Max Allan Collins says he's trying to keep equal footing in both the traditional bookstore world and the ever-growing proliferation of the e-book model.
"I sometimes feel like the child of the divorced parents, where you try to keep them apart and still keep each of them happy," the prolific Muscatine author said.
Collins' latest success comes from a deal with Amazon.com. The shopping website published his latest novel, the political thriller "Extreme Justice." Since its release in June, it's been at No. 1 or 2 on various thriller charts for Amazon's Kindle e-reader.
"It's actually done extremely well. One of the oddities about publishing with Amazon itself is that they're a world among themselves," Collins said. "We're basically available in one bookstore, but it's the biggest bookstore in the world."
Collins' relationship with Amazon developed several years ago when it asked to republish both physical copies and e-books from his series of Nathan Heller detective novels.
He even got a say on the packaging and cover art, something he wasn't always afforded with other publishers.
"It's fantastic for an author my age to have a lot of my books back out there, finding a young audience," Collins, 66, said. "They really know how to market within their world."
"Supreme Justice," which was co-written and researched by Davenport author Matthew Clemens, was released at the same time as the Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby employees and birth control.
Collins laughed at those who suggested the timing of the release of the novel, about a political plot to assassinate Supreme Court justices, was planned.
He'd had the idea for about six years, Collins said.
"This is a story I've been wanting to do for a long, long time," said Collins, who added that Amazon wants to continue the novel's new character for two more books.
Amazon also published a small number of Collins' trade paperbacks, or larger-dimension, physical books for its own sale as well as in bookstores.
Collins will sign copies of those at two Davenport bookstores this weekend. And he will have copies of "Antiques Con," the latest in a series of lighter detective novels he writes with his wife, Barbara; and "King of the Weeds," books that Collins finished from manuscripts begun by his mentor, detective author icon Mickey Spillane.
"King of the Weeds" is the sixth book in which Collins has finished Spillane's story from manuscript notes. When Spillane died in 2006, Collins inherited a 5-foot file cabinet of unfinished manuscripts and notes, he said, all written between 1946 and shortly before Spillane's death.
Collins has a contract for three more books in the posthumous collaboration with Spillane.
"We probably could do another six, besides those three. The goal is to do a dozen of these," he said, adding that a short story collection is also a probability.
Compared with his e-book success, Collins said the "Antiques" series, where he and his wife write under the pen name Barbara Allan, is more of a hit in the "traditional bookstore world."
The newest book takes the series' mother-daughter detective team from their small town of Serenity (which he says is based on Muscatine, with some Galena, Ill., thrown in) to New York City for a comic book convention.
"I know a thing or two about those," said Collins, a regular attendee and panelist at the annual Comic-Con gathering in San Diego.
"We had a lot of fun with that because you have the whole fish-out-of-water thing with these characters, not only at a comic book convention but in the big city," he said.
The two authors work out of separate offices in their Muscatine home. After developing a plot together, Barbara spends about six months writing the book, only asking her husband for help if "she gets in a jam," he said.
"I keep arm's length and let her completely develop it," he added.
He then takes her 200-250 pages of manuscript and expands it to 300-350, he said.
The lighthearted books are a welcome change, he said.
"One of the secrets of the books' success is that we both have good senses of humor," he said.
Barbara said that, contrary to what she's been told over the years, each successive book becomes more difficult.
"You keep pushing the envelope, looking for the latest gag," she said. "You keep raising the bar of what you're doing.
"It would be nice if it got a lot easier and you could sail through it," she said. "But the quality wouldn't stay as good."