Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

Not Another Book Giveaway! Plus Covering Ms. Tree

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021
Bombshell, Wolfpack edition cover
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E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

We have ten copies to give away of the lovely new Wolfpack edition of Bombshell by Barbara Collins and me.

[All copies have been claimed! Thank you for participating, and check back soon for more giveaways. –Nate]

Bombshell is the historical espionage thriller in which Marilyn Monroe meets Nikita Khrushchev on his visit to America in 1959. It has been published previously with Barb receiving top billing, and again under our joint “Barbara Allan” pen name. I’ve been given top billing here to bring it in line with my other Wolfpack titles, but frankly Barb deserves more credit than I do – the novel springs from a short story of hers and reflects her long interest in (and expertise about) Marilyn Monroe.

Again, the main event this week is another chapter in my ongoing memoir, A Life in Crime, which I’ve done for NeoText to help promote Fancy Anders Goes to War, which comes out on October 5, with The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (by Dave Thomas and me) coming out October 25.

This week is the story of how Ms. Tree came to be, and includes a fantastic array of Terry Beatty’s cover art (and the covers by guest artists of the DC issues and the current Titan archival collections). It’s right here.

Ms. Tree: The Cold Dish cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link Target Purchase Link
E-Book:
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Norm Macdonald made me laugh harder than anyone I can think of. His deadpan talk-show delivery of corny groaner punchlines after torturous build-ups seemed at odds with his razor-sharp surprising stand-up sardonic observations that shattered the boundaries of political correctness. With quietly self-amused fearlessness he tested what an audience would tolerate, flirting with the ugliness of dark humor yet consumed by a sunny Canadian decency and integrity. The nasty side of his humor was funny in part because he seemed to have an innate sweetness as well as a sense of his own absurdity.

He was at his peak of popularity when he held the news desk at SNL, with two movies on the way, positioning him to be the next Bill Murray or Michael Keaton. But his gambler’s streak kept him from playing it safe, instinctively knowing that what he had to offer was his willingness to go where he shouldn’t like the class clown who faces expulsion but has one last crack to make about the teacher.

So when the boss at NBC, Don Ohlmeyer, ordered Norm to lay off the O.J. Simpson jokes, and the Michael Jackson digs too, Norm simply smiled that small sly smile and upped the ante. My favorite Norm moments were shared by the victim of those moments, prop comic Carrot Top, who showed real class here by sharing with an audience his own skewering.

Norm only topbilled two movies – Dirty Work and Screwed. Neither was loved by critics at the time, but both capture Norm at his best, in particular the dizzingly bad-taste exercise that is Dirty Work (“Note to self: making love to blow-up doll is not as good as advertised”). And Screwed teams Norm with Dave Chappelle, with Elaine Stritch and Danny DeVito offering delightfully unhinged support.

In this humorless, uptight era, the death of Norm Macdonald is the death of comedy.

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This podcast interview with me becomes available today.

M.A.C.

Fancy Anders, Nic Cage, A Suspenseful Release and More

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
M.A.C. and Barbara Collins holding Suspense - His and Hers
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
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Suspense – His and Hers (subtitled Tales of Love and Murder) is available now, both in Kindle e-book and a handsome trade paperback. It collects stories by Barb and me both individually and together. Two Quarry short stories are included (“Guest Service” and “Quarry’s Luck”) and a rare Ms. Tree short story (the Edgar-nominated “Louise”). It’s a pleasantly plump collection (almost 300 pages) and I think you’ll like it. Wolfpack did a marvelous job on the cover.

Fancy Anders Goes to War: Who Killed Rosie the Riveter?
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

Speaking of marvelous covers, feast you eyes on Fay Dalton’s cover for Fancy Anders Goes to War, which is available now for pre-order at $2.99 in Kindle form. There will be a trade paperback edition as well, but that isn’t up for pre-order just yet. This is the first of three novellas I’ve done for NeoText about Fancy, who is a 24-year-old (obviously) female detective in Los Angeles during World War II. The subtitle is Who Killed Rosie the Riveter? The fantastic Ms. Dalton has, in addition to the cover, provided a full-page illustration for each of the ten chapters.

If you like to read on Kindle, an advantage is that Fay’s artwork is presented in color (well, a couple were intentionally left black-and-white for film noir reasons) whereas only the cover art will be in color in the trade paperback. These are short novels (hence the term novella) but longish ones, running 30,000 words each. They will make nice additions to the shelves of Luddites like me who prefer “real” books.

