Posts Tagged ‘Nate Heller’

A Better Nate Heller Chronology

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Bill Slankard of Arlington Heights, Illinois – a loyal (and perhaps demented) reader of the Nathan Heller novels – shared with me his personal chronology of Nate Heller’s career and personal history (and ancestry!). He’s given me permission to share it here, and I’m doing so, having a made a few minor corrections. Also, this does not include Do No Harm, which as you probably know isn’t out till March.

This is much more complete than what I put together for you last week.

Before we get to the new, improved chronology, I will share less-than-happy news – I’m told there is no paperback planned by Forge for Better Dead, the most recent Heller novel. So those of you waiting to buy it in either trade or mass market are out of luck. Let me encourage you to buy it in hardcover now, because it appears to be close to out of print.

VJ Books has signed copies for $36.99 here.

Amazon (and a few other places) have it around $18 (and sometimes cheaper than that, for less than mint condition copies), but the book appears to be only available from second sellers.

Before we get to the chronology, here is a link that may be of interest – a review of The First Quarry at Paperback Warrior that discusses the entire series in a smart, fun fashion.

And now….

NATE HELLER CHRONOLOGY (courtesy Bill Slankhard)

1840s
Reference: Jacob Heller working as a tailor in Halle, Germany [True Detective]

March 13, 1848
Reference: Jacob’s younger brother Albert killed in Vienna in general revolt against Metternich [True Detective]

1850
Reference: born Hiram Heller, youngest child of Jacob Heller [True Detective]

1853
Jacob Heller emigrates to United States with wife and children Jacob, Benjamin, Anna, and Hiram [True Detective]

c1855
Reference: wife of Jacob dies [True Detective]

1863
Reference: Hiram shot in both legs fighting for Union at Gettysburg [True Detective]

c1865
Reference: Jacob Heller (senior) dies in New York [True Detective]

1871
Reference: Hiram marries Naomi Levitz [True Detective]

1875
Reference: born Mahlon Heller, son of Hiram and Naomi [True Detective]

1877
Reference: born Louis Heller, son of Hiram and Naomi [True Detective]

1886
Reference: Hiram and Naomi Heller die in tenement fire. Mahlon and Louis are sent to live with their Aunt Anna in Chicago [True Detective]

c1898
Reference: Anna Heller dies [True Detective]

c1902
Reference: Mahlon Heller marries Jeanette Nolan [True Detective]

c1906
Reference: born Nathan Samuel Heller (NH) [“Kisses of Death”]; 28 years old in August 1933 [“The Blonde Tigress” EQMM Jun 2008]; mid fifties in 1962 [Bye Bye, Baby:Something’s Got to Give!]

1908
Reference: Jeanette Heller dies during miscarriage [True Detective]

1911
Reference: Mahlon opens Heller’s Books on South Homan in Douglas Park area with a loan from his brother Louis [True Detective]

1929
Reference: NH joins Chicago Police Department with help from his uncle

1930
Reference: NH arrests Willie Bioff for pandering [Million- Dollar Wound]

Summer 1930
Reference: NH as patrolman witnesses suspect in killing of Jake Lingle escape. Later commits perjury identifying another man as the the assassin
[True Detective]

1931
Reference: NH promoted to detective as a result of the Jake Lingle case. Mahlon Heller commits suicide [True Detective] NH meets Estelle Carey [The Million-Dollar Wound]

March 4, 1932
[Stolen Away: Prologue]

March 5 – April 18, 1932
[Stolen Away: 1 – The Lone Eagle]

April-May 1932
New York, NY – dinner at Sardi’s with Clarence Darrow. With Jimmy Walker (mayor of New York) [Damned in Paradise]

Honolulu, HI – NH working as Clarence Darrow’s investigator on Massie case. With Clarence “Buster” Crabbe (athlete), Chang Apana (Honolulu police detective) [Damned in Paradise]

June 1932
Reference: NH assigned as police liaison to Huey Long during the Democratic Convention [Blood and Thunder]

Late 1932
Reference: NH helps out Clarence Darrow “on a minor matter” [Damned in Paradise]

December 19-22, 1932
Reference: NH first office on fourth floor of building owned by Barney Ross on corner of Van Buren and Plymouth [True Detective]

Chicago, IL – detective NH coerced by Harry Lang (Chicago police detective) and Harry Miller (Chicago police detective) into assassination attempt on Frank Nitti (gangster), who is arrested for shooting HL. NH quits police department to open A-1 Detective Agency (A1DA). Hired by Charles Gates Dawes to supervise security at upcoming World’s Fair. Kills Frank Hurt. With Louis Campagna (gangster), Barney Ross (boxer) (gangster), Anton J Cermak (mayor of Chicago) [True Detective – 1: The Blond Pig]

January 7 – April 8, 1933
Chicago, IL – NH travels to Atlanta to see Al Capone (gangster) in prison who hires him to stop Frank Nitti (gangster) from assassinating Anton J Cermak (mayor of Chicago). Hired by Mary Ann Beame (actress) to find her brother James. Travels to Miami to guard AJC, who is assassinated by Giuseppe Zangara (bricklayer). NH testifies before grand jury indicting Frank Nitti (gangster) and helps get a not guilty verdict. NH breaks ties with his uncle Louis. With Eliot Ness (US Treasury agent), Barney Ross (boxer), George Raft (actor), Harry Lang (Chicago police detective), Harry Miller (Chicago police detective), Walter Winchell (radio newscaster), Franklin D Roosevelt (President-elect) [True Detective – 2: The Long Bellyache]

April 9 – June 25, 1933
Davenport, IA – NH travels to Iowa with girlfriend/client Mary Ann Beame to search for her brother Jimmy. In Chicago, NH trains and oversees security personnel at Chicago Exposition. He discovers that Frank Hurt was really Jimmy Beame. Kills blond gangster who killed Jake Lingle. With Ronald “Dutch” Reagan sportscaster), George Raft (actor), Frank Nitti (gangster), Louis Campagna (gangster), Eliot Ness (US Treasury agent), Barney Ross (boxer) [True Detective – 3: Tower Town]

Summer 1933
Chicago, IL – hired by Goldblatt’s department store to investigate vandalism – his “first” operative, Stanley Gross, is killed. With Barney Ross (boxer). [“Kaddish for the Kid”]

August 1933
Reference: A-1 Detective Agency in one-room office on Van Buren; lives in office; rent is free for keeping “an eye on things at night” in the building; also working at the Century of Progress World’s Fair [“The Blonde Tigress” EQMM Jun 2008]

Chicago, IL – hired by defense attorney to find evidence to help client – Eleanor Jarman. [“The Blonde Tigress” EQMM June 2008]

September 1, 1933
Chicago, IL – Eliot Ness leaves for Cincinnati. [True Detective – 4: The Big Fall]

November 1933
Chicago, IL – World’s Fair closes for the winter. NH contract is not renewed for next year [True Crime – 1: The Traveling Salesman]

December 1933
Reference: A1DA office on second floor of building on corner of Van Buren and Plymouth in Chicago [“Private Consultation”]

Chicago, IL – hired by Earle Wynekoop to investigate murder of his wife, Rheta (on 11/21/1933). With John Stege (Chicago police captain) [“Private Consultation”]

