Monday, August 24, 2015

The "Disaster Series" Novels of Max Allan Collins

Back in May, 2013, I wrote about having just read a novel called "The Titanic Murders" by Max Allan Collins.

I mentioned in that post that this was first in a series of novels, what he termed the "Disaster Series", by Collins, an author that I have written about many times on this blog.  In the post linked above, I mentioned that I would like to read all of these novels, and on my recent vacation, I accomplished that fact by reading This book,

the last of the six that I had not read.

To summarize, here are the six novels in question:

The Titanic Murders (1999) (Jacques Futrelle)
The Hindenburg Murders (2000) (Leslie Charteris)
The Pearl Harbor Murders (2001) (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
The Lusitania Murders (2002) (S.S. Van Dine)
The London Blitz Murders (2004) (Agatha Christie)
The War of the Worlds Murders (2005) (Orson Welles)

The hook or gimmick to each book is that Collins uses a real life person, usually a mystery writer, or, in the case of Welles, a writer/actor/director, as the main character in the book who ends up as the investigator of the murders that have been committed.  I have listed each of them above.  There is a thread of truth in each story.  For example, Futrelle really was a passenger on the Titanic (he did not survive), Christie did work as a nurse's aide during the Blitz, and Charteris and Van Dine did travel aboard the Hindenburg and Lusitania, respectively, although not on the final voyages of those vessels.

These books are great entertainments and I highly recommend them to anyone who likes a old mystery yarn.  You will be impressed with the extensive research that Collins and his team does to put these books together.  For example, an entire chapter is devoted to the less-than-sixty seconds it took for the Hindenburg to burn up and it is compelling. Did you know that there were survivors of the Hindenburg explosion?  I didn't.  And Collins uses a device of several different families listening to Welles' famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast simultaneously and their differing reactions to it. Terrific writing.

In each novel, Collins adds a Where Are They Now-type of final chapter or Afterword that makes you wonder "By God, just how much of this story is fact, and how much is fiction?

Really, really good stuff.


  1. Thanks for this lovely post.

    But I consider Walter Gibson of SHADOW fame as the detective/star of WAR OF THE WORLD MURDER.

    Thank you again.

  2. I stand corrected by the author himself. Thank you, Mr. Collins.