Thursday, August 15, 2013

John Lange Revealed! Michael Crichton & Hard Case Crime.

For me, the intersection between Hard Case Crime and comic books is double-edged.  On the one hand, the award-winning line of new and classic crime fiction was featured in the back pages of early issues of Criminal (and I discovered that HCC books returned the favor), and I'm not sure I would have explored the books without that advertising. 

On the other hand, Hard Case Crime is a big reason I no longer read many new comic books:  few provide the same bang for the buck, either on the first read or for the long haul.

We previously noted the imprint's hiatus and its return, moving from mass-market paperbacks to hardcovers and trade paperbacks.  This summer has been especially big, as Stephen King published Joyland exclusively through HCC without any digital distribution -- it's been startling to see the book at Kroger's and Costco -- and big events just keep coming.

Earlier this week, I noticed the website listed eight(!) new additions for October, two being familiar books in a new edition.  The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog has the details, and at his blog, novelist Paul Bishop has evidently published the email newsletter from editor Charles Ardai.

As a Harvard med student, Michael Crichton wrote eight paperback thrillers that were published between 1966 and 1972 under the pen name of John Lange.  Hard Case Crime previously reprinted two of these books -- Grave Descend (HCC-026) and Zero Cool (HCC-041) -- under the name of Lange, never acknowledging the now fairly open secret of who really wrote it.

Crichton passed away in 2008, but with his family's blessing, all eight Lange novels are being reprinted by Hard Case Crime this October, under his real name for the first time.

(The earlier HCC books will have new numbers and the new authorship, "Michael Crichton Writing as John Lange," as the original listings have been removed from the site.)

What sort of books did "John Lange" write?  Ardai explains:
The books are terrific reads, really delicious examples of Michael experimenting with the genres he would become famous for in later life – you’ll find sinister consequences of bioengineering (on a secret island vacation resort, no less!), you’ll find a race-against-the-clock political thriller penned long before the TV series “24,” you’ll find an archaeology professor hunting for a lost tomb in the Egyptian desert decades before Harrison Ford ever donned a fedora…plus a heist of a luxury hotel planned with the aid of a computer, a case of mistaken identity that pits an innocent man against a league of assassins, and more, all presented behind the gorgeous painted cover art of Greg Manchess and Glen Orbik. 
Unlike Stephen King's latest entry, these books are also available digitally through Open Road Integrated Media, but I think Ardai's comment to WSJ is right on the money:  "We publish books that were meant to be in paperback, with covers that make your pulse race, which is how Michael always wanted these books to appear."

Each book will retail for ten bucks, and they may end up being discounted to about the same price range as the e-books.

Fans of Criminal and the rest of Brubaker and Phillips' work can find a great way to kill a weekend with any of the books from Hard Case Crime.

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