Encore for “Encore”!

May 9th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

It was a big weekend for the movie version of our Golden Age Radio-style play, Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder.

M.A.C. and Editor/Producer Chad Bishop introduce Encore for Murder

Friday evening at Muscatine Community College, with much of the cast in attendance, Encore received its first public screening at the college’s “Black Box” theater. The turnout was fine – around 75 humans, some of whom came a considerable distance.

Uber-fans Mike and Jackie White from Bloomington, Illinois — they attended the live performance back in September, too!

My son Nate came from up the street, but that was a trip much appreciated by his pop. Others, like my old bandmate Charlie Koenigsaecker and his sister Karlyn (and a friend), came from Iowa City.

M.A.C. and Karen Cooney, co-director of the stage play, answer questions from the audience at the Muscatine Community College ‘Black Box’ theater.

I had not seen our little movie in a theatrical setting – or on a big screen at all – and didn’t know what to expect or how I’d react. The intention of editing our considerable amount of footage – four HD cameras shooting two dress rehearsals and the one-time-only performance – was to create (a) a record of what we accomplished, and (b) a video presentation that could be enjoyed at home.

The latter is how Encore will likely be experienced almost exclusively, as we have not entered it in further film festivals (more about that below) much less plan to offer it for theatrical exhibition. The most significant aspect of our little flick’s big weekend was that Friday afternoon I signed a contract with VCI Home Entertainment for them to bring out Encore as a sort of double-feature with our recently expanded (from 47 minutes to 61 minutes) documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, which we shot and assembled back in 1998. Encore is essentially a bonus feature, although it is actually half an hour longer than the film it supports.

It’s possible Encore will be issued separately and may be offered to streaming services as well. Seeing how well it played to the audience at MCC’s Black Box theater on Friday night is certainly encouraging. From the start, I wasn’t sure what we had.

The VCI release may happen as early as next October, by the way. Stay, as they say, tuned.

As some of you know, Encore began as one-page synopsis Mickey wrote for a book that he never wrote (it may have been intended to be a Stacy Keach TV movie). In 2009 I was approached to write two Mike Hammer audio novels, each of which would be around three hours long, with Keach as Hammer supported by full casts drawing upon Chicago talent, including the likes of Saturday Night Live’s Tim Kazurinsky, and with my pal Mike Cornelison as Pat Chambers. The first, The Little Death, came out in 2010 and won the Audie for Best Original work. The second, Encore for Murder, came out in 2011, and was nominated for the same award.

In 2010, I was asked to stage Encore, in Golden Age Radio style, at a mystery festival in Owensboro, Kentucky. Gary Sandy, an area resident there in Kentucky, would play Mike Hammer – Gary had been one of the leads in my movie Mommy’s Day (1996) and we were old pals. The director and several cast members were veterans of the great comedy group Firesign Theater, so I would be in good hands.

Encore was well-received at Owensboro, although the production was strictly Golden Age Radio-style – actors with scripts at microphones, a Foley artist in the pit.

In 2018, Encore for Murder, again with Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer, was staged in the Murray Theater at Ruth Eckerd Hall by legendary Broadway producer, Zev Buffman. Zev presented it as a hybrid of a Golden Age Radio-style production (i.e., actors using scripts at microphones) but mixed in theatrical elements, including costuming, and a musical score, with the Foley table on stage and utilizing a big projection screen for scene-setting slides. I had been skeptical of this approach, but I was wrong.

Last year, when I was approached by local theater maven Karen Cooney about doing a Golden Age Radio Show-style play as a fund-raiser for the local Art Center, I offered Encore for that purpose. Karen pushed me to approach Gary to reprise Hammer, but I was reluctant, as we had zero budget. But I gently broached the subject with him…and he was immediately on board. And he had no intention of asking for a fee for a fund-raiser.