It is my intention, my hope, that the three Fancy Anders novellas will be collected in one book with the Fay Dalton art properly showcased. (The Fancy Anders trade paperbacks are POD and only the cover will be in color.) I had a wonderful time doing these stories and hope more of Fancy’s cases will find their way through my fingers to the pages of books. These may not be as hardboiled as Quarry or Nolan or Hammer, but then what is? Fancy is like a younger Ms. Tree and is not shy about taking bad people down violently.

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My classic rock band Crusin’ will be performing at the Muscatine Art Center’s Ice Cream Social this coming Sunday. Details here.

Right now this is the final scheduled gig of our short season. I had hoped to line up a few more, but with the surge in Covid the better part of valor for Crusin’ is to fade into rehearsals for our much-postponed CD of original material. Rehearsing and recording that CD is our winter project. It was supposed to be last winter’s project, but….

Here is a link to a video of the second set of our recent Sunday Concert series performance. I warn you that the instrumental is waaaaay back – you can barely hear the keyboards and the punch of the guitar is dialed down from the actual event. That’s because this is a sound board recording and you get mostly vocals.

I’m providing this because I do think it captures the casual intimacy of the event, which is quite different from working a larger venue. Thanks to Chad Yocum for shooting the video and providing the link.

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Nicolas Cage in Pig (2021)

As I may have mentioned, my son Nate and I are fans of actor Nicolas Cage. It’s odd to be a Nic Cage fan, because you never know whether the film at hand will be gold or dross, or something in between.

Some time ago Cage began taking (apparently) any job that comes his way if his price is met, and that price must not be sky high considering how many jobs he takes. This practice began some years ago when he had a tax problem that sent him spiraling from A-list to Direct-to-Video.

Cage was always quirky and for some an acquired taste. But here’s the thing: Nic always gives 100%. The film can be utter shit (and occasionally is – a few have caused even the loyal Collins boys to bail) but you never know when something really special is going to crop up.

Willy’s Wonderland, with the sublime premise of a defunct Chucky Cheese wanna-be restaurant becoming a haunted house for its mechanical animal musicians, has Cage giving a full-bore eccentric performance that almost elevates it to something special. Not quite, but for some of us, essential viewing. Primal is terrible, A Score to Settle rather good. You never know. A Cage movie is the surprise package of cinema.

Now and then, however, Nic and his collaborators knock it out of the park. Often he does extreme action and/or horror stuff – common among low-budget indies – and Mandy is something of a masterpiece. It’s sort of The Evil Dead without the laughs (except very dark ones) or the zombies. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to any even mildly adventurous movie fan.

But the current Pig (streaming for a price at the moment) is a reminder of just how great an actor Cage can be when a director handles him well and the material is strong. On the surface, it seems to be a revenge story, but that’s an assumption you’ll make that will prove wrong. It has tension and one violent scene, but it’s not an action movie. The premise sounds fried even for Cage: a hermit in the forest survives on the truffles he and his truffle pig find, which are sold to a city-boy hustler regularly; somebody beats Cage up, steals the pig, and Nic goes to the big city (Portland) to get his pig back.

If this sounds like you asked somebody to imagine a movie that even Nic Cage would reject, you’d be very, very wrong. It’s a wonderful movie and about all sorts of things, but revenge isn’t really one of them. Unexpectedly it becomes about being a chef, as opposed to a hermit, but really it explores loss and father-son dynamics. Pig centers on (get ready for it) an understated Cage performance that is Oscar worthy, and includes one of the best scenes you’ll ever see in any movie – what is that scene about? The hermit makes a chef cry in the latter’s trendy restaurant.

You can dismiss me as a crazy hermit who lives in Iowa if you like, but the loss will be yours.

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Here is a delightful review of Antiques Carry On from Ron Fortier’s Pulp Fiction Reviews. But…it isn’t written by Ron! Suspense killing you? Read on…

ANTIQUES CARRY ON
A Trash ‘N’ Treasures Mystery
By Barbara Allan
Severn House
Guest Reviewer -Valerie Fortier

Ron isn’t into Cozy mysteries and when this one arrived in the mail, he dropped it on my desk top with the suggestion I give it a go. Months later it’s still sitting there and I decided to give it a try. As a Mom myself, I totally get the mother-daughter dynamics. Sometimes they gel, other times they are nothing but oil and water.

I would recommend you take time to meet Vivian and Brandy. The mother-daughter team that never misses a chance to inject humor and fun while investigating a new mystery. I really enjoyed the book; especially the great twist at the end in regards to who done it. Just when you think you’ve got it solved, there’s more to be revealed.

The book offers up a truly wonderful cast of characters to “cozy” up by the fire and share some time with.

Final note – This is the start and end of my reviewing career. Thanks, Ron.

