Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Physical Media Lives – Sort Of

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

A couple more great reviews for The Big Bundle have come in.

Big Bundle Cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Kobo Google Play
Digital Audiobook:

This is from the DIS/MEMBER web site:

The Big Bundle
by Max Allan Collins

“What kind of world are we living in, Nate?” “A world where men like us can get ahead, Bob. Can make a nice life for ourselves and our families. But it’s also one where men of envy and greed and stupidity and flat-out evil are ready and willing to take everything away.”

The President of Chicago’s A-1 Detective Agency makes his grand Hard Case Crime debut in The Big Bundle. The latest from living, breathing noir encyclopedia and prolific genre staple Max Allan Collins.

The year is 1953 and six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, son of Kansas City Cadillac magnate Robert Greenlease, has been kidnapped. Following a series of cartoonish attempts to ransom the boy, Chicago detective Nathan Heller is called to K.C. Having been appealed to by the boy’s desperate family and hired on as one of the many caseworkers, both local and federal, drawn into the crime.

But what starts as a kidnapping quickly spirals into something much, much more complex. Pitting Heller against crooked Teamsters, thuggish cabbies, out-of-luck bent cops, and Robert F. Kennedy on the warpath for the mob. All immaculately strung across a colorfully detailed, powerfully researched depiction of the 1950s. A time when Jimmy Hoffa was in every newspaper and “The Outfit” (aka The Mafia at it’s height) kept everyone looking over their shoulders.

Though standing as the 18th Nathan Heller Novel (excluding short story collections and “casebooks”), The Big Bundle is immediately accessible for those who might be coming to the series fresh. From page 1, Collins provides a wonderfully succinct primer on Heller’s exploits thus far. Economically delivered and chock full of rich characterization, Collins eases readers into the life and immensely readable voice of Heller.

Better still, the novel’s main case is truly compelling. Made even more so by the liberal peppering of real-life history Collins deploys throughout the book. The Greenlease Kidnapping was huge news and compared to the Lindbergh case at the time. Yet another canny connection to our man Heller. But as such, Collins adapts and reconstructs real history, people, and places into the narrative. Providing his driving, constantly twisty plot with sumptuous detailing.

To say any more would spoil The Big Bundle‘s best turns. But trust when I say, if you are looking for old-school, eminently readable crime fiction, The Big Bundle is a damn safe bet. Chock to bursting with character and deftly delivered by well-practiced hand, this new effort from Hard Case Crime does right by Chicago’s A-1 gumshoe. And providing him a welcome new home at the publisher.

The Big Bundle by Max Allan Collins is available for pre-order now and releases December 6th.

Joe Maniscalco has done a review for Good Reads and Amazon that’s worth sharing:

After first meeting Nate Heller in True Detective back in 1983, this reader has eagerly read each of Max Allan Collins’ novels featuring the life and times of a former Chicago cop who goes on to meet some of 20th centuries’ most famous and most infamous. Nate Heller begins as a reluctant cop, who encounters the Chicago underworld, and then eventually morphs into the famous owner of the A-1 Detective Agency with several branches across the United States.

The Heller novels are notable for Collins’ extensive research that bring the felons and politicos of the years of each of the books to life. (And sometimes felons and politicos describe the same person.). Heller has gone on to solve real life historical mysteries, and even occasionally bedded some well known women of the day, not widely thought of as femme fatales.

The Big Bundle is set somewhat mid career for Heller as he is called on to investigate the kidnapping of a child of a wealthy businessman. Heller had investigated another kidnapping that made worldwide news twenty years earlier, thus his presence in this job makes perfect sense.

There is a moral principle that Heller follows which determines how much of his investigations remain strictly legal, but always justifiable. Here Heller deals with small time hoodlums, famous union bosses, and a young politician about to make his name as he investigates organized crime.

Heller himself hints that the union boss, the politician, and he will meet again, and perceptive readers will likely have some inking how those meetings will turn out, and will change the course of American history.

