Max Allan Collins: The Three Biggest Names in Hardboiled Fiction
Sumner welcomes his old pal (and the three biggest names in noir fiction) – multi-award-winning crime writer Max Allan Collins – to Hard Agree, to discuss Max’s wildly successful career creating long-running series characters like Nathan Heller & Nolan, their work together on Max’s completion of the outstanding adventures of Mickey Spillane’s two-fisted PI hero Mike Hammer, Max’s writing style & working practice, Max’s adventures writing movie tie-in novels, the influence of music over both their lives and Max’s legendary all-star Comic-Con garage band Seduction of the Innocent!
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HA – Max Allen Collins Interview
[00:00:00] Sumner: Here we go, that’s it. So we don’t have to worry about how we look on camera though. You look great mate, because it’s just going to be the audio. So we don’t have to be out our usual, you know, um, uh, Sinatra, Martin standard of male beauty for this apiece.
Max Allen Collins: It’s audio sparkle, not video spark.
Sumner: Yeah, exactly.
That’s exactly right. Yeah. Spot on mate. Um, yeah, hard to green deed. Hardly agree. My friend. So, so max, how are you doing mate?
Max Allen Collins: I’m doing great. Uh, I mean, it’s very, very cold here and we already determined, we won’t even go out for drive through food today where it’s just staying in. Uh, it it’s disconcerting here because there’s a, there are a lot of people who are just completely throwing the caution to the wind and just pretending that this pandemic is over.
And, and so that’s, that’s unsettling.
Sumner: It’s highly unsettling and it’s of course, just a million miles away from the truth.
Max Allen Collins: Uh, yeah, it, it, [00:01:00] it has become something political. It’s become a symbol and it’s the dumbest, it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in a lifetime filled with viewing dumb things.
Sumner: Yeah. Amen to that. Now I couldn’t agree more. And in fact, we could follow this whole hour talking about the COVID situation and the pandemic situation, and you know, how poorly it’s been dealt with in the U S how poorly it has been dealt with in the UK at the time of recording, I would say that. Uh, w w at the beginning of, in the UK, what appears to be the one thing that our incumbent government seem to be doing relatively well, which is rolling out the vaccine quite quickly.
So I already know quite a few people who’ve had the vaccine. Um, uh, so my parents have had it, uh, my daughter’s had it. Um, my, uh, Dave Gibbons for example, has had it co-creator Watchman. So it’s, I, I think I know when I’m going to get it, not for a while now, but I think I know it’s all scheduling out.
Max Allen Collins: Well, I haven’t had the [00:02:00] vaccine yet.
And the thing that, and I’m, I’m old enough to qualify here and have enough underlying conditions to qualify here. Right. And yet, everybody I know who has gotten the vaccine is a Trump voter. And to tell you how frustrating that is to me knowing how much he cocked it up. Uh, I, you know, it’s so the very people that were.
You know, not wearing hats and are not wearing masks and instead wearing Maga hats or, uh, our head of me in line and that,
Sumner: and of course that includes Trump himself, the ultimate COVID deny and his whole inner circle of, of, uh, of, uh, morons slash, uh, dastardly, you know, liars and double dailies, you know, to me, it’s quite amazing to see.
Max Allen Collins: Yes. I, I don’t know if you feel in, I think you’ve been spared. I know, I know you’re not necessarily wild about your prime minister, [00:03:00] but I, I don’t know if you’ve had the level of. A whole segment of the population who refused to acknowledge the difference between reality and unreality, who, who thinks that lies are the truth.
That is the rampant thing here, thinking that lies.
Sumner: I think that is a, an almost uniquely American phenomenon as is the, uh, collusion between, um, uh, the con congregating, not wearing a mask and, um, uh, and celebrating your individual freedom. I mean, it’s batshit crazy. It makes no fucking sense in the same way that, um, in the same way that, um, gun ownership as a Euclid, uniquely American phenomenon know, it’s not, if you go anywhere else in the world, it’s not even an issue.
People don’t even talk about it. Right.
Max Allen Collins: Well, I’ll, I’ll say something interesting. I hope it’s interesting. But when I was, uh, in college, uh, summers, I worked for a [00:04:00] newspaper and the first summer I, I worked for this newspaper was, uh, I think it was 1968. So I was, I know, while I was, was working for this newspaper, I was in charge of, if you can believe it, it’s a small town newspaper, the front page, and choosing everything that came in over the wire.
So I, uh, I was there for everything from, uh, Martin Luther King and, and, uh, Bobby Kennedy’s respective assassinations to the moon landing. I mean, it was to Chappaquiddick. It was a wild time that pans. So, but one of the things that would happen in addition to checking the wire service, I would get mail from various political groups.
And I remember very vividly the day I had a letter, uh, that was, that was pro-life now towards anti-abortion. The sanctity of life. And I read about the sanctity of life then in a separate envelope, from the same address, I had a pro [00:05:00] capital punishment letter about how these, you know, how we had, we had to get, even with these, these people that had taken, taken people’s lives.
And so we’re going to take their lives. And I just held one in one hand and one in the other and thought, I mean, just, uh, is it logic? Is it apocryphally? Is it stupidity or is it a magnificent comp cocktail of all three?
Sumner: Yeah. I mean, it’s unbelievable. I mean, I think it’s very funny that anecdote, but it’s also fascinating and you’ve touched upon the one other example that was, I was going to say, which I think is a uniquely American issue.
Um, I’m want to say uniquely American. I mean, when you can, per all the, uh, developed, uh, essentially democratic Western nations. And I would say America stands alone on this whole kind of lies are the two thing and all which is a relatively recent phenomenon too. I know it’s been around for a while, but for it to grab holding the way it has, I think that’s a, that’s a by-product of the Trump years.
Right. And then the other thing is guns. [00:06:00] You know, and gun control and the insanity around that. And these are two things you’re talking about, the rest of the, the rest of the Western democracies in the world. They’re like, this isn’t even a thing anywhere else, you know what what’s going on? It doesn’t make any sense.
And then the third, the third leg of that of course, is what you’ve just mentioned, which is, uh, which is abortion, which is taken as read anywhere else in the developed world as being a good thing, to be able to offer, you know, young women w women who are in that situation, it’s not even debated. It’s just the law.
Yeah. Just the law. It’s legal, you know, you can avail yourself of those services. We need them, if you’re in an unfortunate situation where you need to, and, and, and, and it’s just simply not an issue. It, it, it’s such a fascinating thing to watch the debate around abortion in the U S where it’s such an emotive issue.
So can join with people’s faith and whatnot, which of course there is a genuine divide between, um, religion and government, [00:07:00] uh, everywhere else in the developed world. And there is supposed to be in the U S as well, you know, but it’s such a fascinating thing to watch, particularly when people can’t even use.
The fucking word abortion, it’s all these weird kind of like pro-choice or are you pro-life it’s like what? Why not people can’t it’s like Voldemort’s name people can’t even say a Bush and so weird everywhere else. It’s just like, so those I would say, and you know, me, and I say that the preface to this is, you know, as you know, is I look, I love America.
I’m related to many Americans. You know, my grandfather fought with an American unit. I’ve grown up completely obsessed with American culture. And in the normal course of my life, I spent half of my year in the USA. I fucking love the USA. Right? This is an, an anti-American run it by any means. I actually love the USA, but these three things are, you are absolutely unique among the developed Western democracies of the world.
And you don’t get them anywhere else. [00:08:00] You know, it’s fascinating. I think,
Max Allen Collins: well, am I right or wrong? But it has been a while since, uh, in the UK, uh, Ruth Ellis was
Sumner: hanged. Yes. Quite some time. Quite some time a friend. Yeah, absolutely. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Max Allen Collins: I know. I have to say that I have never been more ashamed of my country than I have been, uh, just since, uh, the, the, the Capitol riot.
Oh, wow. Amazing. Yeah. And, but I will tell you the saddest thing about that. Right. And then we can get off politics. Uh, cause it’s always kind of a, I tried to stay away from, you know, I never discussed that on my blog or if I do it, I just, it’s a glancing blow, shall we say? Yeah. But I was working on, uh, the new quarry book.
Yeah. New quarry novel, which is a violet and politically incorrect in every possible way. I’m sure there’s, there’s a, a hoard of liberals out there that would like to see me, [00:09:00] uh, strung up if they, if they only believed the capital punishment. Uh, and so. I’m working on this, this book, and I know it’s January 6th, then I know that that’s going to be a key date because of, of the, you know, because that’s the day that the, uh, the electors are going to be sanctioned, officially approved.
And I knew that there was going to be a big rally that Trump had had whipped up. I go downstairs at about two o’clock and turn on the TV. I’ve been working all day, ignoring it. Like if cuts, if I turned it on, I knew that that’s all I’d watch. And so I see these morons crawling over the face of the Capitol, basically like ants.
Yeah. And here’s the sad thing I just shrugged. I was just like, yeah, that’s about right. Instead of being outraged, instead of being, you know, uh, starting to cry instead of starting to [00:10:00] shout, instead of having some emotional reaction, any kind of surprise, I was just like, Yeah, that’s the next step, rush the capital.
Now then of course I had all those emotions come through when you actually see the footage of them inside, but it was a long shot. You know, the difference in a movie between the closeup and a long shot emotionally is, you know, it can be quite different just seeing them crawling up and rushing in and hitting with, hitting with the American flag.
