Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane’

New Mike Hammer Book Giveaway & Encore For Murder

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022
Kill Me If You Can cover
Hardcover: Target Purchase Link
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Audiobook Store
Audiobook MP3 CD:
Audiobook CD:

As our celebration of 75 years of Mike Hammer rolls on, the new Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, is about to be published by Titan today (September 20).

We have ten copies of the book for the first ten who write me in exchange for a review on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble and other review-friendly sites. Kill Me If You Can comes chronologically after Velda’s disappearance and charts (among much else) Hammer’s descent into depression and the bottle…and yet it’s a rousing good time! I promise. As a bonus I have included five short stories (two of them Hammer tales, significant additions to the canon) taking place in the “Hammer-verse.”

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

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I’m involved in many things to celebrate this 75th anniversary of the publication of the novel I, the Jury (1947), including this December the ClassicFlix release of the film I, the Jury (1953), with a 4K Disc as well as a regular and a 3-D Blu-ray. I’ve done a commentary for the film and also included a remaster of the Brian Keith/Blake Edwards 1954 Mike Hammer pilot film (with an on-camera wraparound). Wolfpack has already published The Menace by Mickey and me (a novelization of an unproduced horror screenplay), a collection of his three Young Adult adventure novels, including the previously unpublished title yarn, The Shrinking Island; and a terrific anthology of novelettes and short stories, Stand Up and Die!, which includes a Spillane/Collins “Hammer” story.

Still to come are an expanded, updated version of my 1999 documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane and the definitive biography, Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me coming out from Mysterious Press in January 2023.

The most quirky and (for me at least) particularly fun iteration of the Hammer celebration has been the local (Muscatine, Iowa) presentation of my Hammer play (from a one-page Spillane synopsis), Encore for Murder. We presented the one-time only performance on Saturday, September 17.

A generous array of photos accompany this update, and I will share some thoughts and memories about it. However, first I’ll mention that we recorded the production and will, at the least, be excerpting scenes (and a few cast interviews) from it in the expanded Spillane documentary.

Noted radio announcer Max Allan Collins introduces the play.
Noted radio announcer Max Allan Collins introduces the play.

It began with a phone call from local theater maven Karen Cooney, who wanted to mount a play in the style of an old radio show as a fund-raiser for the local Art Center. She thought doing a Dick Tracy radio show would be fun and I, of course, was the logical person to provide the script and participate generally. I turned her down flat, saying I had no interest in promoting Dick Tracy, a property I was fired off of in 1993.

A few days later I called Karen back and said, “However – I have an existing Mike Hammer script in the radio style that you could use.” I explained that this was the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s debut and I was looking for ways to promote that – particularly fun ways.

I told her that Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati fame had played Hammer in this play, Encore for Murder, at a mystery festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 2012, and again in 2018 at the prestigious Ruth Ekherd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. Gary’s involvement, and mine, grew out of his co-starring with Patty McCormack in my indie feature, Mommy’s Day.

Encore for Murder was originally recorded in 2011 for Blackstone Audio (in a longer version) by the great Stacy Keach and a full cast including Mike Cornelison and Tim Kazurinsky.

Rene Mauck as Velda with Gary Sandy as Mike.
Rene Mauck as Velda with Gary Sandy as Mike.

Initially for this local presentation, I was going to read Hammer, and the production would be much like the Owensboro one, which was strictly actors at microphones with a sound-effects table in the orchestra pit. Karen wondered if Gary Sandy might consider coming to Muscatine to appear in our production. Somewhat reluctantly, not wanting to put a friend on the spot, I agreed to ask Gary and find out what it might cost to bring him in, because that would be a fund-raising effort unto itself.

I thought getting Gary to do this was a very long shot, but he not only immediately said yes, he refused any compensation (beyond expenses and lodging, which I insisted upon). This began to get me thinking about the more hybrid presentation we’d done in Clearwater, with costumes and more stage action, as well as a giant screen with scene-setting slides and musical cues, and a foley table right on stage to invoke the feel for a studio audience in the days of Golden Age radio.

