Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

Reviews A Go Go (and a Book Giveaway!)

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
Antiques Fire Sale Paperback cover
Paperback:

We are offering ten copies of the paperback edition of Antiques Fire Sale, the hardcover edition of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek (Caleb York #6), and ten copies of the paperback edition of Hot Lead, Cold Justice (Caleb York #5) in exchange for reviews at Amazon and other reviewing sites/blogs. Amazon, of course, is key.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you!]

If you read the book and dislike it, you are relieved of your obligation to review it (though of course you can).

If you drop by here regularly, you know that reviews are a matter of some interest on these updates, and even of controversy. But reviews are important because they are one of the only sales tools available to authors. In our case, Barb and I are of an age (even before the pandemic) where we are no longer doing book tours. For years we supported our books with trips to such exotic locales as California, Texas and New York. But a waning desire to travel, and the increasing ineffectiveness of signings, has made book tours less attractive to us. (Centuries and Sleuths in Chicago remains our only regular stop.)

For a long time we maintained regular attendance at Bouchercon, where we could do signings for readers from hither and yon, but health issues prevented attending several of those and of course Covid prevented Bouchercon entirely last year. And we have already decided to pass on New Orleans.

We also did San Diego Comic Con regularly, but that too fell victim to health issues and later the pandemic. I will be doing a one-man (well, two-man because Andrew Sumner of Titan is interviewing me) panel for the upcoming virtual SDCC.

Barb and I hope to do both Bouchercon and SDCC next year. Those health issues I mentioned are well in hand, but we had to skip Bouchercon because of my heart surgery and later lung surgery, and Barb’s pertussis, which had me landing in New Orleans and immediately getting called back to Iowa, never getting beyond the New Orleans airport.

How much good reviews do, I’m not sure. But they seem to be the only thing left to us. They are not infallible –Antiques Ravin’ got rave reviews in all four publishing industry trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist), after which the series was promptly dropped by Kensington after thirteen successful entries.

The good news about the Antiques/Trash ‘n’ Treasures series, of course, is that we’re doing it for another publisher now – Severn, a British house, which pleases Vivian Borne no end (everything, she reports, is “tickety boo”).

And now I will interrupt myself to share with you this remarkable review for the first Severn House Antiques entry, Antiques Carry On, from Publisher’s Weekly.

Antiques Carry On Cover
Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo
Antiques Carry On
Barbara Allan. Severn, $28.99

Allan’s fast, funny 15th Trash ‘ n’ Treasures mystery (after 2020’s Antiques Fire Sale) takes brassy Vivian Borne and her long-suffering daughter, Brandy, the owners of the Trash ‘n’ Treasures antiques shop in Serenity, Iowa, to London, where, at the request of fellow Serenity antiques dealer Skylar James, they drop by the Old Curiosity Shop, whose proprietor, Humphrey Westcott, has a reprint of Murder on the Orient Express for Skylar to give his Christie-loving wife. When Humphrey is found stabbed to death with a letter-opener bearing Brandy’s fingerprints, the women are interrogated by a representative of MI5. Fortunately, CCTV footage proves the Bornes’ innocence, and they are unceremoniously sent back to Iowa, where more suspicious deaths await them. The pair investigate in their own inimitable fashion, eventually discovering a link between the murders and the copy of Murder on the Orient Express. Vivian and Brandy share narrative duties, and their amusing commentary provides much of the book’s appeal (Vivian admits she has “just a teensy-weensy, hardly-worth-mentioning, hint of bi-polar disorder”). Allan (the pen name of Barbara and Max Allan Collins) consistently entertains.

We are obviously thrilled about that one. The book will be out in early July. And the industry trades, PW a star in that galaxy of four planets, fuel both library and bookstore sales.

Let me interrupt this discussion (if me yammering can be so described) and share a wonderful fan letter we received – an actual, physical, through-the-mail letter.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Collins,

Thank you so much for continuing to add new novels to the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series. I just finished reading Antiques Fire Sale. I am looking forward to the release of your newest addition, Antiques Carry On! The characters seem almost like friends to me, since I have followed their adventures and shenanigans through all of your novels.

