Posts Tagged ‘Come Spy with Me’

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.

John Sand at Wolfpack, Heller at Hard Case Crime

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
Live Fast, Spy Hard cover

The second John Sand novel by Matt Clemens and me – Live Fast, Spy Hard – is out this month. The Kindle version is available for pre-order right now (for $3.99).

The Kindle pub date is March 17. The trade paperback edition should follow quickly, but I don’t have a date for that yet.

The cover is, in the opinion of the authors, a dandy. Wolfpack is coming up with some great covers for both new books of mine and for backlist titles. I remain astonished by how fast they move – this is a book Matt and I delivered this year. Traditional publishing takes a minimum of nine months from delivery to publication.

You can read this one without having read the first book in the series, Come Spy With Me, which of course is already available here.

Matt and I have already plotted the third book, To Live and Spy in Berlin, and Matt is working on the rough draft right now. I will be starting my draft next month. Whether we’ve written a trilogy or the first three books in a longer series depends on the response of readers, i.e., sales. But we are having an enormously good time writing these slightly tongue-in-cheek yarns about the “real-life” spy that just might be who Ian Fleming based his James Bond character on.

Wolfpack’s edition of Reincarnal has been corrected as to its messed-up table of contents, and the collection has been getting some lovely notices. Shoot the Moon has been well-received, too. Again, Wolfpack has done beautiful covers for the books, the former a new title, the latter a restructuring of the collection Early Crimes with the title novel of the new version brought forward to emphasize that it’s a novel with a couple of bonus short stories, and not a short story collection.

The Shoot the Moon book giveaway found the ten copies going lightning fast. Again, if you’ve received books in any of these giveaways, please remember the point of the exercise is to get some reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.

* * *

More good news, at least for me and for Nate Heller fans. For some time, I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing Heller novels at Hard Case Crime. With Quarry, Nolan and a few other titles of mine at HCC, I’m their most published author, and I’ve built a nice readership there, some of which (I suspect) has not tried Heller, intimidated by the historical nature (and sometimes length) of the books. These readers don’t realize that Heller is very much in the mold of Quarry, Nolan, Mike Hammer and other characters of mine. I consider Heller my signature character, and he has been my most enduring creation with those novels bringing me the most critical acclaim.

Additionally, Road to Perdition – the graphic novel that remains my major claim to fame – is a spin-off of sorts of the Heller saga. It came about when an editor at DC asked for a graphic novel in the Heller vein, but with new characters.

I’ve long felt that the retro publishing style of HCC would be a perfect way to widen the Heller readership, and editor Charles Ardai agreees. The titles of the new Hellers – The Big Bundle and Too Many Bullets – will give them a decided HCC feel. Recently, when the Heller run at Forge ended after five books (Do No Harm the most recent), the opportunity to move to Hard Case became a reality. Parent company Titan has offered a two-book Heller contract at HCC, and I am very grateful to publisher Nick Landau and his crew (including my Mike Hammer editor, Andrew Sumner) for their belief in me and my work.

A two-book contract will allow me to complete the five-book Kennedy saga (and the two-book Robert Kennedy cycle), which may bring the series to an end. Heller began in 1983, and – having celebrated (or is that survived) my 73rd birthday last week – I am not sure the rigorous research required for a Heller is something I’ll be up to after this two-book contract is delivered (one book early next year, the other early the following year).

If I do feel up to going on with Heller after the Kennedy saga is complete (the other books are Bye Bye Baby, Target Lancer and Ask Not), that will depend upon the response, chiefly sales. Subjects I’m contemplating are the killing of Martin Luther King, the murder of George Reeves, and Watergate.

Do No Harm continues to get strong notices, including Jon Breen’s current write-up (complete with the cover on display) in Mystery Scene. If you haven’t read this one, a reminder: no mass market or trade paperback is scheduled, so you’ll have to spring for hardcover (or Kindle).

* * *

The decision by the Dr. Seuss estate to pull half a dozen titles because of racist imagery is a smart move on their part, but a sad day for authors and, for that matter, readers.

Still, racism in a children’s book, however unintentional, makes those books, published long ago, problematic today. I get that. But I feel the best way to deal with this – in this current judgmental climate, at least – is to publish a disclaimer that, in a kids’ book, encourages parental guidance and discussion. That a gentle soul like Ted Geisel – who preached racial tolerance by way of parable through wonderful cartoons and fun absurd rhymes – faces this kind of thing is distressing if understandable.