Still, with a local amateur cast, I didn’t want to get carried away.

My role was co-director, basically letting co-director Cooney cast it (she knew local dramatic talent and I didn’t) and get the play on its feet. When Gary arrived, I would step in and fine-tune. When I went to the first table read of the script, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of the cast.

I went home and said to Barb, who was keeping her distance from this project, “Am I crazy, or could this cast actually be pretty good?” Her answers were “Yes…and maybe.” I begged her to go the second table read and give me her opinion. I read Hammer myself. Afterward, Barb said, “Yes, they’re good.”

From then on I went to all the rehearsals and read the Hammer role, to give the cast a sense of pace and tone. Karen wanted a table read with Gary on the phone, a conference call. Again, somewhat reluctantly as I hated to impose on him, I asked….and Gary wound up doing two table reads.

Gary Sandy does not do anything half-way.

We rehearsed initially in a small black-box theater at Muscatine Community College (where Barb and I had gone in 1966 – 1968, and I taught from 1972 – 1977). We were not able to get into the rather impressive Muscatine High School auditorium until the Tuesday before the Saturday show. Five days to mount and perform it.

Oh…kay….

Gary was coming in Wednesday, traveling during that day, and might stop by and say hi to the cast (all our rehearsals began at 6 p.m. as the school was using the theater till then – we would have to strike the set every time). We’d only have him Thursday and Friday before the Saturday performance. Making this truly problematic was our foley artist, Chad Bishop – studio manager of Muscatine Access Channel Nine – would be controlling the live action sound effects and the prerecorded ones too, as well as the audio mix and musical cues…all from on stage!

(I provided the Stan Purdy music from Mickey’s 1954 Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story LP, and from Chris Christensen’s score for the 1999 documentary.)

The pre-recorded sound-effect cues included things like tire squeals, crashing glass through a skylight, and a plethora of gun shots. Gary would have to conform to these prerecorded cues or unintentional hilarity would ensue.

Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer. Foley artist Chad Bishop at right, the full cast on stage throughout.
Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer. Foley artist Chad Bishop at right, the full cast on stage throughout.

So I got very involved in the directing that first Tuesday night in the real theater space. I was on stage talking to Chad about his foley work and the difficulties they created, when I turned and found myself nose to nose with a grinning Gary Sandy.

After a six-hour drive, the unannounced Gary stepped right in and we ran the full first act, sound effects and music cues and all. The next night we ran the second act the same way. Much of this had to do with Gary coordinating with Chad. But it was thrilling, really was, to see this already very good cast get pulled up at least a notch by Gary’s performance level. I was already impressed by the way every single cast member took direction – because my experience is in features, I work on tweaks not broad strokes, and you might think local talent would have difficulty with nuance. In this case, at least, you’d be wrong.

Gary was not happy with the fedoras we had for him, and neither was I. I decided to try something very special. I have one of Mickey’s Miller Lite-era porkpie Stetsons that his wife Jane gave me – in a hat box with Mickey’s own writing on it. Gary’s mouth dropped open when I presented it to him in his dressing room and said, “If this fits, it’s yours…until after the performance.” Each time he wore it at rehearsal, he returned it to me in the hat box and I brought it again the next day. He only wears it at the open and close of the show…but for the play’s final lines, when he steps out very close to the audience, he looked amazingly like Mickey.

Mike Hammer (Gary Sandy) about to make his exit.
Mike Hammer (Gary Sandy) about to make his exit.

We had two dress rehearsals – Friday night and Saturday afternoon, with only a couple of hours between dress and the Saturday night performance. These were intense and I was tweaking the cast performances and my script throughout it all – some changes were made after the final dress rehearsal!

That dress rehearsal had gone well but not flawlessly, and I left wondering whether this was going to be a bullet train or just a train wreck. I was also concerned because we were up against a televised University of Iowa football game. I knew, from playing band jobs on such nights, audience size would be negatively impacted.