How do you like that one? I mean, it’s just, you know, the thing about the Trump era in general is if I enter it, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re one of my editors. Yeah. And I came to you and none of this had happened and this was the book I pitched to you. Would you throw me off?
Sumner: Right. It’s just so much people will believe this is not believable.
This is American. Okay. Yeah. So very sad.
Max Allen Collins: I actually think we’ve gone around the, I lived through the Vietnam war era. [00:11:00] Yeah. And I thought that was our low app. Yeah. Uh, I mean, my father didn’t talk to me for like two years, you know, and it was, and this is worse. This is absolutely worse. This is, this is probably as close to the way we were right before the civil war.
Uh, which is something that always seemed very distant to me
Sumner: until lately. Yeah, because you have this rabid diluted base of people who’ve been consistently lied to for a very long period of time by essentially, you know, dastardly self-serving media, media, barons, and, um, on what they believe is just as, has no grounding in reality.
Max Allen Collins: Well, I don’t, you know, I think the only reason we haven’t had a civil war here, um, and we’ve obviously had armed insurrection cause we have that on January 6th, the difference between now and, and, uh, you know, [00:12:00] The middle of the 19th century is that the South was one unified area where all the people that thought that way were there and everybody who thought the other way were in another regional part of the country.
Well, now we’re a deck, we’re a shuffled deck. We’re everywhere. I mean, I have people living on my street that wa that, that, that have those, those beliefs that are so a hundred percent at odds with mine. So it’s harder for us to have, you know, we, it’s harder to have a civil war. Yes. Yeah. I mean, to the degree, we had a civil war in January six.
People had to go to Washington from all over the country and they did come from all over the country. Not, not a huge number, but enough to tell you that white, you know, this is, uh, this is like the wave, you know, fat marbles, a steak. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s just all through there.
Sumner: Yeah, no, I, I think, I think that’s a very good [00:13:00] analogy.
I think it’s a very good analogy and it’s, it’s a it’s, um, dealing with that and getting to the side of it is just, um, such a huge obstacle, you know, and it’s such a, you know, huge thing to, to need to do. And, uh, and yeah, it’s, um, I mean, I know that, you know, all my U S friends, um, Of which there are many I, which I have many, as you know, are almost unanimously concerned about these issues.
Um, quite rightly so. Yeah. So, um, so it’s yeah, I really feel FEMA.
Max Allen Collins: Yeah. I also have this interesting aspect of my career and you’re a part of this. You’re a part of this, which is that, uh, I’m Mickey Splain chose me to continue my camera. My camera is I think, somewhat wrongly, but it is widely considered to be a right-wing even fascist character.
And so, so this is one of the reasons why, [00:14:00] quite frankly, I don’t talk about this stuff in public much, and I don’t do any, almost nothing about it on my weekly blog. That’s every Tuesday I do a new blog because. They’re my customers. Yes. That’s what Mickey used to call his readers is his customers. So, so there’s probably a good number of Trump voters that, that read my camera.
Yeah. And God bless him for doing it. And to me, I mean, we could talk about the fact that I view my camera as a character so that his beliefs are not necessarily my beliefs. I’m just trying to be, uh, faithful to him as a, as, as a literary beast. And he can be a beast. Uh, but there’s, there’s another aspect of this that I reflect on sometimes, which is as I do, what little light go out in the public now where I go through a drive up and get McDonald’s or burger King or whatever, um, or somebody brings something to the door and I have that little bit of interaction with people.
[00:15:00] I know damn well that that some of them are Trump voters, but I don’t treat them disrespectfully and they don’t treat me disrespectful disrespectfully and we’re friendly and it’s, and when we say, you know, stay safe, we mean it. And so it’s, it’s almost like there’s the humanity box over here and then this crazy political box over here.
And it’s, uh, it’s sad. It’s just, it, it is, it is, it is possibly tragic, uh, that, you know, I have, I lost some of my best friends of it. This was one of the best men. Uh, the, one of the grooms men at my wedding, somebody I love dearly. And he believes in this stuff, I have a nephew who, you know, who, who bought into Q
Well, that, yeah, I mean, that’s fucking nuts. I mean, can you even rationalize any of that stuff?
Max Allen Collins: Well, I have, I have seen lizards who
[00:16:00] Sumner: pretended to be humans. Wasn’t that cool. Vivo, that TV show
Max Allen Collins: we’ll get off of this, but one of the things about reality TV is, um, I’ve a very good friend named Phil Dingle dine. Who was my,
are we back?
Sumner: Hey, Paul, did you pause there? So I didn’t mean to, I just realized that my, uh, my, uh,
Max Allen Collins: your pause visually too
Sumner: visually now I’m on Batman. Yeah,
Max Allen Collins: no, you’re
Sumner: back. You’re back. Okay, please continue. I’ll just, I’ll flip that in the edit
Max Allen Collins: of a very good friend named Phil Dingle, dine, who, uh, is my, uh, my editor and a cinematographer on, on the Indy pit.
Um, movies and documentaries that I’ve done, you know, I’ve done over the years and I forgot what point I was going to make. [00:17:00] Or are we talking about,
Sumner: sorry mate, I totally distract you that I’ll tell you what it was. I had to put my HTMI cable in cause I realized my wifi signal wasn’t robust enough. Yeah.
Um, yeah, basically you’re talking about Q1.
Max Allen Collins: Okay. We’re talking about killing on, uh, it’ll come back to me. I’ll I’ll come
Sumner: back to it. Yeah, no worries. I’m going to so I’ll, I’ll be editing it. Yeah, of course. Yeah. I’ll I’ll launch in with, uh, with another question. So, so as you’ve just alluded to actually max, you know, you and I are friends and we also have a working relationship and I’m privileged to be your editor on the Mickey explains my camera books, which are, which are published by Titan books.
And, um, And when I say I’m privileged to be your editor, I’m here to tell him to use listening that, uh, being max on Collins editor doesn’t really involve a lot of work because generally speaking, um, uh, what’s that? Yeah, no, no, just the sweat and pure enjoyment mate. Do you know what I mean? [00:18:00] Uh, and, uh, you know, you, you, you produce highly complete manuscripts and really, I guess, you know, the editing process, certainly on hammer.
My experience with you is essentially, you know, just, just me going through your manuscript, reading it, enjoying it. Giving the odd note about, have you thought about this that’s as that’s as much as that’s, you know, it’s not certainly not an, it’s not an answer in the sense of some of my experiences over the years where you’ve got to go into the DNA of every page and go, Hey man, look, this consensus construction is just not working.
I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. That’s not what editing max Allen commons is like,
Max Allen Collins: well, and you know, you know, this too, I run into sometimes because editors line editors and copy editors are used to having to do a lot of work. The mine comes in and they feel like, well, we better do a lot of work on this, even though it doesn’t need it.
And then I get into, I can get into some real jams on that. When I have a copy of her, two thinks a he or she ought to rewrite [00:19:00] the entire book. And it’s probably my pet peeve in, in, in the writing business. And I’ve allowed myself to get. More upset about it than I should.
Sumner: Yeah. But I think it makes a lot of sense.
I mean, I think part of the editor’s role personally, is that you have to go into the process, um, respecting what the writer themselves. Wants to achieve from that process, particularly if they’ve got a whole lineage of successful novels that they’ve written and had published. And, you know, in your case, you’re highly prolific, you know, award winning author.
You know, I think I know exactly what you’re talking about because I’ve seen it. Um, where, and, and I’ve heard you tell me stories of experiences that you’ve had, um, where, and I know other writer, friends of mine have had similar experiences where you work with XYZ editor and they’ve got the whole self justification thing.
If I need to do a lot of work on this now, some writers I’m sure. And I think, you know, there are fairly. There are some fairly big names who [00:20:00] feed need fairly robust editing, but again, that’s part of the conversation and part of the relationship. I think you really, if you’re somebody who’s had a lot of great deal of success and is very prolific, like yourself, 0.1 is you have to be led by what you want to get out of the editing experience as you open the door, you know?
And it’s like, no, I want to, I want to light at it. I do not want to structure it. I don’t want to get into the DNA of each sentence. Yeah. I wa if I’ve, if I’ve missed something or if I’ve been repetitious, you know, that’s what you have, uh, some, an editor and you’ve essentially got to, this is somebody because whoever it’s, whoever you’re working with at whatever publishing house, whether it’s me at Titan or Charles are there are case, but you’ve also got Bob your, what?
Your wife as well, your wife and partner, who is really your first editor right before I ever see the manuscript.
Max Allen Collins: She is, that’s absolutely right. Uh, It’s not that that writers, everybody needs [00:21:00] editing. Everybody needs some needs help. I mean, even if it’s just like Lee, just like, I don’t understand this.
Some Barb will say that there’ll be a paragraph and she’ll say, I just don’t understand this. And then I read it and I explain it to her and she says fine, but you know, you can’t go door to door explaining to people what you had in mind. And so, so that, that kind of clarity is necessary. There’s some terrific, talented people though, who, uh, need more editing.
I mean, Stephen King is one of the great storytellers. Of of our, our time of, of any time, but he’s not allowed himself apparently to be edited much. And in recent years he is the first thing he did with the stand was put another 30,000 words into it. He needed another 30,000 words of the stand. So, so you can get too powerful.
