Posts Tagged ‘Interviews’

Physical Media Lives – Sort Of

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

A couple more great reviews for The Big Bundle have come in.

Big Bundle Cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Kobo Google Play
Digital Audiobook:

This is from the DIS/MEMBER web site:

The Big Bundle
by Max Allan Collins

“What kind of world are we living in, Nate?” “A world where men like us can get ahead, Bob. Can make a nice life for ourselves and our families. But it’s also one where men of envy and greed and stupidity and flat-out evil are ready and willing to take everything away.”

The President of Chicago’s A-1 Detective Agency makes his grand Hard Case Crime debut in The Big Bundle. The latest from living, breathing noir encyclopedia and prolific genre staple Max Allan Collins.

The year is 1953 and six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, son of Kansas City Cadillac magnate Robert Greenlease, has been kidnapped. Following a series of cartoonish attempts to ransom the boy, Chicago detective Nathan Heller is called to K.C. Having been appealed to by the boy’s desperate family and hired on as one of the many caseworkers, both local and federal, drawn into the crime.

But what starts as a kidnapping quickly spirals into something much, much more complex. Pitting Heller against crooked Teamsters, thuggish cabbies, out-of-luck bent cops, and Robert F. Kennedy on the warpath for the mob. All immaculately strung across a colorfully detailed, powerfully researched depiction of the 1950s. A time when Jimmy Hoffa was in every newspaper and “The Outfit” (aka The Mafia at it’s height) kept everyone looking over their shoulders.

Though standing as the 18th Nathan Heller Novel (excluding short story collections and “casebooks”), The Big Bundle is immediately accessible for those who might be coming to the series fresh. From page 1, Collins provides a wonderfully succinct primer on Heller’s exploits thus far. Economically delivered and chock full of rich characterization, Collins eases readers into the life and immensely readable voice of Heller.

Better still, the novel’s main case is truly compelling. Made even more so by the liberal peppering of real-life history Collins deploys throughout the book. The Greenlease Kidnapping was huge news and compared to the Lindbergh case at the time. Yet another canny connection to our man Heller. But as such, Collins adapts and reconstructs real history, people, and places into the narrative. Providing his driving, constantly twisty plot with sumptuous detailing.

To say any more would spoil The Big Bundle‘s best turns. But trust when I say, if you are looking for old-school, eminently readable crime fiction, The Big Bundle is a damn safe bet. Chock to bursting with character and deftly delivered by well-practiced hand, this new effort from Hard Case Crime does right by Chicago’s A-1 gumshoe. And providing him a welcome new home at the publisher.

The Big Bundle by Max Allan Collins is available for pre-order now and releases December 6th.

Joe Maniscalco has done a review for Good Reads and Amazon that’s worth sharing:

After first meeting Nate Heller in True Detective back in 1983, this reader has eagerly read each of Max Allan Collins’ novels featuring the life and times of a former Chicago cop who goes on to meet some of 20th centuries’ most famous and most infamous. Nate Heller begins as a reluctant cop, who encounters the Chicago underworld, and then eventually morphs into the famous owner of the A-1 Detective Agency with several branches across the United States.

The Heller novels are notable for Collins’ extensive research that bring the felons and politicos of the years of each of the books to life. (And sometimes felons and politicos describe the same person.). Heller has gone on to solve real life historical mysteries, and even occasionally bedded some well known women of the day, not widely thought of as femme fatales.

The Big Bundle is set somewhat mid career for Heller as he is called on to investigate the kidnapping of a child of a wealthy businessman. Heller had investigated another kidnapping that made worldwide news twenty years earlier, thus his presence in this job makes perfect sense.

There is a moral principle that Heller follows which determines how much of his investigations remain strictly legal, but always justifiable. Here Heller deals with small time hoodlums, famous union bosses, and a young politician about to make his name as he investigates organized crime.

Heller himself hints that the union boss, the politician, and he will meet again, and perceptive readers will likely have some inking how those meetings will turn out, and will change the course of American history.

Readers do not have to start with Heller’s first “memoir.” What’s certain is that nearly 40 years after his first appearance, the author and his creation have not lost any of their power to entertain and put a new spin on twentieth century history and the mysteries and crimes which have brought us into the twenty first century.

