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Chicago Confidential (2002)

von Max Allan Collins

Reihen: Nathan Heller (12)

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783278,077 (3.61)1
It's 1950 in Chicago, P.I. Nate Heller's old stomping grounds. But things are different now, and the wind is blowing in a different, decidedly more dangerous direction. Congressman-with-a-cause and presidential-hopeful Estes Kefauver creates the Committee on Organized Crime to put the squeeze on the mob and anyone who ever associated with them. Heller tries to lay low, but when ex-cop Bill Drury cooperates and mafia moll Jackie Payne sings, Heller is thrust into the middle of the investigation.… (mehr)
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Some years back, Collins decided to try something audacious even for a gifted writer. Collins created a fictional character (Detective Nathan Heller) and injected this fictional character into twentieth century history, including having Heller work on the Lindbergh kidnapping, work with Elliot Ness and the Untouchables, become involved with Chicago gangster Nitty, and volunteer, along with his buddy, Barney Ross, to fight in the Pacific Theater in World War II. In the hands of a lesser writer, the Nathan Heller books would have become a laughable comedy, but somehow Collins has managed to create a fictional man who interacts with real historical figures and it works. I have read five of this series and they have all been terrific books, capped off with the Nathan Heller trilogy involving Marilyn Monroe, JFK, Jack Ruby, and the Kennedy assassination: Ask Not, Bye Bye Baby, and Target Lancer.

Collins prefaces this book by explaining to the reader that, although the historical incidents in the book are more or less portrayed accurately, "fact, speculation, and fiction are freely mixed here" and "historical personages exist side by side with composite characters and wholly fictional ones -- all of whom act and speak at the author's whim." There, he said it. Its fact and fiction all mixed together.
In this particular book, the year is 1950. Heller starts off at his Hollywood office, hiding out from the Kefauver committee which is investigating anyone with connections to organized crime (and Heller, through Nitti, has been connected over the years to the Organization, although he has never been part of it) and making time with his daughter, who is with his exwife, who is now engaged to a Hollywood producer.

Heller has a new client, the refreshing Vera Palmer. We learn later her married name in full is Vera Jayne Mansfield. He explains that "She still had a wholesome, smalltown, peaches-and-cream glow" and she wasn't a starlet yet, just a college student. He further explains that she wasn't blonde yet: "The shimmering brunette pageboy, the heart- shaped face, the full dark red-rouged lips, the wide, wide-set hazel eyes, the impossible wasp waist, the startling flaring hips, and the amazing full breasts riding her rib cage like twin torpedoes, had nothing to do with it." Interviewing her, Heller "felt like the Wolf discovering Little Red Riding Hood was packing heat." Of course, after a few hours together, he "felt like a truck had hit [him] - a 115-pound well-stacked one."

At dinner, they run into Frankie and Ava and, in between, Heller trades punches with Vera's stalker. Yes, this introductory interlude had little to do with the plot of the story, but it made for great reading and great atmosphere. It places Heller firmly in time as the forties are giving way to the fifties.
This story, after all, is not about movies stars, but about the Chicago Organization and Nathan Heller manuevering his way carefully between the Organization (headed in part by the Fischetti brothers) and the Kefauver investigations into organized crime. Of course, Heller also runs into Jack Rubinstein (better known as Jack Ruby) and Sam Giancana (who became well known over the years as a scary killer- indeed the coldest killer in the mob). The story is well-paced and moves quite rapidly and is a pleasure to read. Collins captures quite well the treacherous tightrope that Heller is walking and how carefully he must act to avoid becoming collateral damage.

There are great scenes and terrific dialogue in this book as Heller spars with the Fischettis, one of whom has an entire bedroom devoted to model trains, but is not any less dangerous. Also, great is Heller's give and take with Giancana and the sense of danger is simply omni- present with Giacana in the room. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
A "return to form" for Heller, back in Chicago and wrapped up in dealing with the mob, celebrities, crooked politicians and other assorted characters. ( )
  johnplatt | Aug 27, 2013 |
Part of a series of historical crime fiction involving prominent people. Nat Heller gets caught between mobsters and Estes Kefauver. With dames.
  bfister | Nov 27, 2011 |
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“Chicago is the heaven and haven
of mobsters, gamblers, thieves, killers,
and salesmen of every human sin.”
—Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer
“The Mafia is no fairy tale. It is ominously
real, and it has scarred the face of America.”
—Senator Estes Kefauver
“Murder is the essence of Chicago,
just as blackmail is the essence of Hollywood.”
—Florabel Muir”
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Ted Hertel,
neither of whom is in this book.”
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In Chicago the price is up front, at least, if nonnegotiable.
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It's 1950 in Chicago, P.I. Nate Heller's old stomping grounds. But things are different now, and the wind is blowing in a different, decidedly more dangerous direction. Congressman-with-a-cause and presidential-hopeful Estes Kefauver creates the Committee on Organized Crime to put the squeeze on the mob and anyone who ever associated with them. Heller tries to lay low, but when ex-cop Bill Drury cooperates and mafia moll Jackie Payne sings, Heller is thrust into the middle of the investigation.

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