Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Wolfs and Cats, Living Together, Sunday Fun, and a 5-Day Script

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Too Many Tomcats, Wolfpack Cover
Ebook: Amazon Purchase Link

All of the copies in last week’s book giveaway of Murderlized and Murder – His and Hers have been shipped. I unexpectedly received more copies of Murderlized that allowed me to send ten copies out, not just five.

Now we have another Wolfpack release, thus far only available on Kindle, but a physical book will be along soon. It’s Barb’s Too Many Tomcats, an anthology of her stories for the various Cat Crimes collections; I wrote the intro and co-wrote a couple of stories.

Do not be dissuaded by the title and subject – these are dark tales, very much in the Roald Dahl/Alfred Hitchcock Presents vein. While Barb does not (exactly) dislike cats, she is fact allergic to them. The cats in these stories, among other things, tend to be evil, murder victims, and/or dead. It’s a wonderful collection, reflecting many of the tales having been chosen for the Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories anthologies edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, two great men both sadly gone.

* * *

I am pleased to announce that the project that SCTV’s Dave Thomas and I are in the process of writing has found a home.

Much more about that later.

* * *

For those of you not sick to death of me (which does not include my wife) (or myself for that matter), I did a ZOOM interview with S-F/Fantasy & Mystery author Russ Colchamiro. Russ is a fine, fun interviewer and we talked about things that haven’t made it into my zillion other interviews.

Russ is one of the Crazy 8 Press group of genre writers, which includes (among other excellent scribes) my old pals Peter David, Glenn Hauman, Robert Greenberger and Paul Kupperberg.

Check out the talk between Russ and me right here:

* * *

Although this update/blog appears on Tuesday morning, I often write them the Sunday night before. That’s the case this week.

You may recall I’ve written about a handful of very carefully orchestrated outings that Barb and I have undertaken (an unfortunate word in a pandemic), getting carry out meals to eat in the car or at a park, and slipping into a bookstore or some other retails outlet at an off-time when few if any other customers can be spied. And, of course, only stores where you have to wear a mask to enter, even if you aren’t robbing the joint.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but the three times we’ve gone out on such outings have been lovely – it felt like the old days, way-way-way back in February of this year, when only our president and Bob Woodward knew the truth about Covad-19.

We had our day planned – another Quad Cities trip. We would again go Portillo’s, a wonderful drive-in restaurant, and then Barb would slip into the Van Maur department store at North Park Mall in Davenport while I would do the same at the Barnes & Noble, for perhaps half an hour. We timed it to arrive at Portillo’s around 10:45 a.m. and the mall at 11:30 (when it opened). We planned it with a precision that Nolan and Jon (if you’re reading this you really should know who that is) would envy.

Then we got up this morning and read the Quad City Times Sunday edition. It told of the 500 cases of Covid logged in the QC’s this week, mostly Iowa side of the river. It also mentioned that Iowa is number four among Covid hot spots in the nation.

And we stayed home.

And you know what? It wasn’t bad. We spent some time together in the morning (none of your business), I got us breakfast at Hardee’s (Mickey Spillane ate their biscuits every day), prepared the living room for carpet cleaning early this coming week (I will be upstairs and the cleaners will be downstairs) (in masks), and I finished up cleaning my office to prepare for beginning a new project tomorrow. Barb and I spent the evening watching three episodes of the British crime show New Tricks, which we have been bingeing. We ate hot dogs that were damn near Portillo’s-worthy.

Of course we also had to watch the president of the United States take a motorcade to nowhere to wave at his fans. Your tax dollars at work.

No, I’m not going to get political, because I have too many friends and business associates who are not just Republicans but support the president. Their privilege, and I don’t want to alienate any of my readers, either.

But just between us, the inside of my head is exploding, twenty-four hours a day.

