The Life and Cases of Nathan Samuel Heller
A chronology by Michael Kelley
Formatted by Nathan Collins
Disclaimer: Some plot twists are given away in this chronology! If you have not read some of the books, you may not wish to view this page.
A special thank you goes to Michael Kelley for putting together this great tool for both the readers and for Max.
- Born to Jeanette Nolan Heller and Mahlon Heller, a retired unionist.
- Mother dies after suffering a miscarriage.
- Twenty-four year old Nate Heller argues with his father after applying for a job with the Chicago Police Department. Heller gets the job because his banker uncle knows mayor-to-be Anton Cermak.
- Jake Lingle, a reporter and Al Capone crony is murdered in a crowded subway. Heller, a cop on his beat, chases the killer; almost catching up with him, before he stumbles. A suspect, Leo Brothers, a labor union terrorist on the lam is set up by Capone to take the fall- Capone had Lingle murdered when Lingle cut Capone out of the action, and Officer Heller dutifully identifies Brothers as the man he chased, knowing he isn't. Brothers gets a mysteriously short sentence. Heller is paid off for his cooperation.
- Heller's father shoots himself to death after he discovers what his son did in the Lingle case, and that the money his son gave him for his business was mob-tainted.
- March 4
- Officer Heller spots a suspect in the Lindbergh kidnapping -- a blonde, toting a baby through the LaSalle Street Station. He follows her, gets in a gunfight, only to discover he hasn't found the Lindbergh baby.
- March 5 - April 18
- Heller pal Eliot Ness recommends Nate as a Chicago Police Department liaison, since it is suspected that the kidnapping was a gangland operation. Heller accepts, introducing the reader to all the strange characters that were involved in the Lindbergh case, including psychic Edgar Cayce, and Norman Schwarzkopf's father -- the senior police officer on the case.
- He has lunch with Clarence Darrow who asks his help in the Massie case.
- April 19
- Heller leaves the Lindbergh case, is given leave from the Chicago P.D., and joins Darrow in Honolulu.
- Back in Chicago, Heller is assigned to join Huey Long's security force while the Louisiana demagogue is in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention.
- December 19-22
- The two Harry's pick up off-duty Nathan Heller for a raid on crime boss Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti's headquarters. Nitti is shot in cold blood -- a smoking gun put in his hand, and Heller kills one of the mobsters trying to get away. Nathan is hailed as a hero but quits the police department. Mayor Cermak offers promotions and a large salary increase but Heller wants out. Cermak buys Heller's silence with threats of holding up his private detective license. The A-1 Detective Agency is born.
Heller is approached by former vice-president Charles Dawes, a Chicago insider, who urges him to tell the truth at the Nitti trial (that Nitti was shot in cold blood) to undermine and destroy Cermak. He also tells Heller he needs a detective to head his pickpocket detail at the upcoming World's Fair, which would mean "big bucks" for Heller.
- January 7 - April 8
- Nitti has Cermak's hand-picked gambling mobster boss Ted Newberry killed. Eliot Ness tells Heller that he sees the Newberry killing as a sign of waning Cermak strength with the mob and suggests that telling the truth at the Nitti trial might be easier with Cermak in a weakened position.
Actor George Raft plays middle man for the imprisoned Al Capone who wishes to speak to Heller. Capone tells Heller that Nitti is planning to assassinate Mayor Cermak in Florida, and that the assassin is Jake Lingle's murderer- the man Heller chased in the subway. Heller agrees to try to prevent the assassination and right his wrong by catching the real killer.
A pretty woman Mary Ann Beame hires Heller to find her brother.
Heller goes to Florida and runs into the assassin and FDR. Cermak is shot in the famous supposed attempt on FDR's life.
The Nitti case goes to trial and Heller tells the truth, forever winning Nitti's gratitude, AND cementing his reputation of having mob ties.
- April 9 - June 25
- Heller begins looking for Mary Ann Beame's brother and discovers he's hanging with a well-known pickpocket. Unable to find them -- though he does run into Raft again, and a very young Ronnie Reagan; Heller decides his best bet is to patrol the World's Fair for the pickpocket buddy of Mary Ann's brother, and go from there. . . . At the fair he discovers why he's having such a hard time finding the missing brother, meets an old "friend," and does a wicked Harold Lloyd impersonation.
- Heller is hired by a Chicago department store that's been having its front windows smashed in repeatedly, in a dispute with a local gangster posing as a Union. Stanley Gross, a kid Heller has hired because he owns a car, gets shot to death in front of the department store while he and Heller are casing the joint. Heller becomes part of a stake-out on the Union to capture the killers.
- Earle Wynekoop hires Heller when his mother is arrested for killing his wife.
- July 13 - July 23
- Interrupting Heller's romance with high-class stripper Sally Rand, a traveling salesman, John Howard hires Heller to follow his wife Polly. He suspects she is unfaithful Heller soon discovers that Polly has one boyfriend, in particular, who bears a startling resemblance to gangster John Dillinger. Crossing paths with Justice Department Special Agent Melvin Purvis and mobster boss Nitti, Heller soon comes to feel that his salesman client's honesty may be as suspect as that of his "wife" Polly.
