cover image Dying in the Post-War World: A Nathan Heller Casebook

Dying in the Post-War World: A Nathan Heller Casebook

Max Allan Collins. Foul Play Press, $19.95 (251pp) ISBN 978-0-88150-210-7

This grandly titled but drab clutter of crime fiction--an original novella and five previously published short stories--represents some of the last work of the late Collins (scripter since 1977 of the Dick Tracy comic strip, who often based his fiction on true crimes). Collins's friend Ed Gorman contributes an adulatory foreword in which he reveals that Collins ``didn't think he was very good at short stories.'' Collins was right. His tales are pulpish and his hero, hard-boiled Chicago private eye Nate Heller, is unimpressive, given to blinding flashes of insight, to playing God with the evidence, to taking bribes to supplement an income which in the Depression ran $10 a day plus expenses. The best story here isn't the overwrought title tale, (based on the Susan Degnan kidnap-murder) but ``Marble Mildred,'' in which a frenzied harridan pursues and batters her seemingly exemplary husband, eventually gunning him down. Nate unlocks the secret that has festered for 14 years in this marriage. Nate also appears in the novel Stolen Away , a revisionist approach to the Lindbergh kidnapping, published last spring. (Nov.)