Posts Tagged ‘Early Crimes’

Spillane, War of the Worlds & More

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Before I share some news and links with you, I want to congratulate longtime M.A.C. fan Brad Schwartz, a recent college grad who has begun what I know will be an impressive career with a writing credit on the recent American Experience WAR OF THE WORLDS episode. This aired on various days and at various times on PBS stations, during Halloween week, and may be running again this month – check your local listings. It’s a terrific show, drawing on Brad’s research into the many letters sent by and to Orson Welles, surrounding the famous radio panic. When the DVD and Blu-ray come out, an interview with Brad will be featured.

Brad, George Hagenauer and I are in the early stages of what we hope will be a definitive work on the life of Eliot Ness. With two researchers like that, all I have to do is lean back and figure out where to put the commas.

For those of you in the eastern Iowa area, I will be signing ASK NOT at Mystery Cat Books in Cedar Rapids (112 32nd Street Drive) this Wednesday (November 6). It’s a rare joint appearance with my pal Ed Gorman – Ed rarely does signings, so even some out-of-staters may wish to drive to this very cool bookstore. Starts at 7 p.m. There’s a good chance Barb Collins and Matt Clemens will be on hand, as well.

In Mickey Spillane news, I am negotiating with Kensington (home of the ANTIQUES series) to develop a trio of novels from an unproduced western screenplay that Mickey wrote for John Wayne. The screenplay was called THE SAGA OF CALLI YORK, but that has been tweaked into THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK, which will be the series name. There’s a possibility it may go beyond three books. More as I know more, but you have to admit it’s exciting – a western by Mickey Spillane written for the Duke!

Perhaps the most disappointing Spillane project has been the book that Jim Traylor and I did for McFarland, MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN. The book has generated scant sales, no award nominations, and a handful of reviews, although Jim and I are very proud of our work on it. It’s a beautiful book with great pictures, packed with Spillane lore, but its high price ($45 for a trade paperback) has discouraged readers.

So Jim and I were thrilled – since the book was published over a year ago – to see a rave review appear in CLASSIC IMAGES, the terrific vintage film publication. Though you can buy CLASSIC IMAGES at newsstands and bookstores worldwide, it is produced in Muscatine, Iowa, by editor Bob King, who is a friend. I was disappointed that for many, many months the publication seemed to ignore the Spillane film book. Just recently, Bob confided in me that he was worried his notoriously tough reviewer might give us a pan. His worries were misplaced, as were mine.

Normally I would just provide a link, but this great review is not available on line. With editor Bob King’s permission, here it is:

Book Points by Laura Wagner

(Originally published in the November, 2013 issue of Classic Images,

Crime writer Mickey Spillane (1918-2006), best known for creating the popular detective Mike Hammer, has always been one of my favorite writers. He began writing professionally for comic books in the 1940s. In need of extra cash after the war, Spillane wrote his first novel, I, The Jury, in nineteen days in 1947. The book, which was a huge success, introduced the character of Mike Hammer.

I, The Jury was also the first movie adapted from a Spillane novel. The 1953 film starred Biff Elliot as the hard-boiled detective. Elliott, however, was no match for Ralph Meeker’s portrayal of Hammer in the classic Kiss Me, Deadly (1955). Other actors who played Mike Hammer include Robert Bray (My Gun Is Quick), Kevin Dobson (Margin For Murder), and Armand Assante (1982’s I, The Jury). Darren McGavin was the first actor to play Hammer on TV, in the 1950s. In recent years, Stacy Keach has become most identified in the role due to a series of television movies and the TV series The New Mike Hammer.

According to The Washington Times, Mickey Spillane “was a quintessential Cold War writer, an unconditional believer in good and evil and a rare political conservative in the book world. Communists were villains in his work and liberals took some hits as well. In a manner similar to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, Hammer was a cynical loner contemptuous of the ‘tedious process’ of trials, choosing instead to enforce the law on his own terms.” (Hammer says in One Lonely Night, “I lived only to kill the scum and the lice that wanted to kill themselves. I lived to kill so that others could live. I lived to kill because my soul was a hardened thing that reveled in the thought of taking the blood of the bastards who made murder their business.”)

