What I Am Reading – Max Allan Collins

Max Allan Collins writes a lot. He writes a ton of movie/tv tie-ins. He writes about hit men (see his Quarry novels). He writes a lot of Mickey Spillane (what do you call it when an author completes the unfinished work of a deceased legend?). He writes graphic novels (Road to Perdition…of Tom Hanks fame). Probably massive amount of other stuff, that I am forgetting. What I always turn to MAC for, however, is his Nate Heller books.

Heller is a PI that somehow finds himself involved in nearly every high-profile “crime” case in the 20th century. I’ve read cases involving Chicago gangsters, the Roswell incident, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, Marilyn Monroe’s death, and, now, the Black Dahlia case. I haven’t read all of the series, and I certainly haven’t read them in order, but visiting with Nate is nearly alway a good time.

Of course, this encounter with Nate was spurred on by my recent watching of I Am the Night. I’ve also ready Jame Ellroy’s Black Dahlia a couple of times, and have seen the movie based on it. Point being, this particular case isn’t new ground for me (or most anyone). Still MAC’s take on it is original and very readable. It does deal with the standard uncomfortable material, but some doesn’t come off completely weirdo.  And, as far as I know MAC’s whodunnit is a completely original proposition. (Which I will not spoil).

I never really know where the historical stops and the fictional picks up in a Heller book, and this one was no different.  I think that is a good sign for an historical fiction writer.

If you have any interest at all in Historical Mysteries or P.I. fiction, you should give this series a look:

http://www.maxallancollins.com/books/

By the way, in the Longarm post I mentioned that I had scored a handful of Harry Whittington penned Longarms. I’ve made it through the first one Whittington wrote, and it was just great, pure pulp fun. I’d even go so far to say that the Larry Flint material was light for a Longarm… which is okay by me!

–TD

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James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is my favorite living writer (and he is a writer…he continues to write into his 80s). He’s also my literary hero. Those two things aren’t necessarily inclusive, but  for me Burke is both things.

The hero part comes from his persistence in getting his novel The Lost Get Back Boogie published. Burke was published in his twenties and met with some critical acclaim for his literary novels. Then, he went nearly a decade without being published. Boogie was rejected over 100 times by editors before finding a home with LSU Press. It went one to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.  His next novel was The Neon Rain, a literary detective novel which paved the way for his best-selling career. He’s also my hero for being a “literary” genre writer. He is without any doubt in my mind the greatest living  American writer of prose. Seriously, I’d put his craft up against Pynchon, DeLillo, Morrison and McCarthy any day. Burke comes out on top in this reader’s mind.

In today’s environment of ghostwriting and collaborative, Patterson-esque writing, it would be easy to conclude that 80+ year old Burke may go down that path. But only if you have never read his work. His voice (see yesterday’s post) is so compelling, so unique that it simply cannot be replicated.

No, we will know when Burke has stopped writing. Unfortunately, it will be when he has passed.

There are plenty of reasons that he is my favorite writer that has nothing to do with him being my hero, though.

He writes vividly of setting. (One of those settings being lush, south Louisiana)

His characters are colorful, larger than life beings.

He writes unapologetically of the violent tendencies of man. And he does so in a way that makes you realize that the violence victimizes the inflictor as much as the victim.

His explorations of evil are downright Biblical.

He believably covers themes of the struggles of the poverty stricken in the face of greed.

He does all of the above in the mystery/crime genre framework.

 

April Writing Stats

April 1 – 1038

April 2 – 1072

Total – 2110 words

 

 

 

 

What I am Reading – Longarm

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Yes, I read Adult Action Westerns (blush). For those that don’t know, the Adult signifies that there are typically two or three scenes per book that would make Larry Flynt blush. Yes, it’s formulaic. And they usually have very little to do with the story. And for this reader they are uncomfortable to get through.  But…

These are the modern day equivalent of the Pulp Western. The action part of the books is fun. They can pretty pretty easily be read in a single night (they’re usually 40-50k words). And in the right hands, the storytelling is strong.

The traditional publishing companies dropped all the Adult Action Westerns several years ago, at the same time they all but finished publishing Westerns in general. Longarm was one of the most popular of the lines. It followed the adventures of U.S. Marshall Custis “Longarm” Long over approximately 400 novels…all written under the Tabor Evans, pseudonym.  Because, they are written by many authors (and more often than not, it’s impossible to discern who the writer is), the quality can be uneven.  But one of my favorite modern pulp yarn spinners, James Reasoner, has written a great many of them, and I have set about collecting those.

For those who aren’t aware of Reasoner, he, by his own count, has written over a million words a year, 14 years running.  As a result of this productivity, he has has had over 300 of his novels published during his career. Many, like Longarm, under an imprint’s pen name. As you might (or should) expect, that much practice has made Reasoner a very skilled storyteller.

The book I just completed, Longarm and the Border Wildcat (#229), was no exception. Longarm is assigned to the Texas border town Del Rio to essentially as body guard to U.S and Mexico diplomats meeting there to agree on border disputes.  Longarm is partnered with a Texas Ranger, who is all Texan. Of course, all hell breaks loose when a group of outlaws raid the town from south of the border.  And I won’t spoil any more of it, other than to say it’s one of the better ones I’ve read in the genre (certainly the series), and that Longarm’s “relations” do have a bearing on this story…so grin and bear it and read the “50 shades”-stuff.

Side note – 50’s crime paperback legend Harry Whittington wrote a handful of Longarms early in the run. I lucked out and found a few of these collectibles at a reasonable price on eBay, and they are on their way.  I look forward to reading to see how they stand up to the Reasoner entries.  Lou Cameron penned Longarms are generally pretty good as well.

— TD