Come Spy With Me Launches

November 3rd, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

Nobody Lives Forever is the title of one of John Gardner’s James Bond novels. Gardner, like my friend Raymond Benson, was one of the official scribes hired by the Ian Fleming estate to continue the novel series. But while, as a title, Nobody Lives Forever has an authentic Bond ring, I must disagree with its sentiment.

Sean Connery will live forever, and so will James Bond. And especially Sean Connery’s James Bond will live forever.

That makes this the right time to finally share with you the cover of Come Spy With Me, the first of a projected trilogy by Matthew V. Clemens and me about retired UK spy, John Sand, who the novel implies was the “real” basis for James Bond. We had been told, at one point, that the book would not be out until December.

But it turns out the publication date is coming right at us – November 18 – available both as a Kindle e-book title and as a trade paperback. You can pre-order it now, and I hope you will.

When I began talking to editor Paul Bishop at Wolfpack about doing original titles for them – we had already agreed on a number of backlist novels and new short story collections to appear under their imprint – I knew figuring out the right property for that particular publisher’s launch of new M.A.C. titles was a priority.

Come Spy With Me cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Paperback:Amazon Purchase Link

I also knew I wanted to do some of what I had in mind with my longtime collaborator, Matt Clemens, with whom I began kicking around ideas. One was to do a new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, but we were hesitant at this (shall we say) “moment in time.” After all, we’d already done the Reeder and Rogers trilogy in which Supreme Court justices were targeted for murder (Supreme Justice), a megalomanic populist from the private sector ran for President (Fate of the Union), and an extreme right-wing group plotted a coup of the government of the USA (Executive Order).

We were almost afraid to come up with another outlandish premise like those.

At the same time, we were putting together for Wolfpack the original collection of our collaborative short stories, Murderlized, and needed to come up with the original files for each story. In rummaging around in his hard drive, Matt came upon the opening chapters of a novel we’d started twenty years ago – about the opening third, plus a detailed synopsis. He read over the material and said he thought it was pretty good. He sent it to me and I responded likewise.

A sizeable share of the Wolfpack audience likes action and adventure, and this untitled manuscript was an homage to James Bond and Ian Fleming. I will likely write in more detail about my love for Fleming and how caught up in the spy cycle of the mid-‘60s I was, but not right now. The origins of what has become Come Spy With Me are peculiar and a little amusing.

Matt and I had been writing short stories together for a while, but had not yet embarked on the series of TV tie-ins (CSI, Dark Angel, Criminal Minds, Bones) that we’d be doing for something like fifteen years. We were, in fact, discussing doing some kind of novel series together.

And along came a strange opportunity. A new publisher was going to bring out (wait for it) erotic novels in which all of the sex was between married people. Married to each other. At the time, I pointed out to them that few married people, particularly if they’d been married a while, did their fantasizing about their mates. But this, the publisher insisted, was a time that had come.

Okay.

Matt and I kicked around the notion of, “What if at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond’s new wife (SPOILER ALERT) was not killed by his arch-nemesis, Blofeld? What if Bond got married and quit the spy game, and then got pulled back in? Adding to this was the concept that Ian Fleming had been a colleague of our “John Sand” and had based James Bond on him. We both loved that idea.

We were signed to do the novel, and got to work…but the married-people-having-sex concept turned out not to appeal (imagine that) and the publishing idea went belly up. Well, it was soft-core porn, so let’s call it “tits up.”

Matt and I were frustrated, because we really liked what we’d written. But we shelved it, as the tie-in market summoned us and, well, no project lives forever.

Or does it?

Wanting to get something out with Wolfpack as quickly as possible, we developed what became Come Spy With Me, with a few changes. We removed the soft-core porn aspect – although there are erotic moments between man and wife – and (at the suggestion of Raymond Benson) were more coy about the Sand/Bond connection, although it’s certainly implied. But neither Fleming nor Bond are mentioned by name in the novel.

And that opening third of the book was heavily re-thought and rewritten. However – it still gave us a leg up on the project (sorry if that phrase sound soft-core porny in and of itself). Soon we were seeing the possibility of at least doing a trilogy and began plotting it, as well. Our work method on Come Spy With Me, as always, was to plot together with Matt doing a somewhat short first pass and me doing a complete, fleshed-out second pass.