* * *

I had a wild week, reminiscent of my pre-heart surgery younger days. With another deadline looming, I nonetheless agreed to write a first-draft screenplay for a movie based on “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” a non-Mike Hammer crime novella written by Mickey Spillane and yours truly. (It appeared as a sort of short subject before the main attraction in The Last Stand, the 100th anniversary Spillane novel.)

Basically I had to turn out twenty pages of finished script a day (“first draft” merely means the first version of a script, not something loose or sloppy or haphazard). The novella is a gloriously crazed collection of noir tropes, which attracted an established, Hard Case Crime-loving indie filmmaker to the material. My job was to assemble a bunch of short, fun, off-the-wall scenes into a more coherent whole, combining them, and making them play believably, mining a plot out of the mineral content, without losing what attracted the filmmaker in the first place.

I had a wonderful time. I just loved doing it.

Will it go anywhere? You never know. We have not signed a deal yet, but I had a window in which to work, so I grabbed it – if the project falls through, I’ll wind up with a screenplay, so no harm, no foul. If it goes forward, I am not carrying the ball – I am not the director, who will be doing a second draft from my first. Doesn’t bother me – he’s the director, and it’s his movie. Having talked to him at length, I liked what I heard, and we seem to be on the same page.

But this is the movies, and you never know. My version of The Last Lullaby – my script was faithfully novelized by me into The Last Quarry – was used by a young director to raise the money. I was the Road to Perdition guy, remember? Then a producer came aboard with his own writer and my screenplay was rewritten by someone I’ve never met. After that, I was able to do a polish, but I still wish my initial version had been shot.

On the other hand, despite certain problems with it, The Last Lullaby is still a damn good crime movie and probably a more accurate rendition of Quarry than the Cinemax series (though technically the main character is not Quarry – he’s “Price,” a name I think was appropriate).

Anyway, it’s the movies. I love the damn things, and I love my excursions into screenwriting.

But there’s a reason why you write novels.

They are yours.

* * *

A reminder that this coming Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, A. Brad Schwartz and I will be appearing via ZOOM at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas to talk about Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher. You don’t have to go to Vegas to participate, either.

And here’s a great review of the paperback edition of The Big Bang, only the second of the Spillane/Collins collaborative Mike Hammer novels.

M.A.C.

R.I.P. Emma Peel…and a Wolfpack Spy Revealed

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

I am, obviously, at that age when the icons of my youth are going on ahead of me into whatever lies ahead. Emma Peel is gone. Not at all forgotten.

Still, losing Diana Rigg at 82 sounds much too soon – she was still displaying her considerable acting skills and powers of personality in Victoria and the forthcoming Black Narcissus.

The British Invasion was the Big Thing when I was in high school, and that of course immediately brings to mind the Beatles and their fellow rock ‘n’ roll invaders. But the British Invasion was also James Bond, and the Spy Craze – even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an Ian Fleming brainchild (thought that fact has been lost in the shuffle a bit). Sometimes the rock aspect collided with the spy craze, as when Johnny Rivers did the theme song for Secret Agent (as the Brit Danger Man was retitled for USA consumption). And would Michael Caine’s career have gotten its jump start if Harry Palmer hadn’t brought John Lennon to mind in The Ipcress File (1965)?

From the UK came the greatest of Spy Craze TV series, The Avengers (well, let’s call it a tie with The Prisoner). Emma Peel’s predecessor – as the black catsuit-clad partner of bowler-and-bumbershoot-sporting John Steed, portrayed by urbane Patrick Macnee – was Cathy Gale. The original distaff martial-arts Avenger (to “boys” my age, those Marvel Avengers should be called the Pretenders) was Honor Blackman, whose final curtain call preceded Diana Rigg’s by just a few months.

The Bond connections are many. Honor Blackman was (could anyone reading this really not know) Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964); and Patrick Macnee was James Bond’s Lordly sidekick in the Roger Moore entry, View to a Kill (1985). Macnee was not, as some would have, the cousin of (sort of) James Bond, David Niven (Casino Royale, 1965), though the two actors did appear together in The Elusive Pimpernel (1950).