Let me remind you that a dock strike in the UK means the availability of the physical book (what I like to call a book book) of The Big Bundle will be delayed till January 2023; but the e-book will be available Dec. 5. I will be doing a book giveaway of the trade paper ARC (the book itself is a hardcover) in a week or two.

In the meantime I am deep into the next Heller – the RFK assassination Heller – Too Many Bullets. I’m at 302 manuscript pages with five chapters left to go (plus the bibliographic essay).

Perhaps because the degree of difficulty – I no longer have George Hagenauer helping me on the research side – has made this one such a bear, added to health issues throughout, I am seriously considering making the follow-up to Too Many Bullets my final Heller.

On the health front, I had a very good report from my heart doctor and will soon be seeing my general practitioner about various other fun and games. But keeping the heart beating is a high damn priority and that looks positive right now.

* * *
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

The time has come to discuss physical media.

First let me say I am fine with e-books for those of you who find them handy and dandy. They have their place – for example, on a commuter train or when a reader needs to control of the size of print to be able to read the stuff. Where they don’t have a place is on a bookshelf.

Now understand that e-books have kept me and my career alive. Thomas & Mercer (who have lost interest in me as a current contributer, but that’s another story) chose me a decade ago as one of three authors whose back list they would use to plump up their e-book library. The other two were Ian Fleming and Ed McBain, and if there’s better company than that I don’t know who it might be.

Even now the monthly sales of Heller, Mallory, the Disaster Series and the Reeder & Rogers Trilogy add up to a tidy little paycheck – of varying sizes, but steady. Readers having access to my backlist is a great thing. Heller sales are up over a million copies because of Thomas & Mercer’s good efforts. So I am not one to cast aspersions on e-books. They have kept me afloat.

And yet. They are not books. They are not those wonderful things with pages and covers and images on covers that can sit on shelves and be plucked out from the pack for perusal at a moment’s notice. I can tell you with certainty that books from the ‘30s and ‘40s are already disappearing. Even with ABE, you can’t find copies of any number of things, sometimes by authors who were fairly famous in their day.

Then there’s movies. I have far too many DVDs, Blu-rays and, yes, laser discs. If the Internet of a few years ago (and even now) was to be believed, all movies would soon be available to us with a mouse click. Anything we could dream of seeing, we could see, at our whim. Of course that was bullshit.

Any of us who have been paying attention know that a vast number of films are already gone, from the silent days on. A bunch of Charlie Chan movies starring Warner Oland are in the ether, for instance (of course the rest will probably be turned into guitar picks over political correctness, but never mind). And if you look something up on SEARCH on your Roku, you will discover that plenty of stuff is either not available or you have to pay for it, for a temporary rental or a “purchase” (which of course is air you’re purchasing, not something physical you can hold or put on a shelf). We are already used to Netflix and other such services announcing what titles are leaving this month. HBO Max has been one night of the long knives after another.

The death of physical media is more murder than natural causes. So I am not about to divest myself of my library of movies, which will be left to my son, who is also smart enough to know that physical media has its place.

If you think I overstate, take a spin into Best Buy, which for decades made movies a loss leader that brought movie fans in to go through aisle after aisle of cinematic and televisionary offerings. Yesterday, in Cedar Rapids, I entered a Best Buy and the child working the door asked me, “What brings you in today?” Really? I need an excuse now?

Well, maybe I do, because the Blu-rays and 4K discs on offer were a pitiful selection that took up so little space its former grand area was just partitioned off and empty. Shades of Suncoast, Tower Records, and Camelot….

So I come to celebrate the Blu-ray labels that are devoting themselves to obscurities – horror and science fiction and noir, giallo (Italian crime/horror), B movies, C movies, Z movies, and the two who tower over the rest for their superior packaging and extensive bonus features are Severin and Vinegar Syndrome. They are not alone, but these labels are outstanding in their bold selection. Also praise worthy (among a number) are VCI, Shout Factory (Scream Factory), and especially Arrow, who bridge the gap between Criterion’s arty fare and Severin/Vinegar’s aggressively grungy selections.

