Hard Case Crime is a new imprint for fans of the mystery novel. They publish lost hard boiled pulp fiction classics as well as new crime fiction, including Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. In the grand tradition of the fifties’ dime novel each cover is an echo of the sexy somewhat lurid covert art that made the genre instantly recognizable even today. Their first release was, appropriately enough, Grifter’s Game a long lost novel by a master of the genre Lawrence Block.

Block is one of the most prolific whodunit writers around. His Matthew Scudder series (A Dance At The Slaughterhouse and A Long Line of Dead Men need no introduction) is always a good read, his Bernie Rhodenbarr burglar series is a great, humorous series about a criminal bookseller, and his hit man series featuring Keller gets you inside the psyche of a contract killer.

Grifter’s Game features a convoluted but easy to follow plot and a great lead character, Joe Marlin, a grifter (people who go around taking advantage of other’s gullibility, leaving unpaid bills everywhere) who steals a suitcase of heroin, falls in love with Mona, who is married to the original owner of the suitcase, and then finds himself, as a lot of mystery novel characters tend to do, in a lot of trouble.

The writing is up to Lawrence Block’s usual standard. Readers will enjoy the very different kind of tough guy, hard drinking, dark philosophy of life that was coin of the realm of the genre before a lot of the lead characters became practitioners of the kind of pop psychology many whodunit writers seem to favor now. Grifter’s Game is also a genuine period piece what with the visit to an Automat in New York City and the idea a dollar tip of most generous.

This is a highly recommended novel and imprint. If, by the way, you are looking for that hard to find old time writer like Earle Stanley Gardner, Donald E. Westlake, or Donald Hamilton, this is the place to go. If they do not have that classic, hard to find book, you can always send them a letter with your request: no promises, but Hard Case Crime does invite you to do so.

Grifter’s Game
Lawrence Block
Originally published as Mona (1961)
Hard Case Crime 2005
205 pages

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