Thursday, May 07, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Case

We all knew that Charles Ardai, the man who invented Hard Case Crime, was a helluva writer: His books penned as “Richard Aleas” (Songs of Innocence and Little Girl Lost) proved that. Now come two more examples of Ardai’s talent and taste.

In a new paperback series that calls on the talents of such Hard Case veterans as Christa Faust and David J. Schow, plus other well-practiced authors like James Reasoner, Ardai introduces a pulp-fiction-style adventurer by the name of Gabriel Hunt. And at the end of the just-released first installment of that series, Ardai adds a chapter that introduces his own second outing for the armed and able Hunt, Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear (due out in August).

Meanwhile, in another first for Hard Case, Casino Moon, by Peter Blauner, shows off Ardai’s willingness to bend the rules. It’s 100,000 words long, exceeding HC’s usual limit of 50,000 to 60, 000 words. Casino Moon was also published originally in 1994, rather than HC’s sweet spot of the 1940s and ’50s. And it gave Ardai the chance to commission a new cover for the book, this one by former boxer Ricky Mujica, which captures the spirit and sex of Blauner’s tale with as much zest as those covers Glen Orbik does for the Hunt series.

And the story inside? I’d say it’s one of the best boxing novels I’ve ever read--a cross between The Sopranos and The Set-Up, with two perfect parts for James Gandolfini in the movie version.

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