Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Two Events, A New Movie Script, Nate Heller News and More

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

Two events are coming up that Iowa residents, particularly those in (or near) Des Moines may wish to attend.

The Fridley Theatre chain has reopened the great Fleur Theater and have booked me in for two events. Coming up this weekend (Saturday February 17) is a presentation of Chinatown that I will introduce. I will be discussing the importance of the film and how it has been a key influence on me and my work.

Then, just a week later on Saturday February 24, I will be there with a number of cast and crew members for the World Premiere of Blue Christmas.

Advance tickets for both events are available at the links.

As you may know, three more premiere events will present Blue Christmas to the public for the first time; it will not be made available (at least nothing is planned yet) until the Christmas season of this year:

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

I will be attending all four and at least some cast and crew will be at these events as well (with Q and A after).

* * *

After delivering the new Trash ‘n Treasures novel, Antiques Slay Belles, to our publisher Severin (who we are pleased to say loves it), Barb and I began work on a film script based on the novella “Antiques Fruitcake,” seen in our collection of three Antiques Christmas novellas, Antiques Ho-Ho-Homicides.

Even before the script was started, we had approached with some success several key actors (mostly from Blue Christmas) as well as secured the primary location for the shoot, which we project for late July or early August (that, of course can change).

Working from the novella, with Barb consulting and editing everything I wrote, I’ve produced a screenplay called Death by Fruitcake which I think successfully captures the feel and approach of the books. For one thing, it has a lot of talking to the camera by Brandy and Mother, breaking the fourth wall. The goal was to be very funny and yet a legit mystery (the way the book series does, at its best anyway).

Why another Christmas movie?

Well, the warm reception we got from not only the home video distributor but a major film chain in Iowa, and several independent theaters, showed the holiday aspect of Blue Christmas was hugely beneficial. We’d been looking for another low-budget film project to do, and doing Christmas again but in a completely different fashion made sense.

This project will be in process all year, so you’ll be hearing about it here.

* * *

I am pleased to announce what is almost certainly going to be the last Nathan Heller novel, The One-Way Ride, which I’ll be writing this year for Hard Case Crime. God willin’ and the crick don’t rise, it will appear in late 2025.

This will, at long last, tell the story of Heller, RFK and Jimmy Hoffa, which takes place in the ‘60s but with first and last sections that feature Heller at the end of his career – chronologically the farthest up I’ve gone (other than brief sections of the whatever-happened-to chapters in various of the books).

I both hate and love the thought of doing a final chapter in Heller’s saga. The love part is (a) getting to do another one, and (b) knowing that this saga has a definitive ending. The hate part is that I love to do them and consider Heller my key work (Quarry would disagree, but I’m not giving him a vote).

Several realities are at play here. First, at my age and with my health issues (which for now I’m keeping in check), doing a massive project like a Heller novel, with its soul-crushing research, is best put behind me. I have several other things I want to do, and speaking of Quarry, I may do more with him. I might also do an occasional Heller short story for the Strand and/or Ellery Queen.

Other factors are the way sales got impacted by the way a UK dock strike screwed up the publication of Too Many Bullets, which I consider to be a major book in the saga. That strike, as I’ve outlined here before, meant the 2022 publication of The Big Bundle effectively got pushed to the first quarter of 2023. That had the novel careening into Too Many Bullets, published early fall 2023, meaning two Hellers were published in one year (effectively). It led to the major trade publications (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and Library Journal) not reviewing Too Many Bullets (and in the past they have almost always reviewed the Heller novels). That cost us bookstore and library sales.

And it made getting Hard Case Crime to do another book in the series required a real sales job from me.

