Mickey Spillane expert Collins readied Spillane’s final completed novel, The Last Stand (Hard Case Crime, Mar.), for publication just in time for the writer’s centennial.
You worked with Spillane over the course of three decades. How did your relationship begin?
We met at the 1981 Bouchercon in Milwaukee. I was asked by the convention committee to serve as liaison to Mickey, who had never done a mystery fiction fan event before. I interviewed him for the best-attended panel I ever saw at any convention. We hit it off, and I soon visited him at his home in Murrells Inlet, S.C. He began sharing unfinished Mike Hammer manuscripts with me, letting me read them just for fun. Gradually, we did various projects together, including anthologies of his short fiction combined with other writers’ work.
How much editing did you need to do on The Last Stand?
I did very little editing on the novel. Mickey had shared it with me just before his passing in 2006, and he mentioned a few things he wanted to do with it before publication. The book is very dialogue-driven, and I tightened it up a little.
Of the many manuscripts you discovered in Spillane’s extensive files, which was the most exciting for you personally?
I can’t really choose a favorite—I’m really pleased with all of them. Mostly I’ve done Mike Hammer novels. Probably the early manuscripts, from the late ’40s. Killing Town, which comes out in April from Titan, is a Mike Hammer story predating I, the Jury, making it the first novel in the series. It’s very tough, with Hammer fresh out of the war, and I had a substantial manuscript to work from—a good 60 pages. King of the Weeds, originally intended to be the final Hammer until Mickey got the idea for The Goliath Bone, was especially gratifying—I had a lot of material on that one, but it jumped around and included variant versions of chapters, so putting it together was like solving a mystery worthy of Mike Hammer himself.
What was the process you and Spillane employed in your collaborations during his lifetime?
The only writing project was the Mike Danger comic book, which we developed together, though I did the scripts. The anthologies we assembled together. But, in the last weeks of his life, Mickey approached me to complete The Goliath Bone, if he was unable to. He told his wife, Jane, to gather all the unfinished material and give it to me, saying, “Max will know what to do.” Sad as the situation was, it was the greatest honor of my life.