My initial title was Come Die With Me (the title, by the way, of a terrible Mike Hammer TV movie). Paul Bishop was not in love with that. But he responded well when I tweaked it into Come Spy With Me. Now Matt and I are toying with doing “spy” puns for any subsequent titles.

Both of us are old enough to be veterans of the initial James Bond craze. And – in this Corona Virus environment – we are happy to do novels not set in the present. The early 1960s seemed like a more fun place to spend time right now than the 2020s.

We are rather determinedly in the area of Connery’s Bond, not Moore or any other pretender, except perhaps Timothy Dalton. There are dark quips of the “Get the point” variety, but some people forget that such things began with Connery. Like Fleming’s novels, Come Spy With Me is fairly hardboiled and fans of Quarry, Nolan and Heller should not feel shortchanged.

For us, as much as we like the actors who followed in Sean Connery’s footsteps, we consider him the one and only true James Bond. Every one else is a kind of place holder, someone to build a Bond film around. But when Connery said, “Bond. James Bond,” it was forever.

* * *

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews provides this wonderful review of the second Caleb York novel, The Big Showdown.

A good place to order the new Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet collection is my old pal Bud Plant’s mail-order company, specializing in comic art and illustration.

M.A.C.

What Is on the Ballot

October 27th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

As those of you who follow these blog/updates know, I do my best to steer clear of politics. I have dipped a toe in the water a few times, losing a toe or two in the process, but mainly I’ve stayed mum. I think many of you already know where I stand, although not necessarily.

I avoid politics here because, on the one hand, I respect your opinions, or at least your right to have those opinions. On the other hand, I don’t wish to alienate potential or current customers (as Mickey Spillane described his readers). Some time ago – and many of you already know this – I stopped posting anything on Facebook that was inherently political. I do post these updates there, and if someone posts something about a book or movie of mine, I sometimes share it.

And I belong to groups at Facebook on topics ranging from comics to movies, from paperback collecting to pin-ups. Within these groups, I often make comments – apolitical comments.

When I was on Facebook and getting into the political battle – even aware, as I was, that no argument has ever been won on the Internet – I lost or at least damaged one of my most cherished friendships. There are people I work with and people I love do who not share my politics, which is another reason why I have (largely) kept my mouth shut here.

But – as eighteenth century Irish statesman Edmund Burke said – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” My collaborator Matthew Clemens included that quote within the text of our forthcoming novel, Come Spy With Me, when JFK urges secret agent John Sand to come out of retirement.

So. I am going to urge you to vote. But I am also going to remind you what – not who – is on the ballot this time.

Civility. Decency. Science. Honesty. Equality. Empathy. Democracy.

I am tempted to add these words from the opening of the old Superman TV show: “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Here. Take a look.

Now, notice I haven’t mentioned anyone by name. Barb and I have already voted. If you know who I’m talking about, and are considering voting for him, I would invite you first to reflect.

M.A.C.

Ms. Tree Comes out of the (Skeleton) Closet

October 20th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins
Ms. Tree Vol. 2: Skeleton in the Closet
Paperback:
E-Book:

I have not seen a copy yet, but this update will appear on publication day of Ms. Tree Vol. 2: Skeleton in the Closet from Titan.

It reprints in color the rest of the DC comics run from the early ‘90s, and is essentially a casebook – five graphic novellas often dealing with controversial subject matter (gay bashing, date rape, etc.) that unfortunately hasn’t dated at all. There’s also a flat-out horror tale that reveals the roots of the Collins/Beatty team in EC Comics.

I am thrilled that Titan is publishing these books, finally getting all the work Terry and I – influential work, I will immodestly say – in a more permanent form.

This is some of our best work. Volume Three will start at the beginning and the subsequent volumes will continue in the order of original publication.

* * *

For the first time, every person who entered one of my book giveaways – this one for Too Many Tomcats and the Eliot Ness novels – got a book. While that pleases me, it makes me wonder if I’m having too many of these and wearing you people down…particularly those of you who’ve entered and never been rewarded with a book.

The problem is that Wolfpack has been generous enough to put a whole passel of my books out over a short period of time, including Murderlized, a new one. So I don’t mean to swamp you, although it’s important to get reviews for these books out there, including the reprints. Which is the point of the giveaways – to prime the review pump. Well, Amazon Prime the review pump.

