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Too Many Bullets


Too Many Bullets

This might have been Nathan Heller’s biggest case yet. And it might have been the one case he most wanted to succeed at but didn’t.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was not just Heller’s client, they were friends. It’s 1968, and Kennedy has just won the California primary. There’s a huge crowd gathered in anticipation of a big celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Beverly Hills. The candidate is beaming his broadest smile as he works the room, shakes hands and signs autographs. Everyone is eagerly watching the results as they trickle in. Heller (dubbed Private Eye to the Stars) normally would be working at his office in Chicago, the main branch of the A-1 Agency, but Kennedy hired him as a bodyguard for this event. There’s just one catch: no one carries a gun. That’s a big ask. Without a gun, Heller feels naked. And rightly so. It turns out to be a fatal mistake.

"Heller does a top-notch job in this case, even if he himself doesn’t believe it. The what-ifs in Max Allan Collins’ riveting novel will keep readers’ minds working overtime."

We all know the outcome of that horrifying evening. A small Arab man named Sirhan Sirhan pulled a gun as Kennedy and his entourage were passing through the hotel’s Pantry toward the exit. What followed was chaos and bedlam. Gunshots rang out as people screamed, dove for the floor and raced to get out of the room. It ended with Senator Kennedy mortally wounded and five others in the crowd shot.

History tells us that Sirhan Sirhan was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Heller was in the room when his friend went down. He watched in horror as the whole scene played out. So he saw it all. But what did he really see? He kicks himself because he failed, at least in his eyes; he let Kennedy down in the worst possible way. It was his responsibility to guard the man’s life, and he didn’t. But it isn’t long before the official narrative put before the public is questioned by some smart people.

Heller tries to calm the rumors but soon realizes that some of what’s being said makes a lot of sense. For example, there were too many bullets fired in that room to have all come from Sirhan Sirhan’s gun alone. That’s a hard one to explain away. In true Heller form, he can’t leave it alone, so he begins digging deeper. Was this way bigger than he could have imagined? Could it have been a conspiracy involving people in very high places?

Naturally, when one pokes one’s nose in where it isn’t welcome, it stirs up a hornet’s nest, which is exactly what Heller does. Just which button did he press that pulled the rug out from under him? Or, more accurately, got him bonked on the head? Was it his brief interview with Howard Hughes? Or maybe his pursuit of Marguerite, the topless dancer? Or the 400-pound Hypnotherapist to the Stars? The cast of characters is mind-boggling here. And the possibilities are staggering.

In the end --- (no) spoiler alert --- Nate Heller gets the girl. Really. He meets a woman in TOO MANY BULLETS who just might be the one. That in itself is a big deal for a famous womanizer like the Private Eye to the Stars. Heller does a top-notch job in this case, even if he himself doesn’t believe it. The what-ifs in Max Allan Collins’ riveting novel will keep readers’ minds working overtime.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on October 28, 2023

Too Many Bullets
by Max Allan Collins