Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allan

I was looking for something different to read but couldn't pull the trigger on anything. Then I saw Max Allan Collins was doing one of his periodic giveaways. Among the offerings? This:

"Barbara Allan" is the pseudonym of Max and his wife and fellow author Barbara Collins. I've known about this Trash 'n' Treasures series for awhile, but (and this is my constant refrain with MAC's work in general) I knew the new book was an umpteenth in the series, and I wasn't sure if it would be the best jump-in point. I'd also availed myself of one of these book giveaways not too long ago and wasn't sure of the etiquette of such things. Was going back to the well twice in a row a hack move? 

(weeks later) One thing that would definitely be a hack move is letting this post here sit any longer in draft mode, though, so away we go. 

Fans of cozy mysteries will be happy with this latest installment of the Trash 'n' Treasures series. Even if you're not a fan of said genre, you'll be happy with it; it's a fun page-turner with entertaining characters and dialogue. 

The plot: Vivian Borne has decided to run for sheriff of Serenity and has enlisted her daughter Brandy ("thirty-three, divorced, blond by choice, Prozac-popping prodigal daughter who came home from Chicago, post-divorce, to live with her mother in the small Mississippi River town of Serenity, Iowa, seeking solitude and relaxation but instead finding herself the frequent reluctant accomplice in Vivian Borne's escapades.")as her campaign manager. 

The town of Serenity (phone-pic of the map in the front of the book).

A visit to the local nursing home to get contributions to the antique shop she runs with her daughter that she can transform into campaign funds results in the first fatality: Harriet, an elderly resident blown up in her room. Did she light up one Pall Mall too many near her oxygen tank? Or was it murder? And who would murder an old biddy tucked away in God's waiting room? The answer lies in one of the treasures Harriet donated to the cause: a framed photo of old western star Gabby Hayes, "old-time sidekick to cowboy stars in the thirties, forties, and fifties."

A well-timed osteotomy allows Vivian to recuperate in Sunny Meadow Manor, where two attempts on her life are made. The list of suspects grows, and Vivian and Brandy (and Sushi, Brandy's diabetic shih tzu, aka the dog on all the covers) set a trap for their prey in arguably the novel's prettiest piece: Vivian, with the help of the make-up facilities at the Playhouse Theater on whose Board of Directors she sits, posing as "a male collector of western memorabilia by the name of Tex Ranger."

"'The belief that this gun was used by Earp at the O.K. Corral has been questioned by some experts.'

Dugan nodded. 'Those who think he carried a Colt fort-five or a rifle that morning.'

'Exactly.' Tex sighed. 'Even though reliable evidence has surfaced that he had this Smith and Wesson. Model Three, the recent sale of Colt forty-five at auction for three-hundred thousand, claimin' to be the gun, continues to muddy the waters.'

'I think he carried this gun,' the deputy said.

'As did Judd Pickett.'

Mother, pronouncing the P in Pickett with too much verve, caused half of her mustache to flap loose."

You can easily see this scene stealing the show in a production of the story. Actually, Vivian Borne in general could be the role of a lifetime (or at least the later part of it) for an actress of a certain age. Seems kind of crazy not to cash in on this; how huge is the audience for such a thing? My mother and everyone my mother's age I know would watch, buy, and love a Trash 'n' Treasures series. And not just them, but hell, one would figure all you'd need is them. But: I know nothing. 

I won't give much more away than the above. I'm a visitor to this cozy side of the genre and to this series, so I can't speak to how they fit into either. But I enjoyed myself and will go back for more.

I've got Chicago Lightning by Max Allan Collins staring down at me from the shelf above where I type these words, and I still mean to read that prior to when the new (and my first novel-length) Nathan Heller comes out. (I figure why break a streak - I might as well just keep jumping into these things as they appear and keeping the chronological-completist in me at bay.) I've also got some Batman on tap as inspired by a recent and unplanned re-read of Scar of the Bat, MAC's 1996 Batman graphic novel. (Just fantastic - I know everyone says this about their Bat-tale of choice, but that's the Batman movie they should make.) 

So it might be a spell before I get back to Trash 'n' Treasures, but I'm happy to have discovered it. Thanks to Barbara Allan for both the work and the comp to the festivities.

Just some other quick bullet-points:

- If I haven't mentioned Antiques Roadshow already, I love Antiques Roadshow, and the setting naturally recalls some of the similar narrative design (Item: yadda-yadda. Reasons for getting rid of it: yadda yadda. eBay value: yadda yadda.) This was great fun to me. I liked this a bit more than the tip that ends each chapter. (Although those were fun to narrate to myself in a sort of mash-up of Jessica Fletcher / Waylon Jennings voice in my head.)

- Another fun aspect of the narration is the the switching back and forth and direct address to editor and so forth.

"I took a quick shower, threw on some J Brand tan jeans and a Joie white eyelet blouse, slipped on Rag and Bon black flats, then went downstairs, where I microwaved a cup of last night's Dunkin' Donuts Caramel coffee, tossed a handful of Kellogg's Froot Loops into my mouth, grabbed my Coach yellow bag, and went out the door into the crack of dawn.

"Mother to Brandy: Dear, you're going overboard with all of the brand names, which slows down the narrative and isn't that important.

