Fifty-To-One and Back Again

Over at his blog, Art & Literature, Art Taylor talks with Charles Ardai about his new and charmingly clever novel FIFTY-TO-ONE, the first under his real name and #50 published by Hard Case Crime. A lot of ground is covered but what struck me most was Ardai’s answer about the milestone aspect of the book:

Taylor: How has your vision for Hard Case Crime — and/or your understanding of this specific genre — changed since the beginning?

Ardai: Well, I’ve read a larger fraction of all the books published in the
field — both new and old — since starting the line, and inevitably if
you do that you start to see patterns emerge and get a sense for the
broader shape of the field and the life’s work of some of the authors
in it.  It hasn’t changed my perception of the field a great deal, but
what it has done is give me a heightened appreciation for just how hard
it is to write a great crime novel, one that really leaves your heart
racing, your breath short, and your mind forcibly expanded like a
wingtip on a shoe-stretcher.  Even the writers who are able to do it
once are rarely able to do it again, and most writers toil their entire
careers without
ever achieving that goal.  And the competition is so very fierce, there are so many books….

But the very best still stand out, still have a big impact, and the
chance to add to the tally of the very best is part of what drives me
to keep going.  We don’t hit that mark every time out — no one could,
not twelve times a year — but every so often we do, and it feels great.

I’ve also come to appreciate just how much we’re on the cusp of the
passing of an era.  Since we launched the series, we’ve lost five of
our authors: Donald Hamilton, Ed McBain, Richard Prather, Mickey
Spillane, and most recently John Lange [one of Michael Crichton's
pseudonyms].  David Dodge’s daughter, Kendall, who wrote a touching
afterword for The Last Match, just died, and so did Ellie
Bloch, Robert Bloch’s widow.  Three of our authors are in their 90s
and, god bless them, going strong, but… the paperback era is dying, and
its last representatives are few and dwindling.  This is the last
chance to work with them while they’re still around, and I feel honored
to have gotten the chance to work with so many.  I’m glad I didn’t
start the line a few years later; I’m only sorry I didn’t think to
start it a few sooner.

Ain’t that the truth.