Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saluting Max Allan Collins

When you come upon a writer who's been active for 32 years and is very successful, you wonder why you've never heard of him. I guess the answer is easy; I was a college professor. Many of my friends were college professors. No wonder when many people hear the word professor they picture a spaced out guy with elbow patches on his tweed jacket who is utterly cut off from the mainstream. But hallelujah I've seen the real world (at least a close approximation) and I'm ready to read some more novels. Max Allan Collins wrote his first Chicago novel about Nate Heller in 1983. It took place when prohibition was in force and Al Capone ran the city. In the novels that follow Nate develops a relationship with Frank Nitti, Capone's successor; earns a Silver Star on Guadalcanal and returns to the Windy City after a section 8 retires him from the Marine Corps.
The research that goes in to the Nate Heller novels is prodigious. In the 16th or 17th, I can't remember which one, Heller is involved with a CIA plot that somehow leads to the death of JFK in Dallas. Every step of the way, as he does in all his novels, he makes sure that almost all historical facts are correct. The man is a genius and apparently indefatigable.
He wrote the graphic novel, "Road to Perdition" that became a great movie with Tom Hanks. He has written screenplays, comic books and historical fiction. He collaborated with Mickey Spillane, and after Spillane's death, completed novels Spillane had begun.
So this is a salute to a great writer whom you'd better start reading before Nate Heller comes across your sorry ass and takes you to Chicago, where you end up sleeping with the fishes.

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