Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review - A Swing and a Miss for Collins and Heller

Well, you all know what a big fan I am of the Nathan Heller detective novels by Max Allan Collins.  I've written about them before - Chicago cop turned private eye Nate Heller writes his "memoirs" about all of his cases that have involved famous people from throughout the twentieth century.  Al Capone, Huey Long, Charles Lindberg, Sally Rand, John Dillinger, Bugsy Seigel, the Black Dahlia, Marilyn Monroe, and even Jack and Bobby Kennedy...Nate Heller has been involved with all of them, and all of the novels have been terrific, in my opinion.

In "Flying Blind", however, Heller details his involvement with famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart (and those of you who have read any of these stories know exactly what I mean when I talk about Nate being "involved"), and the circumstances of her disappearance while on a round-the-world flight in 1937.  While you always have to accept with a grain of salt how one guy could have touched so many famous crimes in the twentieth century, with "Flying Blind" I felt for the first time that Collins was really reaching when putting this story together.  Hey, it happens. Even Sandy Koufax pitched a bad game every once in awhile, and even a disappointing Nate Heller adventure still makes for a pretty decent yarn.

With the reading of "Flying Blind", I have finished thirteen of the fifteen Heller novels that Collins has written.  Only "Majic Man" (1999) and "Chicago Confidential" (2002) remain, and I suspect that I will knock those off sometime over the summer.  The completion of this goal will leave a bittersweet feeling: What am I going to do when there are no more Nate Heller novels left to read?


  1. You really didn't say much about why you disliked this book other than overreach. As you pointed out there is a grain of salt involved in accepting the absurdity of Heller being involved in all these cases- and it's just as true for say "Stolen Away" - a young cop gets attached to the biggest frinking crime of the century! But it was a huge masterpiece of writing. I thought Flying High was a better than average Heller with an exciting ending. I will say that you might be like me and enjoy the old Chicago mob related stories best, but I think once you accept the premise not much is off limits and if he be involved with JFK and Marilyn he certainly can be involved with Amelia.

    1. Trust me, I have accepted Collins' premise of Nate's involvement with everyone, and it is one of my all time favorite detective series. I just thought that this one was not up to the usual standards of the series. That doesn't make it a bad book, just a little disappointing. One man's opinion.