Posts Tagged ‘Killing Town’

Max Allan Ruins Everything

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

I am about to recommend something you are probably already familiar with; but here goes….

Netflix recently added a sampling of the truTV series Adam Ruins Everything to its roster, and it looked interesting enough for me to try it…and now I am hooked. When I ran through the Netflix batch, I immediately bought the various seasons of the show on Amazon Prime and have watched all but a few episodes.

Adam Ruins Everything is the brainchild of stand-up comic Adam Conover, and (in the words of Wikipedia), “The series aims to debunk misconceptions that pervade U.S. society.” It spins off from Conover’s CollegeHumor web series, which I haven’t seen (yet). But it’s a lot more, being as much a comedy show as an educational one.

Adam Conover portrays himself as an overly helpful nerd, a smarty-pants who doesn’t understand why people don’t love him for correcting them. It’s a funny concept which Conover pulls off fearlessly, surrounding himself with some of the best comedic talent around, including veterans of Mr. Show and Reno 911. Recurring characters and story arcs are threaded through, as well.

Conover and his series skewer historical misconceptions, false beliefs fueled by corporate misinformation, urban legends and just plain stupidity. And, uniquely, sources are posted on-screen, and experts on the various subjects often appear in the context of the imaginative episodes. Though I discovered the well-made, entertaining show just a week ago, Conover and his research staff have already changed my behavior. I have sworn off vitamin supplements and Tylenol PM, for example.

He isn’t always right, and to his credit a later episode focuses on some of his mistakes. (When I say “he,” I refer not to the actual Conover but his television character.) For example, the episode about the real Wild West dismisses Wyatt Earp as a nobody con man who tried to peddle the untrue story of his life to Hollywood, implying he wasn’t a gunfighting heroic lawman at all.

Earp, of course, was a controversial figure, but he was famous during his day and well after, surviving several harrowing gunfights, including the O.K. Corral one (which happened in a vacant lot near the corral), which was even covered as news in the New York Times. The show is at its weakest when it accepts its experts at face value.

The Collins/Schwartz Scarface and the Untouchable, for example, debunks the debunkers who falsely represented Eliot Ness and his career. But I fear if Ness came up in a future episode, the research staff would accept the conventional (and wrong) wisdom about the Untouchables and the IRS investigators. Like the anti-Ness writers, many of the anti-Earp writers posthumously attacked the lawman-gambler-prospector because of the exaggerations of a book published after his death, leading to inflated TV fame.

For me, the the anti-conspiracy theory episode is unfortunate on a show that routinely exposes government and/or corporate conspiracies. It conflates the risible “moon landing was fake” theory with the Kennedy assassination. While my Nathan Heller novels have their fanciful aspects, the extensive research I’ve done (often with the help of George Hagenauer) has often shown the official versions of things are false…something Adam Ruins Everything often does.

Let’s not give conspiracy a bad name. Watergate and its cover-up was a conspiracy. The JFK assassination was almost certainly a conspiracy. Robert Mueller is not a guy in a tin-foil hat.

Also, sometimes conspiracies are not really conspiracies at all. Let me tell you about it! The railroading of Bruno Hauptmann for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping was nothing engineered, rather a bunch of cops backing each other up, plus some reporters manufacturing evidence, all filtered through a general hatred of Germans post-World War One. These folks didn’t get together in a room and conspire. They just had mutual views/assumptions of who did the crime.

For the record, when I write a Nathan Heller novel, I go in with an open mind. For JFK, the most outrageous thing I could have done was come to the conclusion that Oswald was the Lone Gunman. For Lindbergh, I’d have been swimming against the tide if I said Hauptmann was guilty; but if that’s where my research led, so be it. When I wrote the Roswell novel, Majic Man, I went in ready to report whatever I came away believing – including the existence of aliens. But my research indicated something else was going on.

With Do No Harm, the Sam Sheppard murder case novel that will be out in a year or so, I had no opinion about who did it…and did not decide till well into the work – not only the research period but the writing one.

