Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane’

True Noir News, Another Nomination Plus a Serving of Fudge

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

The crowd-funding effort at Kickstarter for True Noir: The Casebooks of Nathan Heller has been postponed until June (exact date to be shared when I know what it is) because we’d be in conflict with another crowd-funder our star Todd Stashwick is involved with. We don’t want to be competing with somebody in the family. (True Noir is directed by Robert Meyer Burnett and is a fully immersive audio drama. In production now!)

Also, I’m going to be announcing soon the next indie film I’m doing, and I won’t be crowd-funding that, either. But any of you who are interested in contributing to the production will be invited to contact me directly. Associate Producer credits and first edition books of your choice will be in the offing.

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After all the talk about winning and losing awards last week, another nomination has popped up for Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me. I’ve spoken here before about how meaningful this work is to both my co-author and myself – our many decades-long friendship grew out of the need for two Spillane enthusiasts to work together on one Spillane literary bio. We were stymied a bit by Mickey’s insistence that he would cooperate but only in terms of a book about the Mike Hammer/Mickey Spillane by examining his fiction and limiting the biographical material to a short single chapter.

Mickey wanted to write his own biography – that is, autobiography – but he never got around to it. He did cooperate with me (and how) on doing a documentary on his life and work, which became Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (1998), which has been expanded by my collaborator Phil Dingeldein and myself into a special edition now available from VCI (and on Amazon, of course). As a bonus feature it includes the 90-minute program (kinda a movie), Mickey Spillane’s Encore For Murder, the radio-style play we mounted here in Muscatine, Iowa, as a fund raiser for the local art museum. My Mommy’s Day star (co-star with Patty McCormack), Gary Sandy (of WKRP in Cincinnati fame) came in to play Mike Hammer. Gary was so terrific that, at the last moment, I decided to record the show (and our little movie version was edited by Chad Bishop and myself from one dress rehearsal and the lone performance).

Some of you will recall a longer radio version of Encore was done for Brilliance (there were two done, both Audie Award nominees and one winning, The Little Death) with Stacy Keach in his iconic role as Mike Hammer. Gary portrayed Hammer for me in two stage productions of Encore, one at Owensboro, Kentucky, another at Clearwater, Florida.

Anyway, the Spillane documentary is available on Blu-ray as mentioned above, with the 90-minute Encore for Murder as a special feature. Encore is also available alone as a DVD.

Some years ago, in its first incarnation, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane won an Award of Excellence from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. And in 2023 I unexpectedly won Best Director from the Iowa Motion Picture awards for the production. So there have been various awards, I’m happy to say, connected to all of these endeavors.

We, of course, lost the Edgar (as I expected to) to a bio of James Elroy (not my favorite author). And now we’re up against that book, and a number of others, nominated for the non-fiction Anthony, the awards named for critic Anthony Boucher given at Bouchercon. I’ve won one of those before, in 2005, for The History of Mystery (written with George Hagenauer). I’m not going to Bouchercon in Nashville, August 28 – September 1, as I’ll be shooting my next indie movie at the time. Because it’s a fan event with the voting going on at the event, it would be a good thing to be there, since that amps up your possibility of winning. And I’ve been to many a Bouchercon, but just can’t make this one.

Which makes this a good time to request that those of you attending Bouchercon 2024, who liked the Spillane book, consider voting for it.

But, as I discussed here last week, I really did and do consider the Edgar nomination a major victory for this biographical study of the genre’s most controversial figure. And I could not be more thrilled by this surprise Anthony nomination – and I know editor Otto Penzler, co-author Jim Traylor and, hell, my agent Dominick Abel are also pleased.

To those of you out there whose votes got us included among the nominees, you have my sincere thanks. Two nominations among the handful of the genre’s major awards (no, it’s not a leg lamp) are nothing to sneeze at. And I ain’t sneezing.

