Book Give-Away, Noir Alley Clips, and a Current Interview

February 2nd, 2021 by Max Allan Collins
Max Allan Collins holding up a trade paperback of Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales

This week we have fifteen copies of the beautiful Wolfpack trade paperback edition of Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales to give away. I’ve written about this book here before, but I only now have physical copies in hand.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! New updates are posted every Tuesday at 9 Central. — Nate]

If you miss out on the giveaway, I hope you’ll order it anyway, either on Kindle or this very cool trade paperback, which is a rather massive 330-some pages. It collects virtually all of my horror short stories, including two radio plays written for Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories.

Be forewarned (or enticed, as the case may be) that many of the stories in Reincarnal (as the title may indicate) have a strong sexual element. This has to do with many of them originally having been published in erotic horror anthologies, back in the day when such stalwarts as Marty Greenberg, Jeff Gelb and Ed Gorman were turning out wonderful “theme” anthologies of original stories.

As I said here before, horror is a strong element of my fiction – you can see it in the Mommy novels (available from Wolfpack), many of the Quarry novels (The Wrong Quarry), a number of Hellers (Angel in Black), Eliot Ness (Butcher’s Dozen) and novels by Barb and me (Regeneration). Even the recent non-fiction work, Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher (by A. Brad Schwartz and myself) qualifies as horror-tinged. The only horror tales not collected in Reincarnal can be found in the Wolfpack collections Murderlized (gathering collaborative stories by Matt Clemens and me), Blue Christmas (holiday horror and dark suspense), and Murder – His and Hers (stories by Barb and me).

While I am first and foremost a novelist, I do enjoy writing short stories and it’s long been an ambition to see collections of my shorter fiction, like Reincarnal, give those stories a certain permanence.

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If you missed my second guest shot with Eddie Muller on Noir Alley, here is the intro and the outro for Born to Kill, a great crime movie you should see (the TCM streaming service has it right now).

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Publisher’s Weekly has a great article by Lenny Picker about Hard Case Crime. I can’t share it with you, because PW requires you to subscribe for the link to go through.

I was interviewed for the PW article on HCC, and a grand total of one paragraph was used (in part) in that article. So, since that interview is very up-to-date as to what I’m up to, I’ll share it here:

What led you to have some of your books published by Hard Case Crime? In other words, what makes a Collins book a better fit for HCC?

When editor/publisher Charles Ardai began Hard Case Crime, he featured a number of reprints among the originals, from the classic likes of Erle Stanley Gardner and Lawrence Block. He approached me about reprinting the second Nolan novel, Blood Money, and I suggested he reprint both it and the first in the series, Bait Money, under one cover, which he did, as Two for the Money. Later he approached me about doing another reprint and I offered instead to write an original. It was obvious to me Charles and his partner Max Phillips had a love and feel for classic hardboiled fiction and represented a home for what I most like to write in a market not terribly conducive to that.

Another fact was the retro packaging, the covers that were not only fully illustrative in the fashion of ’50s and ’60s paperback suspense novels, but depicted beautiful femme fatales and handsome tough guys, in a fashion that had become essentially forbidden due to politically correct restraints at other publishers. HCC has a way of saying, “We’re retro, not Neanderthals. We have our tongue slightly in cheek as we celebrate a form of American mystery fiction pioneered by such greats as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.”

What makes them different from other publishers/imprints?

They go their own way and are motivated by a love for the noir genre, taking risks with new talent and respect older talent. Charles Ardai encourages me to write what I want to write. I’m at a point in my career and, frankly, at an age where being able to write what I want means more than financial considerations, an approach that can pay off better than a more market-driven, cynical one.

