Three Picks for October

Ex-cops, Texas Rangers, and hired killers – all in a day’s reading this October.

  • Selected by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery


Hunting The Five Point Killer by C.M. Wendelboe


A washed up ex-cop job as a consultant for a Denver news program takes him to his less than idyllic childhood home of Cheyenne to look into the separate deaths of three policemen connected to two murders they were all investigating. A strong intricate plot, full of colorful characters, navigated by an engaging under dog hero. Wendelboe’s latest comes out Tuesday, October 10th – Pre-order now!

9781785651809Quarry’s Climax by Max Allan Collins

Collins takes his hired killer, Quarry, back to when he had to protect a Larry Flynt style publisher while flushing out the one ordering the hit in seventies Memphis. Great hard boiled action with the right amount of sleaze. Collins’ latest from Hard Case Crime comes out Tuesday, October 10th – Pre-order now! 

9780571337743The Long Count by J.M. Gulvin

A Texas Ranger teams up with a just-returned Vietnam vet who’s discovered his father dead from a gunshot wound; the local police ruled it as a suicide, but his brother’s gone missing from an asylum, and the vet and ranger are ready to do some digging. A moody Texas thriller with one twist of an ending. You can find Gulvin’s latest on our shelves and via 


Bouchercon Recap: Part 1

– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery


New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.

Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”

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Hard Word Hits the Trail with…Mickey Spillane

The Hard Book Club meets to discuss The Legend of Caleb York by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins on Wednesday, September 28th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor.

Hard Word Book Club to discuss: The Legend of Caleb York by Max Allan Collins, based on the screenplay of the same name, by Mickey Spillane

9780786036141Our Hard Word Book Club always makes a point to discuss a western once or twice a year. This time, we are reading one from an author mainly known for writing about danger in the big city. In the mid fifties, Mickey Spillane was at the height of his his career, due to his tough guy private eye Mike Hammer. During this period, he was asked by none other than John Wayne to write a western screenplay. Unearthed after his death, it was adapted into the book The Legend Of Caleb York by Spillane’s friend and collaborator Max Allan Collins.

The story is a play on the classic stranger comes to town idea. A crooked sheriff works to push a crusty rancher and his pretty daughter off of their land. The rancher sends word for a gunman who made a name for himself by killing the famed gunslinger Caleb York. Not long after, a man rides into town, dressed as a dude. He quickly dispatches some of the local ruffians. When he signs the hotel ledger, he gives the name of Caleb York. The mystery of this man slowly reveals itself as both factions make their play.

The Legend Of Caleb York is a fun read that should inspire a great discussion about genre, Spillane, and script versus book. We will also be watching the hour long documentary Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane, directed by Max Allan Collins and featuring many crime fiction greats talking about the hard boiled author. We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor, Wednesday, September 28th, at 7PM. The book is 10% off to those who attend.

The Hard Book Club meets to discuss The Legend of Caleb York by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins on Wednesday, September 28th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. You can find copies of The Legend of Caleb York on our shelves and via Book Club selections are 10% off in-store. 

Top Eight Reissues of 2015

This year showed the true importance of reissues. By bringing books that haven’t seen new publication in decades or giving a book its first US printing, many of these books got people talking about how they had to look at the history of the genre and what was truly influential. Below you’ll find a mix of books we’d been dying to see back in print, and made us rethink which classic crime writers may have deserved more credit than they got.

Scott’s Top Reissues of 2015

1. GBH by Ted Lewisgbh

Through time shifts between past and present we watch a blue movie king lose his empire and piece together the plot that betrayed him. Hard boiled to the core with imminent violence dangling like a guillotine above the story, Syndicate Books stateside release of this novel should send this into the classic pantheon.

2. Women Crime Writers Of The 40s And 50s edited by Sarah Weinmanwomen crime writers 1950s

By showcasing lesser known authors like Margaret Millar and the almost forgotten names of Charlotte Armstrong, Dolores Hitchens, and Helen Eustis, this two volume collection of eight domestic suspense novels makes us completely reevaluate the history of postwar crime fiction. If that’s not enough, there also damn entertaining.

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Shotgun Blast from the Past: QUARRY by Max Allan Collins

  • Post by Scott Montgomery

Max Allan Collins’ hitman Quarry is a character who is more popular now than he has been since his debut over forty years ago. A few decades after the series ended and later developed a cult following, Hard Case Crime asked him to do one more book, The Last Quarry. That lead to at least five more books, a film, and a Cinemax series to appear in the fall. This has urged Hard Case Crime to bring the five original books back into print, starting with the first, simply titled Quarry.

