Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
True Detective (Nathan Heller Novels) Paperback – September 13, 2011
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Author Max Allan Collins on True Detective
Q: You have been writing your Nathan Heller series on and off again for 29 years. Between these books you have worked on projects as different as Road to Perdition, Dick Tracy, and the CSI novels. What keeps you coming back to Nathan’s story?
A: Nate Heller is my favorite among my characters, and the concept of the traditional private eye solving the great mysteries of the 20th Century is something that appeals to me. I was a fan of historical novels like Captain From Castille and Prince of Foxes as a kid, and of course was interested in detective stories for as far back as I can remember, so the Heller mix of history and noir hits me hard. But after twenty years of writing more or less steadily about him, I took a break of about a decade to work on projects that became possible after the enormous success of Road to Perdition. This included Perdition sequels, but also a series of historical novels that did not involve Nate Heller -- my "disaster" series that began with The Titanic Murders and such works as Black Hats and Red Sky in Morning (both written under the now-discarded Patrick Culhane penname).
Dick Tracy, Batman, CSI and such movie tie-in novels as Saving Private Ryan and American Gangster were the kind of gigs a professional writer takes to do two important things: flex different muscles; and put bread on the table. Both noble goals.
Q: You write graphic as well as traditional novels. How is writing for these two mediums different? Have you ever considered introducing the Heller mysteries in graphic novel from?
A: My dream professional as a child--this lasted into junior high--was cartoonist. I loved comic strips and comic books, and back when I took over the DICK TRACY strip in 1977, a lot of media focused on the "dream-come-true" nature of that job for me, since TRACY was my favorite comic as a kid, and I was only 22 at the time. So wanting to create comics predates my trying to write prose. I like to think my love for comics and film has given my fiction some visual snap. But I consider myself a storyteller, and like to use the correct medium for a certain project. Some stories are best told as films, others as comics, others as novels, and I work in all three fields. The recently released DVD, The Last Lullaby, is a screenplay I co-write based on my Quarry hitman novels.
Interestingly, Road to Perdition was a spin-off of Nathan Heller. Around 1993, an editor at DC comics asked me to do a graphic novel, a noir with the historical approach of Nathan Heller, and I said, "Fine, I'll do a Heller graphic novel." But he wanted something in the Heller mode that was new. I was very taken with Asian cinema at the time, and was influenced by John Woo's movies--which hadn't been legally released here yet--and also the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, based on a famous Japanese manga. I put that vibe together with the real-life history of the Looney crime family in Rock Island, Illinois, moving the action up in time a little from the teens to the twenties to be able to make Al Capone and Frank Nitti characters, as they were in the Heller saga. The recent is history, or anyway historical crime fiction.
Q: The Nathan Heller mysteries weave together historical and fictional events. Tell us a little about the research that goes into these titles.
A: The research is, frankly, massive. Years can go into the research of a historical case, and it's ongoing not just for the book at hand but contemplated future ones. My chief research associate, George Hagenauer, has been with me since the very start. He lived in Chicago and helped me--an Iowa boy--learn about and understand the Second City and its quirky ways. The research itself entails reading books on the subject but also looking at newspaper files in depth, usually visiting the sites and sometimes interviewing participants. Essentially, I pick a case--like the Lindbergh kidnapping in Stolen Away--and do enough research to write the definitive non-fiction work on that case... then I write a private eye novel instead. Many of the historical subjects we've dealt with in the Heller novels, as well as the Eliot Ness novels that spun off from Heller, have led to groundbreaking research that others, quite frankly, have appropriated to write non-fiction accounts.
Q: True Detective is the first in the Nathan Heller series. What was your original inspiration?
A: I wanted to write a private eye novel--this was the early 1970s--but couldn't imagine that character in modern dress. Other writers have proven me wrong, but I thought the P.I. was played out. That the best way to deal with him was in an historical context. A big element was the day I noticed that The Maltese Falcon, the greatest of all noir mysteries, was copyrighted 1929... the year of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. This meant that Sam Spade and Al Capone were contemporaries, and it meant that I could put the Bogart-style noir detective into more than just an historical context, but in history itself. Toward that end, the role Heller plays in any given novel is usually one played by one or more real investigators. By the way, it took almost ten years from concept to final execution--True Detective was a big project for a young writer.
