Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

The Big News This Week and More

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024
Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction cover
E-Book: Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Kobo Google Play
Audiobook MP3 CD:

You may have already heard my big news this week, which is that Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction (by James L. Traylor and me) has been nominated for an Edgar by the Mystery Writers of America.

I am of course thrilled, if for no other reason than it’s a further indication that Mickey is finally being taken more seriously and reassessed. When Jim Traylor and I had One Lonely Knight: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer nominated for an Edgar in 1984, we were told confidentially by a member of the committee that we would have won but for one committee member refusing to even read a book about the dreaded Spillane.

I’ve been looking at various YouTube shows about the great Kiss Me Deadly (the film, and mostly raves) but those praising the film routinely condemn Mickey glibly, while expressing opinions about Spillane that indicate they have read little or nothing by him. Mickey was so controversial that you didn’t have to be familiar with his work to condemn him. And even the great Eddie Muller, introducing Kiss Me Deadly at a Noir City screening, characterized Mike Hammer largely in terms of anti-Commie lunacy. Of the first seminal six novels, only One Lonely Night is about “Commies” (and Joe McCarthy is essentially the bad guy) and only The Girl Hunters and arguably Survival…Zero! Of the later Hammers touches upon Russian bad guys. That’s three of thirteen novels. Of the thirteen posthumous Hammer novels I’ve completed, only Compound 90 deals with Communism and Russia. The most respected noir expert that Eddie is (rightfully) should recognize the very noir theme of a detective in love with a woman who turns out to be the murderer of the army buddy who gave an arm for him in combat. That’s I, the Jury, and not a Commie in sight. The Arkin brothers discuss Kiss Me Deadly and the more liberal of the two makes the comment that Mike Hammer seems to be a WW 2 veteran – you think?

This is my roundabout way of saying I have no expectation that Jim and I will win the Edgar for this book, which I am very proud to have co-written. The Spillane stigma is still there. And I’m up against books about James Ellroy (don’t get me started) and Poe himself. But Barb and I are probably going to the awards dinner. It’s a chance to be seen as somebody who is still in the game.

Anyway, here are all the nominees in the various categories.

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Barb and I have a novella coming out from Neo-Text that can be pre-ordered at Amazon right now in e-book format. (There will be a print version, too, but it’s not listed yet.)

Cutout cover

Here’s what our novella Cutout is about as described by the publisher:

A young woman from the Midwest, recipient of an unexpected college scholarship, is recruited into a lucrative courier job that shuttles her from Manhattan to Washington, D.C. There’s a slight drawback: the previous two “cutouts” died by violence.

Sierra Kane – who has bounced from one foster family to another – faces an uncertain future when she receives an unapplied-for scholarship to Barnard College specifically designed for orphans whose academic records are merely above average. A second unexpected boon comes her way when another recipient of that somewhat mysterious scholarship offers her a part-time courier job.

Soon Sierra is caught up in a whirl of espionage and murder, with a new boy friend who may or may not be part of a plot, a college mentor with a possible agenda of her own, and an FBI agent who rebuffs Sierra’s plea for help.

It’s a classic story of a small-town girl caught up in an overwhelming big-city world; but Sierra Kane is a young woman whose curiosity and determination will lead her to the truth…and into more than one deadly confrontation.

Married writing team Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) and Barbara Collins (Bombshell) – whose Antiques mystery series is a long-running mystery fan favorite under the name Barbara Allan – have crafted a novella that is at once as timeless as a fairy tale and as modern as a headline.

I am enormously pleased with the novella, although I really shouldn’t be taking top billing – the supposed value of my byline came into play and I was overridden. This book really is Barb’s baby. I did some plot consulting and did my usual punch-up draft, though her work needed little help.

For you e-book readers, here’s where you can pre-order it.

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The enormously talented Heath Holland was kind enough to invite me on Cereal at Midnight for a freewheeling interview about my career. He has also pulled excerpts from our nearly two-hour talk that appear on YouTube separately.

We are discussing my making regular appearances on Cereal at Midnight (perhaps as often as monthly). Stay tuned.

Till then, here’s a link for that extensive interview.

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At Lisa’s Book Critiques, Glen Davis was kind enough to list (and briefly discuss) Too Many Bullets as one of his favorite novels of 2023.

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My new expanded version of Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane is available on several more streaming services, including Apple TV.

It’s on Roku, too, and Amazon Prime, Tubi and Vudu.


Back in Business

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

Somehow it’s the first week of 2024 and it seems to be business as usual around M.A.C. Productions. Which means we are busy but there’s nothing “usual” about it. But it’s all good news, and good problems, so despite the Buck Rogers sound of the date on my calendar, I am rarin’ to go.

First news to share is that we have lined up four Iowa premieres for Blue Christmas in February and March.