Summer 1934
Chicago, IL – NH tracked runaway girl to home of Rose Kasallis and her “school for crime” [“House Call”]

July 13-23, 1934
Chicago, IL – NH hired by John Howard to investigate his wife for adultery, which turns out to be a set-up for the killing of John Dillinger. With Sally Rand (exotic dancer), Barney Ross (boxer), Melvin Purvis (Justice Dept special agent), Martin Zarkovich (East Chicago police sergeant), Sam Cowley (Division of Investigation agent), Louis Piquett (mob lawyer), Frank Nitti (gangster), Anna Sage (“The Woman in Red”) [True Crime – 1: The Traveling Salesman]

August 24-September 1, 1934
Wisconsin – NH hired by Joshua Petersen to find his missing 19-year-old daughter Louise. He goes undercover as Jimmy Lawrence, and foils J Edgar Hoover kidnap attempt. With Sally Rand, Louis Campagna, Frank Nitti, Willie Bioff (ex-pimp), Kate “Ma” Barker, George “Baby-Face” Nelson, Arthur “Doc” Barker, Fred Barker, Alvin Karpis, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Sam Cowley, Melvin Purvis, J Edgar Hoover [True Crime – 2: The Farmer’s Daughter]

September 9, 1934
Chicago, IL – NH finds solace with Sally Rand [True Crime: 3 – Where the Bodies Are Buried]

March 11-May 16, 1935
Chicago, IL – [Flying Blind: 1 – Ceiling Zero]

August 30-September 12, 1935
New York, NY – NH hired by Huey Long (US Senator) to join bodyguard detail for a couple of weeks. With Phil Baker (radio star) [Blood and Thunder: 1 – A Vest for the Kingfish]

Oklahoma City, OK – NH nabs pickpocket while bodyguarding Huey Long at Oklahoma State Fair on Labor Day [Blood and Thunder: 1 – A Vest for the Kingfish]

September 2, 1935
Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA – NH investigating enemies of Huey Long, who is shot on Sunday, September 8, dies the following Tuesday, and is buried Thursday. With Frank Wilson (IRS agent), Elmer Irey (IRS agent) [Blood and Thunder: 1 – A Vest for the Kingfish]

October 26-November 10, 1936
New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA – NH hired by Mutual Life Insurance Company to investigate Huey Long death to determine if he was murdered or accidentally killed. With Rose Long (US Senator), Elmer Irey (IRS agent) [Blood and Thunder: 2 – A Lagniappe for Elmer]

November-December 1935
Los Angeles, CA – hired by Thelma Todd (actress) as bodyguard. Todd dies 12/19/1935 [“The Perfect Crime”]

January 1936
Reference: A-1 Detective Agency (A1DA) office in single room on fourth floor of building on corner of Van Buren and Plymouth in Chicago [“House Call”]

Chicago, IL – hired by Mrs Silber Peacock to find husband. With John Stege (Chicago police captain) [“House Call”]

February 3-March 7, 1936
Cleveland, OH – NH helps Eliot Ness with case [Dark City]

March 13–April 4, 1936
[Stolen Away: 2 – The Lone Wolf]

June 1936
Chicago, IL – hired by Mrs Joseph Bolton to investigate philandering husband. With John Stege (Chicago police captain) [“Marble Mildred”]

March 17-July 19, 1937
Chicago, IL – [Flying Blind: 2 – Dead Reckoning]

November 7, 1937
Chicago, IL – NH meets Eliot Ness at wake for Jack Whitehall [Bullet Proof]

1938
Reference: NH meets Peggy Hogan and Virginia Hill [Neon Mirage]

March 1938
Reference: NH attends funeral of Clarence Darrow in Jackson Park, Chicago [Damned in Paradise]

May 16-23, 1938
Caribbean Cruise Ship – NH and fellow private detectives solve killing aboard the ship [Caribbean Blues]

August 1938
Cleveland, OH – hired to track down a missing daughter, Ginger Jensen, who ends up being a victim of the Butcher of Kingsbury Run. With Eliot Ness (Public Safety Directory) [“The Strawberry Teardrop”]

1939
Cleveland, OH – hired by Eliot Ness (Public Safety Director) to investigate deaths for insurance of bums [“Natural Death, Inc”]

November 6-12, 1939
Reference: A1DA now a suite of 2 offices in building at corner of Plymouth and Van Buren, with 2 freshly hired operatives (Lou Sapperstein (NH boss on pickpocket detail for CPD) and Frankie Fortunato), and secretary (Gladys). NH living in a 2-room suite at the Morrison Hotel [The Million-Dollar Wound]

Chicago, IL – NH hired by Edward J O’Hare (president of Sportsman’s Park racetrack) to instruct his security staff in spotting and catching pickpockets. O’Hare is killed. With Barney Ross, John Stege (Chicao police captain), Sally Rand, Westbrook Pegler (newspaper columnist) [The Million-Dollar Wound: Nitti’s Town]

Hollywood, CA – NH hired by Westbrook Pegler to investigate Willie Bioff’s involvement with movie industry. Bioff hires NH to find out what his associates have been saying about him to the feds. With Robert Montgomery (actor), George Browne (gangster – president of stagehand’s union), Nicky Dean (gangster) [The Million-Dollar Wound: 2 – Nitti’s Town]

Chicago, IL – NH performs task for Bioff and throws Pegler out of his office. With Jack Barger (“king of the [Chicago] grind circuit), Estelle Carey (“queen
of the 26 girls”), Louis Campagna, Frank Nitti [The Million-Dollar Wound: 2 – Nitti’s Town]

December 8, 1939
Reference: Operatives Lou (Sapperstein) and Frankie working for A1DA [“Scrap”]

Chicago, IL – hired by Jake Rubenstein aka Jack Ruby (union treasurer) to help save Junk Handlers union. With John Stege (Chicago police captain) [“Scrap”]

Early 1940
Reference: Freelance Naval Intelligence job (failure) for James V Forrestal [Majic Man – Prologue]

May 6-June 4, 1940
Chicago, IL – [Flying Blind: 3 – Dead-Stick Landing]

September 1940
Washington DC – NH investigates Josephine Forrestal’s claims of being followed and that her children are in danger for her husband, James V Forrestal (Under Secretary of the Navy) [Majic Man – Prologue)]

May 22-24, 1941
Reference: “The A1DA had a suite of offices now, and … had two experienced ops and a … secretary” besides NH [“Screwball”]

Miami Beach, FL – hired by Frank Nitti (gangster) to warn Pete Clifton (comedian) to stop working “blue.” Clifton is killed 05/23/1941. With Eddie McGraw (gangster) [“Screwball”]

Early 1942
Reference: A1DA currently a 3-man (1 secretary) operation, with the youngest man about to enlist. NH and Barney Ross get drunk and enlist in the marines, and go to boot camp in San Diego. The A1DA is left in the hands of Lou Sapperstein [The Million-Dollar Wound]

March 1942
Reference: Eliot Ness leaves post of Public Safety Director of Cleveland under a cloud [Angel in Black]

October 1942
Reference: NH stationed on Pago Pago [The Million-Dollar Wound]

November 4-19, 1942
Guadalcanal – NH and Barney Ross in B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division land at Guadalcanal, where NH comes down with malaria. With Robert Montgomery (actor and naval lieutenant) [The Million-Dollar Wound: 1 – The Island]