Severin, for example, recently offered a 4K release of The Changeling, a first-rate George C. Scott haunted house film; My Grandpa is a Vampire, a so so movie for older kids more than redeemed by a valedictory performance by Al Lewis (I hope you don’t have to be told he was Grandpa on The Munsters and a staple of Bilko); and two (so far) Blu-ray boxed sets of Christopher Lee’s European output.

Vinegar Syndrome has recently released The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman (with an 80-minute documentary about Spanish cult horror star Paul Naschy as a bonus feature!); The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on 4k with voluminous bonus features; and Cutter’s Way with Jeff Bridges in a VHS-style box. Vinegar Syndrome also does a lot of classic porn for those of you who think the words “classic” and “porn” can reasonably appear together in the same sentence. Like all their stuff, the porn has fancy schmancy sleeves and classy presentation.

Look, not all of this material is for everybody. Some of it seems to be for nobody, so we’re in that fuzzy area between “buyer beware” and “how cool!”

But this is a world of physical media that has been spawned by the real world’s lack of interest thereof. So we can find Arrow Video releasing Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers and (on 4K) Mike Hodges’ Croupier. And Scream Factory releasing a 4K of Army of Darkness and a boxed set of Jackie Chan (1976 – 1982).

Best of times, worst of times. Take your pick.

* * *

And, no, I haven’t forgotten Classic Flix. I am recording a commentary for Mickey Spillane’s The Long Wait tomorrow. And here is a terrific review of their I, the Jury 4K/Blu-ray/3-D release.

Finally, my friend and editor Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime has a wonderful interview with my buddy Andrew Sumner of Titan about Charles’ terrific Gun Honey comic book, the archive editions of Ms. Tree, and a little something I like to call…The Big Bundle!

M.A.C.

M.A.C. Collection From Wolfpack & A Spillane Rave

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Another short update, I’m afraid.

My medical issues are coming to a head and I will be trying to deal with them this week. Good thoughts and crossed fingers are appreciated.

Here is the appearance by Barb and me on the Paula Sands Show recently, promoting Antiques Liquidation.

The first in a new series of e-book boxed sets from Wolfpack is available now – The Max Allan Collins Collection, Volume One: Eliot Ness. Works out to less than a buck a book!


E-Book:

There will be five e-book boxed sets in the overall Max Allan Collins Collection, plus a Mickey Spillane collection.

Come Spy With Me is set for a $.99 Kindle Countdown Deal Oct 19th – 25th.


E-Book:

The first review of the Spillane bio by Jim Traylor and me has just appeared, and it’s strong, despite being from the meanest, toughest reviewing service in the world: Kirkus.

SPILLANE King of Pulp Fiction
Author: Max Allan Collins
Author: James L. Traylor

Review Issue Date: November 15, 2022
Online Publish Date: October 20, 2022
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Pages: 400
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.95
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-61316-379-5
Section: NonFiction

A full-dress biography of the most polarizing practitioner of 20th-century crime fiction.

As Collins and Traylor note, nearly everyone deplored the sex and violence of Mickey Spillane’s (1918-2006) midcentury novels about private eye Mike Hammer—though that didn’t stop the millions of readers who catapulted him to the top of bestseller lists and kept him there. Delving into Spillane’s roots, the authors examine the evolution of comic-book hero Mike Lancer into Mike Hammer, cite contemporaneous reviewers who talked up or trash-talked Hammer’s adventures, and explore Spillane’s multimedia activities during the 10 years (1952-1962) of Hammer’s absence from the printed page. (Why the long silence? Collins and Traylor believe Spillane was waiting for his disadvantageous contract with film producer Victor Saville to expire). Warning in their opening chapter of spoilers ahead, the authors proceed to summarize the mysteries and solutions of all Hammer’s early novels. They’re at their best when mapping the Spillane metaverse, which includes novels, stories, articles, comic strips, radio broadcasts, TV programs, and movies, and weakest in their uncritical praise of their subject as a plotter, stylist, Jehovah’s Witness, and human being (a verdict his first two wives might have contested). “Mickey encouraged our best efforts, all the while sharing his humanity, generosity, and down-to-earth nature,” they write. “This book reflects not just our love for his work, but for the man, with thanks for his encouragement and friendship.” Spillane’s appealing directness provides an endless stream of anecdotes. The authors conclude with a formidable array of appendices, ranging from an autobiographical fragment that takes Spillane from birth to age 14 to an essay on “Ayn Rand and Mickey Spillane” to a brace of bibliographies and an account of some of their own extensive dealings with the author when he was alive and the work Collins has continued to complete since his death.