We just watched, uh, you know, I’m I like Quentin Tarantino, you know how much I [00:22:00] love, uh, once upon a
Sumner: time in Hollywood, we’ll talk about again.
Max Allen Collins: I love that, but we, you know, so, so, uh, Barbara and I revisited some of the stuff and she had never seen some of it. So we watched death proof the other night. That’s part of Grindhouse and it is wonderful, but incredibly self-induced
Sumner: yeah, the
Max Allen Collins: dialogue just going on for your conversations going on forever, just so he can hear himself talk and nobody stood up to him.
Yeah. Nobody stood up to him. And so he has. He has a movie that should be, that should be like an, a plus movie of its kind. And it’s about a B minus, which is crazy too. So somebody, if I come in and I’m just being arrogant, somebody has to stand up to me. So you’re not doing yourself any favors doing this, and that’s happened to me before and, and, and they’ve been right.
Yeah, [00:23:00] because every, I mean, if we weren’t self-indulgent we wouldn’t be creative people.
Sumner: Right. Of course. Yeah. No, it’s, it’s a very good point. I think, um, I, I personally, I think the thing thing about you that max is you tend not to write too long. Yeah. Um, for want of a better description, that’s sort of a ham-fisted way of putting it perhaps, but, you know, I don’t think you overwrite by any means and your style is quite lean and, and certainly you’ve named checked.
Somebody I think is a magnificent writer, Stephen King. But I generally don’t read that many Stephen King novel as these days. Cause I find them to be terribly over it. And to just, you know, I don’t personally like reading books, one of my prejudices, I don’t really like reading books that are more than about 250 pages long.
And I almost never read books are longer than 300 pages now. Clearly, I’ve got an English degree, I’ve read a ton of books that are way longer than that, but my preference is not to read books that are, that are overwritten. And, um, I, I, you know, I [00:24:00] I’ve tremendous fondness for, for Kings early at shorter works.
Yeah. The ones that he’s written later at tremendous length, aren’t my favorites, even though some of them brilliant and another person, I think a great example of somebody, I believe massively overwrites, who I’m not, I wouldn’t really read the series of books anyway, because it’s not really within my wheelhouse, but I know many people who love this also that’s JK Rowling, right?
Now J K Rowling. I could have perhaps read all of the Harry Potter books if they’d stayed the same length as the first two, which were around as I recall, two 5,300 pages. But from the point where it really blew out, I think from the third or fourth novel in the series, they almost like quadruple in length.
And at that point, unlike I’m just not down for reading this many pages about what is a relatively simple premise, you know, I don’t need to read it in this level of detail
Max Allen Collins: or you, you, you raised an interesting point, which is the frankly personal [00:25:00] preference, uh, people, I think sometimes don’t think through that the books are quite different from, from movies.
If you and I go to see a movie, uh, we are going to see the same movie. Now we, we may interpret it somewhat differently. We may like it or not like it because of the mood we were in that day or because just who we are. Uh, I mean, I find some times that I, that I dislike a movie that I, that I liked when I first saw it and vice versa.
Sometimes I like what was wrong with me? This is, this is terrific. And it can be as simple as what your mood was when you saw it. But your age when you saw it as is, is a factor, however, with a novel, any, any work of fiction, you have to bring a lot more as to the party, as the consumer, you, the reader has to be essentially a collaborator.
So, you know, I often feel like, well, sometimes I get to play, you [00:26:00] know, the, uh, I get to play Broadway and sometimes I’m playing the, you know, the three mile Island dinner theater, because what the, where it plays the brain that plays in. And what they bring to it is, is going to be a major factor. So it’s like, they, you and I can’t read the same, read the same book and have the same experience.
We, anything close to the same experience. Now, as a writer, I tend to be, even though I think I am pretty lean, I tend to be very controlling so that I can have use so that your experience and the next guy’s experience and the next gal’s experience will be similar enough that, that they all have, have had a similar experience.
Okay. And, and, and that’s one of the reasons why one of the things I, I am most criticized about Andrew is that I over describe, uh, setting and, uh, and clothing.
Sumner: And I find that [00:27:00] fascinating. I get
Max Allen Collins: that all the time. And particularly with this current generation who are, everything is moving so fast, but for me as an author, uh, Setting and, and clothing descriptions are key to characterization.
The room you live in the house you live in, tells us a lot about who you are. And it does it in a way that is, is, is not, you know, it’s not ham-handed is not, is not, uh, it’s not overdone. It’s just like, this is who lives here. And the clothing you wear tells you something about that person and it’d be welders and me.
And when people complain about, well, why? And I’m honest, I’m thinking, well, if you don’t like it, skip it. If you come to a, if you come to I’m describing the room and you’re bored. Yeah. Move on to the next Hunka dialogue. But I don’t like to have [00:28:00] characters running around naked in a book unless it’s novel, I
No. I mean, I guess, I guess maybe my favorite novels for so many years have been written by authors who tend to be very descriptive about those points, that identity of a Baton Island. And I think also you need the lights and shadow between. Constant dialogue. I find pretty boring. I think you, but your dollar can be very propulsive and really moved, you know, scenes along.
But if it’s it’s fucking everything you’re reading in a chapter, you know, you want some lights and shadow, you need some, you know, we need dialogue to propel the narrative and you need to have some sense of space and who the people are and what they’re wearing, which of course is a big part of who a character is, is how, how they’re dressed and the kind of situation that they’re in.
So I find those things very important. I don’t think you can have. You know, one without the other, I think go to go too far. I mean, I am aware of some authors who I don’t think fiction of dialogue in the, in the work and do you know, and, you know, sometimes darling is like described, uh, you know, [00:29:00] almost within the narrative of the paragraph.
I don’t enjoy that particularly either. And, and I’m a big fan of, um, I’m really quite fan, I guess it’s because I’ve read so many piano was over the, uh, I’m, I’m, I’m a big fan of the first person perspective. I don’t think it needs to have it to, to write a great book. But when I look back, all of my favorite books are in fact written in the first person.
And that starts with being a huge, um, actually this not even with BI space though, I read a lot Chandler when I was quite young and it’s left a massive imprint on me as it would, as on there, it had to be yourself, but the other, my other, I guess, first. The first writer that I really fell in love with and couldn’t get enough of the work was Damon Runyon, Damon Runyon.
My dad can, is a big CA is a big, big Damon Runyon fan. And he kind of passed that onto me. And, um, and yeah, yeah, we just ended up, uh, he gave me all the books when I was in my early teens, I guess, I guess by the time I’d been a student, [00:30:00] I think I’ve cycled through the whole lot, maybe four or five times.
Max Allen Collins: Well, the, the first person that Damon you’re running uses is actually the, the, the Watson. Yes,
Sumner: absolutely. Yeah. Not the main character. No, that’s right. It’s so fascinating.
Max Allen Collins: Great Gatsby. But, but you still getting it filtered through through that first person style and I love Ranya and he’s my favorite short story writer.
And then of course, there’s Mark Twain with huckleberry Finn, which is now politically incorrect. Of course, of course. But, but I think Twain is going to outlive the people calling him, put politically incorrect, just maybe Mark Twain will outlive live them, but it’s, it’s, uh, I’ll give you a small example of, of what we’re talking about.
I’m working on a fun series. That’s just basically fun. And that’s this, this new series I’m doing for Wolf FAQ, which is, uh, about it’s about the secret agent who, who, who [00:31:00] James Bond was based on that’s that’s the conceit, his name was John sand, sand, John sand and, and Ian Fleming based everything on this, on my fictional spy.
So I could, so I could just do a James Bond novel basically. And so, uh, I’m working with my friend, Matt Clemons, who did all the CSI novels with me and did the three political novels. I did a Supreme justice, uh, that the reader and Roger’s series. So th this is for fun. All right. So these are venture. I mean, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re absolutely.
This is absolutely. McDonald’s not, not, you know, not, not, not a steak house. All right. Yeah. And so, uh, we’re having the conversation about, is there enough action in here? It’s there. And so, so as we’re applauding the next one I’m I’m like saying, okay there, I asked him when we have a big action scene, then the next, next chapter, no action.
But then the next chapter, we got action scene, right? [00:32:00] So that you can have, you, you need, you need that break even in something kind of simplistic, which these books are fairly simplistic. Uh, but, but, but, and my, my wife, when she was reading the second one and th the second book, which hasn’t come out yet, which is called live fast, spy hard.
Sumner: Fantastic title of it.
Max Allen Collins: And it, and she’s reading a chapter at a time. And she said to me, because it’s almost a, you know, a 60,000 word chase, this, this book, it’s, it’s a, there’s all kinds of action going on. And she said to me, Very diplomatic. Like, is it possible that you could have too much action in a book?
I said he probably is. I’ll look at that. Maybe we’ll mock up back a little, uh, you know, cause we had, you know, it, we had like a gunfight on the beach and then the same chapter, we had a gunfight during an earthquake. And so maybe we [00:33:00] stepped over the line just a little bit, but of course these books are to some degree, obviously tongue in cheek.
They’re not satires. No, they’re not sad tears there, but you know, look at Fleming. I think Jane Bond is the pretty well. He spent an awful lot of time telling you what brands of
Sumner: things that he used
Max Allen Collins: to smoke, what cars he drove and what clothes he bought at that. So did we not need that? Yeah. Do we not need to know that he’s in a tuxedo?
