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

Our New Books Are Here! Our New Books Are Here!

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Wow, it’s been ages since we did a book giveaway here at M.A.C. Central – last week, wasn’t it?

I have ten hardcover copies of the new Nate Heller, Too Many Bullets. If you are one of the first ten readers to request one, and agree to write a review for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and the usual suspects, I’ll send a signed copy along.

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

You must include your snail mail address, even if you’ve entered before. This is for American readers only because of shipping costs, and keep in mind you can’t review at Amazon until the release date on Oct. 10.

* * *

Receiving a copy of your just published book is a unique experience for an author. Barb, at least since the first few books, just glances at the things, maybe checking to see if something that required special typesetting (like the blackboard lists of suspects in the Antiques novels) looks right.

I am still genuinely thrilled.

On the other hand…

I remember vividly receiving copies of the simultaneously published Bait Money and Blood Money in December 1972. It was exciting until I looked at the covers. They were photo covers, and one was pretty good – Bait Money had a very Nolan-esque Nolan and a dish I’d seen in men’s magazines – but the other (Blood Money) was a young guy with a bad mustache who looked like a cast member of Boys in the Band.

Bait Money Curtis Edition Cover
Blood Money Curtis Edition Cover

Further, the byline was Max Collins, which was my father’s name, not mine. I was Max Allan Collins, Jr., and had always been called Allan or Al. That bummed me out bigtime. I was stuck with “Max Collins” for a while, but when a book of mine called The Slasher came out at the same time as Michael Collins’s novel of the same name, enough was enough. I started using Max Allan Collins.

Now about half the people I call me Allan or Al and the rest use Max. I have to work at keeping track.

Still, it’s a thrill to see your novel become an actual book – typeset, your stuff always seems more real, more official. And now and then you get a decent cover. The Nolan novels as published by Pinnacle had good cover art. But I haven’t loved a cover until Hard Case Crime started publishing me.

No matter what the cover, I always sit with the hot-off-the-presses copy and kind of just look at it. Page through. Frankly, kind of caress it. Barb, meanwhile, has gone off about her business. This morning I asked her about why she was so blasé about receiving Antiques Foe in the mail.

“That’s the old one,” she said. “I’m working on the new one.”

She is much more mature (except in looks) than I am, far more grounded. Me with a freshly published book of mine, I’m a kid with a new toy. I own ten original covers from various books of mine (most from Hard Case Crime), and they are on the wall inspiring to stay at this.

The thumbing through part is dangerous, though. There are a couple of errors (one in the text, one in the afterword) in Do No Harm that I have not been able to correct, as there has been no trade or mass market paperback of that Heller title. So I cringe a little when I see that book. I’m proud of it, of course, but I wish it were perfect.

Not that any novel is perfect, The Great Gatsby and The Maltese Falcon included. But right now, having thumbed through both Too Many Bullets and Antiques Foe, I am still a kid in the candy store.

Of course, some well-meaning (and in reality helpful) reader will no doubt approach me to share errors he or she has found. I will grit my teeth and thank them. And do my best to make the corrections, but without a second printing or new edition, it is…well, impossible.

* * *

We are less than a month out from the first day of shooting on Blue Christmas. I prepared a shooting script over the weekend and the sense of excitement (make that terror) is growing by the second.

Thanks again to those of you who have donated to the cause (lots of names will go in our credits). Most recently our longtime fan and friend Stephen Borer kicked in a C-note (well, a check for that amount). Thank you, sir.

* * *

Also exciting is the podcast project – turning Nate Heller’s memoirs into movies without pictures (i.e., top casts and music and sound effect, not just audio books). This will be my next big project after Blue Christmas, and I couldn’t be more thrilled than to be working with Robert Meyer Burnett. I love his various podcasts. I am going to provide a window on this week’s Let’s Get PHYSICAL MEDIA on which he talks about this project and says things about me that would make me blush, if I had any shame, which I don’t.

