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Hard Case Harlan Ellison: SF Master’s First Book To Be Republished
Though he’s world-renowned as one of America’s finest and crabbiest speculative fiction writers, the first full-length book Harlan Ellison ever wrote was a crime novel. This only makes sense given Ellison’s cynical yet hopeful take on civilized society, which is prevalent in the hundreds and hundreds of short stories, articles, essays, and novellas he has cranked out since the late 1940s. After all, as we know, the crime genre cuts to the core of humanity like few others, and Ellison stories like “Killing Bernstein” or the novella Mefisto in Onyx are almost pure crime stories, despite their sci-fi tendencies.
According to Media Bistro, those sweet-and-lovelies over at Hard Case Crime will be republishing the 1958 novel Web of the City, which is about a young street-gang member who attempts to leave the life on New York’s mean streets, and the dangers that is fraught with. The book was heavily inspired by the time Ellison spent undercover in a Brooklyn street gang in the ’50s, which was obviously a very formidable time in his life as a writer (and as a human being, natch), leading as it did to this book and other stories, including the “Memo from Purgatory” episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. This new edition will also contain “three thematically-linked short stories” Ellison had published in pulp-fiction rags in the ’50s. No word yet on exactly which stories these are, but you can bet your last buck that they will be as professionally relentless as all of Ellison’s work.
Web of the City is one of the few Ellison novels I have not read, largely because it’s been out of print for some time, but also because as much as I love and admire the man’s work, I don’t think I’ve managed to ingest more than half of his output (maybe a little more than half)(maybe). But I have read a lengthy excerpt from the essay Memos from Purgatory entitled ”The Tombs” about the time Harlan got locked up in that infamous New York jail, well after his undercover time with the Barons. Folks, I am here to tell you that you will not read a more claustrophobic and frightening tale of the greasy, crusty inner workings of the American justice system. It certainly scared me straight, I can tell you that.
So thanks again, Hard Case Crime, for helping keep these gems of the genre available to all and sundry. Mark your calendars for April 2013, when Web of the City will be available in bookstores, brick-&-mortar and electronic