Re: RARA-AVIS: Max Collins

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 10 Jun 2004

Jim wrote:
"I met his forensics researcher at a writers' conference in Quad-Cities. He mentioned that he and Al were talking about a CSI novel in which the William Peterson character had a dream in which he was Sherlock Holmes, and he solved a case using late 19th/early 20th Century forensics technology.
"I mentioned that it might be more appropriate if the character dreamed he was Dr. John Thorndyke."

More appropriate, maybe, but probably not as commercial. And Collins is nothing if not commercial. That is not meant as a dig. It's just that Collins is clearly a commercial genre writer who sees no shame in courting (and entertaining) as big an audience as possible, in several media. And he has certainly entertained me a number of times.

The first thing I read by him was Ms. Tree. I enjoyed the characters and storytelling, even if I was sometimes less than thrilled with Terry Beatty's artwork (it was pretty stiff and he had a real problem with the foreshortening of arms). I also enjoyed the Mike Mist Minute Mysteries in the back and the letter column, where I read my first mention of Ralph Dennis when Collins put out a request for any of his books. I searched in vein for several years in those long ago, pre-Internet days
(for myself, not him), but never found any. (I had forgotten about him until reading about him here. Thanks. The two I've read are really good.) On the other hand, I found his Mad Dog series for DC very clumsy, both in storytelling and art.

Still, Ms Tree got me to check out his books. My favorite series of his are the ones with professional thief Nolan and hit man Quarry. I enjoyed both of those series quite a bit. Speaking of which, Hard Case Crime's website says that Two for the Money is the first time its two connected Nolan novels have been published in one volume. Didn't Carrol
& Graff do that a decade or so ago?

He also wrote a series about a crime writer who got involved in a few mysteries. I forget the name, but it was not Angela Lansbury. One entry, set at a mystery writers convention, was particularly amusing, with a pair of twins playing Donald Westlake.

However, Nate Heller did not do it for me in the one book I read, the first, True Detective. Part of it is certainly that I am not much of a fan of historicals, but I still went through several of Stuart Kaminsky's Toby Peters books and was a huge fan of James Ellroy before finally becoming disillusioned with him in American Tabloid (and Chinatown is my favorite movie). I just found it instantly forgettable and never read another.


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