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Max Allan Collins Honors Mickey Spillane in Mike Hammer: The Night I Died

You mentioned the action sequences. The first couple of pages are wordless --

I wrote those pictures!

And then other sequences are very visual as well. How do you approach those when you are writing them?

I think thinking visually is what it’s all about, and I think with Spillane, because he was a comic book writer -- this is a guy who wrote Captain America and Sub-Mariner and all kinds of comic books, so he thought in pictures. And of course the screenplay this is based on is visual.

I had good responses to this, but I had a couple of people complain that when this story starts, you’re already at the end of a story. Well, that’s the idea. I wanted to bring you right into Hammer’s world and say: “We’re at the end of this adventure. This is who he is.” So at the end of this opening, you’ve seen how he deals with the bad guys.

You write prose novels and you write comics. Is there a difference between the two for you as a writer?

Well, I’m going to turn that around on you a little bit, because I get asked questions a lot by people who want to be writers, and they ask what advice I have, and my advice to them is to try to master as many different narrative forms as you can, because when the phone rings and someone says, “Can you do a comic book?” you want to say, “Yes, you bet I can do a comic book!” If Hollywood calls and wants a movie script, you say yes -- but you should be prepared, because these mediums are not the same. It’s storytelling that I love; it’s not necessarily the form that I love.

Sometimes I have the luxury of saying, “What would be the best way to tell this story? Would it be better in comics or would it be better in prose? Should it go straight to a movie script, because you can always turn that into a novel?” And then there’s the other thing where maybe the phone hasn’t rung in a while and they call up and they don’t have a novel. They have a comic book. And you’re a professional writer. You can say, “Yeah.”

With Road to Perdition, for example, I did two sequels in prose, and then I had one more book and I was not asked to do it so I went back to the comic book company and said “Would you like another graphic novel?” And they did the graphic novel. So it allows me to move if I have that ability to work in the different areas. And then I also think it keeps you fresh as a writer to be trying different things and reaching different audiences.

A part of Mike Hammer’s concept is that he is going to stay in his own time. He is not going to get a cell phone, is he?

Well, he does have a cell phone in the last few books, because Mickey wrote Mike Hammer in his lifetime. Mike Hammer in The Goliath Bone is a man in his late 60s, early 70s, so there are references to World War II, but when we decided to do the comic book, we really talked about it. We are not terribly specific about when the era is, but the idea is we’re late '50s, very early '60s. Now with the novels, the prose novels, I work very hard to figure out when Mickey worked on the story and to set it in there so there’s a chronology. And in the back of the Titan books, the novels, it gives a chronology -- if you’re one of those comic book people that wants to read the stories in order, start here. Even if they weren’t written in that order. In fact, we have a book out right now that was the very first Mike Hammer novel, it’s called Killing Town, and I found that in his files and completed it, so now I, the Jury is not the first Mike Hammer novel. Killing Town is the first Mike Hammer novel.

So you have participated in the first and the last. You’re like the Alpha and the Omega of Mike Hammer.

Or I’m the bread on a Mickey Spillane sandwich. [laughs]

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