Posts Tagged ‘The Night I Died’

Why You Are More Important…

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

…than the trade publication reviewers.

Okay, here we go into the weeds. For the record, there are four trade publications in the publishing industry – Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist and Library Journal. These are our version of Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

I have nothing bad to say about any individual reviewers who write for those publications. Often I get good reviews, occasionally great ones, now and then bad ones. Recently Girl Can’t Help It got a very good review from Booklist; shortly thereafter, Publisher’s Weekly hated it (apparently the same reviewer who felt the same about Girl Most Likely). And that’s one of my two big complaints about the reviews in the trades – PW and Kirkus publish unsigned reviews. I prefer knowing who hates me, thanks (also who loves me). Booklist and Library Journal have signed reviews.

I also consider the reviewers for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Scene and The Strand to be in a class of their own – these publications clearly love and support the mystery. So do Crimespree and Deadly Pleasures and a few others (don’t mean to leave anybody out). Some web-based review/news columns are also great boons to the genre, including my favorite, The Rap Sheet.

My other complaint about the trade publication reviews is that most contain judgment with no supporting evidence. If you stink, you just stink – no excerpts or examples to prove a point. Same goes if you smell just fine.

But okay. The format is fairly short for all the reviews in these publications, so maybe I’m asking too much that a reviewer support an argument. You can’t expect a limerick to be an epic poem.

Where it gets unfair has to do with the book industry’s publishers and editors. They love it when you get good reviews. They hate it when you get bad ones, and often write or even call authors supportively. Some publishing houses hold bad trade reviews against the authors, though. You may think that’s fair, but stick around….

I have received rave reviews from all four trades on a book, and then had that series almost immediately cancelled. The reviews and a dime wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee. But I have also not received a new contract, at least in part, because the trades reviewed a book of mine unfavorably.

The technical term for this is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So where do you come in?

If you come by here often, you know that now and then I do book giveaways to encourage reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other web sites, and at blogs, where many reviews appear. I do this because I believe those are the reviews that really count – that sell books (and sometimes discourage sales, but that comes with the territory).

This March I will have three books from three different publishers come out almost simultaneously – Do No Harm (Nate Heller), Girl Can’t Help It (Krista and Keith Larson) and Masquerade for Murder (Mike Hammer). This was not planned – it’s sheer accident, and not what I wish were happening.

This feeds into the notion that I write too many books – an editor (who should know better) recently said to me, “Are you still writing six books a year?” I have never written six books in one year. All I’m trying to do here is (a) tell my stories, and (b) make a living (okay, avoid real work, but that’s understood). But this kind of thing feeds into careless reviewers essentially panning me for being prolific and not taking each book on its own terms.

It puts you on the spot, too.

As a reader of my work, how can you be expected to shell out all that dough for three books of mine in the same month? Some of you selfish people seem to want to eat. And three books out at the same time encourages the trades to only review one of them, or none, or praise one and trash the other.

You, ultimately, are more important than the trades where reviewers are concerned. Amazon is the world’s biggest bookstore and reviewing there definitely sells books. Blogs are part of the social media world and that tells real people about books. The love for books and authors that comes through in many such blogs is a gratifying thing to see.

My hunch is that the trades are read by booksellers and libraries, both institutions that already know what their audience buys. If Stephen King gets a bad review, do you think bookstores won’t stock it? Or libraries won’t handle it? That applies to authors who aren’t bestseller types, too. I constantly hear from readers who know and support my work through their local libraries. A stealth good influence for an author like me is the bookstore employee who is a fan and makes sure my stuff is stocked.

You are the valuable reviewers. You read and enjoy books, and don’t get paid to review books you’d rather just throw out the window (like the reviewer who suffered through Girl Can’t Help It).

I’m writing this to encourage reviews for my books, sure, but I want to emphasize that if you are a reader who loves to read – who follows favorite authors – you owe it to yourself to review those authors and their latest books at Amazon and elsewhere. It keeps the books from those authors flowing from them to you.