Yeah. I mean, come on. That’s who, that’s who he is. Do we not need to know my camera’s in a trench coat and a fedora? Do we not need to know it’s raining? You know, that that’s one of the things that you had Elmore. Leonard was great, but his, his like 10 rules for writing are told bullshit. The first one is never write about weather really, really right.
About [00:34:00] whether
Sumner: we think this
Max Allen Collins: film in a noir, sorry. Yeah. At times, I mean, it’s just, but this is what writers do. Writers come up. They learn how to write their books, that what they do, because it’s, it’s a totally self taught. Art, you can go. Yeah. I went to university of Iowa writer’s workshop, which was the best one in the country.
And I still taught myself everything. I got some tips, some I got some support, but I taught myself how you know how to do this. But what I learned to do was how to write a max Helen Collins book. I didn’t learn how to write an Andrew Sumner book. I didn’t learn how to write an L Merlin or book. So if I start to teach you how to write, all you’re going to learn is how to write one of my books.
And there’s already one of me. Yeah. Like there already was an Elmore Leonard. So when Elmore, Leonard went out there telling everybody how to write like Elmore, Leonard, That’s one of the dumbest things I ever heard a smart
[00:35:00] Sumner: person do. I, I, I agree with you. And I think this is a to flip over to movies. This is, I think the issue with somebody like say Robin is clearly, you know, very analytical, clever guy, but I, you know, putting aside some of the obvious flaws about his work with regard to editing and whatnot, I’m going go back, talk about Tarantino.
It’s quite clear that Tarantino absolute doesn’t give a fuck about any of the structure that Robert Makia spouses whatsoever. And of course, what has that led to it’s led to Tarantino? Being the most influential filmmaker of his generation, um, his work always being warts and all, some that you really look forward to.
And not only that, you know, he’s delivered four or five, truly great groundbreaking pieces of work. You really can’t fault reservoir dogs, you can’t fault pulp fiction. You can’t fall. In my opinion, Jackie Brown, you can’t fault. What’s product, amazing film. You can’t fault. Once upon a time in Hollywood, I’m also very fond [00:36:00] of the, uh, of the hateful eight thing.
That’s a great film though. It’s very long. I think that’s all part and parcel of what it is.
Max Allen Collins: The bastards
Sumner: Inglorious bastards.
Max Allen Collins: Yeah. I mean, uh, I had trouble with them at first. I had trouble with him at first and, and it was, uh, interestingly when my wife, Barbara and I, uh, watched kill bill, she, she had never seen them and I hadn’t liked either one of them at the time.
Yeah. And I watched him now and slot, these are terrific. Yeah. I love them. But I know what happened to me was when I first went to see him, because I am a film buff and I am a TV buff. And that included Asian movies that include well road to perdition obviously is a nod to, uh, you know, lone Wolf and Cub and John Wu and, and all that stuff that my son, Nate and I were watching on gray market [00:37:00] VHS because none of that stuff was out yet.
I just had friends who said, you gotta read, you gotta watch this. And so I saw all the John Wu before it hadn’t been released in, in, in the United, in the United States. And when I would watch him, I know where he was getting everything. Yeah. And it was annoying the hell out of me because he was, I felt that.
Uh, you know, like all the music he was using, all the music cues he was using, I knew
Sumner: what the music cues were. She recognized the music from my inside. Yeah. That’s exactly, exactly
Max Allen Collins: right. Rides a horse. And I was just sitting there being pissed off. And I think probably on some level I was jealous that I, I hadn’t gotten to stealing from these people before, but what I have come to realize is that that stuff is in there.
Not because he’s picking the bones of, uh, other filmmakers, but [00:38:00] because he loves this stuff. Yeah. And when he uses it, he does it in a way that doesn’t resemble anybody else’s movies. And that’s what I understand now that he had, he, he, he used what he needed to use. But there’s much more originality in his work than there is borrowing.
Yeah. And come on, we all borrow Shakespeare. Didn’t think up any of those stories. Yeah.
Sumner: Yeah. No, it’s so true. And um, I find it very interesting that you referenced kill bill because I had a similar but dissimilar experience. And, um, of course after, after reservoir dogs, you know, blow everything apart and after pulp fiction doubled down on, then Jackie Brown troubled down on things.
I was by that point, huge rabid, um, Tarantino fan as it was every other, every other movie journalist working in the UK at the time that I knew
Max Allen Collins: interrupt just for a second. And that’s just the say since I dissed [00:39:00] Elmore Leonard, it’s not an accident that it was an Elmore Leonard book. The structure, the, you know, the whole thing that took Quentin Tarantino up a notch because I think it’s above the other two.
Sumner: Oh no. It’s, I think it’s a masterpiece. And, and, um, I I’d like to return to that in a second because I love that movie and I particularly love the two lead performances. I think they’re incredible. Amazing. Let’s talk about that in a sec. Cause cause kill bill, just to go through my experience with kill bill.
So I was a huge fan and at that point I was, um, at the time. Killbuck came out. I was the publisher of uncut magazine, which is a magazine that still runs to this day. And it’s essentially classic rock and roll classic Americana music and movies. Yeah. Very, very, uh, very, it’s a British publication. But in addition to being about the classic sort of British invasion acts and the classic British music acts of the seventies.
And so it’s got a very, very American focus in, you know, we did a lots of long form journalism on [00:40:00] Bob Dylan, you know, on the band, et cetera, et cetera, dropping them, Janice Joplin, whatever. But a lot of them film and a lot on say the classic film of the 50 sixties and seventies, whether that’s Sam fuller or whether it’s a Scorsese in his health department, all that kind of stuff.
So. Why go and see the preview of a, of kill bill. And I’m there with, uh, two old friends, colleagues of mine, a guy called Michael Bonner, who is the film editor of uncut magazine that was published at the time. But I, but I used to, I used to still write for the magazine and then the guys got called a Duncan, basically, who’s the managing editor of loaded another magazine that I published.
And at that time I was writing a bit franca and I was writing a bit for the enemy and the enemy is the new musical express. It’s like the rolling stone of the UK. So we all go to see it along with every other kind of movie journalist and music, class, moon, maybe jealous. Then what a screening with is maybe $200.
So kill bill one rolls and everyone goes fucking [00:41:00] bananas. Everybody loves it right at. You could just tell it’s got its grip on the whole audience. It’s, everybody’s having a brilliant time. And then that sequence at the end of the movie where the last beat is where you hear, where you hear a bell and a buck.
I think his brother is called the Michael Madsen character where you hear them talk about the fact that her daughter is in fact still alive, which she doesn’t know at this point. And that’s the last moment in the movie. Right. And there’s an inaudible kind of gasp. Yeah. And I’ve never been to see any film.
That was the interrupted the narrative in the same way that say, say the empire strikes back dead and ends essentially on a cliffhanger. I’ve never been in any, any screening where the movie ended on a cliffhanger and you had a room of not regular punters, cinema battled, hardened, cynical journalists.
Yeah. Who have had the bear in their sandwiches and don’t have to send a nice about the movie. What haven’t we seen, right. Yeah. Right. Exactly. Yeah. What the fuck, who cares? [00:42:00] You know, that, that all pervasive sentences, which I know you don’t have. I know, I know. I know that I don’t have, but I’ve spent a lot of time around.
Some of my fellow journalists, who I’m exactly that often the more prestigious the organ that they write for the more empowered their actual love of cinema seems to be. Right. And there’s a whole conversation I can have about this, where I generally prefer the, the, the movie and music journalism over the people who write for the monthly magazines devoted to those forms.
Then the people who write for say the, uh, the prestigious newspapers, who I think are completely out of touch with what people actually love about cinema personally, but to flip back to kill bill. So, so has the ending, and if, if they ever, if ever, we could have stood up and say said the second part right now, they would have done.
If they could, if they could have somehow got the hands on part two in that moment, they would have fucking write it. It was all anybody could talk about. And it was one of those evenings where we all went to the pub afterwards [00:43:00] and were there till closing time. And everyone is just dissecting the movie complete euphoria.
And the interesting thing was. A year later when I then went to re review part two, and I remember we went along and assorted, we, my brother and I walked down to part two with the profound sense at that time of utter disappointment, I was like, Oh man. Uh, just a hack. Just didn’t give me what I thought I was coming in to see, because it’s very, very dialogue based, which is something I love about Tarantino.
And, but it’s, it’s, there are action sequences in it, but I, I just felt like, uh, almost like part one, this sort of felt at the time was like kind of perfectly conceived in terms of it’s doubling down action beats. And these there’s these huge, very lengthy pieces of discourse in part two, which on their own merits are kind of brilliant, like the whole bill talking about Superman thing, but I was profoundly disappointed and felt that way for a long time, in retrospect.
So, [00:44:00] whereas my part one review is like a five-star rave, um, part the part two reviews, like three star. Well, you know, it’s great in parts, but right. But the interesting thing is I then didn’t see either part for about five or six years and then watch them with my son one day back to back one Saturday at home.
And then when I watched it the second time around. Both here. And I thought part two is fucking brilliant. I really, really enjoyed it. You know, it’s like, and I think Tarantino is one of those guys that his work is so rich. Actually you can go back and revisit and find all these things in it that you didn’t see the first time, as much as you might go to the cinema and be a seasoned movie view and therefore use the tricks of cinema and the fact that it can have that emotional effect upon you.
