Posts Tagged ‘Kill Me Darling’

Heart-Felt Part 6

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Yes, let’s get on with it already! I should very soon (today or tomorrow) get test results that will immediately pave the way for the heart surgery. In that case, a good chance I’ll be going in yet this week. If that happens, my son Nate will start posting weekly the four updates I wrote in advance, and I should be in shape to get back to the regular stand after that.

Watch here and at Facebook for health updates from me or Nate.

Everybody has been great. Thanks for the love and support. Back at ya.

* * *

Publication of the ROAD TO PERDITION novel appears to be happening. As I was looking for a project to keep me busy while waiting for test results, I decided to prepare the manuscript for Brash Books. For those who came in late, in 2002 I wrote a 70,000-word movie tie-in novel (okay, novelization) of the script for the movie that was based on my graphic novel. In my novel, I attempted to be true to the screenplay while weaving in material from the graphic novel as well as historical material about the real John Looney and his era.

The DreamWorks licensing department put me through hell, making me cut anything – including dialogue! – that wasn’t directly from the script. They could not have cared less that I was the creator of this story and its characters. Even after they had accepted my 40,000-word debasement of my original novel, they kept cutting – if, in the film-editing process, director Sam Mendes dropped a scene or even a few lines of dialogue, they removed that from my novel as well. One chapter was reduced to a page and a half.

I’ve always felt I did really good job on the book, and it really paved the way for my sequels, ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. So I’ve looked for a way to get the novel into print. Now, enough years have passed that nobody at Paramount (who control DreamWorks) seems concerned about my original version finally being seen.

Quick anecdote. I was told by the DreamWorks licensing people that Mendes himself was making the requests for my drastic cuts of the novel. That he wanted it exactly like the movie. Then when I talked to Mendes at the London premiere, he said, “I hear you’ve written the movie novel – can’t wait to read it!”

So, anyway, back in 2016, I was faced with looking at my 2002 manuscript and dealing with it. Making decisions, doing tweaks, ferreting out typos and missing words. This was my original manuscript, after all, not any published version.

My first decision was to change the slightly revised movies names of several central characters back to my version of them – “Michael Sullivan” was restored to “Michael O’Sullivan” and John (and) Connor “Rooney” again became “Looney.” (The change from “Looney” to “Rooney” was done when either Mendes or the screenwriter assumed the former was a comic-booky name provided by a graphic novelist, when of course the latter is historically accurate.)

My second decision was to get rid of two major plot changes. (SPOILER ALERT: skip this paragraph if you haven’t read the graphic novel and/or seen the film). In the graphic novel, as in history, John Looney is not killed. And in the graphic novel, the boy Michael kills the hitman who has shot Michael’s father. In the film, Looney memorably dies in the rain, and a Hollywood ending has the boy unable to shoot the hitman and the dying father being pleased. I had already restored the envelope of first-person narration by the grown Michael, Jr., and a last-page revelation of what became of him.

So I spent a day rewriting those scenes, taking them back to my original intention. But it didn’t work. The screenwriter had done too good a job of laying the groundwork for his version of my scenes. And I had done a really good job in the novel of doing the same, including fixing some plot holes in the script. Re-doing those scenes to make them consistent with the graphic novel created a domino effect of terrible proportions. The next work day, I restored the scenes as I’d originally written them (faithful to the movie script).

It quickly became clear that I had no business doing any significant rewriting. The point of the exercise was to get what I wrote in 2002 into print. This is not to say that I didn’t do some tweaking, but it was mostly a few word choice changes. I did fix a couple of things that bothered me in the movie that I had let pass in the novelization.

An example – in the film, Mike Sullivan has just offered his services to Frank Nitti if Nitti will give up Connor Rooney. Nitti turns Sullivan down, then after Mike has gone, we find that in adjacent room both Connor and John Looney are waiting. In what I think of as the Dr. Evil and Scott scene, Connor tells his father that they should take Mike down right now – he’s in their grasp! Rooney, again like Dr. Evil in Austin Powers, says something like, “You just don’t get it, do you son?” As much as I love the film, this makes me cringe. So I revised it with the father telling his son why it would be unwise to kill Sullivan, specifically that in a busy hotel during the day, the resultant melee would be a disaster. Those who’ve read the graphic novel know that I did have O’Sullivan shoot his way out of the hotel. Not staging that scene was a rare misstep and a missed opportunity.

On the whole, I was very pleased by what I wrote in 2002, and again I did very little rewriting or additional writing. Since Brash Books also intends to bring out ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE in new editions, I feel confident that the prose novel of ROAD TO PERDITION will be a good lead-in – that it forms with the two sequels a trilogy that will please readers, particularly those who became familiar with PERDITION via the film.

