Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Sit Down and Read!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

STOP THE PRESSES: Supreme Justice and Midnight Haul are on sale for $1.99 each as Mystery, Thriller and Suspense Kindle book deals till the end of May. Amazon links: Supreme Justice | Midnight Haul

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Stand Up And Die! cover
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E-Book:

Stand Up and Die!, the new Mickey Spillane collection from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges imprint, goes on sale next week (May 17) as both a Kindle e-book and a physical book. I edited it (and introduced it) and contributed a new version of my very first collaboration on a Mike Hammer story with Mickey, “Tonight I Die” (originally titled “The Night I Died” and published in the Spillane/Collins-edited anthology, The Private Eyes, 1998).

These novellas and short stories are culled from two long-out-of-print anthologies I edited, Tomorrow I Die (1986, Mysterious Press) and Together We Kill (2001, Five Star). This represents all of the crime stories from both volumes collected here in one place.

Here are the contents:

“Stand Up and Die!” (1958)
“Everybody’s Watching Me” (1953)
“Together We Kill” (1953)
“The Girl Behind the Hedge” (1953)
“The Pickpocket” (1954)
“I’ll Die Tomorrow” (1960)
“Tomorrow I Die” (1956)
“Hot Cat” (1964)
“The Gold Fever Tapes” (1973)
“Tonight I Die” (2022)

The final story is a Mike Hammer tale, and the reason why I’ve done a new version – not radically different, but enough so to rename it – is a story unto itself.

The basic story of “Tonight I Die” appeared in three versions in Mickey’s files – a radio play, a thirty-minute TV show, and a sixty-minute or more TV movie. There are significant differences between versions, and I did not become aware of all three until much later.

In 1998, when we edited the anthology Private Eyes for NAL, I felt it was key that we include a Hammer short story. But there weren’t any and getting Mickey to write a new one would have tough to impossible. He had already begun to share his unpublished materials with me, just for my interest (and perhaps he was already thinking of what I might do with his unfinished work some day), and I had run across the radio play version. It seems to have been written for the radio series That Hammer Guy, possibly as a pilot. It was not to my knowledge produced, though the series ran three years.

The script was heavy with narration and I asked Mickey if I could turn it into a short story, sticking to his script. He gave his blessing. The script was heavy with narration and the transfer was not difficult, though I felt some of it could have used some work, chiefly for clarity. But I did as little as I could in that regard, basically turning the script’s present tense script into past.

Now that I’ve done so many posthumous collaborations with Mickey – with his blessing – I felt this story should be properly prepared for publication…again, without taking too many liberties.

The things I did not include from the Tomorrow I Die and Together We Kill anthologies in this new one are interesting but not vital – like the science-fiction tale “The Veiled Woman,” ghosted by Howard Browne when Mickey missed deadline; a few memoirs for True magazine; a comic book “filler” story (now available in Vintage Spillane); and the script of a Mike Hammer screen test film starring Spillane’s policeman pal Jack Stang (a short story version appearing in the forthcoming Kill Me If You Can, this year’s Hammer 75th anniversary novel, which includes five bonus short stories). Also intentionally M.I.A. is Mickey’s good but non-crime tale, “Affair with the Dragon Lady.”

Stand Up and Die! is the definitive collection of Spillane crime/mystery short fiction, and its existence is due to not just my efforts but also Wolfpack’s Mike Bray, Paul Bishop and James Reasoner.

Mickey allowed a number of his crime novellas to be collected by NAL as paperbacks, mostly two-to-a-volume. This was part of his effort to raise last-minute funds for the troubled production of The Girl Hunters film. Possibly because that need for money was over, he did not bother to collect his other novellas and short stories similarly. Over the years I collected these in their original men’s adventure magazine appearances, sometimes off the newsstands, other times in used book stores. Convincing Mickey to let me collect some of them for the Mysterious Press anthology led to our first professional project together.

Not our last.

I can’t recommend a collection of tough fiction more highly than this one.

