Hard Case Crime is a publisher that, to quote them, "brings you the best in hard-boiled crime fiction, from lost pulp classics to new work by today's most powerful writers." Of late, however, only the former is true: every release this year has been an older work. Even the one "new" work, "The Dead Man's Brother" by Roger Zelazny, was really an old story that had been previously unpublished.
Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe fits into this "lost pulp classic" category also. This short novel follows Tony Catell, a middle-aged heist man who has pulled off a perfect crime, stealing a 36-pound gold brick from a university. What he was unaware of at the time was that the gold was radioactive and dangerous to anyone near it.
Even in 1950s terms (when this book was written), the $20,000 or so that the brick is worth may be a nice bit of change but hardly a big, retirement-worthy amount. Nonetheless, to Catell, it is the big score, or would be if he can cash it in. Unfortunately, the word has gotten out that this gold is lethal, forcing him to hit the road to find a buyer. This will take him on a journey in which he will meet all sorts of shady figures - including a sadistic sheriff - while he evades the FBI agents who are after him. And, though he is reluctant to face the fact, the gold is making him sick as well.
Peter Rabe is almost unknown nowadays, and while this book is good, it lacks that standout excellence that could make an author immortal. Catell seems to be a precursor to such literary heist men as Richard Stark's Parker, with both the skill and emotional detachment that would be done to perfection in that latter character. As with most of these older Hard Case Crime books, Stop This Man! has a tough, lean feel to it; it may not be the best such novel, but it'll do nicely as a quick, entertaining story.