Cancellation, Liquidation & Other Heart-Stopping Adventures

August 16th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

Barb and I have had to cancel our Bouchercon registration and we are sad and sorry we won’t be seeing any of our friends and fans who might be in Minneapolis in a few weeks. The reason for this is discussed below, but I wanted to get the word out right now that we won’t be there (we’d been scheduled for several panels).

We’ve had our first review for the upcoming (Oct. 4) Antiques Liquidation. It’s from Publisher’s Weekly, and it’s a good one. Here it is:

Antiques Liquidation

Antiques Liquidation
Barbara Allan. Severn, $29.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5091-1

At the start of Allan’s madcap 16th Trash ’n’ Treasures mystery (after 2021’s Antiques Carry On), flamboyant septuagenarian Vivian Borne – honorary deputy sheriff of Serenity, Iowa, antiques dealer, and magnet for murder – awakens her long-suffering 33-year-old daughter, Brandy, at 2 a.m. for a questionable meeting early that same morning with sleazy auctioneer Conrad Norris to purchase dead stock (aka “old unused new merchandise”) for their shop. Vivian blithely ignores the dangers of entering a decrepit warehouse once owned by Lyle “the Liquidator” Dayton, who mysteriously disappeared years earlier. Vivian uses some dirt she has on Norris to blackmail him into letting her cherry-pick from the stock before he auctions it. When Norris ends up dead atop an elevator after the auction, Vivian is determined to solve the case. With a reluctant Brandy and her fiancé, Tony Cassato, Serenity’s chief of police, Vivian investigates a lengthy list of suspects with reason to kill the double-dealing auctioneer. Can Vivian and Brandy expose the murderer before he permanently liquidates them? Humorous asides and loads of antique lore will please series fans. Allan (the pen name of Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins) delivers the cozy goods. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary. (Oct.)

In addition to this being a nice review, it’s nice to be reviewed at all with an entry in a long-running series. Reviews no longer come automatically from the trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist) for the long-running Mike Hammer and Quarry novels, and we feel lucky for the attention.

In our local area, the news about Gary Sandy coming to town to star as Mike Hammer in a radio-style production of Encore for Murder has hit local media. Check it out.

In the meantime I have been working with my old pal Phil Dingeldein on other 75th Anniversary of Mike Hammer matters, specifically recording and editing a wraparound for the restored 1954 Brian Keith TV pilot that will be part of the ClassicFlix release of the 1953 version of I, the Jury. As I’ve mentioned here before, that release will really be something special – 4K, Blu-ray and (for those with capability) 3D. My commentary has been edited and is ready to go.

Additionally, Phil and I are working on the expanded version of my 1999 documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane. I’ve already recorded some material for that, and more will be shot here in my office. We’re expanding it from 47 minutes to around 60 and will be covering Mickey’s passing and what the Spillane Estate and I have done since then with Mickey’s unfinished work. We have a distributor interested in taking it out to the streaming services.

* * *

Despite my insistence last week that my discussing heading into the hospital was not a cry for sympathy – you may recall that sympathy can be found in the dictionary (between shit and syphilis) – a number of you wrote me anyway with your good wishes and support. Thank you for that, and it came in handier than I’d anticipated.

The cardioversion treatment for Afib – jump-starting your heart like an old Buick to get it back in proper rhythm – is a procedure I’ve had several times before, and never had to take much recovery time after. This was different. I was there for a long day, and am told the anesthetized me came off the hospital bed during two shock treatments like a bad comedy effect in a Bowery Boys movie.

Initially it didn’t take, and Barb and I sat in the very nice hospital room in Bettendorf, Iowa, feeling gloomy until, a couple of hours later, the doctor came in and looked at a monitor and pronounced the procedure had taken after all. That lifted our spirits at least as much as the shock treatment had me catapulting off the bed.

But this week has been a long slog. The burns from the paddles created a lot of discomfort by way of itchiness and while my heartbeat was behaving, I remained short of breath and really, really fatigued and flu-ishly achy. Among other things, I considered cancelling my band job on Sunday (it’s Sunday as I write this) and – as indicated above – we had already decided, with my doctor’s prompting, to cancel attending Bouchercon at Minneapolis in a few weeks.

Like Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films, however, every day in every way I’ve been getting better and better. With Barb and Nate set to help me load and set up my band equipment – and with God favoring us with nice weather for the outdoor event – my band Crusin’ (including me) will be playing later this afternoon.

