Max Allan Collins might still be best known for writing novelizations of movies or as the writer of the Road to Perdition He has also written a good series about Mallory, a mystery writer turned amateur sleuth. His longest lasting series is about Chicago private investigator Nathan Heller.
The Heller series stars in 1931 with True Detective (published in 1983). Collin’s idea was to put the Hammett/Chandler style private eye into stories involving real crimes. He said it occurred to him after seeing the publication date of the Maltese Falcon and realizing that Sam Spade’s adventures happened at the same time that Al Capone rose to power.
Each book has Heller investigating a famous crime. Some of these crimes include the Black Dahlia case and the Lindbergh kidnapping. This could seem a bit odd that one man is involved/investigating so many famous crimes but so far I’ve enjoyed most of the books in the series I’ve read. He took eight or nine years off after Chicago Confidential before writing Bye, Bye Baby.
Heller is an interesting hero. He is a good man but he is not above cutting corners. He crosses some lines that Philip Marlowe might not. He is not Mike Hammer (although Collins is a big fan of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer).
The books in this series are being made into audio books by Brilliance Audio and read by Dan John Miller. He does a really good job. The audio books don’t have the notes on research sources used while writing the novels.
5 best books in the series in my opinion
- Angel in Black
- Chicago Confidential
- Stolen Away
- the Million Dollar Wound
- True Crime
Books in this series are worth reading or hearing.