Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hard Case

I really love old crime novels. I've read them since I was a kid, and the only real problem was finding copies of stuff that was long out of print. I have Strange Pursuit, by N. R. De Mexico, which is one of only three entries by Suspense Novel, falling apart. And I've found old books from publishers like Phantom, Popular Library, Gold Medal, and Red Seal.

Earlier this year, I found a publisher that I can't believe I hadn't seen before, Hard Case Crime. Oh, god, is it good. They publish novels that have been out of print for more than 50 years by authors like Cornell Woolrich and Lawrence Block and David Goodis, kings of pulp. And they have new books by authors that I've loved like Max Allan Collins. I've read 24 of the books so far and I've loved every one of them. They are so much damn fun to read.

As I've been reading them, I've tried to remember to write down lines that I really liked, so here are some of them:

...I heard him say he wanted to see the senior partner. He said it with the air of a man who always demands the best, and then settles for what he can get.
Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner

People generally take their time putting two and two together, and even so they generally come up with five.
Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block

That old boy has teeth you simply would not credit.
Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips

She was a big, soft-looking girl with energetic brown eyes, and she still trusted everybody she met and believed every story she heard. I was always glad to see Joanie, because it meant nobody had killed her yet.
Fade to Blond by Max Phillips

The figure she cut had nothing to do with speech.
Shooting Star by Robert Bloch

That was his privilege, his prerogative, as the man of the house, to answer the phone if it rang when he happened to be there; rather than hers. It was a mechanical instrument, it was an electrical thing, it was a thing of wires, it still fell more within the masculine domain than the feminine.
Fright by Cornell Woolrich

She looked hot enough to catch fire, but too lazy to do anything but just lie there and smoke.
The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer

And there are pages and pages of these great lines in every one of these books. And the books themselves are beautiful, with the mass-market style format with salacious art by guys like Robert McGinnis, who is one of the most legendary cover painters.


Anonymous said...

"That old boy has teeth you simply would not credit."

Oh man, that is my favorite.

It's funny but I've been doing a lot of thinking about reading up on older fiction/non-fiction stuff as a way to write about some new stuff. A fine writer, Jarrid Deaton, posted a story on fictionaut today about Ota Benga, the pygmy placed in a zoo. i checked out some websites about him and found some crazy "gotta write about it" stuff - like "Under threat of legal action, Hornaday had Ota Benga leave his cage and circulate around the zoo in a white suit, but he returned to the monkey house to sleep" and "finally, after fabricating a small bow and arrows and shooting at obnoxious park visitors he had to leave the park for good." there is so much great stuff in history (fiction and non-fiction) to look at for inspiration. you're idea about the history of history of forgotten lunatics idea is along those lines...such a great idea. okay, i'm done rambling. gotta wake up in 2 hours to run 12 miles. f.

Anonymous said...

lack of sleep or not, there is no excuse for my use of "you're". f again.

Jon Steinhagen said...

"Somebody Owes Me Money" by Donald E. Westlake is my favorite of the series (thus far), and I can't recommend it highly enough. Hilarious and exciting. Makes me want to put on a porkpie hat, unlatch my vintage Royal manual typewriter, take a slug of Old Times, and start hammering away at a little Lit Noir.

K. Wilson said...

David: Yeah, that line is fantastic. I've been thinking about this too because I've been rereading some Darin Strauss and his first two books are really interesting in the way that they take this historical character(s) and then running with it so far that it becomes wild and interesting. I'm going to check out this Ota Benga story.

Jon: That is on my wishlist, though every one of the Hard Case books is on my wishlist. But I'll bump it to the top of the wishlist now. I won't rest until I have a bookcase of the complete Hard Case Crime library.