Spillane was a celebrity in his own right, often appearing on television as himself. As an actor, he appeared in Ring Of Fear (1954), which was co-produced by John Wayne; Spillane also co-wrote the film without credit. Save for the dreary Clyde Beatty circus footage, Ring Of Fear was a pretty good murder-mystery, boasting an excellent performance from Sean McClory as a silky-smooth psychotic and a fascinating Spillane as himself, a writer-detective investigating freak accidents at the circus. He would play his creation, Mike Hammer, in The Girl Hunters (1963), which was filmed in England. Spillane also appeared in Miller Lite beer commercials in the 1970s and ‘80s.

As a writer Spillane was often criticized for his heated prose, his “artless plots, his reliance on unlikely coincidence and a simplistic understanding of the law” (New York Times), while others had difficulty with the extreme violence and sexual content. Even Ogden Nash got into the act when he wrote, “The Marquis de Sade/Wasn’t always mad/What addled his brain/Was Mickey Spillane.” Spillane, himself, called his own writing “the chewing gum of American literature.” He dismissed his critics, remarking, “I’m not writing for the critics. I’m writing for the public.” He described himself as a “money writer,” in that “I write when I need money. I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends.” And there was no denying that he was a very popular, influential, and hard-hitting writer.

Spillane died at the age of 88. After his death, his friend and literary executor Max Allan Collins edited and completed several of Spillane’s unpublished typescripts.

“I snapped the side of the rod across his jaw and laid the flesh open to the bone,” Spillane wrote in The Big Kill. “I pounded his teeth back into his mouth with the end of the barrel … and I took my own damn time about kicking him in the face. He smashed into the door and lay there bubbling. So I kicked him again and he stopped bubbling.” How can you not love that? Whew.

The aforementioned Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor have written a terrific new book called Mickey Spillane on Screen: A Complete Study of the Television and Film Adaptations (McFarland softcover, $45). We get chapters on:

Spillane At The Movies: I, the Jury (1953), The Long Wait (1954), Ring of Fear (1954), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), My Gun Is Quick (1957), The Girl Hunters (1963), The Delta Factor (1970), I, the Jury (1982).

Spillane On TV: Mike Hammer TV Pilot (1954), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1958-59), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in Margin for Murder (1981), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: Murder Me, Murder You (1983), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: More Than Murder (1984), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1984-85) CBS-TV, Return of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (1986), The New Mike Hammer (1986-87) CBS-TV, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All (1989), Come Die with Me: A Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Mystery (1994), Tomorrow I Die (Fallen Angels, 1995), Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Private Eye (1997-98).

Appendices: A. The Hammer (Film) Code, B. The Girl Hunt Ballet (The Band Wagon, 1953), C. Who’s Who of Spillane on Film, D. Stars of the Hammer Film Universe, E. Mickey Spillane in His Own Words.

Each movie gets a thorough analysis, a detailed plot summary (with pertinent dialogue and comments), historical background, trivia, and the authors’ opinion of how Spillane’s works are adapted, how the characters are handled, opinions on performances, etc. The commentary is fair and balanced, and in a few instances very funny. I was especially tickled by the chapter on Come Die with Me, a simply dreadful sounding “updating” of Mike Hammer starring Rob Estes and Pamela Anderson. The plot recapping is simply mind-boggling, just amazing sounding, and the author’s insertion of humor is welcome. This was a pilot made with absolutely no understanding of the Hammer character, especially when they had the tough private eye get on a skateboard. I laughed out loud when they wrote, “It has come to this: Mike Hammer on a skateboard.” The whole thing is just so surreal.

It has been acknowledged that the quintessential Mike Hammer has always been Ralph Meeker in the classic Kiss Me Deadly—and rightly so. But, the authors make strong cases for Biff Elliot, Armand Assante, and, of course, Spillane himself as portrayers of Mike Hammer.

I have a personal liking for the 1953 version of I, The Jury, a brutal, very underappreciated film noir. I always thought poor Biff Eliot has been given raw deal, by fans and critics alike. He’s been knocked for his short stature, for his suits with padded shoulders, and for his overall look and speaking voice, but I enjoyed his performance very much. Biff was hot-tempered, quick with his fists, and had an edge to him, which I thought perfect for the role—critics, be damned. I’m glad that Collins and Traylor feel as strongly as I do that Biff should be better remembered. The movie is not shown often, but it’s worth seeing. Another reassessment comes for the ’80s’ I, the Jury with Armand Assante. The authors make it sound like a must-see, and I must confess that before this I hadn’t wanted to see this, but I do now. I judged before seeing this, something you should never do with movies. Assante seems an odd choice for Hammer, but if the authors say he does a good job, then he should be given a chance. This is another film not in circulation.

