Well, I absolutely loved "A Wreath for Marley" the Christmas novella in
BLUE CHRISTMAS AND OTHER HOLIDAY HOMICIDES by Max Allan Collins. (Five Star, 2001)
Collins was having a bad day on Thanksgiving Eve 1992. The Chicago Tribune Syndicate has just cancelled his fifteen-year writing stint of the Dick Tracy comic strip. Putnam dropped his Nathan Heller crime noir series although STOLEN AWAY (1991) his latest of the series won the "Shamus" award for best PI novel of the year. It was a rather bleak holiday season but Collins wrote some short stories including "A Wreath for Marley."
"Wreath" is a 40-page novella. This first story is listed on Collins' website as adding "intrigue to a tradional Christmas tale." But it's really a Dashiell Hammett Christmas Carol!
The story opens at a 1942 Christmas Eve party at the office of one Richard Stone, P.I. in Chicago, Illinois.It's one year since Stone's partner Jake Marley has been murdered. That night Marley's ghost appears to Stone in a trench coat heavily shackled demanding "Solve my murder...keed." Later a nappily-dressed John Dillinger takes Stone back to a 1930's Christmas morn complete with plum pudding and mincement pie. They skip ahead to young Dickie Stone's father sitting in a modest farmhouse to ward off the bank foreclosure with a rifle. And a vision of a dead WWII soldier, a rhinestone and white leather zoot suited King warbling "A Blue Christmas," and finally a confrontation with Marley's killer.
Stone is softened and spends a happy Christmas day with his cutie-pie secretary and relieves his fresh-faced young partner of his divorce-dick duties.
The book will make a great gift for your favorite Max Allen Collins/Dashiell Hammett fan!