Re: RARA-AVIS: Historical crime writers

Date: 10 Jan 2002


Re your question below:

> In the alternative, does anyone have a favorite
> hard-boiled historical detective writer? The only
> novel I can think of off the top of my head is the
> Eliot Ness book Max A. Collins wrote, which I think
> is
> called TRUE DETECTIVE and which sits in my TBR pile.

Actually, TRUE DETECTIVE featured a PI character named Nate Heller. Eliot Ness did appear, but in a supporting role, analogous to Bernie Ohls in the Marlowe books, or Pat Chambers in the Hammer books
(i.e. the PI hero's best friend in official law enforcement). There have been more than a half-dozen Heller books. The most recent ANGEL IN BLACK, fictionalizes the Black Dahlia case. I haven't read it yet, but it reportedly stands up well to Ellroy's book. As I understand it, Collins suggests a link between the Dahlia case and the officially unsolved
"Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run" case, a serial murder case that occurred in Cleveland during the '30s when Elito Ness was Cleveland's police chief. Ness appears as a character in ANGEL IN BLACK.

Collins DID write a spin-off series of four novels in which Eliot Ness was the lead character and Heller occasionally appeared in a supporting role. These books, beginning with THE DARK CITY, are set during Ness's tenure as Cleveland's Director of Publis Safety. The best book in the Ness series, BUTCHER'S DOZEN, fictionalizes the Kingsbury Run murders and is something of a "prequel" to ANGEL IN BLACK.

Another great historical crime novel is PORK CITY by Howard Browne (author of the post-war Paul Pine PI series), which fictionalizes the investigation into the murder of Chicago newspaperman Jake Lingle. The hero is Pat Roche, a real-life DA's Investigator who was actually assigned to the case. Browne actually lived in Chicago during the Lingle investigation.

There are plenty of other historical or period HB crime novels as well.


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