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Finally, here is an interesting, in-depth look at the film of Road to Perdition.

M.A.C.

Happy Anniversary – Everybody!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021
Suspense His and Hers cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
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We hope to have advance copies of Suspense – His & Hers before too long. The pub date is September 8. Wolfpack has done another outstanding job on the cover of this collection, a companion piece to Murder – His & Hers, also published by Wolfpack (originally published by Five Star).

These two His & Hers collections are unusual in that they gather individual stories by Barb and me, as well as collaborative ones. I feel my best individual short story I’ve ever written is in Suspense (“Amazing Grace”) and a collaborative one that is primarily by Barb (“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?”) is a particularly strong example of her work. These are both recent stories and reflect how personal experience impacts our writing. Also included are two Quarry short stories and the Edgar-nominated Ms. Tree prose tale, “Louise,” by me. Several “best of the year” stories by Barb are included.

“Amazing Grace” was suggested by my great grandparents’ Golden party. It was particularly significant in real life, and I had told Barb about it several times (my great grandfather, with all the family gathered at a big anniversary party, announced she was divorcing my great grandfather, a sweet tippler who deserved the boot). When I got the assignment to write a story involving an anniversary for an MWA collection, Barb reminded me of this true event and I was off and running.

“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?” derives from Barb’s experiences at the most recent San Diego Comic Con we were able to attend when she spent two days trying to get collectible pins for our (very much grown) son Nathan, who did not attend the con that year. Not a comics fan herself, Barb was thrown into a rather wild and wooly lion’s den and, typically, she came out bloody but unbowed, and with a story in mind. If Alfred Hitchcock Presents will still on, her stories would be a staple there. Our friend the late Ed Gorman frequently compared her work to Roald Dahl’s.

Our Antiques Carry On is out right now, and I hope you’ll look for it. Frankly, we haven’t seen it (a hardcover) in a Barnes & Noble or BAM! yet, the only bookstores we’ve been to in post-Covid. The book is very handsome and (I say with zero modesty) funny as hell, as well as a good mystery, so your support is encouraged. We have a new publisher, the British house Severn, and they packaged the book very well indeed. But the future of Brandy and Vivian Bourne is in your hands.

Speaking of bookstores, a friend of the family sent in this lovely display from Powell’s Books in Portland:

Powell's Books M.A.C. display.

I have completed the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, which will have five bonus Spillane/Collins short stories that include two Hammer tales. It’s going to be a special book, just one of a number of things I’m working on to make Mike Hammer’s anniversary (yes, this is an anniversary-themed update) special. The anniversary in question is the first appearance of the detective in I, the Jury (1947).

I should say first published appearance, because as those of you who have really been paying attention know…the first appearance of the character, as Mike Lancer, was in a Green Hornet comic book (#10, December 1942) and the character was first developed by Mickey as Mike Danger as a comic project that did not come to fruition, and in an unfinished novel that became the Spillane/Collins collaboration, Killing Town.

Kill Me If You Can is based on mid-‘50s material Mickey wrote with radio and later TV in mind, and gave me the opportunity to deal with the younger, psychotic Hammer in a more direct way than ever before. Basically it bridges Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters (the film of which is on several streaming services right now, by the way).

Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in The Last Lullaby

The Last Lullaby, based on the Quarry novel The Last Quarry with a screenplay co-written by me, is streaming in HD on Amazon Prime right now, included with your Prime membership (if you have one, of course). [And $2.99 to rent / $6.99 to buy if you don’t have Prime.–Nate] It’s a good film and is probably more in line with the novels than the Cinemax series was, though Quarry is called “Price” because I didn’t want to grant sequel rights.

M.A.C. holding a copy of To Live and Spy in Berlin at his desk

Finished copies of the trade paperback edition of To Live and Spy in Berlin by Matt Clemens and me were sent out to the winners of the most current book giveaway. It’s a thing of beauty, and that wonderful essay Jeff Pierce wrote about the series in January Magazine has sparked real interest.

And now the estimable Ron Fortier has written the following rave review, which I will (still immodest) share with you:

TO LIVE AND SPY IN BERLIN
By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens
Wolfpack Publishing 221 pgs

With this third installment of the John Sand series, Collins and Clemens put forth a proposition many past mystery writers have tackled; can marriage still be romantic and sexy? Following the events that were detailed in “Come Spy With Me” and “Live Fast, Spy Hard,” former British Agent John Sand and his Texas Oil Heiress wife, Stacey, have together joined the new international spy organization called GUILE created by U.S. President John Kennedy and run by former British Spy Chief Sir Lord Malcolm Marbury; known affectionately as Double M.

