FORGOTTEN BOOKS: ATLANTA DEATHWATCH!
I’m not sure if any other Friday Forgotten Books posters have mentioned this series before, but even so, it rates high enough to be mentioned again . . .
The late Ralph Dennis’ paperback original Hardman series from the ‘70s remains one of the most overlooked and underestimated entries in the hardboiled field. Jim Hardman, is a middle-aged, overweight, out of shape, ex-Atlanta cop turned unlicensed private eye. Despite his physical attributes, Hardman remains one tough bastard. When coupled with his partner, former Cleveland Browns pro-football player Hump Evans (yes, Hardman and Hump – get over it) the duo form a formidable team – Spenser and Hawk before there was a Spenser and Hawk. Despite the groundbreaking done by the television series I Spy, having an Afro-American sidekick who worked as an equal partner was fairly progressive for the time period when Dennis produced the Hardman novels.
Their beat is Atlanta, a great city for kick ass action and , through Dennis’ prose becomes as much of a character in the series as Hardman and Hump. Dennis sprinkled real nightclubs, restaurants, bars, hotels, and street corner descriptions throughout the series. Atlanta was Dennis’ adopted home, and his affection for the city is obvious.
The publisher, Popular Library, did the whole series a disservice slapping on crappy covers (which are retro-collectibles now) and packaging the series as a low-rent Executioner rip-off.
You can still find some of the series entries for affordable prices through the usual Internet sources, but trying to put together the whole series from scratch today could be a challenge. But the books hold up well. Dennis’ tells a good violent series of tales making Hardman, Hump, and Atlanta well worth hardboiled fans efforts to find.
THE HARDMAN SERIES
HARDMAN 1: ATLANTA DEATHWATCH (1974)
HARDMAN 2: THE CHARLESTON KNIFE'S BACK IN TOWN (1974)
HARDMAN 3: THE GOLDEN GIRL & ALL (1974)
HARDMAN 4: PIMP FOR THE DEAD (1974)
HARDMAN 5: DOWN AMONG THE JOCKS (1974)
HARDMAN 6: MURDER'S NOT AN ODD JOB (1974)
HARDMAN 7: WORKING FOR THE MAN (1974)
HARDMAN 8: THE DEADLY COTTON HEART (1976)
HARDMAN 9: THE ONE-DOLLAR RIP-OFF (1977)
HARDMAN 10: HUMP'S FIRST CASE (1977)
HARDMAN 11: THE LAST OF THE ARMAGEDDON WARS (1977)
HARDMAN 12: THE BUY BACK BLUES (1977)