Give Me a Little Sugar (Creek), Baby

October 25th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins
Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek cover
Hardcover: Indiebound Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
Paperback (New Release!): Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Libro.fm Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

This week features a book giveaway of the mass market edition of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, which looks to be the final Caleb York novel.

[All copies have now been claimed. Thank you! –Nate]

I hate having to hang up my Stetson and shootin’ iron, but Kensington has not requested another in the series, and one of the few other publishers of westerns, Five Star, is shutting down its corral. That leaves Wolfpack, but my sales there don’t yet justify doing more novels for those fine folks (not sarcasm – Mike and Jake Bray and my old buddy Paul Bishop are tops).

Anyway, as I’ve indicated here recently, I am slowing down by choice and necessity. Part of it is health concerns and just the reality of growing older (more about this later), some of it is shrinking markets for my work, and another concern is not wanting to work so damn hard.

My somewhat decreased output will be in line with what most writers would consider their normal output, and the trickle (as compared to a deluge) of M.A.C. books will not be readily apparent, as several completed things are coming up yet this year and next. The Big Bundle, the new Heller, is out in December from Hard Case Crime. Two more Fancy Anders novellas will be coming out from NeoText, who are also doing the Barbara/Max collaboration, Cutout, also a novella and a damn good one.

And I am just past the half-way point on Too Many Bullets, the Nate Heller taking on the Robert Kennedy assassination. I have in mind one further Heller, finally dealing head-on with Jimmy Hoffa (and RFK), which I hope to convince Hard Case Crime to let me do next year.

That is likely to wrap up the Heller saga, although one never knows. This cycle of three RFK-related novels (The Big Bundle, Too Many Bullets and the untitled Hoffa book) will be chronologically the last. I consider the Heller saga to be my best work, but they are exceptionally hard to do. My longtime researcher George Hagenauer has not been involved with the more recent books, except peripherally, which obviously puts the research on my shoulders.

My intention (and this is obviously subject to change) is to finish up this Heller/RFK cycle and then return to a few Quarry novels. If the Nolan movie happens, he and Jon could return…but only in the event of that movie happening (the series has been optioned by Lionsgate).

On the Mike Hammer front, I have signed to do the final two for Titan. A few fragments remain that might become short stories; but closing out the Hammer series is another indication that I am winding down.

And next on my docket is my draft of Antiques Foe (Barb is working on her draft now).

Let me assure the handful of you who care that as long as I have my marbles I will be writing prose fiction. I may do one last Perdition novel, for example, and I have a Neo-Text project that will include novellas about Audie Murphy and John Wayne as well as an unlikely third American hero.

The third act nature of what I’m up to has reflected itself in the recent work. Quarry in Quarry’s Blood finds our boy an old man now, of 70 or so; and the next one I do is likely to be a follow-up with him again in that age range. Nate Heller in Too Many Bullets (and to a degree in The Big Bundle) is an older guy who gets involved in cases that resonate with his past – i.e., the similarity of Zangara in True Detective and Sirhan Sirhan in Too Many Bullets.

Speaking of The Big Bundle, stay tuned for a book giveaway – I have some ARCs that will be available in a week or two.

* * *

A number of you have been kind enough – though I’ve discouraged you not to – to write me both in the comments here and in private e-mails with your concern and best wishes for my A-fib adventures. Everyone has my blessing to skip the rest of this section of the update as I deal with what happened since last week’s entry.

I was scheduled to have the cardioversion procedure at Trinity in Rock Island on Thursday (Oct. 20). But I had a couple of bad days and really bad nights early last week, and Barb insisted on Tuesday morning that I call my heart doc’s nurse, first thing, and let her know what my symptoms were. (For the record, extreme shortness of breath, wheezing, and an inability to sleep unless I sat in a chair and leaned forward. This was very much like what I experienced before going in for heart surgery in 2016).