We will have the World Premiere in Des Moines at the Fleur Theatre on Saturday, February 24. The Fleur is a terrific venue. They have a quote from me on the wall! We had a big Road to Perdition event there on the film’s release, and a few years ago I introduced (and spoke after) a screening of Kiss Me Deadly.

Our Cedar Rapids Premiere will be Wednesday March 13 at the Collins Road Theater. Another great venue, Collins Road Theater (love that name) is very supportive of independent film, hosting the Cedar Rapids Film Festival.

(We are entered in the fest and, if selected, there will likely be another Collins Road screening of Blue Christmas on the weekend of the fest, April 5 – 7.)

We will have our hometown Premiere at the beautiful Palms 10 Theater here in Muscatine on Saturday, March 16. It’s a treat and a privilege to have our film made available to our friends and family so close to home. We’ll go the Red Carpet route and everything.

On Saturday March 22, the Quad Cities Premiere will be held at the Last Picture House in Davenport. This is the brand spanking new theater that is the brainchild of the Quiet Place//65 filmmakers (local boys!), Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. Their support of their home-state filmmakers is much appreciated.

We – Chad Bishop, Phil Dingeldein and I (the executive producers of Blue Christmas) – are very grateful to the various managers of these theaters for welcoming us onto their screens. It came together remarkably quickly and is extremely gratifying.

Chad and I will be participating in a Q and A session after each screening with various cast members present. Phil Dingeldein will be there as much as his busy schedule allows, as will star Rob Merritt and his co-star, Alisabeth Von Presley. Alisabeth and Rob have been confirmed for the Cedar Rapids premiere.

As you may know, we shot the principal photography in Muscatine Community College’s Black Box Theater, and we are working out details for a screening there as well for students and teachers.

If you were a contributor to the fund-raising effort, and were promised admission to a premiere, please write me at and let me know which of these premieres (choose one, please) you would be able to attend. More details will follow.

I’m centerstage with my back to the camera, directing Alisabeth Von Presley and Rob Merritt in Blue Christmas; left of me is Liz Toal, first camera assistant, and I’m blocking my buddy Phil Dingeldein, at right.

A lot of people who keep up with these updates helped make this film possible, and we are very grateful. I frankly thought I’d hung up my indie film shootin’ iron with Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life (2006). But Encore for Murder came together so well as a play, we shot it at the last minute and soon the ol’ juices were flowing. Which in a man my age isn’t pretty….

I will tell you, with no modesty at all, that Blue Christmas came out most satisfactorily (as Nero Wolfe might say). That our cash budget was $14,000 indicates just how remarkable a feat this was. (The budget would sky-rocket if everyone, myself included, who took no remuneration were actually…you know…paid.)

Heath Holland at Cereal at Midnight on YouTube showed off on both the Blu-ray of Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (which includes Encore for Murder as a bonus feature) and the DVD of Encore on his wrap-up of new releases. Thank you, Heath! (I am recording an interview with Heath tomorrow.) You can also rent both the documentary and the recorded Golden Age Radio-style play on Amazon Prime and VUDU.

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And so the writing year begins.

I have just completed what I’m calling Conversations With Nathan Heller, a 13,000-word look at the entire Nate Heller novel series to date. The format is that I am visiting Heller at his Boca Raton digs to interview him before beginning each book in the series. This has been done for Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press, and was just shipped yesterday. What Otto’s reaction will be is hard to say, but obviously I hope he likes it. The title may change – that will be up to Otto, at least to some degree – but I think any Heller reader will get a charge out of it.

No idea when this will be published, but I will keep you informed here. I’m told there will be a square-bound hardcover edition.

Additionally I have corrected and tweaked Quarry’s Return, the copy edited version on its way back to editor Charles Ardai. The novel is scheduled for December, I believe. Going to be a busy December, with Blue Christmas possibly playing in some regional theaters (we’re working on that).

In the meantime, Barb has been working on her draft of Antiques Slay Belles – another Christmas book! I will start my draft yet this week.

After that I will be starting the massive podcast script combining the novels True Detective and True Crime (the first two Hellers) into one massive dramatic piece.

Stay tuned.

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I received today copies of the fifth Ms. Tree collection, Ms. Tree – Heroine Withdrawal. It’s (as Chester Gould used to say) a honey. Just physically lovely. I am so grateful to Nick Landau and Vivian Cheung at Titan for keeping after to me to do these Ms. Tree collections with them (a shout-out to the great Andrew Sumner).

I also received two books from Gary Kato, who helped Terry Beatty out on Ms. Tree from time to time – Peter Pan in Return to Never Never Land and Satin’s Ways – both written by my pal Ron Fortier. Both are published by Redbud Studio.


