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Skim Deep


Skim Deep

I can think of few better ways to usher in a year than cracking the binding on a new book by Max Allan Collins. SKIM DEEP is the latest installment in his long-running Nolan series --- the first in over three decades --- and is one of his best novels ever.

Collins is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. If you have never read a word of his before diving into SKIM DEEP, you will acquire a deep appreciation of why. It is an instant noir classic from an author who has made a career of writing them. While readers may be most familiar with ROAD TO PERDITION or perhaps his turn long ago on the Dick Tracy comic strip, many point to the Nolan series as their personal favorite.

Nolan (one name only) is a career criminal with a skill set to match. However, SKIM DEEP finds him (six months after the events in 1987’s SPREE) immersed in the straight and narrow. Nolan owns a popular and successful night club and is keeping exclusive company with Sherry, a somewhat younger woman who used to be employed by Nolan as a waitress.

"SKIM DEEP contains everything that aficionados of noir crime fiction love, including sex, violence, gunshots and double-crosses."

Collins wraps one story around another when Nolan uncharacteristically proposes to Sherry. They almost immediately leave their familiar midwestern environs for Las Vegas, not knowing that events related to his past are about to catch up with him. The aging matriarch of a criminal family that Nolan all but decimated is setting a plot in motion to take her bloody revenge upon him and is planning to use her sole remaining son --- a bank officer --- to do it.

Ensconced in Las Vegas in newly wedded bliss with Sherry, Nolan is unaware of this but faces a different set of problems. First, he is mistaken for a grifter --- an understandable error given his appearance and demeanor --- but then he becomes embroiled in a casino skim operation simply by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he will find his way clear of that situation, but what is waiting for him at home in the form of a highly motivated revengeful mother’s son may be worse. Since Nolan is in Las Vegas for a good deal of the book, it’s okay to bet…and wise to do so on Nolan. Such is Collins’ skill as an author that he makes the journey an absolute joy for the reader, so much so that it eclipses the destination.

SKIM DEEP contains everything that aficionados of noir crime fiction love, including sex, violence, gunshots and double-crosses. Readers no doubt will want more, and Hard Case Crime is obliging by collecting and reissuing the other books in the series in four volumes --- TWO FOR THE MONEY, DOUBLE DOWN, TOUGH TENDER and MAD MONEY --- over the next several months. But don’t wait to read SKIM DEEP, which is available right now.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 8, 2021

Skim Deep
by Max Allan Collins