Posts Tagged ‘Caleb York’

Previews of Coming Attractions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
Kiss Her Goodbye Paperback

Last week’s book giveaway went well and all thirty signed copies (ten each of Two for the Money, Kiss Her Goodbye (with the uncensored ending), and Shoot-out at Sugar Creek) have been distributed.

I am grateful for those of you who participate in these book giveaways and follow up with reviews. It’s one of the few things an author can do to promote titles in the Covid era, though even before that bookstore signings had already declined in effectiveness.

A giveaway for the recently published third John Sand novel, Live Fast, Spy Hard, will be offered here as soon as I get copies of the trade paperback. At this writing, I’m not sure the “real book” edition is available yet, though I’m checking. The e-book is available now, of course, and we’re already generating some nice Amazon reviews.

The new publisher of the Antiques Trash ‘n’ Treasures series has asked for another book, and Barb and I had already been working on the proposal for what will be Antiques Liquidation. We will be plotting it in more detail this week, doing a chapter by chapter breakdown. As some of you know, Barb writes a complete first draft and then I do the final one, with her input of course.

Meanwhile, my co-author Matt Clemens has been working on his draft of To Live and Spy in Berlin, the third John Sand novel, which we plotted and broke down into chapters a few months ago. I will be starting my draft very soon.

What I have been working on are two projects for Neo-Text, a new publisher (chiefly of e-books) with a great web site you should be checking out regularly.

The first project, which I completed several months ago, is Meet Fancy Anders, the overall title of a series of three novellas about a female private eye during World War Two in Los Angeles; the novellas are interrelated and will become a novel of that title. Fancy goes undercover as a defense plant worker, a Hollywood Canteen hostess, and a movie extra. I’m extremely excited about this series, which was fun to do, and the e-books will be illustrated by a top female artist, those illustrations porting over to various book versions – likely a trade paperback but also a larger-size, possibly hardcover book with full display of the mostly color art. The idea is for each chapter to begin with a full-page illustration.

Dave Thomas

The second project, which I’ve hinted at here, is co-written by Dave Thomas of SCTV fame (who was also a writer/producer on the TV series Bones and Blacklist). It’s called The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton and is a genre-straddling (s-f and crime) saga that will appear in three parts and, like Fancy, be collected as a book, again possibly in several formats. We are lining up a top comic book artist to do the covers and illustrations. I finished my draft of the third and final part today, and will be doing revisions this week, then shipping it out to Dave for our final mutual edit/tweak. He’s a great storyteller and this is very much a fifty/fifty collaboration. And I think this novel will be one of my best.

This is sizing up as a very busy year for me. The Heller novel I’ll be doing (well, it straddles the latter part of this year and next) will sideline Quarry for a while, and Caleb York will have to cool his spurs likely till 2022 or even ‘23. I have a Mike Hammer novel to complete, the Spillane bio with James Traylor, and another Spillane project that will be announced later.

I think I’ve spilled enough beans already.

* * *

I have encountered two films that are not likely to be on your radar – indie productions that are not big-budget affairs but that you may find worth your while.

My son Nate and I liked the sound of The Kid Detective, a 2020 film starring Adam Brody, and decided to give it a try. It’s one of my favorite films in some time (and I think Nate has the same opinion). The premise is whimsical – in a small town, a 32-year-old private detective is existing on the fumes remaining from his high octane reputation as a kid detective when he was, yes, a kid. It’s as if Encyclopedia Brown grew up and tried to continue his detective adventures into adulthood, with the expected absurd results. The idyllic town hasn’t weathered the years any better than the now-grown kid detective, and his fellow citizens rather resent and even deride him. But he hangs in there. The humor here is gentle with a surprising edge, and laugh-out-loud funny frequently, though two real crimes – one old, one new – hang over the comical proceedings like dark, gathering clouds.

Despite the smalltown setting, and the quirky caprice of the premise, this is a genuine private eye movie with film noir themes and under- and overtones despite a surface that might be an after-school special. Prepare to be sucker-punched, because when the two mysteries converge and pay handsomely off, things get as dark as any noir. And the final moments are serious and moving and also surprising.

The other film worth checking out, if what I am about to describe intrigues you, is VHYES, a 2019 feature described thusly on IMDB: “This bizarre retro comedy, shot entirely on VHS and Beta, follows 12-year-old Ralph as he accidentally records home videos and his favorite late night shows over his parents’ wedding tape.” If you read the Amazon reviews, you will find some viewers outraged and highly annoyed by the film, and others loving it (I am in the latter camp). Like Kid Detective, it has a whimsical premise that becomes more serious as the film progresses. The home-movie events that get intermittently recorded over are, as unlikely as it first seems, a narrative that has some emotional impact (again, like Kid Detective).