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3 Picks for January

The Wrong Quarry by Max Allan Collins

Collins’ hard-as-nails hitman returns, now hiring himself out to targets to take care of the hired assassin gunning for them. This time, though, he starts to think his new client deserves to have a price on his head. Macho paperback fun.

The Last Death Of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames

Former chief of police Samual Craddock is once again pulled out of retirement to look into the murder of a disabled war vet. A nuanced and poignant mystery. Terry Shames will be here at BookPeople to speak about & sign her new book on January 27th.

The Purity Of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The latest Department Q case has detective Morck looking into his own dark history. With it’s entertaining banter and nail biting suspense, Adler-Olsen is quickly becoming MysteryPeople’s most popular Scandinavian author.

MysteryPeople Review: SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT by Max Allan Collins

Seduction of the Innocent by Max Allan Collins

Review by Chris Mattix

If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for comic books. I grew up reading comics and, as such, they hold a very special place in my heart. When powerhouse publisher Hard Case Crime sent me a copy of the latest Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition, Target Lancer novel I was pretty stoked, and then I read the description. Hot damn! This book is about comics!

Seduction of the Innocent is a Private Eye novel set during the 1950s witch hunt aimed at comic books and their questionable content. That’s right folks, those floppy little books most people think are just for kids were at one point considered a very real threat to the safety of America’s youth. Collins novel, while borrowing from the actual events of that time, is a fictionalized version–so don’t go quoting it as fact. The novel’s protagonist, Jack Starr, works as an investigator for Starr Syndication, a company who syndicates comic strips to newspapers. When a pop-psychologist is found dead after accusing Starr’s company of warping young minds, Jack finds himself in the midst of a crisis where everyone seems guilty and no one cares about the departed doctor.

Seduction of the Innocent is classic Collins. It’s punchy, funny, and fast-paced. It’s the kind of book you can’t help but finish in one sitting, and that’s what makes it so satisfying. Collins really hits the pulpy nail on the head. His characters are perfectly drawn, the violence is outlandish and nail biting, and the atmosphere is spot-on. The story takes place in New York City and Collins goes to great lengths to transport his readers there; using cross streets, landmarks, and cafes, Collins does the equivalent of dragging that little dude from the side of google maps and drops you right into the streets of old New York.

If you are a fan of comic books, PI stories, or just want a fun little mystery to spend an afternoon with, then you need to grab a copy of Seduction of the Innocent. It takes off like a rocket from the very first page and will having you grinning ear-to-ear until its clever conclusion. I really can’t say enough good things about Collins’ work here (and everywhere else for that matter). Get this book, grab an ice-cold coke (preferably in a bottle), and enjoy the hell out of Seduction of the Innocent.

Get to Know Max Allan Collins

max allan collins 2

Few authors are as prolific as Max Allan Collins. If you ask him how many books he’s written, he can only give you an estimate, As I worked on this piece, I was reminded of yet another series character he created, so we’ll say the number is at least seven. He’s written in practically every medium; books, comics, scripts, and plays (directing a few). He’s also a songwriter for his band, Cruising. At times his output has overshadowed the fact that the quality of his work is that of a master craftsman.

His first major character was Nolan, a thief in the Parker mold who debuted in 1972 with Bait Money (now appearing with second book, Blood Money, in the Hard Case Crime omnibus, Two For The Money). To differentiate him from the Richard Stark character, Collins made him a young, aspiring comic book artist with criminal skills, who Nolan reluctantly takes on. The relationship between the two added a stronger human dimension, while still delivering a hard hitting style and story.

His next anti-hero was Quarry. The character set two precedents; he was one of the first protagonists to be a Vietnam vet (coming out roughly the same time as David Morrell’s John Rambo in First Blood) and also one of the first to be a hit man. With Quarry and Nolan, Collins took the hard boiled story of the ’40s and ’50s and brought it into the counter culture perspective of his generation.

That said, it is probably his character from the past who he is best known for, Nate Heller. Wanting to do a classic trench coat-fedora private eye, but feeling that kind of hero was anachronistic for a modern book, he put the detective in a historical context. Beginning in True Detective, Nate has been involved with Capone successor Frank Nitti, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, even Area 51, and other notorious events in history. He has crossed paths with Bugsy Siegel, The Barker Gang, Ian Fleming when he was a spy himself, Marilyn Monroe, and the Kennedys,  who are all portrayed in a very human light.

