In 2012, Hard Case Crime published Ariel S. Winter's first novel, The Twenty Year Death, to unprecedented acclaim. In a full-page review, the New York Times called it "extraordinary," "ambitious" and "beautifully built," while the UK Literary Supplement called it "undoubtedly an original tour de force," and the Los Angeles Times wrote "It's the author's ambition that attracts… his sense of reaching beyond our expectations of what a book like this (or, really, any book) can do" before choosing it as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize. These outstanding reviews came on the heels of advance praise from authors ranging from Stephen King and Peter Straub to Alice Sebold, John Banville, and James Frey: "Not content with writing one first novel like ordinary mortals, Ariel Winter has written three — and in the style of some of the most famous crime writers of all time for good measure. It's a virtuoso act of literary recreation that's both astonishingly faithful and wildly, audaciously original."
What were they all so excited about? Winter wrote his first novel in the form of three separate complete crime novels that could be read in any order, each set in a different decade and each written in the style of a different giant of the mystery genre: one set in 1931 and written as if by Georges Simenon; one in 1941 and written as if by Raymond Chandler; and one in 1951 and written as if by Jim Thompson. All three books feature the same two characters, an American novelist and his troubled French wife, and taken together they tell the story of the disintegration of their marriage and their lives over a twenty-year period. Seeing the same two characters through the eyes of (as it were) three different authors allows the reader — and Winter — to view them from multiple points of view at once, revealing them in a very different fashion than a conventional presentation would achieve.
The Twenty Year Death was originally published in hardcover, in a single volume of nearly 700 pages containing all three constituent novels, and subsequently released in a similarly mammoth single-volume trade paperback edition. But in the summer of 2014, Hard Case Crime will publish the book in a different style, one we feel is a particularly good match both for the novel's unique structure and for Hard Case Crime's mission of reviving the style of the classic pulp paperback crime novels of decades past: a single pocket-sized mass-market paperback edition for each of the constituent novels-within-a-novel, each featuring painted cover art in a different art style suited to the decade depicted and the writing style employed. The Simenon-inspired European procedural novel, Malniveau Prison, features Hard Case Crime's first cover ever by Joe Avery, a UK-based gallery artist who works as a painter for the internationally renowned Damien Hirst. The Chandler-inspired hardboiled private eye novel, The Falling Star, features a painting by former Golden Gloves boxer Ricky Mujica, who previously painted the covers for Hard Case Crime's The Corpse Wore Pasties and Casino Moon. And the dark, depraved, and doomed Jim Thompson-inspired final novel, Police at the Funeral, features Charles Pyle's original cover painting, for which actress Rose MacGowan (Charmed, Grindhouse) posed. Readers will get to experience Winter's unique triptych novel literally as three separate novels, picked up and read in the order of their choosing, and get a different experience of the text, the story and the characters as a result.