Target Lancer

Written by Max Allan Collins
Review by Janice Derr

The novel opens with Nathan Heller, Chicago native, private investigator and owner of the A-1 Detective Agency, providing security for a man making a money drop. Heller is no stranger to doing a little security work on the side, but what makes this job particularly notable is that the money drop is for Jimmy Hoffa. At the drop site Heller runs into an old acquaintance, Jack Ruby, and Jack’s friend Lee. Before he knows it, Heller is hired by the Secret Service to help investigate a potential assassination attempt on President Kennedy during his upcoming visit to the Windy City.

Interestingly, this book does not take place in Dallas, as one might expect.  Rather, it deals with a real attempt that was made against the President just one month before his fateful trip there. Collins has gone to great lengths to research the topic and include real players.  Besides Hoffa, Ruby, and Oswald, famous fan dancer Sally Rand makes an appearance, as does Robert Kennedy. Collins has also included an African-American Secret Service agent who struggles with racial discrimination within the agency.  This character is based on Abraham Bolden, who was the first African-American Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President – which gives the reader a sense of the racial tensionTarget Lancer is Collins’s fourteenth Nathan Heller novel, but one need not have read the previous books in this series to enjoy this story; it easily stands on its own. It will appeal to hardboiled detective fans and Kennedy buffs. Recommended.