Triple Play

Written by Max Allan Collins
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Nate Heller’s cases involve known historical murders which the Chicago private detective solves and resolves. The first of the three novellas in this collection, “Dying in the Postwar World,” changes the names, but the child murder for which William Heirens was imprisoned from 1947 until his death in 2012 was the obvious inspiration for a tale of a rush to judgment in a city horrified by the murder of a little girl. “Kisses of Death” blends the unsolved murder of beatnik poet Maxwell Bodenheim with a benefit in his honor held in a Chicago restaurant/art gallery, attended by Marilyn Monroe. Heller relates how he was Marilyn’s bodyguard, violating client confidentiality by kissing and telling, but who wouldn’t? In “Strike Zone” Bill Veeck hires Heller to investigate the death of the midget Eddie Gaedel, whom Veeck had once inserted as a pinch hitter in order to use his short stature to get a base on balls. Gaedel was known to be a mean drunk which may or may not have led to his death in an apparent street beating.

An interesting preface to the collection discusses the rarity of short fiction, particularly the novella, as magazines such as Redbook have disappeared. Collections of novellas like the ones Rex Stout used to publish are rarely seen. Collins, a former collaborator of Mickey Spillane, provides the reader with short, punch-packed mysteries that may make some readers regret the passing of the form.