So Adam Ruins Everything isn’t perfect. But it’s funny and informative, and – most important – it gets you thinking. It even got me thinking! Also, you need to stop using sleep aids and vitamin supplements.

* * *

I will admit to being disappointed on two fronts by various end-of-the-year “best of” lists.

Both The Last Stand and Killing Town, the final Spillane solo novel and the collaborative first Mike Hammer novel (begun in 1945 by Mickey and completed by me last year), have been pretty much roundly ignored…despite fairly stellar reviews.

One nice exception is this selection of Killing Town as the Best Retro Read of the Year, here.

More disappointing is how Scarface and the Untouchable by A. Brad Schwartz and myself has been overlooked, again despite stellar reviews. The book is a completely new approach to Eliot Ness and his contribution to the downfall of Capone, and the previously unnoticed collaboration between the government and Capone’s fellow mobsters to put the Big Fellow away. I fear the length of the book has scared away reviewers. And I am now officially nervous that we’ll be overlooked by the Edgars.

(But a nice exception is this gift guide from the Entertainment Report.)

If you haven’t tracked down the Titan graphic novel edition of Mike Hammer in The Night I Died, this good review might convince you.

By the way, I signed ten copies of The Night I Died for vj books, available here.

Here’s a nice advance look at Girl Most Likely from Col’s Criminal Library.

This is a mediocre review, but at least it’s a review, of the Quarry graphic novel, Quarry’s War. The reviewer complains about the alternating pages that intersperse the Vietnam war sequence with Quarry during his hitman years, considering what I’m proudest of about the work “annoying.” He complains that Quarry doesn’t open up enough about himself. Sigh.

On the other hand, both Quarry’s War and The Night I Died get nice mentions in this wrap-up of comics in 2018.

This is my first post of 2019, by the way, written in 2018. Happy New Year to all of you.

M.A.C.

The Scarface and the Untouchable Show Hits the Road

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

The recent mini-tour for Scarface and the Untouchable – with co-author Brad Schwartz as well as my other collaborator, Barbara Collins – went extremely well. Barb and I do very few signings these days, but all three of these – Saturday afternoon, August 18, at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock (where both Chester Gould and Rick Fletcher lived), Sunday afternoon at Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, and Monday evening at Anderson’s Bookshop in Woodstock (where Dick Locher lived) – were well-attended and a lot of fun. Books were sold – plenty of them.

This was the first time Brad and I have done appearances together, and with no prep whatsoever, we were a team ready and willing to do this again and again. Brad is at ease in front of an audience and has a command of the facts that would have eluded me even at his, ahem, somewhat younger age than mine. Barb is also great with audiences, funny and comfortable with herself. Scarface took centerstage, but the Antiques series was not neglected.

To see how Brad and I interact (although I hog it a little here), check out our WGN appearance on the Monday morning of the Anderson’s signing.

And for a good write-up about the Centuries and Sleuths presentation, check out the Donald G. Evans piece on the event right here.

Several interesting things occurred. At Woodstock, a car show of vintage automobiles was in full sway around the quaint town square during our signing. The classic cars required parking places, and one such vehicle found a space right in front of the bookstore (one of the few such spaces remaining). That car had an Untouchables license plate belonging to its Ness enthusiast owner who had known nothing of the signing. He saw the signage about the book signing out front of Between the Lynes, came in to attend the event, and bought a book.

In Naperville, where Dick Locher’s wife Mary could not attend because of a club meeting at her home, the gracious Mrs. Locher had left for me a Sunday page original from early in the Locher/Collins run of Tracy. Dick had never got around to sending me an original for my office wall, and when he and I re-bonded a few years ago, he apologized and said he’d given all of his art to a university. He pledged to write and get one from them for me, but the university did not cooperate. For some time now, Mary had been looking through Dick’s materials to see if she could find anything for me. No luck. Then, before the signing in Naperville, she tried one more time…and found a page, a perfect example with plenty of Tracy and famous villains, as if it had been set aside by Dick himself for me. I found her gesture – and this posthumous gift from my Tracy collaborator – a thrill and quite touching.

Check out the photos below, then return for a few more links.


