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To those looking for a holiday gift that’s a little off the obvious trails, may I humbly suggest our first offering from Reverse Karma Press, Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories.

Folks, this 10-story collection delivers the goods — gats, gals, and even a little gore, 1930s and ’40s style. My RKP partner, John McMahan, and I — with a little help from our pulp-fiction-loving friends — picked out the best holiday-themed tough-guy stories of the hard-boiled era, and then capped the collection off with a brand-new one of our own, “Santa’s Slay Ride,” the first new Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective tale in some 60 years.

​Whether the person on your Christmas list is a fan of classic pulp literature, a lover of tough-guy movies, or just someone who likes good, swift, exciting reading, Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories will satisfy.

Check out these excerpts from two of our selections:

          “Listen,” I said amiably. “I don’t know if anyone every called your attention to it, but Christmas is a period of good will and congeniality.  Whole families gather for reunions.  Enemies forget their hates and buy presents for each other.  The world dedicates itself to joyfulness and cheer.  It’s a period of happiness, of gladness and unselfishness.”

          Allhoff swung around in his swivel chair.  He stared at me over the rim of his coffee cup. There was an unholy expression in his yellow pupils.

           “You’ve left out something,” he said. “It’s also a period when the storekeepers make a fortune by shilling the yokels into buying presents they can’t afford.   When a million morons get drunk and go home to beat their wives.  Christmas is a merry period during which the Nazis will undoubtedly blow thousands of British into little pieces, and give the concentration-camp boys an extra ration of arsenic for breakfast.  When a couple of million people are on relief and fifteen percent of the kids in Georgia have rickets.

            “Christmas!” He concluded with a grating laugh.  “I’m glad you told me about it.”

                       — from “A Corpse for Christmas” by D.L. Champion

          They shot round the corner from Ninth, slid to a stop before a row of drab, graystone-front houses, each identical with its neighbor.  The Marquis was out of the car before it stopped, was halfway up the steps of the wrong house before he realized his error and ran down and up again to the doorway whose dingy numerals were on the slip in his hand.  A toothless old hag, bald down the center of her head, was inside the dim-lit hallway, hanging a holly wreath in the grimy glass panel of the doorway.

            She rasped: “Merry Ch – oh pshaw, a copper! Nuts.”

                        — from “Nothing for Christmas” by John Lawrence

And how about this one (he says modestly), from the new Dan Turner story I wrote in the style of the great old-time pulpster Robert Leslie Bellem:

​​          Santa had me in his sights, his roscoe poised to perforate my giblets.

          ​Technically, that’s not quite correct. I was the party about to be drilled to ell-hay, all right. Not by his gat, though.

          By mine.

          ​They say when you’re about to be croaked, your whole life zips before your eyes like a triple-feature’s worth of flying tintypes. But the scenes pinwheeling through my noggin as I waited for the ka-chee that would mark my exit from this mortal coil didn’t start at the beginning. Instead, my cranial cinema was flashing events from just a few hours ago, when I’d started on the path that ended me up here, ferninst a killer in a red suit and long white beard, whose ho-ho stood for ho-ho-homicide . . .

          ​– from “Santa’s Slay Ride”

Other authors include such shining stars of the tough-guy genre as John K. Butler, William G. Bogart, Steve Fisher (of I Wake up Screaming fame) and even Johnston McCulley, creator of Zorro! And to cap it off, there’s a brand-new cover and a couple of interior illustrations by David Saunders, the top-drawer artist and pulp aficionado who comes by his talent naturally – he’s the son of Norman Saunders, one of the best-known cover artists of the pulp-mag era.

​At this writing, the Reverse Karma Press website is very close to being up and running. Until then, you can order Hard-Boiled Christmas Stories from John McMahan at [email protected] or from me at this address. The cost is $14.95, plus $2.66 for Media Mail in the United States and by arrangement overseas ($4.90 to Canada, $10 to the United Kingdom and most of Europe). Payment can be made by PayPal. Let us know if you want the book signed and/or personalized; you bet we’re happy to do it.

​And, by the way, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!