After a six-month hiatus (really, that long?), I’m reintroducing “Pierce’s Picks,” a weekly alert to new crime, mystery, and thriller novels worth reading. I hope this slightly modified format will make it easier to keep up the feature’s regular pace. We shall see.
Brainquake, by Samuel Fuller (Hard Case Crime)
The Gist: “The bagmen who transport money for organized crime,” explains a Hard Case blurb, “live by a special set of rules: no relationships, no ties … no alcohol, no women … no talking … and never, ever look inside the bag you’re carrying. For more than 10 years, despite suffering from a rare brain disorder [that causes uncontrollable seizures], Paul Page was the perfect bagman. But that ended the day he saw a beautiful Mob wife become a Mob widow. Now Paul is going to break every one of the rules he’s lived by to protect the woman he loves--even if it means he might be left holding the bag.” Kirkus Reviews calls Brainquake “a hard-boiled story filled with quick dialogue and rich archetypal characters.” Publishers Weekly adds: “The writing is pulpy and the violence brutal, but Fuller explodes a few surprises to keep the plot unpredictable, and his mordant asides on crime and corruption elevate this tale above much standard genre fare.”
What Else You Should Know: This novel, with its gorgeous cover illustration by Glen Orbik, was originally slated for publication on September 9. Somewhere along the line, though, the folks at Hard Case decided it would be better to release it tomorrow, August 12--maybe because that would have been
the 102nd birthday of Samuel Fuller, the author and filmmaker who died in 2007. Fuller had penned half a dozen previous novels (including 1944’s The Dark Page), but left Brainquake unpublished at the time of his death; it was discovered later, and Hard Case’s edition represents its first English-language release. “We’ve had some big books at Hard Case Crime,” editor Charles Ardai writes in a press notice, “but the publication of Brainquake in some ways tops ’em all. Fuller was a larger-than-life figure--decorated D-Day veteran, liberator of the Falkenau
concentration camp, teenage crime reporter in New York City, rail-rider with hoboes in the Depression, Hollywood wunderkind, fighter for racial equality, revered American icon overseas--and having him join the Hard Case Crime family is a special privilege.”