Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

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.

The Mail, A New Book, Sex Island, and Bang-Zoom!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Before I get into more edifying topics – “edifying” in the case of these updates being a euphemism for “self-serving” – I am going to carefully wade into a topic that may be viewed as political. And it is, admittedly…but in a nonpartisan way.

While I occasionally slip, I do my best here not to get into political territory, though I am something of an opinionated political junkie myself in real life. But I have seen several friendships I value become damaged if not ruined by the topic of President Trump. And I have valued business associates (who are also friends) who I would put at risk of alienating if I spoke my views. Finally, those of you who are good enough to check in here to listen to me babble are on the most basic level my customers (as Mickey Spillane used to say) and I don’t care to alienate those who help Barb and me keep the lights on around this joint.

But the situation with the United States Postal Service right now goes way beyond politics. It is a bipartisan problem and we all – all – should step up. It may be incompetence on the part of a postmaster with no background in the postal service; it may be something akin to sabotage, in which case it’s not at all well-thought out sabotage. If the mail is being slowed down on purpose, Republicans need to remember that in the past their party has benefitted far more from mail-in ballots than Democrats – the military, traditionally Republican-leaning to say the least, depends on mail-in ballots. (Mail-in ballots and absentee ballots – like the ones the President and the First Lady use in Florida – are essentially the same thing. Please don’t bother me with a diatribe about how they are not. Please do not write to tell me voting by mail leads to wide-spread fraud, because there is zero evidence to indicate that’s the case.)

This slowdown – which includes removing hundreds of high-speed mail-sorting machines, pulling mailboxes from street corners (public pressure has already addressed this…maybe), firing seasoned employees at all levels, curtailing overtime, and letting mail pile up – has an impact far beyond any misguided, wrongheaded attempt to suppress Democratic votes.

It impacts seniors like Barb and me, and veterans all around the country, from getting their meds in a timely manner. It slows social security checks. It slows down checks from employers (all of my checks come through the mail). It means credit card, rent, mortgage and other vital payments don’t get there on time. It means small businesses have difficulty getting their products to market. It means consumers (many house-bound now) who have to order various goods from home do not get them without a delay. It also means that goods arrive damaged (I have seen this happen personally – books, magazines, DVDs and Blu-rays coming mangled or crushed, over the past few weeks).

And, yes, in a pandemic, voters – particularly seniors like Barb and me – should have the ability to vote from home, by mail, with confidence that our votes will be counted.

What can you do?

E-mail your Senators. Your House representatives, too. It’s easy to use Google to get to them, even if you don’t know their names. Typing in “United States congress Muscatine, Iowa” got me right to Dave Loebsack of Iowa’s Second Congressional District. Typing in “Iowa United States Senator” got me right to Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley (both apparently named at birth by the ghost of Charles Dickens). When you get to their web sites, you’ll find e-mail contact with them a breeze. Be polite. Don’t make bad parenthetical jokes about Charles Dickens. Let them know how your life, how you personally, are being impacted. Tell them you want the postmaster to rescind policies that he himself says have had “unanticipated consequences.” Tell them to properly fund the post office now. Let them think your vote might come their way if they show some responsibility on this issue.

* * *
Murderlized Cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Paperback:Amazon Purchase Link

I am delighted to report that Murderlized, a collection of short stories by my longtime collaborator Matthew V. Clemens and me, is available as a Kindle e-book from Wolfpack right now. The cover is fantastic, in my opinion. Matt digs it, too.

Wolfpack secured from me the rights to a number of my books, as you probably have noticed. The e-books are getting out there first, but you will be able to order physical books soon. The efficient wolves in the pack are working right now to get the four Eliot-Ness-in-Cleveland novels out in a two-volume (two-book-per) set of An Eliot Ness Mystery Omnibus. A single volume collecting Mommy and Mommy’s Day: A Suspense Duo is coming, too.

And Murderlized will soon be available as real book, too, as will everything of mine that Wolfpack is bringing out. I hope to be able to do my legendary Book Giveaways for all of these titles, as that occurs.