The separate Mike Hammer television series starring Darren McGavin and Stacy Keach have neatly organized chapters. It isn’t feasible to talk about every episode, naturally, but by concentrating on select episodes and summing up others, and discussing recurring themes, etc., they give us an excellent flavor of the series’ runs. This is harder than it looks, but the authors make it seem effortless. Good writing, all around. Complete episode guides are included.

Their very persuasive write-ups pinpoint all of the films’ strengths and weaknesses with good analyses and some clever wording. I was very glad, since we are talking about some film noirs within, that the authors did not resort to phony “noir writing.” You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all read books about noirs where the authors think they have to write “tough,” in the so-called style of noir. It only comes across as irritating. Thankfully, that is missing here, and we instead get good, solid writing.

You love Spillane? This is the book to get. A better discussion of the films adapted from his work you will not find. Nor are there authors more knowledgeable than Collins and Traylor. Plus, there’s an interesting Q&A with Spillane conducted by co-author Collins at the book’s conclusion.

Photos are terrific, with some behind-the-scenes shots that were new to me.

* * *

Reviewer J. Kingston Pierce gives ASK NOT star treatment in this article about JFK-related fiction.

Here’s a rave review of ASK NOT from Bookreporter.

Randy Johnson at Not the Baseball Pitcher serves up this great ASK NOT review.

And the Historical Novel Society provides this short but sweet ASK NOT critique.

EARLY CRIMES has pleasantly surprised me by generating some really great reviews for a book that could easily have been dismissed as self-indulgence on my part. Check out this remarkable Bookgasm write-up.

And Ron Fortier, always a first-rate writer and reviewer, also has good things to say about EARLY CRIMES. Like a lot of people (I’m relieved to say), he’s really digging the early ‘70s, previously unpublished novel SHOOT THE MOON included in the collection.

Speaking of WAR OF THE WORLDS, my novel gets a nice mention in this article.

And TARGET LANCER, out in mass market paperback, continues to generate some new reviews, like this one.

I am among celebrated company in this article about “famous writers” who are also ghostwriters. The subject is Spillane, but the one book I could really be considered a “ghostwriter” on isn’t mentioned. And I won’t mention it, either….

Finally, here’s a write-up on the multiple-author novel INHERIT THE DEAD. I wrote a chapter for it (collaborating with Matt Clemens), but I haven’t mentioned it here, because (a) I haven’t read the book yet, and (b) they spell my middle name wrong on the back cover. But you can read about it here.


You Slay Me

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
Bouchercon 2013

Here are two images courtesy of Kensington editor Michaela Hamilton – a photo of Barb, Matt Clemens and me at the recent Albany Bouchercon (courtesy of Mike’s friend Gene) and the cover of the new Trash ‘n’ Treasures Christmas novella, ANTIQUES SLAY RIDE.

Antiques Slay Ride

SLAY RIDE is available only as an e-book, and is the first of three such novellas (all with Christmas themes) that will appear over a three-year period. This one came out very well, and works as an introduction to the series and the characters if you’ve never tried one of these novels by Barbara Allan (Barb and me).

Barb is working on her draft of the next full-length novel in the series, ANTIQUES SWAP – at about the half-way mark. I am deep into SUPREME JUSTICE, a political thriller for Thomas & Mercer, that Matt Clemens has helped develop. It’s due November 1 and, with any luck, I’ll make that deadline.

WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER has done very well so far, particularly on e-book, which is Thomas & Mercer’s long suit. As I write this, we are still number #1 in serial killer books. If you had a chance to read it, or EARLY CRIMES, let me again say how much positive reviews (however short) are helpful. I’ve been told by a credible source that even negative reviews can be helpful at Amazon and Barnes & Noble – statistics apparently show that books with no reviews don’t sell as well as books with primarily negative reviews. Right now we’re at 34 reviews and a four-star average for WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER. (EARLY CRIMES has 13 reviews and a five-star rating, which is very nice for such an offbeat little book.)