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Here’s a good review of Quarry’s Blood by a reader who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he wants me to write more Quarry books or not.

This review of the film The Outfit, streaming now, says it’s a combination of Collins (me), Mamet (a writer whose work I don’t care for), and Sorkin (a writer whose work I do care for). So I went into watching it with one eye squinted. It’s an okay crime chamber piece, with a strong central performance by Mark Rylance. You may like it. I made it all the way through, Barb didn’t. Interestingly, Barb loves the film of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (as do I), and the reviewer here in passing calls Tinker, Tailor “dreadfully boring.” Still, having my work referenced in a review like this was fun.

Some short, smart reviews here of three Quarry books and one Nolan. I’m blushing.

Road to Perdition is listed as one of the seven best movies debuting on Netflix in May 2022.

Here’s an interesting in-depth look at Wild Dog.

Finally, this brief, admiring look at the graphic novel and film of Road to Perdition.

M.A.C.

Paging Dr. Tongue, Plus Neal Adams and Martin & Lewis

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

In case you haven’t been listening, 2022 is the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer’s debut in the 1947 novel I, the Jury. A lot of exciting things are already underway. So far we’ve got The Shrinking Island and The Menace out there from Wolfpack’s imprint, Rough Edges Press. And coming up in about two weeks from Rough Edges is a great anthology of Spillane novellas, Stand Up and Die!

But perhaps most exciting of all (next to the January 2023 prose biography, Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction by Jim Traylor and me from Mysterious Press) is the long, long-awaited release of the 1953 film version of I, the Jury…and in 3-D!

I The Jury 3D announcement

ClassicFlix – who specialize in (not surprisingly) Blu-rays and DVDs of classic films from Hollywood’s 1930s/’40s/’50s Golden Age – is bringing it out (likely in the fall).
I will be doing the commentary.

The 1953 I, the Jury is a very underrated film (including by Mickey). Biff Elliot makes a fine Mike Hammer and the script and direction by Harry Essex are faithful to the source. Peggie Castle and Margaret Sheridan make the definitive Spillane women, and the great noir specialist, cinematographer John Alton, works in 3-D with his usual artistry. I put only Kiss Me Deadly ahead of it and would call the first I, the Jury a tie with The Girl Hunters for second place.

The publishing schedule for the Hammer anniversary includes The Menace, with me writing a horror/crime novel from an unproduced Spillane screenplay; a collection of the three YA novels, The Shrinking Island, with the previously unpublished title tale a Spillane fan Holy Grail; and the soon-to-be-published Stand Up and Die! (with a Spillane/Collins Hammer story) the best collection of Mickey’s novellas ever assembled.

In August Titan will bring out the novel Kill Me If You Can, again with me working from an unproduced Spillane screenplay and dealing with the period between Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters – the direct aftermath of Velda’s disappearance. The book includes five Spillane/Collins short stories, including two Hammers.

And the capper of this wave of Spillane publishing will be the 100,000-word bio from Jim Traylor and me.

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Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)
Two legends: Neal Adams (left), Batman (right)

I suppose being my age – 74, damnit – means a progressive thinning of the ranks of my heroes and friends (two groups not mutually exclusive). Now we have lost Neal Adams, at 80, who for my money is the best Batman artist of the “serious” period, which – let’s face it – he and Denny O’Neil (also gone) invented.

He did much more, of course. His work on the comic strip Ben Casey, in his very early twenties, is stellar – I have an original daily example on my wall. I loved his Deadman, the Green Arrow/Green Lantern work was groundbreaking, and, really, everything his pen touched turned to great.

But he also was a champion for the rights of his fellow cartoonists, and he was a big part of getting some recompense for Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the teenagers from Cleveland on whose bones the DC empire was built.

I knew him a little, and I was complimented that he knew who I was…something which still seems to me a little unbelievable. I have a small but cherished memory of standing in line with him getting ready to ship things home from the San Diego Comic Con. I introduced him to my wife as a beginner I knew, and his grin couldn’t have been wider. He had a smile as dazzling as his artwork, and that’s plenty dazzling. We chatted and laughed for about five minutes, a small encounter that I will never forget. I always stopped by his booth at the con in subsequent years just to say hi.