Murderlized is a massive collection of almost all of the short stories Matt and I have written together in the twenty or so years of our collaboration. (The only missing tales are a couple of licensed stories – one involving Hellboy, another set in the Buffy universe – that were problematic to include.) These are dark tales that fall in the realm of mystery/suspense, and several are overtly detective-oriented, with a few delving into outright horror. One thing Matt and I have done over the years, on occasion, is write the equivalent of a TV pilot – putting an idea for a book series on its feet by way of a short story. An unofficial CSI spin-off set in a Midwestern city is one example, and two horror stories in the X-Files vein represent recent attempts that may yet turn into novels. The series that Matt and I are doing for Wolfpack – which we’ll be revealing a little later – began with two short stories we wrote years ago (one of which appears in Murderlized…but no further hints).

As for the significance of the title, the namesake story has Moe Howard of the Three Stooges solving the murder of Ted Healy, the comedian for whom the stooges first stooged. It’s one of our favorites.

Matt and I go back a long way. I met him in the mid-‘80s when he came to book signings and Crusin’ band gigs, but really got to know him around 1987 at the Mississippi Valley Writers Conference, where I taught every summer for over twenty-five years. I encountered many promising and talented writers at the conference, and at least half a dozen nationally published novelists came out of my classes. I don’t take credit for that – not full credit, anyway – but several romance novels were dedicated to me, and it wasn’t for my Errol Flynn-like charms.

Matt was a familiar, positive presence at that conference, becoming a kind of host. He took my class several times, winning the John Locher Memorial Award. He also formed a friendship with the late Karl Largent, highly successful techno-thriller author, and began doing research and more for Karl, including presenting writing classes with him. I bought a story from Matt in 1993 for an anthology, and was impressed enough with his work to suggest we collaborate on a short story. That story, “A Pebble for Papa,” is included in Murderlized.

I began getting very busy with movie and TV tie-in work all through the ‘90s, doing numerous film novels and a pair of NYPD Blue novels. But when I was offered the CSI series, shortly after it began, I called Matt and asked if he’d seen the series (I hadn’t). He had. He’d done some research for me in the past, so I brought him on in that capacity and – since he knew the show – we co-plotted the first book. Quickly he got to know a number of cops locally and was bringing in just the kind of inside forensics info I needed.

I wound up having him develop a story treatment, with the scenes involving evidence and science fleshed out. Quickly that evolved into a collaboration where we plotted the books together, with him writing a story treatment (really a short rough draft), and me the final book. We did that for eight novels, and two CSI: Miami novels as well. We hit the USA Today bestseller list numerous times. More licensing poured in. I did several CSI video games alone, but brought Matt in to help on CSI: Miami. Together we wrote three CSI graphic novels and one CSI: New York graphic novel. We did a bunch of CSI jigsaw puzzles, too (short stories with the puzzle image including clues needed to solve the mystery). For five years we were the sole licensing writers for CSI and its spin-offs. For another two years we did the bulk of that work.

From this came the three Dark Angel novels and three Criminal Minds novels. (I should note that I wrote all of the movie novels alone.) At that point we wanted to break away as a tie-in team and write our own joint projects, which led to the two J.C. Harrow serial killer thrillers, You Can’t Stop Me and No One Will Hear You, followed by the thriller What Doesn’t Kill Her and the Reeder and Rogers political thrillers, Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order.

After my open heart surgery (among other medical fun and games), I stopped pursuing tie-in work other than Mike Hammer, and I of course already had a collaborator on those – the late Mickey Spillane. Matt and I wrote a few short stories during this period, but mostly I was working either alone (including the Krista Larson series) or with Barb (on the Antiques series).

Then Wolfpack came along, which seemed the perfect place for Collins and Clemens to get back to work together, and apart – I intend to do a Krista Larson novel for Wolfpack, and Matt and I will probably be doing a Reeder and Rogers for Wolfpack, as well. I say probably because we want to see where the country is politically after the coming election before diving back into those troubled, murky waters. Also, Matt is working on a solo western.

Wolfpack has been incredibly welcoming to me, and I am particularly grateful to have my short stories collected – the ones I’ve done with Matt in Murderlized, the ones I’ve done with Barb in Murder – His and Hers and the forthcoming Suspense – His and Hers, and the ones I wrote alone in Blue Christmas and the forthcoming Reincarnal.

