I’ve been back filling my Hard Case Crime collection every time they have a dollar sale (members only sale, you cats really need to join the club if you haven’t yet), and Fade to Blonde by Hard Case Crime co-founder Max Phillips — the other founder being Charles Ardai — is one that had most recently come in.
Number two in the HCC catalog, Blonde is yet another fantastic addition to the series, as it has everything pulp lovers need: Babes, brawn, bullets and bite.
Set in 1940s Los Angeles, Roy Corson is hired by Rebecca LaFontaine for a little protection from a gentleman named Halliday — a man who has threatened to throw lye in her face. And, oh yeah, Halliday is tied to the mob. But Corson does what any man’s man does in this situation…he takes care of business.
Blonde is a fine example of what pulp fiction goodness is all about, damsels in distress, tough as nails protaganists (and equally slimey antaganists) and razor sharp writing. Author Phillips has a good beat:
From a conversation with a sandwich girl at a party:
“How’s Miss Godalmighty?” she said absently.
“Your date. Miss HIgh and Godalmighty Bellinger.”
“Oh. Fine, thanks. She sends her love.”
“You like tomatoes? Some people are allergic, but I think they’re good.”
“I like tomatoes.”
“What she probably likes is you’re not an actor.”
“I guess she’s not too high and mighty for a place like this.”
“I guess she isn’t. What did she turn you down for?”
“I said, what did she turn you down for. Or did she just turn you down, period?”
The girl in the kimono didn’t say anything, just kept slicing tomatoes.
You hear that? That snap snap snap? That’s a good beat, kids.
One slight thing I didn’t like about the book is some of characters brought in didn’t have much purpose other than furthering the plot. It’s expected to have a character once in a while that accomlishes this, but Blonde has a few more than it needs. Corson’s interactions with characters like Burri, the head mob honcho, seem a little forced and pointless. Burri isn’t the only one, either. The man (whose name escapes me) who suggested LaFontaine to Corson in the first place pops up once or twice, if only to give Corson some advice and/or information just seems like filler.
Another small problem I had was with the ending. I felt slightly cheated because there wasn’t enough information prior to suggest what was coming. Looking back, there were slight hints, but they were barely whispers and nothing to grab onto. The finale is by no means unbelievable, but it would have been nice if, after finishing the book, I could have said, “OH! OKAY! I GET IT!” But because of the suddeness, it seemed a tad contrived.
These quibbles are easily overlooked, though, because Phillips is really that good with the lingo. The book is by no means a disappointment and is a fun read from start to finish. So much so, that I’m hoping Phillips throws us fans another bone in the future.