Rob and his German pal Dieter talk about what’s come out recently on Blu-ray and 4K, discuss various movies and TV series (emphasis this week on the Star Wars TV spin-off Ahsoka), answering letters on air, and news about what’s coming on physical media. This is not for everyone, because they are long, rambling, quirky but in my view incredibly entertaining episodes.

* * *

Barb and I got our Covid boosters today, something I wanted to make sure I’d done before going into full Blue Christmas contact with cast and crew (all of whom I’m going to suggest, if they are so inclined, getting theirs).

In an oddly related matter, last Saturday afternoon my grandson with my son along for the ride watched the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, having (I am glad to say) moved up from strictly CGI animated movies into actual live action. Eight year-old Sam was seated next to me in a comfy chair when a wasp stung him on the left cheek. He took it just the way his grandfather would have, howling in pain and indignation and bawling like a baby. As his grandmother tended his sting, he said something rather profound and hilarious.

“I want to ask Mr. God why he created wasps!”

I don’t think any answer Mr. God could come up with would be sufficient enough.


Spillane Nominated, Antiques Is Loved, Blue Christmas Begins, and Poirot Returns

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

Okay, so the nominations for Quarry’s Blood (Edgar) and The Big Bundle (Shamus) did not result in wins. But how about this: Max Allan Collins and Jim Traylor’s Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction has been nominated for BIO’s Plutarch Award, given to the best biography of the year – as judged by biographers. I have no idea how this Bio nomination might play out.

Still, this feels really good, because this book is one I am particularly proud of, and I know Jim feels the same. Obviously we are hopeful for an Edgar nomination, but a win there seems unlikely as the prejudice against Mickey continues in many quarters, particularly coming from people who never read much if any of him.

On the other hand, we received several nice reviews for the current Hammer, Dig Two Graves, and Barb and I just finished listening (in the car) to the Skyboat Media audio book of it, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki, who does his usual stellar job.

The handful of copies of Dig Two Graves that I had to give away here were snapped up eagerly. I am sorry I didn’t have more to offer than that. It’s out today (Sept. 19) – so Happy Publication Day!

Speaking of good reviews, here’s a honey by Sue O’Brien about Antiques Foe by Barbara Allan (Barb and me) from Booklist:

Antiques Foe
By Barbara Allan
Nov. 2023. 208p. Severn, $31.99 (9781448309627);
e-book (9781448309634)

Vivian Borne, co-owner with her daughter Brandy of Trash ‘n’ Treasures, is thrilled to be invited to be a guest on Nicole Chatterton’s video podcast, Killers Caught, until Chatterton ambushes her on her murder-solving record, with Vivian threatening Chatterton and Brandy abruptly ending the interview. When Vivian goes to Chatterton’s hotel room to retrieve her signed release form to prevent the interview from airing, she finds Chatterton dead on the floor and is quickly arrested as the chief suspect in her murder. When Brandy is attacked and badly hurt, Vivian decides on drastic measures to protect her family. Brandy is gutted by the shocking turn of events, but the investigation continues, led by her fiancé, Police Chief Tony Cassato, leading to a plan to trap the killer. This tale is told in first person by both the flamboyant Vivian and the long-suffering Brandy, with the two talking directly to the reader in numerous humorous asides. Framed by small-town life in Iowa, with interesting details on antiques, this fun cozy includes recipes and tips on collecting sports memorabilia.

* * *

One of the things I’ll be doing here at Update Central in the coming couple of months is discuss the ongoing production of my micro-budgeted movie, Blue Christmas, which I scripted and will direct.

We had disappointing news this week when Gary Sandy decided not to do the production out of solidarity with the SAG-AFTRA strikers. He offered to do the film next year, when presumably the strike will be over, and suggested April. We are already going full-steam ahead and had to turn down this generous offer from Gary, who will very likely be in a future production of ours.

This, of course, will have to mean that directing another movie – designed to be user friendly to its aging director, and to be produced reasonably (all right, on the cheap) – is still something I enjoy doing and am able to perform to my satisfaction despite certain limitations due to health issues.