Speaking of awards, I’m going to provide a window onto a January 1968 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show by a rock group that is not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. This may seem like a non sequitur to some, but longtime fans/readers of mine will probably recall that (as is the case with Bobby Darin) I am a huge fan of that particular, incredibly great, historically significant and hugely influential band who have been roundly forgotten by the rock organization that is too busy giving out its awards to Hip Hoppers and country western artists than to recognize true pioneers in the field.

But, as my wife says to me frequently, “At least you’re not bitter.”


Winning and Losing

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

NEWS FLASH: True Noir: The Nathan Heller Casebooks, the ten-episode full-cast, fully immersive audio adaptation of the first Heller novel (True Detective) is now in production! The Kickstarter crowd-funding effort will go live soon, to enable us to add physical media and other bells and whistles to the project. Watch Robert Meyer Burnett’s various YouTube shows and appearances for ongoing updates.

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We did rather well at the Iowa Motion Picture Awards (held in Forest City, Iowa, on May 4).

Actor – Award of Achievement
Blue Christmas
Rob Merritt

Actress – Award of Excellence
Blue Christmas
Alisabeth Von Presley

Direction – Long Form (60 minutes +) – Award of Achievement
Blue Christmas
Max Allan Collins, Chad Bishop

Screenplay (Produced) – Award of Excellence

Blue Christmas
Max Allan Collins

We were also nominated in the Best Feature Film category and Best Supporting Actor (Chris Causey as Jake Marley).

There were any number of categories we were not considered in, because every category you enter in this award competition comes with a somewhat stiff entry fee. I settled on what I thought we had a chance at winning (roughly speaking, the Award of Excellence is first place, the Award of Achievement is second place).

What I like about the Iowa Motion Picture Awards is that each category has a separate slate of judges (and the second round is out-of-state). That gives a film several bites at the apple…though you have to pay for each bite.

This is, in a way, an important competition for us, because we were looking to do well enough to be able to legitimately put some impressive-sounding Laurel wreaths on our poster and on the Blu-ray and DVD sleeves. And we accomplished that. This is preferable to, say, the Cedar Rapids Film Festival, where they have a large slate of awards but only two awards (essentially first and second place) apply to indie feature film projects, the rest to corporate and student. No acting, writing, directing awards. That means being an official entry, as we were in that festival, is an accomplishment in itself; but it isn’t as impressive as, say, Best Actress.

I had originally hoped to attend the Iowa Motion Picture Awards, but it’s a twelve- hour round trip drive from Muscatine, Iowa, to Forest City, Iowa. And we had a conflict, too, which had us cancelling our motel room at the last minute and not making the trip. Our star, Rob Merritt – who won several awards not just for our production but a couple of others (he’s the busiest actor in Iowa and for good reason) – was there to represent us, as was Jake Marley, that is, Chris Causey.

We had also decided not to attend the Edgar Awards, which were just a few days before the Iowa Motion Picture Awards. That was a different situation. For one thing, we figured the NYC trip would cost probably at least $3000 and that was a conservative estimate. For another, the minute I saw that a biography of James Elroy was nominated in the same category as my (and Jim Traylor’s) Mickey Spillane bio, I knew we were (what is the term?) fucked.

Elroy is inexplicably (from my biased viewpoint) a writer worshiped by any number of readers, reviewers and, of course, Elroy himself. He’s the only writer whose work I truly despise. I have not hidden this view, nor have I hidden that it likely derives from my being jealous because he’s hugely successful working my side of the historical street. And I also have not hidden the fact that any number of smart people think he’s a genius.

The thought of shelling out three or more grand to go to New York and sit through a long evening to watch a book about a writer I abhor beat a book about a writer I admire was just one rubber chicken too far. There’s an irony here, of course, which is that many in the mystery field still feel about Mickey Spillane the way I feel about James Elroy. It just goes to show what a sick sense of humor God has (it’s uncomfortably like my own).

I have nothing against the writer of that book or the book itself, not having read it. It came down to, “Is this how I want to spend three grand?”

And it was a good call.

