Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

Sand Number Three and Wild Dog Goes Number Two

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021
To Live and Spy in Berlin cover
Paperback: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
E-Book: Amazon

The third in the John Sand Trilogy – To Live and Spy In Berlin – comes out tomorrow, Wednesday July 14.

Both my co-author Matthew Clemens and I consider this the best of the three, although we are proud of each one individually and more so collectively.

As Matt and I have often expressed, the John Sand novels reflect our love of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels and the movies they spawned, particularly the first six (five of which starred Sean Connery). There’s been some confusion from people thinking we’re doing spoofs when homage is more like it. Possibly pastiche, although I think we go beyond that.

The books imagine John Sand as the “real-life” spy the world’s most famous fictional spy was based upon. Sand has a new wife, Stacey, and is working for a new international espionage organization. We put him – them – in an historical context, so a few famous faces turn up in each novel. And in the first three, John F. Kennedy has chosen Sand as his go-to spy.

We pulled this off in a short period of time, and while we hope to do more Sand novels, we admit to being bushed. We plot them together, share the research, stay in constant communication while Matt writes a rough draft, after which I write my draft, still staying in touch with my co-author. It is as genuine a collaboration as you are likely to find, rivaled only by Barb and me on the Antiques series.

I refer to this as the John Sand Trilogy because whether it goes beyond that number of entries is wholly in your hands – yours and whatever readers otherwise stumble onto what we think is a very entertaining series.

No book giveaway yet, but stayed tuned.

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My panel on Ms. Tree, Mike Hammer and Nolan for the virtual San Diego Comic Con is at 12 PM to 1 PM on Friday, July 23. Info here.

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Some of you may be aware of the fuss regarding Wild Dog that was splashed all over the Internet last week (and still going). This is how CBR.com related it, relying on Bleeding Cool:

Wild Dog co-creator Terry Beatty slammed DC Comics for its upcoming Suicide Squad: Get Joker series, which depicts Wild Dog as being one of the insurrectionist who took part in the January 6th Capitol Insurrection.

Bleeding Cool posted a number of panels from the upcoming Brian Azzarello and Alex Maleev project, which shows the Suicide Squad paired with Red Hood to hunt down the Joker to finally make him pay for his crimes, and Wild Dog is available to be part of the Suicide Squad because he was in prison after being arrested during the Capitol Insurrection.

In the leaked panels, Wild Dog even brags about defecating on the desk of the Speaker of the House. He also says stuff like, “Garbage that’s been happenin’ in this country…it’s all fucking lawless…all the while we’re being regulated to think.”

Beatty, who co-created Wild Dog with writer Max Allan Collins, shared his displeasure with this new take on his creation on his Facebook page, “This is not the Wild Dog Max Allan Collins and I created. We are both angered and appalled at this offensive and out of character reworking of our hero. Yes, he was a vigilante. Yes, he was a gun nut.* But he wasn’t a conspiracy theory idiot or leader of a mob. This blatant disregard and disrespect for the creators’ intent is a slap in the face to both of us.”

Beatty referenced the CW version of Wild Dog, portrayed by Hispanic actor, Rick Gonzalez, as being a reason the artist thinks that this is a particularly bad idea, “It seems additionally insulting, considering the positive portrayal of Wild Dog as a POC on the CW ARROW TV series. To now make him the leader of a mob of racist, violent, moronic goons pretty much destroys any possibility of future use of him as an actual hero — vigilante or not.”

Wild Dog was introduced by Beatty and Collins in a miniseries for DC in 1987, as an urban vigilante who takes on the mob after his girlfriend is murdered. He later appeared in a series of stories by Collins and Beatty in Action Comics Weekly.

Beatty ended his missive by noting, “As the co-creator of Wild Dog, I need to say loud and clear, that what DC and Azzarello are currently presenting is not my Wild Dog, and neither Max nor I approve.”

Since then Terry has had more to say on his Facebook page (some of which has been quoted elsewhere). I was asked for my take on the matter by Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston.

Here’s what I wrote (with a title that was not used):

DOG POOP
Max Allan Collins

My first reaction at discovering Wild Dog had been recruited into the Suicide Squad as the leader of the Jan. 6 Insurrection as a defecating Proud Boy-style seditionist was bewildered shock. Basically, “Huh?”

That quickly grew to rage, expressed mostly as, “Fuck DC,” and “Fuck the writer.” I shared these sentiments with Wild Dog’s artist/co-creator, Terry Beatty, and he basically tried to calm me down. But, obviously, it gradually worked him into a rabid lather, too.

