Monday, November 10, 2008

The fiftieth Hard Case

Hard Case Crime is one of the most exciting publishers working now in the crime fiction. They have inspired a lot of people (including me) and the illustrated covers for their books started the vogue that's visible in the covers for such authors as Megan Abbott and Linda L. Richards and such series as the new Penguin reprints of Ian Fleming's James Bond. And some of the books... I remember the best Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips and Money Shot by Christa Faust, but their reprint line is also thrilling (and it will see Jason Starr's long-lost masterpiece Fake I.D.!), covering well- and little-known authors.

What's most exciting about them is that they've been up and running for quite a while now. The next month will see their fiftieth book, which is Charles Ardai's Fifty-to-One. Ardai is the founder and the head honcho of Hard Case Crime and he's written two books for the line under the Richard Aleas byline. I read Songs of Innocence and liked it a great deal - a private eye novel at its bleakest.

I finished Fifty-to-One late last night and I must say two things: the book entertained me very much and I was disappointed. There were some things that left me unsatisfied: the book is too long and the essential mystery is too easy to solve. It's also so obvious that it's a wonder the characters in the book don't come up with it.

I can understand where the length comes from, and it's partly due to the book's general idea: the book has fifty chapters, all named after Hard Case Crime books. It's a nice joke, but I thought there were some chapters that really didn't move things along. (I'm pretty sure Ardai knows this himself.) But Ardai writes smoothly, he has the genre settings down pat, and he has an energetic young woman as the hero, so I won't complain more. Also the setting is nice - Fifty-to-One is set in 1958 and Hard Case Crime is an actual publishing house working in the years of the paperback boom, doing books like Eye the Jury and Hot-House Honey. (Someone should write these and the current, real-life Hard Case Crime should publish them.)

Ardai says in his afterword that one of the chapters is written by Max Phillips, the co-founder of Hard Case Crime and the writer of Fade to Blonde. I'm pretty sure it's the chapter 27, called "The Peddler" (after Richard S. Prather's reprint novel), with the memorable character of Royal Barrone in it. The dialogue feels exactly the same as in Fade to Blonde. (Or then it's the chapter 28.) Is there a reward for this?

The book will have a gallery of all the 50 Hard Case Crime covers. Too bad my ARC didn't have that... Out in December, like I said.


pattinase (abbott) said...

How about sending me a digital picture of yourself reading for my blog?

Juri said...

Sure, I can do that, but I don't know whether I'll be able to do that right away. As you see, I'm no expeer in these kinds of things. (Sorry, couldn't resist after seeing the confirmation word, "expeer", that is.)