We recently spoke with Charles Ardai, the editor and founder of the Hard Case Crime publishing company about their newest release -- the Pulpish thriller 'Brothers Keepers' by the late Donald Westlake.
Q: When was Brothers Keepers first published and how will this book interest modern Pulp fans?
A: BROTHERS KEEPERS first came out in 1975, I believe, and I think was last in stores in 1993 or something like that – almost 30 years ago. It’s a book I loved when I first read it, and it’s one I thought other readers would love too, if they got a chance to discover it. So I decided to bring it back into print.
I don’t know that the book would be of special interest to pulp fans – it’s a little more gentle and whimsical than old-time pulp fiction – but it’s very funny, which the best pulps also were, and a bit improbable – the basic conceit, of a group of monks living in seclusion in a monastery on Park Avenue in New York City feels a bit like the premise for a pulp story. Mostly, though, it’s just a great read, by an author I love, and I felt our readers would enjoy it if they gave it a try. So I hope they will.
Q: The company seems to publish a lot of Westlake's books. What in your estimation is his appeal?
A: We’ve published nine books by Westlake and have two more coming, so yes, I would say we’ve done a lot. The books are very varied – some very dark and serious, some wildly comical – but what they all have in common is really great writing (Westlake was a natural born storyteller and never wrote a boring sentence in his life) and plots that are clever, inventive, and grab you from page one. In that sense they have a lot in common with the best pulp fiction. This is unpretentious writing that simply satisfies. The man didn’t write for the ages, he wrote to be read – and to this day, people love to read him.
Q: Will the company branch out into more genre-oriented fare such as science fiction or horror? The possibilities of an unpublished Lensmen novel come to mind.
A: We don’t plan to branch out into other genres – horror, sf, western, whatever. We’re basically a one-man operation here (setting aside Katharine’s help on the PR front), and I’ve got my hands more than full just choosing and publishing mysteries each year. I’d be delighted to see someone else do something similar in other genres, but it’s not something I can bite off.
Q: Do you have any advice for newer writers interested in submitting work to your company?
A: Writers (newer, older or in between) are welcome to submit work to us – the only advice is to read some of our books first to learn what we like. We don’t publish fantasy or sf, so don’t send us something about werewolves or set in the future. We don’t do serial killers and terrorists vs. CIA agents. Those are fine things to write about, but they’re not Hard Case Crime. Read what we publish and you’ll have a better sense of what we might go for.