Posts Tagged ‘Kill Me Darling’

Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

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Digital Audiobook:

Turns out I make mistakes now and then. Who’d have thunk it.

A reader tells me I mangled an entry in the bibliographic essay at the conclusion of Do No Harm, for example. I will try to correct it in the ebook, when things settle down, but for now it’s all I’ll think about when I look at that book. A small continuity error in Killing Quarry is all I see when I look at the cover of that one (the e-book has been corrected).

For those caring enough to read this weekly update, I made another mistake, although it was not exactly my (or anybody’s) fault. Turns out the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, was published on March 17, the original announced date, and not April 7, having supposedly been postponed to that date. The audio is available, too, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

Now, here’s the surprise Spillane ending: the novel’s release really has been postponed till April 7…in the UK. Which sort of lessens my error, because after all the publisher is Titan, which is a British publishing house.

The bottom line is you lucky Americans can rush out and buy it now…well, you can order it online, anyway. Corona virus is doing nobody any favors – not even Smith Corona Virus. I may or may not do a book giveaway to help promote the book – I need to discuss the logistics of that with Barb.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss the new Hammer book a bit. The title of Masquerade for Murder is in line with the Stacy Keach TV movies of the ‘80s, all of which had “Murder” in their titles. This is fitting because the synopsis Mickey wrote, from which I developed the novel, was likely written for the Keach series, as was the case with Murder, My Love (the previous Hammer novel).

These two novels have in common something uncommon in Mike Hammer novels – the detective has a client in both of them. In Mickey’s famous novels, starting with I, the Jury, Hammer almost always is on a personal crusade, a vengeance hunt usually (a girl hunt in, well, The Girl Hunters). But with a TV series, Hammer couldn’t play vigilante every episode – the Darren McGavin version only has a handful of revenge plots, for example – so it’s natural Mickey might have developed these synopses with TV in mind.

The only TV synopses he wrote that became a novel written solely by him was The Killing Man, and it had Hammer personally motivated. Mickey did not submit that synopsis, by the way, considering the story “too good for TV.” (He apparently developed a synopsis for the terrible Keach-less Hammer TV movie, Come Die With Me, but only his ending was utilized.)

If Mickey was writing these synopses with television in mind, what am I doing developing novels out of them, in the case of Masquerade for Murder and the previous Murder, My Love?

Let me discuss what my procedure has been in creating novels where my famous co-author is deceased.

As I’ve reported numerous times, Mickey’s wife Jane and my wife Barb and I went on a treasure hunt – following Mickey’s directive shortly before his passing – for unfinished material in his three offices at his South Carolina home.

Our discoveries included half a dozen Mike Hammer manuscripts that represented works well in progress. These were usually 100 pages or a little more (double-spaced) and often had character and plot notes, and in a few cases endings.

Mickey had been racing to finish what he intended to be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically, The Goliath Bone, all but a few chapters of which were unfinished, and a roughed-out ending was there, too. But because of the terrible ticking clock he was working under, Mickey’s nearly complete draft was much shorter than usual and required fleshing out. Also, the novel had no murder mystery aspect. I provided the latter (his ending is the basis of the second to the last chapter).

A non-Hammer novel, Dead Street, existed in a nearly complete draft, a little rougher than usual but with almost everything there. Dead Street had been written in a stop-and-start fashion, however, and had some inconsistencies due to being written over a longer span of time than usual. I smoothed things out, and wrote the last several (missing) chapters.

The other five Hammers-in-progress – The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds – all had individual issues for me to deal with. The Big Bang consisted of about a third of the novel in finished form, and Mickey had told me the ending; but no plot and character notes turned up. Kiss Her Goodbye existed in two substantial manuscripts that went in two different directions (different mysteries developing); a lot of plot and character notes existed. I combined the two manuscripts – removing the redundant material – and used both mysteries, weaving them together.

Lady, Go Die! was an early manuscript, an unfinished follow-up to I, the Jury which had a good chunk of manuscript – about sixty pages – but was missing the first chapter. I had set this manuscript aside until I’d completed the first three Hammers, so that I felt comfortable enough to write the first chapter of one without Spillane input – I’d been intimidated, because nobody wrote better first chapters than Mickey Spillane. And I had a Spillane first chapter for another Hammer that seemed to be a 1970s reworking of the much-earlier story, and this I was able to use about half-way through the novel, to put more Spillane content in.

