Friday, July 01, 2016

Catching up with Max Allan Collins

1. Tell us about your current novel.

There are a couple of things that will become available soon. One is the complete version of the ROAD TO PERDITION novel. It was written in 2002 to accompany the release of the film, but DreamWorks licensing made me do a drastic cutting/rewrite, eliminating 30,000 words and any dialogue or action that wasn't included in the book. I am very grateful to Brash Books for negotiating with DreamWorks for the real, complete novel to finally be published.

About the same time, Hard Case Crime will be bringing out QUARRY IN THE BLACK, obviously a new Quarry novel with what I think or hope is an interesting setting -- George McGovern's presidential campaign and a black leader in St. Louis who is supporting that ticket with public appearances. If you ever wanted to see how Quarry would behave at a Ku Klux Klan meeting, now is your chance.

And Otto Penzler is bringing out A LONG TIME DEAD, collecting eight Mike Hammer short stories that I developed from Spillane fragments. That's exciting in part because there's never been a Hammer short story collection before.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I just finished a Mike Hammer novel, THE WILL TO KILL, working from a few chapters in Mickey Spillane's files. It's very unusual for a Hammer, because the mystery is right out of Agatha Christie, with greedy children fighting over the proceeds of a murdered patriarch's estate.

Not too long before that, I did my pass on the new Barbara Allan mystery, ANTIQUES FRAME, co-written with my wife Barb. That was my first project after open-heart surgery and a minor stroke, and it was very gratifying to be able to get back up on the horse and ride so quickly. just weeks after the surgery.

Next up is EXECUTIVE ORDER, the third Reeder and Rogers political thriller, in collaboration with Matt Clemens.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The greatest pleasure of a writing career is having one.  The notion that I could ever hold down a normal job is highly suspect.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

I don't know if there's a dis-pleasure for me. I really love this life. The things that frustrate me are minor in the bigger picture. For example, I despise having copy editors rewrite me, and have spent way too much time in my life putting various Humpty Dumptys back together. It's always disappointing when a novel is critically ignored or particularly when the public ignores it. When a publisher drops a series, it can be crushing—I had to wait ten years before I felt I could re-launch Nathan Heller, and a lot of time was lost there.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

For the publishing world itself? Don't judge an author by how well his or her last book sold. Judge each book on its own merits, and that includes proposed novels from authors whose professionalism isn't in question.  

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

So many of my favorites are back in print again in the POD and e-book fashion.  But it would be nice to see Horace McCoy, Mike Roscoe and Roy Huggins out there in a more major way.  I was pleased to see Ennis Willie finally get some attention, but unfortunately it's faded somewhat.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

Mine is easy to remember. I got the letter (my agent at the time never called me) on Dec. 24, 1971—BAIT MONEY, the first Nolan novel, had sold on Christmas Eve! When I told Donald E. Westlake about it—he'd been a mentor to me—he said, "Sometimes God behaves like O. Henry, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Book Review: ZIGZAG by Bill Pronzini

   You can’t fake it, the kind of mastery Bill Pronzini shows in all his writing, whatever the genre, whatever the length.  And his years of writing Grand Master-level material inform every single line and scene in this new collection. Included are two new novellas and two short stories well worth reprinting. 
   The novellas are equally strong. “Zigzag” demonstrates that the simplest of mishaps—a minor accident investigation—can take you places you may not want to go. Nameless really earns his private eye money on this one. 
  The melancholy truths of “Grapplin’” shows us the emotional power that underpins so much of Pronzini’s most celebrated work over the years even though it also manages to be filled with kind and gentle truths. On this one Nameless shares the spotlight with his new business partner Tamara.      
   The two short stories are strong and fresh. They illustrate that no matter what form Pronzini uses, he makes it his own.  
   My favorite here is “Revenant.” Pronzini has always done well by the supernatural even though he is certainly a skeptic.      
   What we have a here is a spin on road rage. A strange man named Antanas Vok piled his car into an embankment, blaming Peter Erskine and his wife Marian for the crash. Witnesses say otherwise. Vok’s wife dies in the accident and Vok stands there screaming threats at the Erskines. He will make sure that they will be dead, too.
     A year later, Vok is still stalking them and they are scared. The police have been no help. Lately the harassment has taken a turn into the occult.
     The black host is the Satanic version of the Roman Catholic host. When you touch it the residue sticks to both your fingers and your clothes.  Vok has sent them a black host to show them his power over them.
     Supernatural power? Erskine doesn’t believe it and neither does Nameless. Marian Erskine can’t decide what she believes.  
    Oh, and there’s one other small problem. How can Vok be sending them black hosts when he’s been dead for some time?   
    Nameless is surprised when he meets Marian who spends a good deal of her time in a gazebo-like creation that could only be found in the type of posh gated community the Erskines live in.
   Marian turns out to be substantially older than her husband and very frail. Namesless notes that in today’s one percent culture it’s all right for older women to have trophy husbands. Peter isn’t exactly a pretty boy but close. Marian’s obvious drinking problem adds just one more confusing psychological layer to the meeting. 
    The Erskines beg Nameless to take the case and ultimately he chooses to because the fee they offer him is so good and he’s just so damned curious about what’s really going on here.
    This is the way to tell a supernatural story—sardonically.  Pronzini show us that no matter how bizarre the world of the supernatural is, the human world is always stranger.
   A five star collection. Perfect for a wide range of readers.   


Monday, June 06, 2016