The cast rehearsed without him for several weeks – I sat in as Hammer. We had two Iowa-to-Kentucky phone calls with Gary and ran the script in our first run-throughs with our star. Privately, he gave me notes for the cast, but was overwhelmingly positive and, like me, was surprised by how on target they were. I had already dragged Barb to the second rehearsal to see if my judgment was correct – were these people good, or did I just want them to be? Barb, a tough critic, said they were indeed very good.

Gary showed up a day early for the two days and one performance he’d agreed to, and I got in touch with my longtime movie collaborator Phil Dingeldein. I convinced Phil to shoot the performance and encouraged him to grab the two dress rehearsals. I was starting to think we had something.

So the shooting was both spur-of-the-moment and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. Fortunately Chad Bishop – our contact with the college, where we’d been rehearsing, and the very funny, skillful Foley artist who would be on stage throughout – was adept with camera himself, and collaborated with Phil in camera placement. We would have a surprising number of angles to choose from, since we were shooting two rehearsals.

The audience at the live performance was pretty much standing room only, and the whole cast was good, but Gary – a very skilled stage performer – owned the place. His Hammer struck me as just right – tongue-in-cheek when he needed to be, gently kidding the material (much as Darren McGavin and Stacy Keach both had) but tough as nails when necessary. The audience got on board quickly with the potentially off-putting format of actors using scripts in what split the difference between a performed play and a staged reading.

It’s a bit of blur how we edited it together, Chad and I. But we did and I enjoyed working with this imaginative and very skillful editor. And I loved being back in an editing suite again, which is where a movie is made. I shake my head when I hear about bigtime directors walking away while an editor does a “first assemblage.”

When we finished, I was well aware we had something that was neither fish nor fowl. Encore really required an audience to get on board with the Golden Age Radio format to enjoy it. Live, Gary’s infectiously enthusiastic performance swept up the crowd. I didn’t know whether that would be conveyed in a recorded version, and was too close to the material to tell.

One of the first things I did, when we completed the edit, was enter Encore in the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival and the Iowa Motion Picture Awards, competitions where I have done very well in the past. Cedar Rapids did not nominate us and that was a blow. But the four categories we entered in the Iowa Motion Picture Awards resulted in three nominations. Ironically, the one category in which we were not nominated was Editing, and I knew that if Encore was anything, it was a triumph of editing over material that had not been intended for the purpose we were putting it to.

For example. We had four cameras going on performance night, and only two camera persons on them – Phil and Chad’s assistant Jeremy Ferguson. One of those cameras shut itself off – the crucial angle – and did not record the last fifteen minutes of the performance. So we had to create a new last fifteen minutes from the recordings of the two dress rehearsals and the remaining three camera angles from the performance.

Other times, where a line was flubbed on performance night, we had to loop in dialogue from a dress rehearsal. All the sound mixing (music included) was done live, on stage, by Foley artist Chad. We turned the two-act play into one continuous narrative, cutting about five minutes.

Really, we shouldn’t have been able to come up with anything at all…and maybe Cedar Rapids was right.

Saturday night, in Forest City, Iowa, at an event I could not attend (more later), I won the Award of Excellence for Direction and the feature itself won an Award of Achievement (essentially, second place in the feature film category).

In defense of any judge looking at Encore, they would be quite within their rights to squint at what we did and shake their heads and say, “What is that, anyway?” Because Encore is something of a unique animal.

It has a strong, even charismatic performance by an actor with a classic TV sitcom and Broadway starring roles on his CV. But the rest of the cast is unknown – semi-pros and amateurs, all from a little town in Iowa. The actors hold scripts. Mike Hammer’s gun is a pointing forefinger. Actors play several roles. It’s radio. But you can see it.

I will not likely enter Encore in any festivals because what happened at Cedar Rapids is likely to happen again. The judges either won’t know what it is they’re supposed to judge, or they will only sample the piece – watch the first five minutes or so – and dismiss it…when you have to take the ride to get anywhere. If you experience Gary’s performance, and my snappy, pretty funny script, which progressively builds, you will have a good time.

