Hard Case Crime has been publishing hardboiled crime novels for the best part of a decade, here’s a few choice picks among their many, many offerings.
Kit Tolliver after years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, killed her parents. Her father for his transgressions and her mother for allowing it to go on. Removing all traces of her presence the police filled in the blanks and assumed the couple had killed each other. Kit disappeared that day.
Kit is a sociopathic serial killer who drifts from town to town murdering men. Her motivation lingering rage and abandonment issues left over from her father’s abuse. she is also a pathological liar. With each new place comes a new name, a new identity and a new man for her to target. Kit is also a nymphomaniac using men for passionate wild sex before killing them and stealing whatever money they have before moving on to the next town.
Kit has realised though that in the early days, when she was less skilled and focussed she left several of her targets alive and now she is tying up loose ends.
Veteran writer Lawrence Block is best known for his award winning hardboiled crime writing but also wrote several novels of steamy lesbian erotica under the pseudonym Jill Emerson and returns to his pseudonym here although both names are on the cover.. The cover states “A Novel of Sex & Violence”and it’s not false advertising as Block writes about sex and murder with unashamed glee and the grit and style he is known for.
Kit loves sex but loves it even more when she knows she’s going to kill the man afterwards. An early encounter sees Kit (calling herself another name) picking a gullible mark in a casino and before long has him tied to a bed with his mouth duct taped and using an elastic band as a makeshift cock ring ‘it’s an old Indian trick’ she says to her helpless victim, after passionately riding him for some time she scalps him and leaves him to bleed out on the bed with his bloated erection standing defiantly firm.
Things get distinctly more twisted as the story progresses one encounter finds Kit pondering upon looking at her victim ,who has been strangled in a noose made to look like an autoasphyxiation accident, “the cock ring hadn’t stopped working. He was still massively erect, and she could swear he’d grown larger since she’d left him……… waste not, want not isn’t that what they say? And when am I gonna get a chance like this again?’
It’s sleazy,twisted and trashy pulp but it also happens to be crafted just as well as Block’s other books and despite being a murderous sociopath it’s hard not to love Kit as she carves out a path and carves up her victims.
Former porn star Angel Dare gets a call from old friend when he’s in a bind. A one time job at a shoot in Bel Air, Angel feeling pretty low on self-esteem and wanting an ego boost likes the idea of working with ripped new dick-on-the-block Jesse Black. Things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye with Angel finding herself tied to a bed, interrogated and mercilessly beaten by a heavy who’s fishing for information about a young woman that Angel is connected to. Things go from bad to worse though as Angel soon finds herself being brutally raped by Jesse and forced to watch her oldest friend Sam get kneecapped. Unceremoniously dumped in boot of a car by her attacker, when it comes to pulling the trigger Jesse loses his nerve and goes for a wounding shot instead of the kill. Big mistake.
With Money Shot Christa Faust introduces one of the best femme fatale’s in fiction . Money Shot (which by the way like many of Hard Case Crime’s books features gorgeous cover art by Glen Orbik) is an adrenaline fuelled pulp tour de force. Dare finds herself relying on Malloy a straight talking, granite faced ex-cop and her faithful assistant Didi whilst trying to find out what’s going on and unwittingly stumbling across a human trafficking operation. Faust’s tale rattles along like a runaway train Dare is rendered refreshingly human via numerous character touches. Completely breaking down after the brutal interrogation and then hating herself for it, worrying if she left her vibrator on her bed or put it away in the bedside cabinet in case the cops come to search her place and being wracked with regret about all her friends being dragged into the rapidly expanding shitstorm her life has become, Dare is both victim and avenging angel and isn’t just a cypher dealing with cliches .
Faust’s snappy prose is tight as a drum and Dare’s story is an engrossing one as she embarks on her journey of revenge and discovery. Cliffhangers are utilised well which makes for an even more compulsive read. There’s some wry commentary on Dare’s former world of the adult film business as Dare says “A lot of guys imagine it would be this big turn-on to visit a porn set. My advice is, unless you really love watching other men jack off, don’t bother”. There’s plenty of action and sex too, which refreshingly isn’t written in a misogynistic manner.
The follow up Angel Dare story Choke Hold has a former co-star stumble upon Dare who has been relocated with a new identity, only for him to die in the midst of a shoot out in the diner Dare has been working in. Feeling guilty over her old friends death Dare finds herself honour bound to escort his son, Cody an up and coming temperamental MMA fighter, through the choking heat of the Arizona desert to Las Vegas and unintentionally gets tangled up in a drug smuggling operation in the process.
Faust is working on an as yet untitled third Angel Dare book.
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