Complex 90 ran around 100 pages, very polished, but also had an issue: in the opening chapter, Hammer reports his harrowing adventures in Russia to some government spooks. I decided to turn that exposition into a flashback taking Hammer to Russia and experiencing all of his exploits first-hand. So that novel is unusual because it’s mostly the middle third that represents Mickey’s work.

King of the Weeds was the most challenging, and I had held it off for last, since my initial goal was to get these six substantial Hammer novels completed (and to complete Dead Street). Mickey conceived King of the Weeds as the final Hammer (changing his mind after the Twin Towers attack, which sparked Goliath Bone). At some point he misplaced the manuscript and – this is typically Mickey – just started over.

So I had two manuscripts to combine, including two very different opening chapters (the ending he had shared with me in a late-night gab session). The other difficult aspect was that Mickey was doing a direct sequel to Black Alley, a book that at that time was out of print. I almost threw out the Black Alley sequel material, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself not to follow Mickey’s wishes. Ironically, King of the Weeds became one of the strongest of the novels.

There was more material in Mickey’s files. I had done Dead Street for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, and now completed for HCC the sequel to The Delta Factor, another 100-page Spillane novel-in-progress that gave the world a second Morgan the Raider yarn.

Titan was anxious for me to continue Hammer. I had about forty or fifty pages of the novel Mickey began after Kiss Me, Deadly – a false start for The Girl Hunters with gangsters not Russian spies as the bad guys. It included Hammer traveling to Miami for an unusual change of scene and I felt had great potential. That became Kill Me, Darling.

A strong opening chapter by Mickey, plus some plot notes and his terrific ending became Murder Never Knocks. Two detailed opening chapters by Mickey became The Will to Kill. And – with Mickey’s 100th birthday in mind – I had held back about sixty pages of Mickey’s first, pre-I, the Jury (unfinished) Mike Hammer novel, Killing Town.

Mickey’s last completed novel, The Last Stand, a non-Mike Hammer, was wonderful but somewhat atypical, and rather short. So I revised an unpublished, very typical early novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” and it became a sort of preamble to Mickey’s final novel, published by Hard Case Crime. Interestingly, The Last Stand is a modern-day western, and another Spillane project of mine has been to develop a novel and then series of books from an unproduced screenplay he wrote for his buddy John Wayne – the script that became The Legend of Caleb York.

And there’s been a collection of eight Hammer short stories (A Long Time Dead) developed from shorter fragments. I have also sold a handful of non-Hammer short stories, which may someday be collected.

Which brings us up to the latest Hammer novels, last year’s Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. Murder, My Love is the only Hammer novel so far with no Spillane prose stirred in – strictly Mickey’s basic plot. The new book, Masquerade for Murder, came from a rather detailed synopsis, and the opening description of NYC is mostly Mickey’s, with a mini-sequence between Pat Chambers and Mike (about Hammer’s propensity for low-tech armament) that is Mickey’s as well. I feel good about how smoothly this material stirred in.

Where to now?

I have proposed three more Hammer novels, all from Spillane material. One combines two non-Hammer (but Hammer-ish) fragments, including a very different take on Dead Street; another will utilize a Hammer story Mickey developed for radio and again for TV, unproduced; and finally another synopsis apparently for a Keach-era Hammer episode.

I know some of you know all of this, but I thought it might be a good idea to get this recorded and in one place. Also, maybe it will inspire you to get hold of Masquerade for Murder, which I think is a damn good entry in this series.

I can’t express what it means to me to look over at the shelf and see Mickey’s Hammer novels residing next to the ones I’ve completed for him…and for me, the teenager in Iowa who wanted more, more, more Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of short stories, Barb and I – writing as Barbara Allan, of course – have sold a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” It’s not an Antiques story, but rather harks back to the kind of nasty little tale my beautiful and talented wife concocted when she was specializing in short stories.

It’s a very big deal to get published in EQMM, and we are thrilled.

* * *

With Masquerade for Murder the subject of today’s update, I am pleased to share with you this terrific review of that very novel.

The word is out about Nolan’s somewhat imminent return in Skim Deep. Read about it here.

Also, my friends at Paperback Warrior have a podcast, always interesting, which this week includes some commentary on the Nolan series.

Here’s a wonderful Ron Fortier review of the Brash Books edition of Black Hats.

Guess who’s an Irish comic book character? Michael O’Sullivan, that’s who! Check it out here.

Both yrs truly and Barbara Allan get good play on this discussion of Quad Cities area authors. Hey, what about Matthew V. Clemens?

M.A.C.

New Mike Hammer Novel

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Hardcover:
E-Book:

Available March 14, The Will to Kill is the ninth Mike Hammer novel I’ve completed from material in Mickey Spillane’s files.

