Tag Archive: Hard Case Crime


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s fun to both know what you’re getting and to get some surprises, too.  That’s the case with Hard Case Crime’s latest novel, Jason Starr’s The Next Time I Die.  It’s billed as a paranoid thriller, a mix of Philip K. Dick and The Twilight Zone.  But the publisher is the home of classic crime novels, right?  It so happens that not only is The Next Time I Die a retelling of sorts of a few PKD short stories, it’s a mix of a number of sci-fi tropes while pulling in a protagonist you might find in old crime stories like Rudolph Maté’s D.O.A., James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, and Vera Caspary’s Laura.  All in, it’s a lot of fun.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First of all, by all accounts McDonald’s has never sold onion rings.

My favorite works by popular creators are the ones that are frequently what the multitudes rarely put on a greatest hits list.  Like Philip K. Dick’s In Milton Lumky Territory or Stephen King’s Joyland.  Now we have Donald E. Westlake′s last novel Call Me a Cab (available now here at Amazon) a heretofore unpublished novel from 1977 (unpublished except in a briefer version in a serialized magazine edition ages ago).  It’s a novel ahead of its time full of 1970s attitude, with realistic, thoughtful characters, without cliché or canned, artificial controversy, and, although it’s from Hard Case Crime, there’s not a single crime in sight for 3,000 miles.  And it’s as riveting as any of his previous brilliant works.

So what about the onion rings?  Back to that in a moment.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Forty-five years after author Max Allan Collins published his novel Quarry’s Deal in 1976, he has penned another sequel, Quarry’s Blood, arriving from publisher Hard Case Crime next week, the 16th novel chronicling the circuitous, dark and grimy future of the Vietnam vet whose return from the service wasn’t at all what he expected, which would become the subject of a Cinemax television series (reviewed here at borg in 2019).  The great thing about Collins’ crime stories?  Readers have so many ways to get their fix, including his Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novels, his Nolan novels, at least four other book series and standalone novels, the most popular being his Road to Perdition (browse our reviews of several here at borg).  Quarry’s Blood, despite being the 16th book in a series, is both a nostalgia fix and incredibly fresh and up-to-date, catching up with Quarry pushing 70 in a post-COVID existence in 2021.  And it’s enough of a shake-up for his titular hero that it could well be a set-up for a James Bond, Jr.-type spin-off series.

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Our borg Best of 2021 list continues today with the Best Books of 2021.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here, the Best Movies of 2021 here, and the Best in TV 2021 here.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame tomorrow.  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 Tie-In Novel – Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward (Gallery Books).  An engaging read and fun-filled start to a new trilogy, full of great throwbacks to all the Star Trek series, with several surprise characters and incorporated events, and a great update to Wesley Crusher.  Runner-up: Star Trek: Picard–Rogue Elements (Gallery Books), by John Jackson Miller, provided a great story for a newer character, pulling into the mix the future of some familiar characters including the classic villain Kivas Fajo.    

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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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