Max Phillips

"Fade to Blonde"

(Reviewed by Hagen Baye FEB 17, 2005)

Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips

Hard Case Crime™ Books are a new series of books consisting of the re-issue of “lost pulp classics” as well as the publication of new “hard-boiled” crime fiction. The paperback series, with truly pocket size books, is also distinguished by its emphasis on vintage book cover art, reminiscent of the classic crime fiction covers of the past. This series will delight those enamored with that distinctive style of writing, those who have yet to discover it, and those who just plain enjoy a good read. And if the first four books of the series are representative, this is a series not to be ignored. (See review of The Confession by Domenic Stansberry, Little Lost Girl by Richard Aleas and Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block

Up second in Hard Case Crime’s line up is Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips, who together with Charles Ardai, is a founder of the Hard Case Crime series. (Phillips and Ardai are former cohorts from Ardai was its founder and former CEO; Phillips, its former art director.) The main character is Roy Corson who traveled west for a career in screen writing and ends up working odd jobs to make ends meet, like construction and collection work. A woman in need of help with a man she says is bothering her is referred to Roy for help. Roy takes her money and agrees to help, to his eventual regret, as all kinds of complications ensue. He finds himself embroiled with gangsters, drugs, pornography, prostitution, murder, just to list a few of the troubles that eventually drive him out of town.

Phillips’s writing style is reminiscent of Hamett and Chandler, as evidenced by the following:

“It was all thinner than tap water. It could have been true. It could have been bunkum. There wasn’t any place to get a grip.”

 “His suit was what my suit wanted to be when it grew up.”

 “Halliday was too ambitious for Burri, too podunk for Scarpa, too bughouse for Rebecca. It was nice to know he was everyone’s problem, not just mine. There ought to be a way to make that work for me. It was right there staring at me, if I had any brains.

“That was a big if.”

 “There was a stiletto in Scarpa’s right hand…and while I was noticing it, Scarpa was swinging his left hand up and sinking his thumb and forefinger into the soft flesh under Metz’s jaw. Metz’s mouth popped open and Scarpa whipped the stiletto up and over and buried it in Metz’s tongue, to the handle, rising up on his toes and falling back again in one movement, like a bullfighter.”

 “The door was opened by a thin woman of fifty or so in a party dress that showed too much of her and tried to push around what it didn’t show.”

 “Then I saw that the noise she made and the things she said and did were just that, things she said and did.”

Hard Case Crimes’ website is At this site, readers can see what other offerings are currently available and can subscribe to Hard Case Crime’s monthly email newsletter to keep up to date on its offerings. If the four books reviewed here are any indication of the quality of the series’ publications, the reading public has much to look forward to.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 8 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Fade to Blonde at Hard Case Crime

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Bibliography: (with links to

Writing as Forrest DeVoe Jr:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Max Phillips has won rave reviews in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire, and other major publications for his novels. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in publications such as The Atlantic Monthly and Story. Under the name Forrest DeVoe Jr., Phillips is also the author of the Mallory & Morse series of 60s-style spy novels. Mr. Phillips has received an Academy of American Poets Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Max Phillips is a co-founder of the newly launched imprint Hard Case Crime.

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