May 302012
 
New Stephen King Novel Coming

from Hard Case Crime


JOYLAND to be published in June 2013

New York, NY; London, UK (May 30, 2012) – Hard Case Crime, the award-winning line of pulp-styled crime novels published by Titan Books, today announced it will publish JOYLAND, a new novel by Stephen King, in June 2013.  Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, JOYLAND tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.  JOYLAND is a brand-new book and has never previously been published.  One of the most beloved storytellers of all time, Stephen King is the world’s best-selling novelist, with more than 300 million books in print.

Called “the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade” by Neal Pollack in The Stranger, Hard Case Crime revives the storytelling and visual style of the pulp paperbacks of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  The line features an exciting mix of lost pulp masterpieces from some of the most acclaimed crime writers of all time and gripping new novels from the next generation of great hardboiled authors, all with new painted covers in the grand pulp style.  Authors range from modern-day bestsellers such as Pete Hamill, Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain to Golden Age stars like Mickey Spillane (creator of “Mike Hammer”), Erle Stanley Gardner (creator of “Perry Mason”), Wade Miller (author of Touch of Evil), and Cornell Woolrich (author of Rear Window). 

Stephen King commented, “I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” 

King’s previous Hard Case Crime novel, The Colorado Kid, became a national bestseller and inspired the television series “Haven,” now going into its third season on SyFy.

Joyland is a breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking book,” said Charles Ardai, Edgar- and Shamus Award-winning editor of Hard Case Crime.  “It’s a whodunit, it’s a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time.  Even the most hardboiled readers will find themselves moved. When I finished it, I sent a note saying, ‘Goddamn it, Steve, you made me cry.’ ”

Nick Landau, Titan Publisher, added: “Stephen King is one of the fiction greats, and I am tremendously proud and excited to be publishing a brand-new book of his under the Hard Case Crime imprint.”

JOYLAND will feature new painted cover art by the legendary Robert McGinnis, the artist behind the posters for the original Sean Connery James Bond movies and “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” and by Glen Orbik, the painter of more than a dozen of Hard Case Crime’s most popular covers, including the cover for The Colorado Kid.

Since its debut in 2004, Hard Case Crime has been the subject of enthusiastic coverage by a wide range of publications including The New York Times, USA Today, Time, Playboy, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Houston Chronicle, New York magazine, the New York Post and Daily News, Salon, Reader’s Digest, Parade and USA Weekend, as well as numerous other magazines, newspapers, and online media outlets.  The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Hard Case Crime is doing a wonderful job publishing both classic and contemporary ‘pulp’ novels in a crisp new format with beautiful, period-style covers.  These modern ‘penny dreadfuls’ are worth every dime.”  Playboy praised Hard Case Crime’s “lost masterpieces,” writing “They put to shame the work of modern mystery writers whose plots rely on cell phones and terrorists.”  And the Philadelphia City Paper wrote, “Tired of overblown, doorstop-sized thrillers…?  You’ve come to the right place.  Hard Case novels are as spare and as honest as a sock in the jaw.”

Other upcoming Hard Case Crime titles include The Cocktail Waitress, a never-before-published novel by James M. Cain, author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, and Double Indemnity, and an epic first novel called The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter that has won advance raves from authors such as Peter Straub, James Frey, Alice Sebold, John Banville, David Morrell and Stephen King.

For information about these and other forthcoming titles, visit www.HardCaseCrime.com.

About Hard Case Crime

Founded in 2004 by award-winning novelists Charles Ardai and Max Phillips, Hard Case Crime has been nominated for or won numerous honors since its inception including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Spinetingler Award.  The series’ books have been adapted for television and film, with two features currently in development at Universal Pictures and the TV series “Haven” going into its third season this fall on SyFy.  Hard Case Crime is published through a collaboration between Winterfall LLC and Titan Publishing Group.

About Titan Publishing Group

Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, comprising three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise.  Titan Books, recently nominated as Independent Publisher of the Year 2011, has a rapidly growing fiction list encompassing original fiction and reissues, primarily in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime. Recent crime and thriller acquisitions include Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins’ all-new Mike Hammer novels, the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton and the entire backlist of the Queen of Spy Writers, Helen MacInnes.  Titan Books also has an extensive line of media and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, art and music books. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the US and Canada being handled by Random House. www.titanbooks.com
Apr 262012
 
This is one of the old Lawrence Block sleaze titles Hard Case Crime has been reprinting. Killing Castro was somewhat disappointing, and so was this. A Diet of Treacle is a ménage à trois between two beatnik guys (one a loser, other a criminal) and a girl who'd like to be a beatnik. The book is not really a crime novel, it's more a novel with a crime. The actual plot starts only after the middle part, but Block writes so smoothly it's not a huge problem. The problem lies with the fact that the plot is too thin after all - and that there's too much of the beatnik slang, with everything being cool, solid or hip. The ending is good, though, real noir stuff.