But the turnout was very good – three-hundred souls when we’d been under two hundred on advance sales. The silver lining was a V.I.P. After Party, meet-and-greet/Q and A at the great Merrill Hotel, which had sold out at fifty bucks a pop.

My longtime film/video collaborator Phil Dingeldein joined with Chad and his assistant Jeremy Ferguson in positioning stationary cameras around unobtrusively. Phil shot the dress rehearsals (often roving) and the live performance. He had not been to any of the other rehearsals and he, like Barb, was surprised by the cast and the level of this local production, done under tight, unforgiving circumstances, not to mention a nonexistent budget.

The audience loved it, laughing in the right places, drawing in breath at the tough action – our record was a standing ovation, or I should say Gary and the cast (including hilarious on-stage foley artist Chad Bishop) received a standing ovation.

Where do we go from here? I know we obtained footage that will give us some interesting new moments for the expanded documentary. Having Gary and his Velda (Rene Mauck) and Pat Chambers (Chris Causey) talking about playing these iconic roles alone is a big plus.

Phil, Chad and I will edit the performance together and then there will be hard thinking to do. On the positive side, we have a lot of footage, or “coverage” as we say in the feature film game. I would love to share Gary’s charismatic performance as Hammer, as to date he’s the only actor to perform as the character in a stage play; his take in Encore is amusing without being campy, able to spoof one moment and slide into genuine tough-guy menace the next. One thing I’m considering, if Gary gives his blessing, is including it as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray of the expanded Spillane documentary.

Obviously we have to see how well it comes together as a video presentation (it’s high-def and I already know Phil shot it well). Perhaps if people understand the context, and the small miracle of this local production (Muscatine is a town of 24,000 after all), they will find the experience entertaining and even worthwhile…particularly with a pro like Gary Sandy at its center.

Phil Dingeledin on the camera at ENCORE FOR MURDER, with Max looking on.
Phil Dingeledin on the camera at ENCORE FOR MURDER, with Max looking on.

But can we, as filmmakers, capture the excitement and enjoyment of those in the theater that night?

Stay, as they say, tuned.

M.A.C.

* * *
Fans who made the trip to Muscatine for ENCORE FOR MURDER: Mike and Jackie White.
Fans who made the trip to Muscatine for ENCORE FOR MURDER: Mike and Jackie White.
Max, co-director Karen Cooney, and Gary Sandy at the V.I.P. after party.
Max, co-director Karen Cooney, and Gary Sandy at the V.I.P. after party.
The cast of ENCORE FOR MURDER hams it up at the after party.
The cast of ENCORE FOR MURDER hams it up at the after party.
Max, Gary and filmmaker Phil Dingeldein at the after party.
Max, Gary and filmmaker Phil Dingeldein at the after party.

A Buck-Twenty-Five A Movie

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

If any of you are interested, THE BLACK BOX, the boxed set DVD collection of my indie movies – MOMMY, MOMMY’S DAY, REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET and SHADES OF NOIR (which includes the original, longer cut of MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as well as the Brian Keith “Mike Hammer” pilot from 1954) – is on sale at Oldies.com for $4.98. That’s a savings of $30.

I want to thank all of you who sent supportive comments (sometimes as private e-mails) after my post last week, complaining about various aspects of the writer’s life, now that I am officially old enough to be a complaining coot. I am considering putting a rocking chair on the porch and writing further updates there on a laptop.

For the record, it took four work days to put ASK NOT back together (also for the record, my editor at Forge was completely on my side and reinstated everything I requested). To give you an idea of how extreme the ASK NOT copy edit was, I also dealt this week with the copy-edited manuscript of the upcoming thriller WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU from Thomas & Mercer. It took one work day.

