Posts Tagged ‘The Big Bang’

Mistake for Murder – Hammer Time

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

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Turns out I make mistakes now and then. Who’d have thunk it.

A reader tells me I mangled an entry in the bibliographic essay at the conclusion of Do No Harm, for example. I will try to correct it in the ebook, when things settle down, but for now it’s all I’ll think about when I look at that book. A small continuity error in Killing Quarry is all I see when I look at the cover of that one (the e-book has been corrected).

For those caring enough to read this weekly update, I made another mistake, although it was not exactly my (or anybody’s) fault. Turns out the new Mike Hammer, Masquerade for Murder, was published on March 17, the original announced date, and not April 7, having supposedly been postponed to that date. The audio is available, too, read by the great Stefan Rudnicki.

Now, here’s the surprise Spillane ending: the novel’s release really has been postponed till April 7…in the UK. Which sort of lessens my error, because after all the publisher is Titan, which is a British publishing house.

The bottom line is you lucky Americans can rush out and buy it now…well, you can order it online, anyway. Corona virus is doing nobody any favors – not even Smith Corona Virus. I may or may not do a book giveaway to help promote the book – I need to discuss the logistics of that with Barb.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss the new Hammer book a bit. The title of Masquerade for Murder is in line with the Stacy Keach TV movies of the ‘80s, all of which had “Murder” in their titles. This is fitting because the synopsis Mickey wrote, from which I developed the novel, was likely written for the Keach series, as was the case with Murder, My Love (the previous Hammer novel).

These two novels have in common something uncommon in Mike Hammer novels – the detective has a client in both of them. In Mickey’s famous novels, starting with I, the Jury, Hammer almost always is on a personal crusade, a vengeance hunt usually (a girl hunt in, well, The Girl Hunters). But with a TV series, Hammer couldn’t play vigilante every episode – the Darren McGavin version only has a handful of revenge plots, for example – so it’s natural Mickey might have developed these synopses with TV in mind.

The only TV synopses he wrote that became a novel written solely by him was The Killing Man, and it had Hammer personally motivated. Mickey did not submit that synopsis, by the way, considering the story “too good for TV.” (He apparently developed a synopsis for the terrible Keach-less Hammer TV movie, Come Die With Me, but only his ending was utilized.)

If Mickey was writing these synopses with television in mind, what am I doing developing novels out of them, in the case of Masquerade for Murder and the previous Murder, My Love?

Let me discuss what my procedure has been in creating novels where my famous co-author is deceased.

As I’ve reported numerous times, Mickey’s wife Jane and my wife Barb and I went on a treasure hunt – following Mickey’s directive shortly before his passing – for unfinished material in his three offices at his South Carolina home.

Our discoveries included half a dozen Mike Hammer manuscripts that represented works well in progress. These were usually 100 pages or a little more (double-spaced) and often had character and plot notes, and in a few cases endings.

Mickey had been racing to finish what he intended to be the last Mike Hammer novel, chronologically, The Goliath Bone, all but a few chapters of which were unfinished, and a roughed-out ending was there, too. But because of the terrible ticking clock he was working under, Mickey’s nearly complete draft was much shorter than usual and required fleshing out. Also, the novel had no murder mystery aspect. I provided the latter (his ending is the basis of the second to the last chapter).

A non-Hammer novel, Dead Street, existed in a nearly complete draft, a little rougher than usual but with almost everything there. Dead Street had been written in a stop-and-start fashion, however, and had some inconsistencies due to being written over a longer span of time than usual. I smoothed things out, and wrote the last several (missing) chapters.

The other five Hammers-in-progress – The Big Bang; Kiss Her Goodbye; Lady, Go Die!; Complex 90; King of the Weeds – all had individual issues for me to deal with. The Big Bang consisted of about a third of the novel in finished form, and Mickey had told me the ending; but no plot and character notes turned up. Kiss Her Goodbye existed in two substantial manuscripts that went in two different directions (different mysteries developing); a lot of plot and character notes existed. I combined the two manuscripts – removing the redundant material – and used both mysteries, weaving them together.

Lady, Go Die! was an early manuscript, an unfinished follow-up to I, the Jury which had a good chunk of manuscript – about sixty pages – but was missing the first chapter. I had set this manuscript aside until I’d completed the first three Hammers, so that I felt comfortable enough to write the first chapter of one without Spillane input – I’d been intimidated, because nobody wrote better first chapters than Mickey Spillane. And I had a Spillane first chapter for another Hammer that seemed to be a 1970s reworking of the much-earlier story, and this I was able to use about half-way through the novel, to put more Spillane content in.