Anyway, the nurse told me (in forceful but less colorful terms) to get my ass up to the emergency room in Rock Island at the heart center. We were convinced I’d get an EKG, some meds, and be told to report back on Thursday as planned. But, no – the efficient staff got me right in, and in an astonishingly short four hours, I had the cardioversion procedure and was heading home (Barb at the wheel).

The doctor was female (not my usual cardiologist, though he was consulted by her several times) as were most of the techs, and their kindness, good humor and efficiency gave me hope for the human race. (Not a lot of hope, but hope.) I was extremely impressed, and gobsmacked by having my problem addressed so quickly and well.

I am still in recovery mode. I still have the same symptoms, but dialed back considerably. This may be a side effect of some heavy medication I am still on that was part of getting me ready for the procedure.

Okay, I understand this is not the exciting stuff I reported in 2016, when after my heart surgery I ran naked down the hospital corridor thinking murder was afoot in the Columbo episode I was hallucinating (note to self: continue to avoid Ambien).

But it will have to do.

And thank you all for your concern. I can only say that my biggest concern during all this was dying before I finished the Heller.

* * *

A few quick words about movies and TV that Barb and I have enjoyed (or not enjoyed).

See How They Run, a British mystery centered around Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, is strangely flat, conveying a sense of everybody being all dressed up with no where to go. It is perhaps the only Sam Rockwell performance (he’s inexplicably cast as a British detective) I’ve seen that underwhelms. A while back someone wrote in saying how they cringed when I called something “painfully diverse” in its casting. Well, I’m saying it again about this one. Agatha Christie’s archeologist husband Sir Max Mallowan is portrayed by a Black actor, and a producer is planning to leave his wife and marry his Black secretary. In the early 1950s. It’s very possible that younger viewers will have no problem with either, but for those of us who have been on the planet a while, the historical inaccuracy of that is a big stumbling block.

We walked out of Amsterdam, despite its stellar cast (so stellar as to be distracting and even annoying). It’s apparently a comedy, but plays like a bad imitation of Wes Anderson. You will come out humming the art direction. (Fun fact: the historical event it centers upon is the one from the 3-part pilot of City of Angels, “The November Plan.”)

Barb did not see Halloween Ends, which is streaming on Peacock (and is in theaters). I did. It’s surprisingly good, making an effort to do something different and not just pile up the gory kills. After an initial Michael Myers attack, the next hour is…wait for it…story. Jamie Lee Curtis pulls it all together.

Confess, Fletch is a good little comic mystery with John Hamm fine as Gregory Mcdonald’s celebrated anti-hero. It reminded me of going to the movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s and seeing something small but entertaining.

Did I already mention Bullet Train here? It’s a ride.

* * *

Here’s a nice interview with Andy Rausch, who is writing a biography about someone or other.

Deadly Beloved And Other Stories cover

Here’s where you can get Deadly Beloved and Other Stories. It’s not my Ms. Tree novel of that title, but a collection of Johnny Craig stories from the EC comics that corrupted so many youths (including mine).

A nice little write-up here celebrates Conrad Hall’s posthumous Road to Perdition Academy Award.

Check out the classic “Theme from Ms. Tree” right here.

Finally, have a gander at this terrific review of the Blu-ray of I, the Jury.

M.A.C.

M.A.C. Collection From Wolfpack & A Spillane Rave

October 18th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

Another short update, I’m afraid.

My medical issues are coming to a head and I will be trying to deal with them this week. Good thoughts and crossed fingers are appreciated.

Here is the appearance by Barb and me on the Paula Sands Show recently, promoting Antiques Liquidation.

The first in a new series of e-book boxed sets from Wolfpack is available now – The Max Allan Collins Collection, Volume One: Eliot Ness. Works out to less than a buck a book!


E-Book:

There will be five e-book boxed sets in the overall Max Allan Collins Collection, plus a Mickey Spillane collection.

Come Spy With Me is set for a $.99 Kindle Countdown Deal Oct 19th – 25th.