Dirty Deeds (Sometimes) Done Dirt Cheap

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024
Ms. Tree: Heroine Withdrawal cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
E-Book: Google Play

The latest “archive”-style edition of Ms. Tree is available now: Ms. Tree – Heroine Withdrawal. Titan has done a beautiful job with this one (volume #5) and it contains some of Terry Beatty’s best work (and, maybe, mine). These books are a little pricey, but they are beauties and jam-packed. Even if you have a complete run of the original comics, these are worthwhile.

There’s a particularly nice price for the volumes here.

We did, as I mentioned recently, make a number of Best Of lists. But Craig Zablo (bless him) is the first to put two of my novels on his list of year’s best. Check it out here.

My books for Thomas & Mercer are turning up in book promotions (there are e-books one and all, on Amazon).

The War of the Worlds Murder will be promoted via Limited Time Deal in the US marketplace, starting 1/8/2024 and running through 1/14/2024. 1.99 USD during the promotion period. ()

The Lusitania Murders will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 1/1/2024 and running through 1/31/2024. 1.99 USD during the promotion period. ()

Fate of the Union will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 1/1/2024 and running through 1/31/2024. 2.99 USD during the promotion period. ()

The best deal of all is from Wolfpack, however: Max Allan Collins Collection, Volume Two: John Sand (John Sand Books #1-#3) for $0.99! ()

Wolfpack has five collections of my novels, and a lot of other titles of mine, including an anthology title, Murderlized, that includes the first story about Secret Agent John Sand. Check them out here.

That page includes some titles by good pals of mine, Steve Mertz and Paul Bishop.

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For those of you following the trajectory of my movie Blue Christmas, here’s a brief report. Editor/producer Chad Bishop and I completed our edit and this Saturday past ran it by our partner in crime, Director of photography Phil Dingeldein. We screened the feature and Phil had a grand total of three notes, and I had one.

Today – the first day of January 2024 – Chad and I made what I think are the final tweaks, reflecting the notes Phil and I had (Chad a few himself, also).

So we have crossed that finish line, with other challenges ahead. Two Iowa theaters are interested in having premiere screenings, and more are likely to come. We should have word soon about distribution (physical media and streaming). We have entered the Iowa Motion Picture Awards and two festivals.

I hope some of you have sampled Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (75th Anniversary Expanded Edition) on Amazon Prime or VUDU, and the Hammer Golden Age Radio play, Encore for Murder, on those same venues. Both are reasonably priced. And you can get the Blu-ray from Amazon here (right now, at only $20).

But from the distributor, VCI, directly you can get the expanded Spillane documentary for $14.98.

The Blu-ray includes Encore for Murder as a bonus feature. But Encore is also available, stand-alone, as a DVD, here, directly from VCI for only $9.99.

I don’t know how long VCI’s reduced prices are going to last, so if you have an interest in Spillane (and me), now’s the time.

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Here’s an interview with yrs truly.

Finally, here’s a pretty decent review of Ms. Tree – Heroine Withdrawal.


So Long, Christmas! Hello Blue Christmas!

Tuesday, December 26th, 2023

I am writing this on Christmas Day 2023, still in the warm glow of a Christmas Eve with Barb, wherein party mix, little smokies in BBQ sauce, and champagne – combined with our annual gift-giving and a screening of A Christmas Story – added up to a wonderful evening.

The only drawback was not having our family (son Nate, daughter-in-law Abby and two grandkids, eight-year-old Sam and five-year-old Lucy) here to celebrate with us. They are in Texas with Abby’s family (we had an early “Christmas” with them a few days ago, before they headed out) and we missed them. But there’s something to be said for a couple sharing a cozy Christmas Eve.

Still, I hope next Christmas will be the usual family affair.

And I also hope next Christmas there will be a Blu-ray (or access via a streaming service) (or even a theatrical screening) of my latest film, Blue Christmas. This not-at- all lavishly budgeted feature has been completed by editor/producer Chad Bishop and myself, with our fellow producer Phil Dingeldein due to come down to Muscatine later this week for a look at the finished product and a final okay.

I returned, after a long absence, to indie filmmaking after last year’s Encore for Murder, the Gary Sandy-starring Mike Hammer Golden Age Radio style play that we shot and edited into something that might be called a movie. Whatever it is, it’s out on DVD from VCI Home Entertainment, and as a special feature on VCI’s Blu-ray of my expanded documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane. Both Encore and Spillane are also available on VUDU and Amazon Prime for streaming.

The Encore for Murder experience is what prompted me to get back into the indie game, and I’m glad I did because I’m proud of our little movie, Blue Christmas, and hope it will join the favorites on many of your Christmas Season video viewing lists next year at this time.