Complex 90 ran around 100 pages, very polished, but also had an issue: in the opening chapter, Hammer reports his harrowing adventures in Russia to some government spooks. I decided to turn that exposition into a flashback taking Hammer to Russia and experiencing all of his exploits first-hand. So that novel is unusual because it’s mostly the middle third that represents Mickey’s work.

King of the Weeds was the most challenging, and I had held it off for last, since my initial goal was to get these six substantial Hammer novels completed (and to complete Dead Street). Mickey conceived King of the Weeds as the final Hammer (changing his mind after the Twin Towers attack, which sparked Goliath Bone). At some point he misplaced the manuscript and – this is typically Mickey – just started over.

So I had two manuscripts to combine, including two very different opening chapters (the ending he had shared with me in a late-night gab session). The other difficult aspect was that Mickey was doing a direct sequel to Black Alley, a book that at that time was out of print. I almost threw out the Black Alley sequel material, but ultimately couldn’t bring myself not to follow Mickey’s wishes. Ironically, King of the Weeds became one of the strongest of the novels.

There was more material in Mickey’s files. I had done Dead Street for Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, and now completed for HCC the sequel to The Delta Factor, another 100-page Spillane novel-in-progress that gave the world a second Morgan the Raider yarn.

Titan was anxious for me to continue Hammer. I had about forty or fifty pages of the novel Mickey began after Kiss Me, Deadly – a false start for The Girl Hunters with gangsters not Russian spies as the bad guys. It included Hammer traveling to Miami for an unusual change of scene and I felt had great potential. That became Kill Me, Darling.

A strong opening chapter by Mickey, plus some plot notes and his terrific ending became Murder Never Knocks. Two detailed opening chapters by Mickey became The Will to Kill. And – with Mickey’s 100th birthday in mind – I had held back about sixty pages of Mickey’s first, pre-I, the Jury (unfinished) Mike Hammer novel, Killing Town.

Mickey’s last completed novel, The Last Stand, a non-Mike Hammer, was wonderful but somewhat atypical, and rather short. So I revised an unpublished, very typical early novella, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” and it became a sort of preamble to Mickey’s final novel, published by Hard Case Crime. Interestingly, The Last Stand is a modern-day western, and another Spillane project of mine has been to develop a novel and then series of books from an unproduced screenplay he wrote for his buddy John Wayne – the script that became The Legend of Caleb York.

And there’s been a collection of eight Hammer short stories (A Long Time Dead) developed from shorter fragments. I have also sold a handful of non-Hammer short stories, which may someday be collected.

Which brings us up to the latest Hammer novels, last year’s Murder, My Love and Masquerade for Murder. Murder, My Love is the only Hammer novel so far with no Spillane prose stirred in – strictly Mickey’s basic plot. The new book, Masquerade for Murder, came from a rather detailed synopsis, and the opening description of NYC is mostly Mickey’s, with a mini-sequence between Pat Chambers and Mike (about Hammer’s propensity for low-tech armament) that is Mickey’s as well. I feel good about how smoothly this material stirred in.

Where to now?

I have proposed three more Hammer novels, all from Spillane material. One combines two non-Hammer (but Hammer-ish) fragments, including a very different take on Dead Street; another will utilize a Hammer story Mickey developed for radio and again for TV, unproduced; and finally another synopsis apparently for a Keach-era Hammer episode.

I know some of you know all of this, but I thought it might be a good idea to get this recorded and in one place. Also, maybe it will inspire you to get hold of Masquerade for Murder, which I think is a damn good entry in this series.

I can’t express what it means to me to look over at the shelf and see Mickey’s Hammer novels residing next to the ones I’ve completed for him…and for me, the teenager in Iowa who wanted more, more, more Mike Hammer.

* * *

Speaking of short stories, Barb and I – writing as Barbara Allan, of course – have sold a short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – “What’s Wrong with Harley Quinn?” It’s not an Antiques story, but rather harks back to the kind of nasty little tale my beautiful and talented wife concocted when she was specializing in short stories.

It’s a very big deal to get published in EQMM, and we are thrilled.

* * *

With Masquerade for Murder the subject of today’s update, I am pleased to share with you this terrific review of that very novel.

The word is out about Nolan’s somewhat imminent return in Skim Deep. Read about it here.

Also, my friends at Paperback Warrior have a podcast, always interesting, which this week includes some commentary on the Nolan series.

Here’s a wonderful Ron Fortier review of the Brash Books edition of Black Hats.

Guess who’s an Irish comic book character? Michael O’Sullivan, that’s who! Check it out here.

Both yrs truly and Barbara Allan get good play on this discussion of Quad Cities area authors. Hey, what about Matthew V. Clemens?

M.A.C.

Murder Never Knocks

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

[Before we get to this week’s post, a quick update from Nate: Dad has graduated from the ICU to the step-down unit and now on to the inpatient rehabilitation unit where he’s working hard to get back on his feet. Thank you everyone for your outpouring of support, which gave us something we could always turn to when we needed a boost.]