My sister Jessica Butler and I are huge fans! We share laughs as we discuss the stories. Please keep writing because your works bring joy and delight into our world! Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

Best wishes,
Suzanne Schumann

Fan photo

To say this kind of response makes our day (and not in a Dirty Harry sense) is an understatement. A reader response like this makes the struggle worth it, and believe me, writing – and publishing – is a struggle. Hoping it doesn’t sound patronizing, I am so proud of Barb for developing into a wonderful writer and collaborator – she is the one who makes these books really, really special.

* * *

On another front, it’s been difficult to get reviews for the John Sand series. This may be because Wolfpack – despite getting huge attention in the trades for its burgeoning success and innovative ways – places an emphasis on e-book publication, which seems (to me at least) to make reviews from the trades more difficult to get. How difficult? Neither Come Spy With Me nor Live Fast, Spy Hard has received a single review in any one of them.

Which is why the Amazon reader reviews are so crucial, as are reviews on Internet sites and in the handful of surviving newsstand mystery magazines (Ellery Queen, Strand, Mystery Scene). Thankfully we have had support from two key sites, Bookgasm and Pulp Fiction Reviews, and the Rap Sheet may be doing reviews soon. With your forbearance, I will share the Bookgasm review of Live Fast, Spy Hard with you right now:

Live Fast, Spy Hard, the second title in the John Sand series by Max Allan Collins and his writing partner, Matthew Clemens, again features the former MI6 agent and his wife, Stacey. This time, however, Stacey is the cause of the problems that send Sand around the globe while keeping one stop ahead of potential assassins.

John Sand is living out his role as a high-ranking executive of the oil company owned by Stacey’s father. But all the while he keeps a secret from his wife. He has been tracking Jake Lonestarr, the traitorous business partner of Stacey’s father. Lonestarr is assumed dead, but Sand still feels he is still at large.

Then Stacey mysteriously disappears. Lonestarr is the chief suspect in Sand’s search for his wife. But there is reason to believe that Las Vegas gangster Anthony Morello might also be responsible. Or is Stacey actually hiding from someone that Sand does not know of?

Sand’s search takes him Berlin to Mexico, and finally to the jungles of Curacao. But can he find his missing wife before an army of assassins catches up with him?

The authors present the novel in a third-person perspective, keeping the focus mainly with Sand. There are, however, occasional shifts that allow us to know the thoughts and emotions of Stacey and those intent on ending Sand’s life.

And while the novel’s tone and structure continues to follow the traditions of Ian Fleming’s classic James Bond stories, the references to Bond are noticeably less than the first Sand novel (Come Spy With Me), but Collins and Clemens continue their satirical wordplay with both the title and chapter headings.

Also reduced are the real-life figures Sand encounters. Here, they are mainly confined to President John F. Kennedy – who tries to enlist Sand into a new international spy agency — and, briefly, movie legend John Wayne.

Familiarity with the first Sand novel is not essential. The authors even devote the opening chapter to how Sand and Stacey first met. But reading this latest Sand adventure is greatly enhanced if you already met both characters.

Is this the last encounter of John Sand and his beautiful, resourceful wife? That, it seems, is up to Collins and Clemens. For the time being, we have these two thoroughly entertaining and exciting thrillers to enjoy. —Alan Cranis

Well, Live Fast, Spy Hard will not be the last John Sand book, because just last night Matt and I shipped To Live and Spy in Berlin to Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop.

We love doing these books and the only way we will stop is if sales don’t encourage us to continue. Reader response has been excellent – lots of nice things have been (and are being) said on Facebook about John Sand. But we need you readers out there who like Quarry, Mike Hammer, Nolan, and Nate Heller (even the Antiques fans) to give Sand, John Sand, a try.

Ron Fortier at Pulp Fiction Reviews also likes Live Fast, Spy Hard. His lovely review is right here.

Finally, here’s another great Shoot-out at Sugar Creek review.

M.A.C.