I am told some excellent films were shown at Cedar Rapids, and I don’t doubt that. It’s a fun festival and I wish we’d been in it, and I think their walk-in audience – the theater is on Collins Road, after all – would have got a kick out of Encore. But we will settle for our two IMPA awards, and a signed contract for home video and streaming release.

Iowa Motion Picture Association President Jim Brockholn accepts two awards for the absent M.A.C. for Encore for Murder.
* * *

I mentioned in passing that Barb and I weren’t able to drive to Forest City, Iowa, to attend the Iowa Motion Picture Awards. Though it’s a long drive (four hours one way), we were looking forward to it. Hotel booked and everything. But then last Sunday I had another episode with a-fib and wound up at the hospital on Tuesday.

I wasn’t in over night, but I had what I think is my fifth cardioversion procedure, and this one has been a bitch from which to recuperate. Today (Sunday again) I am finally feeling like me. I was fearful I wouldn’t be up for attending my own movie premiere Friday night (!), but I did fine. Nothing like laughter and applause to make an old ham’s aches and pains go away.

My future likely holds another procedure – ablation – and I must assure my friends and readers that considering the laundry list of things wrong with me, I feel fine and am doing fine. But this has finally slowed me down.

On the other hand, I am at my best when I’m working, so I think you’ll see more stuff flying out of my printer in the days, months and maybe even years ahead. Maybe not as much, but more than most.

* * *

At the Encore premiere, we did something of a pitch for support (financial and otherwise) for our next planned production, Blue Christmas. We should know this month if we get a piece of that Greenlight grant. If not, we’ll find a way to make it just the same.

But I continue to offer perks here that are not on the Indiegogo site. Depending on how much you pitch in, I will work with you to come up with things from your M.A.C. want list that I can fill. Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Make your donation at the Indiegogo site and then e-mail and let me know how much you’ve kicked in.

In the Q and A after Encore, Barb called out that she had paid $500 to be an Associate Producer. I responded, “Young lady, if you sleep with the director, you can be an Executive Producer.” Got a huge laugh, including from her.

We are past the half-way mark money-wise with about twenty days to go. Your name will be on screen and NOT in tiny letters, I promise.


About Losing the Edgar

May 2nd, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

Before I discuss losing the Edgar, I want to mention a winning promotion from Thomas and Mercer on certain of my titles on e-book.
True Detective () and True Crime () (the first two Nathan Heller novels) will be offered at $1.99 via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 5/1/2023 and running through 5/31/2023. Also on sale at Amazon during that period are three titles by me and my buddy Matt Clemens – What Doesn’t Kill Her () ($1.99), Fate of the Union () ($.99) and Executive Order () ($3).

* * *
Quarry's Blood Cover
Trade Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Audible Purchase Link

I, of course, did not win the Edgar for Best Paperback, but I assure you I was convinced I wouldn’t. I didn’t go to New York for the ceremony, which – if I thought I had a hootin’ chance in hell – I would have.

Quarry’s Blood is the 16th entry in a series that began in 1976 (actually 1971), and novels in long-running series almost never get nominated by the Edgars. Furthermore, the Quarry novels are perceived by more delicate readers as nasty, and they aren’t necessarily wrong. In any event, I am grateful to those of you who have made Quarry and me a cult success.

This experience – sitting at home, not even remembering that the Edgars were going on in New York while Barb and I watched a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode – was a very good one. Why? Because I have always taken awards too seriously. I have always wanted to win them, being naturally competitive, which has largely been a positive thing in my career, a driving force if you will.

But at this ripe old age I now realize how meaningless awards are. Well, relatively meaningless. If Jim Traylor and I do not get an Edgar nomination for Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, I guarantee you it will disappoint me. But if we don’t get an Edgar nomination, what is the difference, ultimately? Our Spillane bio is no less definitive and ground-breaking if it does not receive a nomination.

