Posts Tagged ‘Jack and Maggie Starr’

Antiques Swap — Collect it!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Antiques Swap
Hardcover:
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The latest entry in the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (usually referred to as the ANTIQUES series) hit the bookstores last week. Barb and I (the co-authors, as “Barbara Allan”) spotted ANTIQUES SWAP nicely displayed in the Davenport Barnes and Noble.

This one begins at a swap meet but actually touches upon other, more risque meanings of “swap,” in a plotline we feared might be frowned upon by our editor, though we got away it. Cozies are supposed to be…cozy. The murders are supposed to be…nice. But for all the humor we put into the books – and we put a lot in – we try not to take homicide too lightly.

We also realize that our audience may include some readers – possibly you – who don’t regularly read cozy mysteries. After all, the great reviewer Jon Breen has called us a “subversive” take on the form, which he meant as a compliment. When we created the series, and were asked to include certain elements (exotic setting, cute pet, gimmick premise), we did so in an overtly tongue-in-cheek way that we thought would get us rejected.

Obviously we weren’t.

By the way, neither of us love the term “cozy,” and I suspect a lot of mystery writers feel that way. But the term seems to be the reigning one, much as “noir” has supplanted “hardboiled.” Cozy mysteries are more properly called “traditional.”

Ours are definitely in a sub-genre of comic mysteries. We don’t, however, consider ourselves to be spoofing the form or doing satire. Just as we take the murders in the stories seriously, we take our two main characters seriously and follow them through problems and challenges in their lives. Vivian Borne, Serenity’s theatrical diva, may seem larger-than-life, but I’ve met her at various times in various forms. You probably have, too.

Of everything I work on, the ANTIQUES series is the one that maintains the most constant presence. That’s largely because Barb spends almost all of her writing time on it. Of late we’ve been doing a novel and a novella every year, and that keeps her in production all but a few months in the summer. So we’re discussing the stories pretty much year-round.

Also, the nature of the book business is that once you’ve “finished” a book, you’ve just begun – a copy-edited manuscript will roll in unannounced for you to check through (and we both have to do that), and then galley proofs (which we both have to deal with). These never arrive at a good time, and always are due yesterday.

Barb and I had barely finished next year’s ANTIQUES FATE when the upcoming novella, ANTIQUES ST. NICKED, arrived in galley proof form. She’s gone through it already. I haven’t yet.

In the meantime, I continue work on THE BIG SHOWDOWN, the sequel to the current THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. I admit to feeling something of an imposter, as I have read precious few western novels in my time. On the other hand, I love movie westerns and have a huge collection of them on DVD and Blu-ray. I’ve said here many times that MAVERICK was my favorite show in childhood (and still ranks high) and that the episode “Shady Deal at Sunny Acres” is the greatest hour of episodic television ever…an opinion that hasn’t changed.

While working on CALEB, I have subjected Barb to a festival of western movies…but “subjected” really isn’t right, because loves western movies, too. Right now we’re in the midst of a Joel McCrea festival. I rank McCrea in the upper reaches – in the top five western stars (John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy and Gary Cooper being the others). Regular readers of mine know I am an Italian western fan, since Nolan was largely based on Lee Van Cleef’s screen persona in those films.

What I find really difficult in the CALEB YORK novels is balancing the myth with the real west. Despite my reputation for historical accuracy with the Nathan Heller novels, I am much more interested in the mythic west than the real thing.

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK seems to be a little tough to find in bookstores, so I recommend you order it online. It’s already in a second printing.

Incidentally, while writing ANTIQUES FATE – which touches upon the British school of mystery writer – we spent our evenings in a festival of UK crime fare, leaning heavily on MIDSOMER MURDERS and the new Blu-rays of the great Joan Hickson as MISS MARPLE.

* * *

This terrific ANTIQUES SWAP review just came in from one of our favorite writers (and favorite people), Bill Crider.

My writer pal Ed Gorman used this review of the Dover reprint of STRIP FOR MURDER at his terrific blog.

The QUARRY series gets great play in this article about Memphis trying to lure the series back there (it’s shooting in New Orleans currently with limited Memphis footage scheduled to be shot later).

A recurring cast member has been added to the QUARRY series.

Here’s another of those articles about movies you didn’t know were based on comics, with ROAD TO PERDITION included. But either I am getting very old or the world is getting very young when such movies include ANNIE and THE ADDAMS FAMILY (!!!).

And finally, of all things, here’s a review of the audio of DEAD STREET, the first Spillane novel I completed (though I took only limited credit for my polish and concluding chapters).

M.A.C.

Action!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Shooting has begun on QUARRY in New Orleans.

I have read all eight scripts (including the one I wrote!) and series creators Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller have put together an excellent in-depth look at the origins of Quarry. It’s exciting, sexy, violent, character-driven and takes on important topics, which I like to think is a reflection of my fiction. I am particularly pleased that the show is being done in period with a real emphasis on the Vietnam aspect of the source material.