- August 24 - September 1
- Feeling like a duped "horse's ass," Heller broods on his failure to prevent Dillinger's murder, once again in the arms of Sally Rand. His low spirits are set aside when a distraught farmer asks his help in locating his daughter, who, he fears, has fallen into the company of criminals. Heller gets help from Nitti -- a secret identity that will connect him with the criminals in question- who would kill him if they discovered who he was. In the blink of an eye, our hero is hobnobbing with Ma Barker and her boys, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the missing daughter.
A final surprise leaves Heller feeling that his "horse's ass" assessment was probably right on the money.
- Heller testifies in the trial of Bruno Hauptmann.
- March 11 - May 16
- Heller is hired as a bodyguard for Amelia Earhart, who has been receiving threatening letters, but her husband really is interested in determining if his wife is being faithful to him. Heller himself falls for the charming Ms. Earhart, and "Amy" (of course) falls for him.
- August 30 - September 12
- Heller delivers a bulletproof vest to Huey Long. Still impressed with Heller from their 1932 encounter in Chicago, Long offers Heller a job on his security force to prevent an assassination attempt rumored to be imminent.
- November - December
- In L.A. on business, Heller is hired by the beautiful Thelma Todd who believes her life is in danger. Unable to resist her charms or her money, Heller plays "chauffeur" for two months, and like most souls guarded by Nate Heller. . . .
- January 3
- Heller is hired by Mrs. Peacock whose doctor husband has disappeared while making a house call. Philandering is suspected, but a grisly reality unfolds.
- March 13 - April 4
- The governor of New Jersey asks Heller to investigate Bruno Hauptniann's guilt or innocence. Nitti finds out and asks Heller to inform him first if he discovers any evidence that the kidnapping was ordered by Capone as a scheme to get out of prison (by using his influence to "find" the baby and return it safely to the Lindberghs, thereby gaining their gratitude and public accolades). Heller discovers a good many things, including a child who just might be Charles Jr.
Hauptmann is executed.
- Heller has lunch and a "tour" of Amelia Earhart's hotel suite when she visits Chicago on her lecture tour.
- June 9
- Mrs. Joseph Bolton, "Marble Mildred" hires Heller to investigate her husband who she suspects is seeing other women. She doesn't tell Heller that she is crazy.
- June 14
- "The rest of the story" unfolds.
- October 26 - November 10
- Heller is hired by Mutual Insurance to investigate the Huey Long assassination. The widow wants the double indemnity clause instated and the insurance company wants Heller to prove that it was stray bullets from Long's own guards that were responsible for his death.
- March 17 - July
- Amelia begins her journey around the world. Heller is approached by Paul Mantz -- the man Amelia's husband had concerns about, who believes Amelia is involved in government espionage. He believes her friends Eleanor and Franklin have convinced her to equip her plane with cameras and other spy equipment as her flight goes over Japanese territory.
After Amelia disappears, Heller goes to California looking for clues.
- August, beginning on the 17th
- On a missing persons case, Heller visits with pal Eliot Ness and becomes involved in the Butcher of Kingsbury Run murders in Cleveland.
- On another trip to Cleveland to help out his buddy Ness, Heller goes undercover(s) to catch a female bartender who is taking out burial insurance on vagrants and "hastening" them to collection time.
- November 6 - 12
- E.J. O'Hare hires Heller to watch for pickpockets at the racetrack. Heller witnesses O'Hare's murder. Captain Stege, longtime Heller police nemesis, accuses him of being part of the "hit." Heller retreats to the ever-open arms of Sally Rand.
Reporter-columnist. Westbrook Pegler hires Heller to help him expose the illegal operation of Hollywood union boss Willie Bioff. Bioff, in turn, pays Heller to investigate who Pegler has been talking to. For his troubles, Heller earns another audience with Frank Nitti who tells Heller to stay out of his business, or else. Capeesh!
- December 8
- Junk Handlers Union treasurer Jake Rubenstein (later changed to Jack Ruby) enlists Heller's help in saving his union from destruction.
- May 12 - June 4
- Believing that Amelia Earhart is still alive, held captive by the Japanese on the island of Saipan, the Amelia Earhart Foundation asks Heller to fly to Saipan, disguised as an Irish IRA priest, to find and rescue her. He goes.
- Nate is hired by Undersecretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, who crossed paths with him during the search for Amelia, to investigate his wife's paranoid fears.
- May 19 - 22
- Heller goes to Miami Beach to wise up a business associate of Frank Nitti's, a comic who's "blue" act could bring the feds down on him, compromising Nitti's gambling operation in the club he co-owns.
- After a night of drinking and dancing, Eliot Ness drives his automobile into another; takes his injured wife to the hospital -- thereby becoming a hit and run, effectively ending his law enforcement career.
- September - November 9
- Heller gets drunk with buddy/boxing champ Barney Ross and wakes up enlisted in the Marines. He goes through basic and finds himself on Guadalcanal with Ross and actor/marine commander Robert Montgomery. Wounded, Heller loses consciousness as the Japanese close in. . . .
- November 26
- Heller regains consciousness in a Maryland mental institution, St. Elizabeth's.