On the most basic level, I have looked at awards as the kind of validation that can keep me in business – much the same way good reviews can benefit a writer’s reputation. A wise soul once said, “If you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad reviews, too.” So I have never allowed myself to believe that an award, or a good review, is anything but an opinion, and a potentially useful sales tool. Awards don’t make me a good writer, nor do good reviews. Readers liking my work make me a good writer; editors liking my work make me a good writer; sufficient sales make me a good writer. Or anyway keep me in business.

My father was a respected, even beloved member of our small community (Muscatine, Iowa, has a population of around 25,000 residents). In the early ‘50s, he was the first high school music teacher to mount productions of Oklahoma and Carousel, attracting national attention (they were excellent productions, too). When he left teaching to go into industry as a personnel man, he hired hundreds of people in this community who loved him for it. At the same time he directed a male chorus (the Muscatine Elks Chanters) – for fifty years! – that won so many national championships that the competition was shut down and the Chanters were made the permanent champs. That chorus is gone now because my father is gone – he was their engine and a genius who could make any group of random men sound like a professional chorus.

When he passed, Barb and I stood looking at a wall of award plaques and a tabletop of awards representing all his triumphs and achievements. All but a handful went into the trash. We did not do this cavalierly, but realistically – where would we display them? Where would we store them? We selected the most important ones and the rest of these once precious items, we tossed.

I have – what is the polite term? – a shitload of awards on display in my office and the really important ones are in the living room. Of these, I think my family is likely to hold onto the ones I prize most highly – my Grand Master Edgar from the Mystery Writers of American and my three Shamus awards. Maybe my lifetime achievement from the PWA. Otherwise, it’s probably into the landfill with awards that at the time (and for some time thereafter) meant a lot to me.

Artists – and I am one – are always looking for validation, because the two inescapable facts about all artists (every damn one of them) is their insane confidence in the value of their work and their inner fear that they are frauds. Too much confidence, and no confidence at all. That is the cocktail from which every artist drinks.

If they say otherwise, they are lying, or about as reflective as a broken mirror.

You bet I would like to have won an Edgar for Quarry’s Blood. But I was lucky, incredibly lucky, for that kind of recognition for my fifty year-old series, which happens to be littered with sex scenes and carnage and sometimes black humor (in questionable taste). There were over 250 submissions for Best Paperback, and I made the cut.

Charles Ardai, my great editor at the great Hard Case Crime, insisted I write an acceptance speech, “just in case” (he, too, accurately felt the odds were very much against me).

Anyway, this would have been my acceptance speech (delivered by Charles):

“Quarry was created at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in 1971. Looks like we both have finally graduated. My thanks to editor Charles Ardai (who did not insist I say this) for giving me the opportunity to revive this cult character. And also, for inspiration, to my late mentor Donald E. Westlake, who reminded me that a cult author is seven readers short of making a living.”

* * *

Paul Davis, who writes about crime fiction at the Washington Times, wrote an astonishing three pieces about Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction. This incredible attention was followed by a favorable reaction to the new Nate Heller novel (from Hard Case Crime), The Big Bundle. He interviewed me about it, and here it is:

A Private Eye Witness To History: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Max Allan Collins ‘The Big Bundle’

This interesting and insightful crime novel is about a fictional private eye traversing through a begone era and a true and once famous child kidnapping.

In “The Big Bundle,” Max Allan Collins’ 18th novel featuring Nathan Heller, the private detective appears alongside Robert F. Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa, as well as historical crime and law enforcement figures involved in the real-life kidnapping of a millionaire’s son in 1953.

I contacted Mr. Collins and asked him to describe “The Big Bundle.”

“In many respects, it’s a private eye thriller in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane,” Mr. Collins replied. “I was moving to a new publisher, Hard Case Crime, and knew their audience was steeped in hardboiled fiction and might be put off by the famous crimes I usually look at in a Nathan Heller novel. The real-life case in ‘The Big Bundle,’ quite well known in the 1950s but forgotten now, allowed me to put the emphasis on the noir aspect of the Heller novels and not be accused of teaching a “history lesson.”

