A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Art Scott


MAX ALLAN COLLINS – Kill Your Darlings. PI Gat Garson. Walker, hardcover, 1984. Tor, paperback, 1988. Thomas & Mercer, softcover, 2012.

   Max Allan Collins is not merely a writer of mystery novels (and of the Dick Tracy comic strip); he is also a mystery scholar, collector, and fan. This book, third in a series featuring his detective alter ego, Mallory (like Collins, a mystery collector, fan, and writer from a small town in Iowa), is an “inside” story about mystery fans and fandom. It takes place at the Bouchercon, the annual convention for mystery fans and writers. (By a remarkable coincidence, Collins sets the story al the same Chicago hotel where the 1984 convention was actually held.)

   The murder victim is Roscoe Kane, a veteran paperback mystery writer, His once-popular detective, Gat Garson, is out of fashion, and Kane is on the skids. He’s at the con to receive an award from the Private Eye Writers Association, but drowns in the bathtub – an apparent accident – before the presentation. Mallory, Kane’s friend and fan, isn’t satisfied by the medical examiner’s hasty verdict and noses around, suspecting that Kane’s death might be linked to the upcoming publication of a “lost” Hammett Continental Op story.

   In an introduction, Collins makes the disclaimer that his fictional Bouchercon attendees, writers and fans, are mostly composites of real characters. However, initiates will have little trouble identifying many of them, including a self-absorbed guest of honor named Keats – the creator of a sensitive-macho private-eye character. Other inside jokes and fan tributes are scattered throughout; e.g., Collins’s borrowing of a gaudy metaphor from Spillane’s Vengeance Is Mine in the climactic shooting scene.

   This fast-moving and inventive novel is the newest addition to the very small subgenre of fandom mystery novels. Two others are Bill Pronzini’s Hoodwink (murder at a pulp collector’s convention) and Edward D. Roch’s Shattered Raven (murder at the MWA Awards Banquet).

   Mallory is also featured in The Baby Blue Rip-Off (1983), No Cure for Death (1984), and A Shroud for Aquarius (1985).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


Bibliographic Update: Add to the books in the Mallory series: Nice Weekend for a Murder (1986).