Barb and I have been watching horror movies, in honor of Halloween, with an emphasis on 3-D (we are set up for that in my office). The new 3-D blu-ray of the classic HOUSE OF WAX (SCTV fans, all together now: “Have you theen my paddleball?”) is quite wonderful and shows how effective and fun 3-D effects can be (from an eyepatch-sporting director who could not perceive the effect himself). Though it’s not a great movie, AMITYVILLE 3-D is also out on blu-ray as part of a boxed set of Amityville movies, and it too has wonderful 3-D effects, as well as a strong performance from the too-little-seen Candy Clark.

On the other hand, we tried to watch GATSBY and bailed after twenty minutes of pretentious self-conscious bilge. I avoided this in the theater but gave in to my 3-D curiosity for an attempted home viewing. I never dreamed Baz Lurhmann could make a film more dreadful than his MOULIN ROUGE, but he seems to have knocked the ball out of the park and into the crapper – based on the twenty minutes we watched. (Barb: “Are you having fun?” M.A.C.: “Not in the least.” Barb: “Can we stop watching this?” M.A.C.: “Absolutely.”)

We also took in the 3-D version of GRAVITY at our new multi-plex and were far less impressed than the critics at Rotten Tomatoes who give it 98% fresh. It’s an impressive piece of filmmaking in the technical sense, and well-acted, working fine as a thrill ride. The story, such as it is, is weak, with Sandra Bullock’s character in particular poorly thought through. It’s probably worth seeing, but keep in mind it’s one of those one-damn-thing-after-another movies. It also has one of those New Age orchestral scores with a wordless soprano caterwauling in a vaguely spiritual manner – the kind I hope never to hear again.

Here’s my blurb: “Way better than GATSBY!”

* * *

There’s a really nice review of several Hard Case titles, including SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, at Barnes and Noble’s web site.

Here’s a nice review of COMPLEX 90.

Finally, no firm news on QUARRY for Cinemax yet, but here’s an interesting interview with a mention of the pilot from an HBO exec.


Back From Bouchercon

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Before I get into a report on Bouchercon, I want to let everybody know that WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER has been doing very well – got as high as #90 in Kindle bestsellers and #1 in mysteries – with some really nice reviews (I’ll share some below). My thanks to those of you who requested advance copies who have helped earn the book a four-star average at Amazon and an impressive (to date) 27 reviews.

The advance copies I sent out here on EARLY CRIMES has earned us a five-star rating at Amazon and 12 reviews.

Keep those reviews coming. I encourage you to not only review my stuff at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, but to do the same for any author, any book, you like. They really matter.

Bouchercon was the usual delight where people are concerned. I did four signings and had long lines for the first two and steady flow for the others. The multiple signings had to do with Barb and me each doing two panels, and signings are always scheduled right after…plus I had an Amazon signing, as well, at Mystery Mike’s booth, the minute I got there. Some fans came with boxes of M.A.C. books, often including editions I had never seen before.

The panels were excellent. Barb and I were on one that had to do with collaborations, and that went very well, although it got a little bogged down when we got into ghost-writing and novelizations as different branches of collaboration. This led to talk of contracts and other “inside baseball” topics that I’m afraid may have bored some audience members. I responded by making stupid jokes – are you surprised? Still, a strong panel, featuring Barbara Peters (moderator), Barb and me, Wendy Corsi-Staub, Jonathan Greene, and Paul Kemprecos.

Barb was the moderator on a panel about amateur sleuths and the mix of writers was broad, which – in addition to Barb’s sharp questions – made for a great session. One thing Barb did that was really smart was prepare individual questions for each author. So often on a panel given a shared questions, by the time it gets to you, the topic has been wrung dry. A fine job by my lovely wife. Panelists were Barb (moderator), Joel Gomez-Dossi, Tom MacDonald, Cate Price, Rebecca Tope, Tina Whittle.

I was pleased to be on a panel in the biggest of the rooms, with huge attendance. I shared the stage with Anne Perry, Reed Coleman, Laurie King and Oline Cogdill (moderator). The topic was ending a series. I immediately said, “How do you end a series? Your agent calls and says the publisher doesn’t want any more.” This and many other jokes I used to disrupt a very good panel, where I wasn’t the only funny one, and sure as hell not the only smart one. Anne Perry got on my case a little about writing about true crime and imagining the motivations of the people involved…think about it…but she generally seemed to like what I had to say. Most of us on the panel had done historical crime fiction and that became a sub-topic. Really a fun, lively affair.

