Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories’

The Book Giveaway Suspense Is Killing Me

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

The time has come…for another book giveaway.

[All copies have been claimed. Thank you for your support! —Nate]

Suspense His and Hers giveaway copies

The book, which publisher Wolfpack describes (accurately) with a secondary title of “Tales of Love and Murder,” collects short stories written by Barb, by me, and both of us together. It’s about 300 pages and includes some of our best stories, including the recent “Amazing Grace” by me and “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” by mostly Barb. The Edgar-nominated Ms. Tree short story, “Louise,” is included, and two Quarry short stories, “Guest Service” and “Quarry’s Luck.”

This is a new collection, a follow-up to Murder – His & Hers (also available from Wolfpack) – and is a plump 300 pages or so. The cover is terrific. I remain very impressed with the packaging that Wolfpack is coming up with.

The point of the exercise is for us to generate reviews in particular at Amazon (the e-book is exclusive to Kindle). We encourage you to support not just us – or us when we send you a free book – by any authors whose work you enjoy through online reviews. That can sound intimidating, but reviews can range from a line or two to lengthy looks. The point (from an author’s POV) is to build the “star” rating up for titles and get more readers to try your work.

That’s why I release you from your obligation, in a book giveaway, to do a review if you hate the book (although of course you still can if you choose).

* * *
Nolan cover collage from Neotext article.
Image taken from NeoText. See the article linked below for much more.

For the weeks running up to the Oct. 5 publication of Fancy Anders Goes to War I am devoting the time usually spent here to doing an essay on something or other to an installment of my serialized literary memoir, A Life in Crime, at the excellent web site of Fancy’s publisher, NeoText.

Response to the first installment – “Why Mystery?” – has been excellent.

This week I focus on “Nolan.”

Read it here.

* * *

The other big project for NeoText is The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton by Dave Thomas and me. I spent much of the weekend going over the final galleys of this 90,000 word novel.

I am not always the best judge, but this feels like a very special novel, combining elements of noir on the one hand and science-fiction on the other. I should add that its time frame is contemporary and not futuristic. I will have more to say about this one soon.

* * *
Reminiscence promo photo

Speaking of noir/s-f hybrids, Reminiscence (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max) is a good one, despite its lousy Rotten Tomatoes ranking. Visually stunning, the film has an effective Hugh Jackman at its center and the always interesting actress Rebecca Ferguson as a mysterious femme fatale. It consciously invokes both Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (there’s a Velda and also revenge) and Vertigo, and alternates between moody mystery and action thriller.

The dialogue is more than a little arch, and it does occasionally trip over itself in a Chandler-esque narration (minus any humor), but if you can forgive it that, it’s a worthwhile, even haunting experience. The machinations of the plot are clever and it’s a rare film that gets better as it goes along.

Also streaming right now, on Hulu, is the six-part documentary, McCartney 3,2,1 starring (obviously) Paul McCartney and record producer Rick Rubin. The emphasis is on The Beatles with some side trips to McCartney’s solo work and Wings. It’s basically an informal interview centered around revisiting (and fooling around inside) the mixes of various tracks (mostly Beatles). Rubin proves a knowledgeable questioner, though with his bird’s nest bushy white beard he comes across alternately as a homeless guy who wandered in while McCartney waits for the cops to answer his 911 call and a wide-eyed goofball sitting cross-legged before a bemused guru.

That aside, it’s a wonderful ride and, for an aging Baby Boomer like me, a nostalgic trip that invokes grins and tears and all stops between. McCartney comes across as unpretentious and a very successful idiot savant of a musical genius who has a clear-eyed view of what he’s accomplished, and a sense of the luck and magic involved in these four Liverpool kids coming together.

While Yoko is barely invoked, it’s clear Paul and John loved each other, were two puzzle pieces that fit together into one amazing picture, and the break-up of the group (which we all know was Yoko’s fault and I don’t want to talk about it) hurt McCartney deeply. Both Lennon and McCartney did brilliant work apart, but rarely the equal of their collaborations, even when one was mostly just looking over the other one’s shoulder.

Most fascinating is how McCartney has become a self-professed Beatles fan himself now, appreciating the synergy of the group, and how he reflects on his old view that he was making music with a “bloke” named John but now understands he was making music with John Lennon.

M.A.C.

