Sunday, August 28, 2016

New from Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: A LONG TIME DEAD

Actually, Max Allan Collins is very much alive -- and even Golden Age crime fiction author Mickey Spillane has only been dead for a decade (he lived from 1918 to 2006). Instead, the title for this delightful eight-story collection comes from one of the tales included. And they all have that great Spillane flavor: like "The Big Switch," "Fallout," and "So Long, Chief." A LONG TIME DEAD comes out on September 6 from Mysterious Press, and it's well worth pre-ordering.

Spillane was the creator of Mike Hammer, a detective whose style is closer to gangland than to cop, even though his buddy Captain Pat Chambers will most likely help him cover up the seamy side of his crimesolving. Hammer has a little issue that today would disqualify him totally for that PI license (or "tag" as he calls it): He tends to shoot the bad guys dead, once he's established that they're at fault. He hardly ever means to do it, but most often he confronts someone who pulls a gun on him, and the only way to stop his opponent's trigger finger from aggression is if Hammer's own immediate shot blows out the brain network of the criminal. See?

If you don't see that, don't worry -- you have plenty of time to catch on, as story after story goes in that direction. Even so, the diversity among these is wide and enjoyable. It's also fun to realize that Collins, a master of crime fiction himself and a superb collaborator, has taken the left-behind beginnings of Spillane's abandoned shorter works and built them into full-fledged tales. I found it fascinating in each one to guess at what part had been Spillane's and what part Collins erected on the foundations. What's never in doubt, though, is Mike Hammer's adoration of his smart and sassy secretary/partner Velda, and his blunt assessment of a situation:
You don't need doctors or coroners or medical examiners to tell you when somebody is dead. Not this kind of dead. You say, "Shit," because you knew this dead somebody and he was a great old guy who was your friend. And because he was your friend, you are the reason he is stuffed inside a wooden crate with bullet holes in him.
In a long introduction, Collins explains how all this came to pass, and the long close friendship he'd had with Spillane. One tale, "Grave Matter," he says he wrote mostly himself; another, "Skin," brings us the aging detective and his attempt to straighten out his crimefighting style, along with some updates in technology (not really the 'Net, but at least cell phones).

Fond of the Golden Age classics? Treat yourself to this collection. It's almost like being there, all over again.


Max Allan Collins said...

This is a lovely and much appreciated review, but some kind of glitch has Mickey Spillane creating the famous PI named...Mickey Spillane! Obviously the character is Mike Hammer, but it's "Mickey Spillane" throughout the review. Maybe you could correct that...?


Beth Kanell said...

Note to self: Never push "final" after 10 pm. Sorry, M. A. C. -- it's corrected now!

Max Allan Collins said...

Thanks! Sorry to be a complainer when the review is so terrific.

Beth Kanell said...

I'm glad you spoke up - the devil is in the details, they say, and the longer the mistakes lingered, the worse I would have felt when I noticed them. Onward!