We held auditions this week and they went very well. I cast many of the local players from Encore for Murder, and two terrific pros from Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities respectively, Rob Merrit and Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt. My team includes Chad T. Bishop, producer (he edited Encore for Murder); Phil Dingeldein, Director of Photography (my longtime friend/collaborator on films); and Karen Cooney, production manager (my co-director of the stage version of Encore for Murder).

Rob Merrit playing Richard Stone
Rob Merrit playing Richard Stone
Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt as Stone’s partner, Joey Ernest
Tommy Ratkiewicz-stierwalt as Stone’s partner, Joey Ernest

We have an excellent set builder tentatively on board, and Chris Christensen (my Seduction of the Innocent bandmate, and the composer of the scores for Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, Caveman and the award-winning Quarry short, “A Matter of Principal”) has agreed to do the score. Chris also contributed to Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market and Encore for Murder.

Also on the indie film front, I looked at the “check discs” of the Blu-ray of the documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane with Encore for Murder as the bonus feature, a DVD of the same, and finally a stand-alone DVD of Encore designed to go out to Golden Age Radio collectors. VCI is putting all of these out, in partnership with MVD, who do some very interesting stuff, particularly in their “Rewind” line that puts ‘80s and ‘90s video store favorites on Blu-ray.

* * *
A Haunting in Venice poster banner

Barb and I took in A Haunting in Venice, very loosely adapted from Agatha Christie’s Poirot novel, Hallowe’en Party. We had both pretty much enjoyed director/star Kenneth Branagh’s first Poirot outing, Murder on the Orient Express, but it was no threat to the Sidney Lumet original. The second Branagh adaptation of Christie, Death on the Nile, was more Meh on the Vile. But this one is a stunner.

Branagh’s Poirot is better etched here, and his direction is moody and immersive, creating a horror film vibe without shortchanging the very tricky murder mystery. Tina Fey as Ariadne Oliver takes some getting used to, but ultimately comes across well. The standout performer is a child actor, Jude Hill, around twelve when this was shot.

It was wise of Branagh to get away from remaking the excellent previous Poirot films (so far, at least, the great Evil Under the Sun has been spared 21st Century re-imagining) and if more of these follow, he might look at the serious, post-war Poirot novels like Taken At the Flood and Five Little Pigs.

* * *

Crime Reads zeroes in on seven novels set in Sin City (Las Vegas) and one of them is Skim Deep. Oddly, my CSI novel called Sin City (co-written by Matthew Clemens) isn’t among them!

Jeff Pierce’s indispensable Rap Sheet shares some things from a recent update of ours right here. Nice write-up, and the lead item!

Screen Rant discusses my version of Robin in (where else?) Batman. My work on that feature seems to be getting a little more respect these days.

Finally, Den of Geek names Road to You-know-where one of the best crime-and-mob movies. Gratifying that this film is holding on so very well as decades pass.


Another Book Giveaway, An E-Book Sale & Major Announcements

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

A limited book giveaway kicks off this Update.

I have only five copies I can share with you of the new Mike Hammer novel, Dig Two Graves. So move fast.

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

IMPORTANT: If you recently won a copy of Too Many Bullets, please don’t enter. If you’re not sure whether you were a winner in that giveaway, e-mail me at the above address and I’ll let you know. But before you do, keep in mind that I contacted everyone who entered who did not win and informed them of it. And please don’t tell Nero Wolfe I used “contact” as a verb.

You agree to write a review (or reviews) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Goodreads, or your own blog.

* * *

Speaking of Dig Two Graves, the great Andrew Sumner of Titan interviewed me about it recently, and you can watch it right here.

Dig Two Graves will be available from Amazon and others a week from today (Sept. 19).

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes Chirp
Audio MP3 CD:
Audio CD:
* * *

Two of my novels are on sale right now (and until 9/30/’23) at Amazon, e-book editions of Executive Order ($2.95 Amazon) and Girl Most Likely ($2.49 Amazon). Exec is co-written by Matthew Clemens and is a Reeder and Rogers political thriller. Girl is one of my personal favorites.

