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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Max Allan Collins papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1967-1996
Creator: Collins, Max Allan (1948-)
Extent: 69.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0500
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Author, filmmaker, and comic strip writer. The papers document his film and literary career. His novels, comics (including Dick Tracy and Ms. Tree), and screenplays are represented in various forms of completion, with typescript drafts, artwork, correspondence, research, galley proofs, and promotional material.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Boxes 1, 14, 22; phonograph record in Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.


Preferred Citation: Max Allan Collins Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Max Allan Collins, a life-long resident of Muscatine, Iowa, was born on March 3, 1948. As a child, he first dreamed of becoming a cartoonist; later he discovered mystery novels and decided that what he really wanted to be was a mystery writer. Collins sent out his first literary manuscript when he was in the 9th grade. He graduated from Muscatine Community College in 1968. He was in both the undergraduate and graduate Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, receiving his B.A. in 1970, and his M.A. two years later. His first three novels were written while he was in the Writer's Workshop. His M.A. thesis, Bait Money, was revised and became his first published book. He has since published over fifty novels and has written such movie tie-in novels as Maverick, Waterworld, and In the Line of Fire.
When Chester Gould, the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, retired in 1977, Max Allan Collins was able to combine his two lifetime passions. For some years, he wrote the Dick Tracy series, which appeared in more than 500 newspapers. He also writes a comic series called Ms. Tree. Collins is an avid collector of comic strip art and related items.

The papers of Max Allan Collins consist of thirty-eight linear feet (26 boxes) of manuscripts dating from 1967-1996, which document his career as an author, filmmaker, and comic strip writer. The collection in divided into six separate series: General Subject Files; Comics; Dick Tracy; Novels; Screenplays; and Mickey Spillane.

The general subject files include a wide variety of materials from biographical sketches, interviews and correspondence to essays, short stories, and reviews, and are arranged alphabetically by the folder title. The second series concentrates on Collins' comic strip works. Most of the items in this section are in chronological order. The different projects here include Batman and Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger. The Ms. Tree comics that Collins created with Terry Beatty are well documented. There are folders of artwork, correspondence, and promotional material, as well as drafts of the comic strips and their respective scripts.

The Dick Tracy material for both Dick Tracy comic strips and novels is housed in four boxes (series 3). The Dick Tracy comics are represented with artwork, correspondence, promotional material, various drafts of the pre-comic narratives, and final versions of the comic strip scripts. The Dick Tracy novels include one based on a screenplay and Dick Tracy: The Secret Files, which includes an introduction by Collins and drafts of chapter typescripts by various other writers. Dick Tracy Casebook, Dick Tracy Goes to War, and Dick Tracy Meets his Match are all included in varying degrees of detail.

Series 4 (14 boxes) includes materials on his novels. The book manuscripts range from correspondence and research to typescript drafts at various stages of completion and printers' typescripts to galley and page proofs. His Nathan Heller, Mallory, and Nolan and John novels are all represented in great detail. The novels he adapted from other media, such as Maverick and Waterworld are included in this series, as are books that he co-authored, such as The Best of Crime and Detective TV.

The fifth series is made up of his screenplays. The films Mommy and Mommy's Day are in this section. The material documenting The Expert includes thirty-six different typescript versions of the screenplay. Screenplays by others are also in this section. The final series relates to Mickey Spillane. There are typescript drafts of essays, and reviews by Collins. The majority of this section consists of mystery story submissions by other authors, including Ed Gorman, Barb D'Amato, Jeremiah Healy, and Andrew Greeley for Murder Is My Business, edited by Collins and Spillane.

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