Fans who’ve been waiting for a life of Spillane will gobble this up.

A decent review of the new volume in the Titan archival Ms. Tree collections comes from the Slings and Arrows site.

M.A.C.

Poetry Slam: Terry B. & M.A.C. Plus Ms. Tree On TV!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

I am still dealing with my A-fib (going in for a jump-start next week) and am slowed down by the condition as well as some heavy meds I’m on in prep for the procedure. So this week the update here is represented by this interview with Terry Beatty and me by the best pop culture interviewer on the planet, Andrew Sumner. Terry and I have rarely done joint interviews, so this is something of a rarity:

Ms. Tree: Deadline cover; Ms. Tree seated on a table pointing a smoking gun toward the viewer.
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
(Or at your local or online comic book store!)
E-Book: Google Play
* * *
Shoot-Out At Sugar Creek Cover
Paperback: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's

What is possibly the final Caleb York western (of six) will soon be published in paperback, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek. (Tuesday, October 25)

This is a review of the hardcover of Sugar Creek that appeared last year, and it’s a very good, smart one that’s worth reading for the first time or revisiting it.

I loved doing these westerns, and it’s unfortunate Kensington didn’t ask for more. But what had been an unproduced screenplay (for John Wayne) by Mickey Spillane has generated six fun books, so I have nothing to complain about.

This is a really nice write-up about the new Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, at the lively, fun site Jerry’s House of Everything.

And the similarly fun Borg site has a discussion of Tough Tender, the two-fer of Nolan novels, Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, the final two novels of the original Nolan run. Available from Hard Case Crime, my lifeline to readers!

M.A.C.

A Sumner/Collins Interview and Where To Find Sympathy

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

My friend and editor at Titan in the UK – the great Andrew Sumner – did an interview with me about the Mike Hammer novel being published September 13th (Kill Me If You Can) as part of the 75th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s great private eye.

Andrew has edited the last three or four Hammers, at my request. Several previous editors at Titan – while good, smart people – were not familiar with Hammer or Collins or the quirky way of American tough-guy argot. Andrew is, and he’s been a pleasure to work with.

I will spoil the punchline of the interview by revealing here that I have signed with Titan to complete the Mike Hammer Legacy series with two final Mike Hammer novels, to be published in 2023 and 2024. These final two books will, as have all of the books in this series of Collins completed novels, contain genuine Spillane content.

What an honor and pleasure it has been to undertake this task. It’s not entirely over, because a number of non-Hammer fragments remain that may generate Spillane novels, and there’s even the possibility of a couple of Hammer short stories. But the novel saga of Mike Hammer is drawing to a close, with the shelf of 13 expanding to 29 plus a short story collection (A Long Time Dead) rounding the series to an impressive 30.

I should also thank Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press, who published the first three Spillane/Collins Hammer novels (The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang and Kiss Her Goodbye, all under the Titan umbrella now) as well as the short story collection. Otto’s understanding and appreciation of Mickey and Mike’s legacy will continue with the January 2023 publication of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction (by James L. Traylor and myself).

This will be a somewhat short update because, frankly, I am dealing with a health issue. I hesitate to mention it because – as with the recent passing of our family dog, Toaster – this might elicit an outpouring of support, good thoughts and even prayers. Which is always appreciated, but I don’t think any of this is a big deal – just the price of living this long and trying to stay active.

One aspect of my heart problems – which my open-heart surgery in 2016 dealt with effectively – is an occasional recurrence of Afib. Some people can handle Afib as a part of their daily lives, but it throws me for a loop. Nonetheless I didn’t realize I’d slipped back into Afib until I took a previously scheduled PET stress test a few days ago.

