Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

Mickey Spillane and Bobby Darin

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022
The Shrinking Island
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The Shrinking Island – the YA novel by Mickey Spillane (collected with the preceding two novels in the Larry and Josh Trilogy) – is out now from Wolfpack/Rough Edges. It is unlikely (though not impossible) you’ll find it in a brick-and-mortar book store, so please seriously consider ordering it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

This third Josh and Larry was announced in the mid-‘70s, so it has been (ahem) a long wait. Spillane fans should be used to that by now. Among the novels that were announced but did not come out during Mickey’s lifetime are The Consummata (the sequel to The Delta Factor), Complex 90, and King of the Weeds. I completed all of them from the unpublished, unfinished manuscripts. Novels whose stories he clearly referred to in interviews (though sans titles) include The Big Bang, Murder Never Knocks and the non-Hammer Dead Street. All of these I have completed, Mickey having requested I do so with his unfinished manuscripts.

Another announced (but never published) example is the Mike Hammer novel, Tonight I Die, which existed in Mickey’s files in three forms: radio, TV and movie scripts. One of these became a short story, “The Night I Died,” the radio play version of which I adapted during Mickey’s lifetime for the anthology The Private Eyes. I have done another pass on that and it will finally appear under the original title, “Tonight I Die,” in the forthcoming Wolfpack/Rough Edges collection, Stand Up and Die! Another version (the screenplay one) has become Kill Me If You Can, a Hammer novel that will be published in August.

Confused yet?

The Menace
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Allow your head to clear, then pre-order The Menace, which will come out later this month, again from Wolfpack/Rough Edges. The outstanding cover appears here for the first time. This is a novel I developed from a screenplay that appears to have been either a feature film or the pilot for an unrealized anthology series. Mickey had been toying with an Alfred Hitchcock Presents type of show for years, intending to host it himself. This script dates to the early ‘80s (possibly a bit earlier) and, while he always spoke to me of it as a movie project that he would produce and perhaps direct, the surviving version is rather short (under fifty pages).

That required fleshing it out some, and it became a full-length (but not lengthy) novel of 40,000 words. (We are including a short story and a non-fiction true crime piece by Mickey to round out the book somewhat.)

The Menace is unusual in that it’s a horror story, although it does have mystery elements (but then horror stories often do). Mickey conceived it as a sort of response to the overwhelming success of Stephen King in the literary marketplace. He disliked King’s use of the supernatural – he avoided that in his own writing – but considered King “a great writer.”

More on this later.

* * *

Those of you who have followed these updates over the years are well aware of my enthusiasm for Bobby Darin, the late great singer who gave us everything from “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover” to “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea,” as well as “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Simple Song of Freedom” and memorable film appearances in Pressure Point and Hell is For Heroes.

I discovered Darin at age eleven when I saw him singing “Mack the Knife” on a Heart Fund special. I have never been the same since. The combination of a confident, sardonic singer, who moved with a dancer’s grace, and the dark story of a Jack the Ripper figure, widened my eyes in a way that hasn’t shut them yet.

I’d been aware of him, a little, because of “Splish Splash,” which at age ten I’d loved as a novelty record in the vein of “Purple People Eater” or “Witch Doctor.” “Mack” was something entirely different. I somehow scraped together enough to purchase his swinging standards album, “That’s All,” and received “This Is Darin” for my birthday, 1960. I collected everything I could get my hands on, searching record stores for his (even then) rare Decca releases going back to ‘56. A year or so later, I discovered Mickey Spillane, and my classmates at Grant Elementary (and later Central Junior High) were divided into two groups: those who knew me as the Bobby Darin guy, and those who knew me as the Mickey Spillane guy.

The bloody storytelling of “Mack the Knife” was the connective tissue. As I grew older – something Darin did, too, but not for long, dying at 37 in 1973 – I came to learn Darin had suffered a heart condition from childhood and had been told he wouldn’t live past thirty. And I now understand that “Mack the Knife” – and “Artificial Flowers” and such lesser known fare as “Gyp the Cat” and “Goodbye Charlie” – were the singer thumbing his nose at death. Even “Beyond the Sea” seems to have that resonance.