What the IMDB write-up neglects to mention is that the VHS cartridge is being taped over in 1987 and the entire film is set in that period. In some respects VHYES is in the tradition of the ‘70s TV parody films like The Groove Tube, Tunnelvision and Kentucky Fried Movie, pre-SCTV efforts often featuring Second City performers. VHYES features Kerri Kenney and Thomas Lennon of RENO 911, which may be enough to sell some of you – it did me.

You get snippets of public access, PBS and kid’s shows, commercials, spoofs of Home Shopping Network and Antiques Roadshow, and a real story, if you’re paying attention.

* * *

A reminder that Barb and I are doing a Master Class via Zoom that is available to anyone interested. Here’s the info again:

DSM Book Festival: Sat. April 3
Workshop: Max Allan Collins at 9 a.m. (duration 1 hour)
Log-in: 8:40 a.m.

Workshop description:
Learn from the masters, Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara Collins, as they each present their Top 5 Fiction Writing Tips and then field questions from the class. Together, Max and Barb have published the Trash & Treasures mystery series. Max is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Road to Perdition, True Detective, the Quarry series, Girl Can’t Help It and many more.

The registration deadline is today! (March 30)

https://www.dsmpartnership.com/dsmbookfestival/attend/writers-workshops

M.A.C.

Live Fast, Try Hard to Find It…Shoot-Out Where?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

You apparently can pre-order the print version of Live Fast, Spy Hard at Amazon now, although for some reason the book doesn’t turn up when you search anywhere except at the listing for Come Spy With Me, which provides a link to the next book (this one) in the John Sand series. Since the book in both Kindle and trade Paperback is being published this week, that’s a little disconcerting. But there’s no reason not to go ahead and pre-order here.

Matt Clemens and I are already working on the third novel, To Live and Spy in Berlin.

Matt and I are both longtime Bond/Ian Fleming/’60s-era spy fiction fans. I have told here, a number of times, how I gravitated to Ian Fleming when I ran out of Mickey Spillane books to read, and that I was a Bond fan well before the first movie came out. And that I talked my parents into driving me, on a school night, to Davenport – thirty miles away – to see Dr. No. I was in junior high.

If you drop by here regularly, or even now and then, you may be aware that I wrote novels every summer during my high school years and spent the following school year trying (unsuccessfully) to market them. There were four such novels, the first three starring private eye Matt Savage, but the fourth of the novels – the last of the high school novels – was a Bond imitation about spy Eric Flayr (I don’t remember the novel’s title). I was very much caught up in the spy mania, as were many of my male schoolmates. We carried briefcases to school (after From Russia With Love) and were caught up in an imaginary plot to overthrow the school.

It seemed innocent then.

So writing about John Sand, the spy James Bond was based on (the implied conceit of the series), has brought me full circle. I think Matt feels the same way. It’s gratifying that readers, so far, have responded well to the series and understand where we are coming from. We studiously avoid camp, but it’s fair to say we’re slightly tongue-in-cheek.

And we are grateful to Wolfpack, editor Paul Bishop, and publisher Mike Bray for allowing us to indulge ourselves in a fashion that appears to be entertaining readers.

The fact that you have to go hunting on Amazon to find the Live Fast, Spy Hard listing is an ongoing frustration to me. Any number of forthcoming titles of mine are not showing up when my name is searched, and yet my listings are littered with the works of other authors who Amazon is pushing to readers who enjoy my stuff. Here is a startling concept that seems to elude Amazon and its trusty algorithms – readers who like my stuff may wish to encounter the titles of things of mine they haven’t read. (NOTE: After further checking, searching “Max Allan Collins” on Amazon, the books don’t come up; but apparently without quotes those books do.)

Some interesting things have turned up on the web that I’d like to share with you.

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews is looking at each novel in the Caleb York western series, but he’s doing so out of order, as he’s able to get his hands on the various titles. Here he takes a splendid look at The Bloody Spur, book three in the Spillane/Collins series.


Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

There’s a new one coming soon, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek. Here’s a first look at the cover.

The Mystery File site has put a review from pulp fiction expert Art Scott of my long-ago Mallory title, Kill Your Darlings, from 1001 Midnights.

