Wednesday, August 28, 2019

ATLANTA DEATHWATCH Is Classic Hardboiled Crime Fiction At Its Best

This is old-fashioned crime fiction in the best sense of the term. Originally published in 1974, the first novel in the Hardman series is a lean, gritty, hardboiled novel that would have been perfectly at home on the spinning racks of men's adventure novels that populated the nation's drug and book stores back in the day.

Jim Hardman is an ex-Atlanta cop who was railroaded off the force on trumped up corruption charges. He now works as an unlicensed P.I. Hardman, who is white, has an African American partner named Hump. Hump played for a time in the NFL and provides the muscle and intimidation where needed. He's also Hardman's guide into the city's African-American neighborhoods.

As the novel opens, a businessman named Arch Campbell has hired Hardman to trail his daughter, Emily, and see how she's spending her time. Emily attends a local college and has been an outstanding student until recently when her grades and her attendance have begun to slide. It seems like a simple task, and Hardman trails the young woman to a seedy bar on the black side of town. But while he's watching Emily, two thugs jump him, beat him up badly, and warn him off the case.

Hardman agrees to drop the case, telling Emily's father that he's not getting paid enough to absorb that kind of punishment. But then Emily is murdered and it turns out that she's been dating a black crime boss known as The Man. The Man now summons Hardman and hires him to find Emily's killer. With Hump at his side, the two work and fight their way through Atlanta's dark underbelly, following the trail of a brutal crime that's not nearly as simple as it might appear on the surface.

This is a quick and entertaining read with lots of action and violence, and it will appeal to those readers who enjoy classic hardboiled novels. Be forewarned, however: this book reflects the language and cultural and sexual attitudes of the early 1970's. It's not remotely politically correct.

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