How would you describe Nathan Heller?

“Heller is a businessman who starts out in a small office where he sleeps on a Murphy bed and winds up with a coast-to-coast detective agency. He is not the typical Phillip Marlowe-style modern-day knight who would never take a bribe or seduce a virgin — Heller has done both and often indulges in situational ethics. Unlike most fictional private eyes, he marries (more than once) and is a father and had a father and mother and even grandparents. He ages with the years. At any age, Heller recoils at injustice in society and serves up rough justice when he feels it necessary. He not only knows where the bodies are buried, he has buried more than his share.”

Why have you written a series of crime novels based on historical events with a fictional character interacting with historical figures?

“Rereading ‘The Maltese Falcon’ for a college class I was teaching in the early 1970s, I noticed the 1929 copyright. I had a light-bulb moment: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was 1929 — Sam Spade and Al Capone were contemporaries! Instead of Mike Hammer meeting a Capone type, I could have Capone meeting a Mike Hammer type. It was a fresh way into a form that had gone stale,” Mr. Collins (seen in the bottom photo) explained. “What evolved, from the initial novel about Frank Nitti’s Chicago (“True Detective,” 1983), was Heller solving famous unsolved or controversially solved crimes, like the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Black Dahila murder, the assassinations of Huey Long and JFK. Often, I substitute him for a real detective involved in a case. Heller becomes a sort of ‘private eye witness’ to history.”

How did you research the history that you use in “The Big Bundle”?

“Less was available about the Greenlease case than with most mysteries Heller has tackled — both Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, the Roswell incident, required dealing with a staggering number of books and voluminous newspaper and magazine material. Only a handful of books about the Greenlease kidnapping existed to draw upon in “The Big Bundle.” But the political aspect — Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa’s involvement in the aftermath of the ransom’s disappearance — meant referring to several dozen nonfiction works, as well as the usual newspaper and magazine articles, which the kidnapping itself also generated. The idea is that I prepare to write the definitive nonfiction book on a real crime or mystery. Then I write a private eye novel instead.”

Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you about the kidnapping and other elements you use in your novel?

“Automobiles were everywhere in the narrative, befitting the postwar boom in car buying and interstate travel. Key events took place at a famous no-tell motel, the Coral Court, outside St. Louis. A crooked taxicab company was caught up in the probable theft of half the ransom, and every criminal in the case seemed either to drive a Caddy or want to — purchased inevitably at one of the many Midwestern Cadillac dealerships owned by the kidnap victim’s father.”

Do you plan to continue the Nathan Heller series?

“Too Many Bullets” has been completed, with Heller present in the pantry at the Ambassador Hotel when Robert Kennedy was shot. It’s an open-and-shut case, supposedly, yet the research indicates otherwise. In many respects, the real story is like something out of Raymond Chandler: hit men, crooked cops, a crazy hypnotist, a duplicitous showgirl. That comes out in October, again from Hard Case Crime. There may be one more after that. The degree of difficulty here is high, however, and I just turned 75, so it depends on how well Heller and I hold up.”

* * *

CBR.com has this good article about the comic book roots of Mike Hammer.

Encore for Murder Screening Info. Friday, May 5 at 7pm, in the MCC Big Box Theater, Strahan Hall. Donations accepted.

For those of you close enough to Muscatine, Iowa, to consider attending, here’s the info about the screening of Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder starring Gary Sandy this coming Friday, May 5.

And finally thanks to those of you who have contributed to the Indiegogo campaign for Blue Christmas, and I hope more of you will consider pitching. We’re just under $1700 (of the $5000 goal) with about a month left to go.


Encore for Filmmaking

April 25th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

This new e-book collection of the three John Sand spy thrillers by Matthew Clemens and me is available from Wolfpack and, for the first time, includes Murderlized, a collection of our stories, one of which is the first John Sand story.

