Max allan collins

3 min read

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

THE ROADTOPERDITIONAUTHOR TELLS REAL CRIME HOW GROWING UP DURING THE VIETNAM WAR ERA INSPIRED HIS CAREER AS A WRITER

You’ve been writing comics and graphic novels for some time. How has your approach to writing changed since your formative years?

I think the fact that I grew up loving novels, comics and movies, and wanting to create in all three forms, led to an understanding of the needs of, and differences between, those forms. Certainly when I began writing film scripts, thinking visually was a by-product of writing comics. My novels probably became more visual because of that, too.

Comics and film are not as much alike as some people think or assume, but they share the need for letting pictures speak for themselves, without redundant copy, which is to say verbiage.

What appeals to you most about writing crime fiction?

The engine of any story is conflict. Obviously a lot more is involved in storytelling than that – without solid characterisation, who cares about what happens to the characters in a story? But virtually any good story has a conflict, and crime stories inevitably have a conflict, often a killing or robbery. My fiction usually has to do with traditional noir or hard-boiled elements – frankly, sex and violence. And those are the big topics, aren’t they? Sex is life and violence is death, and everything else is just the stuff in between.

In Quarry’sWar, the character Quarry has roots in Vietnam. What was it like to personally witness the social climate of that era, and how did it impact your development as a writer?

I grew up wanting to be a writer of private eye fiction – my heroes were Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I was also interested in police procedurals, as in Jack Webb’s TV series DRAGNET in the 1950s, and the 87th Precinct mysteries written by Ed McBain.

But by the late 1960s the private eye seemed anachronistic, and to my anti-war generation police were just uniformed thugs beating up my friends at the Chicago Democratic Convention. So I became interested in ‘crook books’ – the Parker novels by Richard Stark, particularly, but also the work of James M. Cain, Jim Thompson and also W.R. Burnett.

How did your experience of that era shape the character of Quarry and the challenges he faces?

My first novel series, Nolan and Jon, was in that vein, about professional thieves as anti-heroes. I wanted to take that a step furth