TCM is going to great lengths to have discussions of classic films that have committed the sin of not being “woke” forty, fifty, sixty years ago. This is nothing new at TCM, who did the same for Charlie Chan movies quite a while back. Whether they are being socially responsible or playing a CYA game is in the mind of the beholder.

Disney and Warner’s, on their classic cartoon collections, have long had disclaimers, and my pal Leonard Maltin has delivered some of those (so has Whoopee Goldberg). Again, with kids I get this. But grown-ups actually shouldn’t need the disclaimers (although CYA does seem to require it), because anyone not standing on their IQ ought to have an awareness of when a film was made and at least a vague idea of the cultural context.

A stunted sense of humor and particularly lack of a sense of irony seems at play here. My generation, through underground comix and comedy of the SNL and SCTV variety, mocked racial and sexual stereotypes; humor, satire, is an excellent way to make such points, though trying to do so now would be perilous.

As usual, nuance has gone out the window. This may come as a shock to some, but the Mickey Rooney Asian bit in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was always offensive, and was found so at the time and ever since. But it reflected director Blake Edwards’s slapstick instincts and, again, is a spoofing of racism; it doesn’t work in Breakfast because it’s so over the top and unfunny, and is jarringly out of step with the otherwise sophisticated tone of the movie.

But I am sure we will see a move to ban the same director’s Pink Panther movies with the Inspector Clouseau/Cato relationship. Is there some way to explain that “my little yellow friend” was funny because it was so wrong, and we knew at the time that it was?

The danger of such self-righteous attitudes is that the work of ethnic artists – great actors like Burt Kwouk (Cato), Tim Moore (the Kingfish), and Mantan Moreland (Charlie Chan’s chauffeur) – may be lost to time, censored out of existence. I shudder to think that the Great American Novel (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) will be banned from even more bookshelves. Is John Ford’s film The Searchers any less a condemnation of racist hatred because a white actor in “redface” plays Scar, the antagonist chief? The answer might be yes, but I would suggest a more logical, fair answer would be, “It was made in 1956.”

This notion that intention is irrelevant is especially troubling. Of course intention isn’t an excuse or a free pass; but neither is it beside the point. Good intentions may pave the road to hell (aka perdition), but they are a sign of a teachable situation where, say, a KKK rally isn’t.

* * *

Here’s a terrific review of Skim Deep.

Here’s a reprint of a Kill Your Darlings review by the knowledgeable Art Scott. It’s a Mallory novel.

And here’s an extensive look at my work (an expansion of a previous piece) at Atomic Junkshop.

M.A.C.

Short Cuts

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I came to short stories late in my career. I had written a good number as a teenager and, in the Writers Workshop format at the University of Iowa, writing short stories was expected. But I didn’t submit anything professionally until the mid-1980s, and then almost always when I was invited. I believe the first professionally published short story was “The Strawberry Teardrop” (a Heller story) for a PWA anthology. I did allow several early things to be published in Hardboiled, back when my pal Wayne Dundee was the editor, but I don’t recall the exact time frame.

The limited number of markets discouraged me, and they still do. I tried Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine with “A Wreath for Marley,” but the editor turned it down as too long (and it’s a novella, so that’s valid) although claimed to like it. I sold a Heller story to them later – don’t recall which one – and since then, on the rare occasions I submit to EQMM, they haven’t turned anything down. This to me is a real honor. I’ve never submitted anything to Alfred Hitchcock, their sister magazine, simply because I have a good relationship with the editor at EQMM.

The response there to my submissions of Spillane/Collins short stories has been favorable – I did both “A Killer is on the Loose!” (from an unproduced Spillane radio play) and “The Big Run” (from an unproduced TV script by Mickey, done for Suspense). And now, for the first time, a Mike Hammer story appears in EQMM (the March/April 2021 issue) and the Spillane & Collins team has made the cover. [Amazon Link]

This, frankly, delights me.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine March/April 2021

We are the issue’s Black Mask Department story, and are the lead story, which is a thrill. And here is what editor Janet Hutchings says by way of introducing “Killer’s Alley,” adapted by me from a short Hammer film script:

“Although Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer stepped onto the crime-fiction scene in 1947, just six years after EQMM was founded, he’s never appeared in our pages. As we celebrated the magazine’s 80th year, it’s high time he joined EQMM’s panoply of iconic characters.”

One of the joys of being the keeper of the Spillane literary keys is to see how warmly he is now regarded. This is, frankly, a big deal, getting the EQMM seal of approval. Folks my age (and a few of us are still kicking) know how less than warm the reception was to Mickey and his success in the early ‘50s from a lot of critics and writers who should have known better, but were seized by a fit of jealousy.