Darin has never gotten his due. I have long felt that if one singer/songwriter of the 20th Century was chosen to represent every facet of popular music, Darin was the obvious choice – not that he was the best in every category, but his curiosity as an artist, and his death-sentence desire to explore everything that interested him while he had time, makes him unique. His two major areas – rock ‘n’ roll and the Great American songbook – tend to get him dismissed in both genres. But try to imagine Frank Sinatra singing “Splish Splash” or Jerry Lee Lewis doing “Mack the Knife” and you’ll get the idea.

The other day I stumbled onto something that might be called an epiphany, if I could put it into words. Having turned 74, I feel more and more removed and detached from the younger world. For the first time, I can find nothing in popular music that I can relate to. Even movies interest me less, and pop music and mainstream movies have always been at the center of my adult (and childhood) life. It’s easy for people my age to feel the world moving away from them. Maybe it’s God’s way of making it easier to let go.

But then, quite by accident, I came upon something delightful. Something that made me smile and even laugh and feel a sense of common humanity with people decades younger than me. None of these people were old and white; most were Black and young. And I got such a kick out of sharing time with them on You Tube.

You may be hipper enough than me to already know about this, but a genre of You Tube posting has people younger than me (which is most people) reacting to music from earlier generations, hearing for the first time very famous songs from another era. Mostly this is ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s rock and pop music. Now, as someone who has difficulty – extreme difficulty – finding anything to admire about Rap and Hip Hop, with the notable exception being that those forms are at least not Country Western – I can’t properly express the life-affirming joy I felt seeing young people listening to Bobby Darin for the first time and being blown away.

There are at least a dozen of these out there, but I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you.

Here’s the Rob Squad, a cute, smart couple hearing “Mack the Knife” for the first time. Watch the young woman start picking up on the subject matter of the song, and then nudge guy – who’s been grooving along – to pay attention to the lyrics.

India Reacts has a very fun young woman picking up almost immediately on the murder spree and her reactions are wonderfully entertaining. She had earlier heard and loved “Dream Lover” and is not prepared for the dark alley Darin goes cheerfully down.

Another fun couple, Shawn and Mel, discover the magic of Darin doing “Beyond the Sea.” It should be noted this is Darin lip-syncing on a Dick Clark nighttime show (the standard practice) and he is probably all of 24 years old…but his smooth confidence and humor and ease is on full display. But the real point here is the infectious, positive energy of Shawn and Mel, and the power of Darin and good popular music spanning the decades like they’re nothing.

Dani’s “I’d Rather Be Listening” gives us a great live performance of “Mack the Knife,” and her reaction is smart and fun.

This older gent, Harry, reacts beautifully to “Beyond the Sea.” And then he looks Darin up and lets his audience know what a genius he’s stumbled upon. A great post. Thank you, brother!

I am so relieved to known that smart, cool people will be here after I’m gone.


Happy Birthday, Mike Hammer – All Year!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

So it’s 2022 and that makes it the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer.

More specifically, it’s the 75th anniversary of the publication of I, the Jury (1947), the first Hammer novel. The character, arguably, begins with Mike Lancer, who appeared in one story written by Spillane and drawn by Harry Sahle, “Mike Lancer and the Syndicate of Death,” in Harvey’s Green Hornet comic in 1942. Lancer became Mike Danger, although none of the comics stories were published till 1954.

Kill Me If You Can cover
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

If you’ve been following this update/blog, you may recall that we have a lot of special things in store this year for the Hammer birthday celebration. I have used several unproduced TV scripts by Mickey to write the 2022 novel, Kill Me If You Can, available in August (and for pre-order now). The book is the prequel to The Girl Hunters (1962) and deals with the missing period between it and Kiss Me, Deadly (1952), showing how Hammer dealt with Velda’s disappearance and apparent demise. (Hint: not well.)

