Posts Tagged ‘Skim Deep’

Hear Me If You Can

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

The Skyboat audio version of Kill Me If You Can is available now, ahead of the September 20 release of the Titan hardcover edition. Stefan Rudnicki again narrates the novel as well as the five bonus Spillane/Collins short stories (two of which are Mike Hammer yarns) that are part of the 75th anniversary package.

I can’t say enough about the great job Stefan does. Having to fill the shoes of Stacy Keach is hardly an enviable job, but Stefan pulls it off. Skyboat has been a big supporter of my work, and recently signed to do new audio versions of Regeneration and Bombshell by Barb and me.

Kill Me If You Can audiobook cover
Digital Audiobook: Google Play Audiobook Store
Audiobook MP3 CD:
Audiobook CD:
* * *

Rehearsals are heating up for our local Muscatine, Iowa, presentation of Encore for Murder featuring Gary Sandy as Mike Hammer. (For those of you in the area, or considering a road trip, here’s the info.

We had a table read with Gary joining us by phone – a conference call set-up – and it went well. My co-director Karen Cooney has done a great job casting and getting the show on its feet. I’m getting more involved now, doing some fine-tuning, but this is a strong local cast and I’m very pleased. Karen and several others of us mounting the production were able to look at the auditorium and do some in depth planning – it’s a great venue, seating 600.

We start working with sound effects and music (the latter culled from Mickey’s 1954 record album, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Story) this coming week, with a second Gary Sandy table read on Thursday.

* * *

A number of things are coming out soon – the aforementioned Kill Me If You Can and, on Oct. 4, Antiques Liquidation, which just got a snark-free review from Kirkus. Check it out:

Antiques Liquidation cover
ANTIQUES LIQUIDATION
BY BARBARA ALLAN

The mother-daughter pair of Vivian and Brandy Borne may appear to be simple antiques dealers, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.

When Vivian wakes Brandy at 2 a.m. to get a jump on a warehouse full of things that are going to be auctioned off soon—thanks to some sensitive information Vivian has about Conrad Norris, the auctioneer—Brandy gathers up her dog, Sushi, and they all drive to the warehouse where Norris awaits. They leave with a barrel of pearl buttons that Sushi picks out, two valuable toy arks, and a set of dishes. When the auction itself takes place, Norris is drunk and many people are left unsatisfied. Vivian does buy something, though—she couldn’t resist attending the auction, even having picked off some items beforehand—and when she and Brandy return to the warehouse to pick it up, they find Norris dead. Naturally, Chief of Police Tony Cassato—Brandy’s fiance—is called in. Vivian fancies herself a sleuth, and she and Brandy have solved quite a few murders together—a fact that does not incline Tony to want their help. Vivian drags Brandy along on her investigations, knowing that Norris was far from beloved by many people. Someone steals the ark Brandy had given to her best friend’s daughter, but Brandy is hesitant to finger the two collectors she knows fought fiercely to buy the remaining arks at the auction. Vivian and Brandy may be amateur detectives, but they know a hawk from a handsaw and are determined to track down the killer, especially once a skeleton is found in their button barrel, opening up a long-dead case.

Amusing mystery chockablock with antiques lore.

We intend to have book giveaways on both Kill Me If You Can and Antiques Liquidation, so stay tuned.

Before too very long we should be seeing the publication of Fancy Anders for the Boys and Cut-out from Neo-Text. These will be available both as e-books and physical books. (Cut-out is a Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins collaboration.)

And the new Nate Heller, The Big Bundle, will be out in hardcover from Hard Case Crime in early December.

I am about to begin the writing of Too Many Bullets, the RFK assassination Heller novel, after months of research. Those months will mean that the flow of books out of here will lessen next year, probably to just three. Some of this has to do with me deciding to slow down because I’m (damnit) 74. Some of it has to do with the amount a research that goes into any Heller novel, but this one has been unexpectedly onerous.

Like a lot of Americans, I assumed the Sirhan Sirhan assassination of Robert F. Kennedy was an open-and-shut case. I knew there were doubts and expected to explore them. But I did not (although I should have) expect the number of rabbit holes I’d be drawn down into.