Not a big relationship, by any means. But a big loss.

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Another sign of advancing old age is my reading habits. I’ve never been one to start a book and then put it down without finishing it. But now I won’t waste my time if a book doesn’t engage me in a chapter or so. Like most of you, I have an ever-growing stack (stacks) of books I can’t wait to read. So some of this stuff just has to get out of the way if it can’t grab me.

Related to this is my experience with Judd Apatow’s new book, Sicker in the Head, a follow-up (of course) to his Sick in the Head. Both books are Apatow interviewing individuals in the world of comedy. I read every page of the first book. This time I read about a third of it.

Not the first third – I selected interviewees I was interested in – like the late John Candy, John Cleese, David Letterman, Peter Davidson, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Sasha Baron Cohen, Samantha Bee, and Will Ferrell. But I have no interest in people I have barely (or not at all) heard of – for example, Amber Ruffin, Ed Templeton, Hannah Gadsby, Lulu Wang, and on and on. Please don’t write telling me who they are, and/or defending their presence in a book with the comic legend likes of Candy and Cleese. I just don’t have time to let these people in unless they get up on their hind legs in the pop culture and make enough noise for someone my age to notice.

Now a book I read every word of is the massive, inch-and-a-half thick, 8.5″ by 11″, 772-page (!) Marketing Martin and Lewis by Richard S. Greene…with a foreword by Eddie Deezen! (Why didn’t Apatow interview him?!?). This is a Martin and Lewis fan’s dream, and worth the fifty-buck price tag (although I got it through Barnes & Noble for $40 using a coupon).

The book is predominantly pictures – movie posters and ads, TV ads, magazine covers, publicity photos, comic book art (Neal Adams!), and on and on; but the text is substantial and thorough, with every Martin & Lewis film discussed and the individual, post-team careers of both are examined. Greene is the ideal fan – his knowledge and the collectibles he shares are mind-bogglingly vast, but his opinions are frank, fair and well-articulated.

It also has the greatest cover of any book ever published. I shared this opinion with my wife, who looked at me as if about to say, “Are you for real?”

Marketing Martin and Lewis
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Here’s a New Yorker article about a Muscatine, Iowa (my hometown) resident who inspired my Mallory novel, No Cure for Death.

An interesting Road to Perdition article is here, looking at the film’s shooting locations (cameras, not guns).

Netflix has added Road to Perdition to its roster.

This review of the Nolan two-fer, Double Down, begins with a left-handed compliment but evolves into a pretty decent write-up. I wrote these books around 1974 and it’s peculiar to see them judged in terms that don’t acknowledge it’s not unusual for writers to grow over time.

Finally, this article wonders whether Road to Perdition is based on a true story (the answer is “sort of”).

M.A.C.

Perdition Years Later, Proofing Copy-Edits & New Spillane

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

As you may know, the Antiques books – the current one, Antiques Carry On is out now in trade paperback – are now published by Severn, based in the UK but also distributed here (and of course Mike Hammer’s publisher, Titan, is in England as well). So perhaps that explains the photo of a satisfied reader that we received, courtesy of our friend, Gene Eugene.

The Queen's Restorative Reading
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Screening of Road to Perdition last week at the Figge art museum in Davenport was fun – it was nicely attended by a somewhat captive audience of Scott Community College students who’d been assigned the graphic novel, among others whose arms had not been twisted to attend.

There was a hitch that took it from the auditorium to the lobby, where the presentation was not ideal but it served the purpose. Matt Clemens and Barb and I took questions after, and I talked too much. Apologies to one and all on that score.