But, of course, I need your support. If you buy e-books, you’ll find that Wolfpack will always have my material at a friendly price point (and often at sale prices). For those of you who – like me – prefer “physical media” (there must be a better way to use the English language), actual books of these titles are coming soon.

* * *

About once a week, my son Nate has been coming down the street, after getting his two kids to bed, to view a late-night movie with his old man. We tend toward Asian stuff, like classic Jackie Chan material and boxed sets of obscurities by great Japanese director Seijun Suzuki. Lately we’ve been delving into the Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray box set of Bruce Lee films, most recently Enter the Dragon.

Toward the beginning of the film, blaxploitation star Jim Kelly is pointlessly harassed by two racist cops who pull their vehicle up, hop out, and violently assault him (although it doesn’t work out well for them). Later Bruce Lee is told about a creepy rich guy who is a modern-day white slaver who has an attractive female mistress who recruits under-age girls and gets them addicted to drugs, then takes them to a sex island where they can service corrupt big wigs.

Nate looked at me and I looked at him.

“Not much has changed,” I said.

“Not much has changed,” he said.

* * *

Over the weekend I completed the second of three novellas for Neotext that introduce a new female detective character (about whom much more in the not too distance future, as the Mystery Science Theater theme puts it). I still have to re-read the manuscript for typos and inconsistencies and general tweaking.

But the beat goes on.

* * *

And FYI:

THRILLING DETECTIVE & JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY PRESS
Proudly Present
DETECTIVES IN THE SHADOWS
A Hard-Boiled History

Detectives in the Shadows

A special digital event about crime fiction’s hard-boiled history, featuring acclaimed and bestselling authors and celebrating the awesome new book by Susanna Lee.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 18, 2020. 6 p.m. EDT.

WHERE: Join us via Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87153268756

More info: https://thrillingdetective.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/the-thrilling-detective-zoom/

Join a riveting online discussion on the past and present of hard-boiled crime fiction with leading crime fiction authors. Featuring Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Ace Atkins (the Quinn Colson series), and Alex Segura (the Pete Fernandez series), the live event will celebrate the release of Susanna Lee’s new history of the genre, Detectives in the Shadows: A Hard-Boiled History. The event will be hosted via Zoom by Kevin Burton Smith of the Thrilling Detective Web Site and Johns Hopkins University Press.

America has had a love affair with the hard-boiled detective since the 1920s, when Prohibition called into question who really stood on the right and wrong side of the law. And nowhere did this hero shine more than in crime fiction. In Detectives in the Shadows, literary and cultural critic Susanna Lee tracks the evolution of this character type—from Race Williams to Philip Marlowe and from Mike Hammer to Jessica Jones.

In addition to being accomplished authors, everyone on the panel has a vast knowledge of the genre’s history. Enjoy a fascinating moderated discussion about crime fiction’s most iconic gumshoes and participate in a live Q&A with the panelists.

* * *

Here’s a radio interview Brad Schwartz and I did for our new Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher.

And, for those of you sitting on the fence about whether or not to buy a copy, here’s a Crime Readers excerpt from that book.

Finally, here’s a fun career piece on the great Darren McGavin. The Mike Hammer material draws from (and credits) Jim Traylor and me for our book Mickey Spillane on Screen.

M.A.C.

Sidekicks

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

Hardcover:
E-Book: Google Play Kobo

Digital Audiobook: Google Play Kobo

The day this update appears (May 26) is the pub date for the new Caleb York western novel, Hot Lead, Cold Justice.

Unlike the other Spillane co-bylined books in the Mike Hammer series (and other crime novels), these westerns are mostly by me, working with characters and situations from Mickey’s various drafts of his screenplay, The Saga of Calli York, written for John Wayne but never produced. I have endeavored in these novels – I just completed another – to bring either a strong mystery or crime novel element into the proceedings. Even if you don’t usually read westerns, I think you will have a good time – assuming you are reading my other work, in particular the Spillane material.

