Posts Tagged ‘The Last Quarry’

One More Time for Nolan?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

M.A.C.

Quarry TV Sept. 9; Mike Hammer Book Sept. 6

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

How bizarre it seems – in a sense, it hasn’t registered – that the novel I began at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in late 1971 has spawned a 2016 TV series.

My instructor, William Price Fox, didn’t like it. Most of the class didn’t, either. But several smart people thought the first two chapters of QUARRY were the best thing they’d ever read in a Workshop class. Fox, a writer I admired, was spotty as a teacher. He shared some good stories about his Hollywood perils, but he also spent several classes reading his own stuff to us. The class was only two hours once a week, and I had to drive from Muscatine (forty miles) to attend. I thought then that Fox reading his own work was lazy and self-indulgent, and I still do. But he did teach me the “Indian behind a tree” concept (ask me sometime).

A week or so after my Workshop class with its mixed reviews of QUARRY’s first two chapters, I sold my first novel, BAIT MONEY, and, a couple of weeks later, I sold the second one, NO CURE FOR DEATH. Both were written at the Workshop when Richard Yates was my teacher and mentor – a great writer and a great guy. The NYC editor wanted sequels to both, so I put QUARRY aside (probably a third of it written) and proceeded with THE BABY BLUE RIP-OFF and BLOOD MONEY. I had graduated in early ‘72 by then.

Then I got back to QUARRY, probably in ‘74, and it sold in ‘75 and was finally published in ‘76 (initially published as THE BROKER).

How vividly I remember sitting in my office in our apartment in downtown Muscatine (over a beauty shop – the smells wafting up were not heavenly) and pounding away at those early books. I thought QUARRY was the best thing I’d come up with, as the Nolan books were glorified Richard Stark pastiches and Mallory was just me filtering my private eye jones through an amateur detective. QUARRY was something original. I was going places! This would, in a good way, leave a mark.

And at first it seemed it would. The editor wanted three more novels about the character, and of course I eagerly complied. By the fourth book, two things were obvious – QUARRY was not setting the world on fire, and I was having trouble keeping the black-comedy element from spinning out of control. THE SLASHER seemed to me over-the-top, or anyway a subsequent novel would have been.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed that no more books were requested by the editor. But the QUARRY series seemed, at four entries, to be complete. I was going places, all right – back to the typewriter to try again.

But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity – a small cult of interest arose in QUARRY. Smart people like Jon Breen, Ed Gorman and Bill Crider said nice things about the books. The series started getting fan letters. So when I had some success with the Nate Heller novels, I decided to do just one more QUARRY – and I did, PRIMARY TARGET (since re-pubbed as QUARRY’S VOTE). The book was well-received, but that was the end of it.

The end of it, anyway, till the new millennium dawned and a young filmmaker named Jeffrey Goodman came knocking, and a new publisher/editor named Charles Ardai got in touch. From Goodman’s enthusiasm for the QUARRY short story, “A Matter of Principal,” came an award-winning short film written by me, and then a feature-length version co-written by me, THE LAST LULLABY. More or less simultaneously, Ardai asked me to do a QUARRY novel for his new retro-noir line, and I jumped at the chance to give the series a real ending – THE LAST QUARRY, a novelization of my version of the screenplay of the Goodman feature.

The surprisingly strong response to THE LAST QUARRY resulted in a conversation between Ardai and me that went something like this:

“I wouldn’t mind you doing another QUARRY for us,” he said.

“I wouldn’t mind myself.”

“But you ended the series. What book can you write after you’ve done THE LAST QUARRY?”

“Why not…THE FIRST QUARRY?”

Now we’re at eleven novels – QUARRY IN THE BLACK next month – and, after a somewhat rough birth going back to 2012, the QUARRY TV series will debut on Cinemax this Friday, at 9 pm Central time.

I’ve seen all eight episodes and they are excellent. It’s essentially an extended origin story of how returning Marine Mac Conway (the character’s real name, according to the show anyway) becomes hitman Quarry. Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy, the creators of the series, initially did not reveal the character’s “real name,” but it became clumsy for the lead character not to have, well, a name. They dubbed him “Mac” after me – M.A.C. Nice gesture.