I hadn’t seen Road to Perdition since the Blu-ray came out in 2010 – twelve years! I was struck that my reaction to everything I liked about the film on first seeing it and everything I hadn’t liked (big and small and in between) remained exactly the same. I still wish I’d had a crack at the dialogue, some of which I find stilted, and that the ending were mine – that Jack Lemmon hadn’t died and left the narration (obviously written for an adult looking back on his life, as in the graphic novel) to young Tyler Hoechlin, the book’s real ending scrapped for a Hollywood one.

But I still love the thing. It has such a nice mood, and it picks up on so many visuals from the book (Richard Piers Rayner, God bless you), and stays mostly true to my story. I was after a combination of big city gangster film and rural outlaw movie, and the filmmakers got that. The Paul Newman/Daniel Craig father-and-son relationship is handled better than I did. The cast remains amazing, and I still feel like I’ve won the lottery. And the speech in the church basement is beautifully written.

Over the weekend, Barb and I watched the new 4-K remastering of the three Godfather movies, and how much influence the first Godfather had on the Perdition film was incredibly obvious – in a good way. Several critics at the time called Perdition the best mob film since The Godfather and Godfather 2, and I don’t disagree.

One of my few career regrets is that we never got Road to Purgatory made. My buddy Phil Dingeldein and I worked mightily to get that done. I still have a script for it that I’m proud of…and which I hold the rights to.

If anybody’s interested, now’s the time. Hoechlin has grown up in a super fashion, and Stanley Tucci can be found in a kitchen somewhere. (We killed everybody else.)

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Things in publishing have two speeds: slooooooooow, and effing fast.

I just delivered The Big Bundle to editor Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime last week, and he had it copy-edited and back to me by the weekend. Charles is incredibly fast, and has a terrific eye. He is respectful of what I write but calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, which is to my benefit. Amazingly, the book has been put to bed but for my eventually proofing the final copy-set copy.

On the other hand, Spillane: King of Pulp Fiction took quite a while to get to me from the editors at Mysterious Press (which is more typical). They have been gracious about giving me the time I need, but I will be tackling the job this week, which should be sufficient. A non-fiction book is a more demanding thing, at this stage, but I will face all kinds of fact-checking questions.

I dread the copy-editing stage, as I’ve made clear here many times. About one out of three times at bat, I get saddled with a copy editor who appoints him- or herself my collaborator, and not the person preparing the text for typesetting. I have been rewritten more times that the Holy Bible, and I take it just a little worse than God.

But this goes with the territory.

I also proofed the type-set version of The Menace, the crime/horror novel by Mickey Spillane and me, coming from Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press. It’s a book developed by me from an unproduced film script Mickey wrote probably in the early 1980s. He had Stephen King on the brain, I think, seeing that King was developing into the kind of celebrity bestselling author that he (Mickey) had been.

In addition I read the galleys of Mickey’s The Shrinking Island (introduced by yours truly), which collects the three young adult adventure novels he wrote in the ‘70s. The title story has never been published before. It comes out soon – April 7 – and if you’re an adult Spillane fan, it’ll make a grinning kid out of you.

The first of the three Larry and Josh adventures, The Day the Sea Rolled Back, was a big influence on The Goonies. I was at Mickey’s house when he got a call from Steven Spielberg (not sure whether it was Spielberg himself or one of his “people”), inquiring about the availability of The Day the Sea Rolled Back for the screen. Mickey told whoever it was that he wasn’t interested in dealing with anybody in Hollywood except Jay Bernstein (his Mike Hammer TV producer). And before long came…The Goonies.

The other YA yarn is The Ship That Never Was. Check out this new collection. The cover, which I’m including here, is (obviously) a stunner.

The Shrinking Island
Trade Paperback:
E-Book:
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Mystery Tribune lists its favorite Irish mob movies and Road to Perdition is included (no mention of the book’s author, though – who was that again?).

Syfy rates the top best eleven R-rated movies based on comic books and suggests that Road to Perdition may be the best one.

Here’s a great Bookgasm review of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

And another great Bookgasm review of Fancy Anders Goes to War.

M.A.C.

