Posts Tagged ‘Scratch Fever’

Not Another Book Giveaway! Also, Entertain or Impress?

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022
Tough Tender Cover
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Yes, just one week later and it’s another book giveaway.

Hard Case Crime continues its wonderful (to me, anyway) series of Nolan reprints, with two novels to a volume and terrific, movie poster-ish Mark Eastbrook covers. Tough Tender, including both Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, will be published March 22. I have ten advance copies for readers willing to do a review at Amazon (and/or other Barnes & Noble and other review sites). This is USA only and (IMPORTANT) you must include your snail-mail address, even if you’re entered and won before. [All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support!]

These novels were the last in the original Nolan cycle – all of them (save Scratch Fever) were written for Curtis Books in the early seventies, and later minorly revised when Pinnacle Books picked the series up. Only Bait Money and Blood Money (the first two) saw publication from Curtis Books in 1973. Scratch Fever was written expressly for Pinnacle, and would be the last Nolan until Spree in the eighties. Spree, designed to be the last in the series, has been followed by a “coda” novel, Skim Deep, out last year.

I continue to emphasize the importance of reviews at Amazon in particular. Some of these books – the Hard Case Crime titles and Titan titles – you can find in your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore. But the likes of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton (by Dave Thomas and me, and a book I really love), Fancy Anders Goes to War (I love you, too, Fancy!) and No Time to Spy (the new John Sand omnibus by Matt Clemens and me) can only be ordered online – Amazon probably your best bet.

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As I mentioned in recent posts, I’ve decided to slow down my rate of production. In 2021 I amped things up, and you’ll be seeing the results in the coming months, in part due to this year’s 75th anniversary of the debut of Mike Hammer in I, the Jury. I am hopeful that Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction (the biography by Jim Traylor and me) – will get some special notice. An Edgar nomination is the dream, but Mickey Spillane on Screen by Jim and me, which I remain very proud of, was roundly ignored. Skim Deep got great reviews and was mentioned on not a single “Best of 2021 Mysteries” lists.

I talked a bit last time about books like mine that aim to entertain rather than impress. It’s the books that try to impress (and are often no fun at all) that get the acclaim. Frustrating as that can be, I don’t envy my peers who get the accolades. For one thing, I’ve had my share of honors over the years – maybe more than my share. For another, to be jealous of another writer you have to be willing to trade your book for one of theirs. I might like Angel in Black to have the sales and reputation of The Black Dahlia, but I wouldn’t swap it for a box of Edgars and a boxcar of money.

If writing isn’t about the writer, it isn’t about anything at all.

I mention The Black Dahlia only because a genuine frustration I feel comes from the countless times some well-meaning reader says to me, “You are one of two favorite writers. The other is James Ellroy.”

I usually don’t comment on other writers, and I won’t here, except to say Ellroy is the rare fellow writer I have at times admitted not caring for (his work – personally, our encounters have always been friendly). It just makes a writer’s brain hurt and maybe explode when fans say their other favorite writer is somebody whose work that writer deplores.

But it makes sense that somebody who likes Ellroy’s fiction might like both his and mine. We work the same side of the 20th Century true-crime street, which is enough to attract the same readers. Sex and violence and traditional hard-boiled themes occur in both of us. What somebody like me has to wrap his head around is this: a reader may have the capacity to like two very different approaches to the same subject matter. In fact, a reader should have the capacity to do that.

Writers, however, often have tunnel vision in this area. For me writing is a trial-and-error process. I don’t mean the plotting or the story selection or any of that. I refer to the actual word-for-word hammering it out, the way sentences are assembled, the way paragraphs get put together. On another level, thematic concerns come into play, albeit often subconsciously – world view.

What I am trying to do, in a perhaps stumbling way, is what I’ve been doing all along: attempting to perfect my approach to storytelling. This is one reason why I don’t read much fiction anymore, especially mystery/crime. I’m no longer interested in being influenced. On some perhaps naive level, I am trying to come up with The Way to Write Crime Fiction.

I should be glad that Ellroy’s approach differs so drastically from mine. I should understand that the reader is somebody who goes along Restaurant Row and sometimes eats Chinese and sometimes Italian, and loves both. Nothing wrong with that.

