Created by Ralph Dennis
“…the most beloved obscure private eye writer who ever lived…”
–– Ed Gorman
At least not physically. He’s actually a little overweight and out of shape.
Still, he’s tough enough to get the job done. He’s a former Atlanta cop, kicked out for dating the wrong woman (that’s his story, anyway), currently working as an unlicensed private eye, assisted by his trusty (and far more formidable) black sidekick, HUMP EVANS, who’s not such a hump, either — he’s a former pro football player who’s not afraid to put a little hurt on someone, if that’s what’s required.
Together, they roam the streets of Virginia-Highland, kicking ass and taking down names — when they aren’t having a drink.
This was a really decent series, well-written, with great use of the Atlanta setting, fast-moving private eye action served straight up, no chaser. They’re more or less forgotten now, sadly, possibly due to the fact that the twelve novels in the series (each a taut, tight little gem) were packaged as “men’s adventures” paperback originals by Popular Library, right down to numbers on the covers. You know–The Executioner, The Destroyer, Mack Bolan et al.
Smarter people than me have theorized that this cost them sales to more traditional mystery readers.
Whatever the reason, the series faded away far too soon, no doubt too hip for the room. But they’re worth tracking down. One of the great lost private eye teams.
Dennis was a continuation of the Spillane school of hard-boiled writing (for example, the amount of drinking Jim and Hump do — apparently without any effect on their sobriety or their livers — is staggering), but he had more character development and tighter plotting than Spillane. The comparison and parallels to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, a contemporary, are interesting as well, although there’s little evidence either ripped off the other.
Dennis also started another series, based on a man named Kane, who finds himself working as a private eye in Atlanta.
- In 2018, Lee Goldberg’s Brash Books plans to reprint the Hardman series in both print and digital, complete with introductions by Joe Lansdale who knows a few things about the shamus game.
EVEN GOODER NEWS!
- After successfully bringing the Hardman series back into print, Brash Books head honcho Lee Goldberg discovered rough drafts of what was essentially an unpublished thirteenth Hardman book. After a little touching up, All Kinds of Ugly is due to be released in February 2020.
- “Like Chandler and Hammett before him, Dennis was trying to do something different with what was thought of as throwaway literature.”
— Joe R. Lansdale
- “Ralph Dennis has mastered the genre and supplied top entertainment.”
— New York Times
- “Exceptional characterization, strong and vigorous prose.”
— Mystery Scene Magazine
- Hardman 1: Atlanta Deathwatch (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 2: The Charleston Knife’s Back In Town (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 3: The Golden Girl & All (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 4: Pimp for the Dead (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 5: Down Among the Jocks (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 6: Murder is Not an Odd Job (1974) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 7: Working for the Man (1974)| Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 8: The Deadly Cotton Heart (1976) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 9: The One-Dollar Rip-Off (1977) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Hardman 10: Hump’s First Case (1977)
- Hardman 11: The Last of the Armageddon Wars (1977)
- Hardman 12: The Buy Back Blues (1977)
- All Kinds of Ugly (2020) | Kindle it!