For me, it’s settled into disappointment and disgust. Wild Dog was conceived as a home-grown costumed hero. No cape, no cowl, just what could be put together out of such items as a hockey mask (with its Jason resonance) and body armor and real-world stuff from a hardware store and a home workshop. The usual “what if” all fiction writers operate from – “what if” somebody decided to actually be a costumed hero?

The results were not always beneficial. When Wild Dog found himself confronted by a would-be Bucky to his Captain America, despite our hero’s best efforts to discourage the Pup’s participation, the child is nearly killed. Terry and I pursued this with Ms. Tree – she was a vigilante, too, but wound up both in jail and in a mental institution. I might add in the Ms. Tree feature, Terry and I explored such then-current (and still current, unfortunately) topics as date rape, abortion clinic bombings, and gay bashing.

Some defenders of what we see as a perverted use of our creation dismiss it on the grounds that Wild Dog is a minor, forgotten character. Well, tell that to DC, who have used the character in at least three other comics, most recently as a cast member of the Cave Carson comic book, and to the CW network, where Wild Dog was a recurring character on Arrow.

Wild Dog debuted in a four-issue mini-series, had a regular slot in Action Weekly, and a “Special” double-length one-shot. In addition Terry is an Eisner-winning Batman artist, and we were Eisner nominees for our Ms. Tree work at DC. I wrote a year of Batman as well as two Batman graphic novels and was the initial writer of the Tim Burton-era Batman newspaper strip. My graphic novel (with Richard Piers Rayner), Road to Perdition, generated an Academy Award-winning film that is often cited as one of the best comic book movies ever made, and the graphic novel itself appears on many “Best of” lists. As recently as 2011 Terry and I did Return to Perdition for DC.

So what?

So Terry and I both have long relationships with DC and might have expected better where one of our creations is concerned. Yes, DC owns the rights to the character, but simple courtesy and common decency might suggest going down this path with Wild Dog was ill-advised – and that at least the creators should be warned. After all, invoking the Jan. 6 riot was bound to attract attention and controversy – shock value was the point, after all.

Of course we weren’t informed, just as we were not told about Wild Dog being used on the Arrow TV show. We weren’t paid for that (one of the few things our contract gave us) until that fact went public. I have worked with many terrific people at DC, but DC itself remains what it’s always been – a corporation built on the bones of two Cleveland teenagers.

As for Brian Azzarello, who I have never met, I have to wonder what kind of writer uses the creation of another writer in such a reckless, disrespectful manner. Azzarello is one of a generation of comics writers who owe a certain debt to our Ms. Tree, the first successful crime comic book in decades when it appeared in 1981. Still the longest running private eye comic book of all time (50 issues plus specials), it paved the way for everything that followed. We might have expected better thanks than this.

DC owning Wild Dog doesn’t stop it being characterized as my work – the fame of Road to Perdition guarantees I will be mentioned in the context of a character who is tied to a political movement I abhor.

But a modicum of consideration from the publisher, and some respect from the writer, is too much to expect from the company and talent who ignore Bill Finger’s Batman in favor of Batman fingering Catwoman.

Wild Dog
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The Bleeding Cool story on Wild Dog, with more Terry Beatty responses and a lot of comments (where I weigh in here and there) can be seen here. Most of the comments are supportive; some are asinine.

Here is a wonderful Mike Hammer write-up with a focus on Complex 90.

Here’s a favorable if slightly patronizing Bookgasm review of the new Antiques Carry On.

Finally, Atomic Junkshop serves up a swell look at the Caleb York series with a great art and wonderful words.

M.A.C.

Wow! Another Book Giveaway! You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021
Double Down cover
Trade Paperback:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo Books A Million iTunes

I hear from a lot of readers that they have trouble keeping up with my output. Well, sometimes I have trouble, too – Double Down, the second of the Nolan reprint series from Hard Case Crime (two novels to a book), came out June 8! So, better late than never, ten copies are available in exchange for the promise of a review at Amazon and/or other outlets, including blogs. As usual, if you hate the book you are absolved of your obligation.

Write me at macphilms@hotmail.com. USA only. You must include your full snail-mail address (including name with address to make it easy on me copying it) even if you’ve won books before in these giveaways.

Let’s discuss my rate of output. For one thing, Double Down is two books I wrote decades ago, so you can’t hold that against me. And I don’t mean to sound morbid here, but you may have noticed I’m not as young as I used to be, which means I have an increasingly finite amount of time ahead of me to get my stories told. Yes, this is about making a living, but right now it’s more about getting the work done. And when I’m dead, my output will significantly decrease, and you will have plenty of time to catch up.