And they were smart enough to set the show in the early ‘70s. It’s a nice fit with my current approach, which is to do my new QUARRY novels in ‘70s/‘80s period. You know you are old when a series you began as contemporary is now historical.

So I hope you like the TV series. If you don’t, and are a fan of the books, pretend to, will you? If the show becomes a hit, I may get to write more QUARRY novels.

Stranger things have happened.

* * *
A Long Time Dead

Softcover:

E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo iTunes

Limited Signed Hardcover: Mysterious Bookshop

Also this week, the Mike Hammer short story collection, A LONG TIME DEAD, will become available in print and e-book editions from Mysterious Press. This is an exciting project for me, as it represents the first collection of Hammer stories, and possibly the last, since I have exhausted the shorter fragments in the Spillane files.

My sincere thanks to Otto Penzler for publishing it. Otto, who edited and published the first three posthumous Hammer novels, has been a great friend to Mickey, Mike Hammer and me.

* * *

The advance reviews for the QUARRY TV show are strong, like this one.

And this one.

Here QUARRY is seen as one of the nine best shows of the fall season.

And here it’s seen as one of the ten best shows.

You’ll enjoy this interview with Michael Fuller, half of the creative team behind the writing of the QUARRY series.

Here’s a nice write-up on the forthcoming QUARRY comics mini-series.

Check out this terrific review of the Hammer novel, MURDER NEVER KNOCKS.

And, finally, here’s a positive review from Kirkus, of all people, for A LONG TIME DEAD.

M.A.C.

I Did Something Right

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Barbara Jane Mull and I were married on June 1, 1968. That means that the day before this update appears we will be celebrating our 47th anniversary.

I don’t want this to be a sickening exercise, because Barb would be the first to make a face (albeit a pretty one). But I did something right. I first fell for her in the fifth grade, decided that was a little early, and tried again in high school, failing miserably. Finally in 1966, at Muscatine Community College, I took advantage of the paucity of competition and landed a date. She says she fell in love with me when, in the midst of pontificating about something or other, I stuck my hand in my water glass (we were at a restaurant at the time).

It’s been my pleasure to go through life with this smart, funny, beautiful woman, and I hope to go through a bunch more of it. Another 47 years would do fine. What has been amazing to witness…well, the whole list of things she’s said and done that amaze me would take too long, but…has been her growth a writer.

To those of you who have longed to be a professional writer, who have dreamed and schemed and attempted deals with the devil to get that done, I will drive you insane by saying (truthfully) that Barb never wanted to be a writer, and often doesn’t particularly want to be one now. She’s a writer because she’s been married to me and she just…I swear…picked it up. If I’d been a brain surgeon, she’d be wielding a scalpel. If I was Van Cliburn, she’d be on stage at Carnegie Hall.

I’ve been a lucky man, in general, but marrying this pretty girl who became a beautiful woman was the jackpot. You may feel free to envy me about this part of my life. I wouldn’t blame you one little bit.

Did I mention she gave me a great son?

She did that, too.

The photo here, by the way, is circa 1971 (taken by the late Bill Mull, Barb’s father), right around when I was creating Quarry. That took longer to pay off than my marriage has.

Barbara and Max Allan Collins

* * *

Here’s a review from a Heller fan who doesn’t care for FLYING BLIND. Happens to be one of my favorite novels in the saga, but I get that when I wander too far afield from crime and politics, some readers get uneasy. They, for some reason, suspect that one guy might just not be able to have been involved in so many historical events….

Here’s a nice review of another of the Hellers, CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL, coincidentally one of the books in the series that was received less than glowingly by some fans (this one likes it). Not long ago, I listened to Dan John Miller’s audio of the book and thought it was pretty good. But what do I know? Still, it was the last Heller for ten years.

Here’s a fun review of THE LAST QUARRY by a reader revisiting the novel.

Here’s a review by the same reader of Mickey’s THE GIRL HUNTERS. I find this particularly fun because he was inspired to read the book having enjoyed COMPLEX 90, the posthumous Spillane/Collins sequel.

