No Time to Spy 99, OSS 117, and Stranger Things 4

May 31st, 2022 by Max Allan Collins
No Time to Spy
E-Book: Amazon
Paperback: Amazon

No Time to Spy – the collection of the three John Sand novels by Matt Clemens and me – is going on sale for an astonishing 99-cents (for the e-book) at Amazon starting today (May 31 at 12 a.m.) and ending June 6 (at 11 p.m.). Those are Pacific times.

For those of you who haven’t tried these books, this is an excellent low-cost opportunity. The response has generally been very good to the Sand novels, but a couple of supposed “big fans” of mine have attacked them for various reasons that seem specious to me. For one thing, they apparently don’t understand that the John Le Carre school of spy fiction (which I admire) is different from the Ian Fleming school (which I adore).

The premise of the trilogy, as you may know from previous updates here, is that John Sand is the real-life spy that James Bond was based on, and that Ian Fleming was a colleague who used Sand’s experiences as a basis for his fiction. The publicity that Sand receives as the basis of Bond forces him out of the spy game; also, he marries a very wealthy young woman – a Texas oil heiress – in an echo of what occurs in both the book and film of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, minus the tragedy.

Matt and I never mention Bond and Fleming by name, but it’s obviously an open secret. The books are larger than life, in the fashion of the Bond novels and films, but are at the same time quite tough and the frequent action can be violent, even shocking. The sexual content is largely limited to the married couple’s couplings.

The novels are, in order: Come Spy With Me; Live Fast, Spy Hard; and To Live and Spy in Berlin.

Matt and I had hoped to do at least one more Sand novel, but despite general positive reader response, sales have not encouraged us to do so. If this 99-cent sale pushes us onto Amazon bestseller lists, even briefly, that could change.

The ignorance of the handful of readers who have denigrated the books for being spoofs are the kind who can’t see the difference between Harry Palmer and Austin Powers.

OSS 117: From Africa With Love

This is not to say I don’t like a good Bond spoof, and a third in the film series of what is (in my opinion) the greatest satiric response to Bond is now available – OSS 117:
From Africa With Love
, again starring Jean Dujardin (of The Artist fame) as secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath. The third film does not seem to be on any of the streaming services, but can be purchased on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon.

The first two films, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009), are also available from Amazon in French with English subtitles on both Blu-ray and DVD. E-bay has both of these from various sources. E-bay also has From Africa With Love, but I ordered editions listed as having English subtitles and it wasn’t till my third try that I landed on a version that had that essential option. I would stick with ordering from Amazon.

What’s great about these films – they are strictly parodies of the Connery era, the star physically resembling the “real” James Bond – is that they work as Fleming-style spy stories with the hilarious inclusion of a Bond clone who is bone-headedly politically incorrect and in some ways a dope…and yet he’s a credible action hero. None of the other parodies of Bond accomplish that.

This new film finds OSS 117 actually growing and changing by the final scene…perhaps not dramatically, as it would appear his growth is largely limited to not patting the asses of the pretty females at the spy office as a greeting.

And you will adore the opening credits with the fake Bond theme song and faux Maurice Binder visuals.

I love these movies and wish they were more readily available. But if you’re a Bond fan, you need to see them. Also worthwhile is the boxed set of the original French OSS 117 films, which are among the better Bond imitations of the ‘60s.

* * *
Stranger Things Season 4 poster

I wrote at some length last week about the assorted streaming mini-series we have been watching. We picked up on season four of Stranger Things, which Netflix has just “dropped” as they say (an expression I could do without). I will tell you right now that Barb bailed before the end of the first episode, and I don’t blame her.

Having really liked the preceding seasons, I hung in there and watched the first two episodes – which were long, around an hour and twenty minutes each, far too long for a premise as wispy as that of Stranger Things. I have continued on and will stick it out to the end.

But the opening two episodes are a tough go. They present a version of high school that is simplistic and ridiculous – for example, El (who has lost her powers and apparently also her spine) is picked on by…everybody, at a school filled only with bullies. Several new annoying characters are introduced right when we’re trying to remember who the recurring characters are, some of whom are hard to recognize at first. After all, it’s been three years, real time, since the previous season. The kid actors all look much too old for the six months, story time, that have elapsed. Those annoying new characters include a rebel who looks to be about 35 and a pizza delivery hippie whose sub-Cheech-and-Chong comedy relief is painful to endure.