The award – the reward – for our Edgar-nominated book is the book itself. I am so happy to have written it and found in Jim Traylor a copasetic collaborator and in Otto Penzler an enthusiastic publisher/editor, who has a true affinity for the mystery genre and its history. I wouldn’t trade our book for a barrel of Edgars.

It is kind of funny that an Elroy book beat us.

Of course, in that same category there were two books about Poe (after whom the award was named) and another by an author who passed away recently, so even if the Elroy bio hadn’t been there, one of those would have likely beat us. And since I haven’t read any of the competition (including the Elroy bio), I have no opinion as to the quality of those books – any one of them could be better than ours…including the Elroy one.

Two Poe books up for the Edgars reminds me of when I was a presenter at the Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic Con a while back, and one of the two guys up for the award was Will Eisner himself. And I said to the audience, “I’m not sure which is worse – being up against Will Eisner for the Eisner, or being Will Eisner and losing the Eisner.” (He won.)

I should probably not be talking about this at all. Frankly, I’ve always been somebody who wants to be outspoken and yet loved by everyone…in other words, something that has zero chance of ever happening. To anyone. But it has made me reflect on my competitive nature and my desire to win. Which may be a little sick, but what would a desire to lose be but psychotic?

For me the ultimate award was being made a Grand Master Edgar winner by the Mystery Writers of America. That was something I had hoped for and dreamed about for decades. Anything else that followed would be gravy. So why at this late date do I still care about winning awards?

Actually, the people who say it’s a win just being nominated aren’t wrong. A few years ago, Jim Traylor and I did a really good book on Spillane and the film/TV adaptations and did not get nominated at all. Neither of the massive, extensively researched and groundbreaking Ness non-fiction books with Brad Schwartz – one about the Capone years, the other about Cleveland and the rest of Ness’s life – even got a nomination. So you bet it’s a “win” to be nominated.

But what is not a win is sitting through an endless banquet waiting to hear if you win or (much more likely) lose. I think I’m done with that. It’s a masochistic pursuit that, in the greater schemes of things, adds up to nothing. It’s much better to be at home, minding your own business, and learn by phone or e-mail that you’ve just lost or even won.

Don’t get me wrong. Awards are great, and so are nominations. But let me briefly return to the subject of bad reviews. As I mentioned last week (I think it was), I have been blessed with many good and some even great reviews. Even at this late date, the occasional bad one stings. Rarely – actually very rarely – something is pointed out by a reviewer that resonates with me and improves my writing by pointing out a weakness I can work on.

Generally, however, a bad review irritates me not because my feelings are hurt, but because it’s going to cost me sales. And a good review doesn’t make me feel good because it builds my ego, rather because I know there’s a pull quote in there I can use to promote that book in an ad, and/or that can appear on the dustjacket of my next book (or the interior opening pages of a paperback).

Which brings us back to Blue Christmas and the two competitions I entered here in Iowa. I love hearing that people like a film of mine, because it’s not just me being praised as a writer/director, but indicates my cast and crew are succeeding, and that is truly gratifying.

Yet ultimately it’s about how published, public praise can be utilized in promoting, in selling, the work. What we truly got out of the Iowa Motion Picture Awards (in addition to some nifty physical awards) was the right to affix Laurel wreaths bragging about our film on posters and on physical media. That is what we were after.

And we got it.

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Here is a great piece on The Ten Best Mob Movies (That Aren’t the Godfather). Road to Perdition is number two! (Of course The Untouchables is number one, a great movie with a not-great Mamet script…I like Mamet almost as much as I like James Elroy!).

Finally, here is a link to variant versions of the True Noir proof-of-concept audio.


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.


Maybe I Didn’t Do Such a Wonderful Thing After All

Tuesday, January 16th, 2024
“Maybe I didn’t do such a wonderful thing after all.”
—John Payne, Miracle on 34th Street

This will be somewhat brief, as I am working on my draft of Antiques Slay Belles for Severn House.

What is remarkable – and tricky – about this one is how good a writer my bride Barb has developed into. I’ve noticed this before, of course – perhaps most strikingly on Cutout, which will be published in April by Neo Text – but on the Trash ‘n’ Treasures books, her improvement over the nineteen (!) titles in the series has been understandably gradual if always impressive.

