ISBN 10: 1612185266 / ISBN 13: 9781612185262
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Aging baby boomer Joyce Lackey never imagined she could go from having it all to being forced into an early retirement she can’t afford. Increasingly alone and desperate, Joyce turns suicidal—until she’s put in touch with a mysterious benefactor, X-Gen Agency.

X-Gen offers Joyce a literal new lease on life. Through a near- miraculous medical development, the agency can make Joyce twenty years younger. But the illegal nature of the procedure requires that Joyce fake her own death and stay financially beholden to X-Gen for the rest of her new life.

Willing to do anything to escape her hopeless situation, Joyce signs on the dotted line and wakes up after surgery a brand-new woman. Her new existence comes complete with a job, friends, and a renewed passion for all the pleasures she once indulged in. But when murder strikes the people around her, Joyce discovers X-Gen sits at the center of a deep, dark conspiracy—one that could see her buried before her new life really begins.

Review: A Conversation with Barbara and Allan

Question: Let’s start with the byline – Barbara Allan. Max, you’re a well- known author in the mystery/suspense field – why not use a joint byline for the novels you’re writing with your wife Barbara?

Max Allan Collins: When Regeneration and Bombshell were first published, we did use both of our names, but there was hardly any room on the covers for anything else! A few years later, when we began doing the humorous, cozy “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mysteries – starting with Antiques Roadkill – we felt we needed something shorter and snappier. I grew up with my family and friends calling me “Allan” and “Al,” because I was Max Allan Collins Jr., and my father was already using “Max.”

Barbara Collins: Using Barbara Allan for our byline seemed perfect, because I’ve always called my husband Al - or Allan... two syllables, whinny... when I was irritated or mad. Also, “Barbara Allan” would resonate with readers because of the familiar folk song... and it couldn’t hurt to be positioned first on alphabetically-arranged bookstores shelves.

Q: The Antiques novels are, as you just described them, cozies. But both Regeneration and Bombshell are thrillers. You could even call Regeneration a horror novel. Do you think your Trash ‘n’ Treasures readers will find them a shock to the system?

MAC: I don’t think so. Both have a good deal of humor in them, and I’d call Bombshell a comic thriller. We wouldn’t have replaced our cumbersome joint byline with “Barbara Allan” if we thought those readers wouldn’t have a good time.

BC: While our Antiques series is considered “cozy,” they are also our own take on the genre: subversive, a little irreverent, and more realistic, the characters and subject matter being drawn from our own lives and experiences. Regeneration was another life concern, especially for Boomers – the need to continue to work, and retain earning power well into our fifties and sixties. With the current political talk of extending age requirements for Social Security and Medicare further, this subject seems even more relevant today.

Q: Max, you’re known for noir fiction, but Regeneration has a sort of Alfred Hitchcock flavor. Is it fair to say it seems more reminiscent of Barbara’s short story work than, say, your Nathan Heller historical novels?

MAC: Very fair. Barb began her writing career doing short stories, many of them for the popular Cat Crimes anthologies, and she’s an expert at darkly comic tales with a sting in the tail. Both Regeneration and Bombshell are novels that are expansions of short stories Barb wrote.

BC: As an impressionable youngster in the 1950s, watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a very profound effect on me, as did episodes of the Twilight Zone. I loved the twist endings, and oftentimes ironic conclusions. While Max is a natural writer, it comes hard to me, so I must have an emotional connection to the material - a point to make, or a social theme to explore, or I can’t do it. Adding humor is a must.

Q: Max, you seem to have a fascination for Marilyn Monroe. Your recent Nathan Heller novel, Bye Bye, Baby, deals with her death, and there’s a novella about Heller meeting Marilyn, Kisses of Death, in the collection Triple Play.

MAC: Actually, it’s Barb who is the Marilyn collector and Marilyn buff. She has always struck me as a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, though she might deny that herself – still, I was able to use a photo of her for the cover of Triple Play. She was very much the in-house expert on Marilyn for both of those Heller stories. She’s written several short stories about Marilyn, including the one that we expanded into Bombshell.

BC: I vividly remember when Khrushchev came to the United States. I was ten, and terrified of him, having seen his bellicose blustering on TV, banging his shoe on the table, and holding up a small globe of the world as if to say it was his. Russia had Sputnik up, after all, and we were far behind in the arms race. Then Khrushchev said he wanted to come to America – I don’t think he was even invited – and demanded two things: to meet Marilyn Monroe, and see Disneyland. In reality, he did get to meet Marilyn at a Hollywood dinner, but going to Disneyland was deemed too dangerous by the Secret Service and KGB. In our book, the Premier does get to the theme park, but under the cover of darkness, spirited away by Marilyn, who unwittingly uncovers an assassination attempt. This book is as much about Khrushchev as Marilyn – he was a complex man, and reading his memoirs was very helpful in bringing him to life.

Q: Will there be more Barbara Allan thrillers?

MAC: We just signed to do another three Antiques novels, as well as some short story “singles” in the series. But I think Barb and I both have a strong interest in doing standalone thrillers.

BC: So far we’re not having trouble continuing on with the series, as stories seem to grow out of previous ones, and we do have an ongoing soap opera aspect to the books. But my first love remains the short story - a tale complete unto itself, with a more focused point to make.

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