With Ellroy, I have encountered too many smart people who like his work to dismiss their opinions. I have come to accept that I have had a strong element of envy in my reaction to him, because he is more successful in terms of readership, acclaim, earning power, etc. But where he isn’t more successful (and is in no way trying to be) is as the author of Max Allan Collins novels.

Shakespeare said the play is the thing. From this we extrapolate that the novel is the thing – the fiction (short stories and movie scripts, too) a writer creates is the thing. I congratulate any writer who can manage to make a living doing this throughout a lifetime – even me.

Even James Ellroy.

Smart people’s tastes vary. Here is the sentence many consider to be the best first sentence in private eye fiction; it’s by James Crumley in The Last Good Kiss:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

You may like it very much, and you won’t be the only intelligent human who shares that opinion. I think it’s a lousy first sentence, overloaded and too cute and trying way too hard. Really, just horrible.

We’re both right.

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Speaking of right, here’s a lovely review of The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton from Ron Fortier.

Road to Perdition, the graphic novel, has made a list of the best 110 “thriller books.”

The film is highly regarded here.

And here.

M.A.C.

A Free Quarry Book, Plus Why Reviews Do and Don’t Matter

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

Here is an interview with me about two upcoming Hard Case Crime titles, Quarry’s Blood and Tough Tender, conducted by the great Andrew Sumner of Titan.

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Quarry's Blood cover
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And now – the first book giveaway of 2022. I have ten advance copies of Quarry’s Blood available to the first ten interested readers. [All copies have been claimed. Thank your for your support! — Nate]

More book giveaways will follow – I hope to get some copies of No Time To Spy to offer soon, and I have on hand advance copies of Tough Tender (which collects the Nolan novels Hard Cash and Scratch Fever), which will be given out possibly next time.

These reviews are extremely important in an era when I am no longer doing signings and haven’t done a convention since Covid came calling. Even brief reviews are appreciated, particularly since there are a handful of apparent trolls out there who want to make sure I can’t make a living during my dotage.

A No Time to Spy review, by the way, accuses you fine people of laziness, concluding: “And by the way most of the positive comments to the Sand trilogy as of today are copy and paste from the Collins blog.” (Feel free to defend yourself in the comments area under that review, which is by Robert Hölzl, who knows he hates all three Sand novels – would you keep reading a series you dislike? – but does not know how to spell my name.)

Just to clear the palate, here is a wonderful write-up from Facebook that just popped up out of nowhere, from Rick Greene:

I love the Quarry novels. They are all fast reads, masterful page-turners that one completes in one or two sittings, wildly violent, wickedly funny, the ultimate anti-hero. As much as I love Quarry – and the Spillane/Collins Hammer novels – I consider Max Allan Collins’ masterwork to be the Nathan Heller series. I’m just more than halfway through these detective thrillers that take real life crimes and revisit them via a fun house mirror. The Heller’s are NOT fast reads – they are dense, complex, deeply moving stories that often leave the reader emotionally shattered at the finale. You have to pay attention and turn the pages slowly. The Heller’s are books to savor, to immerse one’s self in. I’ve said before that the Quarry books are cake and ice cream where the Heller series are a five course gourmet meal. I love them all for different reasons. Collins is my favorite living author… and I hope he goes right on living and writing for a few more decades. Just imagine if Ian Fleming had lived another twenty years – the unusual and complex places he could have taken James Bond as they both aged together. I can’t wait to read about the true last Quarry adventure and to revisit Heller as much as Collins will indulge us with. Bring it on.

This came at a lovely time because (a) the new Quarry book is about to be published, and (b) I have just started writing the new Nate Heller. And the Hellers have always been hard to write, but I find that, at my age, the process may be the same but I am not. I was struggling with the first chapter and then Rick Greene’s nice words came along.

What was really nice about these words is that they were just a heart-felt reader’s outpouring of appreciation – not a review. I feel like I can take Rick’s words to heart whereas it’s dangerous to believe any review, good or bad. And then there’s karma….
Later the same day I read Rick’s celebration of my work, I came upon a current review of (the 39-year-old) True Detective that was patronizing and close to nasty in things it said about my work. I write “bad dialogue,” I’m told, and the reader has to slog through my work, and as a stylist I have all the poetry of the directions on a paint can. I would have shared this condescending thing with you, but I failed when I tried to track it back down via Google.

