Archive for the ‘Message from M.A.C.’ Category

Noir Alley and Dynamite Gift Ideas

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

The experience of being a guest on Noir Alley with Eddie Muller was a very gratifying one. Eddie was generous in his praise of my work and supposed history-of-mystery acumen, and we had a blast talking over ZOOM. The reality of TCM’s needs meant our conversation was drastically (but well) cut/edited. We did a second intro and outro for another favorite of mine, Born to Kill. It airs sometime early next year – you’ll read about when right here.

Some of you may have missed this screening of Kiss Me Deadly, which Eddie and I introduced and, afterward, discussed. But you probably either own a copy of that movie or have seen it more than once (if you a regular reader of these updates).

So here are the intro and outro of the Noir Alley presentation of Kiss Me Deadly.

While we’re in a noir-ish mood, take a gander at this cool promo for the Johnny Dynamite collection that Terry Beatty and I edited. It’s a wonderful book and a things of beauty. Check this video out for proof.

This segues me into Gift Guide mode again. I hope that you diehard fans of my work will consider giving the Nate Heller novel Do No Harm, the Mike Hammer entry Masquerade for Murder, the Ms. Tree collection Skeleton in the Closet, the debut of John Sand in Come Spy With Me, and the new Nolan (due out any second now) Skim Deep as under-the-tree gifts and stocking stuffers. These can all be purchased from the various on-line and (usually) brick-and-mortar sources, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s a good way to utilize a gift card, too.

But if Johnny Dynamite is on your shopping list, I want to suggest a specific seller. Bud Plant has been a friend of mine for many years – I bought Underground Comics from him mail-order going back to the late ‘60s. For years he had a huge booth at San Diego Con, where I often spent the bulk of whatever disposable cash I’d set aside for that event.

Bud has a terrific on-line store that specializes in comics and illustration, and other popular culture. He has many lovely books – like, for example, Johnny Dynamite – that would make excellent gifts for those you love, including yourself. If you buy Johnny Dynamite, he has it at a good price; Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet is there, too.

Take a look around here.

https://www.budsartbooks.com

Last week I mentioned that Mike at Just for the Hell of it Video – who specializes in obscure B-movies otherwise unavailable – has Mickey Spillane’s The Delta Factor. Well, he has a lot more and it’s all listed on-line here.

Among other goodies Mike has are Elmore Leonard’s Cat Chaser, Alistair MacLean’s Bear Island and Fear Is the Key, Mongo’s Back in Town, and oddball Bond imitations like The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World. J4HI is gray market, offering public domain or out-of-print material, and the quality is good of its kind. Particularly strong, though, is the packaging – DVDs in nice cases with colorful, well-designed art.

If you decide to order from Mike, put “Max Collins sent me!” in the message box during check-out and he will include a free DVD of an OOP trailer compilation. Any size order placed until the end of this year would qualify.

Finally, a recommendation for something worth watching that can be found on Blu-ray from Kino or on several streaming services – Babylon Berlin. This is period crime drama from a novel (whose author cites Road to Perdition as an influence) and it’s set in 1929, with all the turbulent politics of Germany as the backdrop against the solving of mysteries and crimes. It’s beautifully shot, staged, art-directed, and acted – kind of Cabaret Meets Chinatown. I have seen the first two seasons and, so far, it just gets better and better as it goes along.

It’s the show that HBO’s Perry Mason thinks it is.

I hope you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Now stay indoors, would you? Buy a book and read it or something.

M.A.C.

Come Spy With Free!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
Come Spy With Me Advertisement

Yes, it’s yet another M.A.C. Book Giveaway!

I have ten copies to give away of the very handsome Wolfpack trade paperback of Come Spy With Me by yrs truly and Matt Clemens, the first in the John Sand series. Should you win a copy, you agree to write a review for Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (review blogs are also kosher). [All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! — Nate]

These reviews are extremely important (and not just from those of you who get a free book now and then). Amazon is key, because the e-book version is available only on Kindle, Amazon’s format. The trade paperback can be ordered at Barnes & Noble and other on-line retailers. I think finding a copy at a brick-and-mortar store is unlikely, at least at this point.

Wolfpack has been very supportive and even ran a big ad in Publisher’s Weekly (reproduced here).

I should have mentioned when I announced the Skim Deep book giveaway a few weeks ago that you cannot post reviews at Amazon until the book’s publication date (Come Spy With Me is out now). Those were advance copies of Skim Deep, and a few of you tried to post reviews unsuccessfully. Amazon is listing that pub date as Jan. 5, although I believe that’s inaccurate – it’s actually going to be available early December. I will try to get this corrected at Amazon, but keep trying if you’ve written your review, when we get into December. I’ll try to have updated info on the official pub date soon.

