Posts Tagged ‘Killing Town’

Dig the New Mike Hammer Novel & The Real Perry Mason

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023
Dig Two Graves cover
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Over the years, I’ve had many a bad review from the notoriously tough Kirkus book reviewing service. Lately they have liked me more – perhaps it’s my age. I keep remembering John Huston as Noah Cross in Chinatown observing, “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

Dig Two Graves, the new Mike Hammer – right now scheduled to be the penultimate book in Titan’s Mike Hammer Legacy series – will be published August 22nd and can be pre-ordered now.

Here’s how Dig Two Graves is described at the Amazon site:

Mike Hammer, the iconic PI created by the master of noir Mickey Spillane, takes on the mob in the first of two gripping final novels for the deadly private eye.

Winter 1964. After a hit-and-run accident nearly kills her mother, Mike Hammer’s partner (both in life and the PI business), Velda Sterling, learns her father is not who she thought he is. Seeking to uncover her true, troubling heritage, Velda and Mike travel to Phoenix, Arizona – and sunny Dreamland Park, where retired law enforcement officers protect and corral notorious criminals held under Witness Protection.

Mike and Velda find themselves swept up in escalating violence, fueled by the missing millions from an armored-car robbery, which leads them to a deadly midnight confrontation in a cemetery – where secrets are buried and open graves await.

Speaking of Mike Hammer, a Facebook scribe in the midst of a bunch of nice praise by others for the Spillane/Collins novels tried to dissuade Spillane fans from reading these novels, thusly: “The parts by Mickey are great, (but) when it shifts, it stops reading like Mickey and I’ve studied Mike hammer novels for my own writing back when and can tell the difference. I like when Collins writes his own characters but not much on the hammer.”

Here’s the thing: this reader makes the assumption that when Mickey’s material runs out, I take over and finish up the book. Some of you may recall, from previous posts and from an essay in the back of Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction – that this assertion is as inaccurate as it is confident. With the longer Spillane manuscripts – the 70-page to 100-page ones – I expand the material to fill to double that length. So my work is interspersed with his from the start. That’s partly to create a consistently shared voice that I can continue when the Spillane material runs out.

But that’s an over-simplification, because I have used the material in Mickey’s extensive files in a bunch of ways. For example, I sometimes combine manuscripts – Lady Go, Die! is mostly from the late ‘40s, but I weave in a similar serial killer chapter from the ‘60s to provide more genuine Spillane material. In Complex 90, the books begins with Spillane (expanded by Collins), then flashes back to a Hammer in Russia sequence I wrote, then when we come forward and Mike is back in New York, I’m working from Mickey’s material again.

Also, I have scraps of Spillane, paragraphs that he jotted down – descriptions of Manhattan, action scenes – that I weave in when I can. Sometimes he has provided plot and character notes that I use; other times he has written a rough draft of the ending. I worked from the more extensive manuscripts at the beginning, because I wanted to get that stuff out there – The Goliath Bone; The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds; Kill Me, Darling; Killing Town. Murder Never Knocks had several chapters and a last chapter from Mickey; The Will to Kill had a few opening chapters but the mystery was wholly set up as if a blueprint had been given me; Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder came from Spillane synopses with scraps of description and action by him from the files woven in.

Both Goliath Bone and Kiss Her Goodbye had two versions of their partial manuscripts, which in both cases I combined. The former also had half a dozen versions of the first chapter. The latter shared the same basic premise but went off into two entirely different mysteries, which I combined. Kill Me If You Can utilized an unproduced TV pilot Mickey wrote. The upcoming Dig Two Graves combines two unfinished manuscripts, including a first pass at Dead Street, and this – Dreamland Park – was the major building block of Graves. But the other unfinished manuscript suggested an evocative back story involving a gangster who had fathered Velda.

A lot of work and, frankly, ingenuity goes into this process, and I frankly resent it when supposed hardcore Spillane fans turn their noses up because I’m involved and not every word choice sounds to them like Mickey would have made it.

I don’t try to write like Mickey – I don’t have to. I took in his words like vitamins starting when I was 12. I concentrate on getting Hammer himself right – Mickey considered character all important. Now and then I have a spooky burst like he is taking over. I was watching TV one Sunday morning (during the writing of Goliath Bone) and I suddenly reached for a scrap of paper and in a blistering array of words recorded the last few paragraphs of the novel. To me, they read like the Mick. It felt like automatic writing.