Most significantly, Diana Rigg portrayed Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), and became not just the love of Bond’s life but his wife, albeit briefly. The former Emma Peel was, not surprisingly, appealing in the role and her presence shored up the place-holder presence of George Lazenby as Bond in what was the greatest James Bond movie Sean Connery never made.

Diana Rigg was an accomplished and much-lauded screen actress, and I won’t go into all of her remarkable list of credits here. I’ll mention only my favorite performance by her, after Emma Peel and Tracy di Vicenzo, which is Arlena Stuart Marshall in Evil Under the Sun (1982), the best of the big screen Poirot movies (feel free to disagree, but do so knowing I’m not listening).

What is significant about Diana Rigg, it seems to me, is how she managed to be an actress of incredible sex appeal and at the same time convey an undeniable, even intimidating intelligence, at a time (the first Bond era, remember) when “birds” were mostly mini-skirts, eye make-up, and lots of teased hair. She could even smirk with intelligence, and the way she and The Avengers spoofed the inherently absurd spy fad gave the series its special zing. Her range as an actress is astonishing. I always had a sense that she wanted to give the audience her best, but if they didn’t like it, that was their problem.

So it is with a bittersweet smile, and a gathering sense of my own mortality, that I blow a kiss goodbye to Emma Peel, knowing that she and Diana Rigg will live forever.

Now, hoping it’s not a display of bad taste, I will segue into finally announcing the series that Matt Clemens and I are doing for Wolfpack. You’ll see the connection in a moment, or perhaps as soon as you hear the title of the first novel: Come Spy With Me.

Matt and I created the lead characters and developed the premise for the series twenty years ago in a couple of little seen short stories. John Sand is a recently retired British secret agent whose cover was blown world-wide when a famous series of novels by an ex-spy colleague of his became best sellers. The stories – at least the trilogy we have agreed to produce – take place in the, shall we say, Swinging Sixties.

John Sand has married a wealthy young woman named Stacey and, in Come Spy With Me, we join them on their honeymoon, where if we had any sense of propriety we wouldn’t witness their carnal conduct. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much propriety Matt Clemens and I have.

But not to worry. The mushy stuff is temporary – carnal gives way to carnage soon enough, and John Sand is as hard-edged a man of action as, well, the famous fictional spy that was based on him.

The name “Sand,” by the way, is a very much conscious tip of the jaunty ‘60s cap to the mono-named lead of Ennis Willie’s series of novels written in that era, which influenced me almost as much as Mickey Spillane, Richard Stark, and Ian Fleming.

You will hear more about this series as the weeks progress – the first book will, as I’ve indicated, be out well before the end of the year. We’ll have a cover to show you before too very long.

When Matt and I discussed getting an advance blurb from an appropriate author, only one name came to mind: Raymond Benson, author of officially licensed James Bond novels (and short stories and video games) and the landmark The James Bond Bedside Companion. Raymond is also the author of the Black Stiletto novels and Hotel Destiny – A Ghost Noir.

Raymond was gracious enough to look at Come Spy With Me in manuscript, and this is what he says:

Come Spy With Me is a heck of a ride! The characters are smooth, the real-world cameos are fun, the action is electric, and the sex is rightly retro. This homage to Mr. Fleming, Mr. Bond, and all the other pulp spy thrillers of the 1960s will leave you craving for the next installment!”

* * *

This is a lovely review of the forthcoming second Ms. Tree collection from Titan – Skeleton in the Closet.

Here is a compendium of reviews of Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher, mostly very good.

My co-author, A. Brad Schwartz and I, will be discussing Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher next Sunday, September 20, at 1 pm Central. Join us with your own questions.

M.A.C.

“Real” Books Now Available from Wolfpack!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

This will be a brief update because my office is shutting down for my son Nate to install a new computer with various new programs.