November 26, 1942
Congress Heights, MD – NH wakes up, not knowing who is is, in St Elizabeth’s Hospital after being transferred there from the naval hospital in Pearl Harbor, HI [The Million-Dollar Wound: Prologue]

February 1, 1943
Congress Heights, MD – NH honorably discharged from the marines with a Section 8, after earning the Silver Star for gallantry in action [The Million-Dollar Wound: Interim]

February 2 – March 20, 1943
Reference: Frankie Fortunato of A1DA is in the Army. Lou Sapperstein has been running the agency since NH enlisted. Gladys now married to Frankie, who is killed at Guadalcanal [The Million-Dollar Wound]

Chicago, IL – NH returns to civilian life and the government wants him to testify against Frank Nitti. Estelle Carey is murdered, and NH is hired to recover her diary. Frank Nitti dies. NH arranges to make sure Barney Ross can’t get illegal drugs in Chicago. With Eliot Ness, Bill Drury (Chicago police captain), Sally Rand, Louis Campagna, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca (gangster), Ralph Capone (gangster). Kills John and Olivia Borgia [The Million-Dollar Wound: 3 – The Ruptured Duck]

July 1943
Chicago, IL – [Carnal Hours]

August 1943
Los Angeles, CA – NH doing a job in Hollywood [Flying Blind: Epilogue]

Late 1944
Reference: NH in LA to work on the Louise Peete case. Meets Aggie Underwood (newspaper reporter) and Harry “the Hat” Hansen (LAPD detective), Jim Richardson (LA Examiner city editor) [Angel in Black]

May 1945
Reference: NH hired by James Ragen to protect his niece, Peggy. [Neon Mirage]

Reference: NH office is on Van Buren and has more than one man working for him [“That Kind of Nag”]

Chicago, IL – NH hired by Sylvester Vinicky who suspects his wife, Rose, is unfaithful. NH solves her murder in one day. With Patrick Cullen (Chicago police captain), Charles Mullaney (Chicago police inspector – worked on pickpocket detail with NH and Bill Drury) [“That Kind of Nag”]

June 24-August 31, 1946
Reference: 6 operatives (including Lou Sapperstein, Walt Pelitier, Bill Tendlar, O’Toole) working for NH. Tendlar betrays NH and is let go. NH interested in linking his agency with one run by Fred Rubinski (and 4 operatives) in Los Angeles [Neon Mirage]

Chicago, IL – A1DA hired to protect James Ragen (owner of Continental Press Service), but Ragen is gravely injured in an assassination attempt. With Bill Drury, Jake Guzik (gangster), Sylvester “Two Gun Pete” Jefferson (Chicago cop), Arthur “Mickey” McBride (ex-partner of Jim Ragen) [Neon Mirage: 1 – A Killing in Chicago]

Los Angeles, CA – NH goes to California to find Peggy Hogan. With George Raft, Virginia Hill, Tony Cornero (gangster), Mickey Cohen (gangster), Ben “Bugsy” Siegel (gangster) [Neon Mirage: 1 – A Killing in Chicago]

Chicago, IL – Jim Ragen dies in hospital of mercury poisoning [Neon Mirage: 1 – A Killing in Chicago]

October-November 1946
Reference: NH meets and eventually breaks up with Elizabeth Short in Chicago [Angel in Black]

December 15-30, 1946
Reference: NH in Los Angeles just prior to going to Vegas. Since August he merged with Fred Rubinski and became president of the new business, with Fred as vp. NH marries Peggy Hogan 12/30/1946 [Neon Mirage]

Las Vegas, NV – NH hired by Ben Siegel to train security personel for The Flamingo on spotting pickpockets. With Moe Sedway (gangster), Ben Siegel (gangster), Virginia Hill, George Raft, Westbrook Pegler [Neon Mirage: 2 – A Killing in Vegas]

1947
Reference: NH hired by Joseph Kennedy to undo the marriage of his son, John Fitzgerald, to “Dulcie Something” and make “the wedding documents in the local courthouse disappear.” [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!] [Better Dead: Red Scare]

January 1947
Reference: NH in LA on extended honeymoon. Peggy works to break into show business. January 15, 1947 is referred to as the one-month anniversary for NH and Peggy. Teddy Hertel is an operative in the LA branch of A1DA [Angel in Black]

Los Angeles, CA – NH called by former girlfriend Elizabeth Short to pay for abortion. Wife Peggy announces she is pregnant. NH gets involved in murder of Beth Short, “The Black Dahlia.” With Aggie Underwood (newspaper reporter), Harry “the Hat” Hansen (LAPD detective), Jim Richardson (LA Examiner city editor), Orson Welles (actor), Eliot Ness, Barney Ross [Angel in Black]

March 1947
Reference: NH and wife on vacation, which is extended for a few weeks at the expense of the state of California so NH can testify at Overell trial [“Unreasonable Doubt”]

Los Angeles, CA – NH gets involved in Overell murders [“Unreasonable Doubt”]

June 20-21, 1947
Reference: NH working on lining up a New York office for A1DA. Chicago office has 10 operative and LA has 6 [Neon Mirage]

Los Angeles, CA – NH in LA on business with Fred Rubinski. He is with Ben Siegel when Siegel is killed. Kills Bud Quinn (head of security at The Flamingo), Joseph “Blinky” Leonard (bookie), Davey Finkel (bookie), and Snaden (mob doctor) [Neon Mirage: 2 – A Killing in Vegas]

July 1947
Reference: NH living in Lincolnwood, IL, with pregnant wife Peggy. A1DA just moved to Rookery Building in the Loop. Takes on 2 more operatives. [“Dying in the Post-War World”]

Chicago, IL – hired to find victim of kidnapping/murder, and gets involved with the Lipstick Killer. Kills George Morello (gangster) and James Watson (kidnapper/murderer). With Sam “Mooney” Flood aka Sam Giancana (gangster) [“Dying in the Post-War World”]

September 27, 1947
Reference: born Nathan Samuel Heller, Jr, to Nathan and Peggy Heller, who are living in a brick bungalow in Lincolnwood [“Dying in the Post-War World”; Angel in Black, Bye Bye, Baby:Something’s Got to Give!] [Ask Not]

Late 1948
Reference: NH and Peggy divorce [Angel in Black]

March 1949
Reference: A1DA now in the Monadnock Building on West Jefferson in Chicago “brimming with offices, operatives and secretaries” [Majic Man]

Washington DC – NH investigates James V Forrestal’s (Secretary of Defense)claims that he is being followed and his life is in danger. With Josephine Forrestal, Jack Anderson (legman for Drew Pearson), U E Baughman (Chief of the Secret Service), Frank Wilson (security consultant with the Atomic Energy Commission), Harry S Truman (President of the United States), Theodor “Teddy” Kollek (fund-raiser and recruiter for the Haganah), Drew Pearson. Also interviews Major Jesse Marcel (Strategic Air Command) about Roswell incident for Pearson [Majic Man – One: Red Scare]

April 1949
Roswell, NM – hired by Drew Pearson to investigate Roswell incident [Majic Man – Two: Blue Skies)]

May 1949
Washington DC [Majic Man – Three: White Lies]