When the high school stuff fades and the sci-fi/horror stuff kicks in, Stranger Things gets back on recognizable track, uneven but rewarding. The biggest problem is the shifting tone, with the Winona Ryder storyline comic (despite tragic circumstances) and her sidekick conspiracy theorist, bearded Brett Gelman, often uncomfortably hammy.

The first two very long episodes are written and directed by the creators, the Duffer Brothers. Surprisingly, it’s the subsequent episodes by other hands that are what bring the season around. The creators seem to let their actors go over the top, unbridled, with Gelman (much better in non-Duffer-directed episodes) and newcomer Joseph Munson (the rebel Eddie Munson…get it, Munster?) their chief victims. These first two episodes are weak on Direction 101 items like matching action and, well, pacing.

The pop culture references get laid on a little thick, too. We have Robert Englund repeatedly scratching his insane asylum-cell table with his fingernails (Freddie Krueger, get it?) and the kids entering a haunted house right out of (the much better) It. Krueger is playing Victor Kreel (Victor Crawley horror franchise, check) as he subs for Hannibal Lecter offering convicted-serial-killer advice from his cell.

Why watch?

Well, once you get past the first two ill-judged episodes, the Eleven story kicks in, in a satisfying way. Most of the young actors are terrific, especially Sadie Sink (and her character is into Kate Bush, which reveals good taste on somebody’s part, probably the Duffers, giving credit where it’s due). Really, all of the recurring characters are fine, with Millie Bobby Brown a standout, once she ditches the suddenly-El-is-a-five-year-old bit. Of the original group Gaten Matarazzo remains winning – the heart of the ensemble.

It’s not the Duffer Brothers’ fault that Covid happened and three years passed, damaging the believability of cast members as kids younger than they’re playing. That a number of new actors were cast as teenagers and look at least thirty is the creators’ fault.

What I think happened is this: the brothers were in the right place with the right idea at the right time to be one of the first binge-worthy shows, really jump-starting Netflix. But in the meantime some other gifted creators have taken advantage of the limited-season, limited-series approach, and upped the ante. This season of Stranger Things does not compare to Gaslit, The Offer, The Staircase, or Better Call Saul.

Not even close.

* * *

Road to Perdition is on this list of the best noirs to date of the 21st Century.

M.A.C.

A New Novella, TV Mini-Series Reviews and Legacy Books

May 24th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

This week I am working on my draft of the last five chapters of Cutout, the novella Barb and I are doing for Neo-Text. It will appear as a trade paperback, available through Amazon, and of course an e-book. No pub date yet, but Neo-Text moves fast.

Cutout marks Barb’s return to her tight, third-person style that she honed in her years writing short stories, which culminated in the novels Regeneration and Bombshell, co-written by me (now available from Wolfpack – the trade paperbacks are lovely).

We have, of course, been writing the Antiques series since then, and it’s been a long-running success, although we were not offered a new contract by Kensington and moved to Severn, where Antiques Liquidation (our second Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery for the UK house, after Antiques Carry On) will be published on October 4.

Barb had begun to get an itch to do something else, as evidenced by a short story we co-wrote that appeared not long ago in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2021) under our “Barbara Allan” joint pseudonym. For over a year she’s been mulling (her maiden name is Mull) doing an espionage-tinged novel called Cutout, and we discussed it often, plotting it over a restaurant lunch (as is our habit). I came to feel it was either a novella or a young adult novel, in part because its protagonist is a young woman in her freshman year of college, but also because it needed to be probably no longer than 40,000 or at most 50,000 words – at least as initially conceived. Barb had in a mind a very spare, almost minimalist style for this one.

With Neo-Text a market for my novellas – witness Fancy Anders Goes to War – we decided to go with that length, which will be in the neighborhood of 30,000 words.

We were able to sell it to Neo-Text on a basis of the first third or so of the manuscript plus a fairly detailed synopsis. I’ve been doing my drafts of chapters with Barb out ahead of me, and now she’s completed her draft and I have five chapters (of sixteen) to go.

All I can tell you is it seems very, very good to me.

I will keep you posted.

* * *

We seem to be in a sort of Golden Age of TV mini-series, thanks to the hungry eye of streaming services. I would like to point out a few that might be worthy of your time.