I recently sent out copies of Girl Can’t Help It and Antiques Fire Sale to readers who requested them when I ran out of advance copies of Killing Quarry. I hope to have more of both titles and Do No Harm soon to do another big book giveaway.

Antiques Fire Sale by Barbara Allan will be out May 1.

Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher by M.A.C. and A. Brad Schwartz on Aug. 4.

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This coverage of the Blu-ray release of Mommy and Mommy 2 appears on the web site of the major horror magazine, Rue Morgue. It’s a rare interview with me that focuses on my filmmaking. Hope you’ll give it a look.

My editor and friend Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime gives a terrific interview specifically on Killing Quarry and the Quarry series at HCC. Thank you, Charles!

Check out this great review of Killing Quarry at Paperback Warrior.

A very nice review of the Mike Hammer graphic novel The Night I Died appears here.

Here’s an earnest appeal for DC to reprint my continuity for the Batman newspaper strip as drawn by the late, great Marshall Rogers.

A smart and nicely favorable review of Killing Quarry can be read here.

You’ll have to scroll down for it, but here’s a fun review of the Mommy/Mommy 2 Blu-ray.

Same thing here – scroll all the way down for another favorable Mommy Blu-Ray review, although the word “terrible” is involved.

M.A.C.

Shameless Self-Promotion in my Stocking

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

I’ve had some nice notices of late, showing up like early stocking stuffers. I am going to rather brazenly and completely self-servingly turning this update into a look at the best and most fun of some of these.

I am particularly happy with this starred review of the forthcoming new Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, from Publisher’s Weekly:

MWA Grand Master Collins’s Zelig-like PI, Nate Heller, who’s tackled most of 20th-century America’s greatest unsolved mysteries, gets involved in the Sam Sheppard murder case in his superior 17th outing (after 2016’s Better Dead). When the Cleveland doctor reported having found his wife, Marilyn, bludgeoned to death in their bedroom in 1954, Heller happened to be in the city, spending time with his old friend Eliot Ness, who invited him along to the crime scene to help determine whether the killing was the work of the serial killer whom the two men had been chasing for years. The m.o. established that another murderer was responsible, but Heller noted multiple oddities, including the failure to preserve the crime scene and indications that Sheppard’s family was covering up his guilt. The doctor was eventually convicted of the crime, a verdict many felt the evidence didn’t support. Three years later, Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner asks Heller to reassess the case, a request that leads to a creative solution of the notorious mystery. This is a superior and inventive effort that shows the series still has plenty of life.

I’ve had my share of good reviews from PW (and some not-so-good ones too), but just a handful of starred reviews, which is really kind of a big deal. As I’ve noted here before, entries in long-running series find it difficult to get reviewed at all in the publishing-industry trades (PW, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist).

So this one feels good and comes at a good time, because Do No Harm is the last Heller novel on my current contract, and I want to do more. The novel, which is about the Sam Sheppard murder case, comes out in March, but can be pre-ordered now.

Another nice surprise was to learn that BestThrillers.com selected Supreme Justice as one of the best 21 legal thrillers of the 21st Century (so far). That’s particularly interesting because I thought it was a political thriller, but I guess when the murder victims are Supreme Court justices, it qualifies. Here’s the listing:

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
A blend of political and legal thriller, this story about the politics of the Supreme Court of the United States feels ahead of its time.

Secret Service agent Joseph Reeder heroically took a bullet for a president, but he’s been speaking out against that president for stacking the SCOTUS with ultra-conservative judges.

He’s paired with FBI agent Patti Rogers on a task force to investigate the death of Justice Henry Venter.

Reeder discovers the death was murder and not a robbery-gone-wrong, and soon the pair realizes it’s a conspiracy to replace the conservative judges with liberals—one that will also endanger Reeder’s family.

And here’s where you can check out the entire list.