After filling three notebooks, I have fashioned a rough synopsis, which I will be refining and expanding starting this afternoon. I hope to be writing this week.

As I’ve mentioned, I had intended this novel to cover Jimmy Hoffa material in a lengthy (middle section of the book) flashback. But as an echo of what happened to me writing True Detective in 1981 and ‘82, I found myself facing a book of potentially 1000 pages and had to retool.

(What happened with True Detective is that it turned into two books, the second one being True Crime, the first section of which was planned as the final section of True Detective.)

So Hoffa will probably become a separate book, out of chronology (although there hasn’t really been a linear chronology for Heller since after Neon Mirage).

I know some of you would prefer I write about Quarry or even Nolan (a few still request Mallory). I will indeed write about Quarry again, if I’m able, though I’ve stuck a fork in Nolan with Skim Deep. Of course, if the Lionsgate production of a Nolan film actually happens, I’ll be tempted to sell out. There’s always another story to tell if there’s money involved.

Mallory seems almost certainly a “no.” He was too on-the-nose “me.” I prefer the slightly off-kilter “me” of Heller and Quarry. And of course I’m occasionally called upon to channel Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of Nate Heller, here’s an essay that includes the Heller saga as among the best novels that deserve to be made into TV shows.

Road to Perdition is recommended as one of the best movies to watch on Paramount+ right now.

An in-depth and very positive overview look at my series of Quarry novels – something that has rarely been done – can be found here.

M.A.C.

Caleb York Nominated

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek cover
Hardcover: Indiebound Bookshop.org Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
Paperback: Indiebound Amazon Books-A-Million (BAM) Barnes & Noble (B&N)
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Kobo iTunes
Digital Audiobook Libro.fm Amazon Google Play Kobo Chirp

I’m pleased to say that my Caleb York novel – Shoot-out at Sugar Creek – has been nominated for a Scribe award.

Original Novel — General
Patient Zero, Amanda Bridgeman (Aconyte)
Shoot-out at Sugar Creek, Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (Kensington)
Debonair in Death, Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley)

Winners will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con July 22, 2022. A full list of nominees in all categories is at the IAMTW.

This is a bittersweet but much appreciated honor. For whatever reason, neither the Spur nor Peacemaker Awards from the Western Writers of America and the Western Fictioneers respectively have ever honored the Caleb York novels. (I should say we did get a Best Novel nomination for The Legend of Caleb York from the Fictioneers, but nothing since.)

I would imagine I’m viewed as an interloper, a mystery/crime novelist moving in on their territory. It’s been a fun ride nonetheless. Kensington has not asked for more Caleb York novels, and I am making no approaches to other publishers, though the York sales have been strong enough to make that possible. It’s just that my goal for Caleb York was to fashion a novel from Mickey’s unproduced screenplay, The Saga of Cali York, written for John Wayne. I only did more novels because Kensington requested them, and, hey, who am I to turn down work?

But at this stage of the game, I’m starting to question that question. I am embarking on what may be the final Nate Heller novel, the potentially massive Too Many Bullets, and will likely be spending most of the rest of this year on it. My health is fine, considering the underlying factors, but I am particular about what projects I take on at this point.

It’s hard for me to walk away from a series. I really loved writing Caleb York, as I’ve been a fan of movie and TV westerns since early childhood – admittedly less so of western fiction. But those six novels satisfied a creative itch and I’m pleased to go out on a Scribe nomination. The paperback of it is coming in October.

The Scribes honor writers of movie novelizations and TV tie-ins, as well as authors continuing characters begun by famous writers like Robert B. Parker, Edgar Rice Burroughs and, yup, Mickey Spillane. This is the first time I’ve submitted a Caleb York novel to the Scribes, as members are limited to one submission in a category, and previously I submitted Mike Hammer novels to the General Fiction category (winning several times, I’m pleased to say).

Those keeping score may recall that Lee Goldberg and I founded the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) a decade and a half ago. Lee, having more class than me, never submitted his work to the awards given by an organization he co-founded. I, of course, having no shame, have been a frequent nominee and occasional winner.