Most people taking the time to read this weekly update already know that Mickey, in the last weeks of his life, asked me to complete his final Hammer novel in progress, The Goliath Bone, and that he told his wife Jane to round up everything in his files that wasn’t completed and give it to me – that “Max would know what to do.”

No greater honor has ever been paid me. Mickey’s work, which I discovered at age 13, was what made me transfer my enthusiasm for becoming a cartoonist to an obsession with becoming a writer…specifically, a writer of tough mystery fiction. Ironically, Mickey had been a comic book writer before the Mike Hammer novels turned him into a superstar, and one of the major projects we did together was a comic book – a science fiction variation on Hammer called Mike Danger (the original name for Hammer in the unsold comic book Mickey created right after the war that he turned into the novel I, the Jury).

I had six substantial Hammer manuscripts to deal with – usually around 100 pages (of 300) and sometimes notes on plot and character, and even roughed-out endings. In some cases Mickey had told me what ending he had in mind for an uncompleted book. (Mickey’s shocking surprise endings were his trademark, or anyway one of them.)

A number of very short (two to five page) fragments became short stories, published in various magazines, and were collected last year as A Long Time Dead: A Mike Hammer Casebook. If you’ve never read a Hammer story, that’s a great place to start.

Another half dozen significant unfinished manuscripts remained, and so far they have become the novels Kill Me, Darling; Murder Never Knocks; and now The Will to Kill. Both Darling and Knocks are out in mass-market paperback now – Knocks came out in that format about a week ago. (I am contracted to do three more.)

The Will to Kill is an unusual Hammer, as Bill Crider’s review indicates. (See link below.) Before the success of I, the Jury, featuring what was then a shocking amount of sex and violence, Mickey appeared to have in mind for his private detective a more traditional approach. But the vengeance aspect of the surprise bestseller-list response to I, the Jury sent him down a path of Hammer rarely taking a client, and usually being on a mission of I’ll-find-the-killer-and-kill-him (or her).

I had only the first couple of chapters of The Will to Kill to deal with from Mickey, and while the opening is shocking, the set-up is like something out of Agatha Christie – a bunch of spoiled rich grown kids chasing their late daddy’s fortune in the mansion they share. In about thirty pages, Mickey set up the entire book and its characters. There are aspects that aren’t anything you’d find in Poirot or Miss Marple – a serial killer targeting young women who are on vacation in the Catskills (the setting of the story) – but Hammer is doing a favor for his cop pal, Pat Chambers, looking into the wealthy man’s “accidental death”…not seeking vengeance for a murdered friend (tip: don’t be Mike Hammer’s friend in a Mickey Spillane novel, unless you’re Pat Chambers).

I like the book a lot. It was fun and somewhat challenging to keep the novel and its main character feeling right in a story unusual for them. This is not to say that a bad guy or two don’t get bumped off by the impetuous hero, who also thumps some nasties who deserve it, here and there. And beautiful women come along, too, so…so it’s still Mike Hammer, and I hope you’ll also think it’s a lot of fun.

By the way, the murder victim that starts the story up is the rich man’s butler. So this may be an old-fashioned mystery, but the butler definitely did not do it.

* * *

The new Quarry novel – Quarry’s Climax – has been delivered to editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime. Charles is crazy fast and has already read, and approved, the book.

Usually I take a few weeks off between projects, but because of my various health issues last year, I fell desperately behind, and now must move immediately from one project to another, until I catch up.

Well, I still plan to take a few days off between finishing one project and starting another. We spent the weekend – my 69th birthday weekend (!) – with our son Nate and grandson Sam and daughter-in-law Abby. A lovely time. Sam is the cutest child I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure his resemblance to me hasn’t colored my opinion.

This week I start Scarface and the Untouchable, the massive dual bio of Al Capone and Eliot Ness. My co-author A. Brad Schwartz and our research associate have delivered a rough draft reflecting incredible, groundbreaking research on both their parts. My job: not screw it up.


Nate and Sam Collins
* * *

Here’s Bill Crider’s lovely Will to Kill review.

Check out this nice review of the early Quarry novel, Quarry’s Deal, from the UK.

Here’s an article about fifteen people other than Bruce Wayne who have been Batman – and wait till you see who’s number one! Hint: more late-coming unexpected love for my Batman work.

Finally, more nice words about the Quarry TV series.

M.A.C.

Nice to be Nominated (Nicer to Win)

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

I’m happy to announce that I’m a double nominee in this year’s International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers “Scribe” awards. Both are collaborations with Mickey Spillane. Here’s the entire list of nominees, with ours highlighted.