Break a leg, guys!

* * *

It’s been a very busy year already. Now I begin work on ANTIQUES FATE, working from Barb’s rough draft. Maybe writing FATE OF THE UNION (another FATE!) in between QUARRY IN THE BLACK and this latest Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery will ease the jolt between the very dark world of most of my work and the lighter world of Brandy and her mother Vivian. On the other hand, Barb had the idea of really littering this one with murder victims, so we’ll see.

We’re doing an English-style cozy, consciously invoking the likes of MIDSOMER MURDERS and MISS MARPLE with a village in Iowa that plays up its British heritage. Working on these books is always fun, because Barb puts in so much comedy, which inspires me to put in even more.

One thing will make this year less busy than it would have been: Barb and I (and Nate and Abby) won’t be going to San Diego Comic-Con. We’ve gone regularly for over two decades, so this is kind of the end of an era, or anyway an interruption of one. The con has become so big, sprawling and unwieldily, it can be daunting for older fans and pros. It’s also difficult to get into many of the most interesting panels because to do so requires standing in line for a long, long time (in some cases, overnight).

It will probably mean the Scribe Awards (which I have regularly hosted since their inception, given out at the San Diego Comic-Con) will likely be looking for a new home. This I really regret, as co-founder (with my pal Lee Goldberg) of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers, who honor tie-in writers with these awards. The con gave us a nice high profile.

Why are we staying home? Simple – the wretched situation where lodging is concerned. The con throws all of the hotel rooms out there at a specified time, and if you’re not a computer whiz, you don’t stand a chance – everything at all close to the convention center is gone in about sixty seconds, and within five minutes even the bad rooms are taken. Even with Nate at the computer keys, we wound up with a hotel in Mission Valley – far, far away from the con. Well, we’re already far, far away from the con, and we’ll stay there – home, I mean.

* * *

The new Dover edition of STRIP FOR MURDER has inspired this nice write-up.

Here’s a wonderful review of KILL ME, DARLING from the UK.

The paperback edition of COMPLEX 90 inspired this great review.

And here’s a piece on KILL ME, DARLING by someone who hasn’t read it yet…but it’s good!

M.A.C.

Kill Me, Darling—Today!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
Kill Me, Darling
Hardcover:
E-Book:

The day this update appears, so will KILL ME, DARLING on the shelves of B & N, BAM! and other brick-and-mortar bastions of bookselling, and of course the on-line forces of Amazon and others will have it available, too.

The response so far has been really gratifying, since this is the first of at least three Hammer novels that will have me fashioning a novel from shorter novel fragments that Mickey Spillane left behind. The previous six novels have all had around 100 pages for me to deal with, and sometimes notes and even roughed-out endings. This time I had around 50 pages, including the first chapter from a completely other tale but similar enough that I could rework it for this one (an earlier take on THE GIRL HUNTERS, with Velda disappearing off to Florida, not Russia) without repeating the first five or six pages that were identical in both manuscripts.

So I was nervous that this one might be perceived differently than the ones that were more heavily Mickey. Thus far, that’s not been the case.

Since this is pub day, I am going to share with you here (rather than just provide a link to) the terrific Bookgasm review of KILL ME, DARLING. Here goes:

Prolific crime author Max Allan Collins continues his role as literary executor and posthumous collaborator for the late Mickey Spillane with KILL ME, DARLING, the first of three intended Mike Hammer novels found among Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts.

As he explains in his brief introduction, Collins noted that Spillane envisioned the novel as a follow-up to KISS ME, DEADLY (1952). So Collins revised the opening chapter and placed the entire narrative in the 1953-54 time frame. And, as has been the case with previous collaborations, Collins does the Mike Hammer creator proud.

It’s been a tough time for PI Mike Hammer. As the novel opens his secretary and true love of his life, Velda, has walked out on him, leaving a note with a terse goodbye and no further explanation. And Hammer is just surfacing from a four-month bender. Then a highly respected old cop from the NYPD Vice Squad turns up murdered. Hammer visits the scene of the murder, but before long is picked up by a squad car and taken to the home of his pal, Captain Pat Chambers.

Chambers tells Hammer that Velda has been seen in Miami, Florida, and reportedly is the moll of gangster and suspected drug runner Nolly Quinn. What’s more, Chambers suspects that Velda’s disappearance is connected with the murdered cop – especially since Velda once worked undercover for the cop before she was introduced to Hammer. Hammer sobers up as quickly as he can and drives to Miami to find Velda and bring her home.

Once in Miami Hammer enlists the help of a veteran local newspaperman and a police detective to get information on Nolly Quinn. But the more Hammer learns about Quinn and his Miami operation, the more he fears that whatever Velda is involved in is way over her head and could cost her life.