To Live and Spy in Berlin by Matt Clemens and me – the third John Sand novel – will be out July 14, but you can order it now. We think the cover is splendid. Will there be more John Sand books? That’s up to you. We have left something of an incredible effing cliffhanger that needs resolving, so it’s on your conscience not ours if sales don’t justify that resolution.

It’s frustrating to hear how many people assume these novels are spoofs (without reading them, of course), though it may be our fault for the tongue-in-cheek titles (Come Spy With Me; Live Fast, Spy Hard). And I provided the tagline, “A Marriage License to Kill.” But we are in the very hardboiled tradition of the original Bond novels and the first four Sean Connery films. Matt and I feel the third John Sand is the best of the bunch.

I have just completed – sent the manuscript to Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop minutes before beginning this update – a novel called The Menace by Mickey Spillane and me. It’s a horror novel based on an unproduced Spillane screenplay. I am hopeful it will do well enough to justify a novel version of another unproduced screenplay of Mickey’s, The Green Woman. If that happens, it will mean all three unproduced screenplays in the Spillane files will have become novels (the first was The Saga of Cali York, which became The Legend of Caleb York).

To Live and Spy in Berlin cover
E-Book: Amazon

In the pleasant wake of being named a recipient of the Faust, the Grand Master award from the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers, I had an interesting revelation about writing novelizations of film scripts. I think I already knew this instinctively, but with The Menace I realized that my approach to turning the script into a novel was very much the same as a director turning a script into a film.

The Menace will likely not be out from Wolfpack till 2022, since I wrote it as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s first appearance in I, the Jury (1947). So I’ll be talking about it more, later.

The nice response the Nolan reprints have been getting brings to mind how Nolan – and frankly my professional life as a writer – began. Specifically, it was with the film Point Blank, based on Richard’s Stark’s novel The Hunter and directed by John Boorman. Stark, of course, was Donald E. Westlake, but it would be a while before I knew that.

This was 1967 and it seemed like one film after another was hitting me hard, and changing many ideas I had about storytelling. Looking back, I’d have to say ‘67 was the best year the movies ever had, or it sure seemed that way when every weekend one or more of the following might happen: The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, You Only Live Twice, The Producers, Bedazzled, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The President’s Analyst. Not to mention (well, hell, let’s mention them) The Dirty Dozen, Tati’s Playtime, In the Heat of the Night, Coolhand Luke, Billion Dollar Brain, Hour of the Gun and Elvis in Clambake. Well, maybe not Elvis in Clambake….

Point Blank, as a modern, hard-edged, nearly surrealistic crime film, hit me harder than any (with the possible exception of Bonnie and Clyde). Barb and I saw it at a drive-in. I was still living at my parents’ house and remember vividly going out after dropping Barb off her at her parent’s place and buying Point Blank at an all-night supermarket. I remembered having seen the book there, reprinted by Gold Medal (title-changing The Hunter to Point Blank) as part of a reprint program of the Richard Stark “Parker” novels with covers by Robert McGinnis.

I’d already been reading and loving the Ennis Willie “Sand” novels, which had a similar premise, and within days I had started writing Mourn the Living, the first Nolan novel (although his name initially was Cord).

What I got from the film Point Blank was the modern gloss that could be put on the tough guy novels born of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s that had so consumed me as a young reader. What I got from Richard Stark’s Point Blank (and the other Parker novels) was a third-person approach that taught me strict point of view and interesting ways to shift time.

Without that film (and the book the film led me to) I would not be the writer I am today. I was so entrenched in Spillane technique – which was tied to the 1950s – that it was vital that John Boorman and Richard Stark drag me into the present.

Which, of course, was 1967.

And what ultimately separated me from Richard Stark was my young age and the world I was living in – soon I would be married and going to the University of Iowa on the Iowa City campus, in a world of hippies and rock ‘n’ roll that entered a bemused Nolan’s world immediately, and made me not just a throwback but somebody writing about his new world in an old established way.

I am always fascinated and impressed and even a little overwhelmed by things like this. Like what? Like buying a paperback of Point Blank with a Robert McGinnis cover, and a couple years later creating Quarry, the child Richard Stark and Mickey Spillane bore that came from my loins (ouch!), a character who would appear in two centuries in books of mine with Robert McGinnis covers.

I am a lucky bastard.

Not rich, not quite famous, but damn lucky.

