Monday, August 29, 2011

Here Comes Hard Case, Act II - New Old Style Crime Paperbacks

It's been about a year since Dorchester Publishing crumbled and seemed to drag partner Hard Case Crime down with it.  Now comes news that Hard Case is coming back -- big. 

Already, the first half dozen books are ready to go.  The line will lead off with a powerful new title by long-time crime writer Lawrence Block, author of the "Burglar," the "Tanner," the "Hit Man," and the Matthew Scudder series.  His entry is called Getting Off, and the cover calls it a novel of sex and violence.  The blurb starts out: "So this girl walks into a bar ... and when she walks out there’s a man with her. She goes to bed with him, and she likes that part. Then she kills him, and she likes that even better."  The cover alone should have a paper bag over it.  What a place to hide a carving knife.  Following over the next eight month are five more novels.  Less incendiary than Getting Off, perhaps, but no less titillating.

Two books originally slated for the old mass market paperback format will see the light of day finally.  Christa Faust's Choke Hold shows up in October.  It infuses porn stars with mixed martial artists and stirs it all up with Faust's Angel Dare character from the previously published Hard Case Crime novel Money Shot.  Also, old hand Max Allan Collins' adds to his Quarry series this September with the previously announced Quarry's Ex

In October another posthumous Mickey Spillane novel will be published, The Consummata.  By now anyone reading about Mickey Spillane will know that prior to his death he asked his long-time pal Collins to finish up some old projects.  This may well be the last of them.  The title alone has got me interested -- even if it weren't a Spillane book. 

In February next year another old hand, Donald Westlake, publishes his fifth Hard Case Crime novel.  This is one of his lost novels.  Unpublished in 1977, The Comedy is Finished takes an aging USO comedian and a radical political group left over from the '60s and slams them together in a story of kidnapping, violence, and not a little sex.

Following in April 2012 is a big surprise.  Robert Silverberg -- a science fiction Grandmaster -- steps into the dark streets of Hard Case Crime with Blood on the Mink.  A real pulp refugee is this one, having appeared in one of the last surviving pistol-hot story rags of that era like Trapped Detective Story Magazine or Guilty Detective Story Magazine.  The evocative period painting on the cover is enough to put it on top of my To-Read pile.

There's more, too, beyond April 2012.  For now, though, Hard Case is being mum about that.  It's not that they don't trust us.  There's just so much of this taudry stuff we can handle at one time.

None of these titles will be published in standard paperback.  Not even in the new-fangled "premium" (read: taller, more expensive) paperback package.  No, Hard Case has graduated to tradepaperback format, and some titles all the way up to hardcover. This is both good and bad.  Some of the titles will definitely deserve hardcover treatment. But there's something about holding one of these babies in your fist, a "cheap" paperback that you can dog-ear and toss on your nightstand, that just doesn't feel right in the more genteel trade format and certainly isn't conservative enough for a staid hardbound.

Regardless, the fact that publisher Charles Ardai was able to coax his imprint to rise like a Phoenix from the ash heap of paperbound publishing is a minor miracle.  He's to be lauded.  And supported.  I'll be buying my copies.  If you like good crime fiction from the past and the present you should buy copies, too.

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