Readers do not have to start with Heller’s first “memoir.” What’s certain is that nearly 40 years after his first appearance, the author and his creation have not lost any of their power to entertain and put a new spin on twentieth century history and the mysteries and crimes which have brought us into the twenty first century.

Let me remind you that a dock strike in the UK means the availability of the physical book (what I like to call a book book) of The Big Bundle will be delayed till January 2023; but the e-book will be available Dec. 5. I will be doing a book giveaway of the trade paper ARC (the book itself is a hardcover) in a week or two.

In the meantime I am deep into the next Heller – the RFK assassination Heller – Too Many Bullets. I’m at 302 manuscript pages with five chapters left to go (plus the bibliographic essay).

Perhaps because the degree of difficulty – I no longer have George Hagenauer helping me on the research side – has made this one such a bear, added to health issues throughout, I am seriously considering making the follow-up to Too Many Bullets my final Heller.

On the health front, I had a very good report from my heart doctor and will soon be seeing my general practitioner about various other fun and games. But keeping the heart beating is a high damn priority and that looks positive right now.

* * *
‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

The time has come to discuss physical media.

First let me say I am fine with e-books for those of you who find them handy and dandy. They have their place – for example, on a commuter train or when a reader needs to control of the size of print to be able to read the stuff. Where they don’t have a place is on a bookshelf.

Now understand that e-books have kept me and my career alive. Thomas & Mercer (who have lost interest in me as a current contributer, but that’s another story) chose me a decade ago as one of three authors whose back list they would use to plump up their e-book library. The other two were Ian Fleming and Ed McBain, and if there’s better company than that I don’t know who it might be.

Even now the monthly sales of Heller, Mallory, the Disaster Series and the Reeder & Rogers Trilogy add up to a tidy little paycheck – of varying sizes, but steady. Readers having access to my backlist is a great thing. Heller sales are up over a million copies because of Thomas & Mercer’s good efforts. So I am not one to cast aspersions on e-books. They have kept me afloat.

And yet. They are not books. They are not those wonderful things with pages and covers and images on covers that can sit on shelves and be plucked out from the pack for perusal at a moment’s notice. I can tell you with certainty that books from the ‘30s and ‘40s are already disappearing. Even with ABE, you can’t find copies of any number of things, sometimes by authors who were fairly famous in their day.

Then there’s movies. I have far too many DVDs, Blu-rays and, yes, laser discs. If the Internet of a few years ago (and even now) was to be believed, all movies would soon be available to us with a mouse click. Anything we could dream of seeing, we could see, at our whim. Of course that was bullshit.

Any of us who have been paying attention know that a vast number of films are already gone, from the silent days on. A bunch of Charlie Chan movies starring Warner Oland are in the ether, for instance (of course the rest will probably be turned into guitar picks over political correctness, but never mind). And if you look something up on SEARCH on your Roku, you will discover that plenty of stuff is either not available or you have to pay for it, for a temporary rental or a “purchase” (which of course is air you’re purchasing, not something physical you can hold or put on a shelf). We are already used to Netflix and other such services announcing what titles are leaving this month. HBO Max has been one night of the long knives after another.

The death of physical media is more murder than natural causes. So I am not about to divest myself of my library of movies, which will be left to my son, who is also smart enough to know that physical media has its place.

If you think I overstate, take a spin into Best Buy, which for decades made movies a loss leader that brought movie fans in to go through aisle after aisle of cinematic and televisionary offerings. Yesterday, in Cedar Rapids, I entered a Best Buy and the child working the door asked me, “What brings you in today?” Really? I need an excuse now?

Well, maybe I do, because the Blu-rays and 4K discs on offer were a pitiful selection that took up so little space its former grand area was just partitioned off and empty. Shades of Suncoast, Tower Records, and Camelot….

