Showing posts with label Nolan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nolan. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Nolan #03 - Fly Paper

Max Allan CollinsNolan series is his pastiche of Richard Stark’s Parker series. The third novel in the chronology was Fly Paper written in 1973 but not published until 1981. The book has recently been repackaged by Hard Case Crime in a twofer marketed as Double Down.

For the uninitiated, Nolan is a hard-nosed thief who makes a living pulling heists that inevitably run into problems. Much of this book’s focus is on Jon, Nolan’s comic book collecting sidekick. The action kicks off with a colleague named Breen, who has a good thing going with a parking meter rip-off scam. Breen was working the coin theft organized by the redneck Comfort family before those hillbillies shot and double-crossed Breen landing him squarely in Nolan and Jon’s orbit.

This leads to a plan to rip off the Comfort family in a heist-the-heisters kinda deal. The action moves from Iowa to Detroit in the shadow of a large comic book convention. The heist itself is really a side-dish in the paperback with the main course being the commercial airline getaway that is interrupted by a skyjacking.

Between 1961 and 1972, there were 159 skyjackings in American airspace with the majority between 1968 and 1972. It was a vexing criminal social contagion without a clear solution - similar to the problem America currently faces with mass shootings. Collins draws upon this phenomenon as the backdrop of Fly Paper when a married guy plans a D.B. Cooper style airplane heist with a parachute getaway.

When Nolan and Jon are coincidentally on the plane as the dude takes control of the jet, the plotting and action soar. These are the best scenes in a book I’ve read in ages. The creativity at work with the dilemma facing Nolan and Jon sets Fly Paper apart from other heist novels of the paperback original era.

Fly Paper is also unquestionably the best of the first three Nolan novels. The inclusion of Jon as a sidekick gives the book its own identity rather than just being a cover song from a Richard Stark Tribute Band. The skyjacking storyline was brilliant, and everything about his slim paperback leaves the reader wanting more. Highest recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Nolan #01 - Bait Money

The Nolan series by Max Allan Collins lasted for nine installments stretching between 1973 and 2021 with some sizable gaps in there. The books are a pastiche of the Parker series by Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark written with Westlake’s blessing. Hard Case Crime has reprinted the first two installments in one volume called Two for the Money, but I’m starting with the opener, Bait Money from 1973.

As we meet Nolan, he’s a 48 year-old professional heist man recovering from a bullet wound with a dame while feeling sorry for himself. Sixteen years ago, Nolan made enemies with a mid-level Chicago mobster named Charlie, and he’s been dodging and catching bullets from the guy ever since. Through an intermediary, Nolan attempts to broker a truce with Charlie so he can retire from the heist business in peace and run a nightclub without looking over his shoulder.

Finding peace with Charlie comes with a price of $100,000, and the only way to get that kind of cash is to pull one more job. Nolan teams up with three amateurs (always a mistake in heist fiction) to knock over a bank in Davenport, Iowa. Collins populates the paperback with an outstanding supporting cast of underworld characters and bumbling wannabes. The heist planning section is particularly rewarding, and the robbery and aftermath both contain many Grade-A action set pieces.

Overall, Nolan is a more vulnerable character than Stark/Westlake’s stoic Parker, but the differences really worked well. The story structure was similar, and I can’t imagine anyone liking one series and not liking the other. I’m told that Bait Money flows nicely into the second book, Blood Money, so I’m excited to dive back in for more Nolan action.

Addendum: The Nolan Novels in Order

  • Bait Money (1973)    
  • Blood Money (1973)
  • Fly Paper (1981)
  • Hush Money (1981)
  • Hard Cash (1981)
  • Scratch Fever (1982)
  • Spree (1987)
  • Mourn the Living (1999)
  • Skim Deep (2021)

Buy a copy of the first two Nolan novels HERE

Monday, April 26, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 88

On Episode 88 of the Paperback Warrior podcast, Tom and Eric have a heart to heart conversation about the future of the podcast. We also re-visit the life and literary work of Frank E. Smith, the Gothic paperback craze of the 1960s & 1970s, new Stark House Press releases, and Tom's secret work life is finally revealed! Listen on any podcast app, stream below or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 88: The Secret Life of Frank E. Smith" on Spreaker.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 36

In Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 36, our field correspondent witnesses a book purge at a legendary bookstore. Who got the axe? We discuss big news regarding Max Allan Collins’ Nolan books and a vexing problem concerning John Boland’s Gentlemen series. Eric reviews a Doc Savage book by Philip Jose Farmer, and Tom covers The Captain Must Die by Robert Colby. Stream below on your favorite podcast app. Direct downloads HERE:

Listen to "Episode 36: Max Allan Collins' Nolan" on Spreaker.