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Hard as Nails: A Joe Kurtz Novel Hardcover – October 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Simmons, Dan (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312305281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312305284
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After last year's well-received Hard Freeze, Simmons stumbles with this disappointing mishmash, the latest entry in his series featuring ex-con-turned-PI Joe Kurtz. The book opens promisingly enough with a (literal) bang: "On the day he was shot in the head, things were going strangely well for Joe Kurtz.... Later, he told himself that he should have known that the universe was getting ready to readjust its balance of pain at his expense." The shooting leaves Kurtz with the headache of a lifetime and a female probation officer on life support. As if that weren't enough, Kurtz has to deal with Toma Gonzaga, the gay don who owes him a debt in blood. On top of that, someone is killing heroin addicts in Buffalo and hauling away the bodies. And on top of that, a serial killer known as the Artful Dodger (why do fictional serial killers always have colorful names?) launches a bizarre plot. There's more, much more, leading to a climax that's well-nigh incomprehensible. Any one, or two, of these plots would have made for a suspenseful mystery. Why Simmons insists on cramming them all into a 288-page novel is a mystery in itself. Surely he can't lack the courage of his fictional convictions? Unfortunately, it seems that way, and with so much going on, the novel lapses into a welter of absurdities. One can only hope for better things from this talented writer and Joe Kurtz in the future.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In his third outing, hard-luck Buffalo PI Joe Kurtz is back in the wringer, and the versatile Simmons cranks it for all its worth. The ever sardonic Joe is slapped around, shot in the neck and back, precipitated down a ziggurat, and leaned on from every angle by Mafioso (amorous and otherwise), cops (ditto), hit men, an arms dealer, a drug kingpin and his cadre, and a ghastly and prolific psycho killer known as "the Dodger," unleashed by some shadowy Fagin on the world to treble the body count. All of which would be plenty to account for his searing migraines, never mind being shot in the head in chapter 1. With the exception of some sloggy backstory, the plot moves along well, although the uneasy marriage of gritty crime and macabre melodrama may leave some hard-boiled fans balking at baroque excesses worthy of James Patterson. In sum, a nice, dark, all-purpose thriller with some of the appeal of Mike Hammer, Parker or Burke, and all of the fun of Mac Bolan, Executioner. David Wright
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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More About the Author

Dan Simmons was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1948, and grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art.
Dan received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years -- 2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York -- one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher -- and 14 years in Colorado.

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.
Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life."
Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Colorado -- in the same town where he taught for 14 years -- with his wife, Karen. He sometimes writes at Windwalker -- their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike -- a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels -- was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.
Dan is one of the few novelists whose work spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, suspense, historical fiction, noir crime fiction, and mainstream literary fiction . His books are published in 27 foreign counties as well as the U.S. and Canada.
Many of Dan's books and stories have been optioned for film, including SONG OF KALI, DROOD, THE CROOK FACTORY, and others. Some, such as the four HYPERION novels and single Hyperion-universe novella "Orphans of the Helix", and CARRION COMFORT have been purchased (the Hyperion books by Warner Brothers and Graham King Films, CARRION COMFORT by European filmmaker Casta Gavras's company) and are in pre-production. Director Scott Derrickson ("The Day the Earth Stood Stood Still") has been announced as the director for the Hyperion movie and Casta Gavras's son has been put at the helm of the French production of Carrion Comfort. Current discussions for other possible options include THE TERROR. Dan's hardboiled Joe Kurtz novels are currently being looked as the basis for a possible cable TV series.
In 1995, Dan's alma mater, Wabash College, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions in education and writing.

Customer Reviews

Dan Simmons is a highly versatile writer.
Jacob Baldassini
For anyone who wants a novel that will keep you guessing from the first page to the last, these are the ones you want.
B. Gale
Joe Kurtz, ex PI, ex con is one of the most interesting antiheros currently being written about.
W. P. Strange