My co-author Matt Clemens (who gets cover credit with me on the two other novels in the trilogy) and I get asked all the time why we don’t do another Reeder and Rogers thriller. He and I have discussed that endlessly, but the problem is the current political situation/climate. We were attacked for being “libtards” just because protagonist Joe Reeder was a center-left liberal (protecting right-wing justices!), and this was back when Obama was President. And how can you come up with a wild political thriller plot when every day the news has four or five of those?

For those who came in late, Supreme Justice is about a serial killer targeting conservative justices; Fate of the Union is about a kazillionaire running as a populist for President; and Executive Order has a plot within the government attempting a coup.


Blu-ray reversible inner sleeve

Last time I announced the Blu-ray of Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day. Here’s a nice advance review with lots of info.

Jerry’s House of Everything is a fun review site by Jerry House (get it?). He spends some time lauding the unfortunately little-written about Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer graphic novel, The Night I Died, published by Titan as part of the Spillane 100th birthday celebration.

Finally, here’s some nice love for Paul Newman in Road to Perdition from the UK’s Telegraph.

M.A.C.

San Diego and More

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Last week’s update was strictly pics from San Diego Con, and this time – along with some news and reviews – I will report in prose.

The highlight for me was the interview with my buddy Andrew Sumner, an exec at Titan; he and I did a Spillane two-man panel at SDCC last year and this time we focused on the upcoming release of the first of five Ms. Tree collections: One Mean Mother.


Andrew Sumner and M.A.C.

Jamie Coville posted the audio of our panel, a link to which you can find among the rest of his SDCC interviews – as of this writing, it’s the fourth entry down and you can download the audio by right-clicking the link once you navigate to this page.

A signing at the Titan booth – we had copies of Quarry’s War and the Mike Hammer graphic novel, plus free Ms. Tree art cards that I autographed – went very well. Got to talk to lots of smart fans – definition of “smart”: they like my work.

Jonathan Maberry did a great job, taking over for me as president of the International Association of Movie and Tie-in Writers, presenting the Scribe awards and helming a very good panel of mostly nominees. I did not win for Killing Town in the general fiction category, but did not expect to.

Otherwise, I have to admit that I find SDCC increasingly unpleasant and anything but user friendly. Part of this is my age, both in terms of physical tiredness and an absence of material of interest to me (Bud Plant, wherefore art thou?). Additionally, with this the 50th anniversary of the biggest con in pop culture, no particular fuss was in evidence. (The question I was most asked was, “Why isn’t Seduction of the Innocent playing?” And I have no answer.)

The aisles are hopelessly clogged, starting on preview night – in what I described to Barb as the world’s slowest moving stampede. Barb, doing an absent Nate’s bidding in search of inexplicably popular pins, had a series of increasingly harrowing, soul-destroying adventures in lines that were unfairly administered.

Here, in Barb’s words reporting back to Nate, are her experiences on Thursday, the official opening day of the con:

“We hit the Udon booth first thing for the other stuff you wanted, and there was no line…but they had sold out of the art book yesterday and won’t have any more. OMG, what a nightmare getting into the convention center at 9:30, a hundred thousand people – just crushing. And it didn’t let up once inside. I was plastered to a guy who worked at the Figpin booth, and he couldn’t get there. After hearing my tale of woe about trying to get a card, he pulled out the Ash pin from his pocket to shut me up.

I went to the Figpin line at 1:30 to mill around for the public 2 o’clock queue-up but there was already a line of a dozen, so I hopped on board. Then the staff tried to disperse us saying it was too early to be there, and when ignored, brought security over. We scattered like cockroaches, only to come back when they left. I was amazed at the camaraderie when we re-formed, “No, I was behind him, you were in front of her,” etc. We were locked in a war together!

After a while, the enemy gave up, and we settled in for the real battle. But then distressing news began filtering down from the front, “They’re out of Batman and the Joker!” Recon was sent out to confirm. “Yes, and Hercule, too!” And so it went. After an hour and a half, battle fatigue set in, some went AWOL, but the rest of the troop pressed forward into the breach! And when the dust settled, I got Thanos, and the last Gogeta.