Fancy Anders, Nic Cage, A Suspenseful Release and More

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
M.A.C. and Barbara Collins holding Suspense - His and Hers
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

Suspense – His and Hers (subtitled Tales of Love and Murder) is available now, both in Kindle e-book and a handsome trade paperback. It collects stories by Barb and me both individually and together. Two Quarry short stories are included (“Guest Service” and “Quarry’s Luck”) and a rare Ms. Tree short story (the Edgar-nominated “Louise”). It’s a pleasantly plump collection (almost 300 pages) and I think you’ll like it. Wolfpack did a marvelous job on the cover.

Fancy Anders Goes to War: Who Killed Rosie the Riveter?
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link

Speaking of marvelous covers, feast you eyes on Fay Dalton’s cover for Fancy Anders Goes to War, which is available now for pre-order at $2.99 in Kindle form. There will be a trade paperback edition as well, but that isn’t up for pre-order just yet. This is the first of three novellas I’ve done for NeoText about Fancy, who is a 24-year-old (obviously) female detective in Los Angeles during World War II. The subtitle is Who Killed Rosie the Riveter? The fantastic Ms. Dalton has, in addition to the cover, provided a full-page illustration for each of the ten chapters.

If you like to read on Kindle, an advantage is that Fay’s artwork is presented in color (well, a couple were intentionally left black-and-white for film noir reasons) whereas only the cover art will be in color in the trade paperback. These are short novels (hence the term novella) but longish ones, running 30,000 words each. They will make nice additions to the shelves of Luddites like me who prefer “real” books.

It is my intention, my hope, that the three Fancy Anders novellas will be collected in one book with the Fay Dalton art properly showcased. (The Fancy Anders trade paperbacks are POD and only the cover will be in color.) I had a wonderful time doing these stories and hope more of Fancy’s cases will find their way through my fingers to the pages of books. These may not be as hardboiled as Quarry or Nolan or Hammer, but then what is? Fancy is like a younger Ms. Tree and is not shy about taking bad people down violently.

* * *

My classic rock band Crusin’ will be performing at the Muscatine Art Center’s Ice Cream Social this coming Sunday. Details here.

Right now this is the final scheduled gig of our short season. I had hoped to line up a few more, but with the surge in Covid the better part of valor for Crusin’ is to fade into rehearsals for our much-postponed CD of original material. Rehearsing and recording that CD is our winter project. It was supposed to be last winter’s project, but….

Here is a link to a video of the second set of our recent Sunday Concert series performance. I warn you that the instrumental is waaaaay back – you can barely hear the keyboards and the punch of the guitar is dialed down from the actual event. That’s because this is a sound board recording and you get mostly vocals.

I’m providing this because I do think it captures the casual intimacy of the event, which is quite different from working a larger venue. Thanks to Chad Yocum for shooting the video and providing the link.

* * *
Nicolas Cage in Pig (2021)

As I may have mentioned, my son Nate and I are fans of actor Nicolas Cage. It’s odd to be a Nic Cage fan, because you never know whether the film at hand will be gold or dross, or something in between.

Some time ago Cage began taking (apparently) any job that comes his way if his price is met, and that price must not be sky high considering how many jobs he takes. This practice began some years ago when he had a tax problem that sent him spiraling from A-list to Direct-to-Video.

Cage was always quirky and for some an acquired taste. But here’s the thing: Nic always gives 100%. The film can be utter shit (and occasionally is – a few have caused even the loyal Collins boys to bail) but you never know when something really special is going to crop up.

Willy’s Wonderland, with the sublime premise of a defunct Chucky Cheese wanna-be restaurant becoming a haunted house for its mechanical animal musicians, has Cage giving a full-bore eccentric performance that almost elevates it to something special. Not quite, but for some of us, essential viewing. Primal is terrible, A Score to Settle rather good. You never know. A Cage movie is the surprise package of cinema.

Now and then, however, Nic and his collaborators knock it out of the park. Often he does extreme action and/or horror stuff – common among low-budget indies – and Mandy is something of a masterpiece. It’s sort of The Evil Dead without the laughs (except very dark ones) or the zombies. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to any even mildly adventurous movie fan.

