Today’s Guest: Max Allan Collins, novelist, co-author with Mickey Spillane, Lady, Go Die!
Mr. Media is recorded live before a studio audience of flat-footed coppers and irresistible dames with those long chorus-girl gams I dream of in technicolor… in the NEW new media capital of the world… St. Petersburg, Florida!
I’m going to welcome mystery author and novelist Max Allan Collins to the show in a minute, but first I want to tell you about a guy who had a big influence on me when I was a wannabee writer.
His name was Michael Avallone. He was best-known for writing TV and film adaptations of movies such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes and TV shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Partridge Family. But he would have preferred to be remembered for his Ed Noon detective tales.
Thankfully, the New York Times, in its 1999 obituary, described him as “a prolific writer of detective stories and other novels that were sometimes reminiscent of old-fashioned pulp fiction.”
MAX ALLAN COLLINS podcast excerpt: “Mickey Spillane is the Mike Hammer guy. My job is to finish these books in a way that Mickey would be satisfied and maybe even pleased with. I can’t imagine doing any Mike Hammers that are 100 percent out of whole cloth. There are a lot of first chapters. I have a file cabinet drawer of unfinished Mickey Spillane. I anticipate 10 new books including a short story anthology.”
I got to know Mike after reading in the newspaper that he lived in the next town over from where I grew up in Central New Jersey. So I did what any kid with no sense of propriety would do: I looked him up in the phone book.
When Mike got on the phone, 16-year-old me told him I wanted to be a writer, too. He was very kind and said he’d be happy to meet me. I don’t remember exactly, but it seems like I rode my 10-speed English Racer to his house the next day.
We talked for a good hour or two and I marveled at his typewriter and all of the books he wrote. I think it safe to say he was most proud of his Ed Noon detective mysteries, which he wrote for more than 30 years. Avallone and Noon were from the Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer school of creators and their characters. Not as hardboiled, maybe not as talented, but more than entertaining enough for me.
He autographed a few of his Noon paperbacks as souvenirs and sent me on my way. We spoke a few more times over the years and he was a guest of honor at a comic book convention I put on in the 1970s.
I tell you all this because preparing to interview Max Allan Collins, I got to thinking of Mike Avallone.
Collins became a next generation Mickey Spillane, creating memorable titles and characters of his own such as Road to Perdition and Quarry. He’s worked in all kind of media, from scripting Dick Tracy daily comic strips from 1977-93 to writing the novelizations of movies such as Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One and American Gangster and creating his own one-man show, “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life.”
The crowning achievement of his career, however, may have been when Mickey Spillane—the best selling mystery writer of the 20th century–chose Collins to be his literary executor. Spillane passed away in 2006 and Collins has since lit a fire in new stories of private dick Mike Hammer. His latest is Lady, Go Die!, the riveting sequel to Spillane’s classic, I, The Jury.
What’s the connection in my mind between Max Allan Collins and my late friend Michael Avallone? Not much, really. Same business, different levels of success—and execution. And I do wonder if Max even knew Mike’s work. Think I’ll ask.