Book 26. Target Lancer, by Max Allan Collins.
I know Max Allan Collins mostly from his comic books writing, including his most famous work, The Road to Perdition. I discussed on a recent podcast his work on the PI comic Ms Tree, and Mr. Collins responded to that episode. He was so kind, and generous with his time, that I thought it only fair that I check out some of his novels.
There are well over two dozen Nathan Heller novels in print, but as a PI series, I assumed that there were not heavily centered on continuity. I am sure there were little bits of history I missed in reading this one (one of the recent novels), but I never felt lost.
Private detective Nate Heller gets called into duty be his former boss Robert Kennedy. The Attorney General wants Heller to work with the Secret Service to provide support in protecting President Kennedy as he visits Chicago. In early November, 1963.
Collins does a great job of maintaining tension, despite the fact that we know that this plot against Kennedy won’t concede. He does this by putting Heller and others at risk, as well as giving us sense that a greater conspiracy is at work. Both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby appear, as do various Chicago mob bosses and historical figures.
Collins knows how to write detective fiction, no doubt about that. All of his skills as a professional mystery writer are on display in this highly readable novel. I already have my eyes on the next book in the Heller series.