I am not a voluminous reader of westerns myself, though I have long been a fan of western films. I can talk John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea and Audie Murphy with the best of ‘em; same goes for directors like Sam Peckinpah, Budd Boeticher, Anthony Mann, John Ford and Howard Hawks. The early seasons of Maverick are mid-century TV at its best. Probably my favorite western novel (and there’s a certain irony about this – see if you can catch it) is the novelization of Howard Hawks’ movie Rio Bravo by its screenwriter, Leigh Brackett, the woman who shared screenplay credit with William Faulkner on the same director’s film of The Big Sleep.

I’ve never been a big Faulkner fan, but there are two stories about him that I love.

One is that a frustrated reader told him how much trouble he was having understanding what Faulkner had written in The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner told him, “Have you tried reading it drunk? That’s how I wrote the thing.”

Another is that Faulkner was paid big money to fly to a college campus to talk to a creative writing seminar as their keynote speaker. When his turn came, Faulkner went to the dias and asked how many of the college students wanted to be writers. They all raised their hands. Then Faulkner said, “Then why the hell aren’t you home writing?” And sat back down.

I don’t know if either of those stories are true, and I don’t care. Somebody already mentioned here once said, “Print the legend,” and I agree with that.

Getting back to Hot Lead, Cold Justice – a title I suggested as a joke that was immediately embraced (mine was The Big Die-up) – a lovely review has appeared at that great book review site, Bookgasm, and rather than put you to the trouble of chasing a link, here it is (written by Mark Rose):

Max Allan Collins has entered my reading list once again, this time in a genre with which I’m mostly unfamiliar: the Western. Hot Lead, Cold Justice is listed as by Mickey Spillane and Collins, and this is the fifth book in the series featuring Spillane’s character Caleb York.

For those who don’t know, Spillane and Collins were friends, and upon the former’s death, he entrusted his literary property such as his characters (Mike Hammer) and unpublished screenplays (where the character Caleb York originated) to Collins. So Collins has written a number of Mike Hammer stories and now explores the world of late 19th-century New Mexico.

It’s a tough frontier world but the little oasis of Trinidad, New Mexico seems just fine for Sheriff Caleb York. Until his deputy is shot twice and left to die. York had just given the man his long coat and hat, and he’s convinced that the gunmen were aiming for York and not the deputy. Luckily, the deputy survives. But York knows he’s got men after him now.

These men are a rough and brutal lot. Their leader rode with Quantrill, the notorious Missouri raider who massacred the men in the free state town of Lawrence, Kansas during the Civil War. They’ll stop at nothing as they attempt to rob banks in the area in order to set up a stake for themselves and eventually go live on a beach in Mexico. And while they do that, they can find time to ambush York and bring his do-gooder life to an end.

This is a short (just over 200 pages), rip-roaring read with the fast pacing and smooth style that characterizes all of Collins’ work. Characters are simply described, but set up with credible backstories and behaviors. The scenery is all well-described. Dialogue is spot-on, except perhaps for the unfortunate dialect awarded to the deputy’s voice.

If you want a movie-style Western and you’ve read all your Louis L’Amours, I think it would be a place to start with Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane’s books featuring Caleb York. Here are the titles in order: The Legend of Caleb York, The Big Showdown, The Bloody Spur, Last Stage to Hell Junction, and Hot Lead, Cold Justice.

Wow. That’s an overwhelmingly positive review, huh? But of course that doesn’t stop me from having a bone to pick.

Well, not really. I get it – I understand how somebody entering the serious, relatively realistic world of Caleb York could have difficulty with Deputy Jonathan P. Tulley’s “dialect.” But the thing is, Tulley isn’t speaking a dialect at all. Nobody ever spoke like that. I have no idea where I’m pulling that patois out of, unless I’m sitting on it.

We are in the territory of a character who is great fun to write because he can say or do just about anything, and I don’t have to apologize (even though I seem to be right now.)

Tulley has much in common with Mother (aka Vivian Borne) in the Antiques novels, because there doesn’t seem to be any behavior or train of thought or speech that she can’t get away with. Whenever I think I’ve gone too far with Mother, I run it past Barb and she always says the same thing, “There’s no way you can go too far with Mother.”

