The pulp era was famous for its fiction, and I have mentioned at length the adventure fiction from then, as it ties into the wonderful Gabriel Hunt series, but adventure fiction was far from all coming out at that time. Science fiction and fantasy were seeing a huge boom cycle, as was romance fiction, and to an even greater extent, mystery and crime fiction exploded across the market. These authors set the stage for everything to come after. However, today most of these great novels are out of print and forgotten, and their style has become nothing but a memory. Enter Hard Case Crime, created by Charles Ardai (the same man behind Gabriel Hunt), an imprint devoted to pulp crime. With a decent mix of reprinted lost classics and new works in the same genre, Hard Case Crime is hard to top for that good old crime novel.
After Stephen King finished his epic Dark Tower series, he took a short hiatus, and his return was heralded by none other than the thirteenth novel in the Hard Case Crime series, The Colorado Kid. Without the supernatural or horror elements that made his other novels famous, this tale straddling the line between long novella and short novel is a curiosity, and I picked it up on that impulse.
The Colorado Kid follows Stephanie, a new intern at a small newspaper on an island off the coast of Maine, and the two other members of the staff, Vince Teague and Dave Bowie. The subject of unsolved mysteries comes up, and the two veteran staff members decide to tell Stephanie of the Colorado Kid, their very own unsolved mystery. A man was discovered slumped on the beach, dead, without any identification. The mystery surrounding him is deep, and as the two men n the story frequently remind us, this is unsolved, there is no “through-line,” no story, just facts.
King tells a story that is about three deep characters, each one someone you care about, and they sit around and talk of a crime that there is no answer to, no matter how much you want there to be. The richness of King’s prose is a testament to his abilities as a writer, and the lack of a “through-line” makes telling a good story hard, yet he does it with aplomb. It is stories such as this that show just why Stephen King is so widely popular, and so in demand. This is one of the freshest new King novels I have read, and one of the best crime tales I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. As my first foray into Hard Case Crime, I know I must return, for if this is the quality of book they are putting out, then this is a gold mine that must be explored. This one deserves to be called a classic.