The Staircase

The Staircase (HBO, streaming on HBO Max) charts the notorious Michael Peterson case, in which the author of Vietnam thrillers is accused of the murder of his wife. This true-crime-based drama was already the subject of a well-known documentary, streaming on Netflix, also called The Staircase. The documentary is fascinating and, while somewhat flawed in stacking the deck at least slightly in Peterson’s favor, a worthwhile watch, despite its thirteen-episode length. But the dramatic mini-series is its own animal and quite good, dealing with material not covered in the documentary, including much more about Peterson’s wife and family, his experiences in prison, and the seemingly ridiculous but actually compelling theory that the wife was killed by an owl (!). Peterson in real life is a complex character, at first an apparent sociopath but then seemingly human and even a victim. It’s a whipsaw experience, watching both the documentary and the dramatic version. The centerpiece of the latter – a meta experience that includes the making of the documentary within its own narrative – is the remarkable Colin Firth as Michael Peterson.

Two more true-crime based mini-series may be of interest to you – they were to me. But both take a less serious approach to the material, casting real-life melodrama in a manner reminiscent of a John Waters movie.

Candy

Candy recounts the at-one-time household name murder case from 1980 in which one church-going housewife killed another church-going housewife with an axe, wielding enough blows to make Lizzie Borden look like an under-achiever. Candy Montgomery – the case is the subject of a famous true crime book co-written by John Bloom (Joe Bob Briggs!) – plotted her affair with Betty Gore’s husband as if it were a Brinks truck robbery. But she somehow killed Betty with that axe (the jury agreed) in out-of-control self-defense. The dark absurdity of the case lends itself to creator Nick Antosca staging everything Waters-style, with kitschy late ‘70s/’80s sets and Sears catalogue costuming and blatantly fake wigs and a musical soundtrack more appropriate for a sitcom than a tragic docudrama. Jessica Biel plays Candy peanut-brittle brittle, aggressively upbeat. The subtext here is that Candy was guilty.

But if you watch the 1990 TV movie with Barbara Hershey (it’s on You Tube and out-of-print DVD) – A Killing in a Small Town – you’ll find a strikingly similar film as to content, with the tone and approach wildly different. For one thing, Barbara Hershey is a world-class actress who actually sells Candy’s unlikely innocence. For another, the tragedy is treated not as a dark joke but…a tragedy. The 1990 film (only ten years later, after all) looks like real life, not an over-the-top, if admittedly compulsively watchable, kitsch fest.

The Thing About Pam

But The Thing About Pam, an NBC mini-series streaming on Peacock, makes Candy look like The Thin Blue Line. Reneé Zellweger has gotten heat for wearing prosthetics (including a “fat suit”) instead of putting herself through the unhealthy but somehow admirable effort of gaining a bunch of weight. A better argument might be hiring a plus-size actress, but Zellweger is so good in the role, even that’s doubtful. What did seem questionable to me, as I watched the mini-series, was how far down the John Waters rabbit hole the filmmakers had gone.

The absurdity was shameful! They even had that creepy Dateline guy do the narration! They outright played it like black comedy – how could they?

But then I looked at some of the documentary material on the case and you know what? It plays like laughably bad melodrama in real life – an idiot prosecutor who ignores the most obvious suspect, white cops who badger an Hispanic suspect for a quick arrest, a manipulative, greedy woman who sees herself as funny and smart and is just an unmistakable monster. That creepy narrator was the only thing absent from the real deal…and even there, the murderer herself pretended in her last desperate homicidal ploy to pass herself off as a Dateline producer!

I don’t know if I can recommend either Candy or The Thing About Pam, but…forgive me…I enjoyed every minute of both. The world we live in seems to me more and more like a John Waters movie. Why shouldn’t both of these mini-series reflect that? Didn’t I write this already? Wasn’t it called Mommy?

Similarly, perhaps the best mini-series going right now draws upon an entirely different kind of true crime – Gaslit on STARZ, starring Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell and Sean Penn as her husband John. Both are excellent, though this Watergate mini-series belongs to Dan Stevens as a somehow lovable weasel of a John Dean. This one also plays as an absurd comedy, but doesn’t need to overdo it to make the point that the reality was similarly wack-a-doodle. Everybody in this is good, but another standout is Shea Whigham, who makes a terrifying and yet hilarious G. Gordon Liddy.

