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Scratch Fever Paperback – April 30, 2012
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About the Author
Max Allan Collins has won more Shamus nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America than any other author. Besides his popular Nate Heller series of historical detective novels, he is the author of a number of classic hard-boiled tales about professional thief Nolan and killer-for-hire Quarry. Said the Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Collins has a gift for creating believable low-life characters." Readers have compared his work to that of Richard Stark and Mickey Spillane--and indeed, Collins has completed several of the Mike Hammer novels that Spillane left at his death.
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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.
As "Scratch Fever" begins, Jon is a keyboardist in a rock band playing its last gig before splitting up into the new wave faction and the heavy metal faction. Meanwhile, Nolan is selling out his interest in a restaurant and shacking up with a young woman who used to wait tables at a motel he ran for the Outfit.
But trouble rears it's ugly head in the form of the bombshell femme fatale Julie who had masterminded the bank robbery in "Hard Cash," before doublecrossing Jon and Nolan and making off with all the cash. She sees Jon and thinks Jon recognized her and has to act before they can catch her.
Julie is a stone cold fox and has the men and women around her wrapped around her finger, including an ex husband still mooning over her years after their split and tough as nails Ron who scared the crap out of most folks. Julie is also somehow connected to the Outfit. With this small army backing her, you gotta wonder if Nolan, aging as he is, has finally met his match.
It is a quick reading story that doesn't require reading the previous stories. Although the beginning takes a while to get going as it focuses a lot on music and the musical differences between the band members, once this story gets going, it's damn good action. A worthwhile addition to the series, not the best of this series, but still more fun than 90% of what's out there. This is one terrific series and should get more attention than it does.
Max Allan Collins, and another enjoyable outing.
Most of the time we are in the company of Jon, Nolan’s young sidekick. Jon’s playing in a band and has a casual on-off sex thing with the other lead singer – Toni. The band are popular on the local circuit, but are playing their last gig before splitting – musical differences apparently - Jon’s cohorts being metal-heads. I found this start to the novel interesting and a bit of a change from other entries in the series. Collins explains in his introduction, that back in the day he was a gigging musician. You could tell he has a real passion for music.
Moving on. From the stage Jon think he spots an unwelcome face from the past (and an earlier Nolan book). Julie was the back-stabbing psycho bitch who tried to kill both Jon and Nolan before absconding with the proceeds from their insider-led bank job. Jon isn’t too sure, but when he goes into the crowd to investigate his target has vanished.
Julie is herself having a likewise moment of deja-vous and when her suspicions get confirmed. She instigates Jon’s kidnapping with the sole purpose of keeping the relentless Nolan off her back and keeping all the loot from the bank robbery. Information drawn from Jon under duress, allows her the opportunity to sic a couple of “Family” hitmen onto Nolan with the express purpose of taking him off the board permanently.
Unbeknownst to Julie, Jon and his on-off girlfriend – Toni – get a message through to Nolan before he is snatched. Nolan – out of town on business – arrives home to find his dog dead, his girlfriend being tied up and threatened and two Mafia hitmen to deal with.
An angry man when roused, Nolan deals with the situation. Deciphering Jon’s cryptic phone message he heads after his protégé knowing something is amiss, but unsure what.
Teaming up with Jon’s on-off f-buddy Toni, he’s soon on Julie’s coat-tails. In the author’s capable hands we get an interesting and somewhat bloody resolution.
Another belter and time well spent in the company of one of my favourite series crims.
4.5 from 5
Scratch Fever was bought a couple of years ago for Kindle.
Read in September, 2015