Meetings with our agent Dominick Abel and editors from Kensington, Thomas & Mercer and Tor/Forge were a lot of fun, with business getting covered but also a really nice chance to socialize and get to know better the people you work for/with. Of course, Michaela Hamilton of Kensington has been pleasantly in our lives for some time – she bought CARNAL HOURS at Dutton, back in the day, and later at Kensington requested that we do a cozy series for her, resulting in the ANTIQUES novels. She also published two thrillers by Matt Clemens and me.

Matt was there, making friends everywhere he went and doing a panel himself (before we got there).

There were dinners every evening where we got to socialize with all sorts of mystery writers and publishing folk – a wonderful Amazon evening, the PWA awards dinner (unofficial this year, since I wasn’t nominated), and our agent’s annual feed-the-clients affair. All fun. All wonderful.

Our only complaint was the venue. Downtown Albany was not user-friendly, to say the least. We were at an institutional facility, not the usual hotel – at a hotel, there is a lobby, a bar, a restaurant or two. In Albany, no restaurants near the convention center. Hotels were spread out, requiring shuttles or long walks or cars (taxi or rental). When you were away from the con you were really, really away from the con.

Nonetheless, the people are the thing, and that helped make up for the shortcomings of the ungainly venue. I am sure future Bouchercons will learn from what went right and what didn’t at this one.

No Bouchercon pictures yet, but in later weeks we’ll post some.

* * *

We had a flat-out rave for WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER at Bookgasm. Does that feel good!

Another great one for WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER at Crimespree. (Saw Jon and Ruth Jordan at the con – with the most quality time being at the airport heading home.)

And finally, yet another at the Beachcomber (under the Jack Reacher review).


Early Crimes

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Early Crimes

A new book of mine has just been published, and though I haven’t held a copy in my hands as yet, I’m told it’s available at Amazon and other outlets, as well as directly from the publisher, Perfect Crime Books.

Perfect Crime, as some of you know, is where the first five Quarry novels are available in handsome trade paperback editions (and on e-book) as well as all of the Nolan novels but for the first two, which are available as TWO FOR THE MONEY from Hard Case Crime. Since the Quarry and Nolan novels the publisher carries represent the first phase of my career, it’s fitting that Perfect Crime is now offering EARLY CRIMES.

The book is a collection of sorts, though primarily represents the first publication of my 1974 or ‘75 novel SHOOT THE MOON (aka WYNNING STREAK). The rest of the contents are two very early stories, written when I was in a creative writing class at Muscatine Community College from 1966 through 1968. The short story “Public Servant” reveals my heavy Jim Thompson influence, and “The Love Rack” is a novella that combines Spillane and James M. Cain techniques. These are very hardboiled stories, whereas the novel SHOOT THE MOON reveals that I was at the time as much in the thrall of Donald E. Westlake as I was of his alter ego, Richard Stark.

The short story and novella were first published, back in the mid-‘80s, in HARDBOILED, the prozine whose then-editor, Wayne Dundee, had requested short fiction from me. I didn’t have time to whip anything new up and offered him these two unpublished early stories on the proviso that they be labelled as such. “Public Servant” was later reprinted by Lawrence Block in his collection OPENING SHOTS (2000). Wayne, interviewing me, learned of the existence of the unpublished first Nolan novel, MOURN THE LIVING, and talked me into serializing that in HARDBOILED. Since then, it’s appeared in book form several times, most recently with the other Nolan titles from Perfect Crime.

SHOOT THE MOON is another matter. After over forty years of this, my memory is shot. But I believe I wrote the novel just before QUARRY (aka THE BROKER) sold. It was absolutely a spec novel, and it was as shamelessly a Westlake homage as BAIT MONEY had been a Stark one. When I was finished with it, I sent the novel to Don Westlake, who was a mentor at the time, and he had complained about my overdoing the discursive humor. The version that Perfect Crime is including in EARLY CRIMES reflects me revising according to Don’s notes.

