Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

Santa Thought I Was Special

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

This great new edition of Blue Christmas is out now! Look at this wonderful Wolfpack cover!

Blue Christmas Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
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As I write this, Christmas is five days away, although we always celebrated – and still do, largely – on Christmas Eve.

My father, Max A. Collins, Sr., was a talented man. He was for about a decade probably the most celebrated instructor of high school choral music in the state of Iowa. His students won every prize imaginable, and he put on the first high school musicals in the country of Oklahoma and Carousel, getting state-wide press. He also put on a musical written by Keith Larson, an early writing mentor of mine whose name I’ve given to one of the two main characters in the Krista and Keith Larson series (The Girl Most Likely and The Girl Can’t Help It). Dad left teaching to improve life for his family with a much bigger paycheck as the personnel man at HON Industries (later Human Resources Director).

More important to him, I venture to say, was the male chorus he directed for fifty years, the Muscatine Elks Chanters. In the 1950s, his group competed in the national championship for Elks male choruses. They competed against New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and choruses from every major city you can imagine. They won three years in a row, in fact, and were named permanent national champions with the contest shut down when nobody wanted to compete against them – “They’re ringers!” “He must be using professionals!” No, it was just men from the community, all walks of life (as they say), blue collar workers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and druggists, and whoever he had in his chorus, it always sounded the same. He could produce a unique sound from any chorus. He and the Chanters were once featured on the national TV show, People Are Funny (the funny thing they did was wear Bermuda shorts while performing) (hey, it was the ‘50s).

Perhaps I should mention that, right out of college, Dad turned down the opportunity to go professional with an opera company and instead took that teaching job in Iowa where he and my mother raised me. By the way, my late uncle Mahlon was the premiere high-school band director in Iowa in the ‘50s. The Collins brothers were legendary in those circles.

Dad served in the Pacific and his experiences were the basis of my book USS Powderkeg (I added the murders).

My mother was a housewife, as we described it then (and as I suppose Donald Trump still does). She was very active in charities, worked with Dad on the Chanters, and played a whole lot of bridge. She was also about the most attentive mother an only child ever had.

My best childhood memories are of the ‘50s. That was when my mom read to me at night, starting with (God love her) Tarzan. She introduced me to Dick Tracy comic books when I was six. What a gal! She took me to countless movies. She is definitely where I got my love for film and books.

My father was unusual in that he went to college on a split scholarship – music and sports. At Simpson College, he sang, played trumpet, played baseball and basketball and football. For years he was disappointed in me because I did not share his interest in sports. So I got involved in football in junior high. I had a growth spurt and, along with the face mask I wore to protect my glasses, that allowed me to take revenge upon many of the boys who had picked on me when I was a scrawny bookworm with specs. Anyway, I did well enough in high school to get a few football scholarship offers – I knew enough not to take them, because I knew how hard they hit in college – but that bonded Dad and me better.

Both my parents were incredibly supportive of my writing, and of my rock bands. The Daybreakers rehearsed in my parents’ basement for probably three years past my leaving home to marry Barb.

In high school, when all of my friends had summer jobs sacking groceries or pumping gas or building silos, I was told I could stay home and pursue my efforts to become a writer, if I treated it as a job, and worked at it every day. They believed in me. They even kept my allowance ($6.50) going in those summer months, including the $1.50 meal ticket money I was no longer giving Muscatine High School for the privilege of serving me mystery meat, supposed potatoes, and inedible vegetables.

The Collins family playing piano with a small Christmas tree in the background

But this is about Christmas, or anyway starting now it is. I was always informed by me parents that I was spoiled. I accepted this as fact until I grew older and realized that I wasn’t spoiled at all, but I’d had their love and support, which is better. When I was in grade school getting a ten-cent a week allowance (enough for a comic book till they went to twelve-cents), I didn’t feel spoiled. I didn’t in junior high either, when they raised my stipend to a buck (fifty cents of which was meal ticket).