But the current Pig (streaming for a price at the moment) is a reminder of just how great an actor Cage can be when a director handles him well and the material is strong. On the surface, it seems to be a revenge story, but that’s an assumption you’ll make that will prove wrong. It has tension and one violent scene, but it’s not an action movie. The premise sounds fried even for Cage: a hermit in the forest survives on the truffles he and his truffle pig find, which are sold to a city-boy hustler regularly; somebody beats Cage up, steals the pig, and Nic goes to the big city (Portland) to get his pig back.

If this sounds like you asked somebody to imagine a movie that even Nic Cage would reject, you’d be very, very wrong. It’s a wonderful movie and about all sorts of things, but revenge isn’t really one of them. Unexpectedly it becomes about being a chef, as opposed to a hermit, but really it explores loss and father-son dynamics. Pig centers on (get ready for it) an understated Cage performance that is Oscar worthy, and includes one of the best scenes you’ll ever see in any movie – what is that scene about? The hermit makes a chef cry in the latter’s trendy restaurant.

You can dismiss me as a crazy hermit who lives in Iowa if you like, but the loss will be yours.

* * *

Here is a delightful review of Antiques Carry On from Ron Fortier’s Pulp Fiction Reviews. But…it isn’t written by Ron! Suspense killing you? Read on…

ANTIQUES CARRY ON
A Trash ‘N’ Treasures Mystery
By Barbara Allan
Severn House
Guest Reviewer -Valerie Fortier

Ron isn’t into Cozy mysteries and when this one arrived in the mail, he dropped it on my desk top with the suggestion I give it a go. Months later it’s still sitting there and I decided to give it a try. As a Mom myself, I totally get the mother-daughter dynamics. Sometimes they gel, other times they are nothing but oil and water.

I would recommend you take time to meet Vivian and Brandy. The mother-daughter team that never misses a chance to inject humor and fun while investigating a new mystery. I really enjoyed the book; especially the great twist at the end in regards to who done it. Just when you think you’ve got it solved, there’s more to be revealed.

The book offers up a truly wonderful cast of characters to “cozy” up by the fire and share some time with.

Final note – This is the start and end of my reviewing career. Thanks, Ron.

* * *

Finally, here is an interesting, in-depth look at the film of Road to Perdition.

M.A.C.

Happy Anniversary – Everybody!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021
Suspense His and Hers cover
E-Book: Amazon Purchase Link
Trade Paperback: Indiebound Purchase Link Amazon Purchase Link Books-A-Million Purchase Link Barnes & Noble Purchase Link

We hope to have advance copies of Suspense – His & Hers before too long. The pub date is September 8. Wolfpack has done another outstanding job on the cover of this collection, a companion piece to Murder – His & Hers, also published by Wolfpack (originally published by Five Star).

These two His & Hers collections are unusual in that they gather individual stories by Barb and me, as well as collaborative ones. I feel my best individual short story I’ve ever written is in Suspense (“Amazing Grace”) and a collaborative one that is primarily by Barb (“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?”) is a particularly strong example of her work. These are both recent stories and reflect how personal experience impacts our writing. Also included are two Quarry short stories and the Edgar-nominated Ms. Tree prose tale, “Louise,” by me. Several “best of the year” stories by Barb are included.

“Amazing Grace” was suggested by my great grandparents’ Golden party. It was particularly significant in real life, and I had told Barb about it several times (my great grandfather, with all the family gathered at a big anniversary party, announced she was divorcing my great grandfather, a sweet tippler who deserved the boot). When I got the assignment to write a story involving an anniversary for an MWA collection, Barb reminded me of this true event and I was off and running.

“What’s the Matter With Harley Quinn?” derives from Barb’s experiences at the most recent San Diego Comic Con we were able to attend when she spent two days trying to get collectible pins for our (very much grown) son Nathan, who did not attend the con that year. Not a comics fan herself, Barb was thrown into a rather wild and wooly lion’s den and, typically, she came out bloody but unbowed, and with a story in mind. If Alfred Hitchcock Presents will still on, her stories would be a staple there. Our friend the late Ed Gorman frequently compared her work to Roald Dahl’s.

Our Antiques Carry On is out right now, and I hope you’ll look for it. Frankly, we haven’t seen it (a hardcover) in a Barnes & Noble or BAM! yet, the only bookstores we’ve been to in post-Covid. The book is very handsome and (I say with zero modesty) funny as hell, as well as a good mystery, so your support is encouraged. We have a new publisher, the British house Severn, and they packaged the book very well indeed. But the future of Brandy and Vivian Bourne is in your hands.

