What I am Reading – Hardman

Ralph Dennis has a bit of a cult following among fans of hard-boiled crime fiction. I first came to hear of him through an excellent entry on the Hardman series on Paul Bishop’s blog. And I immediately began searching Used Book stores for books in the out of print series.

I go to used bookstores a lot… it’s like an addiction. Yet…

I have never seen a copy of any of them.

Ebay and other online retailers will occasionally post copies for steep prices.

For about the two years I’ve known of the series, I’d pretty come to think of these books as a Golden Ticket.  Then something wonderful happened, Brash Books has gotten permission or rights or whatever to re-publish Dennis’ works. And they’ve started with the first five Hardman books.

My copy of Atlanta Deathwatch arrived on Christmas Eve.

The book includes an excellent introduction by Joe Lansdale, which makes a claim that the Hardman series suffered from the original publisher marketing it as a Men’s Adventure series (ala Mack Bolan The Executioner). The Hardman series was even “numbered” 1-12.  Having read the first book, I can see the problem with that. Dennis’ prose is strong in a leaning toward Chandler way. However, I also see how it gets lumped in with Men’s Adventure (which I personally do not think of as a knock on the books). There is a tendency toward more violent action than you find in the typical Chandler or Ross MacDonald yarn. I think it goes beyond John D. in that regard, too…but it seems a little closer to a McGee story than a Marlowe. This is what my wife would call a “boy book.” Make no mistake about it.

Fortunately, I like “boy books”. One could argue that’s what I just wrote. But how is Atlanta Deathwatch?

It is fantastic. I’ve learned few things live up to the hype. Prior to Atlanta Deathwatch the last thing to live up to the hype was the Solar Eclipse.

Atlanta Deathwatch is the story of Jim Hardman (how’s that for a hard-boiled detective name?), a discharged ex-cop, and his buddy Hump, a former pro football player. Hardman is hired to follow Emily Campbell, a Georgia Tech co-ed who’s grades have tanked. Hardman follows her right into trouble at an African-American bar. The kind of trouble that leaves him pissing blood. Hardman’s no idiot, so he begs off the case. When Emily is found dead shortly thereafter, Hardman is drawn back into the dark underworld of Atlanta’s “Black Mafia.”

And we’ll leave the synopsis at that.

I love the Hardman-Hump relationship. The Black-White buddy thing worked in the Spenser novels…and it works here, too. Which leads me to wonder (and I’ll probably go look), which came first?  Spenser/Hawk or Hardman/Hump.  I generally don’t plan out much of my own stories, but I am fascinated where stuff comes from…and have often wondered whether my Uncle Rod/Fuzzy came from my love Spenser/Hawk (even if Uncle Rod is more like an African-American father figure)?  It certainly didn’t come from Hardman/Hump, but only because I did not know about them.

The pacing is great. I read it over two nights, which seldom happens anymore. Dennis masters the balancing act of providing enough depth, but not burying the reader under needless details.

If you are a fan of “boy books”. Give Hardman #1 – Atlanta Deathwatch a try. I look forward to reading more of Jim Hardman’s adventures.

Thank you Brash Books for bringing  these back!


If you’re interested in seeing what my “boy book” is all about. Give Everything is Broken a try:  https://tonydwritespulp.com/books/

It’s follow-up North Country Girl is coming in January 2019.

2019 Writing

Jan 2 – 379 words

Jan 3 –  456 words

2019 Total – 1,566 words


Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to write about 2018. But there is one thing I’ll share.

One of the most pleasing things that has come out of publishing my first book was my son reading it and doing a book report* on it for school. When I was publishing Everything is Broken, I mentioned that hearing my wife talk about my characters like they were real people was probably enough to keep me doing this even without any sales. My son is anxiously awaiting North Country Girl’s publication, because he wants to read it for his next assignment. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that.

But let’s reflect on the last assignment. Dylan and I were out walking the dog. He had just finished reading the book, and he asked me about the book’s theme.

Oh brother.

Here’s the thing. I try NOT to start out with a theme, because I feel like it cages the story. As someone who defiantly does not outline, caging the story is exactly what I do not want to do. Of course, high school English teachers do not want to hear any of that.

So, I told my son the truth, but added, “pretty much all of my stories see a couple of themes show up. Those two themes are fatherly love and the tendency of our pasts to have a ripple effect on our presents and futures.”

Dylan nodded his head, “Papi.”

Yep, fatherly love.

But I could see him struggling with the other.

I helped him out, “Pretty much the entire Fuzzy Koella character embodies the second theme. But I don’t set out to tell stories of these themes. It’s just obvious that I am interested in them, and that shows up in the stories.”

“Dad, I think I’m going to go with the theme that’s right in the title.”

Proud papa moment coming.

“We’re all broken in some way, and Fuzzy learns the hard way that you can’t fix everything. Sometimes trying to fix things only makes them worse.”

Yep, fatherly love.

*It’s called something different today, but it’s basically a book report.


If you’re interested in finding out how close Dylan and I got on the themes of Everything is Broken it can be purchased at these fine online retailers:


It can also be ordered by your friendly local bookseller.

2019 Writing

Jan 1 – 731 words

2019 Total – 731 words


A New Year

You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t revisit 2018. I reflected on 2017 last year. I just don’t see the point this year. However, I will layout some goals for 2019.

  • Write 350,000 new words of fiction. (This is a little less than a 100k bump from 2018).
  • Write one book in a genre other than Mystery
  • Read every day at least one of the following
    • A poem
    • An Essay
    • A short story

I hope all of you (friends, readers, curious on-lookers) have a fantastic 2019!

*and take a look at my friend David’s recent post regarding use of pronouns. Food for thought.



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