Q: When you started this project did you ever imagine it becoming a series that would span almost 30 years? Does it ever surprise you how far Nathan and you have come?
A: Initially, I was just trying to write one book--a big book, and an ambitious one, which I hoped immodestly might be the definitive private eye novel of all time. That may sound inflated, but I did win the best novel "Shamus" up against people like Robert B. Parker and James Crumley. I left the door open for a sequel, mostly because I didn't have time to cover all the story in the first novel, but I wasn't thinking series till St. Martin's Press asked for one. But as soon as Heller became a series character, I knew--just knew--that we would not stop until we had reached the Kennedy assassination. And that book, Target Lancer, was recently completed... with another several possibilities past that.
Q: You write a lot of period fiction as well as modern. Do you prefer a certain era? If so, what attracts you to that time period?
When I was writing the DICK TRACY comic strip, I took pride in doing modern crimes and keeping the strip contemporary and fresh. The MS. TREE comic book I did in the eighties and nineties--which will be revived soon--was also keenly contemporary, with subjects ripped from the headlines. But I admit I am most attracted to the mid-20th Century--the twenties through the sixties. They are interesting times, colorful and compelling. I'm afraid I am a 20th Century man at heart.
About the Author
Max Allan Collins has earned fifteen Private Eye Writers of America "Shamus" nominations, winning for his Nathan Heller novels, True Detective and Stolen Away, and receiving the PWA life achievement award, the Eye. His graphic novel, Road to Perdition, which is the basis of the Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks, was followed by two novels, Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise. His suspense series include Quarry, Nolan, Mallory, and Eliot Ness, and his numerous comics credits include the syndicated Dick Tracy and his own Ms. Tree. He has written and directed five feature films and two documentaries, including "The Expert," a HBO World Premiere. His coffee-table book The History of Mystery received nominations for every major mystery award and Men’s Adventure Magazines won the Anthony Award. Collins lives in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife, writer Barbara Collins. They have collaborated on seven novels and numerous short stories, and are currently writing the “Trash ‘n’ Treasures” mysteries.
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $0.99 (Save 78%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
True Detective won the 1984 Shamus Award for Best P.I. Hardcover from the Private Eye Writers of America. Collins has followed this novel with 14 (soon to be 15) further novels and several short story collections featuring Heller.
I found this to be a very enjoyable read. Heller is a personality who has enough flaws to be believable but remain sympathetic. He's left the police force because of his unwillingness to be a party to the corruption that exists there, but he doesn't mind a certain amount of involvement with criminals himself as he finds his way as a PI. The relationship he has with Eliot Ness is is interesting, and Collins also sprinkles other real-life characters throughout the story, including an appearance by a young Ronald Reagan, who is working as a radio sports announcer, during Heller's visit to his girlfriends hometown, Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and others.
Collins does not incorporate excessive violence (there is actually very little), profanity (some, probably appropriate to the era which was seemingly more polite than our society today), or sex (a small amount but tastefully handled) into his story. The plot is propelled by the strength of the personality of the characters and the drama of the story line. Black and white photos are sprinkled throughout the novel - they don't come through with very much detail or clarity on an e-ink Kindle (I do my reading on a Voyage or PaperWhite model) and are better when viewed on an iPad or Kindle Fire, but as the photos are real period black and white relics the poor quality actually adds to the period feel of the book, which is probably intentional.
It's a very satisfying read, and I plan to explore the further Heller novels as a result.
