So last week at the day job I got into a conversation with a fella about books. Says he's reading this Mickey Spillane book he'd never heard of before. "Really?" I query, "Pray tell." Turns out the reason his Spillane title didn't sound familiar to him, it's brand new. Well, 2011 fresh - The Consummata - was uncompleted in Mick's lifetime, but finished by Max Allan Collins and published by Hard Case Crime. Collins has made a project out of finishing his late great friend's books and may soon move onto the Mick's incomplete grocery lists, his zeal seems so great.
Which is one reason I dig Collins.
You can feel the enthusiasm for his work on the page. This cat can and does it all from novels to comic books to novelizations. He's one of those writers who knows a lot about... a lot. The author of dozens (more than one hundred? I lost count) books of fiction, nonfiction and short stories, as well as a musician (did you catch him with his band at Bouchercon last year?) and film maker, he's just impossible to keep up with. In light of that kind of effort and creative output, I’d say it makes perfect sense for Collins to be the guy to finish the uncompleted works of Spillane. Out now, the latest Collins/Spillane collaboration Lady, Go Die! (fantastic title) and check out this great little piece by Collins at the Criminal Element on Hardboiled writing.
My Top 5 Max Allan Collins Projects:
The Perdition Saga: Sure Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig are doing James Bond now, but their original teaming on the stylish gangster picture had its roots in the work of Collins. Collins, outdid himself by not only having written the graphic novel Road to Perdition but penning the novelization and sequels Road to Perdition 2 and Return to Perdition to make them seamless and clear up any inconsistencies between the original comic and the adaptation. We're left with an epic multimedia saga.
The Nathan Heller Series – Pulp Faction is the description that best suits the Heller series. His fictional private eye hops history’s greatest cases and runs afoul of American criminal royalty and mid-century icons. You like Craig McDonald’s Hector Lassiter books? You should. You should check out their precursor, Heller. The perfect series for someone with as encyclopedic knowledge of pophistory and crime and the obsessively completist tendencies of Collins. Ooh, here's one I haven't read yet - Bye Bye, Baby.
The Quarry Series: Collins’ amoral hitman is a hardboiled classic. Efficient, dedicated and cold-blooded, Quarry was consistent without ever losing the ability to surprise. Big thanks for Hard Case Crime for bringing us more Quarry titles after a near twenty year break, and to Perfect Crime books for reprinting the original titles. Also, check out the movie Last Lullaby with Tom Sizemore in the role (called Price in the film), adapted from The Last Quarry with screenplay by Collins (with Peter Biegen).
The Spillane Finisher: Long the defender of Spillane’s work whenever some hoity-toity lit critic would deign to ‘appreciate’ the genre writing of Raymond Chandler, David Goodis or Dashiell Hammett from the safe remove of academia. It’s been 'safe' to praise aspects of their work and trendy to dismiss Spillane’s, but Collins knows that haters gonna hate, and just don't care. Now, thanks to his considerable efforts and talents, the world’s got several “new” Spillane titles to add to the cannon.
The Novelization Go-To Guy: Put Collins alongside names like Lee Goldberg and Christa Faust as modern pulp masters elevating the art of the novelization by refusing to recognize the ghettoization of the form. You want another example of Collins’s obsessive completism? He wrote and directed the movie Mommy and the novelization. Plus the same thing with the sequel Mommy II: Mommy's Day.
Collins’ Nolan novels are now being reprinted by Perfect Crime Books and they look comparable to Richard Stark’s Parker books. So yeah, count me in.
Jedidiah Ayres writes fiction and keeps the blog Hardboiled Wonderland.
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