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Nolan Books In Order

Publication Order of Nolan Books

Bait Money (1973) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Blood Money (1973) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Fly Paper (1981) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Hush Money (1981) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Hard Cash (1981) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Scratch Fever (1982) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Spree (1987) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Mourn the Living (1988) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Note: Chronologically, Mourn the Living is the first book written by Max Allan Collins in this series. It’s also the first book Max wrote in the series although it was published last.

The Nolan series are a series of crime thriller by Max Allan Collins, one of the most respected mystery crime and detective crime fiction writers ever to come from the US. The first novel in his Nolan series was “Bait Money” that Collins first published in 1973 to much critical acclaim. The novel, which introduced the lead character Nolan, was so popular that it spawned seven more titles in the series, the last of which was “Mourn the Living”, published in 1999. Collins did not mind writing a one off novel featuring a character inspired by the writing of another author. However, the popularity of the first novel made it necessary to make it a series and getting permission from Stark, he did just that. Nolan the lead character in the series is an aging criminal who needs one last heist before retiring from a life of crime. The underlying theme of the novels in the series is a constant struggle of the criminal to get out of the game, but finding that their past life keeps catching up to them and pulling them back in. Alongside Nolan is Jon, a twenty-one year old criminal who is something of an apprentice to the older criminal, who assists in perpetuating his crimes. According to the author, the Nolan series was a response to the times. With everyone in the 1960s writing about cop and private detective heroes, he decided to go against the grain to write about the life of the criminal.

While his actions seem like that of a private detective, Nolan is nothing of the sort. He is a professional thief and tough guy, who is always looking to retire only for something to turn up making retirement impossible. In appearance, he is tall and bony, with black hair tinged with gray, marked cheekbones, mustache, and ripped eyes that give him a thuggish look. He is stingy and drives second hand cars, spends little money in hotels as he is in the process of saving up to start his own business. Nonetheless, he is not averse to some kindness, as he will sometimes put his criminal skills to help his friends that are in some kind of trouble. Alongside the old criminal is Jon, his twenty one year old sidekick who just like him has a love for comic books and rock “n” roll. When we are first introduced to the character, he has quit the mob, which is looking to kill him for desertion and theft of a significant sum of money. For twenty years of his life, Nolan has robbed and broken into armored cars, jewelers, and banks with impunity. What is most intriguing about the character is that he has never been to prison, as he is so clever that despite being a well-known criminal, he has never been placed at the scene of any crime. He credits his success in avoiding law enforcement to his decision to play cards and billiards rather than engaging in gambling and drinking. Over the course of the series, he goes from running from the mob to working for them, and finally retiring from crime to run his own motel in Sycamore, Illinois at age 50.

Even though Max Allan Collins asserts that the Nolan series are written in order, it is not necessary to read them in sequence, as it is easy to follow each novel on its own. Nolan struggles and for some time manages to get off a life of crime and into legitimate business. However, his is a hollow victory as he finds that now he has the opportunity to enjoy life; it is not as exciting as he hoped he would. The series of novels is thus the story of Nolan and Jon that live in some type of semi-retirement, as their past will never allow them to live the normal lives of normal businesspersons. For most of the series, Jon and Nolan are some type of Batman and Robin as they engage in bank heists, parking meter break-ins, and robberies to make things right with the mob and old enemies. Even as they engage in all manner of criminal activity from book to book, the series is one long saga that culminates with Nolan running his own hotel even as he finds himself forced back into crime because of the action of his arch nemesis. With some gritty elements interspersed with zany humor, the novels make for some thrilling reads.

“Bait money” is the first page-turner of a novel in the Nolan series of novels. The old-fashioned crime fiction is set in the Iowan Midwest during the seventies, and combines doses of humor with fast-paced action. It is the story of Nolan who once used to freelance for the Mob, before a falling out that had seen him placed on their hit list. Running from the Mob, he takes small jobs organized by a man known as the Planner. However, he is still trying to make a truce with the Mafia, who ask that he do a bank heist for them if he wants to get back into their good graces. With no one willing to work with him, Planner sets him up with a nondescript bunch of stoned out long haired hippies from the local college. This is just the beginning of his partnership with Jon, a twenty-one-year college kid and nephew to the Planner, who is helping him rob the bank. Most of the novel is about the logistics of a daring of a daylight bank robbery and Nolan’s ultimate date with fate when he meets with Charlie his arch nemesis.

“Blood Money” sees Nolan finally make it off the Mob’s hit list after successfully pulling off the bank robbery and getting 750 million dollars for himself. He did not come out of his confrontation with Charlie unscathed as his nemesis had double-crossed him and put a few bullets in him. Now that he had finished his business with the Mob, he can retire from a life of crime and run a nightclub, which is all he ever wanted to do. Given that he was getting along in age, he thought that running a motel for the mob was a good idea. He passed the test and ran the motel to profitability, earning himself part ownership and a salary to boot. However, before he can transfer the money to the mob to get his stake, Planner who is his banker is killed and the money taken from him, He knows there could only be one suspect – his archenemy Charlie. Though he manages to get one over Charlie, he may just be forced to go back to a life of crime to survive.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Nolan
  • Max Allan Collins

    This is very nice and I’m grateful. Two things of note: though it was published last, MOURN THE LIVING was the first Nolan novel, written when I was in community college. It’s chronologically first, too, and Jon doesn’t appear in it. Also, Nolan has no stated first name — “Frank” is a name that appeared on the first two covers of the original Curtis Books editions, just something added by a copy writer who thought he remembered that being the character’s name. it isn’t.

    • Hi Max,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Love your books!

      I’ve updated and removed the references to “Frank”. How that happened is the writers we have aim to write both for the reader and for the search engines – so they look to see what keywords are associated with a writer and factor those in. So they saw people searching for “Frank Nolan” as well and put that in. I do apologize for that and I’ve fixed the text on the page and will fix the URL soon. I’ve also added the note about the chronological order.

      Thanks again for mentioning that and I do apologize about that mistake.

      • Max Allan Collins

        No apologies necessary, but I appreciate the revision. That “Frank” thing has haunted Nolan from the start!