(By the way, Nate always provides ordering links when you click on the first mention of a book title in any of these updates.)

Meanwhile, Booklist has given Skim Deep a very strong review:

Skim Deep. By Max Allan Collins Dec. 2020. 256p. Hard Case Crime, paper, $10.95 ( 9781789091397)

Collins’ first novel, published in 1972, was called Bait Money and was intended as a stand-alone homage to Donald E. Westlake’s Parker thrillers, which Westlake wrote as Richard Stark. The one-off homage, however, became a series starring Collins’ version of Parker, superthief Nolan, and his surrogate son, musician and comics artist Jon.

Now Collins returns to Nolan and Jon in a new adventure, set in the late 1980s. Nolan, living the straight life as a restaurateur in the Quad Cities, has decided it’s time to marry his longtime lover, Sherry. A trip to Las Vegas ensues, where the newlyweds reunite with Jon and settle in for a long weekend of fun and frolic. Not quite. Unfortunately, one of Nolan’s pals from the bad old days has a plan to steal a week’s worth of skim from a Mobbed-up casino and to use Nolan as the fall guy. Meanwhile, trouble’s brewing back in Iowa, too, where a Ma Barker–type wants Nolan’s head in a basket (literally).

This jaunty caper novel has a definite dark side—Nolan is no ersatz antihero—but Collins, as always, mixes blood and badinage with gusto. — Bill Ott

Ms. Tree, Volume Two: Skeleton in the Closet has made the Mystery Scene Gift Guide, as assembled by the great Kevin Burton Smith of the equally great Thrilling Detective web site. Burton describes Ms. Tree as “9mmm-toting Chicago private eye, Michael Tree, who’s been pushing envelopes and taking out bad guys since 1981 (scooping Grafton, Paretsky, et al., on women’s issues and Law & Order on “ripped from the headlines” plots in the process). This volume rounds up the rest of the uncollected stories from the DC Comics 1990s run (which Collins considers ‘the best’ of the long-running series), and it’s just waiting for a whole new generation of fans. As usual, Tree and her agency take the ‘edgy route,’ dealing with homophobia, date rape, POW/MIAs and…exorcism?”

November, of course, means Gift Guide and Black Friday deals and other holiday-oriented consumerism. In these Pandemic times, gift buying has been driven indoors even more than in recent years, and it also finds us (well, me anyway) in a WTF mood when it comes to, “Should I buy this or not?”

So here are a few suggestions for yourself and others.

Kino Lorber has a Noir-vember sale that ends today – November 24, 2020 – but if you read these updates the day they appear, you have time to partake of a number of noir (or anyway noir-ish) titles. But pertinent to our interests here, they have:

The Girl Hunters (Blu-ray $12.99 and DVD 9.99). I did the commentary and the interview footage with Mickey from the Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane shoot in 1999.

My Gun Is Quick (Blu-ray $7.99 and DVD 6.99)

I, the Jury (Blu-ray $9.99) The Armand Assante version.

Among other strong titles on sale are I Wake Up Screaming, Murder He Says (among my favorite comedies), and No Orchids for Miss Blandish.

Even if the sale is over, check the prices at Kino Lorber’s site. They run lots of sales and tend to be cheaper than ordering from other on-line retailers of their product.

For Spillane completists, the low-budget 1970 production of The Delta Factor (which Mickey co-produced) is available in a decent gray-market edition here.

Be advised that I haven’t found a really good-looking copy of this film anywhere, and this one at least comes in a fun full color package. If you’re into collecting oddball stuff (like I am), this seller – J4HI.com – has a wonderful off-the-wall selection. Regular sales and new titles are always in the offing. Buying several titles at once lowers the price per disc.

Tell Mike that Max sent you.

* * *

My production has slowed down for a few weeks. A very stressful situation having to do with a copy editor rewriting me practically line by line sent me into AFib. Atrial fibrillation is an occasional side-effect of my heart trouble of a few years ago, and I had to go into the hospital briefly for what is called cardioversion. This is basically getting your heart shocked back into its correct rhythm, or, as I like to put it, getting jump-started like an old Buick.

I appear to be fine, though I’m having to take it easy, which is generally against my nature.

What I am having to deal with is more psychological than anything else. I apparently care too much about my work. I’ve expressed my general hatred for copy editors here and that came to a head with this episode. Barb has drilled into me not to get bent out of shape about this kind of thing, with a “Is it worth dying over?” mantra.

