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"We need to make books cool again. If you go home with someone & they don't have books, don't fuck 'em."--John Waters

I'm the author of more than twenty novels including SHADOW SEASON, THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, THE DEAD LETTERS, and A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN. Look for my next one THE LAST KIND WORDS due out May '12 from Bantam Books. Contact: PicSelf1@aol.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins

Mark your calendars, kids. Nate Heller, "PI to the stars" and the hero of Max Allan Collins’ historical mystery series, returns on August 16, 2011 with BYE BYE, BABY.

The novel is vivid, rich, evocative, and atmospheric. You feel L.A. here, the classic L.A. era as it was in the early 60s, just before MM’s death and JFK’s assassination ushered the innocent days out and the age of Viet Nam in.

As Marilyn Monroe goes to war with her studio, fighting off a smear campaign by the powers that be who want to leverage the control of her career, she hires Nate Heller, her friend and occasional lover, to bug her phone. She wants proof of what’s being said by the likes of studio head Darryl Zanuck as she counters reports that she’s been addled by drugs and alcohol. Heller does as he’s asked but soon discovers that Marilyn’s house is already being bugged by a colleague, under orders from Jimmy Hoffa...and perhaps others as well. Turns out that Marilyn’s become a chess piece among powerful political opponents of JFK and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom have been among her lovers. Nate knows big trouble is right around the corner for Marilyn, though he’s unable to truly break through to the still somewhat naive girl who still resides within the heart of the most fabulous sex symbol of all time.

Soon Marilyn is found dead of an overdose, an apparent suicide. But Nate knows that there’s a lot more that’s gone on behind the scenes, and he launches his own investigation into Marilyn’s death, hoping to make someone pay. Collins has put a mind-boggling amount of research into this work. It reads with an authenticity that is rare among mysteries that deal with historical subject matter as mythic as Monroe, Sinatra, Sam Giancana, Joe DiMaggio, Peter Lawford, Jimmy Hoffa, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK. Their literary versions are almost never humanized, but Collins’ has gone to extremes to give us not only an informative and entertaining account, but also a realistic one, walking a narrow and neutral line so we see our legends in a genuine light.

Another thing I appreciated in BYE BYE BABY is just how long Marilyn is in the novel. From the synopsis you might think that she’s only in the story for the opening chapter, nothing more than a catalyst for action. But Collins isn’t satisfied with just providing impetuses–he gives us full flesh and blood characterizations.

Another excellent entry in the Heller series. In fact, I think it’s my favorite to date. A gripping and fascinating read that takes us from the bright lights of Hollywood and deposits us in the alleyway shadows of shattered dreams.

1 comment:

Mark Luebker said...

Can't wait. Been way too long since the last Heller.