Here’s the thing: when Mickey, not long before his passing, asked me to complete the unfinished material in his files – in part to keep his name out there, but primarily to provide some income for his wife, Jane – he made it clear that these would be collaborations. When Jane reminded Mickey that I was not a Jehovah’s Witness and would likely indulge in more sex and violence than had been in his more recent work, he was fine with it.

Listen, these books are not pure Spillane. They are Spillane/Collins collaborations. I am not writing them by working with a Ouija board. I bring my own sensibilities in, but do not let them swamp Mickey’s. There are differences between Spillane and Spillane/Collins, just as in any good collaboration the end result is two plus two equals five. My Hammer novels reflect my wise-guy sense of humor more than Mickey’s Howard Hawksian male kidding. I do some of the latter, but I am not about to leave my wit behind when I work on Hammer.

I also tend to give Velda more to do. Mickey created a great character in her that I like to utilize, particularly in the post-Girl Hunters material. I also pay more attention to continuity than Mickey did. Like Rex Stout, Mickey paid scant attention to the details of continuity, though time-passage shifts in character (echoing his own over the years) are a huge part of his work.

I have tried to make sense of some things, to make them hang together. The origin for Velda (in the LP Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story) I re-reworked giving her a vice cop background that made it possible for Velda to get a PI license in New York state, and for her to have a reason to abruptly abandon Mike (in Kill Me, Darling) to pursue her vice cop boss’s murderer in Florida. (That novel, by the way, combined two Spillane manuscripts.)

So, yes, to some degree this is my take on Hammer, not Mickey’s. But, as I say, my mandate is to be consistent with the character as Mickey conceived him. And, further, to keep each Spillane/Collins novel in the context of when Mickey wrote the material I am working from. This means when I write King of the Weeds, I’m doing the older, Killing Man/Black Alley Mike Hammer; and when I’m putting together Kill Me, Darling and Killing Town, it’s the young Hammer of I, the Jury and My Gun Is Quick. Many of the books – The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye, Complex 90 – were begun by Mickey in his “comeback” period, after The Girl Hunters (1962).

Some Hammer fans only like those first wonderful six ‘40s/’50s novels, from I, the Jury to Kiss Me, Deadly. Understandable, as those are masterpieces of the genre. I most enjoy writing about early, psychotic Hammer – from the very first novel about him (Killing Town) to exploring his descent into the bottle (Kill Me If You Can). But my job was to complete the books Mickey began – so if it was a ‘60s manuscript, the ‘60s Hammer was who I wrote about; if it was an early 21st Century manuscript, I wrote about that older Hammer. It was Mickey, not me, who put a cell phone in his hero’s hands.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve had a lot of criticism from Hammer fans – quite the opposite. And the reviewers have largely come around to the once reviled Mickey and Mike, through my efforts. It’s gratifying.

Still, it’s disappointing that a few hardcore Spillane/Hammer fans are denying themselves these novels, particularly ones like The Big Bang and Complex 90, which were announced during Mickey’s lifetime. When I remember how frustrating it was to be waiting for those books to come out – waiting and waiting and waiting – and now to glance across my office to the bookcase where the shelf of the Spillane/Collins hardcovers reside, and see those very titles looking back at me…wow. The long wait is over.

* * *

Elsewhere – and here, a little – I’ve discussed the HBO reboot of Perry Mason. And I’m going to do that again – right now.

First, an interesting take on reboots from my eight year-old grandson, Sam. His father, Nathan, was telling him about the upcoming Teenage Mutant Turtles movie. Both Nate and Sam are Turtles fans, you see. Sam has a remarkable sense of what he’s ready for, in terms of pop culture that may not be appropriate for a boy his age.

Sam Collins is astonished to see his grandfather’s name on a book at the local library.

When Nate told Sam about the upcoming Turtles movie, Sam thought it might not be right for him. Nate asked him why.

“It’s a reboot.”

Nate said it was a reboot, yes.

“Well,” Sam observed, “reboots are dark.”

