Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Well, There You Are!! Hard Case Crime to Return

Got the best news of the month today, no joke.  It's been that kinda month.  Heck, it's been that kinda year!

Charles Ardai, publishing honcho and sherpa guide to great old (and some great new) paperback mysteries and thrillers, emailed me (and undoubtedly a few thousand of his closest friends) to say that Hard Case Crime is not dead.

For those who haven't been keeping up with such things, Hard Case's publishing partner, Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books told the world that paperbacks were a waste of time (i.e.: money) and that they were bailing out on the whole print side of the industry.  They think that we want our "reads" electronically, and that we'd prefer to forgo the tactile and aromatic experience that comes with reading paperbacks -- especially our beloved older paperbacks.  All of that, really, is just a collection of code words.  Leisure is tinkling in our collective ear and telling us it's just rainwater.  Fact is, they couldn't cut it.  Business got too tough in this lousy economic environment and they are pulling the old ripcord.  Ah, heck, who knows?  Maybe they are truly at the vanguard of the coming brave new world.  Maybe.  Ha-ha-ha-ha!

Anyway, their sudden pull-out (don't get me started on how un-sudden it really was) left Hard Case Crime in the lurch.  Or it did as far as readers were concerned.  The planned for titles from Christa Faust (Choke Hold) and Max Allan Collins (Quarry's Ex) appeared to be themselves in a choke hold.  Bad enough distribution of Leisure titles historically has been spotty and that Hard Case Crime titles were often just bunched on a shelf somewhere in the mystery section and that the whole line seemed to be fading away.  Now the promised last few titles were being held in publishing limbo.

Not so any longer.  Here's what Mr. Ardai had to say ...
Hi, Steve --

Thought you might be interested in this news about Hard Case Crime ...

We've got some big news to announce today: After a year's hiatus, Hard Case Crime will be returning to bookstores with new titles in 2011, thanks to a deal we just signed with UK-based Titan Publishing.

Titan is a publisher both of fiction and of gorgeous art books focusing on pop culture such as movie poster art, pin-ups, newspaper comic strips, and Golden Age comic books, and has worked with filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, and George Lucas. Titan has been around for 30 years, has more than 200 employees, and in addition to publishing books also has a magazine division, a retail division (Titan owns the famous Forbidden Planet bookstore in London, and until recently co-owned the Murder One mystery bookstore with Maxim Jakubowski), and a merchandise division that produces items such as t-shirts, sculptures, and accessories. We look forward to exploring ways we might develop some cool Hard Case Crime products with them!

But first things first: books.

Hard Case Crime will relaunch in September/October 2011 with four new books, including CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust (sequel to her Edgar Award-nominated MONEY SHOT), QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins (the latest in the popular series of hit man novels by the author of "Road to Perdition"), and two never-before-published novels by MWA Grand Masters (names to be announced shortly).

Additionally, Titan Publishing plans to acquire all existing stock of Hard Case Crime's backlist from Dorchester Publishing and to resume shipping these titles to booksellers immediately.
New books will be published in paperback (possibly some in hardcover as well!); ebook editions will also be released across multiple platforms. Titan is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Random House.

We're very excited about working with Titan (indeed, we had offers from five publishers and chose Titan over several that were much larger and better-known) -- they love pulp fiction as much as we do and appreciate that in books like ours the visual dimension is just as important as the storytelling. It's hard to imagine a better home for Hard Case Crime.

My congratulatory reply to him prompted some clarification and additional information ...
We’re still talking with Titan about which books we’ll keep in mass market and which we’ll do as trade paperbacks.  I like mass market more myself, as you can imagine...but the reality of the business these days is that mass market is a minefield and very hard to succeed with.  (It’s one of the reasons that Dorchester’s near bankruptcy now.)  I’d rather have Hard Case Crime thrive and be successful in trade pb than stick to our guns, insist on mass market, and go down in flames.  So the new titles are likely to at least start in trade pb, though if they do well we might *also* bring them out in mass market afterwards.
Not exactly news for a perfect world, but then we don't live in a perfect world.  The fact that Hard Case Crime will go on as a print entity is just great news and cannot be spoiled by nitpicking over form.

Of course, my hope (as well as yours, I'm sure) is that they will keep the cost down on those trades.  Maybe take a look at the premium paperback format ....  Ten dollars is not as good as $7 or $8, but it's way better than $16 or $20 -- especially if there is only one story in each volume.  Double up on the stories per volume, present a flip book format, maybe it's worth a double sawbuck.

The two other titles that will be released in fall 2011, as well as their authors, is a secret for now. So stay tuned for more info.

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