I have often commented that if I’d been a brain surgeon, Barb would likely have picked that up, too. She had not been a big reader (her favorite mystery series was Nancy Drew) and probably what influenced her most (obviously in her acclaimed short story work) was adaptations of Roald Dahl’s classic tales on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which she watched growing up.

This time she presented me with a 250-page draft and it’s my job to expand it to something over 300 pages. And her writing is so tight and polished now, I sometimes feel more like I’m desecrating the prose, not improving it.

Don’t get the idea you can be a writer of prose fiction just by being smart and paying attention. That helps, and it may be key – but Barb has always had an innate story sense. Her off-hand criticisms of the many movies we watch are almost always spot on. Long before she began writing fiction herself she was my in-house editor. She has learned to be tactful and gentle in her notes, as few writers on earth take criticism any worse than me.

The odd thing about working on Antiques Slay Belles is that it’s tough to improve on something that doesn’t need improvement; but we have a contract requiring a higher word count than what 250 pages gives us, so I can’t just smile and walk away, saying, “Well done!”

It’s a nice problem.

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Though the contracts have yet to be signed (actually yet to be received), last week we firmed up distribution for Blue Christmas by VCI Home Entertainment and MVD Home Video.

The Blu-ray (and the film will likely be on DVD as well) will be packed with extras, including a commentary, a half-hour bio film on yrs truly, and highlights from the premieres (and their Q and A sessions). This will probably not be available till October of this year, as the Christmas season (obviously) is the target market for Blue Christmas.

Rob Merritt as P.I. Richard Stone

I may look into a limited signed advance edition of perhaps 50 Blu Rays to see here long before the national on-sale date. Is that a good idea?

Till then, here are the premiere venues, all Iowa:

Fleur Cinema/Des Moines, World Premiere; February 24th
Collins Road Theater/Cedar Rapids Premiere; March 13th
Palms 10/Muscatine Premiere; March 16th
Last Picture House/Quad Cities Premiere; March 22nd

If you donated to our crowd-funding efforts (at Indiegogo and here at my web site, and qualify for free admission), please write me at and let me know which premiere you wish to attend. (My records on who donated what are a trifle sketchy.) We will get you on the comp list. The larger donations include a Plus One, so if you fall into that category, let me know.

We have also entered four film festival events that you are encouraged to attend (and be a part of the Q&A, etc. if we are accepted):

Cedar Rapids Film Festival (April 4th-6th)
Julien Film Festival/Dubuque – (April 25th-28th)
Iowa Motion Picture Awards –(May 4th) No Q & A, award event.
Iowa Independent Film Festival – (Sept 5th – 7th)

We’ve had a lovely quote from the great Heath Holland at Cereal at Midnight (it’s on YouTube among other venues):

“A hard-boiled holiday tale crafted with humanity and humor.
Max Allan Collins proves yet again that he is a master storyteller.”

Heath is one of the best and most winning presences on YouTube in the Physical Media area. I did an interview with him (warning: I blathered on endlessly) that should be posted soon. Heath and I share a number of interests, which is why I responded to his questions as if I’d been vaccinated with a phonograph needle (an oldie but a goodie).

The other YouTube presence I would recommend is the unique Robert Meyer Burnett, who I’ve discussed here previously. He is very funny and extremely (but not obnoxiously) opinionated, an erudite man with a strong comic sensibility. And he knows even more about Star Trek than Barb and me. Full disclosure: Rob is producing the Nate Heller podcast, for which we’ve done a pilot already (starring the great Todd Stashwick of Picard fame as Nathan Heller) with a crowd-funding effort coming up soon.

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Here’s a wonderful five-star review of The Big Bundle from Craig Zablo.

Here’s a nice write-up on my Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane documentary, somewhat spoiled by two imbecilic comments.

That doc is offered on various streaming services. Please watch it on one of the authorized sources – the free ones are generally ripping me off.