But wait, there’s more: in addition to the full-length novel, we are including five short stories written by me from unpublished Spillane material; this includes two Hammer stories and three others in the Hammer-verse. These stories have appeared in The Strand, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Mystery Tribune, and are collected here for the first time. I am very grateful to Titan publishers Vivian Cheung and Nick Landau and editor Andrew Sumner for giving me this opportunity to make the 2022 Mike Hammer book something really special.

Again, if you’ve been following these updates at all, you’re aware that Jim Traylor and I have completed Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction, the long-in-the-works biography of Mickey. It’s in the hands of Mysterious Press publisher Otto Penzler who, after some tweaks and minor rewrites, has sent the book into copyediting. In recent weeks I’ve compiled the photos for the book and written captions, all of which have been approved by Jim and which are now in the hands of my son Nate to prepare them for the book designer.

I don’t have an official pub date yet, but the idea is for the biography to be out toward the end of this birthday year.

Additionally, I am working with Wolfpack editors Paul Bishop and James Reasoner, as well as publisher Mike Bray, to bring out several major Spillane books during this celebratory year. First, a collection of Mickey’s YA adventures novels will for the first time gather all three of those books into one volume, The Shrinking Island, named for the previously unpublished final book in the Josh and Larry trilogy. Hardcore Spillane fans have been waiting for this for a long time.

In addition, I have novelized and expanded Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Menace – the only work of his that was designed as a horror property – into a novel. Wolfpack will be bringing that out this year, possibly under their recently acquired Rough Edges Press imprint.

Finally, I am in the process of putting together a collection of Spillane’s short fiction – not all that short, because mostly this is novellas – plucked from two long out-of-print collections I edited (Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill). This new book – Stand Up and Die! – will excise from previous two collections assorted non-fiction and non-mystery-fiction works and leave only vintage Spillane crime yarns.

Included will be a new edit by me of “The Night I Died,” the Mike Hammer short story that marked the only Hammer collaboration between Mickey and me during his lifetime (we of course worked on the revival of Mike Danger together). It is based on an unproduced radio play Mickey wrote around 1953. I am taking a new look at it because I now feel it was too literally a translation of the script.

The novellas, including the title one and the little-seen “Hot Cat” (aka “The Flier”), are particularly strong. This will be a fine addition to the books published in the Hammer birthday year.

In addition, I am working with Bob Deis, the mastermind behind Men’s Adventure Quarterly, to present a raft of other Spillane novellas in at least one collection including the original men’s adventure magazine illustrations.

We had great success with Mickey’s 100th birthday celebration a few years ago; this represents a new – and perhaps last – bite at the apple. I hope to do a few more Hammer novels for Titan, including Mickey Spillane’s The Time Machine (originally Mike Danger but now Mike Hammer) before wrapping up the saga. And if Wolfpack is successful with the Spillane publications above, I have one more unproduced Mickey screenplay to novelize and half a dozen novels he began that are waiting to be finished.

I’m sorry to report that Kensington has not requested a new Caleb York, but Wolfpack has been very successful with their western line, and – again, depending on how these Spillane titles to for them – we may see Caleb (and me) back in the saddle. I don’t have a pub date, but I think Kensington will still be bringing out Shoot-out at Sugar Creek in a mass market edition as yet another Spillane title in the Hammer anniversary year.

As usual, the success of all this is in your hands.

* * *

Here’s a very smart review of the new Hard Case Comics Ms. Tree collection from Titan, third in the series.

Check out this fabulous review of Fancy Anders Goes to War from Ron Fortier.

Some interesting thoughts about the film version of Road to Perdition here.

This list of the best mysteries of all time includes a number of my titles. Aw shucks, he said. About time, he thought.


Gilbert Gottfried, Get Back and Sondheim

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021
M.A.C. and Dave Thomas on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Frank Santopadre

I haven’t heard much of it yet, but my appearance with Dave Thomas on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Frank Santopadre – in support of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton – is available now. Check out the podcast web site here.