Barb’s Mom and Writing From Experience

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Barb’s mother passed away last week. I mention this not to initiate a flood of condolence wishes, which since Barb does not use Facebook might fall on deaf ears anyway. Dorothy Carolyn Jensen Mull was 97 and had endured a long bedridden convalescence, although saying Dot’s passing was a “blessing” in a way does not make it any easier for Barb and her six siblings.

I mention it here because Dorothy deserves thanks and recognition for inspiring, to a degree, the character Vivian Borne in the Antiques cozy mystery series that Barb and I write. This is not to say that Dot was a zany eccentric or a local theater diva – neither was the case. But she was highly spirited and for a number of years went antiquing with Barb from this flea market to that garage sale. This led to Barb and her mom running a booth at an antiques mall together for a good number of years, which was a major inspiration for the book series.

And I am happy to say that Dot enjoyed the Trash ‘n’ Treasures mysteries, which in her later years (with her eyesight failing) were read to her by Barb’s sister Anne.

I go into this in part because it speaks to Barb’s methods and mine where it comes to writing fiction. Though we work in a genre with its own conventions and (to use the tiresome current favorite term) tropes, we both instill elements from our own experience in our storytelling. The psychologist character in the Antiques books draws from Barb’s sister Cindi, yes, a psychologist. Barb has an older sister just as Brandy Borne does, although past a few superficial similarities the resemblance ends there. She also has a sister, Kathe, whose work in Broadway theater impacted our novel, Antiques Con. My brother-in-law Gary inspired a friend of Quarry’s who has somehow managed not to get killed, either in real life or fiction.

This kind of thing goes back to the earliest days of my career, when I was first able to inject elements of my real life into my crime-fiction fantasy. Mourn the Living had an Iowa City setting and reflected the hippie era there when I was in college. Bait Money finds Nolan and Jon robbing the bank where Barb was working at the time; she provided me with their security protocols!

Even in writing historical fiction I draw upon my own experiences. I wouldn’t have written The Titanic Murders if I hadn’t read in grade school a Tab book club edition of Jacque Futrelle’s The Thinking Machine. Getting betrayed by my best friend from high school (who embezzled from me) played a part in any number of my novels in the last twenty years, including Quarry’s Ex, which also drew upon my experiences making indie movies.

Anyway, it’s a lesson aspiring writers in any genre should take to heart. Don’t just write out of the books you’ve read and movies and TV you’ve seen. Draw on your experiences even in the context of mystery fiction or s-f or westerns or…really, any genre.

And one last thing – thank you, Dorothy. You inspired me, through your daughter and your own unique spirit.

* * *
Scarface and the Untouchable Cover

Scarface and the Untouchable – the Capone/Ness non-fiction work by Brad Schwartz and me – hit the entertainment news last week. CBS is exercising their option to pick up the property for a series and it’s going to Showtime. We’ll see if it happens.

Read about it here, where you’ll discover my middle name is “Allen” and that apparently no one but me (and you) remembers that this all began with The Untouchables TV series starring Robert Stack.

* * *

Barb and I went to a movie at the local theater for the first time since the pandemic hit – something like fourteen months. We are, as you may be aware, frequent moviegoers and it was definitely strange to be back doing something so familiar after over a year and a half away from it. The theater did a good job with every other row blocked off and masks in the outer areas. We went at an off-time (3:30 pm on a Sunday) and were among perhaps seven other moviegoers.

The film was terrific – Wrath of Man, starring Jason Stratham and directed by Guy Ritchie. I like Ritchie’s films very much – he is essentially the UK’s Tarantino. It’s a very hardboiled crime story and not for the faint of heart (or the five year-old whose parents took her to this screening), minus the humor and quick cutting of most Ritchie films. This has more of a Richard Stark feel than the Parker film Stratham starred in a few years ago.

* * *

Here’s a wonderful review of Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, the new Caleb York.

And another.

Jeez, maybe you guys ought to read this one.

M.A.C.

And Now the Creator of Corliss Archer…Just As You Expected….

