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Mourn the Living Paperback – April 29, 2012
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
This is less a blast than a blip from the literary past of one of the genre's more prolific and acclaimed authors. Collins's crime fiction (Majic Man, Forecasts, Aug. 23; etc.) has often explored the past. This novel is now historical more by accident than design, however, as it's a previously unpublished volume from the late 1960s that marks the first appearance of Collins's protagonist Nolan, the mobster/thief/killer who appeared, in modified form, in subsequent novels, including Bait Money and Spree. Having killed two mob brothers in Chicago and stolen their money, Nolan lives mostly on the lam. Here, he journeys to Chelsey, Ill., to find the truth behind a college co-ed's death while high on acid. Collins doesn't write with his later authority here. He imagines two college-age women for Nolan to get friendly with, and two hapless hoods for him to beat up, but the plot doesn't feel fully developed and the solution seems almost unrelated to the preceding narrative. There are moments when Collins's later style appears in embryonic form, but there's a good reason why this novel remained unpublished for decades; today, it's a curiosity for Collins completists only. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
The first of Collins's five mystery series to see print, the pulp-action Nolan books, opened with Bait Money (1973) and apparently ended with Spree (1987). Now along comes the author's previously unpublished first novel, written while he was in college, featuring a ten-years-younger Nolan without a sidekick to keep him company, mired in '60s dialogue, drugs, and attitude. A gang called the Boys has put a $250,000 price on Nolans head because they disliked his whacking one of their own, then embarking on a one-man vendetta and robbing them every chance he got. So Nolan stays far away from Chicago, the Boys' home base, until Sid Tisor, who hid him when he needed this, asks him to investigate his daughter Irene's death leap from a rooftop during an LSD trip. Venturing to the town of Chelsey, within shooting distance of Chicago, Nolan runs smack into the Boys, an enforcer for the Commission of Families, a mob-connected cop, and the odd babe, including Irene's roomie, Vicki Trask, and Lyn the hippie, who, like Irene, hung around the drug-dealing musician Broome at the Third Eye nightclub. A few punch-ups later, Nolan is virtually tripping over bodies, facing down .38s and .45s, and uncovering two mysteries, one leading to bad guys in New York and the other to the secret about Irene's short life and sudden death. Simplistic plotting, mucho macho confrontations, and drugs, drugs, drugs. But die-hard Collins fans might be curious to read how his career started, and heartened to see how much better he's gotten. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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So does Nolan work without the juxtaposition of the seasoned criminal with the young, naive Jon. You bet it does. In some ways, with Nolan operating as a lone wolf in a strange town, particularly a college town,it does feel more like a Quarry novel than a Nolan one.
What's great about this book is that it takes place shortly after Nolan makes his break from the Chicago outfit (a resignation given in bullets) and you get all the details laid out. Also, you can see how much a thorn in the side of the Outfit Nolan had quickly become.
Here, Nolan owes a favor to an old associate and ends up playing detective trying to find out what happened to the associate's daughter in a town filled with drug dens and hippie pushers. This was originally written in the late sixties and, in between fighting mobster tough guys, Nolan is immersed in flower children and free love. Apparently, "from women he drew stares like flies around something dead."
The story works very well. It has a definite flow to it with a beginning, middle, and end.
There is plenty of action and intrigue here. There are bodies found floating in bathtubs and dropping off buildings. There are all-out brawls with tough guys that would make Mike Hammer proud.
All in all, another great selection in the Nolan series and, significantly, there is a span of about ten years between the end of this book and the other Nolan books that Collins could, if he chose, fill in.
Nolan is on the lam from the mob after killing one of the bosses who had ordered a hit on his girlfriend. There is now a huge reward out for Nolan who has decided he'll bankroll himself by stealing from his former bosses. When Sid Tisor calls asking him to look into the death of his daughter who had gone head first off a building, supposedly after taking LSD, Nolan is reluctant to venture back into Illinois where he is known by too many people. But Sid insists and Nolan owes him a debt.
Good series that, while perhaps not as polished as his later books, is enjoyable and competent. I have read all of the Quarry hit man series by Collins and clearly his writing evolved and became tighter and the characters more finely drawn although one can easily see how Nolan morphed into Quarry.
Best book ever? No, but enough here to keep me more than happy.
Lone wolf, Nolan is a man with a price on his head after killing one of Chicago’s mob bosses. A debt to a former friend has him returning to Illinois to look into the death of Sid Tisor’s daughter, Irene. She thought she could fly from the roof of a building after taking LSD.
Irene was a student in the college town, which is ostensibly being run by George Franco, the misfit brother from the Chicago mob’s top family. Reluctantly, Nolan takes a look.
Drugs, drugs, more drugs, bent cops, hippies, a heroin addict and dealer, a frightened journalist, an incompetent and powerless mob boss, a mystery man pulling the strings and running the show, some New York hoods, a bit of love interest, a few bouts of fisticuffs, some gun play – some answers and a big suitcase full of cash and a pretty girl! Happy days.
It was interesting to see the origins of the series. A review I’ve read said this book was for Collins’ completists only and his writing get much better over the course of his career. ( It's not too shoddy here in my opinion.) In Collins own introduction he says this was written about 1967 or 1968 when he was an undergraduate.
I really enjoyed this one. I did guess one of the end of novel reveals, but kind of forgot about it until the reveal itself, which was a surprise. There’s not a tremendous amount of depth to the characters and the plot isn’t overly complex – but hey, I’m a fan.
4 from 5
My journey through the 8 Nolan books has me wanting to read more from Collins. So roll on the 11 or 12 book Quarry series. Quarry’s a hitman - so should be fun to follow.
The full 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)
Mourn the Living was bought for Kindle a year or two ago.
Read this pulp novel with its early provenance in mind and enjoy it, with the knowledge that it's a freshman effort.