- February 1
- Heller receives an honorable discharge from the Marines, and is released from the hospital early so that he can testify about Nitti and the mobs connection with the movie unions.
- February 2 - March 20
- Heller returns to Chicago and his business which was in the custody of Detective Lou Sapperstein while Heller was in the Marines and hospital. The Feds urge him to testify in the court proceeding on the mob and the movie industry. Heller, not wanting to get on the wrong side of the wrong people, points out that he recently suffered amnesia after bravely serving his country. Worried about Barney Ross' out of control morphine addiction, Heller uses his mob contacts to dry up Ross' supply, thus both saving and losing a friend- forcing Ross into rehab. . . .
Nitti commits suicide after being deposed by Paul "The Waiter" Ricci.
- Heller is hired by a representative of Sir Harry Oakes, very rich financier and businessman. Never allergic to the prospect of large sums of money, Heller flies to the Bahamas to meet Sir Harry, even though the climate is a little too close to that of Guadalcanal which is still giving him nightmares.
Sir Harry, it turns out, has a no-good son in law who is cheating on his young daughter. He asks Heller to get the proof A $10,000.00 retainer quells any objections, nightmares or not.
The next day Sir Harry is brutally murdered -- his charred remains smoking in bed.
- October 5
- Ricca and company are convicted and sentenced to l0 years without Heller's testimony. Bioff manages to stay out of jail and, with a new identity, becomes a buddy of Senator Barry Goldwater.
- Heller watches over gambling executive James Ragen's niece while Ragen is involved in a lawsuit with mobster Jake Guzik.
- June 24 - August
- Heller is working as a bodyguard for Ragen himself and thwarts an assassination attempt. Ragen's nemesis Jake Guzik asks Heller to tell Ragen he didn't sanction the hit -- that it was Bugsy Siegel.
Heller beats one of his operatives with a rubber hose for setting him up to be on duty when the Ragen hit went down.
- On a break with his fiancée, Heller meets Elizabeth Short -- soon to be known as "The Black Dahlia.".
Another attempt is made on Ragen's life and Heller goes to see Bugsy Siegel.
- Impressed with Heller, Seigel hires him to supervise his pickpocket team for the opening of the Flamingo (casino) in Las Vegas.
Heller is married, impregnating his wife Peggy on their wedding night (as Max believes).
- January 15
- Heller and his new bride, Peggy leave Las Vegas to fly to L.A. for the opening of the L.A. office of his A1 Detective Agency, and for an extended honeymoon in Tinseltown. Here his dalliance with Elizabeth short comes back to haunt him when she tries to blackmail him -- then is found dead, making him a good suspect.
Heller investigates the murder and other suspects which include Arthur Lake (Dagwood) and Orson Welles.
Arranged by their wives, Barney Ross and Heller meet and renew their friendship which had been severed ever since Heller's actions had forced Ross into drug rehab.
- The Hellers return to Chicago.
- Heller again visits the L.A. office, meets Bugsy Seigel again, and accepts an invitation to his house. In front of him, Seigel is murdered and Heller sets out after the murderers.
- Bob Keenan requests Heller's help finding his kidnapped daughter. The daughter is found, a victim of the "Lipstick Killer." Heller's pregnant wife, horrified by the grisly assault, begs Heller to find the little girl's killer.
- September 27
- Heller becomes a father when Nathan Samuel Heller, Jr. is born after twelve hours of labor.
- Heller and Peggy divorce after less than two years of marriage.
- Now the Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, again hires Heller, this time to investigate his own not-all-unwarranted paranoid fears which involves Heller with the likes of Drew Pearson, Harry Truman, activist Teddy Kollek, and the Roswell aliens.
- Hired by Forrestal's enemy Drew Pearson to go to Roswell, New Mexico to investigate the famous UFO landing and how it concerns James Forrestal.
- Forrestal dies in a questionable suicide attempt after a visit with Heller.
- Nate suffers an association with Mayer Harris Cohen -- the infamous Mickey Cohen.
- Heller is hired to be Marilyn Monroe's bodyguard, and through writer Ben Hect he meets the once famous, now drunk and disgusting poet Maxwell Bodenheim (his poem "Death" is where KISSES OF DEATH comes from, and should be read by all -- the book by MAC and the Bodemheim poem). Heller investigates after finding the poet and his wife dead in their hotel room.
- Eliot Ness collapses in his kitchen and dies, a Scotch bottle near at hand; with less than a thousand dollars to his name. Heller kicks in a couple hundred dollars for his funeral costs.
- Heller investigates the death of a baseball trivia question -- Eddie Gaedel, the only midget to play major league baseball.
- Barney Ross dies after losing a bout with cancer.
- February 14
- A Texan, Buddy Busch hires Heller to revisit his memories of Amelia Earhart by returning to the island of Saipan in an attempt to prove the aviator died on the island. Never one to ignore a large retainer, and wanting to settle some old scores on Saipan, Heller agrees to go.
- Heller talks to a writer about the Black Dahlia case and "finds some closure" in the matter.
- Heller is visited by a young man who thinks he was the Lindbergh baby.