Gawd bless the hard-boiled folks at Hard Case Crime. I may not have fallen in head-over-guns love with every single one of their books (that I’ve read), but enough of them hit me square in my noir-loving solar plexus that I’ve been known to fall on the hard cold concrete yelling their praises. And that’s just for the covers. No, no, it’s for the innards of the books they publish, too, and for their deadly devotion both to newly minted murderous/suspenseful/chilly/mysterious/etc novels and to reprinting hard-to-discover classics on the genre/s. For example, I just wrapped up John Farris’ (writing as Steve Brackeen–they’re great at printing up stuff from writers’ various and sundry nom de plumes, too) Baby Moll, a book that pulls no punches and revs up quickly into a mash up of twists, turns, smacks, sips, hips, and your general “guy-wants-to-go-straight-with-hot-babe-on-beach-but-gets-pulled-back-into-underworld-activities-by-once-beloved-boss” plot. No messing around, solely good, rapid, action of all sorts. And boozing. Which, as you know, I’m fond of (excessively? Maybe). First one’s a bar quote (for my bar-working chums), and the second’s a hard-drinker’s quote (for my hard-drinking chums).
The Rendezvous was a charming basement beer hall near the ship channel. It stank of spilled brew, dirty clothing, and the elusive scent of rare sin. The rest of the building was a honeycomb of rooms for furtive meetings, the exchange of smuggled goods, the viewing of strange sex acts. I had been there often in my fledgling days with Macy.
‘You go on to bed,’ Macy told Rudy. ‘Better get a hot bath.’ Rudy went out. ‘You want a drink, Pete?’
He waved me to a small bar. I chose a bottle. ‘Give me some whisky,’ he said.
‘What do you want in it?’ I said.
‘I don’t want nothing in it!’ he said peevishly.
I gave him some whisky. He held it as somebody else might hold a flower. He drank it slowly. In between sips, I could hear the breath in his throat.
—Baby Moll, John Farris