I think with him, even though you might be just as sophisticated in terms of your movie knowledge, although probably not as Tarantino, you can watch his movies a second time and get yards and [00:45:00] yards of stuff, ask them that you didn’t see the first time around. Right.
Max Allen Collins: Can, can you pause for a
Sumner: second? Of course.
The camera. Yeah. Okay.
[00:46:00] Max Allen Collins: sorry about that.
[00:48:00] [00:47:00] Sumner: I took the opportunity of that commercial break to make a cup of tea. All right. Yeah. How are you doing? You’re doing fine. I’m
Max Allen Collins: doing fine. We can pick right back up where
Sumner: we were. Yeah. Right. So, so basically, um, are we recording again? We’re recording again now. Yeah. I just let it roll actually. I’ll just so, so yeah, so that was my experience with that was my experience with kill bill.
It was part two for me was almost a completely different experience when I came back to watch it second time.
Max Allen Collins: Well, we, we watched it, uh, Barbara and I watched it one, one, one night, one the next night. And that worked perfectly well, but he did, he did reassemble it and it was shown a few times as I think it was called something like kill [00:49:00] bill, the whole bloody thing.
Sumner: Yeah. That’s the whole bloody affair where it’s all cut together in one go. I mean, I would, I would love to see that there’s also a Japanese version where the, all of the action sequences in color, you know, there’s that whole black and white sequence that worked where, you know, you, you do say close with somebody is either blanket and it goes black and white for about 10, 15 minutes, right in the Japanese.
Got that’s all in color.
Max Allen Collins: Well, I, I, I think he must have decided that he didn’t like it that way or because you would think he would have brought it back out. Yeah. And I know there’s a couple of versions of hateful eight.
Sumner: Yeah. Oh, yes. Yeah. I actually S that I, did you go now? Did you ever see that?
Max Allen Collins: I saw it in, I saw it in the high definition.
Sumner: Me too. That was the longer version. Yeah, because this there’s three different versions. There’s the main release version. There’s the, there’s the kind of a road show version, which would the, in the [00:50:00] Panavision, super whatever, or, and that, that, and that is longer and has more of these extensive shots of that beatable countryside that he shot in.
I too went to see that, and it came with the program and all that kind of stuff myself and my son went. And then there’s the version, which is on, um, which is on Netflix, which is the four-part version, which is I, if you haven’t seen that, I would recommend it. I really enjoyed it. So, so if you watch more footage, more footage.
Yeah. And it’s the whole thing cut together into basically four. Our longer thereabouts, um, uh, episodes. And there is definitely more stuff in it, but it actually works, you know, works. Is this kind of four episode, four episode thing, if you can, it’s definitely on Netflix USA.
Max Allen Collins: Well, one thing that I’m really, uh, find very amusing and you’ll understand why, but you probably know that he has announced that he signed to write a novelization of once upon a time in Hollywood [00:51:00] and his is apparently working on it right now.
Uh, it, it comes out later, I think later this year, which fascinates me because it just shows his perverse love for movies and everything to do with movies, because he’s doing a novelization of, of, of a movie that won’t be out that will have been out for two years or something by the time they’re not, but that’s not what novelizations were for.
Just having it be packaged. I understand to look like it had come out and. You know, the seventies and I just think it’s, it’s hilarious. And, uh, of course, you know, that I have written many novelizations, that was just for about 15 years, sort of my side gig too. Uh, and I don’t know if you know why I got into novelizations, but if
Sumner: not, I would, I would love to hear them max.
Max Allen Collins: I will just say briefly that this cause it’s a separate story, but I, I did do that. Dick Tracy [00:52:00] novelization for the Warren Beatty film was the first one I did and I lobbied to get it because at the time I was the writer of the Dick Tracy comic strip. Well, About three years later. I, and that book sold by 800,000 copies that’s to date.
My best-selling book is that Dick Tracy novelization. And about three years later, uh, this editor, I didn’t get along with speaking of editorial, uh, disputes, uh, got me fired from, from Dick Tracy after 15 years. And after I revitalized the strip. Yeah, of course she did. We did the curb and, uh, and I am still bitter.
I am sorry.
Sumner: Can I ask, had that editor always been your editor on since you’d worked on Dick Tracy? No. No.
Max Allen Collins: And that’s partly why I, that the guy who, who, uh, Hired me. He was replaced maybe, Oh, maybe a year, two years before the [00:53:00] Tracy movie. So, so from 1977 to 1988, I had the guy who hired me. Then this guy came in and in my opinion, had this attitude about, well, I’m not going to like anything the other guy did.
So I was on, I was on the shit list from day one and I did what I could to, you know, to please him and nothing. I did pleased him. And there were also, I think was a, um, I think there was an agenda to get rid of me just because they ended up hiring somebody who was on staff, who already had a salary and just added the Tracy.
Got it. Clipped onto that guy’s workload. Whereas, uh, I was, I had a contract and of course, uh, so I did it for 15 years. Ultimately it was really a good thing that I. That I got fired. Cause then I did road to perdition and all kinds of good stuff. Yeah. Because I just tried to stay alive. But, uh, one of the first things I did at [00:54:00] one after getting, uh, getting fired was I told my agent, um, Hey, I had a, I had one of the best selling, uh, movie novels of all time, go out and tell people that I’m up, you know, I’m available to write movie novelizations and nothing happened for a while.
And then I got a call that my agent said, I think, you know, you may know this story. Uh, my agent said, uh, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is they want you to write the novelization of the new Clint Eastwood movie. And Clint Eastwood had just one for, uh, for the, Oh, what’s the
Sumner: wonderful and forgiven
Max Allen Collins: forgiven.
And so, so I said, great. And he said, well, now what’s the bad news. He said, they need it in 10 days. Uh, and I said, well, in seven days I’m going to San Diego Comic-Con and he said, well, maybe you should cancel [00:55:00] it. And I said, I can’t, you know, so, so I wrote it in seven days. Wow. And, um, I burrowed in, and of course there was no, there’s no real internet at that point for, for me to draw on.
So Barb helped me. She, uh, you know, cause that’s a story that goes all around the country in the line of fire is what it was. Oh
Sumner: yeah. Ryan,
Max Allen Collins: I shared the story has, you know, maybe 15 cities in it, you know? So she’s on the phone, calling anybody we knew and you know, St. Louis or anybody we knew and asking questions and going to the library and getting anything she could.
But, but I delivered it and it did real well. And then after that I got, um, movie novel gigs. Sometimes, unfortunately it was like call Collins. He could do them fast.
Sumner: Yeah, right. Okay. Yeah. Yeah.
Max Allen Collins: But I did. I was probably, I don’t think it’s immodest to say I was probably the top novelization writer. I would [00:56:00] exclude science fiction because I was, I did not do anything like star Wars or I would have loved to, but I did didn’t and in that period, there still was a lot of, uh, there were a lot of.
Movie novelizations being done for straight pictures, you know? So I did things like American gangster and, uh, I did Maverick and I mean, I done all kinds of stuff that, uh, in, in, in different genres. So, which was fun for me. Cause I. I liked being able to operate outside of my, you know, my comfort zone.
Sumner: I learned things well, Maverick, of course you sometime ago, very kindly, um, gave me a copy of the, uh, of the, your Maverick novelization, because we found that one of the many, many things that we have in common is, uh, unlike a lot of English, people of my generation. Um, I’m actually a big Maverick fan.
Um, it’s not that well known. So people who are kind of. Any younger than me. Yeah. For obvious [00:57:00] reasons. I mean, I know that told Stu for the, for the U S as well, but, but, but yeah, now it does, but, um, but I actually grew up watching, watching Brett Maverick. I spent my entire, almost high school years watching the Rockford files on Monday nights, they would screen it on BBC one and then we’d wrote for files finished.
They, the BBC just flipped straight to screening Brett Maverick and my brother and I particularly used to love that show. But one of the, uh, one of the great things about your novelization of course, is that it actually has a ton of Brett Maverick law in it. That is not in the movie, which I thought was fantastic.
Max Allen Collins: Yes. Uh, you know, there’s stuff about Bob, his brother, Bart, and there’s references to episodes of the original Warner brothers show. Uh, that’s what I grew up with. Uh, you know, I, I I’ll tell you a story. That sounds, that sounds like it doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but it does. It’s a story of why I quit the boy
Oh, I want to hear this. Yeah. [00:58:00] So
Max Allen Collins: I never was an outdoorsman. I mean, I always, I always said that the first thing that, that, that Americans did when they moved West West was build a cabin and get the hell inside. Yeah. When they got there, they got inside. And so I’m, I’m an interior, uh, kind of, kind of kind of person, but I got pressured into joining the boy Scouts.
And so there was a, uh, and there’s a longer version, which I won’t tell you, but th the guy who was in charge of the boy Scouts was he had been in world war one and was still. Living it. Yeah. And Andy, he, so he, it was very paramilitary, extremely paramount. And so we went out for tea for tea for three days, and we’re doing all this stuff that you do.
This tree is this, and we’re going to, we’re going to have, we’re going to have the eggs made from powdered eggs. And it was just the most horrible experience I had. And a friend of mine sees me, comes to me and I’m on, I’m on the [00:59:00] edge of a, of a bluff. There’s a little farmhouse down there within there’s a Lantana.