The book was first published as Pads Are For Passion (Beacon, in the early sixties), but A Diet of Treacle (name snatched from Lewis Carroll) was Block's original title. This kind of information is something I'd really like Hard Case Crime would tell at their website. The book was first published under the Sheldon Lord by-line and I already started reading Sheldon Lord's Kept that was written also by Block. Seems pretty solid (sic) by the first 50 pages.
 Posted by at 3:21 pm
Apr 252012
 
 I finished two books last weekend that shared the same theme: the thrill of a good kill. Both dealt the theme very differently, the other one was very humorous and free-wheeling and the other one developed some real horror out of it.

The latter was Dave Zeltserman's Bad Thoughts that was first published in hardcover by Five Star, but is now available as an e-book. Zeltserman sure knows how to spin a dark tale, as has been witnessed by his earlier books (of which I think Killer is the best - at least of those I've read). And boy oh boy, is Bad Thoughts dark! The killer in Bad Thoughts has a dubious gift of being able to work in the dreams of the people he wants to hurt and seems like there's no escape out of the situation. There are some moments that ask for the suspension of disbelief, but Zeltserman brings the thing to a well-balanced conclusion and does it with verve, through a simple-looking style that maintains the hardboiled noir style that's so familiar to Zeltserman's readers. In the hands of a mediocre serial killer writer, this would merely be a thriller. Now it's something else entirely.

Lawrence Block's hardcover Hard Case Crime outing Getting Off makes the same thing very differently. It tells about a young and attractive woman who kills men to revenge the abuse her father inflicted upon her and does it with great pleasure, first having sex with the men. Block pulls no punches in this tale that develops into a parody of serial killer novels. He turns the clichés upside down: there's nothing inherently bad in getting your joy out of killing people. The book's highly erotic at the same time and it's no wonder Block has used his early Jill Emerson pseudonym in this (though this is much seedier stuff than anything by "Jill Emerson"). There are some moments in the book that feel forced, as a couple of details in the lesbian romance, but I can see Block chuckling to himself while writing those scenes.

The books are very different in depicting the reasons for the thrill kill violence: Zeltserman says there's no reason, the guy was just born broken and it was a pity no one made anything to stop him, Block claims the abuse of the young girl made her what she is today. Seems like the Zeltserman explanation is more fashionable now, as the psychoanalytic-tinged theory of traumatized sexual behaviour has faded out of academic fashion.

Dave Zeltserman's Bad Thoughts has also the distinction of being the first e-book I've read. I loaded the free Kindle Reader on my portable and I've been snatching some free e-books whenever they've been available. As a reading experience I thought it was okay, but something I'd think should be done with the real device. But as of yet, I don't own one. As more and more interesting noir and hardboiled books are coming out only as e-books, getting a Kindle or a Nook or something similar seems something I need to do. Just too pity e-books are so expensive here in Finland.
 Posted by at 6:50 pm
Apr 122012
 
I've never actually read much Lawrence Block. I once read one of his later Matt Scudder novels and I really didn't care for it. I'll have to try one of them again. I've liked two of his Tanner novels, even though they are very light. A Bernie Rhodenbarr I had to quit in the middle. And then I've read Killing Castro.

I finally got around to reading the first book Hard Case Crime put out, Block's Grifter's Game that was originally published as Mona (Fawcett Gold Medal 1961). It really shows Block was a good writer even when he was very young (he was 23 when this was published, and I think this is his first, at least under his own name), the text is fluent and very readable. Block's dialogue is paced well and crispy. It's too bad there's so little of it in the middle parts - the narrative turns pretty much into the protagonist's monology. The protagonist is a con man in his late twenties. He's quite sympathetic, though he's a heel of the worst kind, seducing women to to live on their money for days or for months and then dropping them. There are no good people in the world of Grifter's Game, which, combined with the pretty nasty ending, makes this a worthwhile noir novel.

Next off I'll be reading Block's Getting Off and Lucky at Cards. Why? I'm working on an article for a Finnish journal about sex and sleaze paperbacks. And because it's about time I start reading Lawrence Block.