One funny story – when I was exiting the booth, this girl was telling a Figpin employee HER tale of woe, which was that she had gotten inside before the others this morning, in a motorized wheelchair, and was zipping toward where Figpin was handing out the “golden ticket cards,” when, about three yards from her goal, the chair died, and she was stuck in the aisle, watching helplessly as the cards all disappeared. The thing is, she was saying this while STANDING, and stomped off in a huff when no comp card was given.”

All this culminated on Sunday with a near riot that had Barb shoved up against some garbage cans. Seemed a Figpin staffer just started tossing the precious cards (required to make a purchase) into the air like chum to sharks. Figpin, perhaps the prime offender, will be lucky not to be sued. A company called Bait also rates a “boo,” as Nate put it.

This seems to me to be no fun, no matter what your age. Yes, it’s entertaining to see the cosplay – my favorite was Jason from Friday the 13th dragging a body behind him – but belligerent guards, rude people and impossible-to-get-into panels featuring your favorite stars add up to a popular culture nightmare.

It’s unlikely I’ll be back…but that was what I said last year.

* * *

My partner in Eliot Ness crime, A. Brad Schwartz, attended a different convention of sorts in Coudersport, PA’s annual Eliot Ness fest. Read about it (and see him!) here.

I completed my pass of the second Ness non-fiction book, The Untouchable and the Butcher, and just recently yesterday the third pass, which is primarily tweaking and catching typos and so on. Barb enters these for me, in most cases. This was a big job – the manuscript runs around 550 manuscript pages, and does not include Brad’s bibliographic end notes. I still have to assemble the chapter files into one big file of the whole book.

We did this in the midst of a major event – the move to Muscatine from the St. Louis area of Nathan, his wife Abby and our two grandchildren, Sam, almost four, Lucy, ten months. They will be living up the street just seven houses away, and it will be wonderful. Right now it isn’t – we are all struggling to maintain controlled chaos. More about this later.

* * *

A few TV notes.

Much on the streaming services has yet to capture my attention. But three series already very much on my radar have delivered excellent seasons that are worth your time, whether you munch on them or binge.

The fifth season of Schitt’s Creek continues to astound with its unique combination of deepening characterization and off-the-wall humor. Netflix has it, and if you’ve not watched this offspring of SCTV starring Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy (the latter’s son Daniel is a co-star and co-creator with his dad, and a genius), you need to drop everything and start. And it only gets better and better. For me, a particular pleasure is watching Chris Elliott bump his gonzo comedy style up against the Second City-trained cast members, creating a comic tension that provides the laughs with a special subtext.

Stranger Things has a third season that is broader than the first two but similarly satisfying. The central location, an ‘80s mall, provides a nostalgic backdrop that provided me with unexpected pangs – who knew I actually missed Sam Goody and B. Dalton? The storytelling is first-rate as the cast members are divided into groups for excellent back-and-forth narrative with tiny cliffhangers to hold you from scene to scene, and of course larger ones to keep you bingeing. Millie Bobby Brown continues to be a remarkable young actress, exploring this dangerously powerful girl’s entry into the teen years with poignance and possibilities. The creators, the Duffer brothers, have also found a way to avoid (this time anyway) the pitfalls of a character who can easily swoop in to save the day.

Finally, Veronica Mars roars in with an unexpected fourth season. I have not hidden my admiration for Kristen Bell (not even from my wife) and she outdoes herself here, bringing layers to her characterization with every pause and glance. This twisty mystery is hard to discuss without spoiler warnings, so I’ll say only that the season seems to be dealing with the need to move on from Neptune, California, and Veronica’s teenage years (the character is pointedly described as being in her late thirties) into adulthood and the maturity of a classic detective. Creator Rob Thomas clearly wants Veronica to join the ranks of Marlowe, Hammer, Nero & Archie, and other noir-ish detectives. I would caution him only that to abandon Enrico Colantoni’s Keith Mars, and the hilarious yet warm verbal interplay between father and daughter, would be to lose the heart and soul of the show. My favorite moment in the season has Veronica telling her father how irritated she is that her longtime lover Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) has asked her to marry him. Keith’s droll low-key reply: “What an asshole.”