But I will take the time to announce the following: print versions of both Mommy and Mommy’s Day are available for $9.99. Be sure to click on PAPERBACK at the listing to get the right price (and cover). [Note from Nate: The links in this update go directly to Amazon.]

Also available as “real” books from Wolfpack are Murderlized – the collected short stories of Matt Clemens and me (10.99); all four Eliot Ness books, The Dark City, Butcher’s Dozen, Bullet Proof, and Murder by the Numbers ($10.99 each); and Murder His and Hers, stories by Barb and me ($9.99).

Your support of these titles will be much appreciated. Their success paves the way for new original books (and further reprints) by me, me and Matt, and me and Barb.

Yeah, I know – that’s an obnoxious amount of “me” – and “I” know it.

* * *

Here’s a great Kiss Her Goodbye review, reprinted from a long-ago post.

This is a rather tepid endorsement of Eliot Ness & the Mad Butcher.

Finally, here’s a list putting a story by Mickey Spillane and me on the “must-read” list.

M.A.C.

Murder – His and Hers, Venturing Out & Tracy One Last Time

Tuesday, August 25th, 2020
Murder - His & Hers
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

On September 2, Wolfpack’s new Kindle edition of Murder – His and Hers will be available at Amazon.

This collection was previously only an expensive hardcover by Five Star. This new edition will be followed soon by Too Many Tomcats, and before too very long a companion volume, Suspense – His and Hers.

These books collect short stories that Barb and I have written together as well as some written by us individually. Too Many Tomcats, which I edited, is mostly Barb’s solo stories, but all of these will be marketed as by “Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins.” Wolfpack wants to focus the books as part of their M.A.C. publishing program, so don’t think it’s my ego run (further) amok.

I am hoping that Wolfpack will eventually be publishing our the two collaborative novels, Regeneration and Bombshell, that preceded the long-running Antiques series of mysteries. Those, our first two novels together, were originally published under both our names and later, by Thomas & Mercer, as by “Barbara Allan.” We’re reverting to a joint byline for marketing purposes. All of these will soon be available in print editions (stay tuned).

We also have a collaborative short story coming out in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, though we haven’t been told in what issue yet – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” – set at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con, which seems like a very long time ago and a different world now. (I also sold a collaborative Spillane/Collins story to EQMM – “Killer’s Alley,” which will be the first Mike Hammer story ever published in those pages; naturally, it will be in their Black Mask section. Barb and I are both thrilled to be contributers to EQMM.)

My bride and I have been writing together for a long time. The process is similar to the one Matt Clemens and I use, although I don’t sleep with Matt, a situation he and I are both fine with. One difference is that I tend to come up with the initial idea when writing with Matt. Usually Barb comes up with the initial idea. Then she and I plot the story together, she writes the rough draft, and I do the second draft. It’s the same for both short stories and novels.

Tomorrow (Monday, as I write this) I will begin work on the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery novel – Antiques Carry On. Barb has completed her draft and I will start in, revising and expanding (she has given me 250 double-spaced pages and I will write 300 to 350 double-spaced pages). The only unusual factor this time is that I’ve already done my draft (from hers) of the first three chapters. That was necessary because we moved to a new publisher and needed to provide a substantial finished sample of the book to that publisher in the effort to land a contract.

We fully intend to keep going with the series, but we are at a funny (odd) juncture, which I trust is one many mystery writers with long-running series are experiencing. In plotting the next book, do we set it pre-pandemic or post-pandemic, or even during pandemic? The problem with post-pandemic, of course, is that none of us know what that will look like.

For seniors like us – and I have underlying health issues that magnify the situation – even a post-pandemic world will be tricky. Maybe it’s already occurred to you that you may have eaten at your last buffet. Or that how (or even if) you go out to the movies will be radically different.

