Tag: Max Allan Collins

With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3

With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3

There are so many amazing Pop Culture treasures out there. Shall we jump right in and take a look at a few more for this year’s Holiday Gift Guide?

Dig Two Graves
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Titan Books (September 19, 2023)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1803364612

Whenever there’s a new book by this particular author, Mike Gold always jokes “If you only read one Max Allan Collins book this month, read this one!”

But that’s just the way I feel too. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but for me – it never gets old with this writer. The latest book, Dig Two Graves is part of the Mike Hammer series. Collins again collaborates, after a fashion, with his mentor Mickey Spillane. When Spillane died, he left instructions with his wife to reach out to Collins and figure out what do with all the half-finished manuscripts and story fragments.

I’m so glad this has come together and Titan publishes them. They are crackling good fun and I daresay I like them better than the original Spillane stories, as heretical as that may be.

In this mystery, Hammer and his long-time secretary and partner Velda Sterling leave New York and the action shifts to Arizona. It’s great fun with witty dialog, kooky characters and plenty of action. You can’t help but recall every 1950s movie you’ve ever seen to mentally conjure up the visuals for this thriller.


MCU : The Reign of Marvel Studios
by Johanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards

Continue reading “With Further Ado #275: Holiday Gift Giving Guide 2023 – Part 3”

With Further Ado #236: Double Fisted Action and Few Laughs

With Further Ado #236: Double Fisted Action and Few Laughs

January is a great month for reading, wasn’t it? February is too. So, here’re three wonderful books that you should know about.


The Big Bundle
By Max Allan Collins

It’s so good to start the year off with another Nate Heller thriller. Like so many in this series, this mystery is brilliant. It’s hard to believe, but about 35 years ago I stumbled across Max Allan Collins’ first story featuring Heller. I had enjoyed the Ms. Tree strip, written by Collins and illustrated by Terry Beatty and Collins’ Batman adventures (although not everyone did.)

Nate Heller is a fictional detective, a hero yet a flawed person full of many regrets, who typically gets involved with the biggest cases and personalities in the last 50 years. Collins has written stories where Heller gets involved with the gangsters who ‘created’ Las Vegas, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Marilyn Monroe’s death, Huey Long’s assassination and more. And just when you think Collins has exhausted all the good stuff, the next novel comes roaring back.

The latest historical adventure, The Big Bundle, has a lot of roar in it. This one focuses on the Greenlease kidnapping in the 50s. I didn’t know anything about this one, and I don’t know much about St. Louis’s history, despite visiting the city a couple of times. My trips there were nothing like Heller’s, though. He gets into it all in a way that turns what you thought was going to be a casual read into a “I can’t put this down” book.

These Heller books are meticulously researched with juicy details. I found myself pausing to run down little rabbit holes along the way. For example, Heller rides the historical landmark Angel’s Flight. It was described in such a way that I had to learn more about this narrow gauge funicular railway. When I’m reading, I usually like to leave my cellphone in the other room, but with this Heller mystery, I had to keep it handy for additional research. Collins tends to introduce me to so many fascinating places, events and people.

As a writer, Collins always finds innovative ways to describe people and settings. This is a crime thriller to be sure, but I often pause at the clever descriptions. For example.

The hero walks into a diner and Collins gives the reader something to think about and to remember:

”The bedraggled adults in booths and at tables were like predictions of how the town’s teens would turn out.”

Or earlier in the novel, as Heller meets a key character:

“In his mid-thirties, my host was of average height and weight with a squared-off head and a rounded jaw, his forehead so high it was like his features had slipped down too far on his oval face.”

After reading a novel like this, my pal Mike Gold used to always make the joke “If you only read one Max Allan Collins novel this month, make it this one.” The gag still holds up and it’s truer than ever.

Title: The Big Bundle
Author: Max Allan Collins
Publisher: Hard Case Crime (Titan)
Hardcover:‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1789098521
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1789098525


Levon’s Prey
by Chuck Dixon

Back in the day, it seemed like you could “always” pick out a Chuck Dixon comic story because it would open in the middle of an action scene. That wasn’t always the case, but it seemed like it. And despite that, I always loved Dixon’s writing for his nuanced, tight-lipped characters more than his action scenes. He’d always get to the heart of the matter and then present it all in a way that you’d not forget anytime soon.

Levon’s Prey is the latest in long series. It’s subtitled as “A Violent Justice Thriller”, and that’s truth in advertising. It’s actually the second latest, as I’m one book behind. The 11th, Levon’s Range, was published late last year.

I almost wish the books were published in the old paperback format – so you could put them in your back pocket and carry them with you. They are each a quick and compelling read – the kind that make you smile, make you worry and make you cheer on the good guys.

And as a father of daughters, I especially can relate to Levon. Although I’m not nearly as tough as Levon. Not by a longshot.

