Ask Not (Nathan Heller Series #15)by Max Allan Collins
Chicago, September 1964. Beatlemania sweeps the nation, the Vietnam War looms, and the Warren Commission prepares to blame a “lone-nut” assassin for the killing of President John F. Kennedy. But as the post-Camelot era begins, a suspicious outbreak of suicides, accidental deaths, and outright murders decimates assassination witnesses. When Nathan
Chicago, September 1964. Beatlemania sweeps the nation, the Vietnam War looms, and the Warren Commission prepares to blame a “lone-nut” assassin for the killing of President John F. Kennedy. But as the post-Camelot era begins, a suspicious outbreak of suicides, accidental deaths, and outright murders decimates assassination witnesses. When Nathan Heller and his son are nearly run down on a city street, the private detective wonders if he himself might be a loose end. . . .
Soon a faked suicide linked to President Johnson’s corrupt cronies takes Heller to Texas, where celebrity columnist Flo Kilgore implores him to explore that growing list of dead witnesses. With the blessing of Bobby Kennedy—former US attorney general, now running for Senator from New York—Heller and Flo investigate the increasing wave of violence that seems to emanate from the notorious Mac Wallace, rumored to be LBJ’s personal hatchet man.
Fifty years after JFK’s tragic death, Collins’s rigorous research for Ask Not raises new questions about the most controversial assassination of our time.
“Collins has not only devised an original take on what may well be the most-written-about crime in history but also made Heller’s role in the case plausible.”
“Target Lancer brings us a different, fact-based assassination scenario, eerily paralleling the Dealey Plaza nightmare.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Collins spins a fascinating tale with appearances by Jack Ruby, Jimmy Hoffa, and Bobby Kennedy. Gripping from the get-go, this will satisfy both Heller fans and assassination wonks ever eager for a new spin on the story.” —Booklist
Praise for Bye Bye, Baby
“Noir meets the History Channel—Collins effortlessly weaves his historical material into a fast-moving narrative.”
“Max Allan Collins can lay claim to being the master of true-crime fiction. . . a seamless juxtaposition of narrative cunning and historical cross-referencing.”
Collins (of Road to Perdition fame) wraps up his trilogy of thrillers on the John F. Kennedy assassination (Target Lancer, 2012, etc.), piling the conspiracy theories nearly as high as the corpses. As the book opens, superbly well-connected detective Nathan Heller nearly becomes one of those corpses himself. It's 1964, a year since JFK was killed, but there's something about the mysterious man who almost ran down Heller and his son in Chicago after a Beatles concert that leads Heller to think the president's death left some unfinished business. As he bounces from Chicago to Los Angeles to Dallas, Heller recalls his own place in JFK's orbit--he was involved in an FBI and CIA plot to take down Fidel Castro, with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby playing bit roles. Soon, he uncovers not just the convoluted plot to kill Kennedy (those who've seen Oliver Stone's JFK will know its rough outline), but an effort to eradicate anybody who might leak how the assassination really went down. In Heller, Collins has mastered the tone of an old-school dick, though the clipped patter sometimes feels like reprocessed Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. (Echoes of Spillane aren't surprising, since Collins has co-authored his books.) And the book often wears its research like a Mafia goon's ill-fitting suit, with characters talking expansively about intricate details of the assassination plot. (The book's pages of acknowledgments are largely filled with citations of conspiracy-theory lit.) More entertaining are Heller's moments with investigative reporter Flo Kilgore, who's working to expose the JFK plot. Their relationship is a fun gender switch, putting Heller in the typical girl Friday role, and their banter about sex and politics gives the narrative a needed spark. No threat to the Warren Commission, but a fun, light foray into alternative history.
Meet the Author
MAX ALLAN COLLINS is the author of the acclaimed graphic novel Road to Perdition (basis for the Academy Award–winning Tom Hanks film) and its sequels. Publication of Ask Not, the concluding novel in Collins's JFK trilogy, marks the thirtieth year of his Nathan Heller mysteries. An independent filmmaker, Collins lives in eastern Iowa.
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In this final volume in the JFK assassination trilogy, Nat Heller is caught up in investigating events in Dallas that November 22nd, drawn into the story behind the murder of the President, when he finds out about a series of suicides and suspicious deaths surrounding the case of Billy Sol Estes, who was famously convicted of fraud. Suddenly he sees a parallel, as witnesses to the event in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza also seem to disappear by suicide, “accidental” death or murder. “Ask Not” follows the previous novel, “Target Lancer,” which recounts an assassination plot against Kennedy in Chicago mere weeks before his murder. Heller, who in the previous entry played a pivotal role in putting together elements of the mafia, CIA and other groups as a go-between in the effort to assassinate the Cuban dictator Castro, now finds himself, and possibly his son and ex-wife, in the cross-hairs in what appear to be an effort to clean up “loose ends” left over from the failed effort called Operation Mongoose. This sad affair presumably gave rise to the theory that Castro was behind the Kennedy assassination. But that does not stop the author from proposing other conspiracy theories as well, including Texas oil men and even LBJ. Mr. Collins researches his novels extensively, and wherever possible uses real life people as characters, including Robert Kennedy or fictionalized persons based on real ones, such as Flo Kilgore, who more than resembles Dorothy Killgallen, columnist and TV personality. Whether or not there is any authenticity to the conspiracies told in the novels, they are always entertaining, and the novel is recommended.