* * *
The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles: Get Back, the new three-part documentary streaming on Disney Plus, may be destined for as much controversy as the original Let It Be (1970), which at the time Ringo Starr described (rightly) as “joyless.” The director of that previous documentary, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, is revealed as a vapid, unimaginative baby who substitutes a cigar for a rattle.

Already reviews have called the nearly eight-hour documentary both “aimless” and “riveting,” and it is admittedly as exhausting as it is exhaustive. But only the most casual of Beatles fans would not be engaged and moved by spending unfiltered time with these four young musicians who were – and are – so pivotal to worldwide popular culture.

Peter Jackson is a master filmmaker – this is the guy who made the great Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive, after all – and his storytelling via cutting and choice of image is as purposeful as it might seem random. He uses reaction shots – culled not necessarily from what is happening at the moment – for glue and to underline character, a technique that might seem dishonest but is vital to making something like this flow and achieve coherence.

The most basic aspect of Get Back is its immediacy – John Lennon and George Harrison are alive, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are young men, and the right-now-of-it is startling. It doesn’t take long to realize these are real people, interacting in flawed, personal ways, and anyone who has been in a band will recognize at once the conflicts and alliances within this world of four humans.

These aren’t just any four humans, of course, although their Liverpool-lad humanity comes through – these are consequential humans. Laugh if you will, but this is something like having behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the Constitution, with Jefferson and Franklin on camera.

Perhaps the most fascinating and startling aspect is watching songs that have become a familiar part of our lives created before our eyes and ears. McCartney and Lennon struggle to find the right lyrics, Paul looking for something natural, Lennon something surrealistic – Ringo at a piano playing just the opening of “Octopus’s Garden” and Harrison leaning in and helping him take it further…all very casual.

Primarily it’s a character study although it’s in the context of ticking-clock suspense – Ringo has a film start coming up and the band has only a few weeks to write the new album and perform it live for a TV special. A lot of compromises and rescheduling accompanies the band’s apparent inability to do much more than screw around in the enormous movie studio they’ve been burdened with. But they get down to work (although a lot of warming up and goofing off follows) with the goal shifting but staying essentially similar. The documentary aspect of the TV special evolves into a feature film, but the pay-off – where to hold their first live performance in three years – remains elusive. Lindsay-Hogg has spectacularly bad ideas about where that might be shot – he is a one-man reminder of how dead-on This Is Spinal Tap was.

The doc shows a band in free fall. They have reached a point where all of them – even Ringo – need to go off on their own. The real, largely unspoken question is whether or not breaking off for solo albums and individual projects can stay in the context of the Beatles – can they be individuals and group members at the same time. This is the issue they haven’t faced.

In Part Three, Harrison – who quits the band in Part One, which becomes a major dramatic turning point – rather timidly suggests that maybe since he only gets a couple of songs per album he might want to do a whole album of his own. Lennon reacts favorably, but with a bit of surprise, as if that possibility had never occurred to him.

In Part One, McCartney tries hard to be the leader, to get things organized, and throughout he’s focused – really, obsessed – with having a goal, expressed as the documentary paying off in some way (likely a live concert). Lennon seems rather passive-aggressive – he’s not a problem, just less than enthusiastic and showing up late, with Yoko Ono sitting close beside him. While she is not disruptive, her presence changes the dynamic. Harrison quitting brings McCartney and Lennon together, in an effort to coax George back into the band, which (obviously) they do. By Part Three, McCartney swaps roles with Lennon, becoming vaguely passive-aggressive, often off by himself developing melodies and lyrics – his own engine now, not the band’s.

Still, Lennon and McCartney are working together, smiling, laughing, creating. You see, right before you, their spark. Their magic. And you understand why Harrison feels left out. Strangely, they are always accepting of each other’s music but rarely offer a compliment. Harrison comes in with several now-familiar songs, wonderful things, that receive nods and little smiles, but not much else.