Murder Never Knocks

Hardcover:

E-Book:

Audio MP3 CD:

Audible:

As some of you may know, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS was originally announced – and even listed at Amazon, including cover art – as DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU. I was asked to come up with a different title, more overtly noir/PI, when the Titan sales force noted that sales were better for LADY, GO DIE! and KILL ME, DARLING than for COMPLEX 90 and KING OF THE WEEDS.

Stacy Keach pointed out to me, when we were doing the radio-play-style novels-for-audio, THE LITTLE DEATH and ENCORE FOR MURDER, that all of the Hammer TV movies he starred in had “murder” in the title. That steered me toward the title I finally picked for this novel…or I should say that Titan finally picked, as I gave them half a dozen possibilities.

Mickey’s title, DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU, was in part a tribute to his favorite crime writer, Frederic Brown, who wrote a famous and wonderful story of that title about a demented typesetter. Mickey had two alternate titles, THE CONTROLLED KILL and THE CONTROLLER, which I didn’t think were right for the novel as it developed. Mickey devised some of the greatest titles in mystery fiction – hard to top I, THE JURY and KISS ME, DEADLY – so it’s important that I go with titles that serve him well. I happen to like both COMPLEX 90 and KING OF THE WEEDS as titles – both were Mickey’s choice – but I understand that neither one immediately suggests mystery or suspense. Still, terrific titles, I think.

This time I worked from around thirty pages of Mickey’s, plus some plot notes and the ending of the book. Mickey often spoke about writing the ending first, but this is only one of two times (the other being THE GOLIATH BONE) that I found those endings. By the way, Mickey’s ending for THE GOLIATH BONE was reworked into that of the second-to-the-last chapter of that novel; the actual last chapter is mine, as Mickey’s manuscript was a thriller and did not contain a murder mystery aspect…and I felt it necessary to add that.

On the other hand, several of our collaborative novels reflect endings that Mickey told me about – THE BIG BANG and KING OF THE WEEDS in particular.

It’s also necessary for me to try to figure out when Mickey’s partial manuscripts were written, so that I can set them properly within the chronology, as well as know what books of Mickey’s to read to get me in the right mind set. Initially, I thought MURDER NEVER KNOCKS/DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU was a ’50s manuscript. But interior evidence – for example, mention of certain NYC newspapers that had recently gone out of business – indicated the late ’60s. That allowed me to do some Greenwich Village characters and scenes that reflect the hippie era.

The basic plot has Hammer up against a Moriarty-type villain (as was the case in KING OF THE WEEDS). This time Hammer has been selected by the superstar hitman among hitmen, preparing to retire, for the honor of being his last kill.

MURDER NEVER KNOCKS will be out March 8 – in time for Mickey’s 98th birthday on March 9.

In celebration of that, here’s a fun excerpt from a great interview with Woody Allen in the January issue of WRITTEN BY, the Screen Writer’s Guild magazine. The interviewer notes that the filmmaker became a great reader, despite a lack of a university education. Woody says:

“I read because the women that I liked when I was a teenager lived down in Greenwich Village and they all had those black clothes. The Jules Feiffer women with the black leather bags and the blonde hair and the silver earrings and they all had read Proust and Kafka and Nietzche. And so when I said, ‘No, the only thing I’ve ever read were two books by Mickey Spillane,’ they would look at their watch and I was out. So in order to be able to carry on a conversation with these women who I thought were so beautiful and fascinating, I had to read. So I read. But it wasn’t something I did out of love. I did it out of lust.”

M.A.C.

[Nate here:] Two early reviews came in for MURDER NEVER KNOCKS this week. One from the great Mike Dennis (“Score another winner for Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins,” and another from the Garbage File that was decidedly not garbage (“Very enjoyable indeed!”).

The Legend of Caleb York

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
The Legend of Caleb York
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E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Audio MP3 CD:

Audio CD:

Audible:

THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK is available as a hardcover right now. I can wait while you order it. (Collins humming themes from “Maverick” followed by “Rawhide,” concluding with a rousing rendition of the title song of “The Gunfight at O.K. Corral”). (You have to admit the song would not be as cool if it were “The Gunfight in the Vacant Lot Between Two Buildings Adjacent to the O.K. Corral.” Not only do we sometimes have to print the legend, sometimes we have to sing it.)

Okay, you’re back? Just for your info, there’s an audio book, too, which I’ll report on once I’ve listened to it, and a large print edition for people with eyesight even worse than mine.