My agent at the time was the notoriously crusty Knox Burger, of legendary Gold Medal Books editorship fame. He did not like the book and didn’t want to handle it. I didn’t even know an agent could reject a book and was stunned. Finally, after my Westlake-advised rewrite, Knox took it on, but I don’t believe he ever really showed it to anyone. (Keep in mind he later also rejected TRUE DETECTIVE, at which time I fired him.) I had all but forgotten about the novel until a few years ago when, after Burger’s passing, some of my manuscripts were returned to me by his widow. Among them was a suspiciously fresh-looking copy of WYNNING STREAK, aka SHOOT THE MOON.

John Boland, the editor at Perfect Crime, originally intended to publish SHOOT THE MOON by itself. I felt the book would be better served in a collection that included the other two early stories. It would take the burden off the book being viewed as the “new” Max Allan Collins novel. But in the context of a collection, it works pretty well. The comic nature of it is slightly offset by the extreme noir of the other two pieces. Or anyway, that’s my opinion.

SHOOT THE MOON, which is a comic caper novel with a klutzy young hero, may be a kind of missing link to the ANTIQUES novels. Certainly it’s the most overtly funny novel I wrote before Barb and I began the Trash ‘n’ Treasures series (many decades later); and it shares a small-town sensibility. But for those of you who don’t follow the ANTIQUES books, because you wouldn’t be caught dead reading a cozy, not to worry – SHOOT THE MOON is very much a crime novel, with dangerous felons, jailhouse doings, bank robberies, and some satisfying plot twists. Again, in my opinion.

I hope my readers will support Perfect Crime in the publication of what is clearly the most esoteric book of mine out there. It includes an introduction, by the way, that covers much more than I’ve touched on here. It’s a bargain, too – just ten bucks. (I believe ordering from Perfect Crime directly gets you 20% off.) I hope you’ll give it a try, and if you like it, post reviews at Amazon and elsewhere; and if don’t like it, surely you have something better to do than say bad things about me in public.

* * *

ASK NOT, the new Nate Heller, which comes out in a little over two months, is getting some great advance reviews. Check this out, from Publisher’s Weekly:

“In the solid 17th Nate Heller thriller Ask Not, a sequel to 2012’s Target Lancer, Collins skillfully integrates fact with fiction in service of a plot centering on the suspicious-to-some numbers of witnesses to President Kennedy’s assassination who died in the months after November 22, 1963. In September 1964, a Cuban that the PI knows was involved in an attempt on J.F.K.’s life in Chicago three weeks before Dallas tries to run down Heller and his 16-year-old son on a Chicago street after a Beatles concert. With the permission of senatorial candidate Robert Kennedy, an old friend, Heller joins forces with journalist Flo Kilgore, a fictionalized version of Dorothy Kilgallen (1913–1965), to investigate an apparent conspiracy. Having played a part in facilitating the CIA-Mafia plots to knock off Castro, Heller is well-positioned to talk to those who might know why he’s been marked for death. Warren Commission skeptics will find some innovative theories of interest.”

And this starred review from Booklist:

“The third in Collins’ trilogy of Nathan Heller novels about JFK, this one jumps from a few weeks before the assassination (Target Lancer, 2012), when a planned attempt on the president’s life in Chicago was aborted, to several months after the events of November 22, 1963. Heller becomes involved when he and his son are nearly run down as they leave a Beatles concert. Recognizing the driver as one of the Cubans involved in the Chicago plot, Heller sets out to take his family off the assassins’ radar and soon finds himself even deeper in hot water, as he follows the trail of a host of spurious suicides by witnesses of the shooting in Dallas whose versions of what happened conflict with the official, “one-man, one-shooter” version being promulgated by the Warren Commission. Teaming with TV star and investigative reporter Flo Kilgore (read Dorothy Kilgallen), who is on the verge of exposing the cover-up – and its ties to several LBJ cronies – Heller ruffles feathers at the CIA, in the Mob, and possibly even in (or very near) the White House. A master at thoroughly believable historical re-creations of unsolved or covered-up crimes, Collins is the perfect fiction writer to tackle the JFK assassination, and he does so brilliantly, working the edges of the story by focusing on the little-known raft of questionable suicides – all documented in the historical record – and making great use of the Kilgore/Kilgallen character, who was herself one of the unlikely suicides. Even readers who aren’t conspiracy theorists will find themselves utterly drawn into the story and convinced by Collins’ version of what happened. And, best of all, it’s a terrific detective novel, compelling and well constructed even without the historical connection.”