And you can see into the living room. And my friend comes up to me and, and I say, I’m quitting any sort of, well, why are you quitting? I mean, come on, give it a chance. I said, and I pointed down the Hill and I said, they’re watching Maverick down there.
There was no VCRs, nothing. I was, I was up here eating powdered eggs and they were down there watching my favorite television show. And I learned a very basic lesson about making the
Sumner: right choices in life. Oh, aye. I, I, that resonates with me so hard. That is the hardest of hard degrees for me. And I’ll, I’ll, I’ll tell you why, because, um, I, I I’ve had, my family has quite a musical bent.
Right. [01:00:00] And, um, and, uh, you know, everybody’s reasonably adept at playing instruments and whatnot. My dad was a, my dad. He was a, his career as a bank manager, but he was, he’s always into the drums. And he used to play the drums in various big bands. Right. He was massively into sports, which I never was. And pretty much when he got a bit too old to play the bone crunching sports, he was best at because he was a very good rugby player.
And he was such a good rugby player that he’s, he’s had a, he ended up being like, um, like Bruce Wayne in the dark Knight rises, you know, he’s got no cartilage in either of his knees. To me, his knees are absolutely wrecked. And so, uh, and they’re both in fact, you know, not his original knees now. So they work a lot.
So he, uh, around about the time that he, uh, he really couldn’t harm his life by playing rugby anymore, which is very violent, but he kind of transitioned into embracing more of the musical side of himself. And, uh, and he ended up playing the trombone at this point in my life, which is the transition between primary school and being at high school, I kind of [01:01:00] played the Cornett, but after lobbying to play the Cornett after about a year, I was like, No fuck this noise.
I don’t want to play the corner. I don’t actually want to play an instrument. I did use like singing a lot. Right. And, um, and I’ve got, you know, I got a reasonably good singing voice, not a great one, but a reasonably good one, but I didn’t want to sing. I don’t want to sing in a choir. I just didn’t want to play an instrument anymore.
Unfortunately, my playing in the corner and my dad picking up playing the trombone, that it inspired him to found the local brass band in the part of the Liverpool suburbs, where we lived. And he got massively into that. And I got it really. I had no choice other than to play in the brass band. Um, and my, my sister was in it and she is genuinely a good player.
She met her husband playing in that band and he can also play really well. I, on the other hand, it was like, Wednesday night band practice was for me a two hour out of body experience where I’ll be there for two hours thinking about fucking anything else apart from playing in the [01:02:00] brass band, but it quickly got a whole ton worse when the BBC, throughout my childhood.
Constantly on a loop, endlessly repeated a couple of key things. One was Sergeant Bilko. So Sergeant Bilko, right? As much among Englishman my age is everybody knows it. Right? English, women, and men minds. Everybody knows it. And the reason for that is from the moment it first arrived in the UK until the early two thousands bill co was constantly repeated on the BBC and they would play it just before what used to be the close down of broadcast twice a week.
So, you know, they would play bulk out like 1130, midnight on a Tuesday and on Thursday, all throughout my childhood, all throughout my high school years. And of course, you know, once you’re a nocturnal kid or you’re coming back from the pub, when you were a young man, you watch it. So everybody knew it.
Everybody knew it and loved it. Right. The other thing that was constantly repeated, but two of the things were earliest Smith and Jones. Have you [01:03:00] ever remember that? Which is much more popular in the UK that ever was in the U S it’s like a massive here in the UK and it was repeated for years, right? We both with both Annabelle Hayes’s and then, and then the other thing of course was star Trek and I constantly, and so I was having this out of body experience, going to the brass band internally, hating it and feeling cut off from everything.
While knowing that my dad would be disappointed if I didn’t go and not wanting to let him down, because I love my father, you know, so I’d go and go sit through the pain. But within about six months of that, of that band practice being set up every Wednesday night, they started to repeat. Star Trek right in the middle of me being at that band practice.
And that honestly felt like how on earth to me? Yeah. You know, I used to miss, I used to miss, um, star Trek every week because I had to go to band practice. And then the other thing was they would have, that would be on at 10 past eight, on a Wednesday night and BBC one. And then at nine [01:04:00] o’clock on BBC two, when that, when it finished and the news will be on a BBC one, you’d then flip into having mash, which I also loved nine to nine 30.
So I would get home from band practice halfway through mass every week having missed Archer. And that really felt like some kind of prison sentence to me, if that makes sense. Well, well,
Max Allen Collins: don’t understand today that in those days we did not know. And I go back to my really go back to my childhood, which would have been the late fifties, early, very early sixties, up to the mid sixties.
The idea of being, having home video was a dream. Yeah. I mean, you would, you would kind of fantasize about it. Reality was if you didn’t, you know, they would do 39 episodes of a TV show and then a certain number of them would be rerun. Not everything, certain number will be run in the summer. And [01:05:00] that was your only chance to see these.
Max Allen Collins: And so, so it was just like my favorite show. I’m never, it’s, it’s, it’s gone, it’s gone. Uh, but I do have to, I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about this, but I, I, I’ve just, I’ve got to tell you that my father, I did, I told me about him. My father was a guy into two things, sports and music. Oh, wow.
Sumner: And he not had this conversation before me. Well,
Max Allen Collins: my father who was, as you know, was in the Pacific in world war II. He, he went to a small college, uh, near Des Moines, uh, on, on a combination sports and music scholarship, which is very unusual. I mean, in particularly here, I don’t know how
Sumner: it is. No, I’ve never heard anybody have it having a combination of
Max Allen Collins: what you do.
And, you know, th th that is not, there’s no crossover there. So [01:06:00] he went on a con and he, he was in the band and chorus and played football and played basketball and baseball. And that was his scholarship. Uh, so when we, when I grew up, I never was into sports. I w I, uh, I’ve never liked to follow sports. Um, I did like to play sports.
And was that as, and that was the only time my father and I were able to bond on that part of his interest because I did, when I was in high school, junior high and high school, I did participate in sports, but I never wanted to watch anybody else play. I mean, I wanted to play, why do one want to watch, you know, uh it’s uh, to me it’s like, I just was ridiculous.
And so, uh, but, but that was the same. That was the same split between me growing up with him, that, that I would motivate toward the music. Cause it was the arts and I was interested. And so he was a high school music teacher for, for a long time. And then when he went into and worked in [01:07:00] industry to, uh, bring some real money in, because I think they were getting something like $1,800, $1,500 a year to teach.
I mean, that’s what it was. And I guess $1,500 was worth more than, but it was still $1,500. I mean, it was, yeah. It was terrible. And, uh, so he, he broke off from teaching and it was a brilliant teacher, but he started, he was the director of a male chorus in here. And, uh, I got drawn into, uh, all of the, you know, I wasn’t in the male chorus because it was too young, but they would, they did a show, big show every year and the kids would be in and I’m sure he’d only put the kids in so that I could be in it.
And then eventually came to the point where I should have joined his organization, but it’s that I have my rock and roll band. And, uh, but, but it was music and he could relate to that, that, yeah. That it was music. So it fascinates me that you had the same thing, uh, [01:08:00] a father with that, that split between these two, because they’re kind of contradictory.
Sumner: I know it it’s, it’s so exciting. Last thing I’m fortunate. My, my, my dad is still with us to this day is in his very late eighties now, but he’s always had that. He’s very, very, my dad is very, um, statistically driven. So he’s one of these sports fans, uh, who has a wealth of knowledge about sporting stats and, you know, every day of his life, he’s looking up the latest, um, the latest, you know, sporting set center.
He’s not just into UK sport. So he a massive fan of, uh, rugby football and cricket. But he is also a huge fan of baseball and American football and athletics as well. You know? So, so he’s into all of that. So, I mean, he, he he’s read all of the books about, um, the romance and the mythology of basketball. So the boys of summer, [01:09:00] all that kind of stuff, I’m one of the great.
One of the proudest moments of my life was when, um, my brother and I in the early two thousands, got to take that to Yankee stadium, to see it, to see, to see a baseball game and, you know, sit on the bleachers and, you know, have art talks and all that kind of stuff. It was amazing. Um, but yeah, it’s, but he’s got that.
He’s got almost that kind of sensibility is how he approaches art and music as well. So he’s very, very interested in somebodies over and what they’ve written and what they’ve done. And, um, an interesting, my dad’s not really into rock and roll at all, you know, he’s into every other kind of music apart from that.
I’m for him rock and roll. So, so the, the fascinating thing about talking to the old man is he’s, um, you could put Elvis Presley and then go. What the fuck is that racket, right? Or you could put out cast on, or Jay Z and he’d go, what the fuck is that rocket? And to my dad’s ear, he can’t hear the difference between the two of those, [01:10:00] which is, would you just admit to him it’s just a noise and it doesn’t matter if it’s classic rock and roll, or whether it’s hip hop.
It’s the same noise to him, which I find fascinating, but, but he’s, he’s tremendously, um, uh, sophisticated in his music tastes outside of, of, of, of that very large area outside of that, though, if it comes to jazz swing, uh, classical music, brass band music, he, he knows everything about it. It’s amazing
Max Allen Collins: what I, I think it’s interesting that the, um, The sports art combination that your father has.
And the, my father had enable them, gave them a place to go when they couldn’t be athletes
Sumner: anymore. Absolutely. Right. Because you can
Max Allen Collins: continue to be a musician the entire rest of your life. Absolutely. And I think that that had had a lot to do with it, but we, I used to tell him my father, he would, I’d see him watching stuff.
