Pulp fiction publisher Hard Case Crime recently relaunched in a new partnership with UK publisher Titan Books. For about a year, Hard Case was on a hiatus made necessary by Dorchester Publishing’s demise as the longest-running mass market format only paperback publisher in the country. Dorchester, the HCC line’s publisher, decided to dump the mass market format in favor of an ebook focus with selected titles being brought out in the larger trade paper format (if they’re successful). Publisher Charles Ardai found that untenable, since the Hard Case idea was entirely founded in the mass market concept.
As Hard Case gets up to speed again, Ardai makes an appearance over at Huffington post, where he talks about the birth of Hard Case Crime and how the cover aesthetic of the series sums up the content — probably better than any other line out there. He also takes the opportunity to share the next seven covers from Hard Case Crime, including Robert Silverberg’s Blood on the Mink, Christa Faust’s Choke Hold, Lawrence Block’s Getting Off, Joseph Koenig’s False Negative, the long-awaited unpublished Donald E. Westlake novel The Comedy is Finished, Max Allan Collins’s Quarry’s Ex and The Consummata, which Collins wrote from his friend Mickey Spillane’s unfinished manuscript (a sequel to The Delta Factor.)
Speaking of Spillane, he rather famously blurbed Hard Case when it started and his book Dead Street was posthumously published by them. The story won’t be new to anyone who’s been following Hard Case, but it’s still a good story. Here’s Ardai on how the Mickster’s first novel I, the Jury spawned the postwar noir paperback form and later inspired the Hard Case concept:
Back in the 1940s and 50s, there was an explosion in the popularity of paperback crime novels, triggered mainly by the success of Mickey Spillane’s first Mike Hammer opus, “I, The Jury” (You think Harry Potter’s huge, or “The Da Vinci Code?” Hammer had them both beat. At one point, seven of the 15 best-selling books of all time were Spillane novels). To cash in on Spillane’s success, competing paperback lines sprang up, each trying to outdo the others with lurid, sexy, painted covers and titles like “Say It With Bullets” or “Kiss My Fist!” The pulp fiction style sold millions of books and remained popular for several decades before finally petering out from a glut of material and the changing tastes of readers.
Flash forward half a century: graphic design genius Max Phillips and I are out drinking on a cold winter night and one of us asks the other, “Why doesn’t anyone publish great-looking, fun books like that anymore?” The other hoists his glass and says, “Why don’t we?” And Hard Case Crime is born.