Archive for March, 2022

Quarry Hits the Big Times

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

It’s been ages since I’ve had a New York Times review of one of my novels. I’ve had some nice write-ups there – don’t recall a bad one – but this is the first ever Quarry novel the Times has reviewed. Here goes:

With QUARRY’S BLOOD (Hard Case Crime, 224 pp., paper, $12.95), Max Allan Collins finally bids goodbye to Quarry, his Marine sniper-turned-professional assassin, more than 10 years after The Last Quarry, by its title, promised to do so. This time feels like it’s for keeps, as the novel is set more or less in the present (there’s a reference to a character dying of Covid), and Quarry, pushing 70, is looking forward to retiring after all those decades of killing for hire.

Retirement, however, is put on ice when a true-crime writer, Susan Breedlove, shows up at Quarry’s door looking for some answers. Her arrival opens a portal into full-on metafiction, as the line between what Collins has published since the mid-1970s and what has spilled out into the actual world (like a television adaptation) grows so porous as to cease existing.

It goes without saying that the body count will pile up, and that Quarry, despite his aching body and slower reflexes, still operates at a more ruthless clip than almost anyone he encounters. This is a sure-footed ending to a series that marinated in the excesses of pure pulp.

That’s a swell review, but what’s interesting to me is to how the word “pulp” has become a compliment in recent years – possibly thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – when for decades it was a pejorative. Now it denotes a certain style of fiction (often consciously retro) viewed with a positive, even affectionate spin.

Equally interesting to me is that this is the first I’ve had a paperback original reviewed in the Times, at least that I can remember.

So far the reader response, and reviewer reaction, has been very warm indeed to the new Quarry. It was a risky novel to write, as you readers of the book already know, because I ventured into “meta” territory, big-time. I don’t want to say more, but I will say that one of the things I dealt with is just what exactly Quarry has been writing in these first-person narratives all these years.

Quarry's Blood Audiobook cover
Digital Audiobook: Audible Purchase Link

Out right now is the audio book of Quarry’s Blood, read by the wonderful Stefan Rudnicki. The cover is pictured here. I have not listened to the audio yet, but will begin sometime this week, when we take a day off to celebrate my 74th birthday. (It’s March 3rd, not yet a national holiday.)

Stefan has become the voice of Quarry for me, just as Dan John Miller is Nate Heller.

Check out an excerpt here:

* * *

I am working on the new Heller novel now, ridiculously immersed in it, and for that reason this will be a short update. I would like to respond to Bill P’s follow-up comment on a discussion about writing, readers and reviewers that’s been going on for a few weeks here. I misunderstood Bill’s use of “archetype,” thinking he meant the characters I write about; but he was thinking of the archetypical reader I envision.

I accidentally answered that, by saying that I write to please myself, and my wife Barb, who is my first reader as I go along (meaning she reads the chapters as I complete them). I do, however, envision a reader. I don’t think specifically of a male or female, just someone who shares my interests and tastes, and the ideal reader is probably of my generation or the generation or two on either side of mine. A major part of my approach is my assumption that the reader is at least as smart as I am. He or she might be smarter, but not so much smarter that my work seems childish or beneath them. I never assume – never – that the reader isn’t as smart as I am. I endeavor never to write down.

The only slight exception – the only “sort of” exception – is when I write a first-person story in the voice of someone not as smart as me. I’ve only done this a few times, and it’s tricky (Shoot the Moon is one). This relates as well to writing in the point of view (when in third person) of someone who isn’t as smart as me. Who might be dumb, like Lyle in Spree. All I can say is that these characters never think of themselves as dumb, just as the antagonists of the protagonists never think of themselves as the villains.

I’ve made it clear here that I abhor writing that tries to impress – that spends too much time showing off. In this approach, the story almost always pays the price.

* * *
La Guerra De Quarry (Quarry's War, Spanish Edition) cover

I wanted to share with you this cover of the graphic novel Quarry’s War in Spanish.

I don’t remember Quarry appearing in Spain before. Road to Perdition did, which may be what led to this edition.

Here is a very smart review of Quarry’s Blood. This reviewer is always worth reading.