Tag Archive: Max Allan Collins


Review by C.J. Bunce

Hazards of the trade…

It may or may not help you to know that burling is the process of tying up loose ends.  First time director Graham Moore (Oscar-winning writer of The Imitation Game) and Johnathan McClain (Mad Men, Medium, Without a Trace), co-screenplay writer with Moore, come out guns a-blazing in the limited theatrical release The Outfit, now streaming on Peacock.  An exquisite, slow-burning crime drama of deception set in the 1950s, with the then-new FBI technology of planting bugs to trap the Mob, rises to become one of the year’s best films, sure to deliver a second Best Oscar nod come award season for the steady-hand and subtlety of star Mark Rylance.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of sci-fi noir have another world to dive into.  It’s Jason Arnett and Rob Schamberger’s The Wave, a future world of colonization in the realm of Altered Carbon, Blade Runner, and Total Recall.  The first novella of The Wave is Rudow Can’t Fail (available now here at Amazon), following a few days in the life of Mars colonist William Rudow, a “fixit” who falls for the wrong dame, the wife of a wealthy corporate executive.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all, by all accounts McDonald’s has never sold onion rings.

My favorite works by popular creators are the ones that are frequently what the multitudes rarely put on a greatest hits list.  Like Philip K. Dick’s In Milton Lumky Territory or Stephen King’s Joyland.  Now we have Donald E. Westlake′s last novel Call Me a Cab (available now here at Amazon) a heretofore unpublished novel from 1977 (unpublished except in a briefer version in a serialized magazine edition ages ago).  It’s a novel ahead of its time full of 1970s attitude, with realistic, thoughtful characters, without cliché or canned, artificial controversy, and, although it’s from Hard Case Crime, there’s not a single crime in sight for 3,000 miles.  And it’s as riveting as any of his previous brilliant works.

So what about the onion rings?  Back to that in a moment.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Forty-five years after author Max Allan Collins published his novel Quarry’s Deal in 1976, he has penned another sequel, Quarry’s Blood, arriving from publisher Hard Case Crime next week, the 16th novel chronicling the circuitous, dark and grimy future of the Vietnam vet whose return from the service wasn’t at all what he expected, which would become the subject of a Cinemax television series (reviewed here at borg in 2019).  The great thing about Collins’ crime stories?  Readers have so many ways to get their fix, including his Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novels, his Nolan novels, at least four other book series and standalone novels, the most popular being his Road to Perdition (browse our reviews of several here at borg).  Quarry’s Blood, despite being the 16th book in a series, is both a nostalgia fix and incredibly fresh and up-to-date, catching up with Quarry pushing 70 in a post-COVID existence in 2021.  And it’s enough of a shake-up for his titular hero that it could well be a set-up for a James Bond, Jr.-type spin-off series.

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thebigsleep 2  thebigsleep 4

Review by C.J. Bunce

The first thing to know about Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel The Big Sleep is that it was published three years after James M. Cain published the serialized Double Indemnity.  If your only knowledge of The Big Sleep is the big-screen adaptation directed by Howard Hawks starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall with a screenplay written by the likes of Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner, you should go back and read the novel to see how wrong Bogart is for the lead detective Philip Marlowe.  Both the novel and significantly modified movie version are convoluted tales of murder and mayhem, but the novel is better than the film in many ways.  Its value is in its shocking subject matter for the 1930s and being an early entrant helping to establish hardboiled crime novels as a genre.  Readers were first put inside the brain of Marlowe in this story, which reads like an effort to adapt Cain.  Chandler also was a reader of Cain’s work and along with Billy Wilder, Chandler would adapt Cain’s Double Indemnity for the screen.  Still in print, The Big Sleep is available in trade paperback here at Amazon.

Eight decades after its first publication, how does Chandler’s novel hold up?

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Bait Money old  Bait Money orig

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Sting and The Color of Money collide in a new edition of Max Allan Collins’ 1973 pulp novel, Bait Money Hard Case Crime goes back to where it all started for the Collins’ Lee Van Cleef lookalike known only as Nolan in this first novel in his series.  Nolan appeared to readers first as a 48-year-old hardened thief ready to retire a year after being shot at the direction of a man whose brother Nolan killed.  Compare Skim Deep, written 50 years later (reviewed in January here at borg) to Bait Money and you’ll see Collins didn’t lose track of his character any over the decades–Nolan is a character for the ages and these novels feel like they could have been written a year apart.  Bait Money is one of two novels in a new edition of Hard Case Crime’s classic reprint of the first two Nolan novels called Two for the Money, now available here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For Mike Hammer fans, every new story is worth the wait. Kiss Her Goodbye finds Hammer pal Captain Pat Chambers calling the old gumshoe out of his retirement in Florida to investigate whether a common friend really committed suicide. We meet Old Man Mike Hammer, not fully recovered from getting caught in the crossfire in his last big show. He’s ragged around the edges, but refuses to let a shelf full of pills and his loss of girth prevent him from pushing anyone out of his way. No matter how many guns they have drawn.

Max Allan Collins is back, taking notes left by Mickey Spillane and drawing them together into one of the most fun, and most down-to-earth, adventures of Hammer in New York City. This time he’s left to work his way through a Studio 54-inspired club, as he trips over dead bodies to learn the truth. But can Hammer really be Hammer without the lovable Velda? Originally published in 2011 in hardcover, Kiss Her Goodbye is now out in paperback, and with an all-new ending.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fifty years after author Max Allan Collins wrote his first novel while in college at the University of Iowa, titled Bait Money.  The novel featured Nolan, a 48-year-old thief tied in with the mob toward the end of his career in crime, inspired by Donald Westlake’s popular character Parker.  Collins would write eight more Nolan stories, but now 33 years after the last he’s released an all-new Nolan sequel through the Hard Case Crime imprint, the cleverly titled Skim Deep.  In 1987 Nolan is 55 now and thinking about tying the knot with long-time girlfriend Sherry, who he saved from Coleman Comfort, the villain in earlier novels, years ago.  But can someone like Nolan ever quit the business?  Will his past let him settle down in his house with Sherry in the Quad Cities on the Iowa-Illinois border?  Count Skim Deep as another in the win column for author Collins, and a great read that will usher in coming reprints of all his Nolan novels.

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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