A few years ago we at The A.V. Club, much to our delight, started receiving books that looked like lurid old paperbacks but weren’t. They featured painted covers and combined modern-day works by writers inspired by old crime novels—including new efforts by Stephen King, Max Allan Collins and others—and revivals of half-forgotten and never-before-published titles by Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake and others. Then, about a year ago, the books stopped coming. Turns out Hard Case’s fortunes were tied to that of Dorchester Publishing, which, thanks to a downturn in paperback sales, got out of the mass-market paperback game in 2010. Then, happily, a new batch of books showed up recently, with covers that promised as much sex, violence, and hardboiled prose as before.
“I briefly considered shutting the line down,” co-founder Charles Ardai told us in an email. “It had been six years, after all, which is a nice run by anyone’s standards—but got an immediate horrified reaction from readers and writers alike. Stephen King, for instance, sent me a note saying simply, ‘Hard Case must not die.’” Now associated with Titan Books, Hard Case returns today with four new titles and more to follow. The initial batch features Choke Hold by Christa Faust, The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins Collins, Quarry’s Ex by Collins, and Getting Off, a Lawrence Block novel written under the name Jill Emerson. Each features eye-catching art from Glenn Orbik, Robert McGinnis and other masters of the classic pulp style. The return should be welcome news for those who recognize well-done cheap thrills as a precious commodity.