July 1949
Reference: Fred Rubinski (vice-president of A1DA) is a business partner of NH – since late 1946 FR operates the Los Angeles branch of the A1A, operating out of the Bradbury Building at Third and Broadway. FR also co-owner of Sherry’s cocktail lounge/restaurant. NH divorce from actress wife not yet final [“Shoot-Out on Sunset”]

Los Angeles, CA – Consulting with Mickey Cohen (gangster) over some security matters. MC survives an assassination attempt. With Florabel Muir (newpaper columnist) [“Shoot-Out on Sunset”]

May 1, 1950
Reference: A1DA with Los Angeles Branch, and in the Monadnock Building in Chicago, with partner Lou Sapperstein, six operatives, and secretary Gladys Fortunato. [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Mosinee, WI – NH in town during a mock communist invasion to ask a favor of Joe McCarthy on behalf of a client. [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Summer 1950
Los Angeles, CA – NH bumps into Mickey Cohen (gangster) at Sherry’s [“Shoot-Out on Sunset”]

September 1950
Reference: NH recently divorced from Peggy on grounds of adultery [Chicago Confidential]

Los Angeles, CA – [Chicago Confidential]

August 1951
Cleveland, OH – NH finds “athletic midget” Eddie Gaedel for Bill Veeck (baseball club owner) [“Strike Zone”]

1953
Reference: Life magazine features article about Nate Heller, detective to the stars [“Kisses of Death”]

March 26, 1953
Reference: NH refers to “my new Manhattan branch.” [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Reference: Joe Kennedy was “an occasional client of mine since the mid-‘40s” [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Washington, DC – Dashiell Hammett hires NH to investigate Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are on death row. Joe McCarthy hires NH to investigate Hammett & friends. Drew Pearson will pay NH expenses on the Hammett job in return for exclusive access. With Bobby Kennedy. [Better Dead: Red
Scare]

April 1953
Reference: “the A1 office in the Empire State Building…” “…forty-sixth floor…” “Robert Hasty, who I’d stolen from Bradford Investigations in D.C. to head up my Manhattan branch. We’d only opened shop a few months ago.” [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Reference: NH: ”…I have a son, and an ex-wife…” [Better Dead: Red Scare]

Ossining, NY – NH visits the Rosenbergs in Sing Sing prison. [Better Dead: Red Scare]

New York City, NY – NH has encounter with Frank Costello. [Better Dead: Red Scare]

June 1953
Reference: A1DA in Monadnock Building [“Kisses of Death”]

Chicago, IL – hired by Ben Hecht (screenwriter & author) to escort Marilyn Monroe to benefit for Maxwell Bodenheim (poet). With Ric Riccardo(restauranteur) [“Kisses of Death”]

August(?) 1953
Reference: NH serves as bodyguard to Marilyn Monroe during Gentlemen Prefer Blondes junket [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

November 1953
Reference: NH and Bob Hasty finish assembling a staff for the New York branch of the A1DA. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

Reference: NH’s son, Sam, is five-years-old. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

New York City, NY: NH meets with Bettie Page about getting her out of testifying before the Kefauver Committee. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

Washington, D.C.: NH talks with Estes Kefauver about Bettie Page. He then sees Joe McCarthy who asks him to talk with scientist Frank Olson about the CIA. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

Frederick, MD: NH talks with Frank Olson, who tells him about CIA toxins and mind control activities. Later in the month Olson goes missing from his home, and NH tries to find him. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

New York City, NY: NH punches Roy Cohn. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

1954
Reference: Frank Sinatra and Joe Dimaggio hired a detective attached to A1DA in L.A. to check up on Marilyn Monroe. Detective led them to wrong apartment and scandal ensued. NH clears both of the celebrities. [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

February 1954
New York, NY – hired by Ben Hecht to find Maxwell Bodenheim to sign contract for book re-issue – ends up investigating Bodenheim and wife’s death [“Kisses of Death”]

1955
Reference: NH, vacationing in New York with Linda, runs into Seymour Weiss [Blood and Thunder]

1957
Reference: NH hired by Jimmy Hoffa to infiltrate the “Rackets” Committee run by Senator John L McClellan, but NH was secretly working for Robert Kennedy, chief counsel of the committee [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

NH worked for Hoffa while being employed by Bobby Kennedy and the Senate rackets committee. The double-agent period was one he’d been lucky to survive. As of 1963, Hoffa was unaware of the duplicity. [Target Lancer]

Reference: A1DA begins $1500/year retainer with Playboy magazine, which lasts at least 5 years [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

c1960
Reference: Working for Marilyn Monroe, NH tracks down Stanley Gifford, who Monroe believed was her father. [“more recently” Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

September 1960
Reference: At a party at the home of Hugh Hefner, presidential candidate JFK asks NH to be his intermediary with mobsters (like Johnny Rosselli or Sam Giancana), if he is elected. NH familiar with guests Frank Sinatra and Judith Campbell [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

Fall 1960
Reference: NH’s 13-year-old son, Sam, is in junior high. [Target Lancer]

Chicago, IL – Edward Shepherd, a CIA security chief, asks NH to contact the mob about assassinating Fidel Castro. [Target Lancer]

Los Angeles, CA – NH tells Johnny Rosselli that the CIA wants the mob to assassinate Fidel Castro. [Target Lancer]

October 1960
Miami Beach, FL – NH meets with Sam Giancana, Johnny Rosselli, and Santo Trafficante about the Castro assassination, and they agree to take it on. [Target Lancer]

c1961
Reference: NH, for the CIA, approached Sam Giancana about assassinating Fidel Castro. [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

June 1961
Reference: A1DA has “many operatives” [“Pinch-Hitter”]

Chicago, IL – hired by Bill Veeck (baseball executive) to investigate death of Eddie Gaedel (midget baseball player) [“Pinch-Hitter”]

May 23 – July 29, 1962
Reference: A1DA has locations in L.A., Manhattan, and the original Chicago office. NH is in L.A. interviewing new detectives with partner Fred Rubinski. L.A. office still located in the Bradbury Building (southeast corner of Third and Broadway), and had expanded to four suites on the fifth floor with ten operatives – eight male and two female. NH and Rubinski are part owners of Sherry’s, a restaurant, which they sell by 1963. Chicago office still in the Monadnock Building in the Loop where the agency had a large corner suite with a bullpen for its over ten agents and private offices for NH and semi-retired partner Lou Sapperstein, who was in his early seventies. NH’s ex-wife lives in L.A. with their son. [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

NH and son attend filming of Marilyn Monroe’s new movie (Something’s Got to Give!). Later Monroe asks NH to tap her phones, then Jimmy Hoffa hires him to spy on Monroe. With Peter and Pat Lawford, Bobby Kennedy, Joe Dimaggio, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana. [Bye Bye, Baby: Something’s Got to Give!]

August 5 -12, 1962
NH investigates Marilyn Monroe’s death with Flo Kilgore. With Peter Lawford, Thad Brown, Bobby Kennedy. He kills the person who did the actual killing, but the instigators are too highly placed. [Bye Bye, Baby: What a Way to Go!]

