The Soak

Is it possible for a criminal protagonist to be long past his prime yet captivating enough to hold our interest? The author of the HOW TO SUCCEED IN EVIL series, Patrick E. McLean, succeeds in this challenge with his foray into crime fiction, THE SOAK.

Hobbs, the novel’s lead character, knows he’s not a young man anymore. But working large-scale heists is the only life he knows. So as much as he’d like to quite, when he learns about a Florida armored truck transporting huge amounts of cash Hobbs finds himself once more planning and carrying out another theft.

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LUCKY is the fifth novel of Henry Chang’s series featuring Jack Yu, the Chinese-American NYPD detective whose beat is mostly Chinatown. But just as the Chinese culture is felt in areas other than this self-enclosed neighborhood, the locations of Chang’s crime series often covers many other areas of New York City. Still the most painful conflicts occur within Detective Yu’s tortured soul.

Jack Yu and Tat Louie grew up together on the mean streets of New York’s Chinatown. They shared similar dreams as trouble-prone youths. But as adults their lives took two distinctly different paths. Jack Yu joined the NYPD, eventually working his way to becoming a Police Detective. Tat became “Lucky” Louie, a notorious Chinatown gang leader whose dealings in drugs, gambling, and prostitution earned him a reputation throughout the entire city.

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Sleep With the Devil / Wake Up to Murder / Joy House

Day Keene (1903–1969) may not have “invented” noir but he and his contemporary authors (which included Jim Thompson and David Goodis), churning out crime and mystery fiction during the heydays of Fawcett Gold Medal and Lion Book paperback originals, laid the foundations for what is today known and revered as noir.

Now, thanks to this trio of Keene crime novels from the 1950s republished under Stark House Press’s Crime Classics banner, we get to experience noir in the making.

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The Snatchers / Clean Break

Crime fiction fans are probably more familiar with the many movie adaptations of Lionel White’s novels than with the novels themselves. Now, thanks to Stark House Press’s Crime Classics series, we can read THE SNATCHERS, White’s first novel, as well as CLEAN BREAK, the basis of Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING.

Cal Dent, in THE SNATCHERS (1953), leads a team of outlaws that have set up what they are certain is the prefect crime – a kidnapping that is sure to bring them half a million dollars ransom. But things start to go wrong as Dent’s team and the kidnapped victims hide out in a vacation rental in Land’s End and wait for the payoff.

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Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade

BLOOD AND LEMONADE, the latest collection of stories about Hap Collins and Leonard Pine – Lansdale’s odd but irresistible duo of East Texas crime-fighters – is a companion to both the Sundance TV series (which recently began its second season with an adaptation of MUCHO MOJO) and the previous story collection, HAP AND LEONARD, published last year. But two noticeable differences distinguish this latest collection.

For one, the stories trace the earliest days of the partnership; all the way back to when Hap first met Leonard in high school. Also, as Lansdale notes in his Afterword, this is more of a “mosaic novel” than the earlier collection. That is, the stories convey the life and theme of its characters with new passages (or this this case entire stories) added for necessary transitions – much like what Ray Bradbury did with THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.

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Rusty Puppy

RUSTY PUPPY, Joe R. Lansdale’s 10th Hap and Leonard novel, is another rough-and-tumble romp as the two unlikely friends and partners investigate the murder of a young black man and get caught up in a web of corruption and the lingering racism of their East Texas home.

Not long after being released from the hospital, where he was recovering from a near-fatal stab wound, Hap Collins, a self-proclaimed white-trash rebel, is approached by a black woman who lives across the street form the office were Hap works as a private investigator. The woman hires Hap and his partner, Leonard Pine, a gay, black Republican Vietnam vet, to find who killed her teenage son. Hap asks if the woman has consulted the local police – only to discover that the woman is certain the police are the ones who killed her son.

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Just the Way It Is / Blonde’s Requiem

Stark House’s Crime Classics continues to reintroduce readers to the works of prolific thriller and mystery author James Hadley Chase with this duo of novels, JUST THE WAY IT IS and BLONDE’S REQUIEM, first published in the mid 1940s under one of Chase’s several pen names (Raymond Marshall). These works demonstrate the forms and themes that fascinated Chase throughout his career of over 90 mostly hard-boiled thrillers.

JUST THE WAY IT IS (1944) traces the collapse of a gambling organization over a three-day period. Harry Duke, a professional gambler, follows a strange real estate sale and, with the help of Clare Russell, a reporter for a local newspaper, uncovers the organization’s corruption that eventually collapses under its own weight – with some murders along the way.

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Outside the Law

Author and journalist Phillip Thompson’s latest crime novel, OUTSIDE THE LAW, follows the aftermath of violence within the world of street-level drug dealers and the mobsters who control the dealers and the flow of drugs in a rural Mississippi county. While the events and characters are never less than absorbing, the novel’s overall impact is deadened due to Thompson’s leisurely pace and shifting perspective.

Colt Harper, Sheriff of a small rural Mississippi county, has a problem on his hands. Small-time drug dealers who operate in his town are showing up brutally murdered. It isn’t long before Sheriff Harper confronts Hack, a sharp dressing, intelligent talking and completely cold-blooded assassin hired by a Memphis mobster to eliminate the dealers. Hack immediately sees Harper as an obstacle to his assignment, but a very expendable obstacle.

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The Jukebox Kings

Doug Allyn’s latest crime novel, THE JUKEBOX KINGS, presents a little-known side of the music business in the mid 1960s, when recordings were made in houses renovated into studios and records were promoted more by popularity on jukeboxes in locals bars and clubs than airplay over the radio. Along the way Allyn also unsparingly presents the greed, ambition, and violence that are also parts of the professional music world.

“Irish” Mick Shannon is a professional boxer who suddenly finds himself in debt to the mob when his manager bet heavy and Shannon looses his latest match. Unable to come up with the cash, Shannon ends up working as the collector for Moishe Abrams, an aging mobster who runs the jukes and collections in Detroit’s 8 Mile area.

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The late Gregory Mcdonald is remembered primarily for his popular Fletch and Flynn series. So much so that only his most devoted readers know that he also wrote several stand-alone crime novels. Hard Case Crime hopes to correct this with SNATCH, which presents two long out-of-print Mcdonald novels about kidnapping. And although they both share this common element, they are two completely different novels in all important regards.

SNATCH, the first of the two novels (first published as WHO TOOK TOBY RINALDI in 1978) takes place in the 1970s and focuses on the United Nations Ambassador to an unnamed country in the Middle East. The Ambassador’s son, Toby, is kidnapped by those who wish to prevent the Ambassador from presenting a resolution that will affect the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf. The Ambassador and his wife search for their abducted son while enlisting the assistance of the country’s designated officers. But the panicked parents soon suspect that these officers can’t be completely trusted.

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