The offer

As good as Gaslit is, The Offer is my favorite of all these, the series both Barb and I savor every moment of. Streaming on Paramount (a company the series regularly skewers), The Offer is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Godfather. This, too, finds comic melodrama in the proceedings but is less heavy-handed than Candy and Pam (yet how I would love to see Candy Montgomery Vs. Pam Hupp: The Final Showdown). Some reviewers haven’t liked The Offer, but actual humans probably will. The cast is wonderful, with Matthew Goode’s Robert Evans a stunning thing to behold, while quietly charismatic Miles Teller holds everything together as producer Al Ruddy, the pole that holds the tent up. Also outstanding, among a flawless ensemble, are Juno Temple, Dan Fogler and Giovanni Ribisi.

Finally, Better Call Saul on AMC is in its final season (broken in two, as was the case with Ozark). I find its narrative style fascinating – often the story proceeds at a crawl, raising more questions than answers, and yet you hang right with it. I keep thinking about how that approach could transfer to prose.

* * *

Scott D. Parker, in his article “Legacy Authors and That Last Book,” compares aging rock bands who record a last song and/or album, knowing it will be their last, to authors who may write a book about an enduring character, knowing it will be the last.

Parker invokes me and some of my ruminations here about slowing down, and specifically wonders if I’ll know when I’m sitting at the computer to work on my final Heller novel. The truth is I don’t know. I have one more Heller to write on the current Hard Case Crime contract, and – as The Big Bundle won’t be out till early December – I don’t yet know how the HCC audience will take to Nate Heller. I am confident that Heller is my most important work and my best shot at being read years after I’m gone.

And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced his enduring contribution would be those historical epics nobody reads any more.

For me, it’s a matter of paying attention to my health. I’ve had two good reports in recent days and it looks like – aside from getting hit by a bus or something the docs overlooked – I’ll be around a while. I have every expectation this next Heller will get written.

Will it be the last?

I don’t know. Parker wonders if mystery writers realize their characters are getting older. Well, some ignore it. Stout would have characters from previous novels show up on Archie and Wolfe’s doorstep having aged, while Goodwin and Nero remain in the same frozen-in-time state. Mickey Spillane, in advertising for The Killing Man, appeared in Miller Lite trenchcoat-and-fedora drag saying, “I got older – Mike didn’t.”

But he did. Like Jack Benny, Mike Hammer didn’t admit to being older than 39, but he clearly was. He was a guy who’d fought in the Pacific in World War II, using a cell phone in Black Alley (1996). I have made a point, in my collaborations with Mickey, to be more up front about Mike’s age. I fudge it a little, though.

In our Antiques series, Barb and I have to dance around the aging problem all the time. We want the books to be contemporary, so mentions of current political figures and pop culture come in – but we only move the pieces on the chessboard ahead one-season-per-book. In other words, for every four books, one year has passed in the lives of Brandy and Mother. Less than five years in real time elapse over 15 or 16 novels, yet they are moving through time at the same rate as the rest of us.

My late friend Paul Thomas, my musical collaborator, used to say about such things, “If you buy any of it, you buy all of it.”

I think I am more inclined to age my characters more normally than most mystery writers. Quarry’s age can be calculated, and so can Nate Heller’s. But one thing is for sure: me? I am moving only in one direction.

* * *

Here are eleven “intoxicating” crime books set in Las Vegas. They include Skim Deep, but should have made it a dozen with Neon Mirage.

I get a nice mention in this very good article, “A Primer on Crime Fiction.”

I receive a left-handed compliment in this look at the great Batman eras.

M.A.C.

A Shameless Excursion Into Self-Promotion

May 17th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

A reminder: today is the publication date of Stand Up and Die! (the new collection of Mickey Spillane’s novellas and short stories from Rough Edges Press, edited by me and with a Mike Hammer short story co-written by Mickey and me).

The new crime/horror novel, The Menace, by Mickey Spillane and me is $3.99 on Kindle at Amazon.

Stand Up and Die! cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:
The Menace cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:

The Menace just came out and is, as may already know, developed by me from an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay. If you’re not a horror fan, don’t be put off: it’s fundamentally a crime novel. It’s rather short – though not, as some have described a novella (it’s 40,000-words), but two additional Spillane pieces are included as a bonus at the back – the previously unpublished original version of his comic tale, “The Duke Alexander,” and a rare true-crime article.

For you physical media types (like me), the handsome trade paperback edition is just $9.99 at Amazon right now.