Dead Man Down

We saw an interesting crime movie that I am going to recommend, though it is not perfect: DEAD MAN DOWN. It’s directed by Niels Arden Oplev, of the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and stars the “girl” herself, the indelible Noomi Rapace, probably my favorite actress working today. I used to not care for Colin Ferrell, but as his star has faded somewhat, his acting has improved immeasurably – he’s terrific here in a subtle, understated performance as a guy who is anything but subtle and understated. It’s a revenge film, with a great premise, but I sometimes felt the foreign director didn’t entirely understand the English language script – it’s a little too long, and some things don’t quite track. But the central romance between two damaged souls and the outlandish shoot-‘em-up finale are well worth the time of anybody interested in crime movies. It has one of the great screen Mike Hammers, Armand Assante, in a small but pivotal role.

SOTI

The reviews for SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT continue to roll in, in a very positive way. Let’s start with something I rarely do – customer reviews at Amazon, which includes one from Bookreporter. By the way, if you want to help out your favorite authors (including, I hope, me), a great, easy way is to post a brief four- or five-star review at Amazon, assuming you like what you’ve read. Those reviews really, really count.

Here’s a cool one from the International House of Geek (the fantastic blog names just keep coming).

And here’s a great one from Mystery People.

A somewhat horror-tinged positive review appears here, at The October Country (R.I.P., Ray Bradbury).

Here’s a patronizing but ultimately positive review from the UK’s Telegraph.

Here’s Comic Buzz on SEDUCTION. I’m very pleased that so many comics blogs have picked up on the book.

And what author doesn’t love getting an A+, as happens here at Fandom Post.

Publisher’s Weekly is getting cranky in its old age, but this review of the upcoming ANTIQUES CHOP is pretty good.

PW also isn’t much impressed with the upcoming Mike Hammer, COMPLEX 90, considering it more of the same. First of all, if somebody gives you a hot-fudge sundae when you order one, do you complain that it’s more of the same? Second of all, this is the book where Mike Hammer goes to Russia. Not more of the same – one of the most distinctive books in the series, in my opinion, one of Mickey’s most unusual, even unique plots.

Scroll down for a tardy but fantastic review of THE CONSUMMATA.

And finally Pop Cults weighs in with a late but lovely LADY, GO DIE! review.

M.A.C.

Heller of a Week

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I’ve made passing references to the Nate Heller backlist coming back into print, but now it’s official. AmazonEncore has put out a press release on upcoming titles, and this paragraph should be of interest:

“Award-winning author Max Allan Collins’ Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories, to be published by Thomas & Mercer on October 4, features Chicago PI Nathan Heller as the narrator of thirteen crime stories based on real cases from the 1930s and 1940s. Known for his graphic novel, Road to Perdition, the basis of the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, Max Allan Collins is a recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America lifetime achievement award, the Eye, and is the writer and director of five feature films and two documentaries. Leading up to the publication of Chicago Lightning, AmazonEncore will re-release twelve other Nathan Heller books in August.”

Every one of the previous Heller novels (from TRUE DETECTIVE through CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL) will be reprinted in handsome, uniform trade paperback editions as well as e-books. CHICAGO LIGHTNING and the forthcoming TRIPLE PLAY are two new collections that take the place of (and expand upon) the previous Heller collections, DYING IN THE POSTWAR WORLD and KISSES OF DEATH. CHICAGO LIGHTNING is all the short stories thus far (including several never before collected) and TRIPLE PLAY will include the three Heller novellas-to-date (“Dying in the Postwar World,” “Kisses of Death,” and “Strike Zone”).

Obviously I am thrilled to have Heller climb back into print, timed to support and cross-promote the new Heller novels from Forge.

