A chap called Charles Ardai must have been as fed up as I was with the boring state of current paperbacks, with their insipid, graphically confused and feeble cover art, because ten years ago he founded an imprint called Hard Case Crime.
As befit their retro approach, Hard Case titles were originally available in the classic paperback format, i.e.
pocket sized rather than 'trade paperback' — but now are mostly in the larger size, and sometimes even appear as handsome hardcover editions.
And they invariably have striking cover art, including beautiful paintings by the glorious Robert McGinnis — including Quarry's Choice, which is due out from Hard Case early next year.
I see the geniuses at Wikipedia describe these covers as being in the 'pulp' style. Of course, they are actually nothing like pulp magazine
covers. Rather, they evoke the golden age of paperback art from the 1950s and 1960s. Always happy to correct the Wikipedia boys on a point of fact.
It really irks me when people throw around a term like 'pulp' in a faux-knowledgeable way. A casual trawl of the internet shows chumps putting up galleries of what they say are pulp covers when in fact they are a hopeless melange of paperbacks, 'sweats' (later, post-pulp magazines) and a few genuine pulps.
I suppose, since Tarrantino's Pulp Fiction (a movie I adore, incidentally) the term has become diluted and confused beyond recall. Anyway, you can see real pulp art here.
And, in fairness to the high-functioning heroes of Wikipedia, I suppose you could make a case for a handful of Hard Case covers being done in a pulp manner — the best candidates to my mind would be Seduction of the Innocent, Nightwalker and the gorgeous Branded Woman, the latter painted by Glen Orbik in a striking poster style using dramatic lighting and a limited and deliciously non-naturalistic colour palette which calls to mind George Rozen's work on the Shadow Magazine, a genuine pulp if ever there was one. I'll include images of both here, because I love 'em.
their tasty vintage paperback style covers, Hard Case features a blend of original fiction
and reprints by giants of the genre. I loved their books from the first
time I glimpsed them, at a convention in Los Angeles years ago. I
immediately bought a couple — quite by chance one example of each kind
of Hard Case. The original was Money Shot by Christa Faust, the reprint Fright by Cornell Woolrich.
I enjoyed both these books — I finished the Woolrich on the plane back to London — but I had only just begun to dip my toe into the ocean of great reading which is Hard Case.
Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about some genuine masterpieces from the imprint which have been keeping me up all night, turning pages.
(Image credits: all the Hard Case covers are from Hard Case's own fine site. The beautiful Shadow Magazine cover is from a great website here. At times like this I realise what a wonderful resource the internet is.)