This update exists as a place for me to share views on pop culture, talk about what’s going on with me (and my wife Barb) personally and professionally. Part of that is letting you know about sales going on at Amazon (and elsewhere). There are several worth making you aware of going on right now.

On sale is Supreme Justice, the first of the political-thriller trilogy Matt Clemens and I wrote about Joe Reeder and Patti Rogers. Sales have stayed strong since its publication in 2014 – I believe it’s sold something like 150,000 copies, and the two sequels (Fate of the Union and Executive Order have done very well, too. Something like 350,000 copies of the Reeder and Rogers trilogy have been sold. Supreme Justice on Kindle is just $1.99 (till the end of the month).

Supreme Justice – the trade paper edition is $14.95 – has generated renewed interest because the plot concerns an attempt to rearrange the Supreme Court’s political slant by killing conservative members. It’s set in the near future, after the court overturns Roe V. Wade – again, it was published in 2014.

Supreme Justice cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:
Audio CD:
Executive Order cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:
Fate of the Union cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:

My eco-thriller, Midnight Haul, is also on sale on Kindle for $1.99.

Midnight Haul cover
Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio CD:
Audible:

This leads me into what will undoubtedly be a self-serving discussion – a shameless one at that – hoping to convince you to try novels of mine that you may have avoided. Things that may have been out of your comfort zone. Like Supreme Justice, for example.

Kill Me if You Can cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

I have talked here more than once about the reasons why I sometimes work outside of the Quarry, Nolan, Nate Heller and Mike Hammer noir-ish area. The truth is I have readers who follow one or two of those series, but avoid the others. The Quarry and Nolan novels are books in the 50,000 to 60,000-word range and are fast and (I hope) fun reads. The Mike Hammer novels, also in that word-length range, are overlooked by some of my readers because those readers are not Spillane fans or simply don’t care for books that continue a series created by someone else. Similarly, some Spillane fans don’t try these continuation novels, even though the books all have Spillane content (some a good deal of Spillane content), because Mickey himself did not write every word. The fact that Mickey engaged me to complete his unfinished material does not convince these stubborn souls. Kill Me If You Can, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s first appearance in 1947’s I, the Jury, is a novel developed from an unproduced Spillane teleplay, and it looks at the period between Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) and The Girl Hunters (1962), when Velda goes missing. It’s Mike at his most psychotic. Pre-order it through the links on the left.

That the Caleb York novels are westerns discourages some readers, who prefer crime/mystery, and that the first novel of the six is a novelization of an unproduced Mickey Spillane screenplay does not sway them. I think they’re missing out.

And of course the cozy Antiques mysteries written by Barb and me are not the hardboiled fare many of my readers enjoy, though the humor and murder content are high. I get that this approach isn’t for everybody, but will point out that the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries are the series of mine with the most entries. The new one will be out in October and can be pre-ordered through the links below.

Antiques Liquidation cover
Hardcover:

Some fans of my hardboiled books avoid the Nate Heller novels, which run in the 75,000-word to 150,000-word range, their lengths off-putting to at least a few readers. The true crime basis of the novels also discourages some Quarry/Nolan fans. The Big Bundle, coming out Dec. 6 (and available for pre-order now), will be the first Hard Case Crime publication of a Heller, and I think Quarry and Nolan fans who haven’t tried the series before will find themselves at home.

The Big Bundle cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Kobo Google Play

Now I don’t expect any of you – except the hardier souls among you – to buy, read and like everything I put out. Over the last ten years or so, I have increased my already prolific output considerably. I understand that you have only so many hours available to devote to your reading pleasure, and that (however misguidedly) you have other authors you like to read who aren’t me.

So why do I write so much? My standard answer for that is, “If I don’t, they don’t send money to my house.” And that flip response is true enough. But I have also been aware of the ticking clock of mortality and realize that once I am dead, my output will slow considerably. You readers who outlive me will probably have plenty of my stuff to catch up on. That’s fine. It’s as close to living forever as I’ll come.

And I feel I stay fresh by not writing just one thing. I shudder to think if Quarry had taken off in the mid-‘70s and that what I would be doing right now is writing book #45 in the series.

What I’d like to do with the rest of this ridiculously self-serving column is ask you to read – to buy, actually, and then read – a few of my recent books that you may have skipped. I’ve already mentioned The Menace, which some might pass on because (a) it appears to be horror, and/or (b) it doesn’t feature Mike Hammer. I can only say that Mickey came up with a good story and I developed it into a good novel that I’m very proud of.

