Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, August 09, 2010
      ( 8/09/2010 06:13:00 AM ) Bill S.  


“YOUR FATHER. YOU THINK YOU KNOW HIM.” Don’t know if these facts are related or not, but three weeks after I picked up a batch of Hard Case Crime paperbacks on the cheap at my local Dollar General, I read that Dorchester Publishing, the company responsible for printing and distributing this line of crime fiction, plans to axe its small mass-market paperbacks in favor of eBooks and print-on-demand trades. Sour news for lovers of pulp fiction in a snazzy retro print format -- as Charles Ardai’s Hard Case had become a reliable source over the past six years for both modern (writers like Stephen King, David Schow and Max Allen Collins) and obscure (forgotten gems by the likes of Lawrence Block, Erle Stanley Gardner and Ed McBain) hard-boiled fiction.

Just finished one of the latter this past weekend, in fact: Donald E. Westlake’s 361, a dark and dirty revenge thriller that was first published the same year as Westlake’s first Parker novel, The Hunter. The book tells the first person story of returning veteran Ray Kelly, whose reunion with his lawyer father is ruined big time when a Chrysler carrying hit men takes out the old mean and leave Ray with only one eye.

Ray and his whiny older brother Bill dig into the hit and, in so doing, uncover a host of uncomfortable truths. The seemingly respectable lawyer who Ray has called his father had ties to the New York mob, but this proves only the surface secret. As in the best hard-boiled fiction, the further our hero pieces things together, the darker the whole construction gets.

Though it’s an early work, Westlake’s novel proves to be both assured and compelling, leanly written and packed with violent double-dealings. Its most striking element is an acknowledgment of the way that violence changes its hero. “Every man has to either have a home or a purpose,” Ray says at one point -- and both of these have changed drastically for him. Our one-eyed vet may be tough, but unlike so many paperback protagonists of his day, he has serious doubts about his capacity to kill the man responsible for the killings. Though we know he ultimately will do so, the book still leaves us wondering about how our hero’ll handle it in the years ahead. Not the kind of question we had about Mike Hammer at the end of I, The Jury, say: in its recognition of this question, 361 is like a Kennedy Era variation on Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven.

A taut little read and typical of the best finds in Hard Case’s library. Here’s hoping the series finds another publisher for its mean little paperbacks.

(First published on Blogcritics.)

Labels:

# |



Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:



A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page







Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Attentiondeficitdisorderly
Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

BeaucoupKevin
Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog
Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Bookgasm
Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Comics.212
Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine

Egon

Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery

Estoreal
RAB

Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section
Hal

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures
Pata

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Journalista
Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett

Metrokitty
Kitty

Michael's Movie Palace
Michael

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag

Neilalien

News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

PeterDavid.net
Peter David

(postmodernbarney.com)
Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Rhinoplastique
Marc Bernardin

Scrubbles
Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren
Campaspe

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby

TangognaT

The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter



A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.




My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Alicublog
Roy Edroso

Eschaton
Atrios

Firedoglake
Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman

Modulator
Steve

Pandagon
Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
Skippy

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends



Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed



Powered by Blogger



Twittering:
    follow me on Twitter