Short stories have been on my mind of late, because I’ve been dealing with going over the galley proofs of two new collections of my short fiction, Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and the forthcoming Suspense – His and Hers: Tales of Love and Murder. The latter, due out in September, is a follow-up to Murder – His and Hers, and again collects stories written individually by Barb and me, and together.

Assembling these has not been without speed bumps. Wolfpack has been incredibly supportive, bringing out much of my remaining back list – the four Eliot Ness novels, the two Mommy novels, and Shoot the Moon, though I haven’t seen a physical copy of that yet. They will be bringing out Regeneration and Bombshell by Barb and me, stand-alone novels.

Already they have Murderlized (by Matt Clemens and me, a new collection I’ve very proud of) and the existing collections, Blue Christmas and Murder – His and Hers. Barb’s Too Many Tomcats is out, too, with an intro and a co-written story by me.

Again, there have been problems. I think Wolfpack’s covers are great, but I’ve had copy-editing problems; but editor Paul Bishop has been patient with my fussiness with both Reincarnal and Suspense – His and Hers. Not every problem can be blamed on copy editors, though. These stories span something like 37 years, and each tale is a file, sometimes going back to (ready for this?) WordStar days. So what we delivered sometimes had glitches I hadn’t caught. A typical problem was that, for a long time, editors wanted italics indicated by underlining; maybe a decade ago, they switched to wanting italics indicated by, yes, italics.

And Wolfpack had to get a bunch of my books out all at once. Reincarnal has a problem that a number of you have pointed out – the table of contents page is messed up. One story is not included and the numbering is wrong. I missed this. I frankly never thought to check the table of contents.

The nice thing about the e-book age is that we can correct things like that. So anyone ordering Reincarnal now, whether e-book or physical book, will have a corrected table of contents. The rest of you – well, what do you know? You own a collector’s item!

Seriously, though, folks – if you catch a typo in anything of mine, whichever of my publishers has put it out, let me know at macphilms@hotmail.com. We will at the very least be able to correct the e-book version.

Barb, by the way, has been a natural from the start where short stories are concerned. She grew up on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone and developed a real feel for a compact form with a twist ending. From the start she got great reviews and reactions for her stories, including getting slots in “best of the year” anthologies. For her, novel-writing was a stretch, but she has adapted beautifully. Nonetheless, her touch with the short form remains a strength – we have a story together (conceived by her) in – yes! – an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

* * *
Deadly Anniversaries Ebook Cover

I am pleased to share with you something from another of my favorite newsstand publications, Mystery Scene. The great Jon Breen included Do No Harm in an article about recent legal thrillers; a lovely color reproduction of the cover of this latest Heller novel accompanied it.

“Max Allan Collins’s excellent series about Zelig-like private eye Nate Heller fictionalizes major crimes of the past century. Occasionally, Heller drops in on classic trials, perhaps most notably in Damned in Paradise(1996), featuring a complexly characterized Clarence Darrow appearing for the defense in a 1932 Honolulu rape case. The latest in the series, Do No Harm (Forge), considers the murder of Marilyn Sheppard for which her husband Dr. Sam Sheppard, a Cleveland osteopath, was tried and convicted in 1954 and retried in 1966, this time with famed advocate F. Lee Bailey heading the defense. Both trails are visited in a total of about a dozen pages, the first summarized to Heller by newspaper columnist Flo Kilgore (a transparent pseudonym for Dorothy Kilgallen), the second viewed by Heller and including some well-selected quotes from Bailey’s cross-examinations. All the real people in the cast – Bailey, Kilgore/Kilgallen, Erle Stanley Gardner, Eliot Ness, and especially Sam Sheppard himself – come to life as convincing fictional characters. As usual, Collins’ concluding author’s note provides a bibliographic essay on his sources to make the fact/fiction demarcation clear.”

Getting back to short fiction, a story that I consider one of my best – “Amazing Grace” – appears in the MWA anthology, Deadly Anniversaries. It’s on sale now in e-book form for under two bucks, right here.

Here is an absolutely stellar Come Spy With Me review at Bookgasm.

Here’s a mixed but smart review, mostly favorable, of Skim Deep. But for the last effin time, it’s Nolan, not Frank Nolan. He has never been Frank Nolan. Stop it already.

Finally, here’s a nice if belated (but appreciated) UK review of Girl Most Likely.

M.A.C.

Cover Story

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

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.

* * *

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.