One final note: one of the trickiest things had to do with converting between word processing programs. You want to know how long ago 2002 was? The book was written in WordStar! I had to convert it to Word Perfect, my preferred program, after which my revised manuscript had to be converted to Word. That meant, as a final step, going through and eyeballing each of around 400 pages, looking for glitches.

* * *

Check out this nifty cover of the mass-market edition of KILL ME, DARLING. By the way, I don’t recall whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but several goofs in the hardcover of COMPLEX 90 were corrected in the paperback version – making it the author-approved text of that novel.

The DARLING paperback will be out this month (the 23rd).

Speaking of my collaborations with Mickey Spillane, I urge you to check out the article at Great Writers Steal that happens to be one of the smartest examinations of either my work or Mickey’s that anybody has ever written.

Less smart is the favorable but patronizing review at the normally more reliable UK site, Crime Fiction Lover. Once again, it turns out that a book written in the ‘70s includes some ‘70s attitudes. And once again, the reviewer troubled by that doesn’t mind at all Quarry killing people.

Speaking of smart reviews, here’s a great one about the Heller novel ASK NOT, from Frank the Movie Watcher.

Let’s wind up with a great piece on THE MALTESE FALCON, from a writer smart enough to quote me.

M.A.C.

James Bond And Me

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Fate of the Union

Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:

Before we get to James Bond, I need to mention that FATE OF THE UNION’s pub date is today. Over the weekend, Barb and I took a day trip to Des Moines and listened in the car to the audio version, read by the always terrific Dan John Miller.

This really seems like a good one to me, whether you read it or Dan reads it to you, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

* * *

We tend to think of the pop-culture British Invasion as beginning with the Beatles. But I doubt the Beatles would have hit quite so hard if secret agent James Bond hadn’t softened up American teenagers first.

I was thirteen or fourteen when I first read Ian Fleming. I was in the eighth grade, and in complete Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer thrall. But Mickey wasn’t writing much – his first novel in almost a decade, THE DEEP (1961), was not a Hammer – and I was in the market for something to tide me over until Spillane got around to writing something again. But I’d already plowed through all the Richard S. Prather/Shell Scott novels and a lot more (and Chandler and Hammett, of course).

Then came James Bond.

Ian Fleming, on the first round of Signet paperback Bond reprints (significantly, Mickey’s paperback publisher), was blurbed as the British Spillane, and Bond the Brit Hammer. This wasn’t hard to do, since many reviews pointed out Spillane as a Fleming source, and Signet even used Hammer cover artist Barye Phillips. Despite Fleming’s third-person approach, and the civil servant aspect of the character, Bond was nonetheless very similar to Hammer – a killer who got a lot of sex, to put it bluntly. Calling Bond a Hammer imitation would not be going too far.

The first Fleming novel, CASINO ROYALE – published at the height of worldwide Spillane mania (1953) – was in particular a Hammer-like novel, right down to its violent, sado-masochistic torture-scene climax and its abrupt ending, with the chilling last line of the book not unlike I, THE JURY’S “It was easy.”

While Fleming never replaced Spillane in my pulpy little heart, Bond zoomed into a secure second place behind the world’s toughest private eye. Reading these books in the early ‘60s – though most were published in the ‘50s – Bond seemed a logical next-decade extension of Hammer, particularly through the intermediate step of cool Peter Gunn, the Hammer imitation that sparked the TV private eye fad. The GUNN pre-credits sequences, followed by Mancini’s powerful theme set to abstract animation, is an obvious precursor to the way Bond films begin to this day.

I was alone among my junior-high peers in my enthusiasm for Fleming (a few were into Spillane, though). So when suddenly, in 1963, a film of DR. NO appeared on the pop-culture horizon, I could hardly believe it – had people in England actually made a movie just for me?

As an only child, I occasionally was able to pressure my parents in doing what I wanted. And what I wanted was to see DR. NO the evening it opened in Davenport, Iowa. Trips to the Quad Cities, before improved highways came along, were rare for my family. It took a lot of work to get my parents to take me to the first Bond film, in the middle of the week on a school night.

As someone who had been reading Fleming, I can assure you that Sean Connery’s “Bond, James Bond” all but sent me into a paroxysm of glee. He was perfect, and so was the movie. Soon the disease spread, and within a year all of my friends, particularly, the males, were Bond fanatics. We routinely went to openings at matinees and sat through the films at least twice. In those pre-VCR days, we gobbled up the double feature retreads that appeared a year or so later, as well. Binge watching is nothing new.

My lovely wife Barb also loved the Bond films, and in the early days of going together and well into the early years of our marriage, we would follow that same matinee-then-sit-through-it-again routine. The delight of seeing YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE twice remains a fond, shared memory.