Finally, check out this shortish but very sweet KILL ME, DARLING review in the San Francisco Book Review.

M.A.C.

On The Quarry Set — And A Giveaway!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

The handful of pictures here will give you an idea of how great a time Barb and I had on the QUARRY set in New Orleans.

We spent one full day on set and another half day. Those days are long – they work twelve hours – but that was not a surprise. The indies I’ve worked on ran the same kind of schedule. The set-up was reminiscent of ROAD TO PERDITION – giant warehouse space (PERDITION actually used an armory) turned into a studio. There were a trio of these massive adjacent warehouses, one a studio, the other a workshop, the last an enormous prop room with stuff from various decades that you might see in 1972 (Coke machines, lamps, phones, phone booths, TVs, record players, kitchen tables, etc.).

I spent minimal but pleasant time with director Greg Yaitanes, who was a little busy (he’s directing all eight episodes as one big movie). Barb and I watched in one of several “video villages” as half a dozen scenes were shot. Several of the actors – notably Logan Marshall-Green and Nikki Amuka-Bird – recognized Barb and me from the pilot shoot in Nashville in the summer of 2013, and greeted us warmly. Both of these actors are terrific as pros and people.


Logan Marshall-Green, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Max Allan Collins

I’m sure Quarry fans want to know how I feel about Logan in the part – well, he’s spot on. He gets the dark humor, he has screen presence to burn and conveys the deadly side of our man effortlessly. What will be disconcerting to the more literal-minded is Quarry’s Southern drawl. And in fact, the entire switch of settings to the south from the midwest will trouble some. But it lends great flavor and mood to the proceedings.

I can’t talk about the specifics of the season – that, as they used to say on THE PRISONER, would be telling – but it’s fair to say that this is an expanded, in-depth look at Quarry’s origin.

I also spent about half an hour talking to Damon Herriman, who plays Buddy, Quarry’s gay hitman partner. In the novels, Buddy is called Boyd, but the name was changed because of the well-known Boyd character in the great JUSTIFIED. Here’s the irony – Damon was, as they say, a fan favorite on that very series, playing the sublimely hapless Dewey Crowe. As I gushed over how great he was as Dewey Crowe (one of those names that require both halves when spoken), Damon at one point went into some Dewey Crowe speechifyin’. Startling to have this articulate Australian suddenly burst into Kentucky patois. And so very cool to sit there and hear. A sweet man capable of depicting bitter darkness.


Max Allan Collins, Damon Herriman

Matching the time I spent with these terrific actors (and I met several others, each a delight) was the lengthy session I had with the two writers who believed in bringing Quarry to TV, Graham Gordy and Michael Fuller. We mostly just made each other laugh, but also discussed possibilities for a second QUARRY season, should that come to pass. In that case, I would again be writing one of the eight scripts. I shared my thoughts on where a second season might go.

For a source writer, the most impressive thing about a set visit is seeing the size of a production like this. It’s mindboggling to think that something I cooked up in college in 1972, just trying to out-crook Don Westlake’s third-person thief with my own first-person hitman, could lead over forty years later to this mammoth assemblage of humans and machines, an army battling to entertain.

Still, as with my PERDITION set visit, I am always reassured that the process is the same as on my little indies. Some writers are ill at ease and bored on a film set.

I’m home.

* * *

It’s a tad late to be doing this, but we have come up with four Advanced Reading Copies of ANTIQUES SWAP and four more of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK. They are available first-come-first-served by writing to me at macphilms@hotmail.com. Ask for one or the other, and indicate if you’d settle for either. IMPORTANT: include your mailing address. And sorry, but US residents only please.

As I say, this is free, and like everything that’s free, there’s a price: a review at Amazon and/or other similar sites, including your own web site. No strings.

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Here’s an interesting review of QUARRY’S CHOICE.

And another here.

Finally, Just a Guy That Likes to Read likes to read both Mike Hammer (COMPLEX 90) and Quarry (THE LAST QUARRY).

M.A.C.