That’s because, at least in part, Vivian Borne was conceived as the comedy relief – the sidekick to her amateur sleuth daughter, Brandy. The problem is that Vivian (not surprisingly) didn’t behave. She insisted on having equal footing with Brandy, and began pushing for first-person chapters of her own. She has also developed into a hell of a detective, or (as we say in the cozy world) a heck of a detective. For a long time the girls argued over who was Holmes and who was Watson. But, really, it didn’t take long for Brandy to realize she was Archie Goodwin to Mother’s Nero Wolfe – only Mother is not at all a stay at home detective.

By the way, Antiques Fire Sale was published just a month ago, and is a good place to see what it is I’m talking about.

Sidekicks often become more popular than the more recognizably human heroes they hang around with. Does anyone really think Roy Rogers, for all his charm and his lovely singing voice, was more memorable than Gabby Hayes? What was Marshal Dillon without Chester? When Dennis Weaver left his Good name behind to be a full-fledged hero himself, Festus had to be called in off the bench.

It’s the Kirk and Spock effect.

As for that pesky dialect of Tulley’s, I have written him in a long tradition of characters like Dick Tracy cast members B.O. Plenty and Vitamin Flintheart. No hillbilly ever spoke like B.O., but that didn’t stop Chester Gould from letting him talk, or me from letting him devolve into a babbling source of malapropisms. And John Barrymore, the model for Vitamin, never spoke in the bewildering flowery way of the great Flintheart.

Speaking of hillbillies, no real hillbilly ever had a thing to do with Al Capp’s creations, either. As a kid, I was a Li’l Abner fan for years before somebody pointed out to me that Capp was doing hillbillies. In my college days, a leftist pal of mine complained that Capp was ridiculing poverty-stricken Appalachian mountaineers. I replied that the last time I looked, Capp was ridiculing everybody (just not as well, in his later years, as in his heyday).

Mickey created the way Tulley talks and I ran with it. I realize for some a cartoonish character like Tulley, in the midst of an otherwise straight story, may be bewildering or off-putting. But beyond his peculiar way of speaking, Tulley has grown and evolved from town drunk to sheriff’s deputy, and revealed himself as a good man to have at your side in a gunfight.

I think it was the late, great Bill Crider who said, “Every western ought to have a character in it that could be played by Gabby Hayes.” Or maybe it was the great but not late James Reasoner. Sure, there are loners without sidekicks – Shane, Paladin, late-period Randolph Scott, probably a bunch of others. For many a hero, though, a Pat Buttram or Fuzzy Knight or Walter Brennan is de rigueur. For the more serious-minded, Jay Silverheels or (in The Searchers) Jeffrey Hunter would have to do.

But, goldurnit, even Hondo had a dog. And I think Gabby Hayes could have played that hound right fine.

* * *

Speaking of sidekicks, I am happy to play Gabby Hayes to my lovely wife, Barbara Collins, to whom I was married on June 1, 1968. She would probably prefer Jeffrey Hunter, though.

Fifty-two years, and it really does seem like yesterday. Anyone who doubts that I am a very lucky man just isn’t paying attention.

* * *

Digital Audiobook: Google Play

Somebody in Australia (home of Wentworth!) put together a list of my “oeuvre.” Check it out.

This list of Memorial Day mysteries includes my story, “Flowers for Bill O’Reilly.” I wrote it long ago, before I knew who the ex-Fox commentator was. I’ll change the name next time it’s reprinted.

Journalstone has put out an audio of The Last Stand, the last book Mickey completed in his lifetime, edited by me and with a novella I co-wrote, also included on the audio. I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s read by that wonderful narrator, Dan John Miller.

This is an insightful review of my Batman prose short story, “What is The Sound of One Hand Clapping.”

And, finally, here’s a smart review of Mickey’s novel The Girl Hunters, from the anthology of three Hammer novels I edited and introduced. Complex 90, of course, is the sequel.

M.A.C.

Publish or Perish the Thought…

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Recently here, I’ve bemoaned the perils of having three books published almost simultaneously by three different publishers. Some of you might be thinking, “Oh boo hoo hoo – poor him, having all that success.”