Ringo, perhaps realizing the trouble he’s caused with his looming film start, says very little – he just does his job. Now and then that wonderful smile flashes, but mostly he seems melancholy, as if he alone knows the Magical Mystery Tour is nearly over.

And it’s almost frustrating, if fascinating, to hear such now-familiar songs as “Get Back,” “I Dig a Pony,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Two of Us,” refusing to come together. Even when an actual song emerges, they rarely get a take that satisfies them or longtime producer George Martin, a quietly looming presence. When the idea of a rooftop performance as the pay-off comes up, the shaggy shape these songs are in is almost frightening.

The Beatles, rooftop performance

And then the Beatles are on that rooftop and their performance is tight, dazzling, classic – definitive versions that made it onto the Let It Be album. And Lennon and McCartney are smiling at each other, grinning. Ringo smiles, too; even the reluctant, remote, jealous Harrison, is having fun. When they play “One After 909” – a formative Lennon/McCartney composition dating back as early as 1957 – their sense of the journey they’ve been on is palpable.

And joyous.

But it’s also the very definition of bittersweet – there they are, alive and well and playing their hearts out. We try not to linger on what we know that they don’t – death by gunfire, lung (and breast) cancer – and revel in their living presence.

Their undying presence.

* * *

When someone dies at 91, I suppose you can’t call it a tragedy. But losing Stephen Sondheim is a loss nonetheless. For many years he was somewhat off my radar – Company, A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park With George seemed (from a distance) arty, the kind of thing New Yorkers get excited about…and I admit I am still not a fan of Sunday in the Park with George, which has an unsympathetic protagonist and a weak second act.

I got on board the Sondheim train by way of Sweeney Todd, thanks to a laserdisc of the Broadway production. I was (as the British say) gobsmacked, the tuneful darkness of it hitting me in the same spot that had turned me into a Bobby Darin fan at age 10, thanks to “Mack the Knife.” I found a laserdisc of Into the Woods and loved it, too – fairy tale fun in the first act, something Grimm in the second.

In 2001, with son Nate along, we witnessed a wonderful, intimate production of Pacific Overtures at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was the first time we’d seen a live, professional performance of a Sondheim musical, one of his best shows. At the same theater in 2007, we took in Passion with SNL’s Ana Gasteyer (so wonderful in the film version of the musical of Reefer Madness); a much undervalued show with a James M. Cain feel.

In 2003, Barb and I saw Bounce, Sondheim’s last produced musical, in Chicago (it was also known as Wise Guys, Gold!, and Road Show). It was a troubled show that never quite came together despite seemingly endless rewrites; but it was an opportunity to see a new Sondheim musical. The hilarious Richard Kind starred.

The only time we saw a Sondheim show on Broadway was a revival of Into the Woods in 2002 starring Vanessa Williams that was unfortunately dumbed down for tourists (like us?). The film version is good, but not a patch on the Broadway production (available on DVD and Blu-ray); same is true of Sweeney Todd – an interesting Tim Burton take on the material, but the original with Angela Lansbury can’t be beat (also on DVD and Blu-ray).

I came to realize I’d been a Sondheim fan long before Sweeney Todd – I just didn’t know it. But he was the co-lyricist of two musicals I liked very much – West Side Story and Gypsy – and he had written the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim appeals to the writer in me for his attention to language and character; the musician in me admires the way he does so while still coming up with memorable melodies. Some say he wasn’t a good man with a melody, but I’ve had too many Sondheim ear-worms for that to be true.

No question he’s on my short list of Broadway musical composers with Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, Frank Loesser, and Newley & Briccuse (Briccuse recently passed as well).

* * *

We also saw an excellent TCM bio: Dean Martin: King of Cool directed by Tom Donahue. A star-studded (if somewhat alarmingly elderly) group of celebrities reminisce about Martin, who seems to have been something of an enigma even to those closest to him.