E-Book:

The first review of the Spillane bio by Jim Traylor and me has just appeared, and it’s strong, despite being from the meanest, toughest reviewing service in the world: Kirkus.

SPILLANE King of Pulp Fiction
Author: Max Allan Collins
Author: James L. Traylor

Review Issue Date: November 15, 2022
Online Publish Date: October 20, 2022
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Pages: 400
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.95
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-61316-379-5
Section: NonFiction

A full-dress biography of the most polarizing practitioner of 20th-century crime fiction.

As Collins and Traylor note, nearly everyone deplored the sex and violence of Mickey Spillane’s (1918-2006) midcentury novels about private eye Mike Hammer—though that didn’t stop the millions of readers who catapulted him to the top of bestseller lists and kept him there. Delving into Spillane’s roots, the authors examine the evolution of comic-book hero Mike Lancer into Mike Hammer, cite contemporaneous reviewers who talked up or trash-talked Hammer’s adventures, and explore Spillane’s multimedia activities during the 10 years (1952-1962) of Hammer’s absence from the printed page. (Why the long silence? Collins and Traylor believe Spillane was waiting for his disadvantageous contract with film producer Victor Saville to expire). Warning in their opening chapter of spoilers ahead, the authors proceed to summarize the mysteries and solutions of all Hammer’s early novels. They’re at their best when mapping the Spillane metaverse, which includes novels, stories, articles, comic strips, radio broadcasts, TV programs, and movies, and weakest in their uncritical praise of their subject as a plotter, stylist, Jehovah’s Witness, and human being (a verdict his first two wives might have contested). “Mickey encouraged our best efforts, all the while sharing his humanity, generosity, and down-to-earth nature,” they write. “This book reflects not just our love for his work, but for the man, with thanks for his encouragement and friendship.” Spillane’s appealing directness provides an endless stream of anecdotes. The authors conclude with a formidable array of appendices, ranging from an autobiographical fragment that takes Spillane from birth to age 14 to an essay on “Ayn Rand and Mickey Spillane” to a brace of bibliographies and an account of some of their own extensive dealings with the author when he was alive and the work Collins has continued to complete since his death.

Fans who’ve been waiting for a life of Spillane will gobble this up.

A decent review of the new volume in the Titan archival Ms. Tree collections comes from the Slings and Arrows site.

M.A.C.

Poetry Slam: Terry B. & M.A.C. Plus Ms. Tree On TV!

October 11th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

I am still dealing with my A-fib (going in for a jump-start next week) and am slowed down by the condition as well as some heavy meds I’m on in prep for the procedure. So this week the update here is represented by this interview with Terry Beatty and me by the best pop culture interviewer on the planet, Andrew Sumner. Terry and I have rarely done joint interviews, so this is something of a rarity:

Ms. Tree: Deadline cover; Ms. Tree seated on a table pointing a smoking gun toward the viewer.
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
(Or at your local or online comic book store!)
E-Book: Google Play
* * *
Shoot-Out At Sugar Creek Cover
Paperback: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's

What is possibly the final Caleb York western (of six) will soon be published in paperback, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek. (Tuesday, October 25)

This is a review of the hardcover of Sugar Creek that appeared last year, and it’s a very good, smart one that’s worth reading for the first time or revisiting it.

I loved doing these westerns, and it’s unfortunate Kensington didn’t ask for more. But what had been an unproduced screenplay (for John Wayne) by Mickey Spillane has generated six fun books, so I have nothing to complain about.

This is a really nice write-up about the new Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, at the lively, fun site Jerry’s House of Everything.

And the similarly fun Borg site has a discussion of Tough Tender, the two-fer of Nolan novels, Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, the final two novels of the original Nolan run. Available from Hard Case Crime, my lifeline to readers!

M.A.C.