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Speaking of Double Down and Nolan, here is a review/essay from Book Reporter that is so good I might written it myself…or maybe held a gun to the reviewer’s head as encouragement.

The terrific Borg site writes up the best books of the decade, and names Mike Hammer as Best Retro Novel Series (New/Ongoing). The brief write-up is glowing and wonderful.

Finally, here’s another short but fun reaction to Double Down and Nolan.

M.A.C.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!…Right?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021
Do No Harm

In the writing game, you never know when – or even if – honors will come your way. I’ve been lucky, and I mark the first big non-Dick Tracy career breakthrough for me as winning the Best Novel “Shamus” from the Private Eye Writers of America for True Detective in 1984. That put me, and Nate Heller, on the map.

A second Heller win (Stolen Away), and numerous Heller nominations over the years, culminated with the PWA honoring the series itself with the Hammer Award for its contribution to the genre. Then, for the last several Heller novels, it’s been quiet…too quiet.

Now, I am thrilled to say, the most current Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, has been nominated for the Best Novel “Shamus” by the PWA.

I spent several decades of my writing life supplementing my Heller and other novels with tie-in writing, doing novelizations of movies and original novels of popular TV series, the latter often with Matthew V. Clemens (we’re doing our John Sand series together at Wolfpack currently). One of the frustrations about writing media tie-in novels had always been the lack of respect and attention they got, quite apart from their quality (or for that matter lack of it).

My fellow tie-in writer Lee Goldberg – an actual TV screenwriter in addition to author of novels tied-in with shows where he’d contributed scripts, Monk and Diagnosis: Murder among them – had been thinking about starting an organization like the MWA and PWA for tie-in writers. I was having the same thought at the same time, and both of us had a particular goal of having annual awards, including a grand master award.

We threw in together and founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers in 2006, and created the Scribe Awards for various categories, with the Faust as a grand master award. Faust refers not only to the Faustian bargain tie-in writers agree to with the owners of the properties, but also to Frederick Faust, aka Max Brand, a prolific writer whose creations included Destry (of Destry Rides Again fame) and Dr. Kildare (for which he wrote his own novelizations).

Lee and I stepped down from leadership a few years ago, but the organization – now led by multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning suspense author Jonathan Maberry – is still going strong.

On the heels of the Shamus nomination, I received a second, rather overwhelming honor from the IAMTW, and have been chosen this year’s Faust winner – my third lifetime achievement award (preceded by the Eye from the PWA and the Grand Master Edgar from MWA), which is either an incredible honor bestowed upon me by my peers, or an indication that they think I’ve lived long enough.

Maybe both.

At any rate, I am shocked and pleased by this honor. The previous Faust winners include some of the best writers in the business (not just the tie-in business). I was further honored by a Best Novel “Scribe” nomination for the newest Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder.

All of these honors are wonderful, but the greatest honor of all is being married to Barbara Collins for 53 years. We’ve been together 55 – starting to go together at Muscatine Community College in 1966 – and getting married on June 1, 1968.

For our most ambitious post-lockdown day trip, Barb and I went to a favorite spot of ours, Galena, Illinois, to celebrate our anniversary. The accompanying picture is of us at Vinny Vanucchi’s, our favorite Galena restaurant. We shopped and just enjoyed a lovely day, but also stopped by the police department to see Chief Lori Huntington.

Lori is retiring after nine years in that position, and almost thirty years in Galena law enforcement. She was my consultant on both The Girl Most Likely and The Girl Can’t Help It. I could lie and say she was the inspiration for Chief Krista Larson in those novels, but I had conceived of that character before discovering that Galena indeed had a female chief of police.

But knowing Lori, and talking to her at length over the writing of the two novels, meant she had a huge impact on how the character was shaped, as well as keeping me honest about law enforcement in her little town – a tourist center that can see a million visitors, easily, in a year. She has generously agreed to let me stay in touch should I get around to writing a third Krista and Keith Larson novel, which I hope to do.

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Barb and I finally finished listening to – thanks to the Galena drive – the audio book of Do No Harm. What a terrific job Dan John Miller did! He especially nails famous defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey (who passed away recently).

You may recall my continued praise for one of my favorite movies, Anatomy of a Murder. There’s a terrific write-up about the film at AV Club here.

Kristen Lopez has a wonderful podcast called Ticklish Business on which I guested. We discussed the 1964 version of The Killers. I think you’ll enjoy this. Kristen and her equally young female cohorts Drea Clark and Samantha Ellis talk pop culture in a way that gives me hope for the future (there’s an emphasis on classic film).