We are waiting for word from a video distributor (who had expressed a strong interest in the project) and I should know soon whether Blue Christmas will be available on Blu-ray and on streaming services before long or whether it will wait in the wings till next Christmas season. That will be up to the distributor. I do know we’re doing a handful of festivals early this coming year (tomorrow, as I write this!) (the year, not the festivals).

I have enjoyed collaborating with editor Chad and director of photography Phil on this project, as well as our talented cast, many of whom appeared in Encore. Our top-billed stars are Rob Merritt – a mainstay of Iowa independent film – and Alisabeth Von Presley, who appeared on both American Idol and American Songwriting Contest on network television. Also above the title is Chris Causey, who appeared as Norman Baker in Chad Bishop’s The Man in Purple. Very hardcore fans of mine may recall that real-life “cancer quack” Baker was the fictionalized subject of my early novel, No Cure for Death. That both Chad and I did projects about Baker indicates why we are kindred spirits.

Chad’s short, ambitious film can be seen here.

Chris Causey also appears as Mike Hammer’s cop pal, Pat Chambers, in Encore for Murder.

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As is the case with a lot of physical media collectors, I usually buy a Blu-ray – or lately a 4K disc – of any movie I’ve enjoyed seeing in a theater. In last week’s update I discussed the 4K’s of the new Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible movies. Since then we’ve watched at home Oppenheimer and The Equalizer 3 on 4K, having seen and liked them at the Palms Theater here in Muscatine.

Of the four movies mentioned above, the least discussed – the least taken seriously – is The Equalizer 3. On our second viewing of all four, I would rate The Equalizer 3 highest. I realize that’s not a popular view. And perhaps this very Spillane-derived film is one I would be destined to like, even prejudiced to rate highly, since it’s essentially a Mike Hammer vengeance reworking. But I would argue its direction and acting (particularly Denzel Washington and Elle Fanning) are superior examples of the craft. And the script is assembled as if by a Swiss watchmaker.

On second viewing, Oppenheimer continues to impress but the experience is now less overwhelming and its flaws start to reveal themselves. Christopher Nolan’s insistence on shuffling the narrative deck – which flashback am I in now, or is this a flashforward? – reveals the pretentious flaw in this gifted craftsman’s approach. He must be celebrated for getting terrific performances from all concerned. But the narrative’s weaknesses – ironically concealed somewhat by that pretentious deck-shuffling – are jarring.

What weaknesses am I talking about?

The depiction of Oppenheimer’s married life should either have been left out or depicted more fully. The worst realized character is Oppenheimer’s wife, Emily Blunt. The film indicates its protagonist’s womanizing without to any degree explaining it. The wife’s inclusion seems almost grudging.

More problematic is the structure. The last third of the film abandons Oppenheimer as protagonist and focuses on the efforts to paint him a left-wing risk by Lewis Stauss, well-portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. The daunting length of the film is unnecessary – this whole final section could have been replaced by one of those cards that briefly discuss the ramifications that followed a preceding film. Making your protagonist a bystander for the last third of the movie is incredibly bad storytelling.

Is Oppenheimer a bad movie? No. It is worthwhile and intermittently brilliant. But badly flawed.

On the other hand – and I realize I am to some degree comparing apples and oranges – The Equalizer 3 tells its story in a straight-forward yet bold manner. It waits until the very end of the movie to reveal what motivated its hero to undertake his righteous mission. It makes the stakes that hero faces high indeed, endangering the very people he hopes to protect; but it resists giving us cheap-shot deaths of those people, just to throw more gasoline on the vengeance fire. This director – Antonine Fuqua – deserves the kind of attention someone, like, say, Christopher Nolan is getting.

I liked all four of these movies, by the way. I just think Oppenheimer is the most overrated of the four. And of course it has an obvious weight over the likes of Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible. But a traditional narrative well-crafted, like The Equalizer 3, that accomplishes what it sets out to do will always please me more than one whose self-importance and ambition overwhelm the final product.

Let me say, too, a filmmaker who has never had to deal with a huge budget and all the difficulties that come with it, should tread lightly. I recognize the accomplishment of all four directors and their screenwriters – the degree of difficulty is immense.

I always hesitate to criticize movies, and I never criticize novels. Doing so lacks grace coming from a fellow storyteller. So I avoid discussing novels here, and don’t take money for my film opinions, having turned down opportunities to write reviews professionally; some may recall that I once wrote the Mystery Scene movie review column but stepped down after experiencing actually working on a film. This blog is the only place I allow myself to express these personal cinematic opinions, which I share with the readers who are good enough to follow my fiction and drop by here.

The next time I write you good people it will be, astonishingly, 2024.

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The great J. Kingston Pierce, at the indispensable Rap Sheet, has chosen both Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me, and Too Many Bullets as among his best books of 2023.