For example, the first original I did for HCC was a return to my Quarry series, which had become a cult favorite after its initial four-book run in the mid-’70s and a one-shot comeback ten years later. I’d always wanted to complete the series and The Last Quarry was intended to be the final book about my hitman character…the first contract killer to “star” in a book series. The Last Quarry was popular and widely well-reviewed. Charles said, “Too bad you’ve written the last book in the series.” And I said, “How about I write, The First Quarry?” Since then another dozen or so have followed. An award-winning short film I wrote led to a Quarry feature film (The Last Lullaby), and a few years ago HBO/Cinemax did a Quarry TV series.

What led you to revive Nolan last month?

Charles has been after me to do that dating back to Two for the Money. I resisted, feeling my novel Spree was the proper ending to the series. But he said he’d bring the early books back out if I did a coda to the series, which I have — the current Skim Deep. Now I’m writing a coda to The Last Quarry called Quarry’s Blood. My hitman is 68 years old in the novel, which is younger than me.

How hard was it to return to the character after so many years?

Not at all. I spent almost two years, when I was at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in the late ’60s, writing that novel. My instructor was Richard Yates, the great mainstream novelist. I also studied with Walter Tevis, whose reputation is getting a boost from The Queen’s Gambit mini-series. So I spent a lot of time with Nolan and his young sidekick Jon, and then there were the other six novels and several versions of a Nolan screenplay I wrote a while back…unproduced as yet, but it got optioned. A movie is brewing now combining elements of several of the novels.

How was writing him different?

He was an old man of 48 when I conceived him at age 20. Now he’s 55 and really something of an old man, so my perspective on him has shifted.

Are there other characters that you’re planning on reviving?

I get requests to do another Mallory, but that character was based on me, which doesn’t interest me. My recent Krista Larson series I hope to keep going, and when the political world settles down, if it ever does, I might do another Reeder & Rogers novel with Matt Clemens, who I’m writing the James Bond-ish “John Sand” novels with now for Wolfpack. My wife Barb and I are continuing the long-running Antiques series we write together as Barbara Allan, with Severn now.

The biggest thing will be taking Nathan Heller to HCC. I consider the Heller novels – which as you know are traditional tough private eye novels dealing with major crimes of the Twentieth Century – my best work, my signature work. But I don’t spend all my time looking backward. I’m working on two projects for Neo-Text, one a ’40s female private eye, Fancy Anders, who solves mysteries involving an aircraft plant, a movie studio, and the Hollywood Canteen. The other is a science-fiction-tinged noir collaborating with SCTV star Dave Thomas, who was a writer/producer on Blacklist and Bones, for which I wrote a tie-in novel.

I should note that HCC has been a supporter of my work building up the legacy of my friend and mentor, Mickey Spillane. We’ve done several books at HCC, and something like fourteen Mike Hammer novels at HCC’s parent company, Titan. These all reflect my completing unfinished manuscripts from Mickey’s files, something he asked me to do shortly before his passing in 2006. Next year is the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer, and I’ll be doing a biography of him with James Traylor for Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press. It’s people like Charles and Otto who nurture and keep the hardboiled genre alive in the face of changing times.

What would you most want article readers to know about HCC?

HCC is a boutique publisher that cares about books, readers, and authors. I am extremely grateful to them for letting pursue my work my way.

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A reader in this You Tube piece recommends five HCC titles to represent that publisher’s output, and The First Quarry is one of them!

And, finally, this fantastic review from the UK of the current Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder.

M.A.C.

Cover Story

January 26th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

I had not been given an advance look at the Noir Alley episode this weekend that had me guest-presenting with Eddie Muller the great film noir, Born to Kill (1947) from the James Gunn novel, Deadly Is the Female. During the shoot, Eddie and I had talked about both the film and the book for maybe forty minutes, and the TCM editors honed it down beautifully. I am very pleased, and if it turns up on You Tube, I’ll share it here.

God, I love it when I don’t stink up the place!

Skim Deep has been getting some lovely notices, I am pleased to say, including great Amazon reviews, and readers seem to be pleased either to see Nolan again or meet him for the first time.