The reason why I have no shame is that the real shame goes to the writing organizations (you know who you are) that have ignored tie-in writing throughout their existence, as if the talented writers creating novels and short stories in their respective fields (science fiction, mystery fiction, horror, western) didn’t exist at all.

I know from the mail I’ve received over the years (snail and e-) that most readers don’t make that distinction. The role that Star Trek and Star Wars novels played in keeping those franchises alive during periods when Hollywood’s versions lay fallow cannot be overestimated. My publishers frequently mention that I am the author of Saving Private Ryan and Air Force One (among others) without bothering to mention they are novelizations. Until the recent Reeder & Rogers political trilogy came along, my CSI novels (written, like that trilogy, with my gifted co-writer Matthew Clemens) were my bestselling mystery/crime novels…and introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to my work.

So I am proud to be co-founder of the IAMTW, and will bear up under the shame of participating in their awards.

* * *
Sam Elliot in 1883

Speaking of westerns, among the streaming series Barb and I have been watching is 1883, which is supposedly a prequel to the very popular Yellowstone. We tried the latter and somewhere in the second season got irritated with it, so we avoided the prequel for a while. We shouldn’t have.

My love for Sam Elliot as perhaps our last great western icon in the Hollywood sense finally prompted us to watch, and it’s a fine show – tough, heart-felt, and more historically accurate than most. (Really it should be set at least ten years earlier, but apparently that would screw up its prequel-to-Yellowstone timeline.) Everyone on this series is good, but Elliot seems to sense this is a career-capper and his rock-hard surface hiding tender humanity – he is sort of the ultimate “tough love” advocate – sums up everything we admire about his work.

1883 is on Paramount-Plus, and I’m finding it the best of the handful of streaming services of which I partake. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to honor the memory and approach of Roddenberry while updating it. Barb and I glance at each other every episode and at some point one of us says, “Can you believe it’s 2022 and we’re watching new Star Trek?”

And real Star Trek at that.

The Offer wrapped up very well. Having read a bit about the actual filming of The Godfather, I am aware a certain amount of sugarcoating, not to mention artistic license, is afoot here. But I was shocked by the swells of emotion I felt in the knowledge that the characters have achieved their goals and were about to go on with their lives without me. For me, Miles Teller is the standout in a cast that I would have to say is flawless (well, the Sinatra guy could have been better).

Also viewed streaming (it’s available a couple of places) is a three-and-a-half-hour Bollywood movie my son badgered me to watch – RRR. It is an absolutely bonkers action spectacle that makes Raiders of the Lost Arc look like a documentary about archeology. They fight, they sing, they dance, they romance, they make sure we know the Brits were stinkers. It’s absurd and childish and sophisticated and three hours and a half just blow by. I cannot do RRR justice, other than to say – don’t leave the planet before you’ve experienced it. (My favorite scene had to do with the massive cages of wild beasts being unleashed on a British nighttime garden party.)

You’re welcome.

* * *

One of the things about writing a weekly blog, with a specific deadline, is that everything else can get in the way.

Today I have to prep for the commentary I’m doing tomorrow morning (at Phil Dingeldein’s studio in Rock Island) for the ClassicFlix 4K Blu-ray (and 3-D) release of the 1953 I, the Jury, something I had only dreamed might one day happen. But the prep will not be easy, as there is much to discuss.

Last week I was in a foul mood and did not feel well, and dragged myself through this bloggy process. And if it showed, well, you’re not paying anything for this. Don’t bitch.

However. I performed the kind of screw-up I am well-known among my friends and associates (not mutually exclusive groups) for performing: I posted the four gigs of my band Crusin’ this summer and managed to leave out one of those dates, while thoughtfully including the times and places. You can’t have everything.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

Before I present the revised schedule, I’ll mention that Crusin’ appeared last Friday night (June 24) at Ardon Creek Winery. It’s a lovely outdoor venue, and we were pretty good. The crowd was even better, numbering in the hundreds. A taco truck fed their tummies, and we fed their souls. It was fun, and I felt good throughout, relieved that my age had not dulled my rock ‘n’ roll skills appreciably since last year.

