Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’

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.

* * *

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.

Biggest Book Giveaway Yet, Boys and Girls!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

This book giveaway may be my biggest yet.

Two for the Money 2021 Paperback Edition cover
Paperback:

I am offering ten copies each of Kiss Her Goodbye, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, Two for the Money – these are all books that will be published in April.
Kiss Her Goodbye is a trade paperback from Titan of the third Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novel, with my original, previously censored ending.

Shoot-out at Sugar Creek is the final Caleb York western being published by Kensington, although I hope to revive the series next year (probably with Wolfpack). This edition is a trade paperback the size of the hardcover and is an advance reading copy.

Two for the Money is a reprint of Hard Case Crime’s omnibus of the first two Nolan novels, Bait Money and Blood Money, with a new cover (the previous one being the rare HCC cover that disappointed).

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support!–Nate]

You agree to write a review for Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (and other review sites, blogs, etc.). This is the honor system, but Big Brother is watching. Or anyway I am.

Kiss Her Goodbye will be of interest to Mike Hammer fans because this is indeed the correct ending for the novel. My previous editor objected to what he considered too big a similarity to the ending of a classic Spillane title; he is a Spillane fan and expert, and I mean no disrespect to him – he was instrumental in getting Mike Hammer back out there – but I should not have given in to him and rewritten it.

So if you already have the hardcover, you still need to get the trade paperback. Yes, it’s double dipping, but there’s a new cherry on the sundae.

* * *

Barb and I are doing a Master Class via Zoom that is available to anyone interested.

DSM Book Festival: Sat. April 3
Workshop: Max Allan Collins at 9 a.m. (duration 1 hour)
Log-in: 8:40 a.m.

Workshop description:
Learn from the masters, Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara Collins, as they each present their Top 5 Fiction Writing Tips and then field questions from the class. Together, Max and Barb have published the “Trash & Treasures” mystery series. Max is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of “Road to Perdition”, “True Detective,” the Quarry series, “Girl Can’t Help It” and many more.

Here’s the link: https://www.dsmpartnership.com/dsmbookfestival/attend/writers-workshops

They are taking registrations for until March 30.

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Anatomy of a Murder DVD Cover

Several classic films got watched around the Collins household this weekend.

First, one of my top ten turned up in high-def on TCM – Anatomy of a Murder. I watch this once a year, and am astonished by how caught up in it I get every time. It’s a perfect movie. Otto Preminger may have been a cruel taskmaster, but he made some great films (Anatomy the greatest, but Laura and Advice and Consent ain’t chopped liver, nor are a bunch of other films noir, and he pushed the censor’s envelope with Moon Is Blue and Man With a Golden Arm) (on the other hand…Skidoo).

James Stewart is at the top of his powers in Anatomy, and I am reminded that he was the greatest film actor of the 20th Century. That sounds like I’m stating a fact. I am. No one starred in, and propelled, more great films than Stewart. If you can top this list with your choice, feel free to try – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Shop Around the Corner, The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Winchester ‘73, Harvey, Rear Window, Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).

And that’s just the great films. It doesn’t count the really good ones, like the other Anthony Mann films he made, or Bell, Book and Candle, or Rope, or Destry Rides Again, or The Man Who Knew Too Much, or Flight of the Phoenix, or The Shootist.

He made Vertigo, Bell, Book and Candle and Anatomy of a Murder right in a row – astounding. On my birthday Barb and I watched Vertigo in 4K in case I’d forgotten that it was my favorite movie. I would hate to have to choose between Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder for Stewart’s best performance, and they are quite different, at that.

I love courtroom dramas and Anatomy is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s based on a novel by a lawyer (Robert Traver) and was itself based on a real murder case that lawyer won as a defense attorney. Boldly shot entirely on location, the film has a stunning, innovative jazz score by Duke Ellington and amazing opening credits by Saul Bass. For its day it was daring in its subject matter and frank expression thereof.

But perhaps what dazzles me most, every time I see it, is the intersection of two eras – Stewart as a Golden Age movie star going head to head with the Method crowd of Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott and Lee Remick. Gazzara and Remick are terrific in it, and Scott too…but Stewart owns the picture anyway. He is aided and abetted by two classic Hollywood supporting players – Eve Arden and Arthur O’Connell.

Two supporting performances stand out for me – Orson Bean, a personal favorite of mine (for The Star Wagon if nothing else), and Joseph Welch, Joe McCarthy’s real-life nemesis who, though an amateur actor, more than holds his own in this heady company.

Interestingly, another supporting player – Russ Brown – turned up in the second half of our amazing double feature this weekend – Damn Yankees (1958), on Blu-ray at last. Brown played the trainer of the Washington Senators in the great Broadway hit brought very faithfully to the screen by George Abbott and Stanley Donen. In the original show, Brown won a Tony as did Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston, and choreographer Bob Fosse.