As we rejoin the Sands, the major issue between them is whether or not Stacey becoming an operative was a good idea or not. A series of lethal encounters with a team of professional assassins has John rethinking his decision. At the same time certain intelligence comes to the surface that former Nazis who escaped capture at the end of World War II may be active in Berlin, after having disappeared for several decades in certain South American countries. Bomb making uranium has been stolen and the likelihood of these renegade Nazis creating their own atomic bomb is a threat that cannot be ignored.

As in the first two entries, Collins and Clemens cleverly work in actual historical settings throughout the thriller, weaving their fiction skillfully around real people and the volatile political atmosphere of the early 1960s. Yet despite this outer layer of narrative, it is the relationship between John and Stacey that is truly captivating. It was impossible not to recall other literary and cinematic spouses from the past. From Nick and Nora Charles, to televisions Hart to Hart and McMillan & Wife, married duos sharing outlandish adventures worked remarkably well in the past and they are very much the pedigree of this thrill-a-minute new series.

As always, Collins and Clemens offer up a whole lot more than any back cover blurb can properly define. This series is brilliant in all its many aspects. If you’re a spy junkie like us, its time you met the Sands.

Ron does entertaining and informative reviews regularly at his Pulp Fiction Reviews blog.

And if you’re not a regular reader of J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet, you should be. There’s a mention of my stuff in this incredibly packed installment of his informative Bullet Points.

M.A.C.

Bam! Pow! Zap!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

To Live and Spy in Berlin received a nice boost from BookBub. The new release price is $3.99 for the e-book; it’s $14.99 for the “real” book.

And on Wednesday the San Diego virtual Comic Con link with my panel with the great Andrew Sumner of Titan will be available. The discussion includes the upcoming Titan Ms. Tree third volume, the Nolan reprints from Hard Case Crime, and the Mike Hammer 75th anniversary publications from various publishers…and more.

The trade paperback edition of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, the non-fiction work by A. Brad Schwartz and myself, is available now. It has a slightly different, tighter subtitle, at my urging: Hunting a Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology. The info is here.

It looks like both Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day are available for streaming on Roku.

Getting back to Live and Spy in Berlin, the indefatigable J. Kingston Pierce at the definitive mystery fiction web site The Rap Sheet said the following about John Sand:

I read and enjoyed both Come Spy With Me and Live Fast, Spy Hard, Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens’ initial two John Sand espionage novels, though I haven’t yet had a chance to write about them. And now the pressure to do so is even greater: Collins writes in his blog that the series’ third installment, To Live and Spy in Berlin, is due out on July 14, from Wolfpack. That makes three fast-paced, James Bond-ish adventures published in just nine months! No wonder I can’t keep up. “Will there be more John Sand books?” Collins asks. “That’s up to you. We have left something of an incredible effing cliffhanger [in book three] that needs resolving, so it’s on your conscience not ours if sales don’t justify that resolution.”
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Barb and I took in Black Widow this weekend and I’m happy to report it’s a good film. It concentrates on espionage and action/adventure, and character interaction, particularly between Black Widow and her sister, well-portrayed by Scarlett Johansson and a scene-stealing Florence Pugh. There’s a surprising amount of humor and the Marvel-style, sometimes wearying action sequences don’t really get out of hand till the last half hour.

I could not help, in watching Black Widow, but flash onto a complaint a reviewer had recently about To Live and Spy in Berlin, specifically that John Sand was not a realistic character but rather a “cartoon.” While I would prefer the more exact “comic strip character,” I don’t argue with that designation.

Ever since I began also being a writer of comics, my novel writing has frequently been the target of reviewers who (rather lazily I think) remind potential book readers that I am a lowly comics writer. This has happened less post-Road to Perdition, which was a key component of the new attitude toward comics, i.e., graphic novels.

But I used to have reviewers who would look at, say, Nate Heller and write, “Bam! Pow! Zap!” in regard to my prose writing – sometimes in a kidding way, others in a more dismissive manner. The idea that anyone would look at Nate Heller and think “comics character” is absurd, but these reviewers knew I was writing the Dick Tracy strip and took a predictable cheap shot.

I think generally – and again, Road to Perdition played a role in changing attitudes in and about the field – readers mostly now understand that the comics form accommodates everything from over-the-top superhero to grimly realistic real life and everything that falls between. It’s a storytelling form with as many, actually more, capabilities than most others.

When the comics label on a writer is used, however, it’s almost always disparaging – meaning the writer is producing kid’s stuff or ridiculously over-melodramatic junk.