So I come to celebrate the Blu-ray labels that are devoting themselves to obscurities – horror and science fiction and noir, giallo (Italian crime/horror), B movies, C movies, Z movies, and the two who tower over the rest for their superior packaging and extensive bonus features are Severin and Vinegar Syndrome. They are not alone, but these labels are outstanding in their bold selection. Also praise worthy (among a number) are VCI, Shout Factory (Scream Factory), and especially Arrow, who bridge the gap between Criterion’s arty fare and Severin/Vinegar’s aggressively grungy selections.

Severin, for example, recently offered a 4K release of The Changeling, a first-rate George C. Scott haunted house film; My Grandpa is a Vampire, a so so movie for older kids more than redeemed by a valedictory performance by Al Lewis (I hope you don’t have to be told he was Grandpa on The Munsters and a staple of Bilko); and two (so far) Blu-ray boxed sets of Christopher Lee’s European output.

Vinegar Syndrome has recently released The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman (with an 80-minute documentary about Spanish cult horror star Paul Naschy as a bonus feature!); The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on 4k with voluminous bonus features; and Cutter’s Way with Jeff Bridges in a VHS-style box. Vinegar Syndrome also does a lot of classic porn for those of you who think the words “classic” and “porn” can reasonably appear together in the same sentence. Like all their stuff, the porn has fancy schmancy sleeves and classy presentation.

Look, not all of this material is for everybody. Some of it seems to be for nobody, so we’re in that fuzzy area between “buyer beware” and “how cool!”

But this is a world of physical media that has been spawned by the real world’s lack of interest thereof. So we can find Arrow Video releasing Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers and (on 4K) Mike Hodges’ Croupier. And Scream Factory releasing a 4K of Army of Darkness and a boxed set of Jackie Chan (1976 – 1982).

Best of times, worst of times. Take your pick.

* * *

And, no, I haven’t forgotten Classic Flix. I am recording a commentary for Mickey Spillane’s The Long Wait tomorrow. And here is a terrific review of their I, the Jury 4K/Blu-ray/3-D release.

Finally, my friend and editor Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime has a wonderful interview with my buddy Andrew Sumner of Titan about Charles’ terrific Gun Honey comic book, the archive editions of Ms. Tree, and a little something I like to call…The Big Bundle!

M.A.C.

Good News and Bad News Is No Mystery….

Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

There’s good news and bad news this week, starting with this stellar review for the new Mike Hammer book (Kill Me If You Can) from Mystery Scene courtesy of private-eye guru, Kevin Burton Smith, mastermind behind the Thrilling Detective web site (https://thrillingdetective.com/).

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:
Kill Me If You Can
by Max Allan Collins
Titan Books, September 2022, $24.95

By now Max Allan Collins’ name has appeared on more than half of the Mike Hammer novels, whether you regard them as canon or not. But Collins wasn’t one of those pens-for-hire parachuted in to keep a corporate cash cow mooing—he was handpicked by Spillane himself, who left behind a treasure trove of unfinished manuscripts, rough notes, and story ideas. He told his wife shortly before his death that “Max will know what to do.”

It’s clear, after 14 cowritten novels (plus a handful of short stories and non-Hammer material gleaned from Spillane’s leftovers) that Collins knew exactly what to do—he “gets” Spillane in a way much of the mystery establishment still doesn’t.

You need look no further than his latest, the bruising Kill Me If You Can, which takes place somewhere in the mid-fifties lost years of the Hammerverse between Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) and The Girl Hunters (1962). Never the most stable of detectives, Mike’s particularly unchained now—the love of his life, Velda Sterling, is gone, maybe kidnapped, maybe dead, and he’s responding the only way he knows. By drinking too much, wallowing in self-pity, guilt and rage, and vowing revenge—or at least violence. And plenty of it.

The first line, “I had nothing to keep me company but my .45 and an itch to use it,” pretty much sums it up, and the action never really lets up. Mike is in free fall, cut loose from anything (i.e., Velda) that tethered him to a world of laws, and the result is an alcohol-fueled fury that eventually costs him his PI ticket, his only real friend (NYPD homicide dick Pat Chambers), and even his beloved .45, as he tries to set a trap, with the help of former bootlegger turned nightclub owner Packy Paragon, for a burglary crew he suspects may have had a hand in the disappearance of Velda. The trap, though, goes horribly, violently awry.