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL
Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher
Kill Me, Darling by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: Desert Falcons by Michael A. Black
24: Rogue by David Mack

BEST ORIGINAL NOVEL – SPECULATIVE
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
HALO: Last Light by Troy Denning
HALO: New Blood by Matt Forbeck
Pathfinder: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
Shadowrun: Borrowed Time by R. L. King
Star Trek The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward
Star Trek Seekers 3: Long Shot by David Mack

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL AND SPECULATIVE
Backcountry by D. E. McDonald
Batman: Arkham Knight by Marv Wolfman
Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder
MANOS —– The Hands of Fate by Stephen D. Sullivan
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

SHORT STORIES
Mike Hammer The Strand “Fallout” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Shadowrun: World of Shadows “Swamp of Spirits” by Jason M. Hardy
The X-Files: Trust No One “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” by Keith R. A. DeCandido
The X-Files: Trust No One “Dusk” by Paul Crilley
The X-Files: Trust No One “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum” by Brian Keene
The X-Files: Trust No One “Statues” by Kevin J. Anderson

AUDIO
Dark Shadows “Bloodlust” by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster
Dark Shadows “In the Twinkling of an Eye” Penelope Faith
Doctor Who “The Red Lady” by John Dorney
Doctor Who “Damaged Goods” by Jonathan Morris
Pathfinder Legends “Mummy’s Mask: Empty Graves” by Cavan Scott

Did you see how many X-FILES stories were nominated from the anthology I also contributed to? Oddly, what I wanted to submit was my X-FILES story “House on Hickory Hill,” but the original printing saw that story (and many others) filled with typos and other mistakes. So I decided to wait for the second printing. When it didn’t come out in time for me to submit, I sent the Mike Hammer story instead…so maybe that was a good thing! Happy accidents are clearly the best kind.

Speaking of awards, Barb and I attended the 25th annual Iowa Motion Picture Association awards, held in scenic Pella, Iowa, where windmills reign and the tulips were (nearly) in full flower. The ceremony/show was held in the Pella Opera House, a lovely old restored theater. I won the Award of Excellence for my “Heller” pilot script, in the unproduced screenplay category, as well as (and this was a big surprise) the President’s Award for outstanding career achievement.

Earlier that day I appeared on a “Past Presidents’ Panel,” bringing together five of us who had served in that position. A lot of stories going back to the mid-‘90s were shared, as well as thoughts on changing technology over the years. I made the point that content is king, and the delivery system is ultimately irrelevant.

IMPA 2016
Presidents’ Panel: (l to r) Doug Miller, M.A.C., Marty Jorgensen, Kent Newman

I was active for many years in the IMPA – I served as president three times – and the trip to Pella (where Wyatt Earp was raised) was a joy because Barb and I got to see so many old friends. I particularly want to acknowledge Shirley Long, the “glue” of the organization, who received a life achievement award (now named for her!). I know she had a lot to do with my similar President’s Award.

But the weekend was also a test. We initially went to Des Moines for some R & R that included the great Ohana Japanese steak house in West Des Moines, where our favorite chef Ken was so glad to see me aboveground, he comped us. Then the next morning, on to Pella, about an hour away. Two nights away from home in two hotels. This was our first over-nighter since the surgery two months ago.

How did I do? All right, I guess – Barb was pleased. I continue to tire easily, and between the Past Presidents panel and the evening festivities, I took a short nap. How short? Two hours. And I was very tired on the trip home, and my right hand felt thick and useless, the stroke side of things asserting itself.

Today (Monday as I write this) I feel much better. It’s important to get back to my life, to get things as back-to-normal as possible, without being stupid about it. The next big challenge is a band gig in June (first post-surgery rehearsal is this week). Rock ‘n’ roll…er, I mean, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!!!

* * *

Here’s another great e-mail (this one from Ken Hollister) about the Mike Hammer novels that I’d like to share with you:

I just started reading Murder Never Knocks, and it occurred to me that I should contact you to express my gratitude for continuing to finish Mr. Spillane’s work.

I have been a fan of Mickey Spillane since the 1980s, when the television series with Stacy Keach introduced me to Mike Hammer. Since that time, I’ve scoured second-hand bookshops to find Spillane’s books; a treasure hunt, so to speak. Fortunately, the Internet has made this easier, but it’s still been difficult – but the enjoyment I’ve received from reading Spillane’s novels has been worth the effort.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the several books you’ve done, as well as the “radio novels” from Blackstone Audio, and your commentary on the Blu-ray release of The Girl Hunters. I am happy to see that this is the “original” Mike Hammer, and that the character hasn’t been re-invented. I hope there more of Mr. Spillane’s work that you’re completing.