Max Allan Collins Collection Volume Two: John Sand cover image

An informal meeting of Quad Cities area filmmakers was put on at dphilms on Saturday, April 24. Since I‘ve largely been away from indie filmmaking in the area – though of course I’ve done some screenwriting in the interim – it was a nice opportunity to see some new and old (and in between) faces.

Quad Cities area filmmakers meet at dphilms
Quad Cities Filmmakers Meet at Dphilms, Rock Island. Chad Bishop and Max Collins at far left, Phil Dingeldein centerstage (next to colorful painting).

I had frankly thought filmmaking was behind me. The last thing I shot was an award-winning short in 2007 called “An Inconsequential Matter” starring my friend and longtime collaborator, Michael Cornelison (it’s a bonus feature on the Eliot Ness Blu-ray (), with excellent cinematography by Phil Dingeldein). Mike had starred in both the stage and movie version of Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life in 2005, as well as narrated Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane and my comics-history documentary, Caveman: V.T. Hamlin and Alley Oop (). Mike worked with my right up to the end of his too short life, appearing as Pat Chambers on both Mike Hammer audio presentations, “The Little Death” (winner of an Audie for Best Original Work) in 2010 and “Encore for Murder” (nominated in that same Audie category) in 2011.

Mike Cornelison

Losing Mike – who was as valuable a collaborator to me as is my friend Phil – took the wind out of my filmmaking sails. I have, of course, had some things happen since then in the movie realm – we sold Heller to FX and I wrote the pilot (never produced), Quarry became an HBO/Cinemax series in 2016 (and I wrote an episode) and I’ve written a screenplay, Cap City, for director David Wexler. Recently, Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by Brad Schwartz and me has been optioned by CBS Films, Nolan has been optioned by Lionsgate, and Mike Hammer (not just Mickey’s novels but the joint Spillane/Collins ones) just closed a deal at Skydance. Some serious interest is also afoot for the Antiques series, Ms. Tree and Fancy Anders.

With Hollywood, you never know, but there has been a lot going on. The truth is, on these projects my direct involvement is likely to be limited to being the source writer and a consultant, and maybe getting to write an episode of anything that goes to series (Hammer appears to be on track for a feature film, which is great, but there’s no way I would get to write it).

After my heart and cancer surgery, I figured my moviemaking days were over, and they may largely be. We shall see as we shall see. But the “instant” movie that Encore For Murder with Gary Sandy became – a rather last minute decision to shoot the live semi-pro production with multiple cameras – is what really got me going. Sitting with the gifted Chad Bishop in his editing suite, seeing our little movie come to life, reminded me how much I love doing that kind of thing.

This is a good time to remind you that – if you are close enough to Muscatine, Iowa, to make the trip (the Merrill Hotel is great, by the way) – Mickey Spillane’s Encore for Murder, the movie, will be shown at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5, at Muscatine Community College. The details are here.

We will also be answering questions about our upcoming production of Blue Christmas, my return to serious indie movie production. Chad Bishop, my producer on the project, will be present as well as much of the Encore cast (not Gary Sandy, though).

If you’ve dropped by here in recent weeks, you’ll know that we have launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding effort to raise a mere $5000 (of course in Iowa five grand is not “mere”) intended either to provide some matching funds required by the Greenlight Iowa grant we’re going after, or (should we not get that grant) to help fund a version of Blue Christmas along the lines of a recorded live production a la Encore (however not Golden Age Radio style – plenty of bells and whistles).

As an incentive strictly to those of you nice enough to show up here at my weekly Update, I will offer a perk to anyone who comes in at any level by way of some item from your M.A.C. want list. Now somebody at the $25 or $35 level needs to be sane about what books and such they put on their want list. Larger contributions mean you can shoot higher and, in any event, I will do my best to make it worth your while. (This has a nice Nate Heller sleazy sound to it, doesn’t it?)

Your name will go in the credits at the $100 level, and at $500 you get screen credit as an Associate Producer, enabling you to impress your more gullible friends. There are other perks mentioned at Indiegogo, and at that level you can probably talk me out of something rare from my private stash.