The review was well-written and not stupid, although – as usual – no proof backing the opinions was provided. How about quoting a few clumsy sentences to make your point, or reprinting a particularly bad patch of dialogue? (By the way, I have been publishing since 1971 and have never before had my dialogue singled out for anything but praise.)

The danger for a writer – and let’s pretend Rick Greene was writing a review and not just a sending me a valentine – is that if you take the good reviews seriously, you have to take the bad ones seriously, too. And doing so will make a real writer – which is to say, a working writer who makes his or her living this way – crazy. I will admit that the day after I read that largely negative True Detective review, I found myself back at work on The Big Bundle, second-guessing every Heller sentence I wrote.

The truth is, many of us in the arts can remember every bad review – can quote from memory reviews dating back decades – whereas the positive ones fly away like tissue paper on the wind. It’s human nature, I guess, but at the same time I know that I have to pay no real attention to any reviews. I am past the point, fifty-one years into my novel writing career, that I can learn much. I do still learn, but it’s incremental, and it comes from trial and effort, not something a reviewer points out or suggests.

The True Detective reviewer clearly considered me a pedestrian stylist. Hey, I think I can turn a pretty fair phrase. But I can guess the writers that this reviewer likes – the ones who are writing to impress, not to entertain. I pick up books at Barnes & Noble or BAM! and read the first paragraphs by writers with reputations as stylists, writers far more celebrated than I ever will be, and what I see is overloaded, overwritten, trying-too-hard bullshit (do not ask for names).

Reviews, as far as my growth is concerned, are irrelevant to a writer who has been working as long as I have. All I know how to do at this stage is write the book I would like to read. Really, I think that should be every novelist’s goal – write a book you wish somebody else would have. Please your own taste and hope enough others out there will have similar enough tastes to keep you in business.

And yet I am doing a book giveaway, soliciting reviews. I don’t do this so that you will tell me how wonderful I am (though feel free to do so). I do it to help sell books, so I can stay in business. To get the word out.

I talk a lot here about how, in recent years, in recent days, I have felt cut off from current popular culture. Today I went over the copy edited manuscript of the second Fancy Anders (Fancy Anders For the Boys) and was told I shouldn’t mention Mantan Moreland or Jap Zeroes. How am I supposed to react to that? As someone who writes about the Twentieth Century, must I clean up that century’s idiosyncrasies and failings? Or do I have a responsibility to depict that century as accurately as my flawed memory will allow?

But the truth is, it’s harder for me now to be accepted in a world of publishing where I am white and old and male. It’s not the marketplace’s fault – it’s just the reality. I am so very, very lucky that publishers like Hard Case Crime, Titan, Neo-Text and Wolfpack still find me a worthwhile addition to their lists. In a world where I have to explain to people who Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer are, I am damn lucky to still be in business at all.

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Some advance readers of Quarry’s Blood have nice things to say about it at Goodreads.

Check out this lovely piece at Crimereads on Marshall Rogers, who illustrated my brief run on the Batman comic strip.

Finally, has it really been twenty years since Road to Perdition was released?

M.A.C.

One More Time for Nolan?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Apparently I told an interviewer a while back – a few years ago least – that the Nolan series was complete. That I had no interest in writing another, and wouldn’t under any circumstances write a new Nolan novel.

So, of course, I am preparing to write one. I’ll be spending December and January on Skim Deep, the cover for which (by the wonderful Mark Eastbrook, my personal choice among a bunch of wonderful artists provided as possibilities by editor Charles Ardai) appears with this update.

For those of you who came in late, Nolan was the hero (anti-hero?) of my first published novel, Bait Money, written around 1969 and published in December 1972. Nolan (no first name) is professional thief, who – approaching the ripe old age of fifty – wants to pull one last big job and retire. I teamed him with a young would-be cartoonist, Jon (no last name), whose first heist this would be.

Nolan was (and is) an homage (French for “rip-off”) to Richard Stark’s Parker. For a long time, Nolan died at the end of Bait Money, and until an editor returned the manuscript with coffee spilled on it, I had ignored my then agent Knox Burger’s request to un-kill Nolan, which he thought would help the book sell. I did, and it did.

