And Nolan is badass. Intended by his creator, Max Allan Collins, as a derivative of Donald Westlake's Parker (who was personified on film by Lee Marvin in the great POINT BLANK and by Mel Gibson in PAYBACK), Nolan (no first name) is a hard-bitten 50-year-old professional thief trying to get back on his feet after an enemy in the Mafia discovers the false name he's been using. Charlie, the Chicago Mafioso still holding a grudge after Nolan killed his brother fifteen years earlier, promises not to squeal on Nolan to the FBI for a fee of $100,000. The catch is that it has to be new money, not cash from Nolan's bank accounts, and he has one month to deliver. So, it's one last heist for Nolan. Since none of his former associates will work with him, now that he's on Charlie's shit list, he recruits a trio of idealistic twentysomethings, including a fresh-faced comic book collector named Jon, to pull an Iowa City bank job.
Nolan is a great character, intended by Collins as a mixture of "Parker and the Lee Van Cleef character in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE." Collins, who has since become a prolific and quite famous author of novels, adaptations, comic books and screenplays, was just 19 when he began the Nolan series with MOURN THE LIVING, which went unpublished. BAIT MONEY was first published—barely—in 1973, but it wasn't until Pinnacle bought Collins' Nolan manuscripts and put them out in paperback in 1981 that the book made any kind of splash. According to Collins, Pinnacle was looking for a property to replace Don Pendleton's Executioner, which had been sold to Harlequin.
MOURN THE LIVING finally came out in book form in 1999, and is the eighth in the Nolan series. I look forward to reading the rest of them, if they're as tightly delineated as BAIT MONEY, which crackles with believable dialogue, a clever plot (with an interesting twist near the end concerning Charlie) and the relationship between the loner Nolan and the comic book-loving Jon, obviously a Collins surrogate, even though BAIT MONEY doesn't read like a Mary Sue story.