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on July 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the 3rd book in Dan Simmons' ultra-hardboiled Joe Kurtz series a private investigator series that is perfect for lovers of gritty, violent and somewhat dark thrillers. An important point before moving any further into this review, I would recommend reading the first two books in the series, HARDCASE and HARD FREEZE first. Numerous references are made to characters and events from the first two books and if you haven't read them, it could become very confused. Simmons also tends to assume that the reader is aware of Kurtz's personal history throwing in references to earlier books that explain why he has taken the actions that he did. I see this as a bit of a weakness as far as the book is concerned; it doesn't cater very well for people who are new to the series.
Things don't start well for Joe Kurtz in HARD AS NAILS although when you consider that he is shot in the head, I suppose you could say that the fact that he survived suggests he was actually lucky. Anyway, the wound he receives and the resultant headache are used time and again throughout the story to emphasize just how tough he is. Joe Kurtz is the kind of character who makes you feel tired just reading about him at the best of times, but Simmons puts him through such extreme pain that by the end I was completely exhausted.
The force driving Kurtz forward is his desire to find out who shot him and why. With almost manic determination he begins his hunt, but getting in his way is not one but two mafia dons, past adversaries Angelina Farino Ferrara and Toma Gonzaga. Both of them have had reason in the past to attempt to have Kurtz killed but this time they have sought him out to ask him to help them with a problem.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Glenn on October 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
These are just some of the descriptions used in reviews for the Joe Kurtz series. And I have to agree. Not since Donald Westlake's (aka. Richard Stark) Parker series have I enjoyed reading crime fiction so much. Dan Simmons knows how to, excuse me here ladies, grab you by the balls and take you on a ride.
In his latest entry in this series Mr. Simmons puts Kurtz in a bad position from the beginning. Within the first three pages Kurtz is shot in the head, along with his parole officer, and has to deal with a migraine, caused by a concussion, for damn near the rest of the book.
Kurtz isn't given a break by any means after being shot. He's blamed for the shooting of the parole officer, has to deal with a family member, is threatened by the mob, chased by a psychopath and has to worry about the Dane.
We also get a look at Joe's past in this book, through an ex-girlfriend who also happens to be a cop investigating him, and his feelings for his daughter become more apparent.
If you've read the other books in this series I can't recommend this one enough. If you haven't you should really start with Hard Case. You could read and understand this book without reading the others but I don't know why you'd want to.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gabriela Perez VINE VOICE on July 9, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Thus far, I'm a fan of Joe Kurtz's. He's the "private investigator" in this series from Dan Simmons, and this is the third book in said series. I did not realize that I'd begun the series out of order, reading Hard Freeze (A Joe Kurtz Novel) first, when I should have read Hardcase (A Joe Kurtz Novel) first. Oh, well.

If you've never read any books from this series, here's what you need to know about Kurtz: he's recently out of prison, where he served time for a crime he DID commit; he's about as cool and distant a guy as you can find; he's wickedly smart about many things, almost unbearably stupid about others; he's smart, quick, and witty (mostly keeps that wit to himself, though); he's got a sense of morality he doesn't want to own up to, but which manages to drive him nonetheless.

In this particular book, he's been given a few days to get himself off the hook with a particularly violent crime boss, Toma Gonzaga. Gonzaga is an interesting character himself, one of very few (maybe the only one) gay crime bosses in fiction, and he wants to kill Kurtz. He'll cancel the hit on Joe, however, if Joe finds out who's slaughtering Gonzaga's dealers and runners. As you can imagine, Joe then has a really strong interest in finding the party responsible. If he doesn't, it's highly likely that he'll be dead by Halloween.

Joe's also recovering from a shooting where he and his parole officer were both injured, she more seriously than he. And he's trying to solve a mystery that same parole officer tried to get his help with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Lynch on January 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hard As Nails begins with Kurtz being shot in the head. The bullet ricochets off his skull, leaving a non trivial wound and landing Kurtz in the hospital. Following the grand tradition of tough men everywhere, Kurtz takes the macho penchant of ignoring pain to new limits after waking from his coma and escaping from the hospital. The shoot-out occurred in a dark parking garage and Kurtz did not see his assailant. He is determined to find out who tried to kill him. At the same time, he his hired by two rival mafia bosses to find a serial killer who is murdering their favorite drug dealers and users. Simmons weaves these and other plots intricately together and follows them to an explosive conclusion.
Being the third time around, Hard As Nails lacks the brutal impact of the first novel, which was the literary equivalent of a kick in the nuts. However, the series appears to be maturing. We start to see a softer side of Kurtz in this novel and greater development of him as character with a entire life's history behind him. We glimpse his past as an orphan. An old girlfriend, Rigby King, is introduced and plays a major role in this novel. There also hints of future developments (for possible new novels?), as Simmons is clearly reviving an emotional connection with Rigby as well as introducing another major crime boss, Baby Doc, which would be a welcome break from all the time spent on the Farino and Gonzaga families in the last three books.
One aspect of this novel that really shines his Simmons' impecable ability to capture the feel of a location. Simmons always takes great care to do research for his books, often traveling to locations and taking detailed notes. His skill with setting shines here, treating the city of Buffalo, NY as a character just as important as Kurtz himself.
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