When the publisher (Curtis Books) asked for more, I suddenly had a series. I asked Don Westlake (who of course was Richard Stark) if it was all right with him for me to do a series so blatantly imitative of his own. Don, who’d been mentoring me by mail, was nice enough to say that Nolan with the addition of the surrogate son, Jon, was different enough from Parker for me to proceed with his blessing.

So Blood Money followed, and later came Fly Paper, Hush Money, Hard Cash and Scratch Fever, and finally in the mid-‘80s, Spree. The publishing history is torturous and I won’t go into here, though I’ve discussed it elsewhere in detail.

There’s also a prequel of sorts called Mourn the Living, which was the first Nolan, unsold and tucked away by me till fanzine editor Wayne Dundee heard about it and requested that I allow him to serialize it. Which I did, and it was eventually published a couple of places.

When, a decade and a half ago or so, Charles Ardai was putting Hard Case Crime together, he was nice enough to want to reprint my novel Blood Money, which for inexplicable reasons was and is a favorite of his. I said yes on the condition that he combine it with Bait Money, to make its sequel Blood Money more coherent, into a single volume. He did this. Hard Case Crime is noted for its terrific retro covers, but the Nolan duo – now titled Two for the Money – was possibly the weakest Hard Case Crime cover ever…the only time dark, mustache Nolan was depicted as looking like blond Nick Nolte.

When Charles came around wanting another M.A.C. reprint, I offered to do a new book – The Last Quarry – instead, for the same reprint money, as long as I could get a Robert McGinnis cover. Also, I wanted a chance to finish that cult-ish series once and for all. While I got my McGinnis cover, the rest of the plan didn’t exactly work out that way, and now – with a bunch of new Quarry novels, a Ms. Tree prose novel, several Spillane projects and a couple of graphic novels under our collective belt – Charles has twisted my arm into doing another Nolan.

Part of what made that attractive to me was Charles bringing all of the Nolan novels back out, in the two-per-book format, so that – like the Quarry novels – the entire canon is under one imprint. Better still, we have new covers…including Two for the Money.

Double Down will include Fly Paper and Hush Money. Tough Tender will include Hard Cash and Scratch Fever (these appeared under that join title before but not at HCC). And Mad Money will have Spree and, as a sort of bonus, Mourn the Living.

What will Skim Deep be about? I haven’t plotted it yet, but the premise has to do with a Vegas honeymoon, casino skimming, and a Comfort or two. If you’ve read the Nolan novels, you understand that last bit.

As with the Quarry novels, I will be doing this one in period – probably within a year of the action in Spree.

Am I looking forward to it? Sort of. I have this nagging feeling that by writing another Nolan, at this age, after all this time, I could be bookending my career. So my ambition is not to fucking die immediately after finishing it (or during it, for that matter). I have other contracts to fill, and miles to go before I sleep.

But it sure is fun to see these new HCC covers. The Van Cleef resemblance (which was part of the Pinnacle covers, to a degree, and very much an element of the Perfect Crime reprints) is mentioned prominently in the novels. I met him once, interviewed him, and he treated me with amusement and at one point got briefly irritated with me. It was unsettling but memorable, being Jon to his Nolan. No guns were involved.

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Here’s a nice essay by my frequent collaborator, Matthew Clemens, on what he learned about suspense writing from the film Jaws.

The First Comics News blog has Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother on its Christmas gift list.

And here Ms. Tree is on another holiday gift guide, from Previews no less.

M.A.C.

New Edition Nolan Trade Paperbacks 20% Off

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

To celebrate the new editions of heist artist Nolan’s adventures, Perfect Crime Books is offering a 20% discount through the end of May when ordering straight from the printer’s secure store at createspace.com. Each book comes with a new introduction from Max (aside from Mourn the Living, which includes the intro from the Five Star Press run). For me, shipping on one book came out to be around $3.50, and was only a couple dollars more for an order of all six, so the deal is better the more you buy.

Click on the covers below and enter the following code at checkout:

LX2E2WBF

For the maxallancollins.com book pages:
Fly Paper | Hush Money | Hard Cash | Scratch Fever | Spree | Mourn the Living