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True Detective (Nathan Heller #1)

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,292 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
In the mob-choked Chicago of 1932, private detective Nathan Heller may be willing to risk his life to earn a Depression dollar, but he never sacrifices his sardonic wit. Now, author Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) reissues the contemporary classic that introduces the wise-cracking Nathan Heller in all his guts and glory.

When Mayor Cermak’s “Hoodlum Squad” brings Hell
Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by AmazonEncore (first published 1983)
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Kirsten *Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again!"
I picked this book because the 18th book in the Nathan (Nate) Heller series was nominated for a Nero (Wolfe) award this year. I am so glad that I tried it out.

This book works well on at least two different levels for me. One, as a hard-boiled PI novel, it's hard to beat. The detective is likable and fulfills that itch for a Sam Spade or a Mike Hammer. Two, as a historical. It is obvious that Mr Collins spent a lot of time researching the history of Chicago in the 1930s.

To me, the mystery was a
A fantastic historical novel that blended real people with fictional characters like the PI Nate Heller.

It was like two great books in one, one historical novel that captured the 1930s Chicago,US so vividly,made the people so real that i felt strongly for men that slept on park benches and died of the cold while corruption made some others rich. It was like a historical bio of those times.

It was also a great PI novel that was more like Hammett The OP realism and Heller was not the romantic,holly
Took me quite a while to get into, and even then I wasn't completely interested. Maybe "hard boiled" is not my favorite detective sub-genre.

I did enjoy the fictionalization of real events and people of Chicago in the 1930s.
It's the old story of how honest people are taken advantage of by the corrupt because they always think they are smarter and tougher. A good fast action thriller with some good twists.
Jon Spoelstra
Dec 20, 2009 Jon Spoelstra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Start with this one and enjoy the hell out it. This book is far more historical than you think. Sure, the main character, Nate Heller, is fiction, but you get the real inside info on all the mob guys. And, to prove it, the author has provided a five page bibliography.

Once you've finished True Detective, you can move on the True Crime. And there's five or six more Nate Heller books, each with a bibliography.

Nate Heller is a detective, private or city licenced - either way, it's in his blood, it's what he's good at. In 'True Detective' Max Allan Collins introduces Heller alongside gangsters of the Al Capone and Frank Nitti era in the windy city and hot beaches of Florida. The events that take place in this historical detective mystery compound Heller's desire for justice and unwillingness to flinch at even the toughest opponents while tiptoeing on either side of the blue line of the law.

I liked the
Sep 26, 2011 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solidly researched, well-written, enjoyable story of rough and tumble Chicago in the 1930s, the era of Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and assorted gangsters, politicians, and ancillary types: molls, boxers, pickpockets, and the like. At first I was afraid the author was getting carried away with local color and authenticity, but I finally realized he had it well under control and it ended up perfectly setting the tone for the story. The story, by the way, is not the conventional rising/falling ...more
At first glance this first Nate Heller novel would appear to be another hard boiled detective story set in Chicago during the 1930's. But what sets it apart is that it's also a historical novel.

The story revolves around actual events and real people. After Al Capone was put in jail by Eliot Ness, Chicago was more or less run by Frank Nitti. The main character, Nate Heller starts out as a cop and gets dragged into the plot by Mayor Cermak to send Harry Lang and Harry Miller to kill Frank Nitti.

Victor Carson
A classic detective novel, apparently re-released in Kindle format this year. Set in 1932/1933 Chicago, in the time of Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Elliot Ness, and the Chicago World's Fair. The story fits well into the historical setting, with the detective, Nate Heller, taking an active role in that history. Unpretentious, with good "street chops," in my opinion. The author, Max Collins, wrote the Dick Tracy comic strip for years and wrote the graphic novel that is the source of the movie "Road to ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Harold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
My first Max Allen Collins. Enjoyable and entertaining, with historical personalities mingling with fictional characters. It's a premise that makes for interesting reading, particularly if the subject matter is familiar.