The Wolfpack e-book versions have been made available a bit before the trade paperback editions, at times; but I have received copies of most of the books by now and they are beauties. And I am very favorably impressed with the level of the Wolfpack covers. Murderlized is wonderful. So is Too Many Tomcats. And Mommy (while somewhat re-fried as Mommy’s Day) blows me away.

We have new editions coming of Regeneration and Bombshell, the two stand-alone collaborations by Barb and me, and I’m stoked to see what kind of covers Wolfpack whips up with for those.

But the most important Wolfpack release will come in December – Come Spy With Me, the first in the new series by Matthew Clemens and me. It’s set in the early ‘60s and is an unabashed homage to Ian Fleming and the Connery-era Bond films, and the whole spy craze of my youth. Matt and I are going over the galley proofs now, and we have seen the cover, which I hope to share with you soon – it’s a beauty.

I’ve made a huge investment of time and property (in the sense that my backlist titles and short story collections are properties) in Wolfpack. If those of you who enjoy my fiction in general support those efforts, Wolfpack is the rare company that will let me do what I want creatively. A series that other publishers consider “busted” I can write a new entry for. There could be a new Mallory or Disaster Novel or Jack & Maggie Starr. We are seriously considering doing Reeder & Rogers at Wolfpack and Krista Larson, too. If we have some success, Spillane material will appear there.

Consider Quarry. Quarry as a crime novel series had been dead commercially for decades. But editor Charles Ardai, the guru of Hard Case Crime, encouraged me to write a new Quarry novel many years later. No other publisher would have done that. And it has led to many new Quarry novels, an award-winning short film, a feature film, and a Cinemax TV series.

Not long ago Charles encouraged me to write a new Nolan novel. Nolan also has been “dead” for decades, but Charles liked the series and wanted a new one. Now we are looking seriously at Nolan for a TV series on a streaming service (early days, of course, and these things often tank, but…we’re talking about a series I started in 1973). And Hard Case is bringing all of the Nolan novels out again (two to a book). There will also be audios of them read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

The new Nolan, Skim Deep, will be out the first week of December.

The support you continue to show the work that I produce, my own and the collaborations, means a great deal.

Thank you.

* * *

Here’s a very interesting look at Quarry, the novel of that title, expressing some interesting insights, as well as some thoughts on the Cinemax series.

This is one of several previews of the second Ms. Tree collection, Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet from Titan.

Scroll down at this entry at the entertaining Atomic Junkshop and see a brief but very strong review of Murderlized by Matt Clemens and me – and a great look at the wonderful cover provided by Wolfpack.

This article presents the Nathan Heller novels in order of publication (includes the short story collection and the novella collection) with nice thumbnails on each. Whether this is the best order to read them in, I can’t say. But I did write them in that order, so it makes sense in terms of following my growth (or decline!) over the years.

M.A.C.

Wolfpack Giveaway #2 – Untouchable Cats

October 13th, 2020 by Max Allan Collins

I am in the middle of the third of the three novellas I’m doing about a brand-new character (stay tuned) for Neo-Text. So I will try to distract you for the lack of a real blog entry this week with the second Wolfpack book giveaway.

Too Many Tomcats Wolfpack Edition

I have four trade-paperback copies of Too Many Tomcats, my wife Barb’s terrific collection of tales about evil, dead and stuffed felines. I co-authored a couple and wrote the intro. If you are a hold-out among my readers who has avoided reading Barb’s work and/or our collaborative work, now is your chance to finally get wise.

Barb’s short stories are in the vein of the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show and Roald Dahl, and she’s been compared to both (and not just by me!).

In addition, I have two copies each of the four Eliot Ness trade paperbacks – The Dark City, Butcher’s Dozen, Bullet Proof, and Murder by the Numbers.

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

This is for USA only – mailing overseas and even to just Canada was expensive before the Pandemic.

Here’s the important part – this isn’t really about free books. It’s about getting reviews on Amazon and/or at your own review site, if you have one. Most of you participating in these book giveaways have been good about doing those reviews. But please hold up your end of the bargain.

Eliot Ness Saga, Wolfpack Edition
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Here is a video interview wherein my pal Andrew Sumner talks to me about Ms. Tree, and specifically about the soon-to-be-published second Ms. Tree collection, Skeleton in the Closet.

And here is the appearance (via Zoom) by my co-author A. Brad Schwartz and I at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas in support of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. Includes a power point presentation! Excited?

Finally, here is a nice look at Road to Perdition as Tom Hanks’ most under-rated movie.

M.A.C.

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