 Posted by at 9:08 am
Apr 112012
 
My latest column for the Los Angeles Review of Books was published last week. The article was called, "The Criminal Kind: Voyeuristic Pleasures." Here are the books I reviewed:

Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby
"At their best, crime novels provide more than the voyeuristic pleasure of looking in on a lifestyle that us law-abiding citizens will never know first-hand: they offer a refractive glance back on our own world. In her own way, Crissa Stone is a modern-day hero for an America still recovering from the economic collapse. There’s an honesty and integrity to her work ethic that separates her from the fold."
And She Was by Alison Gaylin
"A moody, densely layered mystery whose emotional notes are as affecting as the plot points are enthralling. Gaylin excels at getting us into her protagonist’s complex (and crowded) mind."
Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
"Imagine the literary love child of Carson McCullers and William Faulkner, but way more twisted, with a penchant for dismemberment, and a hell of a lot funnier. That’s Joe R. Lansdale’s Edge of Dark Water in a nutshell."
The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson
"Don’t let the exotic Peruvian backdrop fool you: this is in no way a picturesque walk in the park — or through the Incan ruins, as the case may be. From its doom-laden opening line (“Standing at the edge of the mountain, I imagined what it would feel like to let go”) to its unexpectedly savage finale, The Next One to Fall is driven by the noir impulse towards oblivion."
Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm
"Dead Harvest is a wild and unpredictable ride that only gets more bold as the narrative unfurls, and now that the foundation for the series is set, I’m excited to see what hurdles Holm has set for Thornton in the sequel, The Wrong Goodbye, already slated for October 2012."
Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg
"What saves the book from becoming an orgy of excess, however, is Silverberg’s stylistic restraint, and his attention to detail and craft. Blood on the Mink is by no means as extreme as something by Mickey Spillane. Silverberg’s style, at least here, is more reminiscent of the cool precision of a Peter Rabe. When it comes to action, there’s a remarkable balance of clarity and brute force to his choreography"
Apr 092012
 
Hard Case Crime has put out some very interesting reprints and obscurities. Lawrence Block's Killing Castro is probably of the latter kind. It's entertaining, but I'm not sure whether I could call it a forgotten classic. It's a story about five Americanos trying to kill Fidel Castro and trying to get 20,000 dollars as a reward. Some of them are professionals, some of them are idealists, some of them are just waiting around to die and trying to do something useful while dying.

Unlike another blogger said, I didn't find this tightly knit or narrated. It's more like a loose narrative, with just episodes following each other. Some of the episodes are more entertaining than others and Block creates some pretty good characters through dialogue and action. The fate of some of the characters was also entertaining and not something I anticipated.

In a weird narrative technique Block also interweaves the story with the history of real-life Castro and his rise to power. Without those parts the book would be one third shorter and I guess Block just typed them up to fill up the standard book-length. Block's view of Castro and Cuba before him seems pretty solid, though, and even if those bits irritated me, they provided some new information! 

The book is one of Block's rarest early pseudonymous efforts, published as "Lee Duncan" under the title Fidel Castro Assassinated. The publisher was Monarch, the year is 1961, and I think in this case the new cover is much better than the original! 
 Posted by at 11:01 am
Mar 212012
 
Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime have given us another nearly lost treasure in BLOOD ON THE MINK, the only hardboiled crime novel by science fiction legend Robert Silverberg (unless there are more like this still hidden in the pages of the crime digests of the late Fifties and early Sixties, and we can only hope that's the case). This one was written for a magazine that went defunct before it could be published, but Silverberg sold it a couple of years later to one of his other markets, TRAPPED, where it appeared in the November 1962 issue under the pseudonym Ray McKensie. As Silverberg explains in his afterword to the novel, it turns out that was the final issue of TRAPPED, which is a shame because this novel could well have been the first of a series.

The narrator is a federal agent named Nick whose specialty is undercover work. In BLOOD ON THE MINK, he takes the place of a Los Angeles hood who comes to Philadelphia to make a West Coast distribution deal with a counterfeiting ring. Nick's real objective is to find the engraver who's responsible for the printing plates being used to turn out nearly perfect counterfeit bills. In order to do this he has to maintain his dangerous charade while several different factions vie to come to an agreement with the head of the counterfeiters.

Naturally, there are a couple of beautiful women involved, the mistress of the boss counterfeiter and the daughter of the engraver, and both dames wind up putting Nick in even more peril before the assignment is over. Fistfights, shootouts, and explosions punctuate the narrative, and Silverberg delivers it all in terse, fast-moving prose with a firm hand on the various strands of the plot.

Quite a few of Silverberg's erotic novels are crime yarns in disguise, but he's in full hardboiled mode in BLOOD ON THE MINK and I thought it was great. Like I said above, I wish there were more of these books

The Hard Case Crime edition sports a fine cover, as well as including a couple of Silverberg's equally excellent short stories from the crime digests, "Dangerous Doll", another story bylined Ray McKensie, from the March 1960 issue of GUILTY, and "One Night of Violence", originally published as by Dan Malcolm in the March 1959 issue of GUILTY. With a lot of Silverberg's early SF and some of his erotica back in print, it's time for some enterprising publisher to bring out a massive collection of his crime stories as well. I'd certainly buy it.