Granted, my Christmases were special, even more special than most kids. For one thing, in a move that no doubt has given me undeserved confidence over my life, they hired a local Santa Claus to come by the house on Christmas Eve with his bag of gifts to see me personally. I was pledged not to tell any other kids that I was getting this special treatment – they might feel bad.

As a kid, I got gifts running to books and a few toys. No model trains, which was fine, because my friend Tom Hufford had a huge Lionel layout if I was ever in the mood, which frankly I rarely was. Once I became a Dick Tracy fanatic I got a lot of Tracy stuff, including several squad cars, and I scored a Robbie the Robot toy that I would love to have today. Also one of those stuffed monkeys with the red butt. The rest is a blur, although I remember my dad spending hours putting together a metal fort that cut him up like a gang fight.

Okay, here’s the thing about Santa coming early. Turns out I wasn’t that special. My father, in addition to teaching and later being an office-furniture executive, directed the church choir – Baptist, then Methodist (it was a paying gig). He had to be part of the midnight service, which I believe started at 11 p.m. (just another of the mysteries of world religion). We always had Christmas with both sets of grandparents – usually my dad’s folks first in Grand Junction, Iowa, and a couple days later a late Christmas with my mom’s folks in Indianola, Iowa.

The gifts from grandparents were so unmemorable I don’t remember any one of them, although my Grandpa Ray always gave me (not just on Christmas) two dollars, which was a fortune. It was also another indication that I was special, because my cousins Kris and Kathy only got a buck a piece (I was sworn to secrecy even as I was starting to learn life was unfair).

Anyway, I figured out – probably twenty years later – that Santa came on the 24th because we were traveling on the 25th. Getting my toys Christmas Eve actually was cruel and unusual punishment, because I was never allowed to bring any of them along.

But things changed in junior high and high school. Dad didn’t have a long Christmas break (as he’d had as a high school teacher) so the trips to the grandparents over the holidays were less frequent.

I got a lot of cool stuff, including a generic gun belt with a cap pistol (the Fanner 50 by Matel was out of reach, too expensive). One year I got This Is Darin, the new Bobby Darin LP – I still have it. Mom made sure I always got a box of cherry chocolates. The big prize was a typewriter, the best present they ever gave me. It was a very expensive gift for one thing, but mainly it said they believed in me. That they thought I really was a budding writer, from the very beginning.

If you’re going to “spoil” a kid, that’s not a bad way to do it.

Max Allan Collins Jr., Age 4-and-a-half, seated in a rocking chair and reading a book titled
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I am pleased to say Borg.com has named Masquerade for Murder one of the best books of the year – specifically Best Retro Read. Skip down and read all about it.

Here’s some Davenport history about the Col Ballroom where the Daybreakers and I get a nice mention. I feature the Col (now unfortunately closed) in The Girl Can’t Help It.

Road to Perdition (the film) gets some love here.

Indiewire thinks Nate Heller deserves to be on TV – you know, so do I!

The great J. Kingston Pierce pays tribute to my late friend Parnell Hall, thusly:

“Another loss for mystery fiction: Parnell Hall, a California-born former private detective and actor turned novelist, passed away on December 15 at age 76. He was best known for penning separate series about an ambulance-chasing New York City private investigator Stanley Hastings (Detective, A Fool for a Client) and ‘Puzzle Lady’ Cora Felton (Lights! Cameras! Puzzles!). In her obituary, Janet Rudolph remembers Hall as a “funny, supportive, musical, generous, and all around good guy. … Everyone loved him.” His most recent novel, Chasing Jack, was released by Brash Books in September. The Gumshoe Site says Hall died of COVID-19.”

I knew Parnell mostly through Bouchercons, but he was one of the sweetest, funniest and flat-out nicest writers I was ever lucky enough to meet. We played a lot of cards together, losing fairly consistently to others. Parnell was also a hell of a writer; and a gifted musician. He appears in my documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane. As the Mick would say, Goodbye, buddy.

M.A.C.

