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Shooting Star/Spiderweb    by Robert Bloch order for
Shooting Star/Spiderweb
by Robert Bloch
Order:  USA  Can
Hard Case Crime, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

It is time to celebrate the reappearance of two short novels by Robert Bloch (author of Psycho) that have never been reprinted since their original publication more than fifty years ago. Now, courtesy of Hard Case Crime - a terrific little publishing house with editor-in-chief and publisher Charles Ardai at the helm - Spiderweb and Shooting Star are once again available to old fashioned crime novel fans. Reproduced to resemble those irresistible paperback crime novels that were so popular during the middle third of the twentieth century - the ones with the gaudy cover paintings featuring provocatively dressed buxom women on one end or the other of a loaded .38 revolver - the two complete novels by the legendary Bloch are now reissued within one cover (for the 21st century price of $7.99).

In Spiderweb, tough-luck narrator Eddie Haines - a desperately poor and nearly suicidal fellow from Iowa who has been unsuccessfully trying to break into Hollywood show business as an announcer for radio, television, or movie trailers - has a seemingly chance encounter with the mysterious Professor Otto Herman. Quicker than you can say power, fame, and money, Haines makes a lucrative Faustian deal with the Professor, and together they embark on a series of schemes, financial scams, and criminal activity. But having sold his soul to the devil - so to speak - Haines eventually becomes more than a little disgusted with his unseemly diabolical alliance, especially when he realizes that everybody he touches is 'marked for doom.' Then, as things become more and more dangerous and deadly, the Professor finally pushes Haines too far. That is when things get really hazardous to Haines' health.

In Shooting Star, wise-cracking narrator Mark Clayburn - a 'part-time ten-center' literary agent, notary public, and private investigator with one eye and only a couple of clients - is willing to do almost 'anything to make a buck.' With little else on his agenda, and with money running dangerously low, Clayburn is hired by Harry Bannock to take on an irksome case with the seductive promise of a very lucrative payday. All Clayburn has to do is find out what really happened to Dick Ryan (a.k.a. Lucky Larry of western movie fame) who was murdered six months earlier. The killer was never found, Ryan's reputation wound up in tattered shreds, and Bannock's financial interest in TV revenue for Lucky Larry movies is threatened. After making a few inquiries, Clayburn runs into a minor problem in the form of an intimidating phone call: 'Lay off, Clayburn! Lay off the Ryan case!' Then, as Clayburn tries to ignore other significant intimidations and steadfastly pursue the slender leads into the case, the dangers escalate, the body count builds, and Clayburn is beginning to wonder: Can a one-eyed part-time ten-center stop the killer(s) before the killer(s) stop(s) him?

The bottom line is this: Spiderweb and Shooting Star are terrific entertainments. Moreover, Hard Case Crime is a terrific publisher with plenty of wonderful new books available to fans of good old fashioned mysteries. Check out the publisher's website at and find out what is available and what's coming up during the next six months. Every month there are more great surprises waiting for aficionados of great crimes novels. (And - if you want to learn more about the publisher-editor, Charles Ardai, and Hard Case Crime, check out Thomas McNulty's great profile article in the December/January 2008 edition of Mystery News, available at select bookstores or from the publishers at Black Raven Press.)

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