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

It’s very encouraging to see the positive reader and reviewer response to the two newest books of mine, Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek and Skim Deep. Right out of the gate, however, Skim Deep received an absolutely terrible Publisher’s Weekly review, and I wondered if I’d delivered a bomb; but every review since has been stellar, like this one from Steve Steinbock in the new Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine:

**** Max Allan Collins, Skim Deep, Hard Case Crime, $12.95. Nolan is on his way to Las Vegas to marry the love of his life. The former thief has come to an amicable arrangement with the Chicago mob and now owns a restaurant in Davenport, Iowa. But the family of an old enemy has a score to settle with him, and a former colleague wants to involve him in a Vegas skim operation. Nolan will need his wits and his comic-collecting sidekick Jon to get out of this alive. Loaded with blood, sex, and humor, the Nolan series was created by Collins in the early 1970s as an homage to Donald Westlake’s Parker novels. Skim Deep, set in the late 1980s, is Collins’s first Nolan book in more than thirty years.

And thus far the reader response has been glowing, too. Shoot-out at Sugar Creek is also getting raves from readers. This is from Dave at GoodReads:

In a dry parched land filled with gunfire and cattle, the tag team of the late Mickey Spillane and his friend Max Allan Collins have delivered a double trifecta, six exciting westerns that are so good you’ll read them cover to cover even if you don’t normally read westerns. Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek offers us readers a Hatfield-McCoy type feud when knockout Victoria Hammond and her sons move into the Trinidad area with her eyes on Willa Cullen’s Bar-O Ranch and aims to take it by any means necessary. Don’t think the women out there in the Wild West were all shrinking violets. Never have two such forceful determined women faced off before and the West may never be the same. Like all the books in the Caleb York series, the writing is tight, the action furious, the stakes high. What a great read!

A bunch of other five-star reviews follow, some of the best I’ve ever received at GoodReads.

So why am I splashing around in all this praise raining down on me? Because it shows the ironies of the working writer’s life. Kensington cancels Caleb York and I immediately get more praise for it than any other book in the series. I write one last book (Skim Deep) about Nolan, who I created around 1968 and who was first in print in 1972, and suddenly people love him just when I’ve determined not to write about him anymore.

Two for the Money cover

Well, you never know with me. I have a habit of coming back to characters – Quarry a prime example – after they have supposedly run their course. I’ve started thinking about a possible Quarry/Nolan crossover novel already. And thanks to Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime, the existing Nolans are all coming back out in two-to-novels-to-one-book format. A new edition of Two for the Money (collecting the first two Nolans, Bait Money and Blood Money) is available now. Such a deal.

And Wolfpack has expressed interest in continuing Caleb York, but – as I mentioned last week – I am booked up into early next year, so that’s a decision that’s on hold.

Here’s Bill Ott’s Booklist review of today about my yesterday books.

Two for the Money
By Max Allan Collins
May 2021. Hard Case Crime, paper, $14.95

The reappearance of Collins’ first series hero, superthief Nolan, in Skim Deep (2020) was an unexpected treat for the author’s fans, but it was only the first course. Now Hard Case Crime is reissuing all of the long-out-of-print Nolan novels. This volume brings together the original Nolan adventure, Bait Money, along with its sequel Blood Money. Originally conceived as a one-off homage to Donald E. Westlake’s Parker, Nolan immediately stood on his own legs, and, with Westlake’s blessing, Collins went on to give the aging thief, tough as they come but longing to get out of the game, extended life through seven novels published in the ’70s and ’80s. These first two hold up just fine, thanks to Collins’ ability to create indelible characters in a few brushstrokes and to construct plots that are just twisty enough to work. Bait Money finds Nolan, nearing 50 with gray hairs sprouting, forced to take on a bank job with a trio of headstrong youngsters. Naturally, it goes bad, leading to the revenge plot in Blood Money. An old-school pulpy pleasure, but with plenty of meat on its bones.

Despite (or perhaps because of) all this praise, I find myself reflecting on the ephemeral nature of writing popular fiction (not that all the fiction I write is particularly popular). I have been mulling of late the fate of F. Hugh Herbert, who has become a favorite writer of mine. And now, for those of you who have waded through all this shameless self-promotion and yay-me applause, I am about to subject you to something that will strike many of you as ridiculously obscure even for me.