For those interested, here are the Nathan Heller novels in the order of their appearance (links are to the kindle versions available here on Amazon - see comment to this review for the links not shown below since Amazon limits reviews to 10 links maximum):
1. True Detective (November 1983)
2. True Crime (December 1984)
3. The Million-Dollar Wound (February 1986)
4. Neon Mirage (February 1988)
5. Stolen Away (May 1991)
6. Carnal Hours (April 1994)
7. Blood and Thunder (August 1995) (about Huey Long's assassination)
8. Damned in Paradise (October 1996)
9. Flying Blind (August 1998)
10. Majic Man (September, 1999)
11. Angel in Black (March 2001)
12. Chicago Confidential (June 2002)
13. Bye Bye, Baby (August 2011)
14. Target Lancer (November 2012)
15. Ask Not (October 2013)
16. Better Dead (not yet published, but Collins has mentioned on his website that it is now complete and so I assume it will be released later in 2015)
(A couple of the novels listed above are incorrectly numbered here on Amazon. I am 100% sure this listing is correct as I referred to both the wiki article on Collins as well as his own website to check the information and order of publication before finalizing here)
Short Stories and novellas:
- Dying in the Post-War World (October 1991) - Novella and short story collection (not available in Kindle edition. The novella Dying in the Post-War World appears in the later collection Triple Play, and the other short stories are included in the later collection "Chicago Lightning")
- Kisses of Death: A Nathan Heller Casebook (June 2001) - Short story collection
- Chicago Lightning: The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories (October 2011)
- Triple Play: A Nathan Heller Casebook (April 2012) - Includes "Dying in the Post-War World", "Kisses of Death", and "Strike Zone"
For the fan wanting to have all of the Heller stories, they can all now be obtained for the Kindle. In addition to the novels, simply obtain the Chicago Lightning and Triple Play collections, and you've got it all.
The dead man was a nobody, an orphan from the old country. But the death bothers Heller. He was brought into the raid unawares, and he resents it. He helped cover something up in the past, and so now cops like Lang and Miller think he'll help them clean up any dirty work. Heller isn't perfect, but he has some standards. He's the best of a rotten bunch, if you will. So the long and short of it is, he quits the force and decides to go into business for himself as a private eye. And thus begins the complex plot web that forms "True Detective".
This is a *stunning* novel. I was absolutely floored by it. I enjoyed every single page. The true genius of True Detective is that Nate Heller is not just running around with famous historical figures like Elliot Ness: he's also investigating real-life crimes. The beauty of it all is, fact and fiction are blended together so neatly that I couldn't tell where fact ended and where fiction began. And even when I knew what was going to happen, such as in the scene in Miami, I found myself on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would all end.
The plot is well-done. It's a complex plot web with a satisfying resolution. Heller investigates multiple cases throughout the book, and at the end you feel they've all come to a close. The story is exciting, full of action and suspense. I *really* liked the ending, though I don't want to specify why. Oh, and there's plenty of sex. It's used wisely, to develop Heller's character, and it isn't as explicit as it could have been. In fact, let me linger on this whole sex issue for a bit. One of the most famous scenes in Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" occurs when Carmen Sternwood shows up at Marlowe's house, naked, giggling, and perfectly willing. (I personally hate this scene, but it's been influential.) Despite having made out with her and every other woman in the book, Marlowe refuses to sleep with her and boots her out. Heller is not quite as stoic as Marlowe, and faced with the same situation, he probably would have succumbed to temptation and deflowered the girl. He's no knight in shining armour - his armour is tarnished, but compared to the other people in this novel, it's positively pristine. Heller isn't perfect and he knows it, but he tries, and that's what makes him a hero in my eyes.
The character of Nate Heller is one of the things that justify this book's length--the print edition runs to 480 pages. In my opinion, far too many books nowadays are bloated beyond all belief, but this book never *feels* padded. Heller is a fascinating character and I was genuinely interested in his moral dilemmas, his love life, and his family history. This includes his father's suicide, a tragic moment, especially when we find out why he did it that way. It's every bit as fascinating as the plot, which is fairly complex but which, on its own, mightn't even fit 300 pages.
Heller's narrative voice is also great, and he manages to sound tough without swearing constantly. I'm annoyed by characters whose mother tongue seems to be Profanity, but Heller isn't like that. He says the F word on more than one occasion in the novel, and it isn't censored. But these work--they're at highly-charged emotional moments where "Darn it!" just wouldn't cut it. And back in the 1930s, such an expletive had quite a bit of shock value, a detail that Collins doesn't forget.
Overall, Max Allan Collins' "True Detective" is a stunning achievement. I'm positively floored by it. The plot is terrific, and the main character of Nate Heller is fascinating. He's tough, he's sensitive. He takes bribes. He sleeps around. He isn't perfect, but he's the best we've got. Collins' style is excellent and keeps you invested in the book easily, despite its length. The book's conclusion is brilliant in its own way. And somehow, Collins manages all this with real historical figures and real historical crimes.
[This review was adapted from a review posted on my blog, At the Scene of the Crime, on 20/10/2012.]
Most recent customer reviews
As the first book in a long series, the 1st third of the book is devoted...Read more