EXCLUSIVE: 'Hard Case Crime' Founder Charles Ardai Talks JOYLAND Novel, Movie And More

Charles Ardai is the founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, a line of pulp-style paperback crime novels, and talks to us here about Stephen King's addition to the line - Joyland - it's big screen adaptation from The Help's Tate Taylor, and much, much more.

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Charles Ardai is a writer, editor, and television producer responsible for founding 'Hard Case Crime'; a collection of novels which includes both reprints of books from the pulp era and new novels such as Stephen King's The Colorado Kid which has since been adapted into the hit SyFy television series Haven. Their latest release is another entry from King and it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to learn that plans are already in place to bring it to the big screen by The Help's Tate Taylor. We recently had the chance to talk with Ardai about this and a whole lot more, so be sure to check out the interview in full below and details on Joyland from Titan Books.

Firstly, can you tell our readers about yourself and your involvement with Joyland?

Max Phillips and I created Hard Case Crime almost a decade ago, to revive the storytelling and visual style of the great pulp crime novels of the 1940s and 50s. Stephen King saw what we were up to and decided to get in on the fun by writing us a book called THE COLORADO KID, which instantly became our best-selling title of all time and really put us on the map. (It also inspired the TV series "Haven," now going into its fourth season on SyFy.) Eight years later, I got an email from Steve saying he’d just finished writing another book that he thought might be a good fit for us, called JOYLAND, and would I like to take a look. What do you think I said?


Tell our readers why exactly they should decide to check out Joyland...

Carny novels, set in a traveling carnival or old-fashioned amusement park, are a wonderful part of the pulp tradition, and JOYLAND is an outstanding carny novel. Not just a good mystery, not just a horror story, not just a moving coming-of-age story (though it’s all those things, too), it’s also a delicious look back at a time and place that’s gone but should not be forgotten. You should have seen the huge smile on my face as I read the book for the first time. It’s just a great, great read.


What has it been like to work with Stephen King?

Steve is a joy. He could obviously make any demands he wants, he could be a diva if that’s how he was wired, but that’s just completely alien to who he is. He’s a generous, warm, funny man, a great storyteller in person just like he is on the page, and completely down to earth. It’s a privilege to work with him, and even more so to call him a friend.


What exactly made Joyland a worthy addition to the Hard Case Crime family?

At its core, JOYLAND is as tough and as ruthless and as noir as any book we’ve ever published. It’s about a murderer who kills an innocent girl on an amusement park’s haunted house ride and gets away with his crime. It’s about a sleuth who digs and digs until he finds the truth. It’s about the danger he finds himself in as a result, and about the bad ends that good people come to. It’ll break your heart, this book. You’ll be crying by the end. I was.


Stephen King is of course well-known for horror. How is that incorporated into this novel?

There are some scenes that are scary in the traditional horror movie sense, especially at the book’s climax – but more often what makes the book frightening are the terrors that really do haunt each of us in our real lives. What if someone we love is struck down, unfairly, by illness or accident or chance encounter with evil? What’s waiting for each of us when we die? How did our youth vanish, seemingly in the blink of an eye? These are terrors that penetrate bone-deep and they’re what makes JOYLAND so much more than just a series of easy scares.


What do you think made Tate Taylor the right choice to helm a big screen adaptation of Joyland?

Tate Taylor has proven that he can handle a literary adaptation and be true to a book when he brings it to the screen. He’s also shown he’s capable of handling the sort of emotional content that makes JOYLAND so moving. Any director could point a camera at a Ferris Wheel and shout “Action!”, but it takes a special type to bring out the heart in the book. Remember how you felt watching “Stand By Me” or “The Shawshank Redemption” or “The Green Mile”? That’s what a JOYLAND movie should feel like, and I think Taylor’s a great choice to deliver it.


Is there anything else you can tell us about the movie?

Not yet! The rights were just optioned a few weeks ago. I imagine there’s at least a year of development work to be done before there’s anything we can see.


What are your thoughts on comic book movies? Would you ever like to be involved in the world of comics?

I’ve been a comic reader since I was seven years old – I’m a DC guy, Flash is my man. I’ve never written for comics, but would in a heartbeat if DC came calling and let me do a Barry Allen story the way I remember the character. And I see every comic book movie that comes out. That said, I won’t pretend I like them all. Plenty of them are disappointments. But I keep going, hoping the next one will be good.

When they’re not, my wife and I dream up our own (my wife being best-selling fantasy novelist Naomi Novik). The other day we came up with a story for a “Justice League” movie that is so goddamn perfect I almost made a phone call to Warner Brothers. But there is no way they’d have the balls to film our story. So it’ll just have to stay on the movie screen in our heads.


What else have you got coming up?

Oh, some very, very cool projects. The legendary film director Samuel Fuller wrote a novel at the end of his life that has never been published in English – we’re finally giving it its first. This is the man who inspired Tarantino and Scorsese and Spielberg and Coppola. A lost Fuller story is a big deal. And speaking of Tarantino, we’ve found a long-lost novel by Lawrence Block (whose A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES is now filming with Liam Neeson) and it reads like a Tarantino fever dream. Very bloody, very sexual, set on the Tex/Mex border in 1961 – it’s called BORDERLINE and I’d be shocked if it didn’t turn into a movie at some point.

And those are just two examples. I didn’t even mention our armored-car heist book, set at Christmas during a brutal blizzard. There’s always more cool stuff coming from Hard Case Crime. If you want to stay in the loop, just check out our website from time to time: www.hardcasecrime.com.



Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, JOYLAND tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. JOYLAND is a brand-new book and has never previously been published. JOYLAND will feature new painted cover art by the legendary Robert McGinnis, the artist behind the posters for the original Sean Connery James Bond movies and "Breakfast At Tiffany’s," and by Glen Orbik, the painter of more than a dozen of Hard Case Crime’s most popular covers, including the cover for The Colorado Kid. "I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we’re going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." – Stephen King

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