Here are a couple of others you may have overlooked.

Fancy Anders Goes to War is a novella available on Kindle but also has a handsome little trade paperback with a wonderful Fay Dalton cover (and interior illos). It’s a private eye story with a new heroine who has much in common with Ms. Tree but is also her own girl (it’s a ‘40s story so I can call her that, and anyway she’s young). The research is Heller level. It’s the first of three such novellas from Neo-Text. I just loved writing it (and its two follow-ups, the second of which will be out before long). On Kindle it’s 2.99 and the paperback is only $6.99.

The audio of Fancy Anders Goes to War from SkyBoat is outstanding, virtually a movie for the ears.

Fancy Anders Goes to War cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link

Girl Most Likely and Girl Can’t Help It are two books that have suffered a handful of bad reviews and a wealth of good ones that haven’t overcome that handful. This was my attempt to do something along the lines of an American version of Nordic noir. The detectives are a young woman police chief and her retired homicide cop father in Galena, Illinois (I had the cooperation of the town’s police chief, female). I like these books a lot but they didn’t do as well as previous Thomas & Mercer titles. Girl Can’t Help It touches heavily on my rock ‘n’ experience. If you like my work at all, give these a try. They are $4.99 each on Kindle and $10.93 and $12.83 respectively as trade paperbacks.

Girl Most Likely cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon
Girl Can't Help It cover
Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon
Digital Audiobook: Amazon
MP3 CD: Amazon
Audio CD: Amazon

Finally, one of my favorites among all of my novels: The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton, written with SCTV’s Dave Thomas. Two things seem to get in the way of my regular readership trying this one: the science-fiction aspect, and the assumption that it’s a comedy. Where to begin? This novel is as much a crime story as s-f, with an older male Black cop and a young female Gen Z partner struggling to find out who shot smalltime thief Jimmy Leighton, who is in the hospital in a coma. Meanwhile, Jimmy, who accidentally triggered a quantum experiment in the basement lab he broke into, is careening from one lifetime to another. The chapters alternate between the cops working on the crime and Jimmy’s journeying.

As for the book being mistaken for a yuk fest, my co-writer Dave Thomas was a writer and producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist. So there.

Some have characterized Jimmy’s adventures in terms of the old Quantum Leap TV series. While there is some similarity, there’s a major difference. Dave and I, who wrote this book together during the Covid lockdown (lots of phone calls and Zoom get-togethers), wanted to avoid the notion that our traveler would find himself a jet pilot, or on a Broadway stage, or in the middle of doing brain surgery. Jimmy is encountering different lives of his – the different paths he might have taken – possible lives, not unlikely ones.

For me – and for Dave, too – this is a novel that has more to do with Groundhog Day or A Christmas Carol than Quantum Leap. And the science-fiction aspect – Dave takes his quantum science very seriously – is like the history in Nate Heller. It’s important, and it strives to be right; but it’s not the story. If you trust me at all, know that in my opinion The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton is one of the best books in my catalogue.

Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Amazon Purchase Link

Finally, for those of you who – like me – stubbornly insist on prowling actual bookstores, you must accept the fact that most of these books almost certainly will not be found in the world of brick-and-mortar. Supreme Justice and its two sequels, and the two Girl novels with Krista Larson and her dad, are mostly available at Amazon (physical copies at Barnes & Noble and others, but Kindle is Amazon). So is The Menace. Neo-Text books – Fancy Anders Goes to War and The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton – are Amazon.

* * *

Speaking of Supreme Justice, it has made another list of the best legal thrillers.

And here’s a great review of Tough Tender, the Hard Case Crime two-fer of Hard Cash and Scratch Fever with Nolan and Jon.

M.A.C.

Sit Down and Read!

May 10th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

STOP THE PRESSES: Supreme Justice and Midnight Haul are on sale for $1.99 each as Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Kindle book deals till the end of May. Amazon links: Supreme Justice | Midnight Haul

* * *
Stand Up And Die! cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:

Stand Up and Die!, the new Mickey Spillane collection from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges imprint, goes on sale next week (May 17) as both a Kindle e-book and a physical book. I edited it (and introduced it) and contributed a new version of my very first collaboration on a Mike Hammer story with Mickey, “Tonight I Die” (originally titled “The Night I Died” and published in the Spillane/Collins-edited anthology, The Private Eyes, 1998).

