Friday, July 07, 2006

Those shrewd and enterprising folk at Hard Case Crime continue their quest to keep affordable paperbacks alive with three new entries. Even at $6.99 a pop, these are bargains – especially since their cover art eerily recreates past pleasures.

LEMONS NEVER LIE, by Richard Stark, is a long out-of-print delight by Donald E. Westlake, who under his real name and his Stark alias has been making heroes out of criminals all his writing life. Unreformed thief Alan Grofield runs a live theater in Indiana, but gets involved with a lunatic who wants his help in robbing a brewery – and just won’t take Grofield’s refusal as anything but a reason to explode.

STRAIGHT CUT, by Madison Smartt Bell, is another treasure: the only straight mystery (published originally in 1986) by one of our leading novelists. Freelance film editor Tracy Bateman, who is having trouble staying sober since his wife Lauren left him, takes a suspiciously high-paying job in Rome offered by his former best friend Kevin, a semi-successful film producer. Not only is Kevin the man for whom Lauren left Tracy; he has also been known to smuggle drugs in sizeable quantities – both of which cause Tracy a large portion of angst and danger.

WITNESS TO MYSELF, by Seymour Shubin, is an amazing story -- not to mention a great mystery. What’s the opposite of a burned out writer? Shubin burst into the mystery world in 1953 with his best-selling first novel, Anyone’s My Name; his career continued up through 1982, with the memorable Edgar nominee The Captain; now he has a brand new example of classic noir – about a 15-year-old crime suddenly resurfacing to change a man’s life -- out. Once again, the pleasure is enhanced by a piece of original cover art (this one by Larry Schwinger) which catches the period perfectly.