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 At the time of his death in 1988, he was working at a bookstore in Atlanta and had a file cabinet full of unpublished novels.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 has released the entire Hardman series, his three other published novels, and his long-lost manuscripts. Scroll down and you’ll see his books below.
Two gritty, fast-moving novels set in the world of basketball by legendary crime writer Ralph Dennis.
This collection of some of Ralph's early short stories and poetry, framed with excerpts from articles about him and by essays from authors who knew him well.
There's a killer stalking children in a small, North Carolina town...and the only one who can stop him is the local Sheriff, a man crippled physically and emotionally by a war that he's still fighting within himself. The haunting, powerful new thriller by Ralph Dennis, author of the legendary Hardman series of crime novels
Hardman and his buddy Hump, the ex-NFL star, get sucked into a scheme involving a hundred grand in stolen jewelry and two corpses...and counting. The 12th and final book in the series.
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...
Ralph Dennis was a very good writer, a keen observer of life on the rough edges.
Dennis wrote, in the best sense, old-school hardboiled crime fiction. His strong prose and well-paced storytelling place him alongside the likes of George V. Higgins and Ross MacDonald.