Max Collins is a great writer. He brings the gangsters of old, and other public figures to life in his historically based fiction. Nate Heller is a wonderful character. He is morally flawed, but honest and charming. When he strays across the line of lawful behavior, he does so with the best of intentions. Vera Jayne Mansfield is a character that adds some lascivious content to the story, just as Sally Rand does in other Heller books. You really get a sense of gangland Chicago, and the depth of corruption that was the hallmark of Chicago politics and police. I have read a number of Mr. Collins' books and can recommend them all.
Nathan Heller is out in Hollywood putting in some time at the LA office. He is also spending some with his son. Recently divorced from his cheating wife he is also trying to avoid talking to a new crime commission that is looking for information on organized crime. Over the years Heller has had more dealings with the mob than he would like. Now people want to know what he knows. While in LA he takes on a client. A young college student claims that an old boyfriend won't leave her alone. Heller helps her out. The young college student turns out to be none other than the the young busty (and with Heller lusty) Jayne Mansfield. Problems arise in the business and he returns to Chicago.
It seems that an old police colleague that he hired is using Heller's equipment to spy on some of the big names in organized crime for the commission. Heller has to deal with this problem. He also has to deal with some of the mobsters to make sure that they know that he is not going to talk about anything that he knows. As if that wasn't enough his old buddy Frank Sinatra asks him to call another old acquaintance, Senator Joe McCarthy, and tell the Senator that Sinatra is not a Communist. With all of this it is not going to be easy for Heller to get out of all of this in one piece.
More classic hard boiled noir from the wonderful Max Allan Collins. After a couple of week novels the series has really bounced back. Lots of mystery, smart aleck remarks, danger, gangsters, and gorgeous women who can't wait to have sex with the main character. Great fun.
Over the years, as writer Max Allan Collins has gotten older, his signature character Nate Heller has gotten mellower. And I think I like it. When I was a young firebrand, Nate Heller (in the early novels) was a smart-mouth roughneck. As my tastes matured, Heller mellowed out and got involved in fewer shoot-outs and savage beatings. I like the evolution of Heller; from poormouth private eye (in the 30s) to minor celebrity private eye to the stars (in the late 40s). Chicago Confidential (the title comes from a period muck-raking book of the same name; it is not a rip-off of James Ellroy's LA Confidential) isn't about any particular crime like the other Heller novels. Instead, it is a novel about a particular era; the 1950s gangland witch-hunt by a crusading senator. A good, brooding story from a master of hard-boiled fiction. My only complaint is that the Joe McCarthy angle wasn't explored as deeply as I wanted. I was sort of looking forward to Heller being paranoid and concerned about the malevolent government establishment, like in Majic Man.