* * *

Robert Meyer Burnett, You Tube’s finest commentator on pop culture and physical media, made an interesting announcement on air last night (Sunday Sept. 10). All of a sudden he was talking about me! Hearing my name invoked was startling and, I’ll admit, a little thrilling, because I respect this man’s opinions and admire his uncanny ability to hold my attention for literal hours with his good-humored brilliance. But I wasn’t entirely surprised, because he and I (and our mutual friend Mike Bawden, who is the producer of the Burnett podcasts, and happens to be located near me in the Quad Cities) are embarking on a project together.

We are setting out to do a podcast series based on the Nathan Heller novels. Each multi-episode podcast would take on a single book. I will write these adaptations myself. Rob Burnett is, among other things, a Hollywood director (Free Enterprise, Femme Fatales, The Hills Run Red). There will be a crowd-funding effort to get the first podcast off the ground, and I’ve written a 10-page self-contained script (based on the opening of Stolen Away), to be presented as an example of what we’re up to at the crowd-funding site.

These are early days, but I think we’ll be moving fast. We are talking to several terrific name actors about playing Heller on the crowd-funding pilot, and when we’re a go for the podcast (likely six episodes – we’re considering several titles, including Carnal Hours), other name actors will be cast as well.

Since we haven’t had a Heller movie in all these years, despite continued Hollywood interest, I think a superior podcast could really jump start things on that end.

But the podcast on its own will be great fun, and producer Bawden is a genius at promotion and utilizing You Tube. Not surprisingly, my longtime movie collaborator Phil Dingeldein is involved in the project, and we’ll be making behind-the-scenes and behind-the-story “true crime” videos. That, at least, is the plan.

* * *

Meanwhile, work on Blue Christmas continues apace.

We are trying to secure Gary Sandy, but he has several prior commitments we have to find a window between. If we don’t land him, he has nonetheless been a friend to me and my work, and incidentally a fan specifically of Blue Christmas. His taking on Mike Hammer for our Golden Age-radio style local production made recording it (and turning it into a modest but fun little movie) possible.

We are having auditions this week for the rest of the Blue Christmas cast, and I intend to use as many of the players from Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder as possible. I was very pleased with their work.

Both the Blu-ray of the expanded Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane documentary and a DVD of Encore for Murder will be out in December (exact date TBA). Here is the trailer for Encore.

We are on a very fast track for Blue Christmas – the shoot is toward the end of October.

* * *

Yesterday afternoon/evening (Sunday Sept. 10), my band Crusin’ made its last appearance of the summer. Rain kept threatening but never happened, and a large appreciative crowd seemed to have a great time.

Crusin' September 10, 2023
Crusin' September 10, 2023

Barbara and Samuel dance to Crusin’

I had to postpone this from a scheduled August appearance, due to my health stuff; but I was pretty much fine for this performance, although I admit to tiring easily. It’s becoming obvious that I’m near the end of my rock ‘n’ rolling days, and I think next summer (if the rest of the band is up for it) we’ll do a Farewell Tour of three gigs here in Muscatine.

We’ve been preparing new originals for one last CD, which would include the Crusin’ originals from Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.

This version of the band has been very gratifying. This is the line-up, basically, that appeared at the 2018 Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction concert. Our late bass player, Brian Van Winkle, appeared with us there. He passed away not long after, most unexpectedly, and his sunny presence and self-deprecating humor is sorely missed – in many respects he was the heart of the band. His replacement – our guitarist Bill Anson’s son Scott – is one of the best bass players I’ve been privileged to appear with. He has his own sly sense of humor, too. By the way, Bill Anson came aboard just to fill in for a while – that was seven years ago.

I hate to hang it up, but I figure I’ve accomplished everything I ever will in this artistic/performing arena, and will concentrate whatever time is left to writing novels and working on movies. Blue Christmas is, in part, an experiment to see how I do directing a movie at this rarefied age.

I have designed it to be low-budget – a necessity, particularly since we didn’t get the expected Greenlight grant – and wrote it to be shot on a single set in a studio-style setting. I will have some wonderful actors lined up (with or without Gary, though I sure hope he’s able to do it) and great collaborators in Phil Dingeldein, Liz Toal and Chad Bishop.

