Steve Lawson

Created by U.S. Andersen

U. S. Andersens 1956 paperback original, Hard and Fast, has the distinction of being written entirely in the present tense. Which is the only difference between it and a thousand other hard-boiled P.I. books from the 1950s & 60s.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Hard and Fast observes the traditions of the hard-boiled P.I. with scrupulous care: the beautiful client with something to hide; the gangster with a phalanx of ineffectual tough guys; the too-helpful lawyer; the frightened witness who turns up dead after promising to tell all; dubious cops and willing dames…. plus bloody fights, fragile clues, fast chases and swift seductions, all packed in a hundred and fifty-some pages and wrapped in a gaudy cover, this is by way of being the distilled essence of its genre.

The story? If anyone cares, wealthy Ann Wertzer hires private eye STEVE LAWSON to dig up divorce dirt on her husband, “Wild Bill” Wertzer, a businessman with some shady connections and dangerous associates. Before they can even discuss the case, Lawson has traded punches with a couple of hired goons and Wertzer has turned up dead in an obviously staged “suicide” with Ann the equally obvious suspect.

What follows is the standard product, with optional accessories itemized above. But it’s done with the professionalism of a craftsman proud of his work. The metaphors are well-strung:

“I am three bourbons to the good by the time Madison shows, and I know he holds the aces when I see him. He’s got a king-size smirk all over his pan and he looks down his nose as if it’s a very long way to the ground.”

The fights are brutal, the pacing sure, and the ending completely unsurprising. This is a writer who knows his stuff and is not ashamed of showing it off.

Which jolts me a bit. Uell Stanley Andersen was the author of Three Magic Words (1954), a best-selling and very serious book about positive thinking, evolution, and the Law of Attraction, read by luminaries like Elvis Presley and Wayne Dyer, and for him to put his own name on a gaudy paperback like Hard and Fast bespeaks a certain amount of conviction — even courage — that surprised me even when the book itself did not.



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