Since then, I have never missed a Bond film on opening weekend – usually opening night. This continued through the hit-and-miss Roger Moore years – as a MAVERICK fan, I was more forgiving than some, since Moore had been Cousin Beau Maverick (and of course the Saint) – and I have a vivid memory of Barb and me seeing LIVE AND LET DIE in a theater in Wichita, Kansas (on our way back from a comic con in Texas). The title song and credit sequence was so great, what followed seemed pretty good, too.

I’ve gone on record here and elsewhere that I consider Timothy Dalton the second-best Bond next to Connery, who in my heart of hearts is the only true Bond. There are Bond movies without Connery, but the only real Bond movies have Connery in them (and I include NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan makes a fine melding of Connery and Moore, and unfairly got the bum’s rush out of a series he helped revitalize.

Now we come to Daniel Craig, who is a fine, tough Bond, if a little rough-hewn for anyone who has read the books – he’s one of those actors who the leading ladies love because the script tells them to. That aside, he may be the finest actor ever to play the role, and CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and SKYFALL are terrific movies, including the second one on that list, even if it does lag behind the other two.

Which brings us to SPECTRE.

Spectre

First, here’s what I don’t like about the film – Sam Smith’s song. The title sequence is great, but Smith is a second-rate talent with a third-rate song, and Bond films deserve better. They deserve the best.

Second, here’s what I like about the film – everything else. I know reviews have been mixed, but those reviews tend to look at the film in an inappropriate, realistic way, not in the context of the series. They wanted something grittier, and instead got what they dismiss as a formulaic Bond film. Were these naysayers present during the last few scenes of SKYFALL, when the series did a backward reboot with Bond entering the classic Connery-era office?

SPECTRE is what the first three Craig movies were leading up to – a big, sometimes a little dumb, but always exciting James Bond movie much in the manner of DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Virtually all of those films are referenced in SPECTRE, but not in cutesy ways. The villain’s liar is DR. NO and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE; Bond in captivity facing slow death is the laser-beam scene from GOLDFINGER; FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE’S hand-to-hand combat in a train compartment is expanded to every car; and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE is referenced by a snowy mountain retreat and some Alpine violence.

At the same time, modern elements come into play – there’s nothing retro about the way Moneypenny, Q and M are portrayed, and the size of the action scenes rival or probably out-do anything in the BOURNE films. The villain (who also appears in a number of the films mentioned above, but I won’t spoil things by telling you that he’s Blofeld) (whoops) is the Moriarty of the Bond movies. Speaking of Moriarty, the actor who portrays him in the BBC SHERLOCK (Andrew Scott) appears as an adversary of M’s in the muddy bureaucracy of British spydom. Seems the bad guys want to control all the surveillance in the world, including anything pertaining to innocent citizens like you and me – which is about as topical a theme as you could come with.

If you don’t like this movie, I’m sorry, but you’re not a James Bond fan. You may be a fan of SKYFALL, you may be a fan of Daniel Craig, but not a Bond fan. And what gives me the right to make such a pronouncement? Well, without me, there would have been no SKYFALL or SPECTRE.

You see, I wrote a little graphic novel called ROAD TO PERDITION, the Sam Mendes-directed movie of which featured Daniel Craig. If I had not written PERDITION, Craig and Mendes would not have (wait for it) bonded.

You’re welcome.

* * *

Please check out one of the coolest reviews I’ve ever received for a Mike Hammer.

This just in: a review of the 1990 paperback, DICK TRACY: THE SECRET FILES.

And here’s a review of the Ms. Tree novel, DEADLY BELOVED.

Check out this splashy display of FATE OF THE UNION with a brief, nice review. (Did I mention this was pub day?)

Library Journal takes a nice look at Titan Books, with a mention or two of yours truly (oddly, though, no Mike Hammer reference).

Finally, here’s a terrific review of THE FIRST QUARRY.

M.A.C.

I Did Something Right

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Barbara Jane Mull and I were married on June 1, 1968. That means that the day before this update appears we will be celebrating our 47th anniversary.

I don’t want this to be a sickening exercise, because Barb would be the first to make a face (albeit a pretty one). But I did something right. I first fell for her in the fifth grade, decided that was a little early, and tried again in high school, failing miserably. Finally in 1966, at Muscatine Community College, I took advantage of the paucity of competition and landed a date. She says she fell in love with me when, in the midst of pontificating about something or other, I stuck my hand in my water glass (we were at a restaurant at the time).

It’s been my pleasure to go through life with this smart, funny, beautiful woman, and I hope to go through a bunch more of it. Another 47 years would do fine. What has been amazing to witness…well, the whole list of things she’s said and done that amaze me would take too long, but…has been her growth a writer.

