Max Allan Collins on The Disaster Series
Allan Collins is the Shamus Award winning, New York Times
best-selling author of Road to Perdition and multiple
award-winning novels, screenplays, comic books, comic strips, trading cards,
short stories, movie novelizations, and historical fiction. We recently had the
chance to ask him a few questions about his Disaster
Series available on Kindle and in paperback.
It’s unusual for a series of mystery novels to lack a continuing character;
however this series is based on a thematic unity. You focus not only on famous
historical disasters, but also on a succession of famous mystery and thriller
writers, as your hero/detectives. How
did you come up with that approach?
Max Allan Collins:
Somewhat by accident. As with most of my
series books, this one spun off of a novel intended as a one-shot The
Titanic Murders. Shortly after
I saw James Cameron’s film, I was talking to an editor at Berkley Books about
the movie, and its enormous popularity, and mentioned in an off-hand way that a
famous mystery writer of the era had died on the Titanic, Jacques Futrelle,
author of the Thinking Machine stories, which I’d read in junior high. I said, off the top of my hand, that somebody
should write a mystery in which Jacques Futrelle solves a closed-environment,
Agatha Christie-style puzzle aboard the doomed ship. Wouldn’t it be darkly amusing for the
detective to solve a murder mystery, pronounce all right with the world, and
then hear a WHUMP, and say, “What was that?”
And then after a long pause, my editor said, “Can you get me something
this afternoon? Just a paragraph?” I said sure, did so, and the book was
sold. Same day.
Q: But how did The
Titanic Murders lead to a series?
MAC: When it came time
to negotiate the contract, I was told that the publisher wasn’t taking on
anything but series books and that I had to come up with two more books. I said, “Well, the detective dies at the end, it is the Titanic, after all.” Too bad, but you have to do a series, I was
told. Again, off the top of my head, I
said, well, I could do other famous disasters, like the Hindenburg and the Lusitania.
Q: But not all of
the writers were actually present when the disaster in the novel took place,
MAC: Most were. Agatha Christie was certainly in London for
the Blitz. Edgar Rice Burroughs was in
Pearl Harbor during the attack. S.S. Van
Dine did travel on the Lusitania, although not during the fateful voyage. And Walter Gibson, as the creator of the
Shadow, had an obvious connection to Orson Welles, making Gibson’s presence at
the War of the Worlds broadcast believable.
Q: Will there be more
MAC: Well, I always
say it’s nice to write a novel that’s a disaster on purpose. But during the writing of The
Lusitania Murders, 9/11, the worst disaster of recent memory,
occurred and took some of the fun out of my notion. I never made light of the disasters I was
dealing with, except perhaps in The War of the Worlds Murder. But the distance of time does provide a
cushion. I’ll be interested to see how
new readers, coming to the Thomas & Mercer editions, feel.
Q: We understand all
of the books will be available on audio.
MAC: Yes, most of them
for the first time. It’s fun to have
these stories, these characters, come so vividly to life.
Browse the Max Allan Collins store to view the Disaster series and more of his titles.