Today, suffering from almost six months of cabin fever, we ventured tentatively out. Prior to Covid-19 we almost always took a day off every week that included going to either the nearby Quad Cities or Iowa City/Cedar Rapids for shopping, dining and sometimes a movie. We also have a nice movie theater here in Muscatine, and often took in films there – you may remember how often I did little movie reviews here back in the Good Old Days.

Since then, trips out for groceries and meds have been about it. I’ve cancelled doctor’s appointments and – although going to the local hospital for blood work – have had my consultations over the phone. We have been essentially sheltering in place since fairly early March.

But today we drove to the Quad Cities. We went through the drive-through at Portillo’s and got delicious food, which we ate in the car. We went briefly into the Davenport Books-a-Million, where masks are required and where the filled parking lot places were fairly sparse, and shopped a little and used the restroom (carefully) and drove home. An outing. An honest-to-God outing. On the way home we took the river road, which is scenic as hell and includes the quarry that Quarry was named after. We were listening to the audiobook of Quarry’s Ex read by the fabulous Stefan Rudnicki, so it was fitting.

In terms of what we used to do, it was kind of pitiful. After six months of sheltering, it was fabulous.

I don’t feel like we took any risks worse than our weekly grocery run. I know a lot of seniors get their groceries delivered, or pull up outside the supermarket for curbside service. But I rather pathetically look forward to a weekly grocery run – it’s early morning (we get up at six a.m. to make it there by seven) and it’s worth it, because the music is oldies, not country western, which you may have noticed I despise. The joy of hearing Bobby Rydell singing “Wild One” or Bobby Darin doing “Things” while I look for mini-cans of Coke Zero is difficult for me to articulate.

Meds we get going through a drive-up.

Also, I have a new appreciation for McDonald’s and Burger King.

So. What world will Barb and I write about when we do the next book about Brandy and Vivian Borne, if we’re lucky enough to get to keep going (as writers and as living breathing human beings)? How much zany laughter does a pandemic produce, anyway? I am planning to write a new Krista and Keith Larson novel – should I set it during the pandemic? Would that be interesting? Or will this be a period that no one will want to re-live? Yes, we look at movies made during the Depression, but mostly they are full of guys in tuxes and gals in ballgowns, or maybe Toby Wing wearing nothing but a great big dime.

And why is anybody still on the planet who would make a Toby Wing reference?

And yet the beat goes on.

* * *

This past week found me finishing up the second novella in the new series I’m doing for Neotext – more about that soon – and cleaning my office and dealing with copy-edited manuscripts and clearing my desk of smaller projects before I dive into Antiques Carry On.

One of those projects is writing the introduction to the 29th volume of The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy for IDW. I have written introductions to the previous 28 volumes, too.

And now, with Intro 29, I will have written about the entire run of Chester Gould’s Tracy. This volume ends immediately before my fifteen-year tenure begins. Writing about the last, less than stellar year and a half or so of Chet’s work – though that work definitely has its rewards – was a bittersweet experience. My intro gets personal, as during this period my pal Matt Masterson and I were, every six months or so, getting together with Chet at his Tribune Tower office and dining at the prestigious Tavern Club for lunch. On the first such visit, I met my future collaborator, Rick Fletcher. At the time I had no idea that I would be the second writer on this great, important comic strip.

So writing this final intro was indeed a bittersweet thing. Like this damn pandemic, it was gave me a real sense of my mortality – although once you’ve had open heart surgery, your mortality’s on your mind quite a bit, actually. Like – am I dying, or is that just gas? When I first met Chester Gould, he was 72. My age now.

I hope you Tracy fans are taking the time to read my little introductory essays, which I think are pretty good. And fans of mine who haven’t been collecting these Tracy volumes ought to start – but not with the last one. Try something from the ‘40s or early ‘50s and see just how good Chester Gould was at his peak.

* * *

Here’s a nice review of Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother. Scroll down for it.

And here’s a Quarry’s Choice review. Again, scroll down for it. This may be my favorite Quarry novel – definitely my favorite “list” book.

M.A.C.