They have also posted a review by the late, very great John Lutz about the first Nathan Heller novel, True Detective. This is well worth looking at, particularly in light of the warmly received news that I will be doing two Heller novels for Hard Case Crime.

For reasons mysterious to me, my novelizations of the three Brendan Fraser Mummy movies appear to remain very popular (though out of print for decades now) and have generated a number of quotations at various web sites – like this one.

Finally, this is an hysterical (in several senses of the word) You Tube rant by a big guy who likes my novel Quarry till he finds out Quarry (whose name he hilariously mispronounces) weighs 155 pounds. Everything else about the book he seems to like, even love, but he refuses to read the rest of the series (despite salivating over the McGinnis covers) because Quarry isn’t a big guy. Dude – ever hear of Audie Murphy?

M.A.C.

Hey Kids! Free Books & Nolan Returns

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

First, here’s another interview of me by the great Andrew Sumner for Titan Books – this time regarding Nolan and Skim Deep.

Okay, show of hands – how many of you like books?

Seems to be everybody.

All right, how many of you like free books? Don’t fight!

Only so many free books are on hand, so how many of you like a really good bargain? Don’t pout! I mean, really good….

The entire Reeder and Rogers trilogy by Matt Clemens and me is on sale right now as part of Amazon’s Monthly Deals: Up to 80% off Kindle books. They will stay on sale till 11-30-2020, with [Amazon links:] Executive Order at $1.99 and Supreme Justice and Fate of the Union available at 99 cents each.

But wait, there’s more! (Look, I realize I shifted from classroom mode to infomercial, but I figure you can stay with me.)

The first of the two (so far) Krista Larson novels, Girl Most Likely (a Thriller Award best paperback nominee), is part of that same sale for just 99 cents.

Now for the free books. Don’t rush the stage! (Yes, I know, I did it again. Pretend it’s a running joke.)

I have ten copies of Skim Deep, the first new Nolan book in over three decades.

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

This doesn’t come out till Dec. 8, but I have these ten finished copies of the novel provided by Hard Case Crime. You’ll see me here posing happily with Skim Deep, the final Nolan novel, and the original edition of Bait Money, the first Nolan novel, published in December 1972.

That’s 48 years ago. Nolan is 48 years old in Bait Money, by the way, which at the time seemed really old to me. Those two 48-year periods represent one of those insignificant facts that take on weight in a barroom after enough time and tide has passed.

I’m going to walk you through how Nolan came to be. Some of you will have heard me talk about this, and/or write about it before, but go on reading – with my memory, it’s sure to come out different.

I started reading Richard Stark in 1967 after the film Point Blank came out, based on The Hunter, the first in a series about professional thief, Parker. Around the same time I discovered another writer, comic mystery author Donald E. Westlake, and these two were soon my favorites of then-current mystery writers. I had no idea Westlake was Stark – their books were so very different.

Westlake/Stark was the last author to have a major impact on my work. I was already reading Spillane, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ed McBain and Jim Thompson (and a few others). I had basically trained to be a writer of private eye novels or maybe cop books, but the times they were a changin’, and P.I.s were impossible to sell and, in 1968, cops were just guys clubbing my friends at the Democratic convention.

I’d already discovered an obscure series by Ennis Willie about an ex-hood named Sand, who had much in common with Stark’s Parker, though Sand was created first. A tough guy who was an ex-hood heist artist seemed a reasonable alternative to gumshoes. Hence, anti-heroes. Crook books.

A few paragraphs ago I called Bait Money the first Nolan novel. It kind of wasn’t. The same character, originally called Cord in a book titled Mourn the Living, I’d written in junior college. It didn’t sell, but it got me into the University of Iowa Writers Workshop thanks to Richard Yates, the great mainstream novelist.

Bait Money (and the first Mallory, No Cure for Death) were written for Yates and his class, and he worked one-on-one with me even after I was required to study with a few other instructors. He landed me an agent, Knox Burger, who had been a well-known editor at Collier’s and then Gold Medal Books. Among other things, Burger was instrumental in talking John D. MacDonald into creating Travis McGee.

Yates sent Burger Bait Money and praised me as a young Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. Burger, who was as no-nonsense as a hit-and-run driver, said, “More like a young W.R. Burnett.” Which was fine with me. In the same league as the guy who wrote Little Caesar, High Sierra and Asphalt Jungle? I understood how great that was, even if Yates didn’t.