Bargains and Raves!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

Amazon has a bunch of my stuff on sale all through the month of December, starting with the entire Reeder and Rogers series ([Linking to Amazon: –Nate] Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union, Executive Order) in an offer that will be sent to select customers.

Everybody else gets an even better deal – all of the following are at .99-cents during December:
The Titanic Murders
The Hindenburg Murders
The Lusitania Murders
The Pearl Harbor Murders
The London Blitz Murders
The War of the Worlds Murder
What Doesn’t Kill Her
Midnight Haul
Girl Most Likely

This is the first time The Girl Most Likely has been offered at the .99-cent price. And Girl Can’t Help It is available for $1.99.

Just till the end of the month.

At the Rap Sheet, that stellar critic and pop culture expert J. Kingston Pierce has selected Do No Harm as one of his favorite crime-fiction books of the year. Normally I would just provide a link, but I want to brag a little:

Do No Harm, by Max Allan Collins (Forge):

In previous books, Chicago private eye Nate Heller reinvestigated some of the 20th century’s most notorious crimes, from the “presumed” murder of bank robber John Dillinger to the slaying of L.A.’s enigmatic “Black Dahlia.” So it’s no surprise that he should finally tackle the real-life case of Cleveland osteopath Sam Sheppard, charged with bludgeoning his wife to death in July 1954. As on television’s The Fugitive—supposedly inspired by this case—the accused here claimed innocence, insisting an intruder had offed his spouse. And in Do No Harm, Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner believes Sheppard … which is why he hires Heller to review the evidence, three years later. In so doing, Heller walks readers back through the bizarre, haunting circumstances of that homicide and its aftermath, raising doubts not only about Sheppard’s guilt but about the actions of authorities (and newspapers) that helped to promptly convict him. In addition to Gardner, “Untouchable” Eliot Ness and celebrity attorney F. Lee Bailey guest star in this inventive 17th Heller novel, one of the series’ finest entries—and that’s saying a hell of a lot.

Do No Harm cover

Kevin Burton Smith of the great Thrilling Detective web site selected Do No Harm as one of his favorite crime fiction novels of the year, and listed it (also at the Rap Sheet) but did not write about it. But I’m pleased just the same.

I should remind regular readers here that Do No Harm apparently will not get either a trade paperback or mass market reprint. So you’ll need to pick up the hardcover, which will likely go out of print (other than e-book) before too long.

Continuing to brag, I will share Ron Fortier’s wonderful review of Come Spy With Me at Pulp Fiction Reviews:

Come Spy With Me (Wolfpack)
Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens

Max Collins is one of those writers who is constantly surprising us. After decades of offering up great mystery and crime tales, he then had us cheering wildly for his western actioners courtesy of the late Mickey Spillane’s cowboy hero, Caleb York. Now comes super-spy James Bond’s clone, John Sand.

The setting is the early 60s and a British novelist has become famous by fictionalizing the exploits of M1-6’s operative, John Sand. Obviously with such notoriety, Sand’s effectiveness as an agent is compromised and as the story opens, he has retired and married the beautiful Stacey Boldt, the beautiful heiress to a Texas oil tycoon. If that sounds familiar, think George Lazenby and Diana Riggs, we certainly did. It is wish fulfillment ala what might have happened had she survived. This book takes us there and it’s a wonderful ride.

Sand is sincere in his desire to leave his dangerous career behind and pursue his new role as an executive in his wife’s business empire. This all goes awry when, while on a trip to Caribbean, he becomes entangled in a political assassination. Within days he’s summoned by President John F. Kennedy to a clandestine meeting in the desert of Utah where a Frank Sinatra western is being filmed. Kennedy suspects rogue agents of the C.I.A. are planning on assassinating Fidel Castro. After the disastrous failure of the Bay of Pigs, the last thing he wants is another embarrassing incident pointing back to the U.S. Reluctantly Sand agrees to go to Cuba and see if there is any validity to the President’s claims.