Since Encore came out well and the filming of it was something of a last minute, impulsive decision, I had originally conceived Blue Christmas to be presented as a play that we’d shoot. There are advantages to that approach, but also disadvantages – shooting it film-style, without an audience, will broaden our market, and be more artistically satisfying to boot.

Wish us break a leg and stay tuned for reports from the front lines.

* * *

Here, from the Pulp, Crime & Mystery Books site, is a nice review of Dig Two Graves.

Finally, here’s a short but great write-up on Too Many Bullets from Craig Zablo.

A Book Giveaway & A Preview of the Spillane Blu-Ray & DVD

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023
Too Many Bullets cover

Too Many Bullets, my new Nate Heller novel from Hard Case Crime, will be out on Oct. 10. I am offering ten copies of the trade paperback ARC (the actual book is hardcover) to the first ten of you who request it in exchange for a review at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads (or your own reviewing site, if you have one).

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

This is for American readers only. That’s only because mailing outside the USA has become so expensive. Keep in mind you can’t review at Amazon until the book is actually available, which (again) will be Oct. 10.

I also want to share with you the front jacket of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (the expanded documentary), a Blu-ray release from VCI that includes the 90-minute Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder with Gary Sandy in a Golden Age Radio-style live performance. When I say Golden Age Radio, I don’t mean this is audio only, but a movie experience much like being in the audience at a radio show of the ‘40s. Gary, who appeared in Encore at Owensboro, Kentucy, and Clearwater, Florida, is the only actor to date to portray Mike Hammer on stage.

Encore for Murder will be available separately on DVD and I’ll share that front jacket art with you, too.

These are teasers. We don’t have release dates yet, but it will be yet this year.

* * *

I want to share with you a particularly nice review of Dig Two Graves from the Crime Fiction Lover website.

Dig Two Graves by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
By Paul Burke 29 August, 2023

Once, when someone complained that Mickey Spillane had eight books in a top 10 chart, he replied along the lines that the reader should be thankful he didn’t write two more. It’s hard to overestimate Spillane’s popularity in the 1950s and 60s. He has sold over 225 million copies and when he died in 2006 left a wealth of unfinished stories, many of them featuring his hardboiled PI, Mike Hammer. That’s where Max Allan Collins comes in. A crime fiction author with a solid record of his own, including Quarry and The Road to Redemption, he was invited to carry on Spillane’s legacy and Dig Two Graves is the 14th Hammer novel he’s developed and finished.

The story is set in 1964 and Allan Collins has slotted it into place in the series at the appropriate point. Velma is Mike’s girlfriend, and the US has government borrowed her for a little job behind the Iron Curtain because she’s a former cop and secret service agent, but nobody told Mike. He hits the bottle hard thinking Velma has been kidnapped or, maybe worse, killed. Then Velma just turns up, Mike pulls himself around and they’re a team again.

There are other bridges to be mended though and Velma is about to meet up with her mother to smooth over her disappearing act. At the rendezvous the woman is mowed down in front of Velma and Mike. The Chevy responsible crashes a little bit further up the road and Mike is on the driver immediately but can’t squeeze anything out of the man before he dies.

Clearly it’s no accident. In the hospital Velma’s mother suddenly confesses that Velma’s father is not the man she grew up with, who died in the line of duty. Instead, it was a gangster named Rhinegold Massey – AKA Rhino. Is this somehow connected? Mike pumps his police friend Captain Chambers for info. It turns out Rhino died in an armoured car robbery and his then girlfriend, Judy, vanished years ago. But that’s all a cover and actually Rhino was placed in witness protection, the first such programme set up.

Rhino is linked to a retirement village in Phoenix called Dreamland Park so Mike decides to head out there, and there’s no way Velma will be left behind. When they arrive, it turns out a lot of people with connections to Rhino have been dying in mysterious circumstances lately. Mike books himself into the village and it’s not long before he’s being shot at and, naturally, he shoots back.