Brad, M.A.C., Barb

Brad looks on as M.A.C jokes with Bob Goldsborough.

Brad and “Barbara Allan”

M.A.C. discussing a variety of topics with the notorious Mike Doran.

M.A.C. speaking with David & Cynthia who traveled from McCordsville, Indiana.

Centuries and Sleuths

M.A.C. with Nero Wolfe author, Robert Goldsborough at Centuries and Sleuths.

Anderson’s in Naperville

Andserson’s in Naperville – readers lining up to get books signed after Brad and I spoke.

Anderson’s in Naperville

At Anderson’s in Naperville, Dick Locher’s wife Mary sent over a Sunday original from the Locher/Collins period of the strip

Brad and M.A.C. pose in Naperville with Dick Locher’s incredible Dick Tracy sculpture.

M.A.C. and Brad Schwartz at the downtown Woodstock, Illinois, Dick Tracy mural (featuring images from the Fletcher/Collins period of the strip)

Brad and M.A.C. signing at Between the Lynes Bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois.

M.A.C. and A.B.S. talk to a nice crowd at Between the Lynes bookshop in Woodstock, Illinois.

Brad and M.A.C. pose with Untouchable license plate on a fan of the show who just happened to pull in right in front of the book store where we were signing — and came in, taking time out from the car show on the town square, to listen to our presentation…and buy a book!

* * *

Attention for Scarface and the Untouchable continues, as this impressive New York Daily News spread indicates.

I am honored that Quarry has been chosen one of the top ten Greatest Men’s Adventure Series Ever in a November 2017 “highly-scientific and totally statistically valid poll” of 4,000 members of the Men’s Adventure Paperbacks Facebook Group. Richard Stark’s Parker came in first, followed by Matt Helm and Travis McGee, with Quarry coming in fourth. Heady company to be in.

Oddly, Mike Hammer did not make the list, but Killing Town scored a particularly fine review, right here.

M.A.C.

Black Hats & A Book Giveaway!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

[Note from Nate: The giveaway is over! Thank you for participating!] The book giveaway this week is for the upcoming Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago, which will be published August 14. I have five finished copies and five bound galley proofs (ARC’s). The first five to respond get the finished book, the next five the bound galley. Winners are requested to post a review at Amazon, a blog, Barnes & Noble or any combination thereof.

This week’s update, however, is mostly about Black Hats, a new edition of which has just been published by Brash Books. For the first time, the book has my real byline, and not “Patrick Culhane.”

Brash has done a spiffy job on it, and I hope to get some copies from them for another book giveaway like the one above. Brash is also going to be bringing out Red Sky in Morning under my preferred title, and that will have the Max Allan Collins byline for the first time, too.

Black Hats is a good companion piece to Scarface and the Untouchable, because it’s about young Al Capone encountering old Wyatt Earp. Though their meeting is fanciful, the research for the book was on the order of the Heller saga and it is one of my favorite novels, and one that continues to attract very serious Hollywood attention.

Harrison Ford has been interested in playing Earp pretty much ever since the novel first came out, and he is still part of the mix – nothing signed-sealed-delivered, mind you. But that he has maintained this continued interest in the novel is exciting.

That’s all I can say at the moment, but if you’ve never read this one, send for the Brash Books edition, please. You will not find it in many book stores – the e-book will drive this one, though the “real” book that Brash has produced is handsome indeed.


Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

How did the byline “Patrick Culhane” come to appear on both Black Hats and Red Sky? Forgive me if you’ve heard this one, but I believe it’s one of the truly remarkable fuck-ups of my career, and one of the rare ones that I didn’t cause myself.

Shortly after Road to Perdition was a huge movie and the novelization made the USA Today bestseller list and the graphic novel made the New York Times bestseller list, some guy at Border’s (remember them?) told my then-publisher that he was a huge M.A.C. fan, but could sell more M.A.C. books if only the name M.A.C. wasn’t on the cover. I was too well-known, it seems, as a guy who wrote series novels. He promised huge sales if we did some standalone thrillers under a new byline.

Oddly, my real identity was never hidden. It’s prominently revealed on the jackets of both books.

