By Max Allan Collins

Together with his cynical humor and knack for prepared social commentary, Chicago PI Nathan Heller narrates this enticing choice of thirteen crime tales according to genuine instances from the Thirties and '40s.

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August 1933 in Chicago was surprisingly cool, unless you were a crook, in which case it was hotter than usual. We were suffering through one of those periodic anti-crime drives the city subjected itself to now and then, and since the Capone/Nitti Outfit got a free pass on its fun and games, small fry like the Blonde Tigress and her “mob” (two male accomplices) got the brunt. Did the Blonde Tigress have a damn thing to do with the policeman who got himself shot in a Cook County courtroom? No. She and her gang of two merely got caught up in the over-reaction when the Honorable John Prystalski, the county’s chief judge, ored all the other judges back from summer vacation to work through the jammed-up docket.

Well, he’s secretary of the Circular Distributors Union. Over the past two years, Mr. ” “Yes. Yes, and now Rooney has demanded that Mr. ” My late father had been a diehard union guy, so I knew a little bit about this sort of thing. “Mr. ” “This one does. They’ve even been outlawed by the AFL, Mr. Heller. Mr. ” “It’s an extortion scam, all right. ” “Our own security staff is stretched to the limit. We’re getting some support from State’s Attorney Courtney and his people. But they can only do so much.

And he actually did get some security work, through a couple of other, larger agencies. But his dream was to be my partner. Owning that Ford made his dream come temporarily true. For two weeks, we’d been living the exciting life of the private eye: sitting in the coupe in front of the Goldblatt’s store at Ashland and Chicago, waiting for window smashers to show. Or not. The massive graystone department store was like the courthouse of commerce on this endless street of storefronts; the other businesses were smaller—re-sale shops, hardware stores, pawn shops, your occasional Polish deli.

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