We had not appeared at Ardon Creek, one of our favorite venues, since pre-Covid, so it felt like a reunion. Barb was there – she helps me set up and tear down – and my son Nate, his wife Abby and their two kids Sam and Lucy came and capered on the surrounding green landscape that makes this particular venue so special.

Crusin' at Ardon Creek, 2022

I know these updates go out to readers, fans and friends all over the country, all over the world really, and what follows is strictly for Eastern Iowa and thereabouts. But here’s the rest of Crusin’s season:

Saturday July 2 we’re at Proof Social in Muscatine, from 5 to 8 p.m. On the patio, inside in case of rain.

Sunday August 14 it’s the Second Sunday Concert Series at Musser Public Library, 408 E. 2nd Street in Muscatine, IA. Sometimes it’s indoors, weather allowing outside in the parking lot. 6 to 8 p.m.

Sunday Aug 21 2022 – the Muscatine Art Center’s yearly Ice Cream Social, 1 till 4 p.m. 1314 Mulberry Ave, Muscatine.

* * *

Here’s a nice John Sand review.

This piece looks at Road to Perdition on Netflix.

You have to scroll down a ways, but this is an in depth look at several of the Nolan novels, including the recent Skim Deep. [Note: the link is a PDF-format Internet magazine. The homepage is here.—Nate] The writer is very self-confident, smart and talky, but careless (my middle name is “Allen” in the first piece, and Richard Stark, it seems, writes about “Porter”). But it’s a deeper dive (a current term I despise) than Nolan is usually given.

Here’s a Spillane WW 2-era comic book story I didn’t know about!

M.A.C.

A New Novella, TV Mini-Series Reviews and Legacy Books

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

This week I am working on my draft of the last five chapters of Cutout, the novella Barb and I are doing for Neo-Text. It will appear as a trade paperback, available through Amazon, and of course an e-book. No pub date yet, but Neo-Text moves fast.

Cutout marks Barb’s return to her tight, third-person style that she honed in her years writing short stories, which culminated in the novels Regeneration and Bombshell, co-written by me (now available from Wolfpack – the trade paperbacks are lovely).

We have, of course, been writing the Antiques series since then, and it’s been a long-running success, although we were not offered a new contract by Kensington and moved to Severn, where Antiques Liquidation (our second Trash ‘n’ Treasures mystery for the UK house, after Antiques Carry On) will be published on October 4.

Barb had begun to get an itch to do something else, as evidenced by a short story we co-wrote that appeared not long ago in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2021) under our “Barbara Allan” joint pseudonym. For over a year she’s been mulling (her maiden name is Mull) doing an espionage-tinged novel called Cutout, and we discussed it often, plotting it over a restaurant lunch (as is our habit). I came to feel it was either a novella or a young adult novel, in part because its protagonist is a young woman in her freshman year of college, but also because it needed to be probably no longer than 40,000 or at most 50,000 words – at least as initially conceived. Barb had in a mind a very spare, almost minimalist style for this one.

With Neo-Text a market for my novellas – witness Fancy Anders Goes to War – we decided to go with that length, which will be in the neighborhood of 30,000 words.

We were able to sell it to Neo-Text on a basis of the first third or so of the manuscript plus a fairly detailed synopsis. I’ve been doing my drafts of chapters with Barb out ahead of me, and now she’s completed her draft and I have five chapters (of sixteen) to go.

All I can tell you is it seems very, very good to me.

I will keep you posted.

* * *

We seem to be in a sort of Golden Age of TV mini-series, thanks to the hungry eye of streaming services. I would like to point out a few that might be worthy of your time.