It’s Collins’ ability to strike a balance between the iconic and relatable that shapes his talent. When talking about genre writing, he once said, “When the story is a shout, I try to write it at a whisper.” He mainly does this through detail in setting and character to make the pulp relatable. Most of his heroes live somewhere between angel and demon (or are a combination of both traits) seeking survival more often than redemption or justice. When the quest is for justice, it comes on their somewhat tarnished terms with questionable methods. Still, Collins never loses the style or sensationalism that draws us to these stories.

Lately, he’s been writing the quintessential tough guy, Mike Hammer. Being one of Mickey Spillane’s first critical defenders, the two struck up a friendship. When he knew he was dying, Mickey asked Collins to take over his unfinished work, including several Hammer books. The last one to come out, Lady, Go Die, a planned follow up to I, The Jury has Hammer in small town America solving the murder of a woman found dead on a horse statue.

His last two novels are almost polar opposites in the genre. Antiques Disposal is the latest in the Trash “N” Treasures series he writes with his wife Barbra under the pseudonym Barbra Allan. Featuring mother-daughter antique collectors Brandy and Vivianne Borne, the series has been described as a subversive cozy. He also has Heller finally involved in the Kennedy assassination with Target Lancer, using an interesting historical footnote that gives a fresh Chicago take on the conspiracy.

And there’s more to come. In February Seduction Of The Innocent, a mystery set during the Communist scare of the 1950s, comes out. In 2013, we also get Complex 90. a Hammer novel with Mike in cold war Russia. Collins is finishing up the third Heller novel in his “Kennedy Trilogy”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even a few books in between, but I’ll never be surprised at their quality. After his forty years of his writing, as a fan, I’ve come to expect it.

Collins Takes on the Kennedy Assassination

I started Max Allan Collins’ Target Lancer with both excitement and apprehension. His character, Chicago private detective Nate Heller, solidified me as a fan of the PI genre. He’s got Marlowe’s mouth and Hammer’s hard boiled attitude mixed into a very complex hero who is easy to relate to. Nate also has a knack  for getting involved in infamous crimes of the twentieth century, like the dealings of Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and even Area 51. It was inevitable that Heller would somehow be involved with the Kennedy assassination, but it seemed like he would be visiting too-familiar ground, but Target Lancer proves I should never underestimate Collins’ skill as a storyteller.

The main thing he does to give a different take to the story is to keep the story in Chicago, dealing with little known speculation on a first attempt on the President’s life. Nate is asked by client and friend Tom Ellison to act as his bodyguard. Tom made the mistake of asking Jimmy Hoffa for a pair of sold out football tickets and has to now return the favor by dropping off an envelope full of cash to a bag man at the 606 strip club. Nate recognizes the bag man a kid he ran with who grew into a small time gangster, Jake Rubenstein, now known as Jack Ruby.

After Tom leaves, Ruby comes over to Nate with his friend Lee. He mentions Operation Mongoose, a plot to use the Mafia to kill Castro. Nate acted as a liaison between the Kennedy administration and the mob for the operation, a job he now regrets. When Ruby asks if he’s here for the mob, he assures him he’s not. A couple days later, Tom Ellison is murdered with an ice pick.

As Nate starts looking for the killer, he’s asked to do another job by Bobby Kennedy. His brother will be swinging by Chicago on his campaign before he goes to Florida and Dallas and they have information that an attempt will be made on his life. Because of his familiarity with Chicago, they would like Nate to assist with the secret service detail. It is not long before he starts seeing threads connected to both cases.

Part of the fun of the Nate Heller series is the interaction the detective has with historical personalities. Here, Nate reignites his affair with fan dancer Sally Rand, who appeared in the first book, True Detective, and sits down in a small club to hear electric blues pioneer Muddy Waters. He deals with mob bosses Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, and even the henchmen are famed enforcers Chuckie Nicoletti and Mad Sam DeStefano. As always Collins treats them as characters, not icons, making them well rounded characters you can relate to.

Even though the book has a historical context, Collins never forgets he is first and foremost delivering a hard boiled PI novel. He uses both familiar and unfamiliar facts as great plot reveals. He also doesn’t skip on the action, like a chase after some Cuban gun dealers through the Chicago streets and a climax that gives that other historical assassination novel, The Day Of The Jackal, a run for it’s money. The very last sentence reminds us this is about a man out to avenge the death of his friend.

Target Lancer is a unique piece of thrilling detective fiction. It gives us fleshed out characters, whether based on real people or not, strong action, and a strong hero. It also delivers a fresh take on the plot against Kennedy, something that seemed impossible. Proof you can depend on Max Allan Collins, just like Nate Heller, to take on a tough job.