I’d say, you’d watch, vendor’s a Waylon log rolling. He would look at anything if what was considered a sport [01:11:00] and I just didn’t get it. Uh, now when we had, uh, we w we had the top team in my high school, in the, in the state, which is a big deal. If you’re the top one in the state to go to state championships, I was into that.
Cause I knew everybody on the team, but I always knew that at the university of Iowa, there was nobody from Iowa and the university of Iowa team. They went here, they went there and they, you know, they got this guy and I couldn’t transfer that. I can’t get, I can’t get excited about a town’s about, about a, city’s a hired sports team.
I don’t see how that we won. No, no, we didn’t. You didn’t win. You had a beer and a hot dog. And then what? I don’t know. I, it never worked for me, but if I could do it myself, you know, it’s like, I probably have been to in my life as post post dating my wife, I can’t, I probably have been to [01:12:00] maybe three dances and I’ve played probably, you know, 500 dances.
I want to, I would never ever go listen to other bands. I mean, national bands. Right. But I mean, local combos. Sqirl they’re the competition. I’ll go to my gig. Yeah. I have that same
Sumner: attitude about writing. I know you do. I absolutely know you do. That’s something we’ve, uh, Talked about quite a bit, actually, to flip back down to writing because as with every conversation we ever have made, there are so many avenues we could go off here and fill in hours of recording time in it talking about.
I I’m, I’m kind of, I just want to go back to something that you and I talked about off camera, by the way. Um, uh, as you’ll have heard in the us, I’ve heard what, uh, you know, max is famous writing in my intro to this show. Uh, what I will also do in the show notes for this episode is attached some of the previous interviews that max and I’ve done for my day job, uh, presenting forbidden planet TV, where we get [01:13:00] into, and we get talking in detail about some of Max’s work, particularly the stuff they hear and I’ve worked together on, which is the Mickey splines, my camera books under the whole history that is laid out in one of those interviews.
And it’s very interesting if you’ve not watched it before, and you’re interested in this conversation, I would urge you to listen to it. But something I wanted to ask you about, um, is something you mentioned before, which is. So one of my classic descriptions, if I’ve ever got to introduce, uh, introduce, um, max at a panel.
And when I say classic, uh, descriptions, I it’s a classic in my mind, not the society hasn’t bought into it as a classic, but it’s, uh, it’s, it’s something that I believe is, uh, I will always introduce Max’s. Um, the three biggest names in war fiction, max Alan Collins. How did you get, how did you end up using that name as your writing name?
Max Allen Collins: Well, we were talking about my father and, uh, I’m max, Alan Collins, Jr. Yeah, my father was [01:14:00] obviously Maxolon Collins senior. He was max Collins. He was very well known in this community. Uh, having been a teacher and having any was the, the, uh, personnel director at, uh, at, uh, the major company here in town.
And so he was max and I went by my middle name, Allen. Yeah. And, and to this day, my friends, a lot of my friends call me out. Ah, interesting. And, uh, so when I, when I sent my book in my first bookend, uh, it was by, by Alan Collins. All right. And then when I got the book in the mail, not, uh, it, the byline was max Collins, which was the name I signed on the contract.
Right. Max, Alan Collins. And when I, and when I had very little contact with editors at that point, when I asked you to call me and say, why did they put mats on? And he said, I’ll find out. [01:15:00] He said, well, and he came back and said, well, they thought it sounded more like a mystery writer. Yeah. So suddenly I’ve got my first book with my father’s name on him, not my name.
Yeah. Making it making it even more of a problem. There was a, there was a mystery writer named Michael Collins. Yeah. I mean, Michael Collins being a name. We all know. Of course that was, and it was a pseudonym for a guy named Dennis Linz.
Sumner: Okay. Right. I’m aware of his
Max Allen Collins: work. And he came and he came to me and I got to know him a little bit.
And at a certain point, he came to me and said, you should change your name. And I said, why is that? And he said, because you know, I’m Michael Collins. And so I’ve got that. I that’s my, and I said, Oh, okay. Then I tell you what, I’ll, I’ll start writing as a Dennis lens.
That’ll be my pseudonym. And then he never said anything about it again, but what, but, but, but we still it’s still [01:16:00] careened into a problem because I wrote a novel quarry novel called the slasher. Yeah. And about the same time he wrote in his series, which is, I think about a character named Dan fortune, a book called the slasher.
And then when, when they, when, when you, there were bibliographies libraries had lists of books and everything, they go M Collins, M Collins. So my book and his book kept getting confused. And so, uh, I, I thought, well, maybe I better start putting the middle name in. Yeah. So that at least it goes M a Collins instead of an Collins, but I started using the middle name and, uh, then it began being misspelled because.
I mean, they don’t get Edgar Allen Poe’s spelling. Right. So they’re not going to get my spelling. Right. Correct. Everybody uses Ian cause they tend to do whatever Alan they know in their life. That’s [01:17:00] the festival they use. So I’ve seen a L a a, and I’ve even say C a L E N with one L so, but, but then I became max, Alan Collins, and I do think it has a nice ring to it.
And what Don Westlink approved of it. He, that was his vote for what I, my byline should be was Maxwell and Collins because he told me, he said, Alan Collins is just another name in the phone book. Yeah. But max, Alan Collins is, it sounds like,
Sumner: and it does work for you mate. It’s very, very distinctive.
Max Allen Collins: Well, and that people started calling me max.
And then, so now about. Probably 75% of the people call me mats. And I’m only people I went to high school with or whatever. And some of them come up and say, I don’t know what to call you. Yeah. I just say not late for lunch. And I laugh.
Sumner: It is very interesting how that works. Right. Um, because I [01:18:00] would say about 75% of the people that I know. Call me by my surname on that’s it just like my, by my surname. And, um, and, uh, and that’s, that’s, uh, you know, that’s, that’s followed me around my whole life. This must be just something, but the cadence, my surname that people like.
Yeah. And so I’ll call you Andy. Um, I nobody’s ever called me Andy with one or two exceptions primarily because I don’t like that version of my name. So, so, so I, I never, it always felt kind of, it was felt kind of soft and babies to me. I know there are a lot of Andes in the world who aren’t like that at all were, you know, but it was, it was just not for me.
So I’ve never had, you know, people had to call me Andrew or Sumner, and I guess it’s about a 25 75. Split people away call me, I’ll be out.
Max Allen Collins: My wife calls me out. Brilliant. And so, so there, there is sometimes a confusion because when she’s talking, if you were to call her on the phone, [01:19:00] she probably referred to me.
She wouldn’t be thinking that well, he, you know, he, he knows him as max. Yeah. Uh, but I do have that. I have the situation of like when we do Christmas cards. Yeah. She gives them to me so that I can say I can write max on the ones that know me as max and I can write Al on the ones that OMI is out. Now, my agent always calls me, Alan, because he’s, he’s British and he’s very formal.
And so yeah. He’s always Allen and he always refers to me as Allen when he deal deals with people in business who don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.
Sumner: That is brilliant. Mike, Hey Matt, it’s a mess, Andrew. I love it. I absolutely love it. Um, we are, we are racing towards the end of, uh, of, of this conversation.
So I just want to art back to something we were talking about before, um, our movie, we both love and I’ve talked about at length, you know, off camera, which is once upon a time in Hollywood. Now, interestingly enough, I recorded another episode of the show recently with, uh, Garth Ennis, the [01:20:00] creator of preach on the boys.
And, um, and he is also a fellow lover of. Once upon a time in Hollywood. And, uh, and as I mentioned in that episode, so it’s a great bloke. I know who works in the, uh, the movie licensing industry, a friend, a good friend of mine called Chris Lou, Sarah, uh, who is kind of Burbank born and raised. And, uh, and it, that movie had a whole ton of resonance for him.
But, uh, but what I wanted to mention was. Once upon a time in Hollywood was a specific way in to a band. The tired nev I was aware of, but had literally never heard any record, um, was a huge hole in my music bigger than that in, in, in in fact. And some of you helped me research quite a bit and, you know, I learnt quite a lot talking to you about them and it was Paul Revere and the Raiders, I thought you were going to save them all.
Fuck. Yeah. Cause Paul were, even though it was a of them, I had poor. Yeah. Right. Radius, I guess in the same bracket as my mind is the Batman 66 show I’m while I love [01:21:00] Batman 66, I just thought they’re essentially some kind of clown act band and they didn’t really make much of a dent in the UK charts. So it wasn’t like I’d heard them when I was a little kid in the sixties, you know, I don’t, I don’t think had any hits in the UK.
I’d have to double check that. So I’d always been aware of who they are. They were the crazy like revolutionary get-ups, but that was it. And, um, One of the things that I took away from once upon a time in Hollywood. And one of the things you helped help me learn more about was how good poor Avila. Oh yeah.
When the Raiders actually are.
Max Allen Collins: Yeah, they were a, and they were a bar band and the, um, I don’t know, at what point they adopted the, um, you know, the, the, the get-up the, the revolutionary war get up. I mean, obviously that was a response to the British invasion. Of course. Yeah. That was the gimmick. And, uh, it was a time where you did, you did have to have, have a gimmick because there were so many bands.
