Retro review–Ed McBain’s “Cut Me In,” the old is new again with Hard Case Crime

Cut Me In Ed McBain

Review by C.J. Bunce

Some writers know how to suck you right in from the first page.  Take the late author Evan Hunter aka Ed McBain.  In his 1953 novel The Proposition (published under another pseudonym, Hunt Collins) McBain gave his lead character Josh Blake a timeless voice that conjures a confident, put-upon literary agent melting in the sweltering summer city heat, trying to cut himself in on a big deal that will land him the good life–like a million dollar home and a big swimming pool.  Blake is like a mash-up between Jack Nicholson’s J.J. Gittes in Chinatown and Nicholson’s Will Randall in the film Wolf–written decades before either character was created.  Think Gittes because of the pulp noir mystery, and Randall because we’re maneuvering the politics of the literary world.

Why single out a 1950s crime mystery by Ed McBain?  Because the folks at Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime found this gem, and have released it this year for the first time in more than 60 years.  Originally published as The Proposition by Hunt Collins, it was later published as Hunt Collins’ Cut Me In–a great title that fits the story much better.  The new edition, labeled as a McBain novel, features a classic style pulp cover by Robert McGinnis with a dead ringer for Suzanne Somers.  She sits by the pool, the pool that is the target of Josh Blake’s affection.  So if you’re like this reader, you’re seeing Nicholson and Somers play out this great movie that never was.

The Proposition paperback

And you can read the first chapter of Cut Me In right now.  First, just the facts.

Del Gilbert was dead to begin with.  That’s Blake’s partner.  Del held the original document: The famous Western writer Cam Stewart signed a contract giving exclusive rights to Blake and Gilbert.   Now Stewart has selective memory when a big movie deal arises.  But the safe is empty and somebody sucker punched Blake and stole the only copy of the contract.  Enter the cop: Detective Di Luca.  He’s pegged Blake for the murder.  After all, Blake has the most to gain.  But as the bodies start dropping, Blake doesn’t have much time to confront Stewart, leverage what he has to claim his deal, and prove he’s not the only one to gain from Gilbert’s death.  Will he succeed before he ends up dead in the water like William Holden’s Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd.?

Cut Me In Hunt Collins    Hunt Collins Cut Me In

Read the first chapter of Cut Me In at the Hard Case Crime website here.

And make sure you pick up your copy now here at


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