Those more familiar with Collins’ other work (particularly his masterful Nate Heller series, a string of complex, richly detailed and nuanced tales of a fictional private eye thrust into the maelstrom of some of the twentieth century’s most notorious true crimes) may not at first recognize Collins’ style here. But the coauthor has no problem serving up Hammer the same way Spillane did, with plenty of mayhem, violence, and sex, dished out in straight-ahead, no-frills prose, right on target, so direct, with no room for sissy stuff like digressions, detours, or doubts. Hammer is a shark that needs to keep swimming to survive, and Collins tosses plenty of chum into these waters.

Like the murder of his old pal Packy Paragon, who may—or may not—have been killed for trying to help Mike. Or was it the ledger of mob secrets Packy supposedly possessed? Or an overly ambitious rival? An old grudge? Hammer isn’t sure, but he’ll follow the clues to the savage, bloody end—whatever it takes—to avenge Packy.

It’s the real deal, folks: primo, primal detective fiction. Pass the peanuts.

(If that’s not enough, there are five bonus stories included by Spillane, curated and tweaked by Collins, two of which feature Hammer. You know, just in case…)
Kevin Burton Smith

The bad news? Mystery Scene is assembling its final issue right now. This valuable – make that invaluable – part of the mystery scene has been with us since 1985 when Ed Gorman and Bob Randisi began publishing it. I was in on the ground floor with these two top writers, and wrote the movie review column in the magazine for ten-plus years. (I stepped down when I began making indie films myself and thought expressing my opinions about other people’s work in a high-profile magazine was lacking in grace.)

The exceptionally able Kate Stine has been at the helm since 2002. She has been supportive of long-established mystery writers but, more importantly, of new writers in the field. It’s a crushing blow to writers both new and old and in between to have this source of intelligent reviews disappear, as well as in-depth coverage of the field past and present. It’s really a gut punch to the mystery-fiction industry to lose this publication.

Of course it’s no surprise that making it with a magazine in this digital age is tough, and I am hopeful that Mystery Scene will stick around on line. But it ain’t gonna be the same.

And I never will get that Mystery Scene cover….

* * *

Here’s a great Booklist review of Kill Me If You Can:

Kill Me if You Can.
By Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
2022. 288p. Titan, $24.95 (9781789097641)

Collins, the literary executor of Mickey Spillane’s estate, continues to do fine work in completing the Mike Hammer novels left unfinished when the iconic crime writer died in 2006. Celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first appearance of Hammer in I, the Jury (1947), this tale finds the quintessential hard-boiled private eye still reeling from the disappearance of his secretary, Velda, at the end of Kiss Me Deadly (1952). The action takes place in the mid-fifties with Hammer in full revenge mode, searching for Velda and her abductors, but also trying to find the killer of another close friend, nightclub owner and former gangster Packy Paragon.

Hammer’s over-the-top blood lust is in full cry here, and while that’s not a personality trait endearing to most of today’s crime-fiction audience, it’s an essential part of the Hammer persona, and it helped define the hard-boiled hero in the postwar era of paperback originals. Always rough around the edges (in terms of content and style), Spillane was nevertheless the best-selling mystery writer of the twentieth century, exceeding both Chandler and Hammett. Collins, a first-rate storyteller who started his own career with paperback originals, adds some narrative finesse to what he calls the “Hammerverse” but remains true to Spillane’s essence. This volume also includes five previously unpublished Hammer stories, adding extra pizzazz to what is a fitting celebration of a genre giant.

— Bill Ott

Here is ClassicFlix’s new trailer for their Blu-ray of Mike Hammer in I, the Jury.