Late summer, 1962
Reference: Las Vegas is A1DA’s newest branch. [Ask Not]

New Orleans, LA – NH working for Paul Fudala. Meets with Carlos Marcello (mob boss of Louisiana) who threatens JFK. [Ask Not]

October 25, 1963
Reference: A1DA took up much of the seventh floor of the Monadnock Building in Chicago, and included fourteen local agents with branch offices in Los Angeles and Manhattan. Tom Ellison had once “done some flack [public relations] jobs for me when he worked for a local agency.” [Target Lancer]

Chicago, IL – Tom Ellison asks NH for a (payable) favor to watch his back when he hands over an envelope of cash to “Jake” in the 606 Club. With Louis Nathan (Club 606), Jack Ruby, Lee “Osborne” [Harvey Oswald].

October 26, 1963
Reference: For a couple of years, NH lives in the top two floors of a brick three story house on Eugenie Street, one block north of North Avenue, in Chicago, which was purchased by his agency. The first floor is used as a guest apartment by the agency. [Target Lancer]

Chicago, IL – NH has a date with Sally Rand, who he hasn’t seen in about ten years. [Target Lancer]

October 27, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH attends a Bear’s football game as a guest of Jimmy Hoffa, who wanted to know NH’s connection with Tom Ellison. With Sally Rand.
[Target Lancer]

October 28, 1963
Reference: A1 office manager Gladys Fortunate (“I hired her in the early ‘40s”) married Lou Sapperstein (“now a full partner”) about 10 years ago.

Chicago, IL – At the invitation of the police, NH finds murdered Tom Ellison at the Pick-Congress Hotel. He meets with Tom’s wife that evening, and agrees to investigate Tom’s death. With Sally Rand, Jimmy Hoffa. [Target Lancer]

October 29, 1963
Chicago, IL – A Secret Service agent (Eben Boldt) escorts NH to Bobby Kennedy at the Glenview Naval Air Station, who drafts him as a special investigator attached to the Justice Department on loan to the Treasury Department, to work with the Secret Service and help protect JFK during his upcoming visit to Chicago. [Target Lancer]

October 30, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH talks to a man (Thomas Vallee) who threatened to kill the president. That evening he runs into Jack Ruby at a strip club. With Sally Rand, Candy Barr. [Target Lancer]

October 31, 1963
Chicago, IL – Chuckie Nicoletti and Mad Sam DeStefano, mob hitmen, are sent by Johnny Rosselli to fetch NH, who drives himself to see Rosselli. With Sally Rand. [Target Lancer]

November 1, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH and a Secret Service agent capture two Puerto Ricans who are suspected of plotting to assassinate the president. [Target Lancer]

November 2, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH finds and kills two assassins just before finding out the president cancelled his trip to Chicago. The CIA and the Secret Service cover up his involvement. He suspects a conspiracy to assassinate the president, and Dick Cain (Chicago Police/Cook County Sheriff/CIA operative/mob hitman) of involvement in the killing Tom Ellison. [Target Lancer]

November 22, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH learns of JFK’s assassination at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in the company of Miss November. [Ask Not]

November 29, 1963
Chicago, IL – NH meets Eben Boldt & wife at a south side club to listen to Muddy Waters & Band and finds out more about the conspiracy that culminated in the death of JFK. [Target Lancer]

Summer 1964
Reference: NH runs into Deacon Jones, defendant in Massie trial, at Palmer House restaurant in Chicago [Damned in Paradise]

September 5, 1964
Reference: Sam Jr. “would be seventeen later this month…” NH still living in the three-story brick home on Eugenie Street, with the ground level furnished apartment used by A1DA. [Ask Not]

Chicago, IL – A1DA providing personal security for the Beatles enables NH and son meet the Beatles, and attend their concert that evening. Afterward, attempt made to kill NH by one of the Cubans who were involved in the attempted assassination of JKF in early November 1963. [Ask Not]

September 8, 1964
Reference: A1DA has been on retainer with Playboy since 1955. [Ask Not]

Chicago, IL – NH meets with Edward Shepherd of the CIA at the Playboy club to find out if the CIA is trying to kill him. [Ask Not]

September 12, 1964
Los Angeles, CA – NH meets with Johnny Rosselli at Chasen’s restaurant. [Ask Not]

September 14, 1964
Reference: A1DA on seventh floor of the Monadnock building in Chicago.

Lou Sapperstein still Vice-President (Fred Rubinski is listed as Vice-President at Los Angeles office). Millie (aka Mildred), late twenties, is the receptionist, and Gladys Sapperstein is still the office manager (hired in 1939, now about 60 years-old. Three Negro employees at this time. NH’s ex-wife, Margaret “Peggy” “Maggie” Hagen, was the niece of Jim Ragen, who ran a racing wire service in Chicago for bookies nationwide, and was killed when he refused to sell out to the Outfit. [Ask Not]

Chicago, IL – A1DA takes on a case involving the suicide of his client’s husband (Joseph Plett), and connections with Billy Sol Estes. [Ask Not]

September – October 1964
Reference: Bill Queen, ex-NYPD cop, is an agent of the Manhattan branch of the A1DA. [Ask Not]

Waco, TX – NH meets Captain Clint Peoples of the Texas Rangers to discuss the suicide of his client’s husband. He’s directed to investigate MacWallace, with the implication that LBJ may be indirectly involved. [Ask Not]

Dallas, TX – NH meets an old flame, stripper Jada (Janet Adams), who works where Mac Wallace is known to frequent, and who also worked for Jack Ruby. After confronting Wallace, NH’s client is notified that her insurance claim will be paid. Later he meets with Flo Kilgore who is in Dallas investigating the JFK assassination, and who wants to hire NH. [Ask Not]

Buffalo, NY – NH talks with Bobby Kennedy about working for Flo Kilgore. [Ask Not]

November 1964
Dallas, TX – NH and Flo Kilgore interview many witnesses over several days. They also interview Jack Ruby at the Criminal Courts Building. With Jada (Janet Adams), Barney Ross. [Ask Not]

Chicago, IL – NH gets a call from Flo Kilgore’s husband in New York telling him that Flo is dead of overdosing with “booze mixed with pills.” [Ask Not]
Riverside, IL – NH talks with Chuckie Nicoletti about Johnny Rosselli. [Ask Not]

New York, NY – NH visits Flo Kilgore’s home and interviews three individuals: her husband, hairdresser, and assistant. [Ask Not]

New Orleans, LA – Trying to keep from getting killed, NH goes to New Orleans to find out is Carlos Marcello had Flo Kilgore killed. NH is “taken for a ride” by Mac Wallace, and ends up killing him and two others. He warns Marcello of consequences should NH die unexpectedly. With Jada (Janet Adams), Jim Garrison. [Ask Not]

Chicago, IL – NH meets Edward “Shep” Shepherd at the Playboy club and discusses the JFK assassination and cover up. NH tells him not to contact him again. [Ask Not]

February 14, 1970
Boca Raton, FL – NH hired by JT “Buddy” Walsh to go to Saipan with him to find grave of Amelia Earhart [Flying Blind]

March 1970
Saipan – [Flying Blind: Epilogue]

December 1973
Chicago, IL – NH arranges for killing of Dick Cain in retribution for death of Tom Ellison. [Target Lancer]

1980
Reference: NH and wife attend USS Arizona memorial dedication at Pearl Harbor [Damned in Paradise]

February 1982
Reference: NH still chairman of the board of A1DA, but his son is president, working out of LA [Angel in Black]

Los Angeles, CA – NH talks with writer about Black Dahlia case. Kills Arnold Wilson [Angel in Black]

1990
Fred Rubinski dies. [Bye Bye, Baby: What a Way to Go!]

1991
Reference: NH partially responsible for exhumation of Dr. Carl Weiss, presumed assassin of Huey Long. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

1994
Reference: NH retired in Boca Raton with his second wife. Son Sam runs A1DA and its six branches. NH has some grandchildren. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

2002
Reference: NH still alive. [Better Dead: Deep Creek]

A Heller of a Timeline

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Okay, so the new Nate Heller novel isn’t out till next March. What’s taking you so long to order your copy? Here’s a peek at the cover, which I like quite a bit.