Title: Levon’s Prey
Author: Chuck Dixon
Publisher:‎ Rough Edges Press
Paperback: ‎ 174 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1685491219


The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle
by Wayne Federman

Auburn Public Theater hosted USC’s Professor Wayne Federman recently. As an expert in comedy and standup, he gave a greatly abbreviated version of his USC course to a local crowd. It was fascinating. I liked it so much I wanted to fly to LA and figure out a way to audit the course. And I don’t even consider myself a stand-up enthusiast.

His book, The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle, was eye-opening. I didn’t realize how little I knew about Stand-Up. Oh, I guess I’m pretty good with understanding the radio comedians, and guys like Steve Martin were where it was at for me and my gang back in the day. I think I bought my brother a Steve Martin LP for Christmas one year because I wanted to listen to it.

Federman, who as you can imagine is hilarious onstage, keeps it light, bright and fascinating. This was an enjoyable read and never once did I have the urge to ask, “Is this on the final?”

Title: The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle
Author: Wayne Federman
Publisher: Independent Artists Media
Paperback: 180 pages
ISBN-13:‎ 979-8706637026
ASIN:‎ B08YRP1R2G

Pour a glass of your favorite beverage, put your feet up and enjoy a little reading.

 

With Further Ado #232: Ms. Tree – Success Is No Mystery

With Further Ado #232: Ms. Tree – Success Is No Mystery

I never grew out of Superheroes, but I did grow into detective fiction. I’m not sure when it was (maybe middle school?), but mysteries and detective stories were my favorite literary genre. And while I’ve always been all in on comics, there was never an overwhelming amount of traditional detective/mystery/private eye comics.

Oh, there were a few that pulled me in, and I enjoyed them all. I particularly remember Mike W. Barr’s Maze Agency, Jonni Thunder and those Jason Bard back-up stories in (appropriately) Detective Comics. And the long running Ms. Tree was also always a favorite.

This character, and series, were created by two folks who would become favorites of mine. Max Allan Collins is a Mystery Writers of America 2017 Grand Master ‘Edgar’ winner, although I knew him better as the Dick Tracy writer and the guy behind the Nate Heller novels. Terry Beatty is a fantastic artist and today many folks know him as the inker of the Eisner Award-Winning Batman and Robin Adventures series and the World’s Finest graphic novel. Continue reading “With Further Ado #232: Ms. Tree – Success Is No Mystery”

With Further Ado #228: 2022 Annual Gift Giving Guide – Part 2

With Further Ado #228: 2022 Annual Gift Giving Guide – Part 2

Like an overstuffed Christmas stocking, there are so many great gifting options that we’re spilling into Part 2 this week! Here’s some more wonderful and wonderous ideas for you all:


Being Bond: A Daniel Craig Retrospective
by Mark Salisbury

I often tell a family story from 1973. My mom wanted to take my brother and me to see the animated movie version of one of her favorite books Charlotte’s Web. My dad was less than excited about this family outing. He incredulously asked my mom, “You want to take these kids to see a movie about a pig?!?”

Instead, he whisked the whole family to the Auburn Palace Theater to see Live and Let Die, which was the latest James Bond thriller. It was my first encounter with James Bond. My head exploded. I think my brother Colin’s head exploded too.

This movie opened with M and Moneypenny visiting 007’s apartment (flat?), They haven’t been able to reach Bond and an Italian Special Agent is missing.

They knock on the door, and the camera cuts to James Bond being awakened and checking his digital wristwatch. This was months before digital watches were commercially available, and it was so cool to me.

And unbeknownst to his boss, James Bond also had that Italian special agent in his bedroom. She was beautiful and naked. Even as 10-year-old, I thought, “Gee, I’d like to have a beautiful naked Italian secret agent in my apartment someday.”

The point is that half of the fun of a James Bond movie is imagining what it would be like to be James Bond. Daniel Craig is one of the few men who actually got to be James Bond, and this book, Being Bond by Mark Salisbury, is a celebration of Craig’s turn as the iconic character.

This coffee table book has stories, gossip, bios and synopses and ephemera. It is packed with so many gorgeous photographs that it’s almost easy to overlook the movies’ storyboards. I find them fascinating. It’s another way to enjoy the story in the making, as we, as fans, toggle between the storyboards and the films.

I also really enjoyed the bits where author Salisbury pulls back the curtain to reveal how each of the Craig 007 movies got made. It was surprising, to me, how many breadcrumbs and lost bits of one film end up getting baked into the next movie. Continue reading “With Further Ado #228: 2022 Annual Gift Giving Guide – Part 2”

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

Every once in a while, I check in to see what Mike Hammer is up to. It’s always so freeing to live vicariously through him. The fictional detective, celebrating his 75th anniversary in print, never worries about being politically correct or resolving differences in a genteel manner.

