Tag Archive: Hard Case Crime


Five Decembers cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Every once in a while Hard Case Crime includes a novel that seems to come out of nowhere, a book that is neither hard-fisted crime noir, a lost book of a famous crime author of the past, or the work of a new writer.  Soho Sins (reviewed here at borg) is an example.  The next is Five Decembers, coming to bookstores next week from the imprint and available for pre-order now here at Amazon.  Written by James Kestrel (a pseudonym for Jonathan Moore), the novel is interesting for all the components the author ties together.  It’s ultimately a strange 1940s era romance, like the romance thread of a Herman Wouk novel (The Winds of War, War and Remembrance).  For the first 200 pages the reader thinks he/she is reading a detective story.  As the story gets revved up, the author shifts gears and settles in on a historical fiction tale, switching gears again into a vengeance story.  It feels like an assemblage of ideas, an anthology of war stories rolled into one, ultimately pinning it all on one protagonist and pushing it all forward in an exhausting journey of a Hawaii detective trying to find a particularly bloody killer, sucked into the crime so much that attention to the facts of the crime gets him through the entirety of World War II.

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King banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

The Colorado Kid.  JoylandLater My three favorite Stephen King novels have just been released in an attractive boxed set from publisher Titan Books’ imprint Hard Case Crime.  These novels reflect Stephen King’s mystery side, as many of his fans have yet to explore.  Each box includes three cards showing alternate covers from variant editions previously released.  This is King at his best, writing nitty gritty crime stories filled with realistic characters encountering strange events.  The Colorado Kid was the first of this era in King’s work, and would ultimately be adapted into the TV series Haven.  Joyland, which we were able to preview here at borg back in 2013, is my favorite of the group, a story of a college student looking for a job in the summer of 1973, who finally lands a job at an amusement park.  Later is King’s most recent novel.  Incorporating the supernatural, King creates a new character with special powers, a young man drawn into a world of cops and crime.  The boxed set includes the illustrated edition of The Colorado Kid The Stephen King Complete Hard Case Crime Boxed Set is just out, available now here at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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gh 1 sienko gun-honey-1-cover-b-robert-mcginnis-2-1273465

Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ll want to check out the end of the first issue of Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime’s new series Gun Honey to learn how writer/creator Charles Ardai came up with the title.  Gun Honey is a new comic book series about a woman who can get the weapons you want for the right price.  The series is a mix of international locales a la James Bond, with the style movie audiences saw and heard in Guy Ritchie’s 2015 movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E.–you can almost hear the soundtrack.  She’s the latest of a long line of anti-hero, badass femmes fatales in comics dating back to Miss Fury.  And artist Ang Hor Kheng does the character and the genre justice, providing a sexy new character in a world of intrigue, duplicity, and the need for an alter ego.

Check out a preview of the first issue below, along with a preview of several of the series’ incredible cover variants from the likes of Bill Sienkiewicz, Robert McGinnis, Adam Hughes, Kendrick Lim, Jay Anacleto, Chris Wahl, Kendrick Lim, Ivan Tao, Warren Louw, Lesley Li, Fay Dalton, Andrea Camerini, and more.

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Castle in the Air Westlake

Review by C.J. Bunce

The New York Times once called Donald E. Westlake the Neil Simon of the crime novel, and that’s a pretty accurate comparison.  But his work is so much more than that.  In the world of Hard Case Crime reprints from writers of the past, Erle Stanley Gardner was the master of hard-boiled detective tropes, full of real characters and master of the human condition, Mickey Spillane wrote about those dark shadows in the corners of cities large and small, grabbing readers and sucking them into the worldbuilding of his stories, and Max Allan Collins is the craftsman keeping all the best of the genre alive with new stories today.  Donald E. Westlake was the entire package–his work cinematic in its descriptions, laser-sharp in its details, wondrous in its scope, full of intrigue, action, adventure, and yes, brilliantly funny humor.  Each one of his adventures is a sprawling production like the best James Bond movie you ever watched (in part why his Forever and a Death made our Best of the Decade list this year).

Our look at the works of master crime writer Donald E. Westlake continues with his 26th novel published under his own name and 73rd novel in all, Castle in the Air, reprinted by Hard Case Crime for the first time in 40 years.  It’s The Bank Job meets It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and it’s flat out the best retro read we’ve reviewed this year.

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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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