I didn't see the final twist coming. Did I miss something? Either way it's good reading.
Michael Brown
Sep 24, 2016 Michael Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First in the Heller series. Lots of background story on all the characters. Almost too much at times as it is all folded into the period covered by the main story. Nate is a good cop who is friends with Elliot Ness and Frank Nitti. He is involved in a frame-up so leaves the force and goes private. The A-1 Agency is born and with cases from friends and gangsters he makes his mark in the mid 1930 Chicago scene. A lot of research is found in many Collins books and his Heller series places the chara ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Pamela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am oh-so-very certain that the author spent a lot of time researching Chicago and the era. Why am I certain? Because he will NOT shut up about it. Seriously, how many tiles on how floors of how many buildings is it necessary to describe? And the clothes--the only thing more annoying than the incessant blathering on about the architecture was the incessant blathering on about the clothes. Every article that every character wore had to be described in detail.

Gimme a break with the main characte
Jul 15, 2013 HBalikov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a top flight "hard case" historical fiction noir. If you are so far following me, you may recall my recent review of Collins' collected Nate Heller short stories, Chicago Lightning. This current book is where it all began, back in Chicago in the early 1930s.

Very quickly, this book covers a critical period in history:
The ending of prohibition
The election of Franklin Roosevelt
The World's Fair of 1933

Collins does a masterful job of weaving together the rise of Heller, P.I., with this
Feb 05, 2012 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing historical detective novel! Collins uses the backdrop of 1930s prohibition Chicago to tell the story of Nate Heller who leaves the corrupt Chicago police force to become a private detective. This novel was a great mix of fact and fiction. One of Heller's first clients is Al Capone who wants Heller to stop an assassination of the Chicago Mayor Cermak. The book includes many other historical personalities such at Frank Nitti (who took over the Chicago mob after Capone was incarcerated), ...more
Ken Bour
Jun 27, 2014 Ken Bour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prime-lenders
I am hugely attracted to material involving organized crime, gangsters (especially Mafia), detectives, and legal/courtroom drama. This book has it all and was thoroughly enjoyable. I consider it a bonus that, even though it is a work of fiction, it was heavily researched and has historical credibility.

In a word, outstanding!

Max Allan Collins is an exceptional writer and joins my list of favorite authors in this genre.
Feb 05, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book grated on me at first, but I soon came to understand Nathan Heller. This book is told as a stream of consciousness from the perspective of our main character Nathan Heller. I recently read The Big Sleep, and I think the contrast is what turned me off at first. Eventually I came to understand Nathan's perspective, though I did not quite identify his motives. This is a good story, intertwined with actual historical people.
Jan 06, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 1933 Chicago world fair, Eliot Ness, Al Capone, Frank Nitti. Hard Boiled detective novel with real people as characters. Max Allan Collins has it down to a science. I checked this book out of the kindle lending library and would like to thank amazon for that service. If you are a fan of the pulps or Sam Spade type novels you will love this one. Highly recommended
Jun 17, 2017 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not just the first in the Heller series, it is one of the best. Instead of having a hardboiled detective meet an Al Capone type hoodlum, have him meet the real Al Capone in proper historical setting. Meet Nate Heller, who may just be Collins' greatest creation. This is a superb novel with a breadth and depth to place it among the best of the twentieth century classics.

It is a story of drawing lines in a corrupt world, of honesty and trust, and betrayal. It is a coming of age story for a
Ilene Gast
Feb 25, 2017 Ilene Gast rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Visit to Chicago c. 1930

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, due in large part to the careful research that Collins did on his characters and on the times in which they lived. However he also turns a great plot! I can't wait to read another of Collins' books.
Willem van den Oever
1930’s Chicago was the city of Al Capone, Eliot Ness and Frank Nitti; but thanks to Max Allen Collins, it also becomes the city of cop-turned-private op Nathan Heller.
It’s in this city, at this time, still ruled by the Outfit – even though Capone has already been taken out of the picture by Ness – that Nathan Heller, still a plainclothes for the Chicago PD, is set up by a group of corrupt detectives, in an assassination attempt on Frank Nitti’s life. Realising it’s all been a set-up and refusing
Feb 22, 2017 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best detective stories I have read in a long while!