Last year, when I began working on the first of the three Fancy Anders novellas for Neo-Text (more news about them soon), I gathered research about the WW 2 home-front in general and Los Angeles in particular. My main focus was on female defense plant workers and the Rosie the Riveter phenomenon. I encountered a wonderful book called Slacks and Calluses (1944) by two teachers, writer Constance Reid and illustrator Clara Marie Allen, a memoir of a summer vacation working at an aircraft plant. It’s a terrific, funny, insightful book and still in print.

I loved it so much I sprang for an original edition in dustjacket signed by the authors, including a Clara Marie Allen drawing. The co-authors went onto distinguished careers in writing and art respectively.

I also picked up, to get some flavor of wartime America and particularly a feel for a young woman of the times, the book Meet Corliss Archer (1944). A handful of you will be pop culture junkies enough to remember Corliss Archer, once a household-name character who began in a series of Good Housekeeping short stories that were gathered loosely into a sort of novel called, yup, Meet Corliss Archer.

Kiss and Tell poster

The character was part of an era that produced Andy Hardy, Henry Aldrich, and Archie and his gang, but of course the focus was on a teenage girl. I found the book charming and funny and a snapshot of the era, featuring wonderfully forgotten slang and very interesting attitudes of the day. The Corliss Archer stories became a huge hit Broadway show, Kiss and Tell (1945), and later a film starring a “grown-up” Shirley Temple, followed by a sequel, A Kiss for Corliss (1949). A radio show ran from January 7, 1943, to September 30, 1956, and there were briefly comic strips and comic books (drawn by EC’s Jack Kamen and Al Feldstein) about Corliss, her boyfriend Dexter, her parents and others. The radio show’s most famous Corliss was Janet Waldo, who was the voice of Judy Jetson on, well, The Jetsons. TV versions of Kiss and Tell played live in the early ‘50s, followed by a not very good Meet Corliss Archer TV series.

Creator F. Hugh Herbert had little if anything to do with the TV series, but he was apparently somewhat hands on with the radio show. He wrote the screenplay for the film of Kiss and Tell but not the not-so-good sequel.

Herbert isn’t the “woo woo” comedian, by the way, despite what some Internet sources may tell you. But he was an enormously successful playwright and screenwriter. His play The Moon Is Blue (1951) is infamous for the Otto Preminger film version (1953) going out without the Production Code seal. It was mildly racy by today’s standards, but the word “virgin” was a big no-no in movies then, and in Blue it was uttered several shocking times on screen.

Herbert was very good at racy dialogue, and actually dialogue in general. His screenplays include Dark Command, Margie, Sitting Pretty, Home Sweet Homicide and Let’s Make It Legal. He wrote and directed a few films, including Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (in which Marilyn Monroe spoke her first screen line).

Herbert began in silent films when a novel of his, There You Are! (1925), attracted Hollywood attention. While his plays generated a number of Broadway hits, his novels attracted little notice (except for Meet Corliss Archer). He only wrote a handful – five that I know of. I’ve located all of ‘em (no small trick) with only the first 1920s-era novel left to go. I’ve read most of his plays, as well.

Look, I get on a “kick” every now and then. Somebody’s work interests me and I start tugging on loose strings in search of a sweater. I can only say I like F. Hugh Herbert’s work. He would probably get into trouble today because he liked to explore (long before Lolita) the attraction between young women and older men. Margie, a very popular film considered a harmless 1946 piece of fluff about the 1920s, is about a teenage girl going to the prom with her male French teacher (who in a postscript we discover she married).

Herbert was, in his way, pushing the sexual envelope in the 1940s and ‘50s. Kiss and Tell revolves around Corliss Archer’s parents thinking Corliss is pregnant by a soldier on leave – not something you’d find in Andy Hardy or Henry Aldrich, and I’m pretty sure Archie never got Betty or Veronica in the family way.

The Moon Is Blue was notorious for its sexual content, however innocuous it now seems. The dialogue remains witty.