Three giveaway copies of the final Caleb York, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, are still available. [All copies have now been claimed. Thank you! –Nate]

* * *

Recovery from my A-fib bout continues. I am on the upward move – would put myself at about 75% right now. I run out of steam around late afternoon and am spent by mid-evening. Next morning, rarin’ to go.

I’m getting good work days in, and Too Many Bullets continues to grow pages. It will take to the end of the year, I’m afraid; but it’s happening.

I’m told that a strike on the dock in the UK will delay delivery of The Big Bundle till sometime in January. The e-book will be available very early December, however. I will be doing a book giveaway soon on this book designed specifically to get Heller off to a good start at Hard Case Crime.

Heller has now been at TOR, Bantam, Dutton, Forge and, now, Hard Case Crime. This is unusual to say the least, but it reflects my dogged determination to tell Heller’s entire story. Publishers do not like to pick up a “busted” series. But the reviews have supported me. Even the sales for the series are up over one million copies now.

Last night (well, early morning) I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and knew at once I needed to do some replotting, as I head into the final third of the book. I was back in bed at 5:30, content I’d fixed it, removing two story threads. Then at 8:30 a.m. I awoke again and put them back in…but smoothed ‘em out.

Heller never gets any easier.

* * *

Here are some really good reviews of The Big Bundle at Goodreads.

Ron Fortier reviews Kill Me If You Can here. He finds the novel (novella?) okay, but really likes the five short stories.

Here’s a review of the I, the Jury Blu-ray/4K/3-D disc. Let me again say that if you don’t have the ability to play 3-D discs, the Blu-ray and 4K discs make this well worth the price.

And another.

This will lead you to the British Blu-ray release of I, the Jury, which does not include the 3-D disc. It’s Region B.

The top 12 (this write-up says) of comics-adapted movies. Road to Perdition is one of them.

M.A.C.

M.A.C. Collection From Wolfpack & A Spillane Rave

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Another short update, I’m afraid.

My medical issues are coming to a head and I will be trying to deal with them this week. Good thoughts and crossed fingers are appreciated.

Here is the appearance by Barb and me on the Paula Sands Show recently, promoting Antiques Liquidation.

The first in a new series of e-book boxed sets from Wolfpack is available now – The Max Allan Collins Collection, Volume One: Eliot Ness. Works out to less than a buck a book!


E-Book:

There will be five e-book boxed sets in the overall Max Allan Collins Collection, plus a Mickey Spillane collection.

Come Spy With Me is set for a $.99 Kindle Countdown Deal Oct 19th – 25th.


E-Book:

The first review of the Spillane bio by Jim Traylor and me has just appeared, and it’s strong, despite being from the meanest, toughest reviewing service in the world: Kirkus.

SPILLANE King of Pulp Fiction
Author: Max Allan Collins
Author: James L. Traylor

Review Issue Date: November 15, 2022
Online Publish Date: October 20, 2022
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Pages: 400
Price ( Hardcover ): $26.95
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-61316-379-5
Section: NonFiction

A full-dress biography of the most polarizing practitioner of 20th-century crime fiction.

As Collins and Traylor note, nearly everyone deplored the sex and violence of Mickey Spillane’s (1918-2006) midcentury novels about private eye Mike Hammer—though that didn’t stop the millions of readers who catapulted him to the top of bestseller lists and kept him there. Delving into Spillane’s roots, the authors examine the evolution of comic-book hero Mike Lancer into Mike Hammer, cite contemporaneous reviewers who talked up or trash-talked Hammer’s adventures, and explore Spillane’s multimedia activities during the 10 years (1952-1962) of Hammer’s absence from the printed page. (Why the long silence? Collins and Traylor believe Spillane was waiting for his disadvantageous contract with film producer Victor Saville to expire). Warning in their opening chapter of spoilers ahead, the authors proceed to summarize the mysteries and solutions of all Hammer’s early novels. They’re at their best when mapping the Spillane metaverse, which includes novels, stories, articles, comic strips, radio broadcasts, TV programs, and movies, and weakest in their uncritical praise of their subject as a plotter, stylist, Jehovah’s Witness, and human being (a verdict his first two wives might have contested). “Mickey encouraged our best efforts, all the while sharing his humanity, generosity, and down-to-earth nature,” they write. “This book reflects not just our love for his work, but for the man, with thanks for his encouragement and friendship.” Spillane’s appealing directness provides an endless stream of anecdotes. The authors conclude with a formidable array of appendices, ranging from an autobiographical fragment that takes Spillane from birth to age 14 to an essay on “Ayn Rand and Mickey Spillane” to a brace of bibliographies and an account of some of their own extensive dealings with the author when he was alive and the work Collins has continued to complete since his death.