She’s right, and I am working on it.

As for copy editors, I should amend my expressed hatred, which is deep and abiding, to apply only to the intrusive ones. All writers need a copy editor to check for inconsistencies, missing words, typos, etc. But about fifty percent of the copy editors I’ve dealt with over my career have appointed themselves co-authors. There appears to be an army of young people, fresh out of college and armed with a degree in English, whose goal in life is to teach a professional writer with fifty years in the business how to do what he does.

I attach a letter to the copy editor with every book manuscript, tweaked for that specific novel; but often my missive is ignored.

Anyway, I’m doing fine.

And the battle goes on. In a lower-key fashion, but on.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of Skim Deep at Crime Fiction Lover.

Please stay safe over this Thanksgiving holiday. We are back to sheltering in place interrupted by only a very early morning grocery run every week or two.

It’s like my raging against copy editors – Thanksgiving with family and friends…is it worth dying over?

M.A.C.

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

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

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.

Hey Kids! Free Books & Nolan Returns

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

First, here’s another interview of me by the great Andrew Sumner for Titan Books – this time regarding Nolan and Skim Deep.

Okay, show of hands – how many of you like books?

Seems to be everybody.

All right, how many of you like free books? Don’t fight!

Only so many free books are on hand, so how many of you like a really good bargain? Don’t pout! I mean, really good….

The entire Reeder and Rogers trilogy by Matt Clemens and me is on sale right now as part of Amazon’s Monthly Deals: Up to 80% off Kindle books. They will stay on sale till 11-30-2020, with [Amazon links:] Executive Order at $1.99 and Supreme Justice and Fate of the Union available at 99 cents each.

But wait, there’s more! (Look, I realize I shifted from classroom mode to infomercial, but I figure you can stay with me.)

The first of the two (so far) Krista Larson novels, Girl Most Likely (a Thriller Award best paperback nominee), is part of that same sale for just 99 cents.

Now for the free books. Don’t rush the stage! (Yes, I know, I did it again. Pretend it’s a running joke.)

I have ten copies of Skim Deep, the first new Nolan book in over three decades.

[All copies have been claimed! Thank you for your support. — Nate]

This doesn’t come out till Dec. 8, but I have these ten finished copies of the novel provided by Hard Case Crime. You’ll see me here posing happily with Skim Deep, the final Nolan novel, and the original edition of Bait Money, the first Nolan novel, published in December 1972.

That’s 48 years ago. Nolan is 48 years old in Bait Money, by the way, which at the time seemed really old to me. Those two 48-year periods represent one of those insignificant facts that take on weight in a barroom after enough time and tide has passed.

I’m going to walk you through how Nolan came to be. Some of you will have heard me talk about this, and/or write about it before, but go on reading – with my memory, it’s sure to come out different.

I started reading Richard Stark in 1967 after the film Point Blank came out, based on The Hunter, the first in a series about professional thief, Parker. Around the same time I discovered another writer, comic mystery author Donald E. Westlake, and these two were soon my favorites of then-current mystery writers. I had no idea Westlake was Stark – their books were so very different.

Westlake/Stark was the last author to have a major impact on my work. I was already reading Spillane, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain and Jim Thompson (and a few others). I had basically trained to be a writer of private eye novels or maybe cop books, but the times they were a changin’, and P.I.s were impossible to sell and, in 1968, cops were just guys clubbing my friends at the Democratic convention.

I’d already discovered an obscure series by Ennis Willie about an ex-hood named Sand, who had much in common with Stark’s Parker, though Sand was created first. A tough guy who was an ex-hood heist artist seemed a reasonable alternative to gumshoes. Hence, anti-heroes. Crook books.

A few paragraphs ago I called Bait Money the first Nolan novel. It kind of wasn’t. The same character, originally called Cord in a book titled Mourn the Living, I’d written in junior college. It didn’t sell, but it got me into the University of Iowa Writers Workshop thanks to Richard Yates, the great mainstream novelist.

Bait Money (and the first Mallory, No Cure for Death) were written for Yates and his class, and he worked one-on-one with me even after I was required to study with a few other instructors. He landed me an agent, Knox Burger, who had been a well-known editor at Collier’s and then Gold Medal Books. Among other things, Burger was instrumental in talking John D. MacDonald into creating Travis McGee.

Yates sent Burger Bait Money and praised me as a young Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. Burger, who was as no-nonsense as a hit-and-run driver, said, “More like a young W.R. Burnett.” Which was fine with me. In the same league as the guy who wrote Little Caesar, High Sierra and Asphalt Jungle? I understood how great that was, even if Yates didn’t.