Speaking of bookstores, a friend of the family sent in this lovely display from Powell’s Books in Portland:

Powell's Books M.A.C. display.

I have completed the 75th anniversary Mike Hammer novel, Kill Me If You Can, which will have five bonus Spillane/Collins short stories that include two Hammer tales. It’s going to be a special book, just one of a number of things I’m working on to make Mike Hammer’s anniversary (yes, this is an anniversary-themed update) special. The anniversary in question is the first appearance of the detective in I, the Jury (1947).

I should say first published appearance, because as those of you who have really been paying attention know…the first appearance of the character, as Mike Lancer, was in a Green Hornet comic book (#10, December 1942) and the character was first developed by Mickey as Mike Danger as a comic project that did not come to fruition, and in an unfinished novel that became the Spillane/Collins collaboration, Killing Town.

Kill Me If You Can is based on mid-‘50s material Mickey wrote with radio and later TV in mind, and gave me the opportunity to deal with the younger, psychotic Hammer in a more direct way than ever before. Basically it bridges Kiss Me, Deadly and The Girl Hunters (the film of which is on several streaming services right now, by the way).

Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander in The Last Lullaby

The Last Lullaby, based on the Quarry novel The Last Quarry with a screenplay co-written by me, is streaming in HD on Amazon Prime right now, included with your Prime membership (if you have one, of course). [And $2.99 to rent / $6.99 to buy if you don’t have Prime.–Nate] It’s a good film and is probably more in line with the novels than the Cinemax series was, though Quarry is called “Price” because I didn’t want to grant sequel rights.

M.A.C. holding a copy of To Live and Spy in Berlin at his desk

Finished copies of the trade paperback edition of To Live and Spy in Berlin by Matt Clemens and me were sent out to the winners of the most current book giveaway. It’s a thing of beauty, and that wonderful essay Jeff Pierce wrote about the series in January Magazine has sparked real interest.

And now the estimable Ron Fortier has written the following rave review, which I will (still immodest) share with you:

TO LIVE AND SPY IN BERLIN
By Max Allan Collins with Matthew V. Clemens
Wolfpack Publishing 221 pgs

With this third installment of the John Sand series, Collins and Clemens put forth a proposition many past mystery writers have tackled; can marriage still be romantic and sexy? Following the events that were detailed in “Come Spy With Me” and “Live Fast, Spy Hard,” former British Agent John Sand and his Texas Oil Heiress wife, Stacey, have together joined the new international spy organization called GUILE created by U.S. President John Kennedy and run by former British Spy Chief Sir Lord Malcolm Marbury; known affectionately as Double M.

As we rejoin the Sands, the major issue between them is whether or not Stacey becoming an operative was a good idea or not. A series of lethal encounters with a team of professional assassins has John rethinking his decision. At the same time certain intelligence comes to the surface that former Nazis who escaped capture at the end of World War II may be active in Berlin, after having disappeared for several decades in certain South American countries. Bomb making uranium has been stolen and the likelihood of these renegade Nazis creating their own atomic bomb is a threat that cannot be ignored.

As in the first two entries, Collins and Clemens cleverly work in actual historical settings throughout the thriller, weaving their fiction skillfully around real people and the volatile political atmosphere of the early 1960s. Yet despite this outer layer of narrative, it is the relationship between John and Stacey that is truly captivating. It was impossible not to recall other literary and cinematic spouses from the past. From Nick and Nora Charles, to televisions Hart to Hart and McMillan & Wife, married duos sharing outlandish adventures worked remarkably well in the past and they are very much the pedigree of this thrill-a-minute new series.

As always, Collins and Clemens offer up a whole lot more than any back cover blurb can properly define. This series is brilliant in all its many aspects. If you’re a spy junkie like us, its time you met the Sands.

Ron does entertaining and informative reviews regularly at his Pulp Fiction Reviews blog.

And if you’re not a regular reader of J. Kingston Pierce’s Rap Sheet, you should be. There’s a mention of my stuff in this incredibly packed installment of his informative Bullet Points.

M.A.C.