So is John Sand a comic strip character in the sense that his adventures are unrealistic and run to outrageous melodrama? I would say yes to that. And it’s intentional. But that does not mean (as a few detractors of the series say) the John Sand novels are spoofs. I’m getting a bit tired of having to say this, but Austin Powers, Derek Flynt and Dean Martin’s Matt Helm are spoofs. John Sand is an homage to Fleming’s Bond (and the early Bond films) and something of a pastiche with a dollop of my historical fiction approach. Bond, by the way, was in addition to novels a long-running comic strip signed by Fleming and pre-dating the films (Connery cast, in part, because he resembled the James Bond of the UK comic strip).

James Bond UK Comic Strip

The problem I run into – and those of you who drop by here frequently are aware of this – is the reader who likes one or two of the series (or one-shot novels) I write, and is confused, irritated or even angered by others. Of course, sometimes it’s easy to tell which Max Allan Collins is performing today – no one is likely to confuse Antiques Fire Sale with Killing Quarry or G.I. Joe with Nate Heller in Better Dead.

On the other hand, most – actually, much – of what I write is melodrama. Kitchen-sink realism interests me not a whit. My technique, which may or may not always be successful, is to layer a believable, even realistic surface on a story that is larger than life (“over the top,” in the view of detractors). That’s common to Antiques Fire Sale and Killing Quarry. No apologies.

I realize it can be confusing. Mike Hammer is more in the vein of John Sand (not surprisingly, since Bond was a British take on Hammer, largely) but would seem to be more along the lines of Quarry or Nate Heller. But my responsibility is to do the best job I can whichever road I go down on a given project.

And I am a professional writer. This is how I make my living, how I keep the lights on around this joint. This means I write for various markets and even multiple audiences. I admit it’s a frustration when a reader gets mad because, say, Girl Can’t Help It features people-next-door protagonists in a small-town setting. That’s actually a pretty good example – I do run into Antiques readers who love the Girl books, but would likely be appalled by Quarry.

Another aspect of course is the need for me to stay engaged. When I come to Quarry or Nate Heller after doing books that aren’t about them, I do so with renewed energy and interest. Robert B. Parker and I started out about the same time. You may have noticed he did just a bit better than I did in the world of publishing. But had one of my early series taken off – Nolan or Quarry specifically – I might have spent the bulk of my career writing chiefly about one of them…and going quietly nuts. Rich, but nuts.

I like that I have created a bunch of things, written over 100 books about a bunch of different protagonists in different settings and even eras.

Here’s an example of my approach, and it will demonstrate why some readers embrace my work and others don’t like it at all. The Caleb York books grow out of an unproduced screenplay Mickey Spillane wrote for John Wayne in the 1950s. When I was asked to write a series about York, I decided to approach it (and the first book, The Legend of Caleb York, a novelization of Mickey’s screenplay) as if I were doing a 1950s western movie that might have starred Randolph Scott or Audie Murphy.

In other words, the Hollywood Myth of the West, which had little to do with the actual Old West. I did this unashamedly and with a certain amount of delight. But at the same time, the world Caleb and his cast are plopped down in is a rather realistic one, with a lot of research brought to bear. York will shoot it out in the kind of Main Street gunfight that almost never really happened, but if he goes into a hardware store in the 1880s, by God it will be an 1880s hardware store. A bad guy right out of High Noon will have his roots in Quantrill’s Raiders. It’s a mix.

It’s trying to provide a recognizable realistic surface and undercarriage to a tale that is mythic, larger-than-life.

One of the things I try to do here is let you know what I’m up to with whatever my latest book is. I think I’ve made it clear than To Live and Spy in Berlin is neither Austin Powers nor John le Carré. Matt Clemens and I knew damn well we were over the top. But we did it with a twinkle in our eye but, while we were in the middle of the writing, a conviction in the reality of our fairy tale world.

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The Wild Dog controversy raged on for a week but has cooled somewhat. I have nothing more to say about it, right now anyway.

However, one earnest soul reminded everyone that I had killed Moon Maid almost right out of the gate when I took over the writing of the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1977. This point was made, apparently, to show I had little respect for what had gone before. The Earnest Soul asked, “What did Chester Gould think?”

Well, here’s the thing. Chester Gould was still signing the strip with me and his assistant Rick Fletcher. Chet was consulting on a regular basis and knew, and understood, that the Tribune Syndicate wanted us to remove all remnants of the moon era from Dick Tracy. He had already dumped most of it himself.

So what did Chester Gould think? He may have been reluctant, but he went along. And, as I say, put his name on the strip…above mine.

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Here’s a nice write-up about To Live and Spy in Berlin from our pal Sean Leary at quadcities.com.

M.A.C.