Fans who’ve been waiting for a life of Spillane will gobble this up.

A decent review of the new volume in the Titan archival Ms. Tree collections comes from the Slings and Arrows site.

M.A.C.

Everything Old Is “New” Again

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022
Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher
Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
Hardcover: Indiebound Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link Google Play Purchase Link Nook Purchase Link Kobo Purchase Link iTunes Purchase Link
Digital Audiobook: Amazon Purchase Link Google Play Purchase Link Kobo Purchase Link
Audio MP3 CD: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link
Audio CD: Indiebound Purchase Link Bookshop Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link

Audio Sample:

The Dark City
The Dark City, 1987 Bantam Paperback

Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life Blu-Ray
Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life
2007 Blu-Ray, VCI

A new book is out about Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. I’m not going to share the name or much information about that book with you, because the book you should be buying and reading is the 600-page Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by A. Brad Schwartz and me, available now in a handsome and inexpensive ($15.49) trade paperback.

This other Ness/Butcher book (350 pages) is about as redundant and unnecessary a volume as I can imagine. But history is fair game, true crime included, and it’s not like this hasn’t happened to me before.

My theories developed about various unsolved or controversially solved crimes in my Nathan Heller novels have paved the way for non-fiction writers who didn’t have to (and didn’t) credit me, since I had merely written a novel. That those novels are crammed with research, often aided by George Hagenauer and done on site and in libraries and raiding old bookstores at much time and expense, didn’t matter a whit.

My novel Butcher’s Dozen, published in 1988, was the first book-length look at Ness and the Mad Butcher case, and George and I did much on site research about the case, and at Case Western Reserve Library found the massive Ness scrapbooks that hadn’t been seen since 1961 when Oscar Fraley wrote Four Against the Mob about Ness in Cleveland, the only book about Ness in Cleveland prior to my The Dark City in 1987. Since then have come any number of books about the case, including a graphic novel by a guy who used to write fannishly to the letter column of Ms. Tree (where Butcher’s Dozen was announced, advertised and discussed); there have also been scads of movies announced but never made.

Fair game, all of it. Dirty pool, at times, but within the rules.

And I am not here to cry plagiarism against the author of this new Ness/Butcher book. Maybe to cry “foul” a little. Here’s why. As part of the promotion of the book, the Smithsonian announced the author’s appearance for an event called “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life,” featuring an actor playing Ness (as well as the author).

Some of you may know that I wrote a play that I adapted into a 2005 film for Iowa PBS of that very name – a one-man show with the late Michael Cornelison as Ness. I wrote the Smithsonian and complained. The author wrote me an e-mail saying the title hadn’t been his idea, and that he really admired my work very much. But he assured me that his September 2022 book had not been influenced by the Collins/Schwartz August 2020 book because, after all, he had concluded his research in 2019.

Uh, right.

The author claimed to have great respect for me, but the only book about Ness of mine that is (minorly) referenced in his new book is the Collins/Schwartz Scarface and the Untouchable (2018). There is a vague reference by this self-professed longtime Ness buff in the new book’s prologue (without mention of my name) to my Ness/Batman graphic novel, Scar of the Bat. No mention of Ness being a character in True Detective and subsequent Nate Heller novels. No mention of the four Eliot Ness in Cleveland novels, which have often been prominently mentioned in lectures and in print by Cleveland’s predominant Ness expert, Rebecca McFarland. And of course no mention of either An Untouchable Life or Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher.