An Executive Producer credit is available at (choke) $2000.

As I write this we are at $1440 – 28% of our goal, with a little over a month left on the campaign.

* * *
Quasi (2023) movie poster

For those of you with a twisted sense of humor, I have a couple of film recommendations for you.

Just debuting this past week on Hulu – wholly unexpected to me – is the latest from the Broken Lizard comedy team, Quasi, the only Quasimodo movie that lacks a bell tower. I love Broken Lizard. They are masters of smart dumb comedy. The movie everyone knows – and most comedy fans adore – is Super Troopers. They write the scripts together and – with the exception of the crowdfunder Super Troopers 2, produced a decade and a half later – always go after a different subject or genre. Hence, Super Troopers 1 & 2 (cops), Club Dread (horror films), Beerfest (well, beer), Slamin’ Salmon (the restaurant game), and now Quasi (historical epic). Various team members have taken the “hero” role in these films, and various of them have directed, most often prolific TV director, Jay Chandraskekhar, although Kevin Heffernan directed both Slamin’ Salmon and Quasi.

The humor in Quasi comes from a cheerfully anachronistic approach to dialogue and a sweetness surprising for a film depicting somebody’s ballsack being nailed to a wooden block. It recalls Monty Python’s Holy Grail (the Broken Lizard guys each play multiple roles) and Start the Revolution Without Me, but despite the nonstop silliness, Quasi is more concerned with story than either of its two probable inspirations.

I watched it twice.

As I’ve mentioned before, a while back Barb and I saw Broken Lizard perform live at the Englert Theater in Iowa City and got to spend some time with them after. They were nice, normal human beings, funny and approachable, exhausted from the show they’d just presented but signing all of our DVDs and Blu-rays with patience and even joy. (Probably helped that I had their somewhat obscure first outing, Puddle Cruiser.)

Streaming on Peacock, the already notorious Cocaine Bear proves to be the funniest gory movie since Evil Dead 2. Its humor is a blend of Coen character eccentricities, Three Stooges slapstick, and jawdropping carnage. It’s largely about parenthood – specifically, motherhood. I realize some horror fans want it to be even gorier and dislike the amount of humor – for me, the fact that I’m laughing to the point of pain while watching humans getting torn apart strikes just the right balance.

* * *

Back Issue, an outstanding magazine on comics history, covered my brief run (one continuity) on the Batman comic strip. It’s really in depth with lots of Marshall Rogers art, and I would encourage you to seek it out.

Finally, here’s a decent Kirkus review of the imminently forthcoming Mad Money, collecting Spree and Mourn the Living, the last of Hard Case Crime’s reprint series of the Nolan novels.


Please, Sir, I Want Some More…Money

April 18th, 2023 by Max Allan Collins

We have about a month and a half to raise $5000 for our movie of Blue Christmas (we’re at $550 as I write this). It’s your opportunity to help us make a good little film, and to see your name on screen – being thanked, or even given a claim to fame as an Associate Producer or (if you’re flush and really want to pep up your resumé) Executive Producer.

Physical media-type perks have not been offered, but I’m going to give the nice folks who drop by here an opportunity that isn’t part of the Indiegogo page. If you contribute $25 to $500 range, write me at macphilms@hotmail.com and include a list of books by me that you are lacking in your M.A.C. collection…hard to find, out of print, and/or pricey stuff. I’ll do my best to send you something, signed (personalized if you like) from that list. If I can’t comply, we’ll discuss other options via e-mail. Don’t ask for first editions of True Detective, True Crime, Stolen Away (hardcover), or the original trade edition of Road to Perdition unless you are going in at the Associate Producer level (a few pages of original art from Ms. Tree, Wild Dog and Mike Danger would be available at that level). If you’re interested in being an Executive Producer, we’ll talk.

Associate Producers and of course any Executive Producer will be able to arrange a visit to the set.