Hardcover:
E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

My old pal Tony Isabella, the gifted comics writer who created Black Lightning, wondered a week or so ago if I had ever put together a time line, so that the Nate Heller stories could be read in chronological order. A fan did something along those lines, still posted here, but not updated (and unfortunately that loyal fan has passed away). So I have made an attempt at answering Tony’s request.

Keep in mind that math is somewhat involved here, and I am only famous where math is concerned for being pitifully simple-minded in its regard. Over the years it’s been a real effort not have Nate Heller in two places at the same time. I present this list more as a deterrent than a suggestion, because it demonstrates what a difficult and perhaps not useful process reading the Heller memoirs in order would be.

The major problem is that a number of the novels often begin in one year and jump to another in a second, and even another in a third section. The novels also often have flashback chapters, and I have only scratched the surface where the latterday things Heller does have been made part of this.

Do No Harm – did I mention it comes out in March of next year, and that you can order it now? – has two sections, one taking place in 1957, another in 1966. That’s why to read the Heller memoirs in chronological order, you have to shuffle the deck just so. To make the job possible, and yet harder, for you, I have included the novellas and short stories.

What this chronology mostly demonstrates is that Heller has been a busy boy, and so has his pappy.

The timeline of the Nathan Heller memoirs:

Stolen Away – March 4 – April 18 1932
Damned in Paradise – later April – May 1932
True Detective – December 19 – December 22 1932
“Kaddish for the Kid” (short story) – summer 1933
“The Blonde Tigress” (short story) – August 1933
“Private Consultation” (short story) – December 1933
True Crime – July 13 – September 1 1934
Flying Blind – March 11 – May 16, 1935
Blood and Thunder – August 30 – September 12, 1935
“The Perfect Crime” (short story) – December 1935
“House Call” (short story) – January 1936
Stolen Away – March 13 – April 4 1936
“Marble Mildred” (short story) – June 1936
Blood and Thunder – October 26 – November 10 1936
Flying Blind – March 17 – July 19, 1937
“The Strawberry Teardrop” (short story) – August 1938
The Million-Dollar Wound – November 6 – 12 1939
“Scrap” (short story) – December 1939
“Natural Death, Inc.” (short story) – March 1940
Flying Blind – May 6 – June 4 1940
Majic Man – September 1940
“Screwball” (short story) – May 1941
The Million-Dollar Wound – November 1942
The Million-Dollar Wound – February 2 – March 20 1943
Carnal Hours – July 1943 – approximately September 1943
“That Kind of Nag” (short story) – May 1945
Neon Mirage – June 24 – August 21 1946
Neon Mirage – December 15 – June 20 1947
Angel in Black – January 1947
“Unreasonable Doubt” (short story) – March 1947
Dying in the Post-war World (novella) – July 1947
Majic Man – March – May 1949
“Shoot-Out On Sunset” (short story) – late summer 1949
Better Dead – May 1, 1950
Chicago Confidential – September – November 1950
Strike Zone (novella) – August 1951
Better Dead – March 26 – June 1953
Kisses of Death (novella) – June 1953
Better Dead – November 1953
Kisses of Death (novella) – February 1954
Do No Harm – 1957
Target Lancer – Fall 1960
Strike Zone (novella) – June 1961
Bye Bye, Baby – May 23 – August 1962
Ask Not – Late summer 1962
Target Lancer – October 25 – November 29 1963
Ask Not – September 1964
Do No Harm – 1966
Flying Blind – February 1970
Target Lancer – a few days before Christmas, 1973

My recommended reading order to give you a roughly chronological read, without whiplash, while letting each case finish itself:

True Detective
Stolen Away
Damned in Paradise
True Crime
Blood and Thunder
Flying Blind
The Million-Dollar Wound
Carnal Hours
Neon Mirage
Angel in Black
Majic Man
Chicago Confidential
Better Dead
Bye Bye, Baby
Target Lancer
Ask Not
Do No Harm

But my preference? I think my development as a writer (and perhaps my inevitable decline) will be better observed by reading the novels in the order I wrote them:

True Detective
True Crime
The Million-Dollar Wound
Neon Mirage
Stolen Away
Carnal Hours
Blood and Thunder
Damned in Paradise
Flying Blind
Majic Man
Angel in Black
Chicago Confidential
Bye Bye, Baby
Target Lancer
Ask Not
Better Dead
Do No Harm

The two collections – novellas in Triple Play and the short stories in Chicago Lightning – can be read any time, and in any order, you choose. You’re welcome!

Gathering this material reminds me how much I like these books. This is not to say I love every turn of phrase or twist of plot. But I am proud of what they accomplish – specifically looking at these famous crimes and mysteries in a fresh, in-depth manner while creating a private detective who I think can stand shoulder to shoulder with Marlowe and Hammer. That’s obviously immodest, but I often think of what my late friend, Stu Kaminsky, said about his Hollywood private eye, Toby Peters: “I really like those books,” he told me. “I have fun doing them.”

I have fun writing Heller, too, although the research has been brutally hard. Writing Do No Harm, I could only think back to the pre-Google days of many trips to libraries to look at microfiche and bound copies of old magazines, the countless trips to used bookstores to search out ancient magazines and forgotten volumes. On second thought, I kind of miss that….

Not really.

* * *

Here is a terrific review of Girl Most Likely in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine:

**** Max Allan Collins, Girl Most Likely, Thomas & Mercer, $15.95. Chief Krista Larson of Galena, Illinois is the youngest female police chief in the country. The night of her ten-year high-school reunion, a beautiful former classmate is stabbed to death. Krista’s father, a retired Iowa detective, makes a connection between this murder and the stabbing of another classmate in Florida several months earlier. Father and daughter and the small Galena police force interview suspects and follow clues to catch the killer. Girl Most Likely reminded me of Longmire crossed with Grosse Point Blank fitted into a closed-circle plot worthy of Agatha Christie.

My co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, appeared at the Mississippi Book Festival in support of our Scarface and the Untouchable. Here’s the true crime panel, on which he did a terrific job.

M.A.C.

Once Upon a Time in Muscatine

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

If you’d like to pick up any of the Nathan Heller novels that Thomas & Mercer has reprinted (that’s everything but the more recent Forge-published novels including the upcoming Do No Harm), you can do so this month for a mere 99 cents per. Right here. Step right up!