It’s a tad hard to imagine that an Eliot Ness buff would never have heard of me or my pioneering research efforts (initially with George Hagenauer and later with Brad Schwartz, the latter the major Ness expert on the planet).

And it’s been frustrating to see friends and friendly acquaintances of mine extolling the virtues of this competitive book with no mention (or possibly awareness) of our book. The MWA Edgar committees did not acknowledge either of our massive, and frankly ground-breaking books, but the author of this new Ness/Butcher book seems a shoo-in, as he’s won before. That howl of anguish you will hear, should this author be nominated or win, will (I assure) you have emanated from Iowa (and Princeton).

When we queried the publisher (also the publisher of four Nate Heller novels, the most recent, Do No Harm, featuring Ness prominently…in Cleveland!) with questions about research material from our book that seemed to have made its way into this new one, we were assured that the author simply used the same sources we had. We were unable to confirm that, but we have been assured that future editions of this rival book will have some mention of ours, perhaps in a “recommended further reading” manner.

We appreciate that.

We don’t intend to take this any further. But if you are thinking about reading – or recommending – a book on this subject, please consider doing what the author of this new Ness/Butcher book doesn’t do: mention Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz.

[UPDATE to this week’s UPDATE written 9/25/’22:] In the Smithsonian event last night (9/26/’22), the author of the Ness/Butcher book did, if belatedly, acknowledge the two Collins/Shwartz Ness non-fiction books, giving them a full screen to themselves. He also listed me as one of “many” who have written Ness novels. That I was the first was not mentioned, nor was my role in rediscovering the Ness scrapbooks. Nor was the one-man show/feature presentation, Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life. But it’s a start.

* * *

On a happier note, I’d like to share a wonderful (starred!) review from Publisher’s Weekly of the forthcoming new Nate Heller novel, The Big Bundle due out Dec. 6.

The Big Bundle: A Nathan Heller Novel

Max Allan Collins. Hard Case Crime, $22.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-78909-852-5

In MWA Grand Master Collins’s superb 18th Nathan Heller novel, (after 2020’s Do No Harm), the PI crosses paths with Robert Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa. It’s 1953 in Kansas City, Mo., when millionaire Robert Greenlease retains Heller’s services after his six-year-old son, Bobby, is kidnapped and ransomed for $600,000. Greenlease makes the payment, but the kidnappers delay returning the child. Heller uses his underworld contacts to try to get a lead on Bobby’s whereabouts by attempting to trace the marked bills used for the payoff, though he fears that the boy is already dead. Flash forward to 1958. Heller is working both for Hoffa, the corrupt Teamsters leader, and Kennedy, then chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee, who’s looking to nail Hoffa. With half of the ransom never accounted for, Kennedy hopes Heller can help him prove it ended up in the Teamsters Pension Fund. Heller’s search for the money and the truth behind Bobby’s abduction proves perilous. Collins again artfully uses a real-life crime, one now obscure but headline-making in the 1950s, as the springboard for a crackerjack plot. This is another standout in a consistently good series.

And I have to share this nifty Big Bundle review from the great Ron Fortier, whose “Pulp Fiction Reviews” column is always a fun, informative read.

THE BIG BUNDLE
by Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crimes
Arriving Dec 6th 2022
295 pgs

This is the 20th in the Nate Heller historical crime series by Collins. If you are unfamiliar with them, the conceit is simple enough. Collins, either working alone, or with other collaborators, researches an actual American crime and then drops his fictional private eye into the tale as either an investigator or actual participant in the events. In this case, he becomes both. The story revolves around the 1953 kidnapping of young Bobby Greenlease of Kansas City. The six year old was the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr, a multi-millionaire auto dealer. His kidnappers were paid a ransom of $60,000, the largest ever paid out in American history at that time.