Burger is the guy who called me a blacksmith in an automotive age. Again – fine by me.

I killed Nolan on the last page of Bait Money and Burger wanted me to un-kill him. I refused, but the book kept getting rejected. Then an editor at Pyramid Books spilled coffee on the manuscript, meaning I had to retype it (which I did, myself). Burger said, “You might as well take the opportunity to put the better ending on.”

I did.

It sold next time out and the editor wanted a series. This was a problem because I had conceived Bait Money as an homage to Richard Stark, or even a pastiche, using his distinctive method of organizing sections and using strict point of view.

I had, by this time, begun to correspond with Don Westlake. He began mentoring me, and had read Bait Money (Burger gave the manuscript to him) and professed to like it. I wrote Don and asked him how he felt about me doing a series about Nolan – I was uncomfortable because (as many of you have heard me say) homage is French for rip-off.

Don graciously insisted that the Jon character – the sort of hippie-ish comic book collecting “kid” who became Nolan’s surrogate son – made the books more human. Don also felt Nolan was more overtly human than Parker. He said by all means take the gig.

I did. The publisher was Curtis Books, an off-shoot of the same company that had published the enormously successful Saturday Evening Post. Their paperback line, however, was not enormously successful. I did four Nolan novels and the first two Mallory books for them, and they only published the first two Nolans (and neither Mallory) before Popular Library bought them out.

The editor at Popular Library put the books into inventory, while periodically insisting publication was imminent. It never happened. Meanwhile, I wrote Quarry (originally The Broker) and Berkley Books bought it and asked for three more.

In the early ‘80s, Knox Burger sold all five Nolan novels to Pinnacle, plus a new to-be-written one. They had recently lost the Mack Bolan series and apparently I was supposed to be the replacement, though Bolan and Nolan had nothing in common but rhyming.

I had to revise the first two novels somewhat, largely because Fly Paper pre-dated quite a few airport security measures. Bait Money came out and sold very well.

Then the creator of Mack Bolan, Don Pendleton, threatened to sue Pinnacle for publishing a series about somebody who rhymed with his character. So the last couple of books had Nolan’s name taken off the covers, and my contract was dropped.

My novel True Detective got some me some attention in 1983, and a few years later an editor at TOR asked me to revive Nolan, which I did with Spree. But then, for reasons not worth going into, that editor and I had a falling out and a contract to do a bunch more Nolans got dropped.

Seems Nolan and Jon led at least as perilous a life in the world of publishing as they did in fictional crime.

That was it for Nolan until, finally, Mourn the Living was published, with “Cord” changed to “Nolan.” Writer Wayne Dundee had serialized the novel in his magazine Hardboiled, and people started asking me to collect it in book form. I did. It was a hardcover from Five Star.

Felt like Nolan had come full circle, from Bait Money to the unintentional, Jon-less prequel, Mourn the Living.

Then, as is his habit in my publishing life, Charles Ardai came along. He was going to do some reprints and a few new books for his budding Hard Case Crime line. He was a fan of the second Nolan novel, Blood Money, and wanted to publish it. I felt Bait Money ought to be included, as Blood Money was its sequel. He put them together as Two for the Money.

As most of you know, I revived Quarry for Charles, who from time to time asked me to consider writing a new Nolan. I resisted, because I’d written Spree to be the last book. Finally he offered to republish all of the Nolans (two books to a volume) with spiffy retro covers if I’d do a new one.

And, so, all these years later, I have.

What was most interesting to me was that despite the many decades gone by, when I sat down to write about Nolan and Jon, bing! There they were. Waiting for me to check back in with them. I don’t know why it came so easy. It’s not like I haven’t written about other characters in the interim.

But Nolan in Mourn the Living, and Nolan and Jon in Bait Money, represented the start of my career, and both books took a lot of time. I’m known, I guess, for being able to turn out good books in not much time. But those first two novels were where I went to school, teaching myself (and cribbing from Stark and the rest).

Back then, I had to type pages over and over, because there were no photocopy machines yet and publishers got their noses out of joint if you sent a carbon copy. I would imagine I worked on Bait Money for a year and a half. Skim Deep took, I believe, three weeks. Maybe a month – I don’t really keep track.

So now Nolan has come full circle, and maybe so have I, and like Nolan, I have no intention of dying on the last page.

* * *

Here’s some nice love for the forthcoming Shootout at Sugar Creek, the new Caleb York.

M.A.C.

Come Spy With Me Launches

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

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.