I’d been dragging around and fighting sleepless nights for about a week, and had suffered through a band job where I could barely tear down and set up and tear down my keyboards, and where my performance was perfunctory at best. Having been through Afib several times before, I should have tipped to it immediately. But didn’t. The stress test had barely begun when the nurse informed me I was in Afib.

Actually, what she said was, “Did you know you were in Afib?”

I said I didn’t, managing not to proceed that with “duh,” as I’d been experiencing every symptom.

Anyway, luckily I am able to go in tomorrow (Monday) for cardioversion, which is essentially jump-starting your heart. Usually it’s just one long day in the hospital. This is Sunday as I write this, and will happen Monday, while this Update appears on Tuesday, so good wishes are not necessary – the shooting match will be over.

I share this with you because, obviously, it’s on my mind. I began writing F.O.M.A.C. (Friends and Family of Max Allan Collins) updates decades ago. This was prior to using the Internet for that purpose – these were literal, physical newsletters that went out once or twice a year, and announced bookstore and convention appearances, and let readers know what novels and comics and even movies were coming out.

At some point – and I have zero memory when – we moved this to the Internet, and again the occasional postings were prompted by appearances and publications. My son Nate suggested the infrequence and irregularity of these updates were not helpful and nudged me into more regular postings. Before long we switched to weekly ones.

Frankly I focused on promo of my work, links to favorable reviews, and not much else for a while, until again my son said I needed to be more personal (something he came to regret to a degree). Nate particularly encouraged me to pull back the curtain on the writing process – talking about how Nate Heller is researched and so on. To mix metaphors, to share how the sausage is made.

Now and then I wandered into politics and again my son warned me against it, and he was right. I weaken now and then, and still make no secret of my politics; but no real political opinion stuff appears here. What I drifted into was reviews and other discussion of popular culture, which I enjoy doing and get good response doing it. A more personal side began creeping in.

I was a big fan (and a friend) of Harlan Ellison’s. I told him often that I loved his collections of stories where he introduced and discussed his own work. I really loved (and love) that sense of who was behind the fiction being part of the mix. This has crept into my books, with introductions and afterwords (particularly of reprinted material), containing autobiographical looks at how novels or stories came to be written – for example, the convoluted tale of how Nolan began at Curtis Books in the early ‘70s, with only two of the five books seeing print by that company before they were swallowed up by Popular Library; and how the remaining three and one new one were picked up by Pinnacle in the ‘80s. And how Don Pendleton thought I was stealing from him because Nolan rhymed with Bolan.

And the Nolan story is a lot more complicated than that, but my essays about it can be found in the Hard Case Crime two-fer collections of the novels.

A turning point came in 2016 when I had open-heart surgery and wrote about the experience here. My writer pal Steve Mertz said that was some of my best stuff ever, and he knows whereof he speaks. So I have been more frank here, although my son from time to time protects me when I get out of hand…as when recently I went ballistic about a review that irritates me and he reminded me it was a three-year-old review and I should probably get over it. So we cut that bit.

Maybe someday I’ll collect some of the best of F.O.M.A.C. and let the censored stuff see the ill-advised light of day.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way to say that I don’t write about sad and personal and medical things here to get your sympathy. As my late friend Paul Thomas used to say (quoting his father), “If you want sympathy, it’s between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.”

Nonetheless, I want to thank you for reading these blog entries. With luck, I’ll see you here next week.

* * *

This is an interesting column by a reader who has picked up Girl Most Likely and is experiencing it via the book and audio being able to sync up. She promises a review of the novel soon.

In the current entry of the Rap Sheet, J. Kingston Pierce talks about my announcement of Too Many Bullets, and how it will deal with “the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, he explains, but will also ‘cover both Jimmy Hoffa and Sirhan Sirhan,’” and how it may be the last Nate Heller novel. Turns out I am an unreliable narrator, because (with editor Charles Ardai’s blessing) I have already decided to turn Too Many Bullets into two Heller novels. Too Many Bullets will be the RFK assassination novel. The as yet untitled Heller after that will go back and deal with the Jimmy Hoffa story. This came about because – as is always the case – the research has led me places I did not expect to go.

Fifteen movies are recommended here, and one of them is Road to Perdition.

And Road to Perdition is also one of the best movies that have moved to Amazon Prime.

M.A.C.