Collins splits the book in two parts. The first has Heller hired by Greenlease Sr. to help find the kidnappers and rescue his son. We’ve always admired Collin’s ability to empathize with his characters and that is never more evidenced than here. Believing the boy is already dead, after finding Hall, Heller’s emotional restraint is nothing short of painful as his desire to blow away the scumbag killer is kept in check with having to learn the truth. His portrayal of Carl Hall is both deft and creepy at the same time.

At the time of the couples’ eventual arrest, only half the money was recovered. Five years later the mystery remains as to where it went and who ended up with it. Reporters and police investigators suggested the funds had been laundered through organized crime and ended up in Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union Fund. Thus Greenlease Sr. once again hires Heller; this time to find out where it went. Not because he needs the money, but is sickened by the thought that unknown lowlifes profited from his son’s abduction. Like his previous Heller books, Collins skillfully weaves his protagonist through the documented historical facts having him cross paths with such players Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy.

“The Big Bundle” is classic Max Collins, that alone should have you pre-ordering it. Of all his Heller novels to date, this one will leave you feeling as if you’d been sucker punched. Since the Garden of Eden, evil has existed in our world. In 1953, it reared its head tragically.

A final note. We rarely mention of the covers of books we review. Hard Case Crime is one of the few publishers out there that always delivers stunning paintings reminiscent of the early 50s paperbacks. Paul Mann does the honors on this title offering up a Nate Heller who looks a whole lot like the late actor Robert Lansing. What we’d call brilliant casting, Mr. Mann.

And the love fest continues with this great Library Journal review of the about-to-be-published (Oct. 4) new Barbara Allan novel, Antiques Liquidation.

Antiques Liquidation Cover
Antiques Liquidation
by Barbara Allan
Severn House.
(A Trash ’n’ Treasures Mystery, Bk. 16).
Oct. 2022. 208p. ISBN 9780727850911. $29.99.

Brandy once again finds herself an unwilling partner to her septuagenarian mother’s antiques subterfuge in Allan’s 16th “Trash ’N’ Treasures” mystery (following Antiques Carry On). Awoken early in the morning by Vivian for a shady antiques shopping trip, Brandy is prepared for something to go wrong. With a little blackmail, Vivian has secured access to the auction goods before the auction happens. She has her choice of deadstock, and after an encounter with the police, is able to take it safely home. However, murder is never far behind where Brandy and Vivian are involved, and the auctioneer soon turns up dead. Vivian adds her own interpretation of events throughout the book, often to humorous effect. Readers will also find several recipes and Vivian’s tips for buying and selling antiques. Brandy’s asides about events in the previous novels will help new readers to enjoy this installment without having read the rest of the series. Fans who are returning to the series will continue to find humor in Brandy and Vivian’s relationship and will enjoy seeing favorite characters return.
VERDICT: Best for readers of cozy mysteries who enjoy small-town living, humor with a side of murder, and cute canine companions.
Reviewed by Tristan Draper, Aug 26, 2022

Our old pard Caleb York is getting a boost from Kensington, who will run price discount promotions on the York novels during October at major eBook retailers. For example, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek will be promoted with a BookBub blast on 10/8/2022 – a rootin’ tootin’ 99-cents!

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The aftermath of the presentation here in Muscatine, Iowa, on September 17 of Gary Sandy in my play, Encore for Murder (developed from a Mickey Spillane synopsis), has been gratifying. The people who saw it have approached me with praise, and others with regret that they didn’t see it.

We have just started to scratch the surface of the voluminous footage we gathered on HD of the performance. Excerpts (and interview footage of Gary Sandy and the Velda and Pat Chambers actors) will be included in the new version of my 1999 Spillane documentary, in progress. And I am hopeful we will have a complete feature version of the recorded play as well. I haven’t spent much time in editing suites in recent years and can’t wait to get back in there with Phil Dingeldein and our new buddy Chad Bishop.

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Finally, Craig Zablo gives The Big Bundle a big boost here!

M.A.C.