On the other hand, we’ve had several really terrific reviews lately for Too Many Bullets. Check out this one from the fine fanzine Deadly Pleasures (who tabulated how many “Best of the Year” lists various books appeared on – Too Many Bullets appeared on five):

Too Many Bullets
by Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime, $26.99, October 2023
Rating: A

Nathan Heller is body-guarding Robert (“Bob! Not ‘Bobby!’”) Kennedy on June 5, 1968, the night he won the California Democratic primary. As they walk through the crowded Pantry in L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel, a dozen or more shots ring out. Kennedy falls, as do five others, but he is the only one to die. A dazed Sirhan Sirhan, gun in hand, is slammed down by Roosevelt Grier, Rafer Johnson, and Heller. The LAPD muscles the FBI out of the investigation of the assassination, since it’s clearly an open-and-shut case against Sirhan. But months later, a now skeptical Heller undertakes his own investigation, first at the behest of columnist Drew Pearson, then Time/Life after Pearson’s death. After all, there weren’t enough guns and there were too many bullets in that room. And what of the mysterious woman in the polka-dot dress that several witnesses saw fleeing the scene?

Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and Private Eye Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement “Eye” Award recipient Max Allan Collins’ first Nathan Heller novel, True Detective, was published in 1983. This latest novel marks forty years of some of the very best and most cohesive historical detective fiction ever written. Each book in the series has been meticulously researched, down to the smallest factual details, then tied together with a cleverly plotted and convincing fictional re-examination of events surrounding a murder, a kidnapping, a disappearance, extortion, assassination or other well-known crime. What’s more, there is a well-reasoned solution to previously unsolved or questionable cases. Collins uses real names whenever possible, adding to the authenticity. Each book also contains a wrap up of what happened to characters after the story has concluded.

Too Many Bullets follows that established pattern. Collins presents little known facts gathered from autopsy and police records, things that were conveniently overlooked in a rush to judgment. But it is the reasoned conjecture that he wraps around those facts that make for fascinating reading. Further, he faithfully recreates the politics of the late 1960s. Readers will almost come to believe that they were caught up in the panic in the hotel’s Pantry, so realistic is the writing. In today’s world, with crazy conspiracy theories abounding, this novel takes a deep dive into one that just might not be so crazy.

The author has previously explored other Kennedy family assassination (and near assassination) stories, but this may just be one of his best. No need to have read any of the previous novels in the series, since Collins doesn’t write them in chronological order anyway. The final two sentence paragraph sums up Heller’s dedication to the job perfectly. If this is the final Heller (and I sincerely hope it is not), the detective goes out on a very high note.

Well, Too Many Bullets isn’t the last Heller, if I can get The One-Way Ride written. But that’s a fine review.

As I’ve said here before, it’s no picnic for an old white guy to get a book sold in a marketplace filled with young Woke editors who have apparently slept through the history of noir fiction. I am lucky to still be in business at all.

For example, I have pitched (sometimes with Matt Clemens and sometimes on my own) half a dozen projects (full book proposals) to Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer, where the Reeder and Rogers trilogy sold hundreds of thousands of copies and my back list has flourished for over a decade. And they haven’t gone forward with a thing. In fairness, the second of my two Krista Larsen novels (Girl Can’t Help It, a book I love) has not earned out yet and maybe never will. Still, the royalties on that title and several dozen others keep coming in and I’m grateful to them (particularly to the initial editors at Thomas and Mercer who made Ian Fleming and Max Allan Collins among their first buys).

I am not complaining (exactly). I have a full plate of work for 2024. But with both Nathan Heller and Mike Hammer getting their series wrapped up, I have to be resilient and creative. (Hammer was always planned to be finite – no new novels written solely by me, strictly M.A.C. finishing up Mickey’s works-in-progress.)

That’s why I’m directing and writing indie movies again. It’s why I’m developing a Nate Heller podcast, bringing the books to life, collaborating with my buddies Phil Dingeldein, Mike Bawden and the great Robert Meyer Burnett, a genuine YouTube star. Recently Rob did a blisteringly funny, wickedly sharp takedown on Amazon (don’t mean to pick on them, and this isn’t Thomas & Mercer) putting out a statement with advice to writers (particularly screenwriters) that is so D.E.I. (Diversity Equity and Inclusive) as to be absurdly hilarious. Take a look. (His Robservations episodes always begin with promos for other stuff of his, so be patient. It’s worth it.)

Also worth a watch this week is Heath Holland and me talking about the latest Kino Lorber film noir Blu-ray boxset on his fine podcast, Cereal at Midnight.