After I finish reading Murder Never Knocks, I’ll be starting to read your Quarry series. I’m looking forward to them, and I hope they bring me as much enjoyment as your collaborations with Mr. Spillane.

It’s really gratifying to hear, out of the blue, from a reader who really “gets” the Spillane collaborations.

Also, if you’ve read and liked MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, please post a review at Amazon. Bob Goldsboro’s new Nero Wolfe, STOP THE PRESSES!, has 46 reviews – we have 8! Are you going to let Wolfe and Archie pimp out Mike Hammer?!? (Even if STOP THE PRESSES! is a typically fun Goldsboro continuation.)

Incidentally, if you’ve posted a review of MURDER NEVER KNOCKS (or any of my books, really) on your own site, please also post it at Amazon.

* * *

Here’s a fun QUARRY review from a new reader (who is also a crime novelist).

And here’s a radio piece where I (and Lee Goldberg and several distinguished others) are interviewed about movie novels and TV tie-ins.

M.A.C.

The Big Showdown

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

[Nate here:] Before we get to M.A.C.’s pre-written blog update, I have a quick update on M.A.C. Dad’s recovery has been going great (aside from the food, but they got the important things right, at least!) and he should be on his way home today. Here’s a picture from this weekend:

– – – – – –

The Big Showdown

Hardcover:
E-Book:

THE BIG SHOWDOWN, second of the Caleb York westerns – there will be at least three – will be published April 26.

This is the first time I’ve published a novel where I share a byline with Mickey Spillane despite there being no Spillane content. As regular readers of these updates (and my novels) know, I have been completing Mike Hammer manuscripts (and a few other novels) that were unfinished in Mickey’s files. He specifically directed his wife Jane and me to do so.

But also in the files were three unproduced screenplays. Two are noir horror pieces that I hope to find a home for, but one was THE SAGA OF CALLI YORK, a screenplay written for John Wayne. I took Mickey’s script and essentially novelized it (could I hate that term more?); I changed “Calli” to “Caleb,” which Calli was short for, though I never use that nickname in the novels, and “Saga” to “Legend,” because the latter term plays better for the narrative at hand.

The trouble was, my terrific editor at Kensington, Michaela Hamilton, wanted at least three books. Rather than leave Caleb hanging (so to speak), I said yes…then for many months drove my wife Barb crazy as I speculated on what to do with the other two novels.

Mickey’s backstory indicated York was a famous detective for Western Union, and I considered doing prequels to THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK, possibly focusing on real desperados. But it was Barb who rode to the rescue (sorry), suggesting that instead I write a sequel (possibly a series of them) utilizing the setting, characters and conflicts Mickey had created – taking Mickey’s story and letting it really play out. That made it feel more proper to share byline with him.

“Stay in his world,” Barb advised.

So that’s what I did. I had a blast writing it and have already plotted the third, again playing off of what Mickey wrote. Again, I tried to do a western in the Hollywood tradition of Randolph Scott, Joel McRea and Audie Murphy, but with the violence ratcheted up a notch.

I just read the galley proofs and liked it a lot. You may, also.

M.A.C.

[Nate here for the review round-up:]

A nice review for Murder Never Knocks showed up from across the pond on Crimetime, originally posted on Irresistible Target. (“one of the best of the Max and Mickey Mike Hammers.”)

Halifax’s (The) Chronicle Herald gave Kill Me, Darling a much appreciated mention in a recommended reading list for winter vacation, which is apparently a thing. (“Not just a great Mike Hammer novel; a great crime novel, without qualification.“)

The Open Book Society posted a flat-out rave for Quarry’s List. (“The plot is Mickey Spillane and Mario Puzo balled into one and spit out faster than the gout of flame from a jet engine.“) It’s been fun seeing the earlier Quarrys get some nice attention lately, especially since I’ve been reading them again, too, for the first time since pulling them out of my father’s basement library when I was younger than I should admit here.

J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Covers blog gave a shout-out to The Consummata. Definitely click that link (here it is again) because he features some supremely cool covers there.

The X-Files anthology, Trust No One, got a nice review from the Lawrence Public Library blog, with Max’s short story “The House on Hickory Hill” garnering a special recommendation. (“[Trust No One] brings new life into an area that bookish fans of the program have sorely missed.“)

N.A.C.