Ralph Dennis isn’t a household name… but he should be. He is widely considered among crime writers as a master of the genre, denied the recognition he deserved because his twelve Hardman books, which are beloved and highly sought-after collectables now, were poorly packaged in the 1970s by Popular Library as a cheap men’s action-adventure paperbacks with numbered titles.
Even so, some top critics saw past the cheesy covers and noticed that he was producing work as good as John D. MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross MacDonald.
The New York Times praised the Hardman novels for “expert writing, plotting, and an unusual degree of sensitivity. Dennis has mastered the genre and supplied top entertainment.” The Philadelphia Daily News proclaimed Hardman“the best series around, but they’ve got such terrible covers…”
Unfortunately, Popular Library didn’t take the hint and continued to present the series like hack work, dooming the novels to a short shelf-life and obscurity…except among generations of crime writers, like novelist Joe R. Lansdale (the Hap & Leonard series) and screenwriter Shane Black (the Lethal Weapon movies), who’ve kept Dennis’ legacy alive through word-of-mouth and by acknowledging his influence on their stellar work.
Ralph Dennis wrote three other novels that were published outside of the Hardman series but he wasn’t able to reach the wide audience, or gain the critical acclaim, that he deserved during his lifetime.
He was born in 1931 in Sumter, South Carolina, and received a masters degree from University of North Carolina, where he later taught film and television writing after serving a stint in the Navy. At the time of his death in 1988, he was working at a bookstore in Atlanta and had a file cabinet full of unpublished novels.
Brash Books will be releasing the entire Hardman series, his three other published novels, and his long-lost manuscripts. Scroll down and you’ll see his books below.
Hardman & Hump try to collect on a friendly one-dollar bet and it leads them into more trouble than they could ever have imagined in the ninth book in the legendary crime series.
In third book in the acclaimed series, unlicensed PI Jim Hardman is hired to find Peggy Holt, a drug dealer, stripper, and serial seductress who has kidnapped her six-year-old daughter from her ex-husband.
The fourth novel in the series. A small-town farmer hires Hardman to find his teenage daughter who ran off to Atlanta to become a model...and ended up a hooker.
His prose was muscular, swift and highly readable. Like Chandler and Hammett before him, Dennis was trying to do something different with what was thought of as throwaway literature.
Ralph Dennis is an underappreciated master. His Hardman series is one of the finest in the P.I. genre.
The most beloved obscure private eye writer who ever lived..."