- For the last few years, my wife and I have attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. While we go primarily to see the authors' panels, there is no avoiding the large number of bookstore tents scattered around the UCLA campus. I take a large courier bag with me because I know she will find several books that are too good to pass up. I sigh and roll my eyes and carry that bag around until the end of the day. This year though, I was the one with the giant stack of books, and all but one were from Hard Case Crime. My very understanding wife did not roll her eyes once.
- From that stack, I first dove into Two For The Money by Max Allan Collins. I read his The First Quarry previously and knew I wanted more. Actually, Two For The Money is a compilation of two prior books, Bait Money and Blood Money. As the second book is the sequel to the first, they fit well together, though there is a noticeable style difference between the two. Collins' prose is spare in both cases. The words hurry to get out of the plot's way, which is fitting for this type of novel. That is not a bad thing since the plot is a lot of fun.
- Two For The Money is a story about an thief name Nolan who is getting on in years. They have been long years too since he's been avoided the Chicago mobster who has it in for him. As Bait Money begins, Nolan's cover has been blown and he needs to make one large score to even things with the Mafia. Only since no one will work with him anymore, Nolan has to pull the job with three inexperienced youngsters from another generation. And because Blood Money picks up right after, there's not a lot I can say about it.
- Nolan, an admitted pastiche of Richard Stark's Parker, is a lot more likable than that description would imply. He's might have been a tough guy before, the circumstances at the beginning of the book have set him on his heels. He can't just push around people like the comic book collecting Jon, his new criminal partner. Since they are from different generations, Jon and Nolan don't have much in common. But Nolan becomes an unconventional father figure for the younger man, an act that softens the tough guy even more.
- While I enjoyed his later novel more, there is a lot to like in Two For The Money. Max Allan Collins' work here is enjoyable and I look forward to more.
© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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