RARA-AVIS: Quick reviews: two recent Hard Cases

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 05 Jan 2006

Maybe some spoilers.


God, that's a great cover. One of the many great things about Hard Case is the return of good cover art.

As for the book itself, I'm not a huge Block fan but was surprised to find a mild satisfaction in this. If you like Block adjust your sights accordingly. A con-game story, which is first cousin to the heist story. Book suffers a bit from the fact that the big reveal is obvious as all get-out: this is most notable around the 3/4 mark, where if you've read any of these things you'll likely be screaming at the protagonist to get a clue.

On the other hand, the con game being run is generally interesting, and there's all sorts of busy little facts about how to do it (or how to do it back in those days) which sound plausible to me, anyway. Also Block does his best with the obviousness of the reveal, making it an aspect of the protagonist's character. Which helps the book in the final analysis.

Sort of a better stab at the kind of thing GRIFTER'S GAME (IMO, not a very good book) was trying for.


I was surprised that I really liked this, too. I'm fine with McBain, but generally have not liked his early 87th Precinct books, which have always struck me as clunky beyond belief. I had this notion that his early books weren't interesting.

Well, this came out in 1958 and is much better than I expected.. Cannon was once a PI, now is a drunk, and is sort of strong-armed to do a "favor for a friend" that lands him in the usual hot water. (I wonder if Block knew about the Cannon books when he conceived of Scudder?) The book goes through some predictable turns, but McBain rarely gets overly-sentimental about it and that helps a lot. Plus, some obvious turns aren't taken, which is pretty neat. Cannon is not redeemed at all, for instance. GUTTER reads incredibly fast and while I can't say the whodunit aspect is an incredible surprise, McBain handles it extremely well.

Highly recommended, one of the best Hard Case reprints.


Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 05 Jan 2006 EST