Tuesday 5 May 2015


Dan Simmons was an author I first read back in 1985 when his debut horror novel Song of Kali appeared. I followed him for a few more books….Carrion Comfort, Phases of Gravity, Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion – which were either horror, fantasy or science fiction.

When my reading tastes change, he dropped from my radar; until I discovered he had written 3 crime fiction books which were intended as a homage to Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) and his amoral criminal Parker.  Stark had written a 16 book series with his career criminal starring between 1962 and 1974, before leaving the scene for 23 years. Westlake brought him back in 1997 with the ingeniously titled book – Comeback. A further 7 books followed with the last appearing in 2008 – Dirty Money.

Apparently Simmon’s man Joe Kurtz may be a Son of Parker.  There are 3 Joe Kurtz books. The first has been read and enjoyed and undoubtedly saved for a re-read. The second and third haven’t yet been cracked.

Joe Kurtz
1. Hardcase (2001)
2. Hard Freeze (2002)
3. Hard as Nails (2003)

I ought to read them one after the other.

Dan Simmons has written other books in the intervening years which interest me and I reckon I have at least a couple more of his somewhere.

The Crook Factory was logged yesterday in tub 30. Its set in Cuba in 1942, with an FBI agent tracking Ernest Hemingway, who is apparently working as a spy!

Hard Freeze

There's a bitter wind brewing in Buffalo, New York and it's blowing in more than just snow. "Little Skag" Farino, the last don of the local crime family, wants Kurtz dead and is sending in platoons of hit men, starting with the Attica Three Stooges and working up through more competent killers. Little Skag's beautiful sister, Angelina Farino Ferrara, is back from seven years in Sicily and has her own deadly agenda for Kurtz. 

If that isn't enough, Kurtz is approached by a dying concert violinist who wants his daughter's killer found. Rejecting the case at first, he is soon on the trail of a man who's not just the murderer of one child, but a cold-blooded serial killer who is a master of alternate identities and has the power to send a hundred men after Kurtz. As the bodies pile up like cords of wood, HARD FREEZE hits town with the power of a whiteout blizzard and builds to a truly chilling climax. This is a crime novel where trigger fingers freeze to blue steel.

Hard as Nails

Somewhere in western New York there's a remote mountaintop in the moonlight, its dark forests and moon-dappled meadows populated only by corpses, and if ex-PI Joe Kurtz doesn't unravel the secret of that place in five days, he'll be one of them.

Everyone seems to want a piece of Kurtz and most succeed in getting one. Unknown assailants gun down Kurtz and his female parole officer, giving Kurtz the headache of a lifetime but putting pretty Peg O'Toole on life support. While working his own case through a haze of concussion migraine, Kurtz has to deal with Toma Gonzaga, the gay don who owes Kurtz a blood debt, and Angelina Farino Ferrara, the female don who is after Kurtz's body - or maybe just his head.

And while someone is murdering all the heroin addicts in Buffalo and hauling away the bodies, a serial killer called the Artful Dodger hatches his twisted plan.

In Kurtz's corner is police detective Rigby King, a beautiful woman who was his lover when they were both rebellious teenagers in Father Baker's Orphanage. Rigby also has designs on Joe Kurtz, but whether they're aimed at bedding or abetting him, helping him stay alive, or simply putting him away for life, Kurtz will have to discover the hard way.

Dan Simmons has his website here.


  1. Col, the author's debut horror novel "Song of Kali" has pricked my curiosity.

    1. Hmm, I wish I could remember it and give you a few clues, but my memory isn't that good Prashant. I can recall enjoying his books though.

  2. It's really interesting, Col, that Simmons was paying homage to Westake/Stark. I also always have respect for authors who can write in more than one genre. These don't, I'm afraid, sound like my cuppa, but I do give credit where it's due.

    1. Agreed, I think it's a real talent to be successful across genres. He reminds me of Joe R. Lansdale in that respect.
      I'm probably not too surprised that these aren't immediate additions to your TBR pile, but if we all liked the same thing it would be a dull old world!

  3. I did not know about this series that was paying homage to the Stark series. I want to read the Stark books first though.

    1. Can't wait for you to try either Tracy. I stopped at Butcher's Moon a few years ago, which was the last before his 23 year sabbatical.

  4. What a complex writing career: I'll remember the name and wait for your detailed reviews (some time in the 2020s maybe?)

    1. 2020's ? Only if I bump them up the pile a bit!