But due out a week from today is the first-ever audio book of Blood Money, the second Nolan novel, read by the amazing Stefan Rudnicki. As you may know, Hard Case Crime is bringing out a new trade paperback edition of Two for the Money, collecting the first two Nolan novels – Bait Money and, again, Blood Money – on April 20.

The Edgar nominations are out, and Eliot Ness and the Butcher did not receive a Best Fact Crime nom, just as Scarface and the Untouchable did not in its year. It’s frustrating that this major work – I consider these two books joined at the hip – has not been better recognized; but I am confident that what my co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, and I accomplished will have a lasting place in true-crime literature.

Both Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and Shoot the Moon (And More) are available in trade paperback(and of course Kindle) from Wolfpack. I talked about Reincarnal last week and spoke of my pleasure in having my short horror fiction collected in one place. I’m excited to see Shoot the Moon published as a novel and not as part of a collection. Originally it was featured in the now out-of-print Early Crimes, and the two short stories from that collection are still included, but moved to the back of the book as a bonus feature.

Shoot the Moon is a novel written fairly early in my career, but after Bait Money, Blood Money, No Cure for Death, The Baby Blue Rip-off and Quarry. So it’s not an early work in the sense of being formative or from my college days. The two short stories that serve as a bonus are, in fact, from my community college days, although one of them (“Public Servant”) was considered good enough years later to be included in a Lawrence Block-edited anthology (Opening Shots).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Shoot the Moon is to the Donald E. Westlake comic crime novels as Bait Money is to the Richard Stark un-comic crime novels. My debt to Don Westlake, as an inspiration and mentor, is one I can never adequately repay.

Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales Cover
Shoot the Moon Cover

My son Nate encourages me to share behind-the-scenes stories and such about the writing life. So here I go….

Wolfpack is a very interesting outfit, because its publisher, Mike Bray, is something of a visionary, and its editor-in-chief Paul Bishop is a first-rate novelist himself who approaches publishing with an empathy and feel for his fellow writers.

I have been particularly pleased with the covers that have come out of Wolfpack, and yet a couple of problems turned up recently. As an example of the rampant political correctness that all creative people suffer these days, the cover of Reincarnal – which I love – was rejected for use in ads by Amazon. Fortunately, I’m told, ads for Facebook with that cover are still possible.

Apparently Reincarnal having a knife on its cover is the problem. I’ve run into this kind of thing before at several publishers, who haven’t wanted a gun on their covers. In one case, a publisher doing serial killer books – where the editor had me add a violent opening scene – did not allow guns or knives on their covers. Hey, I’m all for keeping guns off the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate – none of those people should be allowed around sharp objects – but on the covers of thrillers, horror novels and noir?

Who are we protecting with this prissy attitude, anyway?

Come Spy With Me Cover

Conversely, the wonderful cover of Come Spy With Me has taken some heat for being too classy, too subtle. And it does have a gun on it! That gun is on a beach covered in sand, which anyone whose favorite word isn’t “Duh!” will tell you was meant to make you think of the protagonist, John Sand. It’s possible we’ll eventually do a second cover for that title, when the third Sand novel, To Live and Spy in Berlin, emerges – a book Matt Clemens and I are plotting, having delivered book two, Live Fast, Spy Hard recently.

Wolfpack’s bread-and-butter has been what I used to hear called “boy books” by editors both male and female. “Boy books” are westerns, techno-thrillers, male-lead thrillers, private eye novels and noir (the latter will come as a surprise to Christa Faust and Megan Abbott). Westerns and men’s adventure-type novels, including spy stuff, do very well at Wolfpack, and while my work is at least vaguely in the “boy book” vein, I am part of the publisher’s effort to expand into new publishing realms. And I salute them for that.

“How can I help?” I hear you saying.

You can buy Reincarnal, Shoot the Moon, and Come Spy With Me for a start, and all the other titles of mine Wolfpack has been good enough to foist upon you lucky people.

