Archive for Hard Case

Introduction to Lawrence Block

Posted in Lawrence Block with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2011 by gustravis

My first impression of Lawrence Block wasn’t so good. He laid down a plot with an ending I could see coming a mile away. His detective Matthew Scudder was dense if I was five steps ahead of him. It was a book called A Time to Murder and Create: a good title, that’s why I picked it up.

So I gave up on Block for a while. But time wore me down on a second chance. This time I bought his first Scudder mystery, 8 Million Ways to Die: a better title. And from what I read for the first few chapters, a much better book. It was clean and fast. But then I got distracted.

Hard Case Crime covers are good for that, distracting attention. And the front of their reprint of The Girl with the Long Green Heart is no exception. I’m fifty pages into the paperback: I can feel the desperation, betrayal boiling under a clean surface ready to explode, the sucking sensation of an alright guy drawn into a mess he can’t get out of. So, I’m glad I gave Block a second and third try. Here’s a bit I just read that I liked very much.

You damn well have to know who’s working with you. When you’re all wrapped up in a big one you live a whole slew of lies all at once, and if you have a few people in it who are lying back and forth and conning each other as much as they’re conning the mooch, then you are looking for trouble and fairly certain of finding it. This doesn’t mean that good con men are inherently honest in their dealings among themselves. They aren’t. If they were honest, they woulnd’t have gone on the C to begin with. I expected Doug would lie to me, and I expected to lie to Doug, but not to the point where we’d be fouling each other up. If there were things I ought to know about him, I wanted to know them now. 

Travis Mills

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David Goodis: The Wounded and the Slain

Posted in David Goodis with tags , , , , on May 27, 2010 by gustravis

David Goodis

He wrote for radio.  He wrote for Hollywood.  He shacked up in Philadelphia with his parents and schizo brother and explored the streets at night.  He died from injuries possibly received while resisting a robbery.

The Wounded and the Slain

The city is a perfect place for crime, for the unhealthy, the ones diseased in mind and spirit, for double-crosses and triple-crosses and shoot-outs and beautiful women made of nothing but meanness.  But the slums of a Third World island aren’t a bad setting either and that is where Goodis takes us in this novel, to the tourist havens in Jamaica, where nearby poverty and crime wait for night to sometimes snatch one of the guests away from their blissful fantasy lives.

Of course, his protagonist James Bevan wants to be taken–he craves escape from the spiral of alcoholism he’s thrown himself into, his marriage to a frigid confused woman, the pointlessness of his American life.  It is the slums, the death, the violence, the betrayal and ugliness of human kind, right in his face like the mud that chokes him when he falls in a ditch, drunk, and can’t get out, it is that ugliness that may spark the last breath of courage in his depraved body and soul.

There is something essential and fitting about a character in pulp/noir work that doesn’t want to live, that in fact wants to destroy themselves.  Charles Willeford nails this type in his novel Pick-Up and so does Goodis here, through a couple hundred pages of pain and suffering.

Hard Case, a publisher responsible for the fantastic revival of many authors, put the book out.  Most of Goodis’ work is still out of print.