Andrew, when I was, [01:22:00] uh, when I had my band in high school, in the sixties, there was a point where there I live in a town of, we still are a town, not quite 30,000. It was probably probably 23,000 people. Okay. We had 38 rock and roll bands in this town. Wow. 38 and, and, and, and none of us were old enough to play bars.
So we’re all chasing the same prom gigs, the same homecoming gigs, all at the same house, party gigs. And so getting a gig was, I mean, if you, if you played in a year five times that you, you know, you were, it was amazing and, uh, so-so you needed something to, you know, to, to stand apart. And that’s one of the things they did.
And they were funny. They were, they, they knew they were sending it up. They were never we’ll work revolution. I know it was all crazy and they did steps and, but there were funny, it was, it was, it was, uh, [01:23:00] But they, they play really strong rock, you know, they did Lou, Lou. Oh,
Sumner: yeah, just .
Max Allen Collins: Yeah. And they were, they were all wet.
They’re all a Washington state bands and playing a lot of bars and, and playing a lot of R and B, a lot of R and B stuff. Uh, and so, you know, they, they, they were really, really good. They got slicker because what happened to so many of the bands was they, they, once they got popular, they, they send them out on the road on just incredible, like, you know, they do 251 nighters in a year.
And so they, they, they couldn’t work in the studio. So that’s the wrecking crew came in. Yeah. Right. And so they, they would. They would only come in and do vocals. I mean, the association were the same way. I saw the associate there. They were an incredible band and they still aren’t in the rock and roll hall of fame and they had amazing hits.
Uh, and they, they [01:24:00] could perform them beautifully. But after the first, I think two albums, it was all recorded by studio musicians except for the vocals. And then at a certain point, when the band got less popular, then
Sumner: I went back. I started doing their own stuff again,
Max Allen Collins: but that’s why there’s all that sameness.
And those guys were great. The wrecking crew was great. Yeah. Uh, you know, there’s all kinds of stories about things like, uh, You know, going into to record, I forget the woman’s name, but this woman bass player who was phenomenal, who they they’d go in and Sonny bono would come in with, the beat goes on and he’s like, well, what kind of bass part should we have?
And she goes, BOM, BOM, BOM, BOM, BOM. Yeah. I go into that studio and like, do, uh, we got to get out of this place and, and, and come up with that bass part. Yeah. But she, again, pretty much the whole song. And, you know, so you can’t, [01:25:00] you can’t take away from those studio musicians, but on the other hand, they slicked at up, and that’s why I have a real affinity for the one hit wonder kinds of bands, you know, like I love question Mark and the Mysterians are just, yeah.
Sumner: competent. Yeah.
Max Allen Collins: It’s barely
Sumner: competent. But, but the thing is, I guess, I guess the thing about the one hit is such an unusual and distinctive piece of music that it doesn’t sound like anything else. Right? That’s that’s, that’s the beauty of a lot of those one hit wonders. They deliver something.
Max Allen Collins: Son Lennon said that 96 tears was the greatest rock and roll song of all time.
Now I don’t know what he’d been smoking or imbibing at the time, but there’s something to that they actually had about five hits, but they didn’t have anything to compare it tonight. 60 years.
Sumner: Yeah. Yeah. W w who was [01:26:00] that female bass player? Was it Carol? Kay. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. She’s caring. Okay. Yeah. She was amazing.
Yeah. She, she was amazing chooser. I think she’s, I think she’s still alive actually. Carolyn so well, they were,
Max Allen Collins: they were fantastic. The wrecking crew.
Sumner: Oh, mate, that, that, that is again, I know the supremely hard degree. And I think, I think given the fact that that is such a rich topic of conversation, um, why don’t we park this right now and why don’t you come back and join me on another episode?
And we’ll, we’ll, we’ll get much more into the music conversation. I was always intending as to have, and we talked about so much other stuff as we always do that we never even got there and opened the door.
Max Allen Collins: Well, I’ll try to work in, you know, I am a member of the rock and roll Iowa, Iowa,
Sumner: two time member deservedly say mates.
Max Allen Collins: don’t don’t think that when I do perform and I haven’t because of COVID for a year, but when I perform with my current band who were also got into the. [01:27:00] You know, rode my coattails into the rock roll hall of fame. When I’ve been using the band and saying that everybody’s in an IOL rock hall of fame, don’t take, I don’t remind everybody.
That I’m in twice and that’s for the benefit of the other guys in the band. So,
Sumner: um, and also make just to close that and you, of course, um, had your famous, uh, San Diego comic con band as well, seduction of the innocent and selection, and soon as you and, uh, Billy mummy. Um, and, um, yeah, Miguel, others.
Max Allen Collins: Great.
And go for it. Well, I love and, and, and, and then also, uh, Chris Christiansen, who’s drummer and kind of fill in man, and then the great Steve lay Aloha.
Sumner: Who’s a, Oh, wonderful make. Did you ever see the things he did on, he did spectacular, excellent inks on Dick. I want, I think it was for, um, I think it was for a project it’s called dark dimensional, something, I think where, um, that, uh, it was relatively late in case career [01:28:00] and, uh, it was a project for Jim shooter and, um, and the combination of, of, of Steven and Steve Ditko.
It’s really quite magical. Well, uh,
Max Allen Collins: I’m going to tell you to go searching for something and everybody, anybody who’s still listening to this, uh, seduction of the innocent. Yeah. The truth hurts. The truth hurts on YouTube. Okay. Look for that because that’s the only music video we made for our album and watch very carefully.
And you’ll see Brandon Lee
Sumner: in the background. Oh, fantastic. I will I’ll find that. And I’ll stick the link in the show notes for this episode, mate. That was wonderful. Brilliant on that, on that, uh, most, most, uh, Supreme of our degrees. I think that’s where we’ll, uh, we’ll park completely for today. Mate. It’s been max.
It’s always such a pleasure chatting with you. I could do it for hours. You know, work. I could go on a recording, another two hours of this easily. [01:29:00] Well, I’ll
Max Allen Collins: tell you, I’ll tell you as my parting shot that as you can imagine, since I’ve been at this a while, I’ve been at a number of conventions and had a number of people interview me.
Yeah. And nobody compares to you, Andrew,
Sumner: you are very kind, mate. You’re very kind. Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, you know, whether the truth is we’ll be on the road with some great stuff in the future and we’ll get to do it again. Absolutely. And
Max Allen Collins: again, I want to go back,
Sumner: uh, and, and I know that we’re working together on some great plans for the Mike hammer, 75th anniversary for next year, 2002.
And we will no doubt be back again, talking about that on the road, up to those publications. But if you’re a Mike hammer fan, um, and you know, max and not myself, of course are the ultimate MC hammer fans. And you don’t get a bigger Mick. I’m a fan of max Allen Collins. You you’re going to really enjoy what, what sort of, what max is cooking up.
It’s going to be something to look forward to. Yes.
Max Allen Collins: And can we mention a mass grade [01:30:00] for murder is still out there. Is it coming out in
Sumner: paper pretty soon? I think it’s, I think it’s going to stick in hardback for awhile, but it’s definitely available everywhere in that beautiful hardback edition
Max Allen Collins: we have, uh, we have, uh, we have a book coming out that.
It has been previously published, but has the, uh, Oh yeah. Previously censored version of
Sumner: the ending. Yeah. I mean, I can’t wait for that actually. Uh, and that’s coming out actually in a, in a really nice, um, a really nice trade paperback edition. Uh, yeah, I actually, uh, that’s that’s I think it’s coming out.
I’m just trying to buy a bit of time here where I’ll look at the, uh, well, look at the D look at the details when it’s actually published, but it’s very soon it’s coming out in about two months time and, um, yeah, that, that is, uh, that’s at the that’s coming soon. Masquerade for murder is available now. And so, uh, yeah, so it’s um, what is it?
Max Allen Collins: goodbye.
Sumner: Yeah. Kiss her goodbye. That’s it. [01:31:00] Goodbye. Yeah. I’m trying to find, I am trying to find the note. I don’t know. I’ve got it. I just found it then as I was scrolling down, let me go back. I might cut a bit of the Shelly, Shelly and gout. Here we go. Right. I will do. Yeah. So that’s absolutely right.
Max. We’ve got, um, Mickey Splain and max Allen Collins kiss her goodbye coming out and paperback from Titan books on the 6th of April, 2021, and a really lovely, um, trade paperback edition with, as, as you just mentioned, max, your, um, previously sensitive.
Max Allen Collins: Yes, my, the, my previous editor who was a good editor, but he insisted that I do the, the ending over because he felt it was too much like the ending of one of the classic, my cameras from the early fifties.
And, uh, I have not restored it to what I
Sumner: had in mind. Yeah, and it’s a great read actually. And, um, and, uh, masquerade for murder, which is a small spur. Your blushes by saying has been very well [01:32:00] reviewed and continues to get really great reviews. I’ve got a great one in the daily mail in the UK the other day.
And, uh, and masquerade for murder is out. Now I’ll put the links again in the show notes, if you’re my camera fan and you haven’t sampled, I might come recently or you haven’t sample one of Mickey and Max’s books. That’s a great one to check out. And I’m not just saying that because I was the editor. It’s fantastic book.
Very, uh, max is quite rightly very proud of it. And so my that’s around me today. Hey mate, it’s always great to see you, man. Always great to see it. And I’ll look forward to speaking again soon, max. Thank you, Andrew, take care brother, all the best bye-bye