Here’s a wonderfully insightful review of the paperback of Mike Hammer in Kiss Her Goodbye (with my original uncensored ending)

A “great Tom Hanks gangster movie just hit Netflix” – wonder what it is?

Here’s a terrific review of Two for the Money, the HCC two-fer of Bait Money and Blood Money.

M.A.C.

New Editions of Regeneration and Kiss Her Goodbye

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021
Regeneration by Barbara Allan, 2021 Wolfpack Edition cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
E-Book:

The Zoom presentation Barb and I made Saturday morning (for the DSM Book Festival) was attended by around seventy people, and went very well. This is the first online dual appearance we’ve made. We concentrated on five writing tips each, which not only gave participants some decent advice, but highlighted the differences in our approach as well as how we go about collaborating.

We spoke for about forty minutes, followed by answering questions from attendees.

As it happens, our first collaborative novel – Regeneration – is out this week in a new edition from Wolfpack, with another of that company’s stunning covers. The novel – which I’d classify as Dark Suspense, but could be a Psychological Thriller or even Horror – began as a short story by Barb, which we expanded into our debut collaborative novel. Bombshell would follow, and of course we began the Antiques/”Trash ‘n’ Treasures” cozy mystery series after that. (Wolfpack is planning an edition of Bombshell as well.)

Regeneration was originally published by Leisure Books, and a while back by Thomas & Mercer under our joint “Barbara Allan” byline. In many respects, this book was Barb’s baby as the idea was hers, as was the original plot of the short story, and nicely reflects the way she explores some social concern of hers in her fiction (a topic we discussed in that Zoom “Master Class”).

She really deserves top billing, but for marketing reasons I’ve reluctantly taken it.

* * *

The recent book giveaway (and more will follow, possibly including Regeneration) was nicely successful, and all thirty books were gone in 23 hours and signed copies have gone out in the mail to the winners.

Kiss Her Goodbye – one of the three books in that giveaway – is out tomorrow (April 6). My mentioning that it has the previously censored ending has attracted some attention, including questions like, “What previously censored ending?”

The editor of the original hardcover edition (and there was a trade paperback as well) of the third of the first three of my “Mike Hammer” Spillane/Collins collaborative novels objected to what he saw as an ending too similar to a certain famous Mike Hammer novel. I am dodging exactly which novel, and what ending, by way of avoiding a spoiler.

But I should say this editor was and is a friend to my efforts to get the unpublished, unfinished Mike Hammer novels in Mickey Spillane’s files finished and published. He aggressively went after those first three novels, and would have continued on with them, but his relationship with the publisher came to an end.

Publisher Nick Landau of Titan then stepped up immediately to take over publishing the Hammer novels as part of a greater Mike Hammer Legacy Project. Also, Nick went after mass market publication rights of the first three of those collaborative Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novels (The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye), to bring the entire run under one imprint.

When this occurred, I asked my editor, the great Andrew Sumner – a true Hammer fan and expert – if I might restore the ending of Kiss Her Goodbye. Andrew thought it was a great idea, both in terms of honoring my artistic vision and to give the mass market edition something special to set it apart. (Ironically, I rather like the rewritten ending – if less than the previously unpublished one – and hope diehard fans will put both the original and the restored version on their shelves.)

Call it double-dipping if you like, but – as I’ve said elsewhere – double-dipping never hurt a hot fudge sundae.

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I was very excited about HBO Max, specifically after the announcement that all Warner Bros movie releases for the next year would be streaming in tandem with actual theatrical presentations.

Then came the Wonder Woman 1984, as pathetic a major super-hero release as has come down the pike since Green Lantern.

Now Barb and I have endured Godzilla Vs. Kong, a movie we had been looking forward to for months. One of the definitions of insanity is to keeping doing the same thing over and over, always expecting a new result. That’s me and American Godzilla movies – I am always excited, thrilled by the preview, and the movie always disappointments.

Some people like this film – it’s 73% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – but that’s just Covid Derangement Syndrome. So starved are theatergoers (and streamers) for entertainment, they embrace this vapid, stupid exercise in SFX artistry and screenwriting incompetence. Only Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown emerges with her dignity. Well, also the great Kyle Chandler, wasted in a walk-on.

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The print edition of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers anthology, Turning the Tied, is available now (the e-book too, of course) (Paperback: | E-Book: ). It features many terrific writers doing famous characters in new short stories, including a Sherlock Holmes by a couple of guys named Collins and Clemens.

Check out this lovely gallery of Hard Case Crime Quarry covers.

M.A.C.