The dust jacket promotes the novel as “The Lost Mike Hammer Miami Thriller,” and at first the thought of Hammer, the archetype of the urban tough guy, in the land of sun and beaches seems horribly out of place. But Spillane and Collins know that when the sun sets the streets of Miami can be as mean as any in New York. So it doesn’t take long for Hammer to get tangled up with the criminal bosses running the gambling and whorehouses that keep tourists busy after dark.

Collins’s contributions, although mostly seamless, can be felt mainly in his research of the historical time frame of the novel’s setting. So he takes full advantage of the knowledge of Miami’s reputation as the place where even underworld bosses brought their families on vacation, the tempting strategic location of Cuba for moving contraband, and most notably the specter of the Kefauver Committee senate hearings on organized crime that hang over Miami like a veiled mist.

But make no mistake; this is a Mike Hammer story, so it’s filled with bullets shot from speeding cars, brutal hand-to-hand fights, plot twists and sudden revelations right up to the novels’ final pages, plus plenty of hard-boiled observations and dialogue. Even the attitudes about sex and sexuality are firmly and bluntly within the period. And while Hammer carries a devoted torch for his beloved Velda, he finds the lure of the scantly clad Miami women hard to resist.

Spillane popularized those characteristics we now know as “pulp fiction,” and set the stage for most of the impulsive, tough-talking detectives that followed Mike Hammer in print, movies, and TV. So it’s reassuring to know that his spirit and influence are in the ultra-capable hands of Collins.

KILL ME, DARLING will delight new and long-time Spillane fans, and effectively whets our apatite for the forthcoming collaborations Collins has in the pipeline. —Alan Cranis

A review like that is gratifying any time, but in this case it feels extra sweet.

Strip for Murder

Also, I’d like to announce that Dover Books is bringing out nifty new editions of the first two Jack and Maggie Starr mysteries, leading with the second one, STRIP FOR MURDER. The first, A KILLING IN COMICS, will follow soon. The covers are not by Terry Beatty this time, but all his wonderful interior art remains. Thanks, Terry!

This past week, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller, FATE OF THE UNION, went off to my editor at Thomas & Mercer. Matt Clemens worked on it with me and will receive a cover credit. Matt’s story treatment, developed from our co-plotting, gave me a very solid structure to base the novel on, and we were joined-at-the-hip during the writing of my draft. We both think it’s superior to the first novel (which we – and several hundred thousand readers – also like). No pub date yet.

Very soon the QUARRY TV series for Cinemax starts shooting in New Orleans. Barb and I will probably go to the set in April or early May. My episode is now #6 of eight.

This coming week I will be working on the pilot outline for another potential series based on one of my series. More than that I dare not say.

I am writing this in a St. Louis hotel room (at the Moonrise in the Loop), on a visit to son Nate and his bride Abby, who have moved from a West End apartment to suburban O’Fallon, so that Abby has a shorter work commute. Very cute house where we helped the couple set up Nate’s work desk and a dining room table, both of which we magically got into the back of our Chevy Equinox for delivery. Wonderful seeing them, and our granddog Toaster as well. Nate is working on a video game translation currently. Together we watched several episodes of my favorite new series, THE JACK AND TRIUMPH SHOW.

* * *

Top-notch crime writer Mike Dennis also has nice things to say about KILL ME, DARLING – and Mr. Dennis knows his Mike Hammer.

And here’s a very generous appraisal of my career, focusing on the Nathan Heller short story collections, CHICAGO LIGHTNING and TRIPLE PLAY.

M.A.C.

Note From The Bunker #2

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

[Nate’s note: Before we get to the regularly scheduled Update, we have some breaking news:

QUARRY ON CINEMAX

Cinemax today officially announced an eight-episode series order to drama pilot Quarry. Production will begin March 30 on location in New Orleans and Tennessee. Created and executive produced by Graham Gordy & Michael D. Fuller. Based on the novels of Max Allan Collins, the show will be directed and executive produced by Greg Yaitanes (Banshee), along with executive producer Steve Golin (True Detective).

Quarry tells the story of Mac Conway (Logan Marshall-Green), a Marine who returns home to Memphis from Vietnam in 1972 and finds himself shunned by those he loves and demonized by the public. As he struggles to cope with his experiences at war, Conway is drawn into a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. Jodi Balfour, Peter Mullan, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Damon Herriman co-star, along with Jamie Hector, Edoardo Ballerini and Skipp Sudduth. “This nuanced and dynamic show marks an exciting moment in the evolution of Cinemax programming,” said HBO’s Michael Lombardo.

An HBO Entertainment production in association with Anonymous Content, the series is also executive produced by Matt DeRoss, David Kanter, Max Allan Collins and Ken Levin. Additional writers on the series include Jennifer Schuur and Max Allan Collins.

