cover image Paperback Jack

Paperback Jack

Loren D. Estleman. Forge, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-82731-9

Edgar finalist Estleman (the Amos Walker PI series) delivers a clever homage to the golden era of paperback originals. In 1946, novelist Jacob Heppleman returns to New York after serving in Europe during WWII, now aware that the fiction about war he wrote before he’d been in combat hadn’t come close to approximating reality. Desperate to support himself via the written word, Heppleman joins Blue Devil Books, a pioneering publisher that hopes to become extremely profitable by putting out “new work in cheap editions.” Blue Devil’s owner, Robin Elk, hopes that talented storytellers like Heppleman will help make his product appealing. Eager to try to produce the gritty crime fiction Elk wants, Heppleman taps into his own experience as a thief to research the real life of a fence in Manhattan for his next book. In the process, he gets too close to real criminals, placing his life at risk. His livelihood is also threatened when Congress conducts hearings on Elk’s publications, seeking to make political capital out of decrying their violent content. Estleman keeps the pages turning and makes Heppleman a fully realized creation. This evocative tale of a seminal era in American book publishing showcases the author’s versatility. (Nov.)