Again, this offer is not being mentioned on the Indiegogo page. This is for readers of the F.O.M.A.C. blog.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a Plan A and Plan B for Blue Christmas. Plan A will require our receiving a grant from Produce Iowa’s Greenlight competition. Chad Bishop has put together a presentation for us that is absolutely outstanding, but the competition is considerable. Reaching the goal in the Indiegogo campaign will help us come up with the necessary matching funds, should we prevail.

If we are not a recipient of funds from Iowa’s Greenlight competition, we will go forward with Plan B: a play version of Blue Christmas, which would be produced live and recorded much as we did Encore for Murder, only with full-on pre-production (Encore’s shooting as very much a last-minute decision, based upon what we felt was emerging as a strong production, thanks to a strong local cast and a wonderful guest performance from Gary Sandy).

For those of you in (or near) Eastern Iowa, we are presenting the premiere of the movie version of Encore for Murder on May 5 (having postponed it due to weather). The info accompanies the photo here.

M.A.C. at the MCC Black Box Theater
Courtesy Muscatine Journal
[Correction: The time is 7pm, not 7am. There will be no breakfast showing of Encore for Murder.]

Speaking of Encore, we have delivered it and the new expanded edition of my documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane to VCI Home Entertainment. With Phil Dingeldein backing me up, I recorded a commentary for the documentary (which now runs 61 minutes) at TAG (the ad agency affiliated with dphilms).

I am not doing a commentary for Encore because it’s being presented (I think appropriately) as a bonus feature with the documentary. The new approximately fifteen minutes of footage that Phil and I shot as a wraparound for the doc brings it up to date, including Mickey’s passing and the efforts to bring his unpublished material to completion and publication. It also includes interview footage with Encore actors (Gary Sandy discusses playing Mike Hammer) which provides me an opportunity in the commentary to explain the circumstances of the production of the Golden Age Radio-style play as a fundraiser for our (Muscatine, Iowa’s) local art museum. Essentially, this sets up the bonus feature.

Please note that, in our Indiegogo effort to raise 5K for Blue Christmas, we are not going after a s**t-load of money. I have designed the screenplay to be shot on a bare bones budget, though I think without compromising the material.

Compare this to the kind of money that Riff Trax (God bless ‘em) raises just to lambast somebody else’s movie (half a million bucks on their current one, and we’re seeking a “mere” five thousand).

Imagine me pleading with giant kitty eyes and see if your heartstrings (and pocket book) aren’t touched.

Blue Christmas is, frankly, an experiment to see if I’m up to directing a film, starting out with this low-budget affair that is designed not to be a challenging shoot in terms of locations, stunts, length of shoot, etc. I had assumed, after my heart and cancer surgeries – and the continuing medications that have followed them – that my movie-making days were over…that my contribution to film would be relegated to providing source material by way of my prose and comics work, and by the occasional screenplay.

But the “instant movie” that was the stage production of Encore for Murder got my filmic juices flowing again. Blue Christmas is designed in part to see what I am capable of at this ripe old age. My health, for someone with so much wrong with me, appears to be pretty damn good.

So we shall see, as they say, what we shall see.

* * *

Remember how I whined a few weeks ago about my lack of support at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Barnes & Noble? A return visit found one (count ‘em, one) copy of The Big Bundle available, no copies of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, but a nice display of some Nolan Hard Case Crime titles.

The Davenport Barnes & Noble, however, is giving me stellar support, as these photographs indicate. No need to whine here.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of Kisses of Death, the Nathan Heller short story collection from some time ago. These stories were rearranged with additional ones in two volumes from Thomas & Mercer, Chicago Lightning and Triple Play, short stories in the former, novellas in the latter.

The first six volumes of the collected Dick Tracy are coming out from Clover Press, making them physically compatible with the subsequent IDW printings. Each has an intro by me.

Here’s a nice little review of Kill Me If You Can, the current Mike Hammer novel.

Finally, this is a nice assessment of the film version of Road to Perdition.