The Staircase

The Staircase (HBO, streaming on HBO Max) charts the notorious Michael Peterson case, in which the author of Vietnam thrillers is accused of the murder of his wife. This true-crime-based drama was already the subject of a well-known documentary, streaming on Netflix, also called The Staircase. The documentary is fascinating and, while somewhat flawed in stacking the deck at least slightly in Peterson’s favor, a worthwhile watch, despite its thirteen-episode length. But the dramatic mini-series is its own animal and quite good, dealing with material not covered in the documentary, including much more about Peterson’s wife and family, his experiences in prison, and the seemingly ridiculous but actually compelling theory that the wife was killed by an owl (!). Peterson in real life is a complex character, at first an apparent sociopath but then seemingly human and even a victim. It’s a whipsaw experience, watching both the documentary and the dramatic version. The centerpiece of the latter – a meta experience that includes the making of the documentary within its own narrative – is the remarkable Colin Firth as Michael Peterson.

Two more true-crime based mini-series may be of interest to you – they were to me. But both take a less serious approach to the material, casting real-life melodrama in a manner reminiscent of a John Waters movie.

Candy

Candy recounts the at-one-time household name murder case from 1980 in which one church-going housewife killed another church-going housewife with an axe, wielding enough blows to make Lizzie Borden look like an under-achiever. Candy Montgomery – the case is the subject of a famous true crime book co-written by John Bloom (Joe Bob Briggs!) – plotted her affair with Betty Gore’s husband as if it were a Brinks truck robbery. But she somehow killed Betty with that axe (the jury agreed) in out-of-control self-defense. The dark absurdity of the case lends itself to creator Nick Antosca staging everything Waters-style, with kitschy late ‘70s/’80s sets and Sears catalogue costuming and blatantly fake wigs and a musical soundtrack more appropriate for a sitcom than a tragic docudrama. Jessica Biel plays Candy peanut-brittle brittle, aggressively upbeat. The subtext here is that Candy was guilty.

But if you watch the 1990 TV movie with Barbara Hershey (it’s on You Tube and out-of-print DVD) – A Killing in a Small Town – you’ll find a strikingly similar film as to content, with the tone and approach wildly different. For one thing, Barbara Hershey is a world-class actress who actually sells Candy’s unlikely innocence. For another, the tragedy is treated not as a dark joke but…a tragedy. The 1990 film (only ten years later, after all) looks like real life, not an over-the-top, if admittedly compulsively watchable, kitsch fest.

The Thing About Pam

But The Thing About Pam, an NBC mini-series streaming on Peacock, makes Candy look like The Thin Blue Line. Reneé Zellweger has gotten heat for wearing prosthetics (including a “fat suit”) instead of putting herself through the unhealthy but somehow admirable effort of gaining a bunch of weight. A better argument might be hiring a plus-size actress, but Zellweger is so good in the role, even that’s doubtful. What did seem questionable to me, as I watched the mini-series, was how far down the John Waters rabbit hole the filmmakers had gone.

The absurdity was shameful! They even had that creepy Dateline guy do the narration! They outright played it like black comedy – how could they?

But then I looked at some of the documentary material on the case and you know what? It plays like laughably bad melodrama in real life – an idiot prosecutor who ignores the most obvious suspect, white cops who badger an Hispanic suspect for a quick arrest, a manipulative, greedy woman who sees herself as funny and smart and is just an unmistakable monster. That creepy narrator was the only thing absent from the real deal…and even there, the murderer herself pretended in her last desperate homicidal ploy to pass herself off as a Dateline producer!

I don’t know if I can recommend either Candy or The Thing About Pam, but…forgive me…I enjoyed every minute of both. The world we live in seems to me more and more like a John Waters movie. Why shouldn’t both of these mini-series reflect that? Didn’t I write this already? Wasn’t it called Mommy?

Similarly, perhaps the best mini-series going right now draws upon an entirely different kind of true crime – Gaslit on STARZ, starring Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell and Sean Penn as her husband John. Both are excellent, though this Watergate mini-series belongs to Dan Stevens as a somehow lovable weasel of a John Dean. This one also plays as an absurd comedy, but doesn’t need to overdo it to make the point that the reality was similarly wack-a-doodle. Everybody in this is good, but another standout is Shea Whigham, who makes a terrifying and yet hilarious G. Gordon Liddy.