Crusin' at Sunday Night Series 2022
Crusin’ at Second Sunday Summer Concert Series, August 2022

The band has one more date this year – the Ice Cream Social next Sunday at the Muscatine Art Center – and that will be it…maybe the final two Crusin’ dates period. I have a dream of doing one more CD and presenting it in a farewell appearance, but that may not happen.

Right now I’m happy just to be able to perform. Our previous gig, two Sundays ago (a private party), was where I got really sick and stupidly didn’t recognize that I was in Afib. The reason for that lack of recognition is that Afib symptoms are pretty much identical to Covid symptoms. By the way, anybody over 70 already has most of those symptoms every effing day whether they have Covid or not.

Finally, on this subject, let me apologize for being a big crybaby. My God, what I went through this week was nothing compared to the bad shit thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of my fellow humans suffer every day. So my embarrassed apologies.

* * *

I’ve had some very positive things to say about some of the movies and limited series that Barb and I have watched on various streaming services, and we continue to make nice discoveries.

For example, I had no idea Christopher Guest had done another film in the vein of Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show – favorites of ours – but Mascots appears to have been around since 2016. Apparently it went directly to Netflix, which we didn’t have at the time.

Mascots operates on the Best in Show template, a competition in an arena this time showcasing sports mascots. While Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are noticeably absent – they’d have been up Schitt’s Creek at the time – most of the other Guest regulars are present, including the great Fred Willard (now sadly gone), Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Don Lake, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban and John Michael Higgins, among others. Chris O’Dowd from Guest’s HBO series Family Tree is onboard too, and Spinal Tap’s Harry Shearer is the stadium announcer.

Though easily the least of the Guest mockumentaries, it’s still a joy if you like the others. The presentations of the routines by the mascots are beautifully staged, and Guest again walks his unique line between mocking and loving the characters so deeply involved into something inherently absurd. You know, like life.

So that was a nice discovery. Not so nice were the experiences of two series that caught us up and then, boy, let us down. Hard.

The first season of Picard was fine – not on a par with the recent Star Trek – Strange New Worlds, but a Firefly-like set-up with interesting new characters supporting Jean Luc Picard and just enough visits from the Next Generation cast to warm a trekker’s heart.

And then came the second season.

I can sum it up best by saying that Barb – at least as big a Roddenberry-era Trek fan as I am – bailed two-thirds through. Most of the new characters were back but in needlessly reworked fashion. I can’t critique this in detail because I’ve washed most of it from my memory – what I mostly recall is the cast being separated off into groups of two and wandering around a 21st Century city (it’s time travel) uttering meandering dialogue. The worst Trek I’ve ever endured.

The powers-that-be seem to know it, as the third (and announced final season of Picard) is going to feature the original Next Generation cast.

Then there’s The Old Man. I had avoided this FX series because it was a little too Quarry-like in its set-up (that kind of thing always annoys me) and even had several episodes directed by the main Quarry director. But we got caught up in it immediately, with both Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow excellent in a story that had a long-retired CIA agent forced out of retirement. And the first four episodes are compelling, just riveting…and then at first gradually and then picking up speed as it heads off the cliff, this initially fine show goes to crap.

This appears to have happened for a couple of reasons. My understanding is that initially the episodes were faithful to the source novel by Thomas Perry. Then, apparently, it veered away because, you know, what does the person who created the thing know, anyway?

But Covid is at least an accomplice in this descent into Shitistan. Originally scheduled for ten episodes, The Old Man became seven episodes when it shut down, a period during which Bridges got Covid among other even more daunting ailments. He recovered, but the show didn’t. And a good share of it is reflective of Covid precautions: much, much time is spent with people riding and talking in the front seats of cars.

And while Bridges can seemingly do no wrong as an actor, Lithgow goes from understated to full on ham, as he tries to salvage things from a script that makes so little sense the actors appear embarrassed. What began as a fine performance by Alia Shawkat in the first half of the season becomes an almost desperate cry for an acting coach. Not her fault. Bad script. Dismal direction.

My review to Barb, who somehow didn’t bail although her growing disgust became apparent, was to blow a Bronx cheer. A guy my age could really, really use those seven hours back.

* * *

The articles about the film of Road to Perdition just keep coming. Here’s a nice one.

We’re here, too.