That’s an understandable reaction. But this imperfect storm really does present me with a shaky future (as if my impending 72nd birthday didn’t make my future shaky enough). The threat is that one, or even all three, may under-perform.

Aside from this, I have noted some troubling things going on in the publishing of fiction (non-fiction, too, but my emphasis is chiefly fiction of course) that have already had a negative impact on many writers. Till now, I’ve been lucky. For a non-household name in the pop fiction field, I have had a long run. Many writers, touted as the next big thing, have fallen by the wayside while I traversed the road to Perdition with Quarry, Nate Heller, Ms. Tree, the Borne girls, and a good number of others.

Barb and I have always done a certain amount of promo ourselves. Most publishers have traditionally had a PR staff (or at least a staffer) who we could call upon for support. We assembled a list of reviewers over the years (a once proud thirty or so, now dwindled to a dozen, with the passing of so many print venues) that could be shared with PR reps, who would see that copies of the latest novel were sent out. Meanwhile, these promo folks took care of getting advance copies or finished books to the trades and often many newspapers and other publications around the country known to do reviews of mysteries.

Of my current publishers – no names will be mentioned – two still have a PR person assigned to me, and the help is much as before, and much appreciated. In the case of something special – like the 100th birthday of Mickey Spillane – that help gets ramped up. In the case of several other publishers, no PR person is available to me at all.

I have been told the approach to marketing, on one of my new books, will be “holistic.” This reminds me of George Carlin when he said, “Real chocolatey goodness! Know what that means? No fucking chocolate!” An editor at that same publisher told me flat-out that – beyond sending copies of the trade publications (Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, Library Journal), publicity was my responsibility, a “D.I.Y.” effort.

Much of this comes down to utilizing social media. Now, while I do this weekly update/blog here, and also post it on my two Facebook pages, I have chosen (thus far) not to use Twitter or Instagram or whatever other platform has come along since I began writing this piece. I am, after all, a man in his early seventies who has a land line. I use my cell phone to keep track of my e-mails, do simple Internet searches (“Davenport Iowa movie times”), and…what else, there’s something…oh yes, make and receive phone calls. I text rarely and with great difficulty.

I don’t use any apps. I live in Iowa. Do you really think anyone my age in Iowa knows how to use an app? Just in case you don’t get the reference, I will share (briefly) our experience at the local Democratic Caucus, when the debacle it was to become was only a twinkle in the Iowa Democratic Party’s twitching eye.

The woman running things – a volunteer, bless her heart – spent the early part of the evening reading aloud instructions in the wrong order, and laughing hysterically about how badly she was screwing things up. As things got worse, this nice woman (not being sarcastic), who was a retired school teacher, began to attempt to regain order by counting, very loud, “One..two…three…!” to the rowdy class before her.

So.

Let’s not depend on a soon-to-be-72-year-old author (from Iowa) to use apps, shall we?

Yet a number of my publishers want me to expand my social media footprint. I am supposed to write entertaining, pithy Tweets. I am supposed to provide photos of my food and pets and now and then a book of mine on Instagram. And my son Nathan and I, teeth gritted, are exploring doing some of that.

But am I crazy to think that I should be spending my time and creative energy writing my fiction?

In certain areas of fiction writing, writers are given modest advances and then essentially required (if they want another contract) to spend those advances on promotion – going to each other’s signings (how this works without flying around the country I can’t tell you), attending numerous conventions (which does require flying or in some cases driving around the country), and endlessly interacting with readers (and other writers) on social media. Not only is this time-consuming, it turns professional writers – these writers are pros by definition, since they are receiving advances and sometimes royalties – into amateurs.

Like any real professional writer, I need the bulk of my income to…how shall I put this?…live on.

This began with the romance writers and the very positive practice of writers groups. For decades I taught at a writers conference and interacted with romance writers (had several romance novels dedicated to me, which took some explaining to the novelists’ husbands and my wife) and that included their writers groups. From these groups in my area, and the support and help the writers gave each other, came any number of published novels. Obviously, the same is true all around the country.