The offer

As good as Gaslit is, The Offer is my favorite of all these, the series both Barb and I savor every moment of. Streaming on Paramount (a company the series regularly skewers), The Offer is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Godfather. This, too, finds comic melodrama in the proceedings but is less heavy-handed than Candy and Pam (yet how I would love to see Candy Montgomery Vs. Pam Hupp: The Final Showdown). Some reviewers haven’t liked The Offer, but actual humans probably will. The cast is wonderful, with Matthew Goode’s Robert Evans a stunning thing to behold, while quietly charismatic Miles Teller holds everything together as producer Al Ruddy, the pole that holds the tent up. Also outstanding, among a flawless ensemble, are Juno Temple, Dan Fogler and Giovanni Ribisi.

Finally, Better Call Saul on AMC is in its final season (broken in two, as was the case with Ozark). I find its narrative style fascinating – often the story proceeds at a crawl, raising more questions than answers, and yet you hang right with it. I keep thinking about how that approach could transfer to prose.

* * *

Scott D. Parker, in his article “Legacy Authors and That Last Book,” compares aging rock bands who record a last song and/or album, knowing it will be their last, to authors who may write a book about an enduring character, knowing it will be the last.

Parker invokes me and some of my ruminations here about slowing down, and specifically wonders if I’ll know when I’m sitting at the computer to work on my final Heller novel. The truth is I don’t know. I have one more Heller to write on the current Hard Case Crime contract, and – as The Big Bundle won’t be out till early December – I don’t yet know how the HCC audience will take to Nate Heller. I am confident that Heller is my most important work and my best shot at being read years after I’m gone.

And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced his enduring contribution would be those historical epics nobody reads any more.

For me, it’s a matter of paying attention to my health. I’ve had two good reports in recent days and it looks like – aside from getting hit by a bus or something the docs overlooked – I’ll be around a while. I have every expectation this next Heller will get written.

Will it be the last?

I don’t know. Parker wonders if mystery writers realize their characters are getting older. Well, some ignore it. Stout would have characters from previous novels show up on Archie and Wolfe’s doorstep having aged, while Goodwin and Nero remain in the same frozen-in-time state. Mickey Spillane, in advertising for The Killing Man, appeared in Miller Lite trenchcoat-and-fedora drag saying, “I got older – Mike didn’t.”

But he did. Like Jack Benny, Mike Hammer didn’t admit to being older than 39, but he clearly was. He was a guy who’d fought in the Pacific in World War II, using a cell phone in Black Alley (1996). I have made a point, in my collaborations with Mickey, to be more up front about Mike’s age. I fudge it a little, though.

In our Antiques series, Barb and I have to dance around the aging problem all the time. We want the books to be contemporary, so mentions of current political figures and pop culture come in – but we only move the pieces on the chessboard ahead one-season-per-book. In other words, for every four books, one year has passed in the lives of Brandy and Mother. Less than five years in real time elapse over 15 or 16 novels, yet they are moving through time at the same rate as the rest of us.

My late friend Paul Thomas, my musical collaborator, used to say about such things, “If you buy any of it, you buy all of it.”

I think I am more inclined to age my characters more normally than most mystery writers. Quarry’s age can be calculated, and so can Nate Heller’s. But one thing is for sure: me? I am moving only in one direction.

* * *

Here are eleven “intoxicating” crime books set in Las Vegas. They include Skim Deep, but should have made it a dozen with Neon Mirage.

I get a nice mention in this very good article, “A Primer on Crime Fiction.”

I receive a left-handed compliment in this look at the great Batman eras.

M.A.C.

No Time to Spy

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
No Time to Spy: The John Sand Box Set cover
E-Book: Amazon

Next week – Wednesday December 15, to be exact – No Time to Spy will go on sale at Amazon (it’s up for pre-sale now). It will likely be labeled The John Sand Box, although there’s a possibility it might say The John Sand Trilogy (this has been under discussion at Wolfpack, our publisher…although we will soon be moving to Wolfpack’s Rough Edges Press imprint under the auspices of the great James Reasoner).

At the moment, No Time to Spy is listed only as a Kindle title, but a print edition will be available soon. We’ll announce that here. The Kindle price is $5.99, which for all three Sand novels is less than two bucks a book. Such a deal. (Don’t know the print edition price yet.)

