Saturday, October 06, 2007
Hammer Time Redux
Author Max Allan Collins wrote a reply to my post Hammer Time, but for some reason Blogger wouldn't let him post it, so he emailed it to me. I'm re-posting my post with his reply, which clarifies a few things about the upcoming new Mike Hammer books. Thanks, Max!
Speaking of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer, as I was a couple of posts back, I learned this weekend that mystery writer Max Allan Collins will be writing at least three new Mike Hammer novels based on partial manuscripts and notes left by Spillane. I think this is great news for several reasons. For one, I think Collins is the man for the job. I've been a fan of his for many years, reading all of his various series characters like Nate Heller, Quarry, Nolan, Mallory, and Elliot Ness. The man is a crime writing machine. He's got the chops. More than that, he's a major fan of Spillane and Hammer, having co-written a study of Spillane's work, One Lonely Knight, and also having produced the documentary, Mike Hammer's Mickey Spillane. And even more importantly, Spillane himself asked Collins to write the new Hammer books. Over his long career as a crime writer Collins had met and become close friends with his hero, Spillane, collaborating with Mickey on various projects, including co-editing various anthologies and writing a comic book series, Mike Danger, based on Spillane's original concept for Mike Hammer which Spillane had conceived during his days as a comic book writer in the 1940s.
In addition to Mike Danger, Collins also wrote Batman, Wild Dog, and other features for DC Comics and is the writer and co-creator (along with artist Terry Beatty) of the long running independent comic series Ms. Tree. I'll have to do a separate post about Ms. Tree soon. It's a great comic and needs to be collected and reprinted. (Ms. Tree is also about to appear in her first prose novel this December.) Collins was also the writer for the Dick Tracy comic strip for many years and wrote several Tracy novels. The guy gets around.
I've met Collins many times over the years at various comic book conventions, and gotten him to sign my copies of his books. My favorite memory though, involves meeting both he and Spillane at a comics/record shop in Atlanta in the early 1990s, during a promotional tour for Mike Danger. I got my copy of The Killing Man autographed by Spillane and had my picture taken with Mickey. He's about a foot shorter than me and the shot has him standing there with his arm around me like we're old pals. It's great. I'm grinning like an idiot because I'm meeting one of my heroes, and because right before the picture was taken, Mickey said, "Jeez you make me feel like a little shrimp!" That photo resides inside my copy of The Killing Man.
Sometimes, when you hear that a new writer is taking over an old favorite series you have to worry. I've certainly seen that go wrong. But in this instance I'm not concerned. I feel like Mike Hammer is in good hands.
And Max Allan Collins said:
Thanks for your kind words, Charles. The new Hammer novels are probably best described as collaborations -- THE GOLIATH BONE (which I will be finishing today, if all goes well) was a substantial Spillane manuscript, nine rough draft chapters and quite a few notes plus a partial ending and even a 3-chapter false start to draw upon.
The third book to be published (I'll get to the second) is in similar shape -- if you look at late interviews with Mickey, he refers to having two Hammers going, and he did. Some time ago, right before Hurricane Hugo destroyed his home, Mickey gave me two one-hundred-page-plus manuscripts that represented 1/3 to half of two unpublished Mike Hammer novels, saying, "Someday you may want to do something with these." We discussed the endings of both.
The second novel (THE BIG BANG) Otto Penzler will publish at Harcourt will likely be one of these (written circa 1965!).
The third novel set to be published (KING OF THE WEEDS) will come out of the other substantial Hammer manuscript Mickey had going at the time of his passing. There are two more substantial Hammer manuscripts and around half a dozen other Hammer fragments that consist of a chapter or two and notes.
If GOLIATH BONE does well, as many as a dozen new Hammer novels with authentic Spillane content could be completed in the coming years, if the public cares and I'm still around. The writing of GOLIATH BONE was a challenging, fascinating experience, and some day I'll do an interview that really goes into detail about the process. I will share byline with Mickey, by the way -- probably "with Max Allan Collins" on GOLIATH, and then "and" after that.
Despite the forthcoming other lost episodes of Hammer, Mickey designed GOLIATH BONE to be Hammer's last case, chronologically, and I've honored that.