* * *

Here is another lovely Too Many Bullets review.

This article discusses why Tom Hanks decided to do Road to Perdition.

Finally, Ron Fortier is back with a retro review of my The Hindenburg Murders.


A Kindle Sale, Argylle & I’m Famous! (In Iowa)

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024
The Million-Dollar Wound cover

For you Kindle readers, two novels of mine are being offered by Amazon this month. The Million-Dollar Wound, the third Nate Heller novel, will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 2/1/2024 till the end of the month for $1.99.

Supreme Justice, the first novel in the trilogy of Reeder and Rogers novels by Matt Clemens and me, will be promoted via Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle book deals in the US marketplace, starting 2/1/2024 till the end of the month at $2.99.

These are books I’m particularly proud of, respectively the novel in which Heller is a WW 2 Marine, and a political thriller that hasn’t dated a minute.

* * *

I am working on the script for am Antiques novel that, if all works out, will be my next indie movie. Blue Christmas really got my juices going. Much more later.

Once again, here is where you can get advance tickets for the Des Moines and Muscatine showings of Blue Christmas. The Cedar Rapids and Davenport advance ticket availability will be posted soon.

Advance tickets are on sale for the World Premiere of Blue Christmas in Des Moines at the Fleur Theater on February 24.
And the Muscatine, Iowa, premiere tickets are available here.

* * *

Barb and I are beginning to return to our habitual moviegoing ways – which post-Covid had till now been few and far between – and this weekend we took in Argylle.

Argylle Movie Poster with Bryce Howard

We had enjoyed director Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman movies very much – cheerfully over the top, reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s best films. We weren’t disappointed in this latest effort. In fact, we were pigs in excrement throughout.

But apparently a lot of people weren’t.

This twisty tongue-in-cheek take on the worlds of pop fiction writing and James Bond has already been deemed a flop (it brought in $18 million at the box office first week out). Rotten Tomatoes shows only a quarter of the reviewers liked the film, and only (?) seventy-five percent of the public liked it.

What does all of this prove? First, the critics have absolutely no taste much less sense of humor in these wretchedly humorless times. Second, the public is better, but not a big enough share of them went to this exciting, witty movie. And third, Barb and I have impeccable taste.

Basically (very basically) Argylle is about a young female writer’s romantic spy series (very much modeled on Bond) that begins to come to life. That’s all I’m going to tell you. This has more credible (in the world of this film anyway) twists than any film I can remember.

It slightly resembles the John Sand novels written by Matt Clemens and me, though I doubt the creators were familiar with those. The Sand novels, the sales of which have not set the world on fire (despite great reader and critical sense) (those critics know what they are talking about) is available here. If you like my work, or the Fleming Bond novels, you will probably like these.

Max Allan Collins Collection: Volume 2: John Sand cover

The complete series is available on Kindle here.

Anyway, Argylle. Don’t listen to the critics or that 25% of readers who didn’t like this film. Apple produced it and it will turn up on that streaming service fairly soon, but you really should take this in on the big screen.

Without spoiling anything, I can say that one of the reasons that 25% didn’t like the film is the advertising that focuses Henry Cavill as the Bond-like Argylle. But Cavill is the fantasy version and the reality version is portrayed by the great Sam Rockwell, playing opposite Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron’s talented daughter. Both Rockwell and Howard are fantastic in Argylle, and neither is exactly the Hollywood model of lead actors. Rockwell is scrawny and scruffy, and Howard – stunningly beautiful in my opinion – is what we used to call zaftig. Her fetching but undeniable heaviness has worked against her here, in this supposedly more inclusive culture. So does that advertising campaign that is at heart a bait-and-switch job.

Lemme tell ya: this is not a culture inclusive where old white guys are concerned. And apparently not to forty year-old actresses who aren’t anorexic (the female star of Argylle does not look even close to forty, by the way). Ms. Howard, you are welcome in Iowa to make a micro-budget movie with us any old time.

* * *

You really should check out this terrific review of the last (to date) Caleb York novel, Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, in a series Kensington chose not to continue. The only way this review could have been better is if I wrote it myself.

Check out these five interesting things to love about Dick Tracy…I’m one of ‘em!