As always, Collins’ use of the time and culture are spot on and add so much to the rich texture of his narrative. Ultimately Sand uncovers an even greater threat and upon reporting to Kennedy, is once again manipulated into being the President’s personal secret agent. If that wasn’t enough of a headache, Stacey demands to tag along. If her husband is going to continue leading a double-life, then he is going to do it with her or else he can pack his bags and kiss their marriage sayonara.

If like us, you grew up reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures, Come Spy With Me will feel like old home week. Not a bad way to kick off a new series, Mr. Collins & Clemens. Not bad at all.

Come Spy With Me cover
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Indiewire has a selection of books that its reviewers think should be TV series – and Nate Heller is on the list! Check this out….

This is Skyboat media hawking its own audio releases of Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. But it’s a very nice job and you may get a kick out of it.

Once again, Supreme Justice has made a list of the best legal thrillers of all time.

Here’s The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and me at a bargain price (check out this entire website, for cool stuff.)

Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet gets a recommendation from Tony Isabella, whose blog is always fun and informative.

M.A.C.

Wolfs and Cats, Living Together, Sunday Fun, and a 5-Day Script

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Too Many Tomcats, Wolfpack Cover
Ebook: Amazon Purchase Link

All of the copies in last week’s book giveaway of Murderlized and Murder – His and Hers have been shipped. I unexpectedly received more copies of Murderlized that allowed me to send ten copies out, not just five.

Now we have another Wolfpack release, thus far only available on Kindle, but a physical book will be along soon. It’s Barb’s Too Many Tomcats, an anthology of her stories for the various Cat Crimes collections; I wrote the intro and co-wrote a couple of stories.

Do not be dissuaded by the title and subject – these are dark tales, very much in the Roald Dahl/Alfred Hitchcock Presents vein. While Barb does not (exactly) dislike cats, she is fact allergic to them. The cats in these stories, among other things, tend to be evil, murder victims, and/or dead. It’s a wonderful collection, reflecting many of the tales having been chosen for the Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories anthologies edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, two great men both sadly gone.

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I am pleased to announce that the project that SCTV’s Dave Thomas and I are in the process of writing has found a home.

Much more about that later.

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For those of you not sick to death of me (which does not include my wife) (or myself for that matter), I did a ZOOM interview with S-F/Fantasy & Mystery author Russ Colchamiro. Russ is a fine, fun interviewer and we talked about things that haven’t made it into my zillion other interviews.

Russ is one of the Crazy 8 Press group of genre writers, which includes (among other excellent scribes) my old pals Peter David, Glenn Hauman, Robert Greenberger and Paul Kupperberg.

Check out the talk between Russ and me right here:

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Although this update/blog appears on Tuesday morning, I often write them the Sunday night before. That’s the case this week.

You may recall I’ve written about a handful of very carefully orchestrated outings that Barb and I have undertaken (an unfortunate word in a pandemic), getting carry out meals to eat in the car or at a park, and slipping into a bookstore or some other retails outlet at an off-time when few if any other customers can be spied. And, of course, only stores where you have to wear a mask to enter, even if you aren’t robbing the joint.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but the three times we’ve gone out on such outings have been lovely – it felt like the old days, way-way-way back in February of this year, when only our president and Bob Woodward knew the truth about Covad-19.

We had our day planned – another Quad Cities trip. We would again go Portillo’s, a wonderful drive-in restaurant, and then Barb would slip into the Van Maur department store at North Park Mall in Davenport while I would do the same at the Barnes & Noble, for perhaps half an hour. We timed it to arrive at Portillo’s around 10:45 a.m. and the mall at 11:30 (when it opened). We planned it with a precision that Nolan and Jon (if you’re reading this you really should know who that is) would envy.

Then we got up this morning and read the Quad City Times Sunday edition. It told of the 500 cases of Covid logged in the QC’s this week, mostly Iowa side of the river. It also mentioned that Iowa is number four among Covid hot spots in the nation.

And we stayed home.