* * *

Check out this fantastic Leonard Maltin review of Scarface and the Untouchable.

Jude Law’s role is number six on this list of his best screen performances.

M.A.C.

71 Candles, the Anthony Awards & a Big Thrill

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

If you are attending Bouchercon this year, you probably have already received your ballot for the Anthony Awards nominations. This is your reminder that Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz is eligible in the non-fiction category. Your votes would be much appreciated, as it’s an opportunity for us to strike back at the Edgar snub.

Other things of mine you might wish to consider are Killing Town by Spillane & Collins and Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allan in Best Novel. Also eligible are the two graphic novels, Mike Hammer: The Night I Died and Quarry’s War in Best Paperback Original; and “The Big Run” by Spillane and Collins in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; and “The Punk” by Spillane and Collins in Mystery Tribune are eligible in Best Short Story.

Only Bouchercon attendees can vote, and the ballot that will emerge from these early nominations will be distributed at the convention itself in Dallas, Oct. 31 – Nov. 3.

Deadline for returning the ballot (which you can do via e-mail) is Tuesday, April 30.

* * *

Yes, as I write this on March 3, 2019, I have turned seventy-one years old. Considering where I was three years ago – just getting out of the hospital after open-heart surgery and a stroke – I am pleased to be that. I am pleased to be anything.

But I think about the difficulties Harlan Ellison had staying an angry young man after fifty, and realize my boy wonder days are over.

My beautiful wife Barb (my only wife – that kind of sounds like I also have a plain wife and a homely wife stashed away somewhere) showed me a wonderful time today, despite the freezing cold weather. We spent the day in the Quad Cities, having breakfast at the Machine Shed (the best breakfast around), shopped at Barnes & Noble and BAM!, saw a very good black comedy/horror movie (Greta), and had my annual lobster dinner (at Red Lobster). The evening was spent watching episodes of the classic UK crime show The Sweeney, taking time out to watch myself and A. Brad Schwartz on Backstory with Larry Potash on WGN-TV.

It was pretty good. Brad and I come off well, although I am not thrilled that we were left out of a segment about the Eliot Ness scrapbooks at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I mean, I discovered those scrapbooks and their value and pointed them out to Case Western, decades ago, and to Larry Potash, a few months ago.

On the other hand, there was footage of Brad shooting a machine gun. He is clearly having too much fun doing so, which is a joy to see.

Oddly, I’ve been on national TV several times lately. Muscatine and I are featured on Fireball Run, a gumball rally type show whose premise I do not understand – I was interviewed at the Musser Museum and displayed (brought from home) original Chester Gould art and Mickey Spillane manuscript pages, among other precious artifacts. [The series is available on Amazon Prime Video at this link; Season 11, Episode 12: “Max and Me” –Nate]

I was also interviewed for a full half hour show on Fox Nation streaming service. Below is the preview of the episode, but be forewarned that the suggestion – at times the statement – that the episode is based on the Collins/Schwartz book is not the case. And Fox has been so informed, and corrections have been made, but not everywhere. It’s an interview about the book, interspersed with vintage footage and, oddly, a photo identified as Ness and used throughout the episode that isn’t Ness at all.

Such are the vicissitudes of media coverage when you’re out promoting a book or film.

Among the best birthday gifts I received this year was an unintentional one – The Big Thrill e-magazine from the International Thriller Writers put me on their cover and have given me (thanks to writer Alex Segura) a fantastic review of The Girl Most Likely and an article about me drawing upon an interview I gave Alex. The pic shows me in front of the actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, as preserved at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. And this review/article is required reading.

M.A.C.