Anybody remember the Black Lizard paperback imprint from the ’80s? This series reissued noirish crime and mystery novels from the ’30s through the ’60s, most importantly the first extensive domestic reissue of Jim Thompson titles. Well, now the Hard Case Crime series is continuing the tradition, bringing back long out of print novels, mostly from the ’50s into the ’70s, along with a number of new works.
Speaking of new titles, first thing I should mention is Stephen King’s contribution, The Colorado Kid, which, being a King work, will probably be the first Hard Case Crime that most people will sample. Unfortunately, it may also be the last, being possibly the lamest prose the author has ever situated between two covers – precious, indulgently whimsical ( a mystery without a solution! ) and tonally incongruous within the other books, like slotting a Gene Autry film in a Spaghetti Western festival.
That out of the way, anyone with a taste for this sort of genre fiction should find much to enjoy. There’s a whole passel of fine and varied early Lawrence Block numbers; a page-turning non-Perry Mason entry by Earl Stanley Gardner; solid hard-boiled tales by Donald Westlake, Day Keene, Pete Hamill, Wade Miller, Richard Powell, and many more. David Dodge submits two fun combinations of exotic adventure and tough guy detection. For those with a leaning towards the Real Dark Stuff, there are novels by Cornell Woolrich, Gil Brewer, Charles Williams, and Seymour Shubin: protagonists doomed from the first page, inexorably spiraling down into the darkness. You know – they’re called Cozies, I believe.
Can’t forget to mention the gorgeous cover art, gaudy but artful tributes to the pulp paperback styles of the ’50s and ’60s.