And isn’t that the truth. The Michael Keaton Batman, decades ago, started the trend – reboots had to be dark and serious and grown-up, even when the subject matter was inherently juvenile.

The HBO Perry Mason, which has considerable merits, is a case in point, sort of. Erle Stanley Gardner was one of the best mystery writers of his day, and remains eminently readable. His Mason novels are like James M. Cain stories combined with a mystery – the same Cain-like subject matter, sex and money, and (again, like Cain) display a genuine interest in how businesses work. Perry and his secretary Della Street had a warm relationship that one assumed was sexual, away from work…but we rarely saw them away from work. Mason and his detective, Paul Drake, reflected the way criminal lawyers work, i.e., with an investigator or investigative staff.

Mason, well into the 1950s, was something of a sleaze. Remember the line in Better Call Saul? “You don’t need a criminal lawyer…you need a criminal…lawyer.” Perry hid clients, messed with evidence, switched guns, broke and entered, and it was just delightful.

A lot of that went into the first few seasons of the original Raymond Burr series. Some of that gets into the good but not great HBO reboot. The second season of the new Mason was a big improvement, but it still suffers from anachronisms (it’s set in the early ‘30s) and with a subservience to current sensibilities. Some of that doesn’t hurt, even helps. Paul Drake, for example, is Black here, and lives in a Black part of town; this puts flesh on the Gardner Drake’s bare bones and is an enhancement. But do both Della and Hamilton Burger have to be gay? Isn’t one of them enough? Must Della be Perry’s pal and not sly lover? Must she really be a superior lawyer to Perry, even though she isn’t one? Did I really see him (and an unsympathetic judge!) allow her to handle a key courtroom cross-examination in a murder trial? In 1934?


But if you’re young enough, you won’t care; and if you’re old enough, and haven’t thrown anything through the screen yet, you’re in for some good acting, crafty plot twists and great production values.

My advice to the producers of this series (which will not be heeded) is to at least make Della bisexual so she and Perry can be more than good buddies. And stop using phrases like “throwing shade” and “gaslighting,” and instead make use of actual colorful ‘30s argot.

Also, read some Gardner and watch some Raymond Burr Perry Mason episodes. (I did a project with Burr and he was a wonderful, smart man with a great sense of humor. He was planning to have Perry marry Della in the final of the later TV movies.) Right now Paramount Plus is running the first eight (of nine) Perry Mason seasons. The series is also available on DVD.

Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale as Perry Mason and Della Street

To you mystery fans out there, I would recommend the many episodes based directly on Gardner’s novels. The non-Gardner-derived episodes are entertaining but cookie-cutter, where Gardner is a wild, unpredictable ride, rarely telegraphing which character will be the murder victim. The first season of the series consists almost entirely of adaptations of Gardner Perry Mason novels (or short stories) – something unique in the history of American broadcasting. The second season is about half Gardner adaptations, and then after that it’s more sporadic. As it progressed, the show was actually adapting Gardner novels within a year or so of publication! Toward the end of the long run of the series, remakes of adaptations were also made, under new titles.

I tried hard to find a list of the Gardner adaptations on the Internet, to no avail. I decided to put just such a list together, for myself and Barb and, dear reader, you. You are very welcome.

Perry Mason Episodes
Based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s Novels and Short Stories

Season 1 (1957 – 1958)
1. The Case of the Restless Redhead
2. The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece
3. The Case of the Nervous Accomplice
4. The Case of the Drowning Duck
5. The Case of the Sulky Girl
6. The Case of the Silent Partner
7. The Case of the Angry Mourner
8. The Case of the Crimson Kiss
9. The Case of the Vagabond Vixen
10. The Case of the Runaway Corpse
11. The Case of the Crooked Candle
12. The Case of the Negligent Nymph
13. The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink (pilot)
14. The Case of the Baited Hook
15. The Case of the Fan-Dancer’s Horse
16. The Case of the Demure Defendant
17. The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary
18. The Case of the Cautious Coquette
19. The Case of the Haunted Husband
20. The Case of the Lonely Heiress
21. The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister
22. The Case of the Fugitive Nurse