And speaking of buying, BLOOD ON THE MINK will be available in early April, but you can pre-order it now. If you like top-notch hardboiled crime novels as much as I do, I highly recommend you do so.

Mar 172012
 

I recently received a box in the mail. It was from a life-long friend, a gent named Bill Plant who is responsible (or maybe irresponsible) for shaping much of my taste in literature. While Bill and I remain close friends, we aren’t in the habit of sending each other gifts on the spur of the moment, so I had no idea what was in the box. It could have been anything from a head to…well, anything. After making sure that it wasn’t ticking, crying, or leaking, I commenced to open it, a formidable task since Bill apparently used three rolls of scotch tape to seal it. After some effort, I folded the flaps back, pulled out some newspaper packing, and…well, I’ll confess, The Kid got just a little misty-eyed.

The box was full of books. Paperback books. From the 1950s. They were marked up and in one case a little chewed up and some of them had the binding falling loose and they all had that sweet scent of slow but inevitable decomposition. In other words, every one was a little treasure. These were USED, used books. Bill deals in antiques, and will buy items such as books in inexpensive lots in the hope of finding an acorn or two among the Buena Sierra. Collectors, alas, aren’t much interested in paperbacks that are dog-eared, or have had a crayon taken to them, or that have been labeled, using an indelible marker, with a five cent price tag.  took a bunch of such and sent them to me. I don’t think I’ve had a better present in quite a while. It reminded me of one Christmas, some fifty years ago, when my mother ordered a bunch of science fiction paperbacks for me from the gone but not forgotten S & SF Bookstore in New York. It was a laborious procedure back then --- check books off an order list, write a check, send the whole kit and  caboodle off in the mail and wait six weeks for delivery --- since the only “Amazon” most folks knew then was either 1) a river in South America or 2) Irish McCalla. But when that box arrived, it was special. And so was this one.

So what would I possibly want with such a litter of mutts? The idea of it, pure and simple. These were books that had been read and re-read before being consigned to a cellar or an attic or the back shelves of a used bookstore.  Most of it was science fiction. There were Ace Doubles in that box. Ace doubles. These consisted of two covers and two novels bound into one; read one, flip it over, and there was another novel waiting for you.  Hard Case Crime is going to publish two Lawrence Block novels in the doubles format in May 2012, and I can’t wait. But these were the original thing. A few short story collections were in that box, and included forgotten stories by famous authors (“Death of the Senator,” by Arthur C. Clarke, for one). There were a couple of early and forgotten novels by authors who have gone onto better things (Robert Silverberg’s THE PLANET KILLERS); and some soft core science fiction porn (are porn paperbacks even published anymore?). Then there was a copy of GALACTIC DERELICT by Andre Norton, one of the first science fiction books I ever read.

Yes, there were a couple of mysteries and thrillers as well. I was six years old when Marjorie Carlton wrote ONE NIGHT OF TERROR. It got past me the first time but I’m going to read it this year. And there were a couple of Carter Brown novels in that box.  Most of the ladies who contribute to The Kill Zone are probably too young to remember Carter Brown. but gentlemen, certainly most of you do.  “Carter Brown” was the pseudonym for Alan Geoffrey Yates, and there was a time when he ruled the revolving wire paperback racks. Who could forget those Signet covers? I fogged up my eyeglasses in many a drugstore perusing the wares of those gaudy damsels while pretending to look for Mad Magazine paperback collections. I have discovered, belatedly, that the stories aren’t bad either.  It occurred to me a couple of nights ago, while reading   NO BLONDE IS AN ISLAND, that I had never actually read a Carter Brown book until now. I had committed many a cover to memory, however.

Some of the older paperbacks are now appearing in e-book format.  I discovered recently that all of those Edgar Rice Burroughs' books which I purchased with my allowance a half-century ago are available in Kindle format, and for free; and there are even three Carter Brown books up for sale. It just isn’t the same, however. The smell and the small, non-adjustable print and the feel of paper and ink aren’t there. It’s like having a rabbit and a hat that sit next to each other without any involvement or relationship: there’s no magic. That may sound strange --- if pressing a couple of buttons and having an entire book appear in a wafer thin tool that you can slip in a coat pocket isn’t magic, then what is? --- but it’s true. We get something, true, but also we give something up.

So. If you had a friend as good as mine (and Bill, I know you read these posts, and you remain the best), and that friend sent you a box such as I received, what books would you want to find in it? What would bring a smile to your face, and a tear (or five) to your eye?