Quarry Hits the Big Times

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

It’s been ages since I’ve had a New York Times review of one of my novels. I’ve had some nice write-ups there – don’t recall a bad one – but this is the first ever Quarry novel the Times has reviewed. Here goes:

With QUARRY’S BLOOD (Hard Case Crime, 224 pp., paper, $12.95), Max Allan Collins finally bids goodbye to Quarry, his Marine sniper-turned-professional assassin, more than 10 years after The Last Quarry, by its title, promised to do so. This time feels like it’s for keeps, as the novel is set more or less in the present (there’s a reference to a character dying of Covid), and Quarry, pushing 70, is looking forward to retiring after all those decades of killing for hire.

Retirement, however, is put on ice when a true-crime writer, Susan Breedlove, shows up at Quarry’s door looking for some answers. Her arrival opens a portal into full-on metafiction, as the line between what Collins has published since the mid-1970s and what has spilled out into the actual world (like a television adaptation) grows so porous as to cease existing.

It goes without saying that the body count will pile up, and that Quarry, despite his aching body and slower reflexes, still operates at a more ruthless clip than almost anyone he encounters. This is a sure-footed ending to a series that marinated in the excesses of pure pulp.

That’s a swell review, but what’s interesting to me is to how the word “pulp” has become a compliment in recent years – possibly thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – when for decades it was a pejorative. Now it denotes a certain style of fiction (often consciously retro) viewed with a positive, even affectionate spin.

Equally interesting to me is that this is the first I’ve had a paperback original reviewed in the Times, at least that I can remember.

So far the reader response, and reviewer reaction, has been very warm indeed to the new Quarry. It was a risky novel to write, as you readers of the book already know, because I ventured into “meta” territory, big-time. I don’t want to say more, but I will say that one of the things I dealt with is just what exactly Quarry has been writing in these first-person narratives all these years.

Quarry's Blood Audiobook cover
Digital Audiobook: Audible Purchase Link

Out right now is the audio book of Quarry’s Blood, read by the wonderful Stefan Rudnicki. The cover is pictured here. I have not listened to the audio yet, but will begin sometime this week, when we take a day off to celebrate my 74th birthday. (It’s March 3rd, not yet a national holiday.)

Stefan has become the voice of Quarry for me, just as Dan John Miller is Nate Heller.

Check out an excerpt here:

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I am working on the new Heller novel now, ridiculously immersed in it, and for that reason this will be a short update. I would like to respond to Bill P’s follow-up comment on a discussion about writing, readers and reviewers that’s been going on for a few weeks here. I misunderstood Bill’s use of “archetype,” thinking he meant the characters I write about; but he was thinking of the archetypical reader I envision.

I accidentally answered that, by saying that I write to please myself, and my wife Barb, who is my first reader as I go along (meaning she reads the chapters as I complete them). I do, however, envision a reader. I don’t think specifically of a male or female, just someone who shares my interests and tastes, and the ideal reader is probably of my generation or the generation or two on either side of mine. A major part of my approach is my assumption that the reader is at least as smart as I am. He or she might be smarter, but not so much smarter that my work seems childish or beneath them. I never assume – never – that the reader isn’t as smart as I am. I endeavor never to write down.

The only slight exception – the only “sort of” exception – is when I write a first-person story in the voice of someone not as smart as me. I’ve only done this a few times, and it’s tricky (Shoot the Moon is one). This relates as well to writing in the point of view (when in third person) of someone who isn’t as smart as me. Who might be dumb, like Lyle in Spree. All I can say is that these characters never think of themselves as dumb, just as the antagonists of the protagonists never think of themselves as the villains.

I’ve made it clear here that I abhor writing that tries to impress – that spends too much time showing off. In this approach, the story almost always pays the price.

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La Guerra De Quarry (Quarry's War, Spanish Edition) cover

I wanted to share with you this cover of the graphic novel Quarry’s War in Spanish.

I don’t remember Quarry appearing in Spain before. Road to Perdition did, which may be what led to this edition.

Here is a very smart review of Quarry’s Blood. This reviewer is always worth reading.

M.A.C.