Blood and bullets are easier to come by than answers for much of the novel. A game of cat and mouse ensues, played out against the backdrop of lies, secrets, conspiracy and revenge. And, did I mention a double cross love betrayal? Allan Collins and Spillane riff nicely on a theme that goes back to Confucius: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Spillane wrote page turners and some of the best action scenes in crime fiction and that’s his great strength. Max Allan Collins knows that Mike Hammer readers want more and there’s no shortage of it here. He’s a subtler writer than Spillane so he nuances the plot, refines it for modern sensibilities without gutting the style. The characters have a little more depth but not too much.

The action is propulsive and the bodies drop regularly. It’s a deft art to recreating a novel that has to slot into a particular time in the Hammer cycle but the fact that Hammer has an arc means it’s crucial. In this case it’s Velma’s Russian sojourn and Mike’s descent into alcoholism in her absence. They add some humour to the plot, with references to his fitness and jibes along the lines of, “You used to be Mike Hammer.”

There’s a hint of sex smouldering behind the scenes and some cracking one liners in the snappy dialogue that give off a hardboiled vibe. Early in the book, the pace is a little more sedate than expected but it’s smoking by the denouement. Max Allan Collins really gets what makes Mike Hammer fun and never loses sight of that in the narrative. It’s a juggling act refreshing the form but maintaining the original ethos and mood, but mostly it is mission accomplished here. Hardboiled is alive and kicking; for a pulp fix this nails it pretty good.

For more revitalised Mike Hammer, see Murder Never Knocks.

As I say, a lovely review, but…the common mistake in reviews these days is calling Velda “Velma.” Apparently Mickey Spillane is getting confused with Scooby Doo.

* * *

Serious pre-production continues on Blue Christmas. We are hoping to secure Gary Sandy for the role of Jake Marley (the source novella is entitled A Wreath for Marley and is featured in the Wolfpack anthology, Blue Christmas).

We do need to raise some more money (having already raised $7000 from an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign). I am willing to dig into my stash of my stuff if you are missing anything in your M.A.C. collection. Tell me what you need and I will give you a price (it will not be outlandish) (maybe landish, though). Go this route and you’ll be listed in the credits.

* * *

Barb and I, as some of you may recall, are what might be called first generation Star Trek fans. We began watching when it was still on NBC, caught up with the first season via the James Blish short story collections (based on episodes), went to great lengths to see William Shatner in The Seven Year Itch at Pheasant Run outside of Chicago, saw Leonard Nimoy in The Fourposter at another dinner theater and also at a McGovern political event (recounted in Quarry in the Black), and cultivated a friendship with Walter Koenig.

Also, we stood in line for over an hour in the cold and snow to see, on opening night, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. We still consider it the best of the Star Trek films, not a widely held opinion, but Robert Meyer Burnett – who knows Star Trek as well as anyone alive – agreed with me when I shared this opinion with him. He feels it’s far and away the best original cast Star Trek film. So there.

Anyway, we did not watch Star Trek: The Next Generation when it aired. (I watched the opening episode and bailed.) But we did go to the four TNG motion pictures in the theater (usually on opening day) and liked all four, particularly the second one, First Contact. We also watched the handful of TNG laser discs that were issued, back in my laser collecting days. Liked those, too.

We have finally gotten around to watching the entire series – we started with Season Seven and worked our way back, for reasons too idiotic to share – and have more than warmed to TNG. We like it, perhaps even love it, and consider it a worthy continuation of the original series. We had been spurred to watch TNG by the excellent third season of Picard, which was essentially a long-form final movie for the original cast. (Picard season one was good, but the second season was dire, and like a lot of watchers, we only tuned in to season three because it restored the original TNG cast.)

Then Barb and I revisited the four TNG features, which we’d seen several times on Blu-ray and then 4K discs. And we discovered these films were much richer for us, a much more satisfying experience, having seen the entire run of TNG series.

And Star Trek: First Contact ties for second place (with Wrath of Khan) after Star Trek: The Motion Picture in our estimation.

Your warp speed may vary.