Friday, December 1, 2023

The Inconvenience of Abundance

It was while I was putting together a rather lengthy Rap Sheet interview with Iowa fictionist Max Allan Collins, most of which had to do with his new historical crime novel, Too Many Bullets (Hard Case Crime), that I realized just how many book fronts featuring those words “too many” can be found in my computer files.

Too Many Bullets, the cover of which is displayed atop this post (with art by Paul Mann), is the fifth entry* in a sort of mini-series within Collins’ string of 19 novels starring hard-boiled, Chicago-based private investigator Nate Heller, all of them in some way featuring John F. Kennedy and/or his younger brother Robert F. Kennedy. Bullets imagines the ubiquitous Heller on hand at Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Kennedy’s 1968 slaying in Los Angeles, and then follows him as he endeavors to untangle a conspiracy meant to pin that headline-grabbing tragedy on “lone gunman” Sirhan Sirhan.

When I typed “too many” into the search window of my computer’s Picasa image viewer, looking from the jacket of Too Many Bullets—surprise!—more than one cover came up. Not just Collins’, but also the fronts from 10 other novels, none of which I remembered downloading or storing away for future use. There was the 1962 Bantam paperback cover of Rex Stout’s Too Many Clients (with art by Bill Johnson), as well as the fronts from two other Stout works: Too Many Cooks (Dell, 1951; art by Robert Stanley) and Too Many Women (Bantam, 1949; art by Hy Rubin). In addition, I found Too Many Murderers, by Manning Lee Stokes (Graphic Mystery, 1955; illustration by Clyde Ross); One Murder Too Many, by George Harmon Coxe (Pyramid, 1967; artist unidentified); Too Many Beds, by “Tony Calvano,” aka Thomas P. Ramirez (Nightstand, 1961; artwork by Harold W. McCauley); Too Many Sinners, by Sheldon Stark (Ace, 1954; artist unidentified); Too Many Crooks, by Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal, 1956, featuring a Barye Phillips illustration); Too Many Women, by Milton K. Ozaki (Handi-book Mystery, 1950; artist uncredited); and finally the third Too Many Women tucked into in my files, this one by Gerry Martin (News Stand Library, 1950; art by Syd Dyke).

There are probably still more vintage books to be found with such titles. I shall add to this post as I stumble across them.

* The previous four books were Bye Bye, Baby (2011), which found Heller probing “blonde bombshell” Marilyn Monroe’s sexual involvement with both Kennedy siblings, at the same time as he sought to determine whether it was really suicide that sent the actress to her grave in 1962; Target Lancer (2012), which revisited a plot to do away with President Kennedy in Chicago in 1963—even before his tragic public slaying in Dallas, Texas; Ask Not (2013), about a succession of suspicious deaths in 1964, involving witnesses to President Kennedy’s assassination; and Better Dead (2016), in which Heller got better acquainted with Bobby Kennedy, while he investigated the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a New York City couple convicted of espionage for having reportedly leaked U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.

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