I did not want to do this. My editor stopped short of insisting that I go along with it, and my agent suggested alienating my editor was a really bad idea. And Border’s was really, really powerful, right? So I came up with “Patrick Culhane,” the “Patrick” after my mother Patricia and “Culhane” as a Collins variant.

Understand that I hate pseudonyms. I fought to have my name go on my movie and TV tie-ins, figuring (correctly) that having my byline on things like Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, American Gangster, CSI and so on would only building my audience. All of those titles either made the New York Times list or USA Today’s or both.

The only time I used a pseudonym was on the novelization I Love Trouble, because it was going to be out at the same time as another novelization, plus the movie stunk. I used Patrick again, but also my mother’s maiden name, Rushing, which seemed apt for a book written on a crazy deadline.

I use my name on all but the above exceptions because I am proud of my work, and I want to keep myself honest. I don’t want to hide. I want to acquire readers, not run away from them.

Anyway, I am very pleased that Brash Books – the people who brought you the complete Road to Perdition prose novel, something I thought I would never see – are restoring my name to two of my favorite books. They will also soon be publishing Red Sky under my preferred title, USS Powderkeg.

Now the only thing still unpublished is my original, very loose adaptation of the Dick Tracy movie, in which I fixed all its problems and sins. Getting that in print, however, is a real long shot….

* * *

The advance buzz on Scarface and the Untouchable keeps building.

The Strand’s blog has published a list by my co-author and me looking at ten surprising facts about Al Capone and Eliot Ness.

We are one of the Saturday Evening Post’s top ten late summer reads, for example.

And the History News Network has published an article that Brad and I wrote about the Trump/Manafort/Mueller parallels.

Mystery People showcases us, too.

Out of the blue, here’s an interesting look at Quarry’s List, the second Quarry novel, with lots of comments from readers.

The graphic novel, Quarry’s War, gets a boost here, in a somewhat surprising context. [Note from Nate: This is so bizarre.]

On the Mike Hammer/Spillane front, here’s an interview I did at San Diego Comic Con a few weeks ago.

And another.

Finally, here is a terrific, smart review from the smart, terrific J. Kingston Pierce about Killing Town.

M.A.C.

The Original Max Allan Collins

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

I had many lovely responses to my shameless Golden Anniversary tribute to my lovely wife, Barb. Several people inquired about where the photo of us was taken: that was on May 31 on our anniversary overnight getaway to Galena, at our favorite Italian restaurant there, Vinny Vanucchi’s.

We stayed at the Irish Cottage (which is not a cottage, of course, but a very nice hotel on the outer outskirts of Galena). We dined at our other favorites – Otto’s Place, a breakfast spot on the Galena River across from the old, restored train station, and the Log Cabin, a restaurant that’s been there since the ‘30s and is a classic steakhouse that has the look and feel of somewhere the Rat Pack would hang out. We took a trolley tour of the town (though we’d been there many times) and soaked up some history and saw lots of Painted Ladies (i.e., Victorian mansions and homes).

This was in part research, because I have agreed to do a follow-up to The Girl Most Likely, a thriller set in Galena that I delivered to Thomas & Mercer last year for publication later this year. The police chief there, Lori Huntington, has been most helpful. But we were mostly having fun – the downtown shopping, half-a-mile of it, is gift shops and antiques shops and two wonderful used bookstores. We also visited (by appointment) Main Street Fine Books, which gave up its Main Street location some time ago and is now on the lower level of a beautiful modern home. Bill Butts and his wife Yolanda welcomed us, and Bill had set aside a first edition of Audie Murphy’s To Hell and Back for me.

You know, Barb and I talked about going somewhere special – like Ireland or France or England – but instead settled on doing what we wanted to do, as opposed to what was expected of us. We went to Galena, a place we love, and chose the Irish Cottage over Ireland.

On June 2nd, still celebrating, we dined at our favorite Muscatine restaurant, DaBeet’s, where I’d arranged for chef Awad Dabit to prepare Barb’s favorite, Dover Sole. Earlier that day was a nostalic trip for both us, at the Muscatine Art Center, a wonderful museum in the historic Musser mansion. How wonderful? They display works by Renoir, Chagall, O’Keefe, Picasso, and Grant Wood, among many others.