Damn Yankees is one of the handful of Broadway musicals done justice by Hollywood – others include Li’l Abner, Pajama Game and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Pajama Game was based on the novel 7 ½ Cents by Iowa novelist Richard Bissell (another personal favorite). Both Pajama Game and Damn Yankees (also from a novel, Douglas Wallop’s The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant) had scores by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, but tragically Ross died at age 29, leaving only these two great shows and a few pop songs as a nonetheless amazing legacy for the team.

The films of Damn Yankees and Pajama Game brought almost the entire Broadway casts along for the ride. Pajama Game replaced Janis Paige with Doris Day and Damn Yankees replaced Robert Shafer with Tab Hunter. Hunter gets a bad rap, sometimes, for his performance, but he’s quite good.

While I’m ruminating about (not quite reviewing) films I’ve seen recently, I should mention Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which lasts four hours plus and is streaming on HBO Max. This is an odd duck of a movie for many reasons. Director/writer Snyder left the original filming due to a family tragedy and Joss Whedon took over. Fans largely recoiled at Whedon’s version, which took a somewhat light approach to what had been conceived as a dark film. He re-shot most of it. I’ve often liked Whedon’s work, but his Justice League only looks good if you compare it to Wonder Woman 1984.

Snyder restored the material Whedon either cut or ignored of a film Snyder had shot 80% of, albeit minus most special effects. Fan pressure, amazingly, got Snyder the opportunity (i.e., the funding) to complete the film his way, and it’s better. Obviously over-long, but on its own quirky terms, it’s a super-hero epic worth seeing.

But quirky is right – for one thing, he presents the film in 4:3 ratio, which is to say, old-fashioned square TV format, apparently because that’s the I-Max format, even though not much of the film had been shot that way. Oh-kay….

And he got most of the cast back to film an apocalyptic dream sequence that ruins an otherwise acceptable epilogue. The dream sequence features ridiculously misjudged dialogue between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker (otherwise not in the film). How ridiculous? Batman talks about “fucking killing” Harley Quinn, and the Joker rhapsodizes about giving Batman a “reach-around.” Plus, it lasts a long time, right after we’ve sat through about four hours of capes and quips. Not okay.

Curiously, the film goes out of its way to set up the next film in the saga that Snyder would have made had Warner’s and DC not cancelled it. So rather than take the opportunity to bring his saga to a satisfying conclusion, Snyder tosses loose ends right and left, as if daring somebody to give him more money to keep going.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. I took the ride. I just wish I had turned it off when the dream sequence (initially not obviously a dream sequence, more a flash-forward) (including the Flash) gave a bad taste to a good time.

* * *

Here’s an interview I did with Brian Vakulskas on KSCJ radio in Sioux City, largely about the current Nolan novel, Skim Deep. The interviewer knew his stuff.

And here’s an advance look at the third Ms. Tree collection from Titan.

M.A.C.

Short Cuts

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

I came to short stories late in my career. I had written a good number as a teenager and, in the Writers Workshop format at the University of Iowa, writing short stories was expected. But I didn’t submit anything professionally until the mid-1980s, and then almost always when I was invited. I believe the first professionally published short story was “The Strawberry Teardrop” (a Heller story) for a PWA anthology. I did allow several early things to be published in Hardboiled, back when my pal Wayne Dundee was the editor, but I don’t recall the exact time frame.

The limited number of markets discouraged me, and they still do. I tried Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine with “A Wreath for Marley,” but the editor turned it down as too long (and it’s a novella, so that’s valid) although claimed to like it. I sold a Heller story to them later – don’t recall which one – and since then, on the rare occasions I submit to EQMM, they haven’t turned anything down. This to me is a real honor. I’ve never submitted anything to Alfred Hitchcock, their sister magazine, simply because I have a good relationship with the editor at EQMM.

The response there to my submissions of Spillane/Collins short stories has been favorable – I did both “A Killer is on the Loose!” (from an unproduced Spillane radio play) and “The Big Run” (from an unproduced TV script by Mickey, done for Suspense). And now, for the first time, a Mike Hammer story appears in EQMM (the March/April 2021 issue) and the Spillane & Collins team has made the cover. [Amazon Link]

This, frankly, delights me.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine March/April 2021

We are the issue’s Black Mask Department story, and are the lead story, which is a thrill. And here is what editor Janet Hutchings says by way of introducing “Killer’s Alley,” adapted by me from a short Hammer film script:

“Although Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer stepped onto the crime-fiction scene in 1947, just six years after EQMM was founded, he’s never appeared in our pages. As we celebrated the magazine’s 80th year, it’s high time he joined EQMM’s panoply of iconic characters.”