Speaking of which – and is very big news indeed – BYE BYE, BABY has received a starred PW review. Here it is:

“Set in 1962, Collins’s excellent 13th novel featuring Chicago PI Nate Heller (last seen in 2002’s Chicago Confidential) finds Heller–who’s investigated such high-profile crimes as the Lindbergh kidnapping and Huey Long’s assassination–looking into the death of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. The book’s first half covers the movie star’s last two months, as she tries to deal with attacks on many fronts–by the movie studio that fired her; by her abusive ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio; and by the Kennedys. By the time a drug overdose claims her, there’s no shortage of people who wanted her dead. Heller, Monroe’s sometime lover, who refuses to buy the official line that she committed suicide, steps on powerful toes with his usual tenacity and stubbornness to reach the truth. Collins convincingly portrays the real-life players in the drama, who include Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sinatra. Readers with a taste for hard-boiled roman à clef will hope that more Heller is in the offing. (Aug.)”

Chicago Lightning

Mike Hammer remains very much in the public eye. An amusing review of KISS HER GOODBYE from AV Club is getting a lot of web distribution. Once again, the reviewer spends most of his time apologizing for liking the novel. But by the end he grudgingly, embarrassedly admits he did enjoy it (and bestows a B grade, not at all bad for the snarky AV Club). You may wish to read some of the comments, which are often hilarious in their idiocy (one guy doesn’t read my stuff because I look like a “nerd” in my author photos) and the knee-jerk political correctness rants that Spillane, even deceased, even in the 21st Century, can still inspire. Also, mention Spillane and “experts” will announce a predictable list of other hardboiled writers you should be reading instead.

This web review of KISS HER GOODBYE is fun and right on the money. Worth checking out.

So is this brief but lovely review of the audio, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER: ENCORE FOR MURDER.

Here’s a nice review of the new Criterion Blu-ray of KISS ME DEADLY. I have an advance copy and it’s a lovely package, and the film looks great. So, I say unblushingly, does my new updated cut of the documentary, MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, there as a bonus feature. I am grateful to Criterion for including it, because the sharp-looking booklet and some of the other features (notably the disappointing commentary) make the usual uniformed, sloppy, prejudiced comments about the original material. Constantly we’re told director Aldrich and screenwriter Bezzerides just “threw the novel away.” In fact, Bezzerides used Mickey’s basic plot, most of the characters (including their names), many memorable sequences (the opening of the film, for example, and the death of mobster Carl Evello) and even the fiery ending is a variation on Mickey’s. For Hollywood of the period, it’s quite faithful to its source, and evokes the surrealistic, fever-dream feel of early Hammer uncannily. Commentators continually talk about Hammer as if the books are predominantly about the P.I. taking on “Commies” (the only book of the first impactful six that does so is ONE LONELY NIGHT – a book in which SPOILER ALERT the bad guy turns out to be a thinly disguised Joe McCarthy). END SPOILER ALERT. Director Alex Cox has a piece where he’s enthusiastic about the film, but makes many dubious observations, including that Hammer is stupid in the novel and even more stupid in the film. At least Cox seems to have skimmed the book, which is more than most of the commentators have.

Finally, I recently did a little project with my frequent collaborator, actor Mike Cornelison (Pat Chambers on THE LITTLE DEATH and ENCORE FOR MURDER, and narrator of my Spillane documentary). It was a competition to write and produce a short play in just under a week. I hope to have a You Tube link to the production, called “Alley Cats,” soon.

In the meantime, here’s how we did:

The Judge’s Choice Award for night of competition, Friday, June 10, 2011.

This award signifies that the three-judge panel found “Alley Cats” the best theatrical presentation among the nine shows presented that night. That which most represented the spirit of the 711 competition, created the most engaging theatrical experience and adhered most closely to the rules of the game.

In addition, “Alley Cats” received the “Technical Excellence” award, which is voted by the technical staff of the 711 Project, and given to that production that shows the clearest vision, best use of lighting, sound and design and most concise and effective communication of their needs to the technical staff.

“Team Caligula,” which presented “Alley Cats,” is made up of Max Allan Collins (playwright), Michael Cornelison (director/actor), Nick Cornelison (producer/actor) and Jared Hammer (actor).

M.A.C.