I collect Hard Case Crime books as a hobby. I love crime novels and I love the simplicity of HCC works: nothing pretentious, just good ol’ fashioned pulp fiction. However, I’m really bad at reading what I collect. I think I take it for granted that these books may be around for awhile and that, unlike most books I purchase, I’m not giving them up. So I only read about two a year in a collection of sixty or so.
One of the great things about library summer reading challenges is how they encourage me to read things in my library that may otherwise be sitting for awhile. When of the challenges said to read a book with “moon” in the title, I figured it was time, at last, to check this one out even though it was relatively low on the list of HCC ones I want to read.
And oh man, what a gem this is.
I don’t know much about Atlantic City. I know that it was a gangster and tourist paradise through the 20s and 30s, went to seed, was resurrected by the casinos, and has apparently gone to seed again. This takes place in the mid-90s, when the casinos were still booming and everyone was having a good time.
Well, everyone except the natives, some of whom worked for the mob. And that’s where our story begins.
This is a good crime novel that functions as a time capsule for a city where the residents can’t seem to get a piece of the fool’s gold everyone else wants. It was at once thrilling (I was glued to the last page), educational, and deep. Blauner cares about his characters and it shows. What starts out as a familiar “escaping the life” tale becomes something more. I was annoyed with all the characters and yet invested in their arcs. All the while, Atlantic City looms in the background as the book’s biggest character.
If you’re interested in checking out the Hard Case Crime series, this is as good of a book to start as any. The theme of many HCC novels is how lowlifes and never-wases get their chance. Tough to see how that can be done better than it is here.