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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » Chicago Lightning : The Collected Nathan Heller Short Stories » User review

Perfect Introduction to Nate Heller

  • Jan 8, 2013
The short story isn't something that I normally read, which is unfortunate. It's a great art, where the author has to convey quite a bit in a compressed time frame. Because of this, some aspects you would normally expect while reading a novel are missing, such as detailed character development. However, if you pick up a collection of short stories centered on one figure, for example, Chicago Lightning, by Max Allan Collins, the reader is able to learn quite a bit about the central character as well as some recurring characters. Where Chicago Lightning really takes off is in the author's use of real cases using an old form - the private detective.

Nathan "Nate" Heller is the central character and the private detective. He isn't quite what you might expect of a 1930's and 1940's private eye as described by other authors, such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, or Mickey Spillane what you might expect. Actually, I find that I love reading about Nate, and his cases, than any other detective in the genre. The language, characters, and cases make this a wonderful read. Where it really shined, for me, was when Max Allan Collins put Nate Heller in cases in which I am familiar, for example, the Cleveland Torso Murders in the 1930's. What makes that story so wonderful is that Collins brings Nate to Cleveland to work with Eliot Ness. In fact, Heller and Ness work several cases together, which brings those stories alive.

If you're looking for something "different," introduce yourself to the short story with a strong character like Nate Heller. The tight writing, exciting cases, and hard dialog, will keep you turning pages well after you should be turning in for the night. Chicago Lightning is an exceptional collection of stories.

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Gregg Eldred ()
Ranked #72
It never ceases to amaze me how many doors have opened up for me since I started reviewing the books I read. Publishers now send me free books to read and review. Authors contact me. Kind folks at Lunch … more
About this product


A Q&A with Max Allan Collins

Chicago Lightningis a story collection about private detective Nate Heller. It's a rich collection, yet the stories number only 13--meaning that since 1984 (when the first Heller book,True Detective, came out), you've published only one short story for every novel.

Max Allan Collins: That wasn't intentional. I'm not a prolific short-story writer. I'm a novelist at heart, and these stories are all fairly long; little novels. Each one is a commitment--a lot of research goes into them. Like the novels, they're based on real cases.

Q: The stories mostly deal with little-known crimes, whereas the novels deal with some of the major mysteries of the 20th century: the Lindbergh kidnapping in Stolen Away, the Huey Long assassination in Blood and Thunder. Why look into these smaller, more obscure cases?

MAC: Well, that's the fun of it, isn't it? It shows Nate Heller in a different light. These are in fact the kind of cases that might have walked into a private eye's office in Chicago in the 1930s and '40s. And they're "small" only in the sense that they aren't well known. Some very famous names do appear--Eliot Ness is in two stories--and some of the gangsters are famous (or infamous, anyway). Frank Nitti and Mickey Cohen, for example.

Q: How did you find these lesser-known cases?

MAC: My longtime research associate, George Hagenauer, and I mostly scour vintage true-crime magazines. Then we do newspaper research and sometimes even visit the ...

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