To those of you who have longed to be a professional writer, who have dreamed and schemed and attempted deals with the devil to get that done, I will drive you insane by saying (truthfully) that Barb never wanted to be a writer, and often doesn’t particularly want to be one now. She’s a writer because she’s been married to me and she just…I swear…picked it up. If I’d been a brain surgeon, she’d be wielding a scalpel. If I was Van Cliburn, she’d be on stage at Carnegie Hall.

I’ve been a lucky man, in general, but marrying this pretty girl who became a beautiful woman was the jackpot. You may feel free to envy me about this part of my life. I wouldn’t blame you one little bit.

Did I mention she gave me a great son?

She did that, too.

The photo here, by the way, is circa 1971 (taken by the late Bill Mull, Barb’s father), right around when I was creating Quarry. That took longer to pay off than my marriage has.

Barbara and Max Allan Collins

* * *

Here’s a review from a Heller fan who doesn’t care for FLYING BLIND. Happens to be one of my favorite novels in the saga, but I get that when I wander too far afield from crime and politics, some readers get uneasy. They, for some reason, suspect that one guy might just not be able to have been involved in so many historical events….

Here’s a nice review of another of the Hellers, CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL, coincidentally one of the books in the series that was received less than glowingly by some fans (this one likes it). Not long ago, I listened to Dan John Miller’s audio of the book and thought it was pretty good. But what do I know? Still, it was the last Heller for ten years.

Here’s a fun review of THE LAST QUARRY by a reader revisiting the novel.

Here’s a review by the same reader of Mickey’s THE GIRL HUNTERS. I find this particularly fun because he was inspired to read the book having enjoyed COMPLEX 90, the posthumous Spillane/Collins sequel.

Finally, check out this shortish but very sweet KILL ME, DARLING review in the San Francisco Book Review.

M.A.C.

The Legend of Caleb York

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
The Legend of Caleb York
Hardcover:

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Audio MP3 CD:

Audio CD:

Audible:

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK is available as a hardcover right now. I can wait while you order it. (Collins humming themes from “Maverick” followed by “Rawhide,” concluding with a rousing rendition of the title song of “The Gunfight at O.K. Corral”). (You have to admit the song would not be as cool if it were “The Gunfight in the Vacant Lot Between Two Buildings Adjacent to the O.K. Corral.” Not only do we sometimes have to print the legend, sometimes we have to sing it.)

Okay, you’re back? Just for your info, there’s an audio book, too, which I’ll report on once I’ve listened to it, and a large print edition for people with eyesight even worse than mine.

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s, or mine, or both, you will surely want to grab this. In the late 1950s, Mickey wrote a screenplay, “The Saga of Cali York,” for his pal John Wayne that never got produced. It was one of three unproduced screenplays waiting for me in the Spillane files that Mickey had his wife Jane turn over to me. I based the novel on Mickey’s screenplay, which I thought was very good – it’s a traditional 1950s western in the vein of a really top-notch Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae or Audie Murphy flick.

What separates “York” from other westerns is the Spillane-style toughness and the explicit violence. Wayne presumably did not produce the film because his company Batjac got in financial hot water due to the way-over-budget production of THE ALAMO. But it’s also possible the over-the-top violence, at times anticipating Sam Peckinpah, made it a problematic project. It’s somewhat sexually steamy for the 1950s, too.

Writing the novel was tricky. I am right now in the early days of writing a sequel, utilizing material from Mickey’s notes and various drafts of the “York” script, and I spend as much time on Google doing research – and utilizing two shelves of my office library cart with books on the Old West – as I do writing.

Just the same, nobody should expect the level of historical accuracy that I bring to the Nathan Heller (or other historical crime) novels of mine. While I try to drop in tidbits of authenticity, Mickey was clearly operating in a movie/TV world, specifically of the ‘50s. Think of the Warner Bros. westerns of that period, or movies by Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Budd Boetticher. That’s the world.

So I don’t know how western fans will react. And I’m not sure how Heller fans will, either. BLACK HATS showed me taking the Heller approach to Wyatt Earp, but the Spillane westerns I’m doing for Kensington (there will be at least three) are definitely exploring the myth. Exploring it violently, but exploring it.

Not many reviews yet, but two really nice ones popped up last week, including one by modern-day pulpster, Ron Fortier.

And here’s a good one, very smart I think, from the Kindle Taproom.

Speaking of Spillane, I was thrilled to get another Mike Hammer review from the UK’s great Mike Carlson. He really digs KILL ME, DARLING.

Another Hammer review popped up for a title released a few years back, THE BIG BANG.

And, finally, out of nowhere came this write-up about the DICK TRACY comic strip collection, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE.

M.A.C.