But Barb and I were there to see the Elks Chanters exhibit. The Chanters was a male chorus that my father, Max A. Collins Sr., directed for fifty years, up to his passing in 2000. The original Max Collins was a remarkable guy. He went to Simpson College on a combined music and athletics scholarship. He was an incredible singer, who turned down offers to pursue professional opera, and a high school music teacher whose students racked up record wins at state music contests. He also put on the first high school productions of Oklahoma and Carousel – in the nation. When he left teaching after ten years for a better-paying job at HON Industries, the office furniture company, he kept his musical hand in with church choirs and, in particular, the Chanters.

How good were the Chanters? Well, in the fifties they entered the national Elks chorus competition and won, beating men’s choruses from the biggest cities in America. The next year they won again. The year after that they won yet again, although other choruses tried to block them, claiming the Muscatine outfit was clearly professional. They weren’t, but after that year, the competition was ended and the Chanters were made the permanent national champs.

Dad took his group all over the state and various parts of the country, including of course Muscatine, to schools and nursing homes; they also put on an annual Christmas concert. Every year around June they presented an elaborate show, with a concert portion divided between religious and popular works, and a Broadway-style revue with costumes, dancing, and the wives and kids of the Chanters participating. Each revue had a theme my father had been working on all year – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Legends of Popular Music, Grand Ole Opry and on and on.


Small part of Museum Art Center exhibit

His chorus had a uniquely masculine sound and he created it from everyday guys in all walks of life here in Muscatine. The Muscatine Art Center, thanks to Donna Reed (whose late husband Morrie Reed was one of Dad’s stars), has mounted an impressive display of Chanters memorabilia and has a big-screen TV showing the Chanters (and my Dad) in action. The exhibit goes through mid-August.

As a kid, I was in Chanters shows and so was son Nate. But I never joined the group. I had my musical path and Dad had his. I think he understood mine was not a rejection but a recognition that he would be seen as favoring me if he used me in any special way. I had appeared in high school productions (King Arthur in Camelot and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady) and many around town expected me to be a Chanter. But I was busy playing rock ‘n’ roll.


M.A.C., Jr., watching M.A.C., Sr. and his group

Here’s one story about my dad, who was an incredible teacher of vocal music, as this will demonstrate.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the chorus director put me (a tenor) with a bass, an alto and a soprano, as a quartet that would try out for the All-State Chorus – this is roughly the nerd equivalent of All-State sports honors. The director, who was new in town, told us that he would not have time to work with us. That he would be working with several quartets of junior and senior students, who had a chance of winning; but this would be a good opportunity for us to see what we were up against in the future.

I reported this to Dad. He told me to assemble my quartet (Mike Lange, Joyce Courtois and Kathy Bender) and that he would work with us. No one in the history of Iowa schools, at least up to that time, had put more students into the All-State Chorus (winners were sent to Des Moines for a big concert) than my father. Well, Dad worked with us all right. And the three quartets the high school chorus director coached all flamed out.

We won.

We won the next year, too, and the next. And at our final year at Des Moines, when the All-State Chorus was assembled to rehearse for its concert, its director asked the group of several hundred, “Who among you have been here before?” Our hands and some others went up. Then: “Who among have been here for all three years? Please stand.”

We four stood.

No one else did.

Thanks, Pop.

* * *

Barb and I have finished listening to Dan John Miller’s reading of Killing Town. I know some of you (myself included) are sorry to see Stacy Keach retire from the audio series. But Dan really knocks it out of the park.

If you enjoy listening to books on audio, and you like my work and/or Mickey’s, get your hands…which is to say your ears…on this one.

* * *

The graphic novel collection of Quarry’s War is out now! I spotted it in Daydreams, an Iowa City comic book shop. Amazon lists the on-sale date as July 3rd, but apparently comic book shops get it earlier.

I’ll post more on this later.

M.A.C.