A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi


RALPH DENNIS – Atlanta Deathwatch. Jim Hardman #1. Popular Library, paperback original, 1974. Brash Books, softcover, 2018.

   In 1974, Popular Library introduced a new series called “Hardman,” by Ralph Dennis, by releasing the first two books in the series simultaneously. These were followed by five more that year, and another five in 1976. The series stands at twelve, and that’s a shame, because although Hardman was marketed as just another men’s adventure series, it was much more than that. It was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale subgenre that was filled with Executioner rip-offs.

   Jim Hardman is a disgraced ex-cop working out of Atlanta as an unlicensed PI with an ex-football player sidekick, Hump Evans. They walk a tight legal line and will do just about anything for money that doesn’t offend Hardman’ s morals — which are high for the kind of life he leads.

   In this book they are hired by a black mobster called “The Man” to find out who killed a girl he was in love with, but the plots of these novels are secondary to the actions and interactions of the main characters and the crisp writing. At its worst, Dennis’s writing is well above that of the run-of-the-mill men’s adventure series; and at its best, it is a fine example of PI writing that depends little on the conventions of the genre.

   Other novels in the series particularly recommended are Working for the Man (1974), The One Dollar Rip-Off (1976), and The Buy-Back Blues (1976).

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.