No Book Today, No Antiques Giveaway (Sung to the Tune of “No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits)

October 4th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins
Antiques Liquidation Cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Kobo

We would have liked on this update to announce a book giveaway for the Barbara Allan mystery, Antiques Liquidation, from Severn, the publication date of which is…today. But the copies we requested for the promotion have not yet arrived, so that will have to wait.

You may have more difficulty than usual finding this new novel about the comic misadventures of Brandy and Vivian Borne, because the last two books don’t seem to have made it into the Barnes & Noble buying system, at least not in any major way. Or BAM! either. That may change, and the handsome trade paperback of the previous one, Antiques Carry On, may be easier to find. (The return policy of our UK-based publisher is kinder on the trade paperbacks than the hardcovers.)

The focus of Severn (not exclusively, but their main market) is libraries, where the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries have always been strong.

Barb is working on her draft of the next one, Antiques Foe (pun on “faux”) while I work on the Nate Heller RFK book, Too Many Bullets. We have another book on the Severn contract so there will be at least one more of those. Barb is making noises about wrapping up the series, and she may be serious, but she has been making that threat for the last several books. They read fast and are fun, but they are hard books to write.

A long-running series has its delights and pitfalls, which are sometimes the same thing, like the pleasure of spending time with old friends (Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe are too of my favorite people even though they never really existed) and the nagging feeling you’re repeating yourself.

Probably the best (and hardest) thing about writing the Nate Heller novels is that each real crime/mystery I deal with is so different from the others that I never fall into the trap so many mystery writers have in their series – writing the same book again and again. Chandler is as good they come and yet he worked a very small patch of farmland over and over and never even bothered to rotate the crops.

Even when a Heller has a similar crime – the forthcoming The Big Bundle, like Stolen Away, is about a kidnapping – the difference in eras and personalities involved as well as the circumstances of the crimes keeps thing nicely different.

Barb is endlessly inventive in ways to get the girls into trouble, and I hope she’ll do at least three or four more of ‘em.

* * *

I hesitate to talk about my health issues because it only gets people writing me with concern even as I come across alarmist and whiny. But just about everybody my age has health issues, and lately mine has been A-fib. I had the cardioversion procedure not long ago – the third or fourth I’ve had since my 2016 heart adventures began – but it didn’t take (this is where I am jump-started like an old Buick). I have to go back in to repeat the procedure later this month.

Prepping for it, I was put on a really strong medication that set me on my ass (a medical condition, obviously) whereby my shortness of breath and wheezing, related to the A-fib, got much, much worse. Last night was an utterly sleepless one. Obviously, a bad reaction to the meds.

So I have stopped taking that particular medication and am close to normal (as if I ever was) but I tire easily and will be lucky just to keep up with my work till I get this behind me.

There is a very good chance that stress is responsible, and of course that I am responsible for that stress. I am a rave and ranter. My wife, in her first-floor office, hears coming from above blistering flurries of obscenities and rage that would bring tears to the gentle eyes
of any United States Marine. I am trying to keep in mind the mantra from Bill Murray in Meatballs – “It just doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter….”

And it really doesn’t. But everything I’ve accomplished in my career has come out of enthusiasm and intensity, by caring more about my work than I logically should. My biggest concern right now is that I don’t die before finishing Too Many Bullets. Which is a dumb-ass thing to be thinking, particularly from a guy who has been finishing one Mickey Spillane novel after another.

The punchline of this self-pitying soliloquy is that that’s why his week’s update is so damn short.

* * *
A Long Time Dead Cover
Softcover:
E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo iTunes

Some very nice reviews for Kill Me If You Can, the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel, at Amazon. Here’s a link where you can read them (and order the book!).

A very nice review of the Hammer short story “Skin” appears at the essential site, Paperback Warrior. [“Skin” can be found in the short story collection A Long Time Dead. The e-book is currently only $2.99 at Amazon and B&N. –Nate]

Here’s an interesting look at the locations used shooting the film version of Road to Perdition.

* * *
M.A.C.