23. The Case of the One-Eyed Witness
25. The Case of the Empty Tin
26. The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife
28. The Case of the Daring Decoy
29. The Case of the Hesitant Hostess
30. The Case of the Screaming Woman
31. The Case of the Fiery Fingers
32. The Case of the Substitute Face
33. The Case of the Long-Legged Models
34. The Case of the Gilded Lily
35. The Case of the Lazy Lover
37. The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde
38. The Case of the Terrified Typist

39. The Case of the Rolling Bones

Season 2 (1958 – 1959)
41. The Case of the Lucky Loser
44. The Case of the Curious Bride
45. The Case of the Buried Clock

50. The Case of the Perjured Parrot
52. The Case of the Borrowed Brunette
53. The Case of the Glittering Goldfish
54. The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll

58. The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat
59. The Case of the Stuttering Bishop
62. The Case of the Howling Dog
63. The Case of the Calendar Girl
65. The Case of the Dangerous Dowager
66. The Case of the Deadly Toy
68. The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom
69. The Case of the Lame Canary

Season 3 (1959 – 1960)
72. The Case of the Garrulous Gambler
79. The Case of the Lucky Legs
86. The Case of the Mythical Monkeys
87. The Case of the Singing Skirt

Season 4 (1960 – 1961)
111. The Case of the Waylaid Wolf
121. The Case of the Duplicate Daughter

Season 5 (1961 -1962)
139. The Case of the Shapely Shadow
144. The Case of the Mystified Miner

Season 6 (1962 – 1963)
166. The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe
175. The Case of the Velvet Claws

Season 7 (1963 – 1964)
184. The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito
187. The Case of the Reluctant Model
188. The Case of the Bigamous Spouse
197. The Case of the Ice-cold Hands
204. Case of the Woeful Widower (Fiery Fingers)

Season 8 (1964 – 1965)
224. The Case of the Blonde Bonanza
235. The Case of the Careless Kitten
239. The Case of the Grinning Gorilla
241. The Case of the Mischievous Doll

Season 9 (1965 – 1966)
244. The Case of the Candy Queen (Silent Partner)
246. The Case of the Impetuous Imp (Negligent Nymph)
255. The Case of the Golden Girls (Vagabond Virgin)
258. Case of the Vanishing Victim (Fugitive Nurse)
260. Case of the Sausalito Sunrise (Moth-eaten Mink)
265. Case of the Fanciful Frail (Footloose Doll)


Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes
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?


The New Mike Hammer Audio Rocks (Said the Author)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Note from Nate: The entire Barbara Allan Trash ‘n’ Treasures series of eBooks are on sale now through April 1. Most are $1.99, but a couple are $.99 or $2.99. The newest novel, Antiques Ravin’ comes out April 30, making this the perfect time to catch up and fill in any you’ve missed! I’ve provided links to all major online eBook storefronts, but if I’ve missed your preferred store, please leave a comment and I’ll add it.

Scroll down for this week’s regularly scheduled update. Thanks!

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes


Google Play

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

* * *

Audiobook (digital): Kobo Audible
Audiobook (MP3 CD): Amazon Nook
Audiobook (Audio CD): Amazon Nook

Barb and I are listening to the audio of Murder, My Love in the car. We had a trip to Cedar Rapids recently (more about that later), which took us through half of it. Another trip, this time to the Quad Cities and back, got us about 3/4’s of the way.

It’s quite wonderful.

I have been very blessed to have perhaps the actor most identified with Mike Hammer – Stacy Keach himself – reading all of the Hammers for audio starting with The Goliath Bone and ending with Murder Never Knocks. I have no way to express how cool it was to hear that voice, so identified with Mike Hammer, reading the books I’ve written in posthumous collaboration with Mickey Spillane himself.

Stacy also was Hammer in the two audio book radio-style presentations of mine in the New Adventures of Mike Hammer series (I wrote volumes two and three of the three produced) – The Little Death (Audie award winner for best script) and Encore for Murder (Audie award nominee for best script). I actually acted with him in a couple of scenes on both. Bliss.

When for various reasons, the very busy Mr. Keach stepped down, another of my favorite readers took over – Dan John Miller, the voice of Nate Heller, who read The Will to Kill and Killing Town. He did a fine job and made a particularly good younger-sounding Hammer, appropriate to Killing Town in particular. (He has just done Girl Most Likely, which I haven’t listened to yet, but definitely will.)