But a downside, which in my opinion some publishers take advantage of, is the maintaining of an amateur approach by requiring those writers to sink or swim largely based upon the willingness of those writers to plow their hard-earned advances into promo.

The romance writers have taken a hit lately. Romantic Times, once a powerful newsstand magazine, has recently ceased its annual convention and its web site is shutting down, too. This seems to flow at least in part from a controversy having to do with a romance writer attacking another romance writer’s perceived racial, sexist and other biases. Sides were drawn in the controversy and attacks and apologies began to fly. Whether writers should be criticizing each other in this manner is a topic worth discussion, but I won’t get into that here.

Still, it points out that concerns related to political correctness now hover over publishing in a very real way. I recently had an editor I respect label something of mine as “dated” in its “hardboiled” approach. Now, “dated” in that context is code for two things: first, the content may not be in step with politically correct attitudes; and second, I am an old white male. It’s also worth noting that you don’t hear an editor use the term “hardboiled” in any fashion but a negative one. I never use the term myself. When an editor likes that sort of thing, it’s “noir.” You know what “hardboiled” is? It’s a dated term, in the right and proper sense of the word “dated.”

These are, as I perceive them, realities in the world of fiction writing and publishing these days. I point them out not to try to change them – we’re past that, I’m afraid – but to explain to those of you who are kind enough to like my work why I have spent so much time worrying about having three books out at the same time.

How I am doing my best to promote my work in this climate?

For some time, I have accepted very, very few “friend” requests on Facebook. This was back when I checked my “feed” frequently. But a good two years ago, I curtailed that because I was disgusted by the amount of political blather. I also couldn’t keep my mouth shut (hard as that might be to imagine) and wound up damaging longstanding, real friendships. So lately I’ve been accepting “friend” requests if I can tell that the individuals making those requests have a real interest in things I care about…non-political things. Accepting these friends is a part of trying to expand my footprint.

A few days ago Barb and I sent out two big boxes of books to, first, winners in our last book giveaway here; and, second, to reviewers, with a letter explaining that having three novels out at the same time was not my idea. Some of these reviewers I’ve never sent to before. To get Girl Can’t Help It into the hands of potentially friendly reviewers, I spent a day searching Google to locate every positive review (including mixed ones) for Girl Most Likely and offered those reviewers/bloggers a copy.

Beyond this, Nate and I will be exploring using Instagram. Maybe Twitter too, but that puts my stomach and my head in a competition over which hurts the most.

And I want to say, to any publishers or editors who might be reading this, that I understand they are struggling to stay afloat, too. These are tough times in publishing, and have been for a while.

But here’s the thing: I came to this planet to write, not to Tweet.

* * *

I know what you’re all looking for – another book with Max Allan Collins content to buy!

Well, you’re in luck, because this is a good one – the new Mystery Writers of America anthology, Deadly Anniversaries. My story, “Amazing Grace,” is based on a real incident from my childhood, which Barb suggested I use when an assignment in this thematic anthology came my way.

I think “Amazing Grace” might be my best short story. I am pleased to say that Publisher’s Weekly singled it out in their rave review, giving me lead position in a book filled with work by Grand Master mystery writers:

“Anniversaries of all kinds are the source of mayhem for the 19 stories in this entertaining all-original anthology from MWA grand masters Muller and Pronzini. Wedding anniversaries feature prominently, as in Max Allan Collins’s diverting ‘Amazing Grace, ’in which a 50th anniversary cake becomes the catalyst for murder.”

* * *

Barb and I are listening to Dan John Miller’s reading of Girl Can’t Help It in the car (he’s not in the car with us – we’re using CD’s). We’re about half-way through. He is doing his usual masterful job, making the book come alive, and making me look (sound) good.

Dan has also performed Do No Harm, meaning he’s narrated every Heller to date. We are really looking forward to that. He is fantastic.

* * *

Finally, my pal Paul Bishop (I’m tempted to say “pard”) includes the forthcoming Caleb York novel, Hot Lead, Cold Justice, on the premiere episode of his podcast (with Richard Prosch), Six-Gun Justice. These guys do a great job.

M.A.C.