New Editions of Regeneration and Kiss Her Goodbye

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021
Regeneration by Barbara Allan, 2021 Wolfpack Edition cover
Paperback: Bookshop Purchase Link
E-Book:

The Zoom presentation Barb and I made Saturday morning (for the DSM Book Festival) was attended by around seventy people, and went very well. This is the first online dual appearance we’ve made. We concentrated on five writing tips each, which not only gave participants some decent advice, but highlighted the differences in our approach as well as how we go about collaborating.

We spoke for about forty minutes, followed by answering questions from attendees.

As it happens, our first collaborative novel – Regeneration – is out this week in a new edition from Wolfpack, with another of that company’s stunning covers. The novel – which I’d classify as Dark Suspense, but could be a Psychological Thriller or even Horror – began as a short story by Barb, which we expanded into our debut collaborative novel. Bombshell would follow, and of course we began the Antiques/”Trash ‘n’ Treasures” cozy mystery series after that. (Wolfpack is planning an edition of Bombshell as well.)

Regeneration was originally published by Leisure Books, and a while back by Thomas & Mercer under our joint “Barbara Allan” byline. In many respects, this book was Barb’s baby as the idea was hers, as was the original plot of the short story, and nicely reflects the way she explores some social concern of hers in her fiction (a topic we discussed in that Zoom “Master Class”).

She really deserves top billing, but for marketing reasons I’ve reluctantly taken it.

* * *

The recent book giveaway (and more will follow, possibly including Regeneration) was nicely successful, and all thirty books were gone in 23 hours and signed copies have gone out in the mail to the winners.

Kiss Her Goodbye – one of the three books in that giveaway – is out tomorrow (April 6). My mentioning that it has the previously censored ending has attracted some attention, including questions like, “What previously censored ending?”

The editor of the original hardcover edition (and there was a trade paperback as well) of the third of the first three of my “Mike Hammer” Spillane/Collins collaborative novels objected to what he saw as an ending too similar to a certain famous Mike Hammer novel. I am dodging exactly which novel, and what ending, by way of avoiding a spoiler.

But I should say this editor was and is a friend to my efforts to get the unpublished, unfinished Mike Hammer novels in Mickey Spillane’s files finished and published. He aggressively went after those first three novels, and would have continued on with them, but his relationship with the publisher came to an end.

Publisher Nick Landau of Titan then stepped up immediately to take over publishing the Hammer novels as part of a greater Mike Hammer Legacy Project. Also, Nick went after mass market publication rights of the first three of those collaborative Spillane/Collins Mike Hammer novels (The Goliath Bone, The Big Bang, Kiss Her Goodbye), to bring the entire run under one imprint.

When this occurred, I asked my editor, the great Andrew Sumner – a true Hammer fan and expert – if I might restore the ending of Kiss Her Goodbye. Andrew thought it was a great idea, both in terms of honoring my artistic vision and to give the mass market edition something special to set it apart. (Ironically, I rather like the rewritten ending – if less than the previously unpublished one – and hope diehard fans will put both the original and the restored version on their shelves.)

Call it double-dipping if you like, but – as I’ve said elsewhere – double-dipping never hurt a hot fudge sundae.

* * *

I was very excited about HBO Max, specifically after the announcement that all Warner Bros movie releases for the next year would be streaming in tandem with actual theatrical presentations.

Then came the Wonder Woman 1984, as pathetic a major super-hero release as has come down the pike since Green Lantern.

Now Barb and I have endured Godzilla Vs. Kong, a movie we had been looking forward to for months. One of the definitions of insanity is to keeping doing the same thing over and over, always expecting a new result. That’s me and American Godzilla movies – I am always excited, thrilled by the preview, and the movie always disappointments.

Some people like this film – it’s 73% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – but that’s just Covid Derangement Syndrome. So starved are theatergoers (and streamers) for entertainment, they embrace this vapid, stupid exercise in SFX artistry and screenwriting incompetence. Only Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown emerges with her dignity. Well, also the great Kyle Chandler, wasted in a walk-on.

* * *

The print edition of the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers anthology, Turning the Tied, is available now (the e-book too, of course) (Paperback: | E-Book: ). It features many terrific writers doing famous characters in new short stories, including a Sherlock Holmes by a couple of guys named Collins and Clemens.

Check out this lovely gallery of Hard Case Crime Quarry covers.

M.A.C.