At fear of kissing up (well, I’m not that afraid), I will say that Wolfpack, Hard Case Crime, Titan and the emerging Neo-Text are publishers who are allowing me to explore the genres and characters I care about, both old and new, and God bless them for it. Every one of them has invested their faith in me and my work in a way that goes well beyond the standard publishing approach of, “Well, we’ll throw one or two of your titles out there and see how they do.”

Publishers, notoriously, have laid all the blame on the writer for the lack of success of a book. We writers are where the buck stops, and you might say, “Of course you are!” But the truth is publishers are not in the book-selling business, they are in the cover-selling business. Hey, if my books aren’t packaged correctly, it’s not my effing fault.

Now, I have to cop to having loved some covers that didn’t work in the marketplace, and having hated some that did. But it’s not my job to package the books. I am busy writing them. I am hard at work making Wheaties. What athlete goes on the box isn’t my choice or my fault, which means I can’t take full credit for how many boxes of Wheaties fly off the shelves.

Publishers usually ask for a writer’s input into the covers, and then ignore that input, often for good reason. Hard Case Crime sends me the cover before I’ve even written the book, so I can work the scene into the narrative, like the old pulp writers used to – I get a perverse pleasure out of that. Thomas & Mercer gave me a lot of input into the covers, and I love the results. Those books continue to sell briskly.

But here is my dream. An editor has a series that has received glowing reviews, a series that said editor considers first-rate, though with a small but dedicated reader base, if not enough to justify publishing any more books in that series. Rather than drop that series like something icky, why not consider a re-packaging approach, and take a hard look at the marketing that has (or hasn’t) gone into it, and give that series a book or two more, with a new cover and new marketing approach, before deciding its ultimate fate?

That never happens.

Keeping Nate Heller alive through five major publishing houses, with a fifth coming, over almost fifty years is a small miracle – no, a big miracle, speaking to my own stubbornness and my only-child inability to be told “no.”

And yet. Here is Nolan back in print. Here is Quarry not only back in print but with me writing, right now, the tenth new book (Quarry’s Blood) in a series started back up again in 2006 when the damned thing had been declared dead in 1976.

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J. Kingston Pierce’s The Rap Sheet, hands down the best mystery site on the web, has an edition of his entertaining column-within-a-column “Bullet Points” that has a nice paragraph about the book I’m writing now (Quarry’s Blood) and Heller.

Noir Alley

January 21st, 2021 by Max Allan Collins

I will be on Noir Alley on TCM with Eddie Muller for the second time, introducing and discussing one of my favorite noir films, Born to Kill!

TIMES — ALL JANUARY 24:
12 AM Eastern (that’s midnight Saturday)
9 AM Central
7 AM Pacific

It’s a great crime movie from a terrific novel — don’t miss it!

Still from Born to Kill

New Horror and Dark Suspense Antho from Wolfpack

January 19th, 2021 by Max Allan Collins
Book cover for Reincarnal and Other Dark Tales
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

In about a week, my latest Wolfpack release – Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales – will be available on Kindle, and shortly thereafter as a physical book.

When I have copies of the trade paperback, I will announce a book giveaway here. For those that haven’t noticed, this update/blog has a new post every Tuesday morning. [10 Eastern/9 Central unless I mess something up. –Nate] So check in – they go fast.

Obviously, Wolfpack has provided me with another outstanding cover. I continue to be delighted by what they come up with. I realize some of you may be overwhelmed by how much of my material Wolfpack has unleashed upon an unsuspecting world pretty much all at once. Publisher Mike Bray and editor Paul Bishop were good enough to take on virtually all of my remaining backlist, as those who come here regularly know. Nine of these books are novels, but the others are anthologies. Of those anthologies, only three (including a forthcoming one by Barb and me, Suspense – His and Hers) are new collections…new books.

Reincarnal is one of them.

