Better Dead

March 15th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins
Better Dead

E-Book: Amazon Nook Kobo

The first Nathan Heller novel in three years, BETTER DEAD takes a step back in time from the JFK Trilogy (BYE BYE, BABY; TARGET LANCER; ASK NOT) to deal with the events of the Red Scare-era 1950s.

This book has been coming for a long time. It’s one of the projects that got set aside when it came time for Heller to make a comeback after about a decade away. To get Heller back out there, I proposed the Kennedy trio, a good bet for a sale because of the high-profile nature of the material; a trilogy with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy was appealing. But it meant skipping several things I had planned to do, including a Robert Kennedy/Jimmy Hoffa book that I hope eventually to get around to.

With BETTER DEAD, the tricky thing is that I have two cases for Nate to deal with. Neither seemed right for a single book, but together – with the shared era and a number of common characters beyond Heller himself – the whole just might exceed the sum of its parts.

Joe McCarthy is one of the characters – and factors – that joins the two stories: the Rosenberg “atom spies” case, and the Frank Olson murder. The latter has to do with the Army scientist who was dosed with LSD at a CIA retreat, which had unfortunate results.

Heller is working on the East Coast exclusively this time around – he’s just opened a branch office in the Empire State Building – which puts him right in the heart of Mike Hammer’s world circa 1953. Heller has always had things in common with Hammer, but this time – in this setting – those commonalities come out more prominently. In fact, as the guy completing the Hammer stories from Spillane’s files, I several times questioned whether I’d slipped out of Heller territory and into Hammer. And is that a bad thing? Certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, Heller’s victories can never be as complete as Hammer’s.

Others in the cast include Bettie Page, Dashiell Hammett, Roy Cohn, Bobby Kennedy, and Sidney Gottlieb (the CIA’s Dr. Feelbad).

It’s a wild one. Watch for it May 3rd.

– – –

Check out this cool QUARRY’S LIST review.

MURDER NEVER KNOCKS is a Pierce’s Pick this week!

Here’s a nice review of QUARRY’S DEAL.

And here’s a somewhat late-in-the-game review of DEAD STREET.


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10 Responses to “Better Dead”

  1. Andrew Reiss says:

    Hurray, the return of Heller! Nate was my introduction to the novels of MAC many moons ago (I learned about True Detective and True Crime from the pages of Ms.Tree ).Being a history buff, I’ve always appreciated the ton of research that went into each book (I have to restrain myself from reading Tip of the Fedora before the story!). Best wishes on your rehabilitation (from my experiences Occupational therapists are wonderful at getting results).

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    I always look forward to reading new Nate Heller novels, but this one in particular sounds fascinating. It would be too much to hope for, yet I’ll still be looking in this book for any chance encounters in Manhattan between Nate and a tough guy in a trench coat and fedora who introduces himself as “Mike.”

  3. Greg Daniel says:

    Looking forward to the new Nate Heller, but, book title or not, BETTER DEAD was not the blog headline I expected to see from a guy fresh out of heart surgery. Hope the recovery/rehab is going well.

  4. Max Allan Collins says:

    Thanks for these nice comments.

    This is the last of the pre-done updates. Hope to be back next week with something fresh.

  5. Mike Doran says:

    Jeff Pierce:

    In Nate Heller’s semi-real world, wouldn’t he be more likely to run into a guy in a porkpie hat and sport shirt who answers to “Mickey”?

  6. Tim Field says:

    Can’t wait to read the new Heller. I’ve always found this era fascinating and I know MAC will do his usual excellent job in creating atmosphere, historical accuracy (allowing for poetic license), suspense and mystery.
    Hope you continue to be on the mend.

  7. Eric Harper says:

    I cannot wait!

  8. Sean Kelly says:

    You do more than just about any other author from liberating me from my well-earned salary. (Maybe Joe R. Lansdale comes close). But if you keep writing them, I will keep buying them. I think I just need to place a standing order with Inkwood Books in Tampa.

  9. Paul.Griffith says:

    Looking forward to the new Nate Heller mystery! Just finished MURDER NEVER KNOCKS. Excellent Hammer novel! Ranks right up there with KING OF THE WEEDS which, in my opinion, ranks up there with Mickey’s early Hammer novels! I felt as though I were in my teens reading a new Spillane Hammer! The excitement and the feel of the 60’s was so real I could see it all unfolding before me. Not to mention the dialogue between Hammer and Chambers. You have out done yourself on this collaboration Max, really well written and I couldn’t imagine a better ending. Thank you so much for the effort and, I know, the love you put into your work. Get will soon my friend!

  10. Bob Sproule says:

    So glad to see that your recovery is progressing well. also delighted to see that there will be a new Nate Heller novel soon. Thought I would share my recent blog post on this subject with you. Keep getting better, and THANK YIOU for a new Heller story!