Yes, these first two links take you to places that praise my work right before (a) one of my series got dropped, and (b) where the S.O.B.s fired me right before Christmas. On the other hand, the latter inspired me to write “A Wreath for Marley,” the basis of Blue Christmas – so thank you, Chicago Tribune Syndicate!

Here’s a great Killer Covers column by the great J. Kingston Pierce about the great Paul Mann, the artist who has done several of my recent covers at Hard Case Crime (three of the originals are on my office wall!).

This column credits the graphic novel Road to Perdition as one of the works that redefine Hollywood. You’re welcome!

And, finally, I’ll bet you didn’t know I was one of the 27 most famous people living in Iowa. I sure didn’t!


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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.


Too Many Bullets on “Best of Lists” and Spillane Cheap!

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023

Encore for Murder – for those of you who don’t have a Blu-ray player or already have a version of Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane that satisfies you – is available at a great price from VCI Home Entertainment. Such a deal.

For those who do have a Blu-ray player, and would like to partake of the newly expanded version of Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane (with Encore for Murder as a bonus feature), VCI has it on sale for $14.98! (Regularly $29.95.). They also have the double-feature Blu-ray of Mommy and Mommy’s Day for $17.48 (regularly $34.95). By the way, Mickey Spillane is an actor in both.

Also, Encore for Murder is available for rental on Vudu.

And so is my documentary (again, this is the new, expanded version) Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane.

Here’s a nice review two-fer of my novels Too Many Bullets and Dig Two Graves (with Mickey Spillane) from Jerry’s House of Everything.

Borg has a great review of Too Many Bullets right here. It’s terrific that Internet reviews are picking up the slack after the four trade publications completely ignored this Nate Heller novel.

* * *

I am pleased to report that Too Many Bullets has finally started popping up on some “best of the year” lists.

The very knowledgeable Kevin Burton Smith of the great Thrilling Detective website has Bullets on his list.

At Deadly Pleasures, both Ted Hertel (a longtime Heller booster) and George Wagner have Too Many Bullets on their “best of” lists. (You’ll have to scroll down to find these.)

Also, Stuart Shiffman at has the Spillane bio by Jim Traylor and me at the top of his list of best books. Here’s what he has to say about it:

SPILLANE: King of Pulp Fiction by Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor
My review (linked here: noted that “[g]reat biographies must capture the individual portrayed — his spirit, his accomplishments, and the times in which he lived and worked. SPILLANE does all of this so expertly that it reads almost as well as a Spillane novel.” A truly entertaining biography.
* * *

Blue Christmas has finally wrapped – in the sense that Chad Bishop and I shot our final Second Unit location shots this week, and have edited this new material into the movie. Son Nathan and grandson Sam both made it into the final product (and the revised trailer, below).

Sam Collins, in his film debut, with Chad Bishop, producer/editor.

(left to right) Nate Collins, Sam Collins, Chad Bishop, Max Allan Collins.

We hope to have a few screenings in early 2024 – a “sneak preview,” a Muscatine premiere, and a Quad Cities premiere, ideally. Whether it will stream earlier than Christmas season 2024 remains to be seen (and whether it is on physical media sooner than that is also as yet undecided). But I am very proud of this little movie, which we practically had to will in existence.

At his request, I showed my eight-year-old grandson Sam (who is in Blue Christmas, remember) the Alistair Sim Scrooge aka A Christmas Carol. He gave it a ten.

Barb and I also watched (having first seen both at the Palms Theater here in Muscatine) the new Mission: Impossible and Indiana Jones movies on 4K Blu-ray. We like both better than a lot of people, including a good share of critics. The Mission: Impossible is admittedly just one impressive action set piece after another, linked by a gibberish plot. But Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is getting a bad rap. While its one car chase scene is a bit of a yawn compared to anything in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (not exactly a snappy title), Indiana Jones is firmly rooted in Professor Jones’ love for archeology, and along the way examines how a hero can be battered down by age and tragedy but can fight his way back.

* * *

No card from Paul Reubens this year. But as Pee-Wee Herman will live forever, let’s pretend he sent one.