Burger is the guy who called me a blacksmith in an automotive age. Again – fine by me.

I killed Nolan on the last page of Bait Money and Burger wanted me to un-kill him. I refused, but the book kept getting rejected. Then an editor at Pyramid Books spilled coffee on the manuscript, meaning I had to retype it (which I did, myself). Burger said, “You might as well take the opportunity to put the better ending on.”

I did.

It sold next time out and the editor wanted a series. This was a problem because I had conceived Bait Money as an homage to Richard Stark, or even a pastiche, using his distinctive method of organizing sections and using strict point of view.

I had, by this time, begun to correspond with Don Westlake. He began mentoring me, and had read Bait Money (Burger gave the manuscript to him) and professed to like it. I wrote Don and asked him how he felt about me doing a series about Nolan – I was uncomfortable because (as many of you have heard me say) homage is French for rip-off.

Don graciously insisted that the Jon character – the sort of hippie-ish comic book collecting “kid” who became Nolan’s surrogate son – made the books more human. Don also felt Nolan was more overtly human than Parker. He said by all means take the gig.

I did. The publisher was Curtis Books, an off-shoot of the same company that had published the enormously successful Saturday Evening Post. Their paperback line, however, was not enormously successful. I did four Nolan novels and the first two Mallory books for them, and they only published the first two Nolans (and neither Mallory) before Popular Library bought them out.

The editor at Popular Library put the books into inventory, while periodically insisting publication was imminent. It never happened. Meanwhile, I wrote Quarry (originally The Broker) and Berkley Books bought it and asked for three more.

In the early ‘80s, Knox Burger sold all five Nolan novels to Pinnacle, plus a new to-be-written one. They had recently lost the Mack Bolan series and apparently I was supposed to be the replacement, though Bolan and Nolan had nothing in common but rhyming.

I had to revise the first two novels somewhat, largely because Fly Paper pre-dated quite a few airport security measures. Bait Money came out and sold very well.

Then the creator of Mack Bolan, Don Pendleton, threatened to sue Pinnacle for publishing a series about somebody who rhymed with his character. So the last couple of books had Nolan’s name taken off the covers, and my contract was dropped.

My novel True Detective got some me some attention in 1983, and a few years later an editor at TOR asked me to revive Nolan, which I did with Spree. But then, for reasons not worth going into, that editor and I had a falling out and a contract to do a bunch more Nolans got dropped.

Seems Nolan and Jon led at least as perilous a life in the world of publishing as they did in fictional crime.

That was it for Nolan until, finally, Mourn the Living was published, with “Cord” changed to “Nolan.” Writer Wayne Dundee had serialized the novel in his magazine Hardboiled, and people started asking me to collect it in book form. I did. It was a hardcover from Five Star.

Felt like Nolan had come full circle, from Bait Money to the unintentional, Jon-less prequel, Mourn the Living.

Then, as is his habit in my publishing life, Charles Ardai came along. He was going to do some reprints and a few new books for his budding Hard Case Crime line. He was a fan of the second Nolan novel, Blood Money, and wanted to publish it. I felt Bait Money ought to be included, as Blood Money was its sequel. He put them together as Two for the Money.

As most of you know, I revived Quarry for Charles, who from time to time asked me to consider writing a new Nolan. I resisted, because I’d written Spree to be the last book. Finally he offered to republish all of the Nolans (two books to a volume) with spiffy retro covers if I’d do a new one.

And, so, all these years later, I have.

What was most interesting to me was that despite the many decades gone by, when I sat down to write about Nolan and Jon, bing! There they were. Waiting for me to check back in with them. I don’t know why it came so easy. It’s not like I haven’t written about other characters in the interim.

But Nolan in Mourn the Living, and Nolan and Jon in Bait Money, represented the start of my career, and both books took a lot of time. I’m known, I guess, for being able to turn out good books in not much time. But those first two novels were where I went to school, teaching myself (and cribbing from Stark and the rest).

Back then, I had to type pages over and over, because there were no photocopy machines yet and publishers got their noses out of joint if you sent a carbon copy. I would imagine I worked on Bait Money for a year and a half. Skim Deep took, I believe, three weeks. Maybe a month – I don’t really keep track.

So now Nolan has come full circle, and maybe so have I, and like Nolan, I have no intention of dying on the last page.

* * *

Here’s some nice love for the forthcoming Shootout at Sugar Creek, the new Caleb York.

M.A.C.