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Hush Money Paperback – April 29, 2012
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About the Author
Besides writing the graphic novel that inspired the Oscar-winning Road to Perdition, Max Allan Collins is well-known among mystery lovers for several series, including the Shamus-winning Nate Heller historical novels and the hard-boiled adventures of killer-for-hire Quarry.
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Nolan is an ex-mafia guy who, after having his differences with members of the family, went off on his own for some years, getting involved in heists and robberies, well-planned, well-executed heists for that matter. Nolan was considered the best in the business and had never ended up behind bars.
Jon is about as unlikely a guy to be paired with as Nolan could imagine, but their sometimes-partnership works well. Jon’s uncle was known as “The Planner” and, under the cover of being an antiques dealer, the Planner would case jobs and put together packages for jobs consisting of plans and contacts. That is, he did this prior to getting killed when some thieves broke into his antiques shop and stole the $800,000 that Nolan and Jon had reaped from their first job together.
Jon is a twenty-one year old baby-faced kid with little experience in the life. He collects comic books with a passion few could imagine and has as his life’s dream becoming a comic book artist. He hoped that his first job with Nolan would finance his way to pursuing his life’s dream, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Jon has looked up to Nolan as the personification of his action hero fantasies.
When this part of the story begins, Nolan and Jon are sort of retired from the life. Nolan is managing a motel for the Outfit. “He had his freedom again, with no one in particular trying to kill him, but it was an empty freedom. He was on a desert island with Raquel Welch and he couldn’t get it up.”
This volume (“Hush Money”) is a Nolan/Jon tale, but it also features quite strongly a host of other characters, including the DiPreta brothers, Joey, Vince, and Frank, a family with many interests in Des Moines, including a construction company, discount stores, and other businesses of a more questionable nature. The Dipreta fortune was originally tied to bootlegging, protection, and loansharking. They were rumoured to be a mafia-style crime family, but, although connected to the Chicago Outfit, were not necessarily a part of the Outfit. Vincent had been known as Vincent the Burner in his earlier days, specializing in arson insurance scams. He “had been a handsome fat man, a round, jovial, eminently likeable man,” but now the years had not been kind to Vincent and his “flesh hung on him like a droopy suit, loose and stretched from years of carrying all that weight around.” Joey was the youngest of the brothers, an amateur golfer, and man about town. Frank was the only one of the brothers to still carry heat.
Someone has declared war on the DiPreta brothers and not in a nice, gentle way either and Nolan and Jon walk into the middle of this war. Jon, in particular, has little idea of what is going on, except that Frank DiPreta’s eighteen-year-old platinum blonde daughter is the answer to all his adolescent fantasies.
While this volume in the story does not focus as tightly on Nolan and Jon as other books in series, it is a great read because of all the other characters who are more tightly developed here. The story moves quite swiftly. It contains all the gritty elements of other Nolan books and Nolan’s terrific sense of humor in the face of even the craziest situation.
Members of the Des Moines DiPreta mobster family are being assassinated and the Chicago family, knowing of Nolan's connections with both families, if somewhat tenuous, in addition to knowing the possible shooter, wants him to intercede and stop the bloodshed.
If you enjoy the Parker series, you'll like Nolan as well, although, Nolan, getting older and looking for some kind of quiet retirement, becomes more likable and human. Note, there is enough back story to irritate those who have read the series so far, but also enough to make it a stand-alone.
Now on to the next one, Hard Cash.
Best book ever? No, but I enjoyed it.
From memory of the previous books, Nolan is a thief-cum-heister who had a falling out with the mob which led to a bit of a war and Nolan being on their hit-list for a number of years. This situation is now resolved and Nolan manages a hotel for them and is kind of living life at a slower pace though boredom is setting in.
Nolan appears about a third of the way into this book. (I was kind of getting concerned that he was going to show up at all!) Someone has been targeting a mob family and taking them out one by one, in revenge for we don’t know what at this stage.
Nolan is brought in to resolve the situation, so business can carry on as usual.
Great characters, maybe not as much action as in previous books though I could be wrong. There’s an interesting dynamic between Nolan and his young side-kick John – friendship? Probably more of a father-son, mentoring type-thing, with John the comic book collector always seeking to handle himself in ways that impress Nolan, without being too obvious about it.
Is it just me or are criminals generally more interesting people to read about than straight Joe’s?
Decent resolution, which offers interesting possibilities for the direction of the next book – Hard Cash which also appeared in the same year as this – 1981.
There's an interesting 2012 intro from the author, which sheds some light on the origins and history of the series with a tasty tit-bit mentioning some irritation and a little bit of friction from Don Pendleton who was a little bit sore about Nolan. (Nolan incidentally pre-dated Bolan, at least from a writing date, if perhaps not in print.)
Pendleton had his Mack Bolan - Executioner series on the go, in which Mack Bolan has his own holy war with the mafia. I did read the first of his books fairly recently - War Against the Mafia.
I know which of the two I prefer and which I'll be reading more from. Roll on August - Hard Cash awaits me!
The full Nolan series is as follows:
1. Bait Money (1973)
2. Blood Money (1973)
3. Fly Paper (1981)
4. Hush Money (1981)
5. Hard Cash (1981)
6. Scratch Fever (1982)
7. Spree (1987)
8. Mourn the Living (1988)
Hush Money was bought for kindle a few years ago.
Read in July, 2015