If you’ve read and liked Girl Most Likely, please post an Amazon review, however brief. We’ve drifted just below a solid four stars and could use input from readers who dug it to push us back up. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

I have been having difficulty with responding to your comments here. Readers seem to be able to post, but recent responses I’ve made to questions have not made it through the process. I responded three times to this thoughtful post from Mike Pasqua:

Sorry that we didn’t have a chance to connect. Two things: I am pretty sure that, without Miguel, Bill probably would be reluctant to do a one-off SOTI show (I know that Miggie missed shows in the past because he was working but this is different). Second, while no one person is indispensable, the loss of Bat Lash was a terrible blow to Jackie and losing John Rogers was a major body-blow to the Con. Yes, they did their usual great job because they are consummate professionals but John’s loss cast a pall on the event. Rest assured Robin Donlan is more than capable of taking over the reins but people were operating on fumes this year. I know that this was nowhere near the celebration that I expected it to be but it’s hard to be upbeat when there was such a void (I spent time with John’s wife and I know that this was beyond painful for her). Just my two cents.

I’ll respond to Mike right now, and hope what I have to say will be generally interesting to readers of these updates.

Seduction of the Innocent’s surviving four members have discussed the notion of performing again, one last time, obviously without Miguel but in his honor. Bill Mumy was part of that discussion. Now, he might change his mind, but the reality is we were not asked to appear for the 50th San Diego Con, which would have been an ideal place to do a final show, possibly post-Eisner Awards. Our thinking was that we’d probably do a single, if rather long, set. We appeared at DragonCon without Miguel, when his movie work precluded his attendance, so there is (as Mike indicates) a precedence for SOTI playing as a four-piece.

Saturday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing in the world to do, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for those who put this juggernaut of a con on. Mike is an old friend and he is a veteran of helping mount this difficult, challenging show. My criticisms of the con are mostly confined to the increasingly dangerous exhibition hall floor, where the problems of crowds were exacerbated by exhibitors who created a frenzy with artificially contrived limited editions that fed lines in main aisles, which in turn sparked belligerent behavior on the exhibitor’s staffs and on convention security. SDCC stands on the precipice of a major, even tragic disaster if these practices are not curtailed.

My other complaints are more personal – that my collecting interests are not as well-served by the show now, and that my age (and the aftermath of health problems) make it difficult for me to navigate a room with 150,000 people in it, all seeking their own pop culture nirvana.

Here’s another comment I wasn’t able to respond to (Nate is working on it), this from Brendan:

It’s wonderful to hear more about your Ms. Tree collections. I managed to track down a large number of original issues several years ago, but some of them were in a pretty sorry state, so it will be great to own fresh copies of the stories.

And a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out, too?! I can’t wait! Are you and Terry connected to that reprint? I’ve heard you two share the copyright on the character, but was never sure if that was true.

Yes, a Johnny Dynamite collection is coming out from Craig Yoe, gathering all of the Pete Morisi-drawn stories with a bonus Ms. Tree story (one of the few things not collected in the forthcoming five-volume Titan series). I am doing an intro but haven’t written it yet. We do control the copyright.

* * *

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is probably director/writer Quentin Tarantino’s best film – certainly it’s my favorite movie of his.

I came slow to Tarantino. I did not care for – and am still not a fan of – Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance and both Kill Bills. With the exception of the Elmore Leonard-based Jackie Brown, his films seemed to me undisciplined show-offy affairs, and painfully reflective of the motormouth, know-it-all video clerk from the ashes of which director Tarantino emerged.

But starting with Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino began to better organize his narratives, making them less self-indulgent without losing his fannish enthusiasm and love of the outrageous. His characters no longer all sounded the same, spewing glib Tarantino speak; rather, they had specificity and even depth. Django and The Hateful Eight were among my favorite films of their respective years, and I am now – however improbably – a fan.

Like Yesterday, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will work best on a certain kind of Baby Boomer audience member (some will be put off by its bold storytelling and climactic violence). Tarantino lovingly, almost fetishistically, recreates the late ‘60s in Los Angeles, both the era and its artifacts. For those of us who lived through those years, it’s a time machine ride that will plaster a smile on faces despite the lingering presence of the Manson family on this oddly innocent world’s periphery.

I won’t talk much about the plot – frankly, there isn’t much of one, although for something so slight, the payoff is major. And this is a film that needs to be seen cold – avoid spoilers at all costs.

But the incidental joys are endless – replications of ‘50s and ‘60s westerns (and their differences); clips from films and TV shows into which the stars of this film are believably inserted (and, in one case, movingly not inserted); marquees and movie posters of exactly the right releases; products and places and things that now exist only in memory, brought back to life.

The film is not without controversy. Tarantino has not made friends with the far left by hiring some actors who have been tarnished by #Metoo, and his protagonists are obviously white males, one of whom (Brad Pitt) is overtly if quietly macho. An interesting and thought-provoking aspect of the narrative is the possibility that the Pitt character killed his wife – something neither confirmed nor denied – which has generated career-crippling rumors for the stunt man character. Somewhere in there is a commentary about the post-Weinstein criticism Tarantino has been getting, and knew he would inflame, but we are left to sort it out for ourselves.

On the other hand, Sharon Tate as portrayed by Margot Robbie, is a sweet, sympathetic portrait that shows the director as anything but misogynistic. This is in keeping with Tarantino’s improved ability to create characters for his little playlet-like scenes that aren’t just fragments of himself. Particularly winning is a surprisingly touching yet unsentimental scene between DeCaprio’s fading TV star and a female child star.

DeCaprio and Pitt give unflinching performances as “heroes” who are hugely flawed. What you ultimately have in Once Upon a Time is a loving critique of Hollywood and that specific late ‘60s era, at once a valentine and a reality check. Oh, and if you are avoiding this because of the Manson aspect, don’t. Their presence is unsettling but not a deal-breaker.

For me, the film had some interesting resonances. I was working on the script for in 1993 and ‘94 in Hollywood – not living there, but making numerous trips – and the world of this film was close to what I witnessed. Growing up in Muscatine, Iowa – and staying here for my whole life (so far) – it often strikes me as odd, how many brushes and near brushes with Hollywood I’ve had.

For example, Bruce Lee is depicted in the Tarantino film, and his son Brandon was my friend – and a huge Quarry fan. I once got a telephone call from him (while Barb and I were living in our downtown Muscatine apartment over a beauty shop, our rent $100 a month) to tell me how much he loved the Quarry novels. By the way, Damon Herriman plays Charles Mansion in Once Upon a Time – he played the Boyd character (renamed “Buddy”) in the Quarry TV series. I spent time with him on set – he’s a delightful guy…Australian, by the way.

Also, right now I’m reading Funny Man, a warts-and-all bio of Mel Brooks, and discover Jose Ferrer was a pal who Brooks often ran his stuff by, because he found Ferrer a good judge of what’s funny. Of course, Jose was Miguel’s father. I once spoke to Jose Ferrer on the phone about his love for mystery fiction, and he was so impressed that I was close to Mickey Spillane.

Yet here I am in Muscatine.

Right now I’m glad to be, because Nate and Abby and Sam and Lucy (son/daughter-in-law/grandson/granddaughter) have moved here and are just up the street from us now. Guess who went to a 3 pm matinee of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with me?

Nathan Collins.

* * *

Ron Fortier has done a wonderful review of Murder, My Love. Check it out!

A detailed entry on my band, The Daybreakers, is on Wikipedia. I had nothing to do with it, which makes it special to me. Pretty good. Check it out, too.

Finally, here’s a short but sweet review of The Wrong Quarry, my favorite of the list books (Brandon would have loved it), on Sons of Spade.