These novellas and short stories are culled from two long-out-of-print anthologies I edited, Tomorrow I Die (1986, Mysterious Press) and Together We Kill (2001, Five Star). This represents all of the crime stories from both volumes collected here in one place.

Here are the contents:

“Stand Up and Die!” (1958)
“Everybody’s Watching Me” (1953)
“Together We Kill” (1953)
“The Girl Behind the Hedge” (1953)
“The Pickpocket” (1954)
“I’ll Die Tomorrow” (1960)
“Tomorrow I Die” (1956)
“Hot Cat” (1964)
“The Gold Fever Tapes” (1973)
“Tonight I Die” (2022)

The final story is a Mike Hammer tale, and the reason why I’ve done a new version – not radically different, but enough so to rename it – is a story unto itself.

The basic story of “Tonight I Die” appeared in three versions in Mickey’s files – a radio play, a thirty-minute TV show, and a sixty-minute or more TV movie. There are significant differences between versions, and I did not become aware of all three until much later.

In 1998, when we edited the anthology Private Eyes for NAL, I felt it was key that we include a Hammer short story. But there weren’t any and getting Mickey to write a new one would have tough to impossible. He had already begun to share his unpublished materials with me, just for my interest (and perhaps he was already thinking of what I might do with his unfinished work some day), and I had run across the radio play version. It seems to have been written for the radio series That Hammer Guy, possibly as a pilot. It was not to my knowledge produced, though the series ran three years.

The script was heavy with narration and I asked Mickey if I could turn it into a short story, sticking to his script. He gave his blessing. The script was heavy with narration and the transfer was not difficult, though I felt some of it could have used some work, chiefly for clarity. But I did as little as I could in that regard, basically turning the script’s present tense script into past.

Now that I’ve done so many posthumous collaborations with Mickey – with his blessing – I felt this story should be properly prepared for publication…again, without taking too many liberties.

The things I did not include from the Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill anthologies in this new one are interesting but not vital – like the science-fiction tale “The Veiled Woman,” ghosted by Howard Browne when Mickey missed deadline; a few memoirs for True magazine; a comic book “filler” story (now available in Vintage Spillane); and the script of a Mike Hammer screen test film starring Spillane’s policeman pal Jack Stang (a short story version appearing in the forthcoming Kill Me If You Can, this year’s Hammer 75th anniversary novel, which includes five bonus short stories). Also intentionally M.I.A. is Mickey’s good but non-crime tale, “Affair with the Dragon Lady.”

Stand Up and Die! is the definitive collection of Spillane crime/mystery short fiction, and its existence is due to not just my efforts but also Wolfpack’s Mike Bray, Paul Bishop and James Reasoner.

Mickey allowed a number of his crime novellas to be collected by NAL as paperbacks, mostly two-to-a-volume. This was part of his effort to raise last-minute funds for the troubled production of The Girl Hunters film. Possibly because that need for money was over, he did not bother to collect his other novellas and short stories similarly. Over the years I collected these in their original men’s adventure magazine appearances, sometimes off the newsstands, other times in used book stores. Convincing Mickey to let me collect some of them for the Mysterious Press anthology led to our first professional project together.

Not our last.

I can’t recommend a collection of tough fiction more highly than this one.

* * *

Here’s a good review of Quarry’s Blood by a reader who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he wants me to write more Quarry books or not.

This review of the film The Outfit, streaming now, says it’s a combination of Collins (me), Mamet (a writer whose work I don’t care for), and Sorkin (a writer whose work I do care for). So I went into watching it with one eye squinted. It’s an okay crime chamber piece, with a strong central performance by Mark Rylance. You may like it. I made it all the way through, Barb didn’t. Interestingly, Barb loves the film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (as do I), and the reviewer here in passing calls Tinker, Tailor “dreadfully boring.” Still, having my work referenced in a review like this was fun.

Some short, smart reviews here of three Quarry books and one Nolan. I’m blushing.

Road to Perdition is listed as one of the seven best movies debuting on Netflix in May 2022.

Here’s an interesting in-depth look at Wild Dog.

Finally, this brief, admiring look at the graphic novel and film of Road to Perdition.

M.A.C.

aug 19, 2003 visitors since August 19, 2003.