"Brandy to Mother: If I'm not specific the reader will dress me themselves in their minds and I might not like what they put on me. Also, I could end up drinking Starbucks coffee, which is too strong, and eating Bran Flakes, which is just blah.

"Note to Brandy from Editor: I think your mother's suggestion has merit."
"Oh, fine. I took a quick shower, threw on some jeans and a blouse, slipped on flats, then went downstairs, where I microwaved a cup of last night's coffee, tossed a handful of cereal into my mouth, grabbed my bag, and went out the door into the crack of dawn. Everybody happy?"

- The O.K. Corral motif was fun and well-integrated to all other aspects of the story. Any O.K. Corral story is a not-even-distant cousin to "Spectre of the Gun" and that always makes me smile.

"I took a closer look - I was antique dealer enough to be blown away. 
Just like the Clantons."


- I leave you with this bit, which if published by itself would be indistinguishable from a fine little poem:

"When I got into the car, Sushi, in the passenger seat, wouldn't look at me. She hated to be left behind, even for a short time.

So I said, 'Let's go out to Sunny Meadow and see Mother,' a sentence that had two words she loved to hear - go, and Mother.

Soon we were tooling south along scenic Mississippi Drive, the river to our left sparkling in the afternoon sun, a strong breeze making little whitecaps. A big barge loaded with cargo - probably grain - was making its way slowly downstream, headed to destinations like Natchez and New Orleans. For some reason, I started whistling the theme to the old Maverick TV show. 

Sushi crawled and stuck her head out my powered-down window (I had a good grip on her) and the fur on her face flattened in the wind, pink tongue flapping to one side of her mouth.

Soon we were on the bypass, then making an exit into the majestic rolling hills. In a few minutes Sunny Meadow came into view, perched high on one of those hills.

As I approached the entrance leading up to the steep drive to the facility, a bicycle tire suddenly bounced across the road in front of the car, and I slammed on the brakes, thankful I had a good hold on Sushi.

As least, I thought it was a bicycle tire until I saw what came next: a careening one-wheeled wheel chair carrying Mother, doing a balancing act that once upon a time could have got her on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Which back in the day was on opposite Maverick, which hardly seemed the point at the moment."



  1. Well, this sounds pretty dang wonderful.

    (1) "Was going back to the well twice in a row a hack move?" -- No way. Gotta give these suckers away to somebody, and you're spreading the word about them in a highly responsible manner.

    (2) "Cozy mysteries" was not a familiar term to me, but it seems like it is pretty much exactly what I'd have thought it to be based on that phrase.

    (3) Brandy Borne sounds hot. It's weird that I just typed that about a (A) fictional character who (B) doesn't even have a photo. But, then, I myself am a weirdo, so that tracks.

    (4) The idea that a fatality is somehow prompted by a photo of Gabby Hayes is 100% charming.

    (5) "a male collector of western memorabilia by the name of Tex Ranger." -- Ditto.

    (6) "a sort of mash-up of Jessica Fletcher / Waylon Jennings voice in my head" -- Ditto.

    (7) Those editorial interjections seem pretty awesome. For the record, I think I'm Team Mother/Editor on that; too many brand names by far. But she's a pill-popper, so that's no surprise.

    (8) That excerpt you went out on is awesome.

    (9) Doggone it, my desire to read more Max Allan Collins has now been joined by a desire to read some Barbara Collins. Gah! NEED ... MORE ... TIME ...!

  2. Lemme go backwards here:

    (9) Yeah I know. It's ridiculous. My brother just asked me to join this online Trek RPG (via Skype and some program designed for remote RPG-ing) thing he's running and I agreed and I'm already thinking, good lord, where the hell am I going to squeeze THAT in... STILL WANTED: Robot body/ Ur-kindle/ time machine/ a clone of mine I could mind-meld with and download the enjoyment of the works he's read/ seen while I'm doing dishes/ laundry/ diapers. ("Except for love scenes - I insist on doing those myself...")

    (8) Glad to hear! I thought that was cool and a nice string of paragraphs. I'd be curious if that was Barbara's or Max's contribution or a true blend of both.

    (7) Pill-popper! Go back to Prozac Canyon, ya beatnik! I agree, though - I was charmed by her (Vivian's) rationale for doing so (they might dress me in something I don't like) but I prefer sparing use of brand names. Altho it's odd - I'd prefer it if we could all reference song lyrics, tv shows, characters, commercials, etc., the way we do in real life, but I don't need to know brand names of clothes, food, and furniture.

    (6) I was hoping that Waylon Jennings line would make sense. The end of chapter motif in this one reminded me of the freeze-frame cut-to-commercial "what'll the boys do now?" thing from DUKES OF HAZARD, except it was cozy-mystery-ish/Antiques-y, hence the Jessica Fletcher. Why I'm annotating this when you clearly picked up on it I don't know. For the benefit of that one reader out there who didn't catch it, I guess.

    (4) Agreed. And (3) Funny! The whole time I was reading, I pictured both characters as about 20 years older than they were/ are established to be. When I went to get that quote about Brandy I realized oh, 33? Heck, that could be played by a youngun.

    Glad you enjoyed, sir!