Cinemax has been making strides in original programming with dramas Banshee and The Knick, the latter earning the sister HBO network its first awards nominations.

And now, back to the Update….]

* * *

Here’s the first major review for the upcoming Mike Hammer novel, KILL ME, DARLING – and it’s a great one from Publisher’s Weekly no less:

Kill Me, Darling

Set in 1954, Collins’s seventh posthumous collaboration with Mike Hammer creator Spillane (after 2014’s King of the Weeds) is one of his best, liberally dosed with the razor-edged prose and violence that marked the originals. The New York City PI has hit the bottle hard after his longtime assistant and love, Velda Sterling, abandoned him with a one-word note. Then Mike’s friend on the NYPD, Pat Chambers, tells him that Velda has surfaced in Miami, on the arm of Nolly Quinn, a notorious mob-connected pimp. Mike cleans himself up and heads south to rescue Velda from Quinn, only to find that she doesn’t want to be rescued. Collins faithfully follows Spillane’s successful formula, including frequent gunplay, menacing thugs, and betrayal. He even matches Spillane’s colorful turns of phrase (e.g., “My bullet shattered his smile on its way through him and out of the back of his head”). Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Mar.)

* * *

I am still working on the new Quarry novel and might finish this week, if all goes well. But a writer never knows. I often say that I never get writer’s block, which is the kind of boast than can catch up with you. No writer’s block, that’s true in its way, but I do have bad days.

A typical bad writing day for me happens as follows. I have a very good writing day, turning out more pages than usual, and I am floating on a cloud of genius. Then, that night, going to bed around midnight, having gone blissfully and quickly asleep, I wake up at 1:30 a.m. Wide awake. I do my best to get right back to sleep, but no go. I go downstairs, read something until I get sleepy, which takes an hour to two hours. Then I sleep in my recliner for a while, wake up after a while and trudge back to the bedroom, where I get to sleep right away. But I wake up at the usual time, after a very disrupted night’s “rest.”

The writing day that follows is almost always a disaster. I do write. But I am not my usual nimble self. What’s normal for me is ten to fifteen pages of finished draft. Last week, after my rocky night, I spent all day on four pages.

Some of that has to do with the research that is now required of a Quarry novel, now that they have become historical books themselves, in their quirky way. I spend as much time chasing details on Google or in reference works as I do writing – not that different from the Heller process.

But the way I do a Quarry novel is much different than a Heller. Because of the historical crimes involved, a Heller novel is tightly plotted, with each chapter detailed in at least a paragraph in a document that can be anywhere from ten to thirty pages long. With Quarry, my chapter outline reverts (not surprisingly) to the approach of my early career, with each chapter indicated by a sentence or two. For QUARRY IN THE BLACK, my outline says for chapter one: “Quarry gets job from Broker.” Another says: “Quarry and Southern gal connect at club.” That’s it. The rest is done on the fly.

That really works for Quarry, but if I’m having an off day? He is just not himself. Like I am not. Sometimes I can power through it. Sometimes I can come back in the evening (which I did with the four pages mentioned above, which turned into seven) but not always. Being older doesn’t help.

And there’s that other thing that writers never talk about – that as writers we change from day to day. Make that second to second. Back in the ‘80s, before word-processing programs automatically saved every now and then, I lost an entire chapter of the Eliot Ness novel, THE DARK CITY. It was devastating. When I knew the chapter was gone, really really gone, I started over and did my best to remember it.

Of course, I couldn’t. The chapter, as it now exists, covers the same ground. But it’s not as good as the one I lost. If I were to lose this little essay and start over, it would be substantially different and none of the phrasing would be replicated. In the mid-‘80s, I lost a chapter of PRIMARY TARGET (aka QUARRY’S VOTE) and the same process happened: I tried to remember it and only came up with a shadow of what it had been.

If a writer starts working on a story or chapter in a novel on Monday morning, even working from a detailed outline, it will be substantially different that if he waited till Tuesday afternoon. We, like what we write, are works in progress. We hope it’s progress, anyway.

A number of people lately have asked me what order to read the Quarry novels in. Chronological would seem to make sense, like starting with THE FIRST QUARRY, moving to QUARRY’S CHOICE, then QUARRY aka THE BROKER, sliding the later-written books into continuity. But THE BROKER was written when I was in my early twenties; THE FIRST QUARRY and QUARRY’S CHOICE were written by a man in his sixties. Do you understand why my advice would be to read the books in the order I wrote them? Because the writer who did the first four Quarry novels was a very different one.

* * *

Here’s an okay review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, but the reviewer doesn’t quite get it….

Here’s a fun review of DAMNED IN PARADISE.

And now, with the blessing of being snowed in, I will head back to the bunker. Only I’m already there.

M.A.C.