Following on from my review of the rather excellent ‘Lady, Go Die!’, prolific author and all round good guy Max Allan Collins kindly gave up some of his time to answer a few questions I had about his writing and what we can expect next from his furious and unstoppable crime output:
Can you tell us any more about the other two lost Mickey Spillane books you’ve been working on ? (Complex 90 and King of the Weeds) and are there any other treasures to follow on from those, or has the lost treasure vault of Mr Spillane now about run dry ?
COMPLEX 90 is a Cold War thriller circa ’64 and is, on one level, a sequel to THE GIRL HUNTERS.
KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived as the final Hammer novel, with Mickey working on it in the ’90s, but put aside after 9/11 inspired him to start THE GOLIATH BONE. There are the makings for three more Hammer novels after that, all dating to the 1950s and prime stuff, but shorter unfinished manuscripts than the substantial, 100-pages ones that I felt were the priority. There are shorter fragments that I am developing into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, there are numerous starts to non-Hammer novels that could be converted should readers demand.
I’m sure you must be impressed by the book jacket and whole look and feel of Lady, Go Die – how do you feel about the jacket and of the great covers you seem to always get – with this and with the Hard Case Crime books? And do you have any involvement in the look of the books?
I’ve had plenty of mediocre and even lousy covers in my time, so I am thrilled to have something as striking as the LADY, GO DIE! cover, and of course I am wild about the retro covers at Hard Case Crime. I have been given input in both instances. I also was able to guide the covers of the Nathan Heller reprints that Amazon is doing. I was unhappy with the hardcover of the Marilyn Monroe-oriented Nate Heller novel, BYE BYE, BABY, from Forge, but they have much improved it on the current paperback.
Any plans/projects for further graphic novels?
Terry Beatty and I will be doing a new Ms. Tree novel, probably next year. I was supposed to start it this year, but my schedule got overloaded. I may eventually do another PERDITION graphic novel, a prequel, although that might wind up as a prose work.
Will we see you in the UK anytime soon for a crime festival appearance ?
I love the UK. My wife and I consider London our favorite city in the world. I will absolutely go if somebody invites me and pays my way, but I may come anyway, sometime in the next year or two.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
At the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, Richard Yates once said to me, “Just because you write, ‘He came at me like a thug in a B movie’ doesn’t make it any less like a B movie.” From that I extrapolated that in the hardboiled melodrama I write, the surface needs a reality, because the larger picture is fantasy. I do this a little less with Mike Hammer, because he is so inherently a pulp figure, but even there I try to keep him human and the moment to moment stuff grounded in reality. A related stratgegy is to make you draw from your life and not just from other books or movies and TV you’ve seen. Until I began incorporating my experiences into the work, I didn’t sell.
If you could recommend one author who crime readers may not have heard of but should seek out, who would that be?
Probably Ennis Willie, whose very Spillane-like series about a character called Sand prefigured both Richard Stark’s Parker and my Nolan and Quarry series. They were published in the early ’60s by a Chicago soft-core porn house, though the books weren’t that at all. Willie was a cult figure who nobody knew anything about until he noticed the fuss on the net a few years back, and presented himself — a southern gent with a very successful printing firm, who hasn’t written since that first wave of pulp. But his Sand novels are being reprinted by a small press, Ramble House, in omnibus fashion.
You’ve been lucky to have worked on some great Spillane books, but is there one book in crime fiction that you wish you had written?
I have no desire to have written any one else’s book. But the novels that are at the top of my list are THE MALTESE FALCON, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, ONE LONELY NIGHT and THE BAD SEED.
Many thanks to Max for his time, and for his great great books.