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True Detective (Nathan Heller #1)

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  969 Ratings  ·  88 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 slicing wit. That’s why mystery fans and critics alike rank the historical thriller True Detective at the top of their lists —and why the book swept up a Shamus Award for best novel from the Private Eye Writers of Ameri ...more
Kindle Edition, 482 pages
Published (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,862)
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Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
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.
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.

Aug 09, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
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
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.

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
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
Oct 16, 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.
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
Harold Shaver
Apr 03, 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
Ken Bour
Aug 10, 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.
Mar 05, 2015 HARRY L WINTERS rated it it was amazing
Possibly the Best Private Detective I've Read!

The author's in-depth historical research is so detailed and accurately used, this story reads as if it actually happened. It is very plausible in all of it's events, actions and conclusions. Though seemingly slow at it's outset, the action picks right up as the author builds each character's personality using their recent past history to colorfully illustrate how each scenario plays out. The main character, Nate Heller is a tough but wise cop that l
Liam Dodd
Apr 20, 2015 Liam Dodd rated it it was ok
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
Dec 15, 2014 Mac_dickenson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have read this book twice now and really enjoyed it both times. The premise of detective as witness to historical events works really well and the homework the author did really pays off for the reader. Many of the classic detective tropes are here and Collins handles them with enough finesse to keep the reader guessing.

My sole criticism of this book is that it's a bit long-winded at times in a way that drags the pace down a bit and could have benefited from some editing in that regard. Having
Peter Kalin
Nov 30, 2015 Peter Kalin rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised at how well this book read and how much I enjoyed the twist Collins employed at the end of the novel. I am late, as usual, to the party on Collins books, having not read a lot of mystery/crime fiction in a number of years and was glad to find an author whose depths I haven't plumbed as of yet and look forward to doing the same. Some of the exposition in this book goes on for a very long time and is not particularly elegant in execution, but that is ultimately a minor q ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's say three and a half stars; this is a hard book to rate. It's, as warned, historical fiction (not at all, IMO, noir) and while very interesting and very well written, seems a tad long, has no real story line (think tied together anecdotes) and the main character doesn't seem anywhere near interesting enough to warrant an 18-book series. Nathan Heller is at best a very peripheral player who happens to more or less accidentally get close to the Frank Nitti's, Al Capone's and Eliot Ness' of D ...more
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
Nov 06, 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
Jul 23, 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
May 30, 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
Jun 16, 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
Aug 14, 2013 Claudine rated it really liked it
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
David Williams
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
Feb 05, 2016 Jeff added it
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.
Lauren Kogan
Jan 27, 2015 Lauren Kogan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love Nathan Heller series. It does seem a little cheesy at times when the same character gets involved in all famous cases all over the world and finds a love interest everywhere, but this is part of the genre. I learn a lot about historical accounts I was not familiar with. The character is very likable and pleasant to be around. I found myself missing his company and picking up another book in the series.
Nov 01, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I generally avoid historical fiction, preferring to read either real history books or purely fictional stories. This book worked for me though, for two reasons. One, it is very well researched, and two, the fictional protagonist is so well developed. The events in this book are for the most part true, and the way the fictional detective Nathan Heller is inserted in the story is entirely believable. The reader should overlook the extreme coincidences of encountering so many historical figures in ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 1930's Chicago setting is nicely done and obviously well researched. The fictional characters are interwoven nicely with the non-fictional characters. The story is kind of meh and I predicted the "twist" somewhat early on. I got this on an audible daily deal and it's outside my usual interests so I don't feel fully qualified to judge it as a PI novel.
Jonathan Sweet
Mar 20, 2014 Jonathan Sweet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've never read one of Max Allan Collins' Nate Heller books, you're missing out on one of the great detective series out there. Throughout the series (This is the first) Heller interacts with historic figures from Frank Nitti to Marilyn Monrow (in Bye Bye Baby, the most recent).
If you enjoy history and mystery, you can't go wrong with the Heller series.
Julie Davis
I have been reading Brandywine Books' reviews of Max Allan Collin's mysteries for some time and finally pulled some samples onto my Kindle to try out. Imagine my pleasure at finding that the first one is available to Amazon Prime members as a monthly loan. Liking what I read so far, I borrowed it and am carrying on from where the sample ended. More as I go, I 'm sure.

Halfway through and increasingly disenchanted with the book. Is it that practically everyone he meets is famous (or infamous
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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 19 books)
  • True Crime (Nathan Heller, #2)
  • The Million Dollar Wound (Nathan Heller, #3)
  • Neon Mirage (Nathan Heller, #4)
  • Dying in the Post-War World (Nathan Heller Short Stories, Volume 1)
  • Stolen Away (Nathan Heller, #6)
  • Carnal Hours (Nathan Heller, #7)
  • Blood and Thunder (Nathan Heller, #8)
  • Damned in Paradise (Nathan Heller, #9)
  • Flying Blind (Nathan Heller #10)
  • Majic Man (Nathan Heller, #11)

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“they maybe didn’t deserve respect, exactly, but I knew enough to give them some.” 1 likes
“for work these days; nobody had been hired in janitorial” 0 likes
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