Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Great new post from Max Allan Collins

The Name’s Sam Plus Hammer Suits Up

August 11th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
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Don't Look Behind You

I mentioned this in a reply to a comment last week, but for those of you who missed it: our grandson has a name – Samuel Allan Collins. Sam. Some of you may recall that Sam is Nate Heller’s son’s name, and of course there’s Samuel Dashiell Hammett and a man called Spade. So I like the resonance, although I didn’t come up with the moniker.
He’s a little guy – he was early – and he’s dealing with a few problems, but he’s a scrapper, and his parents are with him all the way.


I am prepping for the next Mike Hammer, which I intend to start very soon (by the time you read this, it’ll be under way). You might be curious as to my process.
Of course it varies every time, because I am generally dealing with manuscripts from Mickey in various states and shape. This time I have about thirty pages of his to start with, but I also have plot and character notes, and the roughed-out ending.
One problem I deal with every time is dating the manuscript. My policy has been to maintain continuity with the existing Hammer books as they were written and published. The idea is to capture Mickey and Mike in the right creative context, as opposed to me just writing my idea of a general Mike Hammer book. Sometimes it’s a snap, as with LADY, GO DIE!, which was clearly designed to be the second novel.
This time I had to search out clues in the manuscript. It feels like an early work, a ‘50s piece, but evidence in the narrative finally led me to realize it was written around 1967. The evidence, specifically, is that Hammer mentions three major New York newspapers that have recently died. Researching them, I found all three folded in 1966.
Next step is to read some Mickey and get in the mood and the swing. What I like to do is read material that was written around the same time as the manuscript I’m completing. In this case (as someone once said), “It was easy.” Mickey published THE BODY LOVERS in 1967. So I am currently reading that novel, which I have grown to like and respect more and more as I’ve read and re-read it over the years. I mark the copy up with a highlighter, as if it were a text book for school.
In addition, Barb and I listened to the fine Stacy Keach abridgment of KISS ME, DEADLY on a recent day trip to Galena, Illinois. That book obviously wasn’t written in the ‘60s, but it always help to get some genuine Spillane vitamins into my system. An upcoming trip to St. Louis, to visit the grandson and his parents, will have me going all the way to the start, listening to the new Mike Dennis-read unabridged I, THE JURY.
These thirty pages will be expanded into around sixty, at least. The plot outline (there are several, somewhat contradictory) will need some serious thought. But I am itching to start and will probably deal with Mickey’s existing material before I plot the rest of the novel (from his notes).
The book will be called DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU (a Mickey shout out to his favorite mystery writer, Fredric Brown) and the cover already exists, shared with you here.
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Rich Whitney Turner has written a lovely tribute to, uh, well…me.  Do please check this out.

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