Now Stefan Rudnicki has picked up the mantle. Stefan claims to love my work, and I certainly love his. He’s been the reader of the Quarry novels for a while now, and also did an award-winning job on the massive Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago by A. Brad Schwartz and me. An amazing job by a reader/actor who really knows how to bring a book alive.

Now he’s taken on Mike Hammer, and he is doing a fantastic job. He gets every nuance of the tough-guy and smart-ass stuff, as well as the noir poetry. If you have stepped away from these audios, because Stacy isn’t doing them anymore (and I get that), you need to get back on board. Stefan in particular brings an older Hammer to life, which is perfect in Murder, My Love, a chronologically later book in the canon.

Don’t miss these. Also, we’ll get to keep doing them if you buy ‘em. The problem with a long-running series, particularly on audio, is that at a certain point the audio publisher feels there are enough books in a series – say, Mike Hammer – to suffice.

Speaking of Scarface and the Untouchable, if you’re going to Bouchercon, and haven’t sent in your Anthony ballot yet, shake a leg. That book is eligible, as are Killing Town and Antiques Wanted, and the Spillane/Collins stories “The Big Run” (EQMM) and “The Punk” (Mystery Tribune).

* * *

Last week Barb and I appeared at the Ed Gorman Celebration of Popular Fiction at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. (We were the only guests at the inaugural event. As Miles Davis once said, told he was going to be late for the show, “I can’t be late for the show, man – I am the show”).

Barb and I taught a full classroom of interested and obviously bright students, who took lots of notes and asked plenty of smart questions. That evening I spoke for an hour, a good portion of my talk devoted to my late friend Ed Gorman and what a wonderful writer he was, and what an incredible friend he was to me (and to Barb, whose writing career he encouraged and supported with anthology invites).

Ed’s lovely, gracious wife Carol drove us around and kept us company. We stayed overnight at the DoubleTree in downtown CR, because it was a long day. I mention this because some of you may be wondering why I so seldom do this kind of thing anymore, especially since I tend to be really good at it (no brag, just fact, some asshole said) and so obviously enjoy myself doing such dates. The signing afterward was similarly fun and I loved talking to longtime readers and new ones alike.

But I have to say such events are going to be few and far between now. I doubt I’ll do more than one convention a year, and it will probably be Bouchercon. I am available to be a guest of honor at just about any other mystery or comics con, as I am easily flattered and like to have my hotel room and transportation paid for. Who doesn’t?

Coe made for a long day. We took that hotel room so I could rest between the teaching session and a cocktail party meet-and-greet followed by the speaking engagement. The long day required me to go up a lot of stairs and walk all over the campus, or at least it seemed that way to me. Listen, I’m not really complaining – I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I got a lot of laughs during my speech, which is almost as good as a fat royalty check. Almost.

This is not about my health issues, or at least is only partly about them. The medication I’m on can give me dizziness, and my gait gets unsteady when I get tired, ever since the minor stroke I had on the operating table. People think because I am energetic and charming and witty as hell that I am a Superman. Maybe, if he had pockets full of Kryptonite.

This is something Barb and I are dealing with. I noticed it for the first time in Vegas at the Mob Museum, where at my first of two appearances I felt I stunk up the joint (I was very good at the second event, a day…and a bunch of rest…later.) At the same time, I am preparing for my band Crusin’ and our “season,” which begins early summer and lasts through early fall. Last year we played around nine gigs, mostly out of doors, which makes me wonder if I should make this my last gigging season.

Nonetheless, I am hoping we will make a new CD this summer, all original material.

The one thing that doesn’t seem to be terribly impacted by age and occasionally sketchy health is my writing. I am more prolific than ever, which makes it hard for some readers to keep up with me. But that’s when I feel the most myself and the most alive – at the machine. Making up stories.

I am not looking for sympathy, which I do not deserve, and don’t mean to imply I am unwell, which I am not. I feel very good almost all of the time. It’s a matter of energy, and I think when this dreadful Midwestern winter gets tired of torturing us, and I get out walking again – and gigging again – I will start to feel in shape.