And you know what? It wasn’t bad. We spent some time together in the morning (none of your business), I got us breakfast at Hardee’s (Mickey Spillane ate their biscuits every day), prepared the living room for carpet cleaning early this coming week (I will be upstairs and the cleaners will be downstairs) (in masks), and I finished up cleaning my office to prepare for beginning a new project tomorrow. Barb and I spent the evening watching three episodes of the British crime show New Tricks, which we have been bingeing. We ate hot dogs that were damn near Portillo’s-worthy.

Of course we also had to watch the president of the United States take a motorcade to nowhere to wave at his fans. Your tax dollars at work.

No, I’m not going to get political, because I have too many friends and business associates who are not just Republicans but support the president. Their privilege, and I don’t want to alienate any of my readers, either.

But just between us, the inside of my head is exploding, twenty-four hours a day.

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I had a wild week, reminiscent of my pre-heart surgery younger days. With another deadline looming, I nonetheless agreed to write a first-draft screenplay for a movie based on “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” a non-Mike Hammer crime novella written by Mickey Spillane and yours truly. (It appeared as a sort of short subject before the main attraction in The Last Stand, the 100th anniversary Spillane novel.)

Basically I had to turn out twenty pages of finished script a day (“first draft” merely means the first version of a script, not something loose or sloppy or haphazard). The novella is a gloriously crazed collection of noir tropes, which attracted an established, Hard Case Crime-loving indie filmmaker to the material. My job was to assemble a bunch of short, fun, off-the-wall scenes into a more coherent whole, combining them, and making them play believably, mining a plot out of the mineral content, without losing what attracted the filmmaker in the first place.

I had a wonderful time. I just loved doing it.

Will it go anywhere? You never know. We have not signed a deal yet, but I had a window in which to work, so I grabbed it – if the project falls through, I’ll wind up with a screenplay, so no harm, no foul. If it goes forward, I am not carrying the ball – I am not the director, who will be doing a second draft from my first. Doesn’t bother me – he’s the director, and it’s his movie. Having talked to him at length, I liked what I heard, and we seem to be on the same page.

But this is the movies, and you never know. My version of The Last Lullaby – my script was faithfully novelized by me into The Last Quarry – was used by a young director to raise the money. I was the Road to Perdition guy, remember? Then a producer came aboard with his own writer and my screenplay was rewritten by someone I’ve never met. After that, I was able to do a polish, but I still wish my initial version had been shot.

On the other hand, despite certain problems with it, The Last Lullaby is still a damn good crime movie and probably a more accurate rendition of Quarry than the Cinemax series (though technically the main character is not Quarry – he’s “Price,” a name I think was appropriate).

Anyway, it’s the movies. I love the damn things, and I love my excursions into screenwriting.

But there’s a reason why you write novels.

They are yours.

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A reminder that this coming Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, A. Brad Schwartz and I will be appearing via ZOOM at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas to talk about Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. You don’t have to go to Vegas to participate, either.

And here’s a great review of the paperback edition of The Big Bang, only the second of the Spillane/Collins collaborative Mike Hammer novels.

M.A.C.

“Real” Books Now Available from Wolfpack!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

This will be a brief update because my office is shutting down for my son Nate to install a new computer with various new programs.

But I will take the time to announce the following: print versions of both Mommy and Mommy’s Day are available for $9.99. Be sure to click on PAPERBACK at the listing to get the right price (and cover). [Note from Nate: The links in this update go directly to Amazon.]

Also available as “real” books from Wolfpack are Murderlized – the collected short stories of Matt Clemens and me (10.99); all four Eliot Ness books, The Dark City, Butcher’s Dozen, Bullet Proof, and Murder by the Numbers ($10.99 each); and Murder His and Hers, stories by Barb and me ($9.99).

Your support of these titles will be much appreciated. Their success paves the way for new original books (and further reprints) by me, me and Matt, and me and Barb.

Yeah, I know – that’s an obnoxious amount of “me” – and “I” know it.

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Here’s a great Kiss Her Goodbye review, reprinted from a long-ago post.

This is a rather tepid endorsement of Eliot Ness & the Mad Butcher.

Finally, here’s a list putting a story by Mickey Spillane and me on the “must-read” list.

M.A.C.