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s, or mine, or both, you will surely want to grab this. In the late 1950s, Mickey wrote a screenplay, “The Saga of Cali York,” for his pal John Wayne that never got produced. It was one of three unproduced screenplays waiting for me in the Spillane files that Mickey had his wife Jane turn over to me. I based the novel on Mickey’s screenplay, which I thought was very good – it’s a traditional 1950s western in the vein of a really top-notch Randolph Scott, Joel McCrae or Audie Murphy flick.

What separates “York” from other westerns is the Spillane-style toughness and the explicit violence. Wayne presumably did not produce the film because his company Batjac got in financial hot water due to the way-over-budget production of THE ALAMO. But it’s also possible the over-the-top violence, at times anticipating Sam Peckinpah, made it a problematic project. It’s somewhat sexually steamy for the 1950s, too.

Writing the novel was tricky. I am right now in the early days of writing a sequel, utilizing material from Mickey’s notes and various drafts of the “York” script, and I spend as much time on Google doing research – and utilizing two shelves of my office library cart with books on the Old West – as I do writing.

Just the same, nobody should expect the level of historical accuracy that I bring to the Nathan Heller (or other historical crime) novels of mine. While I try to drop in tidbits of authenticity, Mickey was clearly operating in a movie/TV world, specifically of the ‘50s. Think of the Warner Bros. westerns of that period, or movies by Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Budd Boetticher. That’s the world.

So I don’t know how western fans will react. And I’m not sure how Heller fans will, either. BLACK HATS showed me taking the Heller approach to Wyatt Earp, but the Spillane westerns I’m doing for Kensington (there will be at least three) are definitely exploring the myth. Exploring it violently, but exploring it.

Not many reviews yet, but two really nice ones popped up last week, including one by modern-day pulpster, Ron Fortier.

And here’s a good one, very smart I think, from the Kindle Taproom.

Speaking of Spillane, I was thrilled to get another Mike Hammer review from the UK’s great Mike Carlson. He really digs KILL ME, DARLING.

Another Hammer review popped up for a title released a few years back, THE BIG BANG.

And, finally, out of nowhere came this write-up about the DICK TRACY comic strip collection, DICK TRACY AND THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE.

M.A.C.

A Real Bookstore

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Centuries and Sleuths Signing 2014
Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins with fan Andy Lind

Barb and I did a signing at one of our favorite bookstores, Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illiniois, this Sunday past. The turnout was modest but included some of our most dedicated fans – one of whom brought two cartons of doughnuts! (Thanks, Rick!) The relatively small group meant that these hardcore fans could ask all kinds of knowledgeable questions, and that was a real pleasure. Among them were Andy Lind – Cedar Rapids fan relocated to Rockford who came all that way – and Mike Doran, old TV expert par excellence and frequent poster here.

Hosts Augie and Tracy Aleksy are ever gracious, good-humored and interested in what authors have to say. We signed some stock for Augie, and since we are doing no more signings this year (and probably few to none next), you may want to pick up signed copies from Centuries and Sleuths. You can call Augie at 708-771-7243, and the e-mail is csn7419@sbcglobal.net. He has signed copies of KING OF THE WEEDS, ANTIQUES CON, THE WRONG QUARRY, and – yes – SUPREME JUSTICE. He has a good quantity of signed ANTIQUES and Hard Case Crime QUARRY titles, too.

What makes Centuries and Sleuths unique is the combination of history and mystery – not just historical mysteries, but books on history. Right now Augie is concentrating on World War One (“celebrating” its 100th anniversary), and has all sorts of non-fiction titles available on the subject, but also fiction. He’s ordering in THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, for instance, in its Thomas & Mercer paperback edition.

Walking into a bookstore like Centuries and Sleuths is a reminder of what makes book buying such a pleasure in a real store with an expert hand-selling owner who really cares. If you are lucky enough to have a good indie bookstore, particularly a mystery bookstore, within your home area, please support them.

As a guy published by Amazon, I buy a good number of books there. But I have a simple rule that I try to follow. If I spot a book in an actual store – and it’s a book of which I was unaware – I buy it there. I don’t look it up on Amazon to get the cheaper price.

I have another rule that pertains to bookstores where I do a signing – I always buy a book there. It amazes me when authors do signings at bookstores and don’t repay the venue with a purchase. Maybe not all authors like books.

* * *

Here’s a nice little write-up about COMPLEX 90.

And out of nowhere comes this fun write-up on the film THE EXPERT for which I wrote the screenplay. The writer doesn’t know the extensive backstory – such as my working for many months on a DIRTY DOZEN version for older actors, then when Jeff Speakman was cast at the last minute had to throw together a very different version – but his views are smart and entertaining.

The Kindle Taproom has a swell write-up on my favorite of the Mallory novels, A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS.

Finally, a writer picks his five favorite Mike Hammer novels, and there are some interesting surprises, including his favorite (the undervalued SURVIVAL…ZERO!) and THE BIG BANG.

M.A.C.