His novel A Lover Would Be Nice (1935) is about a shallow young woman who marries a nice if somewhat boring young man and ponders whether an affair would improve things; the conclusion is surprisingly adult. The Revolt of Henry (1937), a wonderfully written novel, is about a henpecked personnel man at a department store whose wife is casually cruel and takes Henry to the brink of murder. Henry has an affair with a younger woman, of course, and the ramifications are also surprisingly adult and modern in what essentially is a James M. Cain novel that somehow doesn’t result in homicide and/or prison. Herbert’s final novel, I’d Rather Be Kissed (1954), rather shamelessly reboots Corliss Archer but changes her name and everyone else’s, though the cast is otherwise identical right down to the dumb family dog. He states on the dustjacket that he’s been inspired by J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye to take things up a level. And he does, brilliantly.

He died shortly thereafter at age 61.

I am not recommending these books. You might find them too dated or the young woman/older man aspect creepy. And you might be right. But I liked Herbert’s artistry and craft, and his sort-of-novel Meet Corliss Archer was very helpful to me in creating Fancy Anders.

But mainly I’m not recommending his novels because you won’t be able to find them, except perhaps Meet Corliss Archer in a reprint edition or a first edition sans dust jacket (you don’t want to know what my copy of the latter cost me in dust jacket) (or anyway Barb doesn’t). And that’s my point.

F. Hugh Herbert was once a famous author and playwright responsible for two major pop culture creations (Corliss Archer and The Moon Is Blue). You likely never heard of him. You can see a good number of the movies he wrote, and probably already have, but his novels are gone. As if they never existed.

The ephemeral nature of what his accomplishments add up to troubles me. I mean, I already knew the sun was going to burn up someday, but I was kind of hoping my body of work would last till then, in some form.

Many of the authors I really admire are either forgotten or on their way to obscurity – Calder Willingham, William March, Mark Harris.

What that leaves, in all this, is you – those of you still out there reading, and the ones reading my work please know…I am grateful.

* * *

Let’s wind up with this delightful review of Quarry’s List by someone who has read a lot of my stuff and really seems to get it.

M.A.C.

Caleb York Rides…One Last Time?

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Hardcover: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N) Powell's
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook: Libro.fm Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

Today the sixth – and, for now at least, final – Caleb York western, Shoot-Out at Sugar Creek, goes on sale. Those of you who won advanced copies are now free to review it. It’s a hardcover. The previous Caleb York, Hot Lead, Cold Justice, is out simultaneously in mass market paperback.

I usually just provide a link, but this review from that first-rate writer Ron Fortier at his Pulp Fiction Review blog is too good not to share.

Here it is, and thank you, Ron:

SHOOT-OUT AT SUGAR CREEK
A Caleb York Western
By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Kensington Books

The sixth chapter in the Caleb York series picks where the fifth ended, with the people of Trinidad New Mexico dealing with the aftermath of the worst winter recorded in the west. Many of the local ranchers, having lost most of their stock, have packed up and left the territory, while Willa Cullen, owner of the big Bar-O, is struggling with a decimated herd and a lack of clean running water to support them. The only unfouled source is Sugar Creek which sits on neighboring Circle G land.

As the story opens, the once abandoned ranch is bought by a beautiful widow named Victoria Hammond, who entertains grandiose plans to become the richest, most powerful figure in the county. Events get off on less than desirable footing when Sheriff Caleb York is forced to shoot and kill Victoria’s youngest of three sons for raping and savagely beating a local working girl. Upon meeting the woman to respectfully report the circumstances of the shooting, York discovers that she has no intentions of allowing any other ranchers access to Sugar Creek. She is also planning on buying out Willa for pennies on the dollar. No stranger to past range wars, York finds himself in the precarious role of peace-keeper, between the woman he loves and the ambitious widow Hammond.

