly (stupidly) taken for granted. On reflection, I was reminded that everything from the Beach Boys to the Beatles came from him, and recalled how many, many songs of his my various bands had played.

So I sent for another documentary (Chuck Berry, 2018), and several books, and three CD’s. That’s a bonus that comes out of the Heller research – I stumble onto things that are only tangential to the book at hand but that roar into the centerstage of my personal interests.

If you’ve never seen Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, by the way, you haven’t lived till you watch Chuck Berry schooling Keith Richards on how to play rock ‘n’ guitar. One particular sequence is singled out as demonstrating how difficult Chuck could be; but for those of us who’ve played in bands, we know: Chuck was right.

One bittersweet aspect was my realization that I had blown a great opportunity. My son Nate lived in St. Louis for better than half a decade, and during that time Barb and I visited him (and later, Nate and his wife Abby, and later than that, grandson Sam too) often. Meanwhile, hometown boy Chuck Berry was playing once a month at Blueberry Hill, a fantastic club in the Delmar loop. And I – we – didn’t bother to see him.

As Fats Domino would say, “Ain’t that a shame.”

* * *

This Paperback Warrior review of Quarry’s Blood appeared on my birthday, March 3, and I couldn’t ask for a better present.

The New York Times recommended ten books last week, and Quarry’s Blood was one of them.

Finally, Daedalus Books has the hardcover of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher for $6.95.