M.A.C.

Books on Sale at Amazon & The Last Word on Reviews

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Perhaps to celebrate the release of Girl Most Likely – which is still on sale as a Kindle title and as a “real” book – Amazon is having a sale till the end of the month on my other thrillers for their Thomas & Mercer line. This includes What Doesn’t Kill Her and the Reeder and Rogers Trilogy, Supreme Justice, Fate of the Union and Executive Order.

For all the talk about Girl Most Likely being my take on Nordic Noir, the first attempt was What Doesn’t Kill Her, which was meant to be an American twist on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, minus the social comment.

Matt Clemens co-wrote all four of those, though he only got cover and title page credit on Fate and Order. I had to push for that, but you should know that he was fully the co-author of the other two.

A very astute reader of mine told me he thought some of the pushback against Girl Most Likely (more on that later) had to do with my describing it in terms of an American version of Nordic Noir. For what it’s worth, that was never the intention or the plan. It just came up in the first interview I did about the book and it kind of took hold.

Not that it wasn’t an aspect of how the book came to be. I really liked such Scandinavian TV series as The Bridge, Wallander, Varg Veum, and The Killing, and wanted to do something in that vein. No thought of tying my wagon to somebody else’s star was in the mix, although obviously the “Girl” in the title followed that particular trend. Attracting some female readers makes only sense in a marketplace where the fairer sex outnumbers us loutish male readers something like ten to one. That kind of math I can do.

So, reviews. I’ve talked about them here quite a bit, more than anybody wants me to, but I am going to take one last (hooray) swing at it. Let’s start with professional reviews.

Understand that I have been writing fiction a long time, and am rather set in my ways, and arrogantly feel that I know what I’m doing. But to be honest I never did pay much attention to the advice I was given in professional reviews. Almost from the beginning, I had enough faith in my work to believe in it, and me, more than the opinions of others. I mean, once you’ve been schooled by Donald E. Westlake, Mickey Spillane, Walter Tevis and Richard Yates, who cares what anybody else thinks?

No, to me the professional reviewers are all about marketing – about libraries and booksellers seeing good comments from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist and the irascible Kirkus, and then ordering books. Editors and publishers like to have good reviews from those sources to blurb on covers, fore and aft, and on the first page or two of reprint editions. This is not to say I don’t enjoy reading a positive review from one of those sources. But for me, it’s strictly business. A marketing tool or, if a review is bad, a marketing obstacle.

Now and then, particularly in a newspaper or a really good blog (like The Rap Sheet), I get a glowing review that is really, really smart. Where the reviewer understands what I was up to. Now and then a positive criticism actually does take hold with me, too. Mostly, though, I love it when somebody gets it.

This is often true of the magazine reviews in Mystery Scene, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Crimespree, and Deadly Pleasures, among others. These tend to be written by smart, knowledgeable people, and they are a great source for quotes, and often are positive and give me a nice little ego boost. When I do get criticism worth listening to, it’s frequently here. EQMM’s Jon Breen practically discovered me.

What’s interesting to me is how seldom reviewers notice the weaknesses in a book of mine that I knew were there. This may be because I know how to hide such things, through sleight of hand or sneaky execution. Let’s take Girl Most Likely. A major flaw about it drives me crazy – I did my best to figure out how to fix it or avoid it, and instead I merely had to finesse it largely through pace.

But the two things that the reviewers – mostly amateur ones – have complained about were done by me with full knowledge of the risks. It was absolutely intentional that I did a lot of clothing description, and the occasional brand names were on purpose, too (I’ve already said why in previous updates). The abrupt ending was a choice as well, very much in the Spillane tradition – story’s over, time to get out, let the credits roll. A good number of people hate that. I’m sorry – not really – but I felt it was called for. My book. My way.

Let’s get to the amateur reviewers, who specifically rule at Amazon, where a good deal of misbehavior is tolerated by Amazon itself, which ironically is the publisher of Girl Most Likely.

First, let me get this out of the way – the amateur reviews, overall, have been great. We are sitting at four-stars. The Associated Press review was, again overall, a fine one, and appeared all over God’s green earth. Of the pro publications, some of whom didn’t love it, Booklist was a near rave. So my difficulty with the reviews on Girl Most Likely has almost exclusively to do with the Amazon ones.

Now, if you follow this blog, you know that I encourage Amazon non-pro reviews – I give out books to readers specifically to increase the number of such reviews, and since people reading this weekly update tend to be longtime readers of mine, I can pretty much count on mostly decent reviews being generated by the book giveaways.

The negative reviews of Girl, among the many nice ones, fall into two camps. One appears to be young and female, and an unbiased reader named Barbara Collins thinks I am being punished for writing about a woman when I am apparently a man. (Lots of nice notices from the young women with book review blogs, though.) But I also see an occasional nastiness that reflects a certain breed of progressive that sees something sinister in a daughter who is a professional woman having respect for a father who is a longtime professional in that field himself. The worst of these criticized me for being “a white man.”

Now Amazon is supposed to reject reviews that are hate speech. Yet even the “white man” thing is okay with me. End of the day, it doesn’t bother me much because it’s the kind of review that reveals itself and its maker. Matt Clemens and I got a lot of those ugly reviews from alt-right nincompoops in regard to the Reeder and Rogers Trilogy. Certain early reviews of Supreme Justice were clearly written by people who had not read much if any of the book. Our sin? Of our two leads, one was a liberal, the other a conservative – and they got along!

The other negative reviews, and this reflects an almost surprisingly small number, are those from longtime readers of mine who don’t like the change of pace. For example, the book is billed as “a thriller,” although I have personally characterized it as a hybrid of thriller and mystery. And some have said that this novel – which includes three vicious butcher-knife murders, a street brawl, and the protagonists getting chased through the woods by a maniac – isn’t “thriller” enough. Perhaps this reaction comes from the world of Girl Most Likely not being the criminal one of Quarry, Nolan, Mike Hammer and Nate Heller. A new, more everyday milieu apparently jars some readers.

One particular review is a rather vicious attack on me by a self-professed longtime fan who claims to have read almost all of my stuff, some novels several times. But he is appalled by Girl Most Likely for all kinds of reasons. And you know what? That’s just fine. Everybody has a right to an opinion and to express it.

Of course, when he suggests I am selling out for “the sake of building a nest-egg to retire upon,” I have to wonder – does anybody who really follows my work think I look like I’m planning retirement soon?

Authors these days live and die on Amazon. Please support not just me, but all of your favorite authors – write positive reviews (again, even a line or two is fine), click on “helpful” on the more detailed reviews when you agree with whatever insights they provide.

Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world. Go in there and support your favorite authors. If you read a book, particularly one you buy there, that you really like, tell the world about it, in a brief (or an extended) review. It’s a way to pay your favorites a favor, and to keep them in business.

Authors are real people, trying to make a living out of entertaining you. Any time you can express your satisfaction with a positive review at Amazon and other sites, you are helping the writers whose work you enjoy stay in business. If they disappoint you, you have every right to say so in a review.

Just don’t be a dick.

* * *

Check out this very smart review of Girl Most Likely.

This reviewer has an interesting take or two on the novel.

Finally, here’s a very nice look at the Nathan Heller series.

M.A.C.