The nature of the Sand novels makes an omnibus collection like this ideal, as the books work well as one big novel. Truthfully, they would work even better with a fourth book that Matt and I have in mind, but that’s in the hands of readers like you. For those of you who are interested enough in my work to pay attention to these blog/updates, but haven’t tried John Sand yet, now’s the time. If you read on Kindle, get busy. If you prefer print, stay tuned.

These books – despite what a few knucklehead reviewers on Amazon have said (you know – the “I’m a big fan of Max Allan Collins but his books suck” contingent) – these are not in any way spoofs. They are rather tough and violently actionful in the manner of the Fleming originals and the films (all but certain Roger Moore entries). They are not serious John Le Carre exercises, but take place in that world of ‘60s spies where Bond, Harry Palmer, Napoleon Solo (first season), John Drake and Matt Helm (books only) lived. This is the world Austin Powers made fun of.

I realize a good number of you are Old School readers. You not only like physical media, you like to browse in actual bookstores. But I have to ask your patience and, frankly, your help because my markets today are only partly served by the likes of Barnes & Noble and BAM!, no matter how much money I spend at both and the few independent bookstores I run across as an Iowan in Covidville. Two of my primary markets are e-book driven – Wolfpack and Neo-Text – and both serve the print market only through Amazon. Nothing I can do about that – I go where I’m wanted.

So don’t expect to find John Sand or Fancy Anders or Jimmy Leighton on the shelves of traditional bookstores. Ain’t gonna happen, at least not for a while. Take what’s left of my future in your hot little hands and help Jeff Bezos send William Shanter even further into outer space.

Captain Kirk and I implore you.

* * *

Matt Clemens and I live about thirty miles apart. I’m in Muscatine, Iowa, and he’s in Davenport, Iowa. We have written around 30 novels together, and he worked on all four of my indie features. I talk with him on the phone frequently and did so throughout the Covid lockdown, during which we wrote two of the John Sand books. But today, when he drove to Muscatine to bring me some books, was the first we’ve been in the same room together for almost two years.

It was fun. We talked about mystery writer stuff and explored possibilities for a fourth John Sand novel, while the family dog, Toaster – a demented Blue Heeler (is there any other kind?) – barked and then whimpered and finally rolled submissively on her back for Matt.

No one had been in our house except the others in our lockdown bubble – Nate and his missus and their two young ‘uns – since March 2020. Toaster is crazy as it is, but the presence of Matthew – not a small man – absolutely drove her past the brink and into insanity…a watchdog delirious with joy thanks to a human she knew well but hadn’t seen in ages.

Relationships on the phone and zoom work – they really do. But being in the same room as a friend and talking and interacting and looking at each other…it’s a part of being human that I’d missed more than I realized.

We did something we rarely did at the end of the day, Matt and me – we shook hands.

“Let’s write a book together next year,” he said

“Let’s,” I said.

* * *

Last week and through the weekend – with Jim Traylor’s counsel – I revised Spillane – King of Pulp Fiction for editor Otto Penzler at Mysterious Press. I delivered it today. I have also completed the 14-page synopsis of The Big Bundle, after spending many hours reading research, looking for the story part of the word history.

I think I found it, and I’m excited to be starting what will surely be one of the last few Heller novels, meaning it needs to be a really good one.

My very next project, which I will begin writing on the day this update appears, is my draft – working from Barb’s – of Antiques Foe. The pun, for those of you paying attention, is “faux/foe.” I really enjoy working on these.

* * *

Here is a Dave Thomas interview about our book The Many Lives of Jimmy Leighton.

About half-way through this podcast, the Evil Genius (Dave Slusher) talks about really liking my books but doesn’t think they’re great – they don’t show much “art.” At the beginning of my career, the New York Times mystery critic said: “Collins has an artless style that conceals a great deal of art.” So there, Evil Genius. But thanks.

Finally, we posted a link to this Ron Fortier review of Skim Deep before, but it’s such a lovely one, here it is again in case you missed it (picked up by ESO Network).

M.A.C.