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Terrance McCauley never stops looking for new genres and challenges. He first came to my attention with his his period novel crime novel Prohibition. He then did spy stories and lately has been writing westerns in the finest powder burner tradition. Now he has moved into the historical thriller with Chicago 63'.

He uses an interesting true footnote to the Kennedy assassination. Three weeks before that fateful day in Dallas, Kennedy was to to attend the Army-Navy game in Chicago and a far right ex Marine, Thomas Vallee planned to take him out. Secret Service agents, including Abraham Bolden, one of the first black agents on the protection detail, arrested Vallee, but two Cuban shooters got away due to a botched surveillance.

Chicago 63' starts with those two shooters at a diner, working out their plot that is tied to Vallee and some shadowy operators with the government. When an agent a lot like Bolden, named Golden for literary license, gets a tip, it sets him on a Day Of The Jackal style chase to stop Vallee. As he pursues the killer he unravels something bigger as higher ups and other agencies block his investigation.

Max Allan Collins also used this event for one of the standouts in his Nate Heller series, Target Lancer. That novel appropriated it to depict an epic historical PI novel, featuring every figure involved in the JFK conspiracy he could, including Ruby and Oswald. McCauley keeps it tight, clean, and simple, and under two hundred pages. His plays more like a procedural of Ed McBain's early 87th Precinct policers with a ticking clock and dash of Oliver Stone that doesn't become overwhelming.

Chicago 63' works as a great way to spend an afternoon on the couch with your favorite beverage. The book's reliance on dialogue and technique of both investigator and assassin allow it to move and pop as Golden is pulled into a situation bigger than a simple lone gunman. It's good guys, bad guys, and shady guys.


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