Just know that the reason my book signings and con appearances are more and more infrequent doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means that I have to watch my energy level and make sure any appearances are infrequent and, when I do take one on, designed to give me time for rest…and to drop me at the door by car of wherever I’m appearing, with Barb at my side.

What I want to spend most of my time doing now is writing books, and short stories and non-fiction pieces and movie and TV scripts. And I think that’s probably how you’d prefer I spend my time, too.

* * *

Here is what I consider a first-rate interview with yours truly, in support of The Girl Most Likely.

Supreme Justice is chosen one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century. Hey, Matt Clemens – we are in some heady company, my friend!

The Rock Island Dispatch-Argus lists some men who made their mark who come from the Quad Cities area. I sort of make the list by hanging onto John Looney’s coattails.

Finally, here’s some stuff about Batman: Child of Dreams by Kia Asamiya and me. Looks like some collectibles were generated from that, unbeknownst to me.


71 Candles, the Anthony Awards & a Big Thrill

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

If you are attending Bouchercon this year, you probably have already received your ballot for the Anthony Awards nominations. This is your reminder that Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz is eligible in the non-fiction category. Your votes would be much appreciated, as it’s an opportunity for us to strike back at the Edgar snub.

Other things of mine you might wish to consider are Killing Town by Spillane & Collins and Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allan in Best Novel. Also eligible are the two graphic novels, Mike Hammer: The Night I Died and Quarry’s War in Best Paperback Original; and “The Big Run” by Spillane and Collins in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; and “The Punk” by Spillane and Collins in Mystery Tribune are eligible in Best Short Story.

Only Bouchercon attendees can vote, and the ballot that will emerge from these early nominations will be distributed at the convention itself in Dallas, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.

Deadline for returning the ballot (which you can do via e-mail) is Tuesday, April 30.

* * *

Yes, as I write this on March 3, 2019, I have turned seventy-one years old. Considering where I was three years ago – just getting out of the hospital after open-heart surgery and a stroke – I am pleased to be that. I am pleased to be anything.

But I think about the difficulties Harlan Ellison had staying an angry young man after fifty, and realize my boy wonder days are over.

My beautiful wife Barb (my only wife – that kind of sounds like I also have a plain wife and a homely wife stashed away somewhere) showed me a wonderful time today, despite the freezing cold weather. We spent the day in the Quad Cities, having breakfast at the Machine Shed (the best breakfast around), shopped at Barnes & Noble and BAM!, saw a very good black comedy/horror movie (Greta), and had my annual lobster dinner (at Red Lobster). The evening was spent watching episodes of the classic UK crime show The Sweeney, taking time out to watch myself and A. Brad Schwartz on Backstory with Larry Potash on WGN-TV.

It was pretty good. Brad and I come off well, although I am not thrilled that we were left out of a segment about the Eliot Ness scrapbooks at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I mean, I discovered those scrapbooks and their value and pointed them out to Case Western, decades ago, and to Larry Potash, a few months ago.

On the other hand, there was footage of Brad shooting a machine gun. He is clearly having too much fun doing so, which is a joy to see.

Oddly, I’ve been on national TV several times lately. Muscatine and I are featured on Fireball Run, a gumball rally type show whose premise I do not understand – I was interviewed at the Musser Museum and displayed (brought from home) original Chester Gould art and Mickey Spillane manuscript pages, among other precious artifacts. [The series is available on Amazon Prime Video at this link; Season 11, Episode 12: “Max and Me” –Nate]

I was also interviewed for a full half hour show on Fox Nation streaming service. Below is the preview of the episode, but be forewarned that the suggestion – at times the statement – that the episode is based on the Collins/Schwartz book is not the case. And Fox has been so informed, and corrections have been made, but not everywhere. It’s an interview about the book, interspersed with vintage footage and, oddly, a photo identified as Ness and used throughout the episode that isn’t Ness at all.

Such are the vicissitudes of media coverage when you’re out promoting a book or film.

Among the best birthday gifts I received this year was an unintentional one – The Big Thrill e-magazine from the International Thriller Writers put me on their cover and have given me (thanks to writer Alex Segura) a fantastic review of The Girl Most Likely and an article about me drawing upon an interview I gave Alex. The pic shows me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, as preserved at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. And this review/article is required reading.