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Charles Ardai: Hard Case Shows a Soft Spot for Pulp

May 5, 2008 (Fresh Air)

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Edgar Award-winning author Charles Ardai is founder of Hard Case Crime, a pulp-fiction publishing group that reprints classic crime stories and publishes new pulp. All Hard Case novels come out in mass-market paperback editions, much like the classic crime novels from the '40s, '50s and '60s, with cover art inspired by images from the genre's heyday.

Under the pseudonym Richard Aleas — an anagram of his own name — Ardai writes crime fiction, too. His novels Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence detail the exploits of private investigator John Blake.

Blake is no hard-boiled, flint-eyed detective. He's haunted, damaged, often a little off-balance. Ardai, a one-time literature major who studied the English Romantic poets in his undergraduate career, tells Terry Gross that he's drawn to pulp fiction's tradition of wounded heroes.

He wasn't sure others would be, though. When Ardai and Hard Case co-founder Max Phillips were planning the imprint's launch, "we figured there was a reason [pulp publishers] had gone out of business," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. And they assumed that part of that reason was limited audience. Fifty books later, Hard Case is at the forefront of a pulp revival — a comeback for what the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger calls "an American art form as authentic as jazz."

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This interview was first broadcast on May 5, 2008.

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