Along about this time, we found ourselves musing over Collins’ ingenuous plot with its echoes of a several classic television settings. Thus far the adventures of Caleb York and Trinidad have seemed much like Matt Dillon in the popular Gunsmoke series. Whereas with this book, he offers up a dark-mirror image of another well known oater, The Big Valley; what with Victoria Barclay (note the same first name) and her three boys. That the two, York and Victoria Hammond are on a collision course is obvious from their first scene together. Then, in his usual masterful touch, Collins ups the ante and violence erupts quickly towards the tale’s second half leaving blisters on our fingers. We simply could not put it down. The end was so Mickey Spillane, it was eerie.

We’ve enjoyed all the Caleb York books but this one clearly stands out as a high mark. Nobody spins a yarn like Max Collins. Nobody.

As for why this is the last Caleb York, at least for a while, it’s simple: Kensington didn’t ask for any more. I have strong interest, however, from Wolfpack, who have (obviously) been incredibly supportive of my work of late, and they are a top publisher of westerns. So Caleb may saddle up there in the (as Mystery Science Theater puts it) not too distant future.

Well, somewhat distant, because I am booked up for the rest of the year and into the next. Ironically, a lot of this has to do with getting ready for the 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer next year. This includes a new Hammer novel, developed from an unpublished Spillane manuscript, and I haven’t started that yet. Very much under way is a biography of Mickey for Mysterious Press, which Jim Traylor and I are doing. I’m also considering an expanded version of my documentary, Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, if I can work it in. Also on the docket is a possible non-Hammer novel based on an unproduced Spillane screenplay, which I may do for Wolfpack – still in the talking stages, but….

In addition, I have an Antiques novel to co-write and a Nate Heller(although that will slop over somewhat into next year). And currently I’m doing the third John Sand novel with Matt Clemens – working from his draft, I’m half-way through mine. It’s called To Live and Spy in Berlin.

Besides all this, I’m involved with getting my ‘40s female PI Fancy Anders out to the reading public. She will appear in three novellas: Fancy Anders Goes to War; Fancy Anders For the Boys; and Fancy Anders Goes Hollywood. These are written. When they are collected into book form, I intend to title it Meet Fancy Anders. These are for Neo-Text, who will be bringing them out initially as e-books.

Neo-Text will also be doing e-books of the three-part serialized The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me. That will be the title of the eventual collected edition. I’m pleased to announce that the incredible Howard Chaykin will be illustrating Jimmy Leighton.

As I’ve mentioned here before, artist Fay Dalton, a fantastic talent, is doing the illos for Fancy Anders. She’ll be doing cover illos as well as one illustration per chapter (numbering 10 per novella, not counting covers). Some will be in color, a few in black-and-white or partial color for a noir effect. We have not seen Howard’s work on Jimmy yet, but I know it will be outstanding. This is not comics, or graphic novels, rather prose novels that include a good amount of strong artwork, perhaps invoking the classic magazine illustration of the ‘30s through the ‘50s.

To give you the first look at Fancy, I’ve included one of her roughs, which I predict will knock your eyes out and your socks off. I am incredibly excited about both of these Neo-Text projects. They are at once typical of my work even as each charts a new course.

Cover sketch for Fancy Anders Goes to War

* * *

There was a bit of fuss last week over my stating that if a winner in a book giveaway here didn’t like that book, the responsibility to review the book could be considered optional.

A bait and switch went on to some degree, because the complaining parties seemed not to be winners in the book giveaways, but actual paying customers…and of course an actual paying customer can dislike a book and say so in an Amazon review with my (grudging) blessing.

But this seemed to be really about those who don’t like my complaining (which I did) about self-professed “big fans” advising other big fans not to read the book – scaring off other paying customers. No law against that, but I don’t think they understand the concept of Amazon reviews. When you write a review for Amazon, or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads, you are not a professional reviewer with the status and credibility of a critic in, say, Entertainment Weekly or for that matter The New York Times. You’re just a reader expressing an opinion. Which is fine. But the public forum you’re in does carry weight, and particularly at Amazon with its averaging of reviews, its reliance on the number of reviews, and policy of showing a “top” negative review.

I went into some detail about this in the comments last week, and so did people on both sides of this fence, and you may wish to check that out.

* * *

This is a long, freewheeling interview (audio only) with my buddy Andrew Sumner, one of my favorite people on the planet.

M.A.C.