One of the joys of being the keeper of the Spillane literary keys is to see how warmly he is now regarded. This is, frankly, a big deal, getting the EQMM seal of approval. Folks my age (and a few of us are still kicking) know how less than warm the reception was to Mickey and his success in the early ‘50s from a lot of critics and writers who should have known better, but were seized by a fit of jealousy.

Short stories have been on my mind of late, because I’ve been dealing with going over the galley proofs of two new collections of my short fiction, Reincarnal & Other Dark Tales and the forthcoming Suspense – His and Hers: Tales of Love and Murder. The latter, due out in September, is a follow-up to Murder – His and Hers, and again collects stories written individually by Barb and me, and together.

Assembling these has not been without speed bumps. Wolfpack has been incredibly supportive, bringing out much of my remaining back list – the four Eliot Ness novels, the two Mommy novels, and Shoot the Moon, though I haven’t seen a physical copy of that yet. They will be bringing out Regeneration and Bombshell by Barb and me, stand-alone novels.

Already they have Murderlized (by Matt Clemens and me, a new collection I’ve very proud of) and the existing collections, Blue Christmas and Murder – His and Hers. Barb’s Too Many Tomcats is out, too, with an intro and a co-written story by me.

Again, there have been problems. I think Wolfpack’s covers are great, but I’ve had copy-editing problems; but editor Paul Bishop has been patient with my fussiness with both Reincarnal and Suspense – His and Hers. Not every problem can be blamed on copy editors, though. These stories span something like 37 years, and each tale is a file, sometimes going back to (ready for this?) WordStar days. So what we delivered sometimes had glitches I hadn’t caught. A typical problem was that, for a long time, editors wanted italics indicated by underlining; maybe a decade ago, they switched to wanting italics indicated by, yes, italics.

And Wolfpack had to get a bunch of my books out all at once. Reincarnal has a problem that a number of you have pointed out – the table of contents page is messed up. One story is not included and the numbering is wrong. I missed this. I frankly never thought to check the table of contents.

The nice thing about the e-book age is that we can correct things like that. So anyone ordering Reincarnal now, whether e-book or physical book, will have a corrected table of contents. The rest of you – well, what do you know? You own a collector’s item!

Seriously, though, folks – if you catch a typo in anything of mine, whichever of my publishers has put it out, let me know at macphilms@hotmail.com. We will at the very least be able to correct the e-book version.

Barb, by the way, has been a natural from the start where short stories are concerned. She grew up on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone and developed a real feel for a compact form with a twist ending. From the start she got great reviews and reactions for her stories, including getting slots in “best of the year” anthologies. For her, novel-writing was a stretch, but she has adapted beautifully. Nonetheless, her touch with the short form remains a strength – we have a story together (conceived by her) in – yes! – an upcoming issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

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Deadly Anniversaries Ebook Cover

I am pleased to share with you something from another of my favorite newsstand publications, Mystery Scene. The great Jon Breen included Do No Harm in an article about recent legal thrillers; a lovely color reproduction of the cover of this latest Heller novel accompanied it.

“Max Allan Collins’s excellent series about Zelig-like private eye Nate Heller fictionalizes major crimes of the past century. Occasionally, Heller drops in on classic trials, perhaps most notably in Damned in Paradise(1996), featuring a complexly characterized Clarence Darrow appearing for the defense in a 1932 Honolulu rape case. The latest in the series, Do No Harm (Forge), considers the murder of Marilyn Sheppard for which her husband Dr. Sam Sheppard, a Cleveland osteopath, was tried and convicted in 1954 and retried in 1966, this time with famed advocate F. Lee Bailey heading the defense. Both trails are visited in a total of about a dozen pages, the first summarized to Heller by newspaper columnist Flo Kilgore (a transparent pseudonym for Dorothy Kilgallen), the second viewed by Heller and including some well-selected quotes from Bailey’s cross-examinations. All the real people in the cast – Bailey, Kilgore/Kilgallen, Erle Stanley Gardner, Eliot Ness, and especially Sam Sheppard himself – come to life as convincing fictional characters. As usual, Collins’ concluding author’s note provides a bibliographic essay on his sources to make the fact/fiction demarcation clear.”

Getting back to short fiction, a story that I consider one of my best – “Amazing Grace” – appears in the MWA anthology, Deadly Anniversaries. It’s on sale now in e-book form for under two bucks, right here.

Here is an absolutely stellar Come Spy With Me review at Bookgasm.

Here’s a mixed but smart review, mostly favorable, of Skim Deep. But for the last effin time, it’s Nolan, not Frank Nolan. He has never been Frank Nolan. Stop it already.

Finally, here’s a nice if belated (but appreciated) UK review of Girl Most Likely.

M.A.C.