It’s a lovely piece, a little hard on Jerry Lewis, though Jerry probably has it coming – still, I loved seeing him and Dean together. Martin was an extremely shrewd, instinctive performer who knew his weaknesses and his strengths and could play off both. He was a singer in the Sinatra/Crosby mold until Jerry Lewis turned him into a straight man, and Martin was instantly one of the best. When he and Lewis broke off, he became a movie star, landing a straight role in The Young Lions – astonishing everyone with his ease in front of the camera…as if he hadn’t just starred in a blockbuster sixteen Martin & Lewis films.

When he needed a new nightclub persona, he crafted the well-known slightly inebriated version of himself, using Joe E. Lewis as a model. Reportedly his on-stage glass was filled with apple juice.

He resisted Sinatra’s insistent carousing, preferring to watch westerns in his hotel room. He relished his family life (though remained somewhat distant) and probably avoided extended social interaction with Hollywood royalty knowing his uneducated Steubenville, Ohio, background wasn’t up to it. He played a lot of golf and made his TV series accommodate his schedule and whims.

It’s sad to have to watch his decline, leavened by his truce with Lewis, but scarred by the loss of his son. The filmmakers, interviewed after the doc by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, make an interesting observation. Figures in popular culture like Martin – and the Beatles and Stephen Sondheim – are human beings who decline and eventually die like the rest of us. But once they are gone, they snap back into place at their peak – their best – and John Wayne becomes the star of Rio Bravo and The Searchers and not a frail shell of himself, dying of cancer as he receives an honor. In their prime again.

They live on in the way we want them to. The Beatles’ music has already lasted over half a decade. Sondheim’s musicals will be presented as long as there are stages. Dean Martin will charm and serenade us, just as he and Jerry are still able to crack us up.

But I am at an age when I find myself tearing up at the damnedest things.

Like four lads from Liverpool playing “One After 909″ on a rooftop while clueless bobbies try to shut the music down.

* * *

Titan Books celebrates 40 years, and my Mike Hammer editor Andrew Sumner says nice things! You’ll have to scroll down, but on the trip pause when you see an interesting book, even if I didn’t write it.

Finally, there’s a good review of Quarry’s Vote here, if you scroll down; too bad the reviewer expected Quarry and me to be “woke” thirty-six years ago (I got knocked down a “star” for that!).


Happy Anniversary – Everybody!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021
Suspense His and Hers cover
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We hope to have advance copies of Suspense – His & Hers before too long. The pub date is September 8. Wolfpack has done another outstanding job on the cover of this collection, a companion piece to Murder – His & Hers, also published by Wolfpack (originally published by Five Star).

These two His & Hers collections are unusual in that they gather individual stories by Barb and me, as well as collaborative ones. I feel my best individual short story I’ve ever written is in Suspense (“Amazing Grace”) and a collaborative one that is primarily by Barb (“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?”) is a particularly strong example of her work. These are both recent stories and reflect how personal experience impacts our writing. Also included are two Quarry short stories and the Edgar-nominated Ms. Tree prose tale, “Louise,” by me. Several “best of the year” stories by Barb are included.

“Amazing Grace” was suggested by my great grandparents’ Golden party. It was particularly significant in real life, and I had told Barb about it several times (my great grandfather, with all the family gathered at a big anniversary party, announced she was divorcing my great grandfather, a sweet tippler who deserved the boot). When I got the assignment to write a story involving an anniversary for an MWA collection, Barb reminded me of this true event and I was off and running.

“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?” derives from Barb’s experiences at the most recent San Diego Comic Con we were able to attend when she spent two days trying to get collectible pins for our (very much grown) son Nathan, who did not attend the con that year. Not a comics fan herself, Barb was thrown into a rather wild and wooly lion’s den and, typically, she came out bloody but unbowed, and with a story in mind. If Alfred Hitchcock Presents will still on, her stories would be a staple there. Our friend the late Ed Gorman frequently compared her work to Roald Dahl’s.

Our Antiques Carry On is out right now, and I hope you’ll look for it. Frankly, we haven’t seen it (a hardcover) in a Barnes & Noble or BAM! yet, the only bookstores we’ve been to in post-Covid. The book is very handsome and (I say with zero modesty) funny as hell, as well as a good mystery, so your support is encouraged. We have a new publisher, the British house Severn, and they packaged the book very well indeed. But the future of Brandy and Vivian Bourne is in your hands.