It’s a special one for me, because it collects virtually all of my horror short stories. In addition, the book includes two radio plays that I wrote for Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories: “House of Blood” and “Mercy.” I adapted a number of the yarns in the collection for Dreadtime Stories, but the two radio plays were original to the series.

While I’ve spent most of my career writing suspense and crime fiction, the horror genre has been an interest since childhood, undoubtedly having to do with watching old monster movies on TV. In Reincarnal, you meet the big three: Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, and more than one vampire.

Some of the stories are more in a “dark suspense” vein, though the majority have a supernatural element. And they have another element that may either please or not please you: this is definitely a “parental advisory” type book. Several stories were originally written for the famous Hot Blood and Shock Rock series, whose co-editor Jeff Gelb was my co-editor on Flesh and Blood. The format of those anthologies was to combine horror with an erotic element.

I mention this because – much to my surprise – in recent years some readers are offended by sexual content, and many of you are undoubtedly saying, “Boy, did they sign up with the wrong writer.” In re-reading the stories, I realized that changing times and attitudes are reflected therein, but I made no edits to bring them up to date. They were written over a thirty-year period and, like Popeye, yam what they yam.

But also in re-reading the stories I discovered that some of these dark tales are among my best work. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better story of mine than “Traces of Red,” for example. “Reincarnal,” the lead story, was much praised at the time of its original publication, and I adapted it into a screenplay. That project still rears its head now and then. “Interstate 666″ was written originally as a screenplay, and the story herein is actually a condensed version. It came very close to being made as a TV pilot (one iteration involving Rob Zombie!).

Both radio plays in the new collection were conceived in hopes of movie production and they too are not yet off the table in that regard. Those stories are collected in audio anthologies available at Amazon and elsewhere. Producer Carl Amari did a great job on them.

My interest in horror should come as no surprise to my regular readers, even though they may missed the stories collected in Reincarnal when originally published. Such novels of mine as Butcher’s Dozen, Angel in Black, and What Doesn’t Kill Her, as well as the two J.C. Harrow novels by Matt Clemens and me, are in part horror novels. So is Regeneration by Barb and me (a new edition is coming from Wolfpack).

Speaking of which, let me get back to Wolfpack. You supporting my efforts there by ordering Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and the John Sand novel, Come Spy With Me, paves the way for me to do new novels in various series that have run their course at other publishers. When fans ask a writer, are you ever going to do another novel about such-and-such a favorite character, the true answer is: it’s not up to the authors. We need publishers who believe in us, and frankly most publishers want the next big thing, not the last modestly successful thing.

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We lost Parnell Hall recently, and the parade of hurtful losses to the mystery genre continues. The great John Lutz of Single White Female fame is gone.

outdoor portrait of author John Lutz wearing a black shirt and jacket.

This from Janet Rudolph:

John Lutz: 1939-2021.

I was lucky to know John Lutz over the years. John wrote over 50 novels of political suspense, private eye novels, urban suspense, humor, occult, caper, police procedural, espionage, historical, futuristic, amateur sleuth, thriller — just about every mystery sub-genre. He also wrote over 200 short stories and articles. John was a past president of both Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. Among his awards were the MWA Edgar, the PWA Shamus, The Trophee 813 Award for best mystery short story collection translated into the French language, the PWA Life Achievement Award, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award. And, he was a kind, supportive, and generous man. He’ll be missed.

I knew John well, and Barb and I know his wonderful wife Barbara, too. John was a terrific writer and also displayed a dry wit second to none. For many years, John was a welcome, low-key presence at Bouchercon, one of those friends I saw almost exclusively in that manner. He was shy and modest, but that sense of humor came through, or I should say sneaked up on you.

This one hurts.

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This mind-bogglingly wonderful review of Skim Deep is at Book Reporter. Please feast your eyes upon it.

M.A.C.

aug 19, 2003 visitors since August 19, 2003.