When I started reading this novel, I was immediately caught by the tone and aura of the writing style which draws the reader immediately of those old film noir flicks many of us grew up with - Humphrey bogart, George raft, etc. But as the story progressed, the attention to historical detail intertwined with a very well woven plot, became more and more impressive. I was pleasantly surprised and absolutely this book. Looking forward to
Harold Shaver
Mar 28, 2015 Harold Shaver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical/Mystery/Crime fans
While I have an unending passion for fantasy such as Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" and Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson's seminal "Wheel of Time" series, I also love thrillers such as those turned out supremely by King, Koontz, Patterson, et. al. and of course mystery/crime stories by Hammett, Spillane and the new modern master Max Allan Collins. And of all of these my most favorite is the historical fiction blends of any genre but especially historical/mystery/crime or thriller where it is s ...more
David Williams
Apr 14, 2012 David Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First novel in the Nathan Heller series. Heller is a plainclothes detective on the Chicago police force. The year is 1932. Capone has just been taken down by Elliot Ness and is await appeal. The World's Fair is coming to Chicago. In the middle of all of the young Heller is picked up by two of Mayor Cermack's favorite detectives. They are on their way to roust Frank Nitti, the man who has taken over Capone's business. At least that is what they tell Heller. The two detectives shoot Nitti and try ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
copies from my "True Crime" review...because the series is worth it:

Max Collins has created the coolest private detective ever to have walked the streets of Chicago. I think there are 12-14 books in Collins' Nathan Heller series (all of which stand alone nicely, btw)

Collins does an excellent job of weaving his detective into real-life historical settings starting in the 1930s. He's at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, where he meets Sally Rand. He deals with gangsters ranging from Capone to Nitti a
May 22, 2012 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't give the author much credit for this book, although perhaps the series as a whole offers a better glimpse into his ability to create original plots and characters. The prohibition era in Chicago, the book's setting, is so obviously interesting that the author's biggest challenge was not to mess up the telling of it. The stories of Elliott Ness, Capone, Nitty, Reagan, Cermak, and many other characters of major and minor importance to the plot are also well-documented; the author just had ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Gmaharriet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story, nicely written. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was that every so often he'd write something that seemed to be an anachronism. I'll only give one example.

The story was set in the early 1930's, beginning just before FDR was sworn into office. He was describing an area of Chicago which he said was similar to Greenwich Village in NYC. He said that you could sometimes see two women walking down the street openly holding hands as an indication of openly lesbian women. That wou
Oct 25, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is the first of the Nate Heller series written by Max Allan Collins. It's a historical novel that takes place in 1930's Chicago at the end of prohibition. The book is an interesting weave of historical fact and fiction. There are several historical figures of note that appear in the book, including Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Elliot Ness, Ronald "Dutch" Reagan and FDR to mention a few.

Nate Heller is a Chicago cop that has seen and been involved with too much. He wants out and wants to pursue h
Liam Dodd
Apparently people like these books, a lot, seeing as there are 19 in this bloody series. Maybe some of them get better, but this was not a great introduction to the series.

At the 50% mark, which is nearly 250 pages to note, I was seriously wondering why I would even want to read any more, but I stuck it out because I had put the time in already and I am not a quitter. It did get marginally better, but not for any reason under the writer's direct control. It begins to reference, and become involv
Aug 14, 2013 Claudine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
I've been indulging in a lot of noir-ish stories lately, but this one is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Peter Grant.

This book, being 30 years old, is not quite a classic, but pretty near to. The blurb that described it to me gave me the impression that it was a noir detective story, but I would classify it more as historical fiction. The hero takes part in real events, and interacts with real people. You have to remind yourself every so often that there is some creative license here, b
Feb 29, 2016 Austin rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, audiobook
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Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2006.

He has also published under the name Patrick Culhane. He and his wife, Barbara Collins, have written several books together. Some of them are published under the name Barbara Allan.

Book Awards
Shamus Awards Best Novel winner (1984) : True Detective
Shamus Awards Best Novel winner (1992) : Stolen Away
Shamus Awards Best Novel nom
More about Max Allan Collins...

Other Books in the Series

Nathan Heller (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • True Crime (Nathan Heller, #2)
  • The Million Dollar Wound (Nathan Heller, #3)
  • Neon Mirage (Nathan Heller, #4)
  • Stolen Away (Nathan Heller, #5)
  • Carnal Hours (Nathan Heller, #6)
  • Blood and Thunder (Nathan Heller, #8)
  • Damned in Paradise (Nathan Heller, #9)
  • Flying Blind (Nathan Heller #10)
  • Majic Man (Nathan Heller, #11)
  • Angel in Black (Nathan Heller, #12)

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“they maybe didn’t deserve respect, exactly, but I knew enough to give them some.” 1 likes
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