Tag Archive: Hard Case Crime


Bait Money old  Bait Money orig

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Sting and The Color of Money collide in a new edition of Max Allan Collins’ 1973 pulp novel, Bait Money Hard Case Crime goes back to where it all started for the Collins’ Lee Van Cleef lookalike known only as Nolan in this first novel in his series.  Nolan appeared to readers first as a 48-year-old hardened thief ready to retire a year after being shot at the direction of a man whose brother Nolan killed.  Compare Skim Deep, written 50 years later (reviewed in January here at borg) to Bait Money and you’ll see Collins didn’t lose track of his character any over the decades–Nolan is a character for the ages and these novels feel like they could have been written a year apart.  Bait Money is one of two novels in a new edition of Hard Case Crime’s classic reprint of the first two Nolan novels called Two for the Money, now available here at Amazon.

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Tesla cover Tesla cover b

Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the 21st century’s best comic book artists with a singular style brings her heroine back to the comics pages.  Writer-artist Cynthia von Buhler is know for her sensationalism, both in story concepts, artwork, and marketing, merging real-world events and time travel tours to the past via her comic book work, as seen in her striking The Illuminati Ball We first met her heroine Minky Woodcock in Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini (reviewed here), as she recounted the 20 days leading up to the famed magician’s death on October 31, 1926.  Her next Minky adventure is now available in single monthly issues, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla.  If you like the idea of a girl Friday coming into her own, then Minky Woodcock is for you.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you can’t imagine the greatest noir crime story you ever read was about a firm of private investigators researching a claim of insurance fraud, you’d better get ready.  The fifth–and what appears to be final–retro re-issue of a classic work of crime fiction by Erle Stanley Gardner (who was, at his death, the best-selling American writer of all time) is now available from Hard Case Crime.  One of the novels Gardner penned under his pseudonym A.A. Fair, the author mastermind known for dozens of Perry Mason novels (60 in total) and Cool & Lam novels (30 total) penned Shills Can’t Cash Chips sixty years ago, and it’s as exciting, current, funny, and full of intrigue as any modern bestseller.  Gardner’s Bertha Cool and Donald Lam are back at it again.  Although Hard Case Crime notes this is the last of their series of Gardner books (with this review I’ve reviewed all but one, including Turn on the Heat, The Count of 9, and the first ever publication of Gardner’s “lost,” Cool & Lam novel, The Knife Slipped)–which is a sad thing–that just means it’s time to begin tracking down the rest.   

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In many ways Stephen King’s new supernatural crime novel Later is a natural follow-on to his two earlier Hard Case Crime novels, Joyland, which I loved, and The Colorado Kid, which will have me revisiting it for years to identify what I am sure is a hidden story beneath the obvious one.  Joyland follows a coming of age vibe for an older character and King pulls from a similar quiver of creepiness in Later as he did for The Colorado Kid.  Yes, Later will get the obvious comparison to the “I see dead people” kid from The Sixth Sense–a few updates and this could be its sequel, one as good or better than that great M. Night Shyamalan shocker (a character even calls out the comparison, and King doesn’t try to shy away from it).  But even more than that, this story is a perfect launch pad for a television series, a series that should be written and directed by Shawn Piller as a natural follow-up to the King-Piller partnership’s successful series Haven and The Dead Zone.  The slow-simmering pacing reflects the perfect make-ready four season series centering on a boy burdened with an ability he cannot walk away from.  Later easily could be the next Medium, Prodigal Son, or Tru Callingjust as dark, with a bit of Fallen thrown in.  It’s a highly recommended read, available for pre-order now here at Amazon, scheduled for release March 2.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fifty years after author Max Allan Collins wrote his first novel while in college at the University of Iowa, titled Bait Money.  The novel featured Nolan, a 48-year-old thief tied in with the mob toward the end of his career in crime, inspired by Donald Westlake’s popular character Parker.  Collins would write eight more Nolan stories, but now 33 years after the last he’s released an all-new Nolan sequel through the Hard Case Crime imprint, the cleverly titled Skim Deep.  In 1987 Nolan is 55 now and thinking about tying the knot with long-time girlfriend Sherry, who he saved from Coleman Comfort, the villain in earlier novels, years ago.  But can someone like Nolan ever quit the business?  Will his past let him settle down in his house with Sherry in the Quad Cities on the Iowa-Illinois border?  Count Skim Deep as another in the win column for author Collins, and a great read that will usher in coming reprints of all his Nolan novels.

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From 1977 to 1993, noted crime writer Max Allan Collins was writing stories “ripped from the headlines” in the Dick Tracy comic strip.  Some of Collins’ proposed stories were too racy for the average daily newspaper, so Collins took this as an opportunity to introduce the stories in the pages of Ms. Tree, a series published then by Eclipse.   A year ago, I reviewed a new collection of classic Ms. Tree stories from the 1980s, penned twenty years before Jessica Jones, written by Collins and illustrated by artist Terry BeattyMs. Tree: One Mean Mother.  Ms. Michael Tree is the 6-foot tall, 9 mm pistol-toting private eye with a clever homonym name, referred to as the “female Mike Hammer” in the stories written by the man who would take over the character from Mickey Spillane.  She borrows something real and gritty from Erle Stanley Gardner’s detective Bertha Cool and her brand of sleuthing, certainly unique for the 1980s.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Comics is publishing the second volume of Ms. Tree stories next month, five more stories from the dark corners of big city life, in Ms. Tree: Skeleton in the Closet.  Classic Collins crime tales in the comics are like his 21st century crime novels–they do not disappoint.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 100th centenary of the celebrated writer Ray Bradbury, his short stories were read, indexed, and partitioned to shake loose those tales that fall entirely (or even slightly) inside the crime story genre for a new collection, Killer, Come Back to Me: The Crime Stories of Ray Bradbury, being released for the first time tomorrow by Hard Case Crime in a deluxe hardcover edition.  Not your typical crime noir writer (and who would want that anyway?), Bradbury didn’t hesitate to mix in science fiction and fantasy elements in his attempts to arrive at something in the vein of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain’s writings.  His works verged on the edge of the stuff of The Twilight Zone, with the darkest entries even creepier yet.  Some of the selected stories were adapted into episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Bradbury’s own series, The Ray Bradbury Theater.

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Stephen King has penned his next crime novel for Hard Case Crime.  In Later, King creates another character with special powers, a young man drawn into a crime tale.  King’s non-horror works are our favorites, including Joyland, an incredible story of a young man working a carnival for the summer with a dose of murder, which we previewed in King’s original book tour here at borg, and The Colorado Kid, reviewed here, a story of quirky characters and a dead guy who may be from nowhere or somewhere.  Later is coming to bookstores and online retailers in March 2021, and it is now available for pre-order here at Amazon.

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