I first became acquainted with the Max Allan Collins character Nolan when Hardcase Crime published the first two novels together as TWO FOR THE MONEY. An homage to Richard Stark’s Parker novels, Collins discussed how the series came about when he’d intended to do only the one and got Westlake’s blessings when more were requested from the publisher. FLY PAPER was the third book and appeared in July, 1981.
An old comrade of Nolan’s named Breen turns up at the late Planner’s shop shot and bleeding. Jon, Planner’s nephew and Nolan’s partner lives there now and Breen had not known of Planner’s death, showing up there for help. Jon calls up Nolan who comes by and patches his old colleague up, though the bullet wounds are serious, not THAT serious.
Breen’s story was that he’d worked with a family of cheap thugs, the Comforts, on a parking meter scam. He hated doing it, but money was short and one of the old man’s sons was in prison so he took a chance. Their game was dressing as parking meter people and making a regular circuit of cities, emptying the meters, leaving enough so that it wasn’t noticeable, and bailing after a time on a city when things might get noticed. Coins, but it added up to several thousand a month. When it came time for Breen’s payoff, the Comforts turned on him and he’d barely escaped with his life, shot up though he ended in making his run.
Nolan was a little short himself. The big heist, three quarters of a million, in which he’d nearly died, was gone up in smoke, retribution from an old enemy. That money, his share, had been meant to buy a share of one of the “Family’s” nightclubs, then run it for sixty thousand a year plus his share of the profits. That was gone and he was stuck with the dull motel manager’s job. These events were chronicled in the two books in the Hardcase Crime release.
So when Breen suggested they knock over the Comforts, Nolan was amenable. Old man Comfort kept a strongbox and there should be two hundred thousand in it, their shares well worth Nolan and Jon’s time.
That was the job. As usual, things don’t go smoothly.
I’m enjoying this series so far, also having read the fourth book, and hope to find the others as I go along. From what I’ve read, Colins gets better in later volumes. I had no problem with these, they were early in his career, and showed a writer honing his chops.