And finally this really smart review of The Girl Most Likely (and my definition of smart is, of course, that the reviewer liked the book).


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10 Responses to “Cancellation, Liquidation & Other Heart-Stopping Adventures”

  1. Fred Blosser says:

    Nice to see that the talented Gary Sandy continues his association with you and Mike Hammer. Even though Hessemann, Anderson, Reid, and Jump had the showier roles on WKRP (and Anderson the infotainment headlines with Burt Reynolds), Gary’s Andy and Jan Smithers’ Bailey were the “normal,” every-person characters who anchored the series.

    Glad to know your jump-start was successful, notwithstanding the side-effects. The Bowery Boys reference is welcome for those of us who still think highly of those movies. I’d take any one of the Bowery Boys Monogram productions — even any one of the post-Gorcey, Stanley Clements BBs at Allied Artists –for all the Academy Award winners for the past 10 years, maybe the past 20.

  2. Raymond Cuthbert says:

    Stay on the upward path Max! We need you to hang in with us for a good long while yet!

  3. Henry Kujawa says:

    “Gary’s Andy and Jan Smithers’ Bailey were the “normal,” every-person characters who anchored the series.”

    I always thought it was a shame they were the only 2 regular who never showed up in the seasons 5 & 6 revival. My own theory, based on a late-4th season story ending, was that Andy & Bailey wound up getting married & leaving town. (Her relationship with Johnny was NEVER really gonna go anywhere.)

  4. Stephen Borer says:

    A root beer toast about the medical report – stay healthy, as us readers need writers as good as you and Barb and Nate !

  5. Tony Gate says:

    Thomas Perry’s novel The Old Man is a suspenseful nail biter of a page turner and now transformed into a movie starring Jeff Bridges it makes for an excellent viewing too. Indeed, if you liked Bill Fairclough’s epic spy novel Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series or The Courier, the Cumberbatch film about Greville Wynne, you should love The Old Man and vice versa. Just like Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, these are all “must reads or must views” for espionage cognoscenti. PS Kim Philby ended John le Carré’s MI6 career. Later le Carré and Fairclough decided not to collaborate on The Burlington Files series. Why? Maybe because Fairclough’s MI6 handler knew Kim Philby and Oleg Gordievsky. See

  6. Terry Beatty says:

    Sorry to hear the afib treatment was so rough — but glad it eventually took!

    I’m sad to think that Crusin’s live gigs will be coming to an end. Seems odd the last gig would be an ice cream social at the museum. Shouldn’t it be in some dive bar full of drunks and maniacs? Is the Thirsty Camel no longer open?

    I’d be even more sad about you cancelling on the Minneapolis Bouchercon if I still lived there and was attending — but geez — has it been eleven years since that was home? Yow!

    Somehow MASCOTS flew under my radar, too. I’ll have to go watch.

    Haven’t seen any of PICARD, though I have watched all of the almost-Trek series THE ORVILLE. I run hot and cold on that one — and dash to the mute button any time any of the cast member start performing a song! Egad!

    Have you sen the Asian action flick, CARTER? I’m not sure the story makes any sense, but the action and chase sequences are worth the viewing time. Also worth seeing is the completely insane AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN. From the director of THE GREASY STRANGLER — just so you know what you’re getting into. Less greasy, though.

  7. Rob Brooks says:

    Glad to hear you’re improving! Will definitely miss you at Bouchercon. I stuck with The Old Man based off of the strength of those early episodes, but it really did go to crap by the end. Pretty sad. I think it’s worst offense is that it just got so boring after a very suspenseful first half. Well, that, and the all-too-predictable plot twist with Shawcat’s character. My assumption is that they wanted to get that second season out of it, so they changed the story to stretch it out. I’ve been hesitant to watch season 2 of Picard yet based on everything I’ve heard, but I know I want to watch season 3, so I’m sure I’ll check it out at some point.

  8. Gary R. Bush says:

    Al, I’ll miss you and Barb at B’con, but your health comes first. Be well, my friend!

  9. Tim Field says:

    Great news! Bouchercon is in Minneapolis! (I learned from your blog)
    Not so great news – You and Barb are unable to attend. (Here’s wishing for you feeling normal again and being able to avoid those paddles for a long, long time.)
    Looking forward to all your upcoming book releases.

  10. Michael Carlson says:

    All the best wishes Max. Keep that
    heart pumping away.