Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Read Lately: Fifty-To-One by Charles Ardai

  • For Hard Case Crime's fiftieth novel, publisher Charles Ardai wanted to do something special. What he came up with was a novel based on the premise that Hard Case Crime had been around for 50 years instead of 50 books. This book would have 50 chapters and each chapter would be named after each of the published books, in order. All he had to do was figure out a story to tell around all of those names. It sounds crazy, but somehow it works.

  • Fifty-To-One is the story of Tricia Heverstadt, a small town girl who moves to New York City to follow in her sister's seemingly glamourous footsteps. When events conspire against her, she ends up working as a dancer in a mob run night club and writing about it for the fictional Hard Case Crime. Of course, writing about the mob has its problems, even when you're making it all up. Before long, the mob, the law, and various real life authors are drawn into the escalating danger.

  • I've been jealous of Charles Ardai's writing ability ever since I read his prior novel, Songs of Innocence, written under the pen anagram Richard Aleas. He has a wicked way of description that does more than tell you what's going on; it also makes you feel it. With the compact nature of pulp fiction, there is no room for purple prose. Ardai's spare but evocative writing style sell his story and characters without giving up a lot of page real estate.

  • As one would expect from a crime novel, Fifty-To-One starts at a run and doesn't really slow down. However, Ardai has to add several more twists and turns due to the fifty chapter structure. While some could see this as a problem, the story is light hearted and, therefore, is easier to forgive.

  • So long as you don't demand deathly serious fiction, any fan of the crime genre should find something to enjoy here. Charles Ardai has proven himself an excellent writer as well as the curator of the Hard Case Crime publishing line. He did not disappoint with this novel and I look forward to anything else he cares to write.

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