No, Mike Hammer is all about the opposite of all that. He’s about violent solutions and getting even and snarky jokes. It’s what originally made him a publishing sensation. In fact, author Mickey Spillane has sold over 225 million books internationally. It has made him so popular that he’s spawned so many literary descendants, like James Bond, for instance.

Max Allan Collins (one of my favorite mystery writers) is one of those guys who met his hero…and not only got along with him, but was asked to carry the torch. Collins has told the story many times how he met the larger-than-life author Spillane, and eventually developed a friendship and professional respect. Today, Collins collaborates with the deceased author by building upon the unfished stories and notes left by Spillane to create new books. Continue reading “With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary”

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

Back in the day, I was a big fan of Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty. I liked hard-boiled fiction (and still do), but this comic was different.  Somehow Collins and Beatty took everything that private-eye fans liked, jumbled it all up and delivered a new series that seemed fresh as a counterfeit sawbuck and as enticing as a nightclub singer’s over-the-shoulder wink.

Collins and Beatty developed a rapport with the readers, and soon we all began to understand the stuff that influenced their work on Ms. Tree.  Soon it become clear that it all started with the hard-boiled detective author Mickey Spillane, although there was a little Dragnet in there too.  They also revealed they were influenced by a 50s Private Eye comic series, Johnny Dynamite.

Johnny Dynamite was a character who – “ahem” – borrowed many of the attributes of Spillane’s detective, Mike Hammer. Ms. Tree comics reprinted the old Johnny Dynamite  stories, and the character Johnny Dynamite even ended up crossing paths with Ms. Tree. Eventually, Collins and Beatty created a new Johnny Dynamite mini-series (with great Mitch O’Connell covers).

And it’s taken a while, but now, in the summer of 2020, there’s an explosive new Johnny Dynamite collection just published by the good folks at Yoe Books. It’s a stunner.

I reached out to Max Allan Collins to provide some details: Continue reading “With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back”

With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)

With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)

Let’s start with a beer. Shall we?

In the old days, Miller Lite TV Commercials presented the world as one big party for adult men. The long-running, phenomenally successful marketing campaign featured retired sports stars laughing, drinking and teasing one another. It was kind of a secret fraternity that wasn’t so secret. Anyone could join, and all you needed was Lite beer. It was fun, playful and good natured.

Among all the sports stars, two decidedly non-sports celebrities stood out – comedian Rodney Dangerfield, enjoying a bombastic second act to his career, and mystery writer Mickey Spillane.

Mystery writer Mickey Spillane? Really? We think of celebrity fiction writers, and it’s hard to conjure up their image.  F. Scott Fitzgerald? James Patterson? What do they look like? I guess most of us know what Stephen King or J.K. Rowling look like. Maybe we all would recognize Hemingway or Truman Capote.  But America was drinking beer and kidding around with one particular writer. Mickey Spillane was in our living rooms –  during every commercial break – when we were watching sitcoms and ball games, for years and years. Continue reading “With Further Ado #092: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 2)”

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

I like a lot of detective heroes found in books, movies and TV shows. Part of the fun of an adventure with any of Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, Pete Fernandez, Spenser, or Myron Bolitar is that I think it would be fun to hang out with that guy.  Even the heroes who are a bit prickly, like Sherlock Holmes or Stumptown’s Dex Parios, would still be a riot to run around with for an adventure or two. They are all so likeable.

But I never used to like Mike Hammer, the toughest of the tough guy detectives.  I knew he was a big deal and his novels, written by Mickey Spillane, were successful. I would learn later that, at one point, Spillane was the world’s best-selling author, having written seven of the top ten best-selling novels. It turns out that it happened was when he had only written seven novels.

Yes, this guy Spillane was seven for seven. Incredible, right?

I think that, initially, the character Hammer was just too brutal for me. He gave the bad guys what they deserved, however gruesome.  He always “colored outside the lines” of both the legal system and good taste. Unlike that classical 1930s and 1940s detective who would walk down those mean streets like a modern day knight of the round table, adhering to a personal code of honor, Spillane’s Mike Hammer took it way over the edge.

But my perception changed when I started reading the “new” Mike Hammer novels.  After an incredible writing career, and second act in a long-lived Miller Lite advertising campaign, Mickey Spillane left behind a treasure trove of partially-finished stories, and story ideas, that he only trusted one man to finish – Max Allan Collins.

Max Allan Collins has emerged as one of the top mystery writers in his own right. He’s incredibly prolific, and it’s astounding that he never seems let his level quality slip; not in any of his novels (Nate Heller, Quarry), comics (Ms. Tree, Batman), adaptations (CSI, Criminal Minds) and comic strips (Dick Tracy, Batman.) You might also know he was the guy wrote the brilliant graphic novel, The Road To Perdition, which also became a movie starring Tom Hanks. Continue reading “With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)”