Speaking of bookstores, a friend of the family sent in this lovely display from Powell’s Books in Portland:

Powell's Books M.A.C. display.

I have completed the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, which will have five bonus Spillane/Collins short stories that include two Hammer tales. It’s going to be a special book, just one of a number of things I’m working on to make Mike Hammer’s anniversary (yes, this is an anniversary-themed update) special. The anniversary in question is the first appearance of the detective in I, the Jury (1947).

I should say first published appearance, because as those of you who have really been paying attention know…the first appearance of the character, as Mike Lancer, was in a Green Hornet comic book (#10, December 1942) and the character was first developed by Mickey as Mike Danger as a comic project that did not come to fruition, and in an unfinished novel that became the Spillane/Collins collaboration, Killing Town.

Kill Me If You Can is based on mid-‘50s material Mickey wrote with radio and later TV in mind, and gave me the opportunity to deal with the younger, psychotic Hammer in a more direct way than ever before. Basically it bridges Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters (the film of which is on several streaming services right now, by the way).

Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in The Last Lullaby

The Last Lullaby, based on the Quarry novel The Last Quarry with a screenplay co-written by me, is streaming in HD on Amazon Prime right now, included with your Prime membership (if you have one, of course). [And $2.99 to rent / $6.99 to buy if you don’t have Prime.–Nate] It’s a good film and is probably more in line with the novels than the Cinemax series was, though Quarry is called “Price” because I didn’t want to grant sequel rights.

M.A.C. holding a copy of To Live and Spy in Berlin at his desk

Finished copies of the trade paperback edition of To Live and Spy in Berlin by Matt Clemens and me were sent out to the winners of the most current book giveaway. It’s a thing of beauty, and that wonderful essay Jeff Pierce wrote about the series in January Magazine has sparked real interest.

And now the estimable Ron Fortier has written the following rave review, which I will (still immodest) share with you:

By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens
Wolfpack Publishing 221 pgs

With this third installment of the John Sand series, Collins and Clemens put forth a proposition many past mystery writers have tackled; can marriage still be romantic and sexy? Following the events that were detailed in “Come Spy With Me” and “Live Fast, Spy Hard,” former British Agent John Sand and his Texas Oil Heiress wife, Stacey, have together joined the new international spy organization called GUILE created by U.S. President John Kennedy and run by former British Spy Chief Sir Lord Malcolm Marbury; known affectionately as Double M.

As we rejoin the Sands, the major issue between them is whether or not Stacey becoming an operative was a good idea or not. A series of lethal encounters with a team of professional assassins has John rethinking his decision. At the same time certain intelligence comes to the surface that former Nazis who escaped capture at the end of World War II may be active in Berlin, after having disappeared for several decades in certain South American countries. Bomb making uranium has been stolen and the likelihood of these renegade Nazis creating their own atomic bomb is a threat that cannot be ignored.

As in the first two entries, Collins and Clemens cleverly work in actual historical settings throughout the thriller, weaving their fiction skillfully around real people and the volatile political atmosphere of the early 1960s. Yet despite this outer layer of narrative, it is the relationship between John and Stacey that is truly captivating. It was impossible not to recall other literary and cinematic spouses from the past. From Nick and Nora Charles, to televisions Hart to Hart and McMillan & Wife, married duos sharing outlandish adventures worked remarkably well in the past and they are very much the pedigree of this thrill-a-minute new series.

As always, Collins and Clemens offer up a whole lot more than any back cover blurb can properly define. This series is brilliant in all its many aspects. If you’re a spy junkie like us, its time you met the Sands.

Ron does entertaining and informative reviews regularly at his Pulp Fiction Reviews blog.

And if you’re not a regular reader of J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet, you should be. There’s a mention of my stuff in this incredibly packed installment of his informative Bullet Points.