Snuff Tag 9
Former rock/blues guitarist and private investigator — and everyman philosopher — Nicholas Colt is back in town living in his Airstream trailer on lot 23 at Joe’s Fish Camp, working occasionally as a “security consultant” and slowly getting his life back on an even keel. That is, until a client’s severed head lands on the hood of his 1996 GMC Jimmy parked “deep inside the Okefenokee Swamp on the Florida side.”

Colt soon finds himself trapped in a nightmarish, real-life X-rated video game. Called “Snuff Tag 9,” it’s a game where only the winner survives.

Rule #11 in Nicholas Colt’s Philosophy of Life: “Never underestimate your opponent.”

Jude Hardin’s third Nicholas Colt adventure hits the stores Tuesday. The plot will seem somewhat familiar – the author acknowledges the influence of Richard Connell’s classic 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” which has been lifted and adapted for a multitude of movie and television productions, but Hardin has built a believable modern set replete with all the gimmicks and realism of an ardent gamer’s chimera.

Although not the smartest nor the strongest, Hardin’s clear-thinking, walk-the-talk hero manages, with a little help and a lot of luck, to successfully navigate the swamp and a multitude of curveballs, screwing up an insane billionaire’s fantasy.

Rule #16: “Never go down without a fight.”

And just in time for the Florida-Georgia game. What fun.
—Tim O’Connell, The Florida Times-Union


An old girlfriend's request to find her missing brother lands PI Nicholas Colt in a plot hatched by neo-Nazi cult Chain of Life, which engineered the plane crash that killed his wife and daughter and the rest of his award-winning band years earlier. As the investigation leads to the Harvest Angels, the enforcement arm of the cult, Colt puts his new family in deadly peril before he’s kidnapped by an old nemesis who brainwashes him and hooks him on heroin as part of a plan intended to kill millions. The high standard set for this series by Colt’s introduction in Pocket-47 (2011) is generally maintained here, along with plenty of backstory, although the plot loses some suspense when Colt manages to break free with surprising ease well before all loose ends are tied. Still, Colt is a physical, no-holds-barred protagonist in the Jack Reacher mold, and this time he’s left with work to do to mend body, mind, and marriage. Another good bet for fans of hard-boiled fiction.
Booklist (Michele Leber)


* Pocket-47
Jude Hardin. Oceanview (Midpoint, dist.), $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60809-011-2
Hardin gets everything right in his powerhouse thriller debut, which introduces rock star–turned–PI Nicholas Colt. The sole survivor of a plane crash that killed everyone in his band as well as his wife and baby daughter 20-some years earlier, Colt now works out of an SUV in north Florida. Strapped for cash, he agrees to help 23-year-old Leitha Ryan track down her missing 15-year-old sister, Brittney. Leitha is reluctant to involve the police out of fear that they will return Brittney to foster care. What appears to be a straightforward case proves to be anything but. Colt uncovers several murders as it becomes clear that Brittney disappeared in order to hide from someone who wants to kill her. The violence, while sometimes extreme, is never gratuitous, and Hardin crafts a well-constructed plot and conjures up a flawed protagonist who's more than capable of carrying a series.
Publisher's Weekly


Meet Nicholas Colt, a PI with an intriguing past. Once guitarist for the renowned band Colt .45, he's the sole survivor of a small-plane crash that killed his wife, daughter, and the rest of the band. After that, he renounced music and set up shop as a detective in his Airstream trailor near a lake in north Florida. When orphaned Leitha Ryan hires him to find her runaway 15-year-old sister, Brittney (eschewing police for fear of losing Brittney to foster care), the trail leads to a white-supremacy sect and connects to Colt's earlier life through SWAT sniper and former SEAL Roy Massengill, who once worked for the band. Pocket-47, Colt learns, is a pilot's expression that can mean not only an unexplained glitch but also sabotage. Colt is a physical, no-holds-barred PI, reminiscent of Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Lee Child's Jack Reacher, and his debut is action-packed. With a hefty toll of dead bodies, some described in cringe-inducing detail, this is crime fiction at its rawest. Hard-boiled connoisseurs should make Colt's acquaintance now.


Pocket-47 by Jude Hardin (Oceanview, $24.95) is an outstanding debut that introduces likable private Detective Nicholas Colt, a former rock and blues musician. Colt, who operates out of a 1964 Airstream trailer, is a refreshingly unconventional private eye in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is: he gets the job done. He's hired by Leitha Ryan to investigate the disappearance of Brittany, her 15-year-old sister. Colt proceeds in the best "Rockford Files" manner, getting unexpected results that lead to violent confrontations. A secondary subplot emerges with a direct relation to an earlier tragedy in Colt's life - the death of his wife, young child and other band members in a terrible plane crash many years earlier. The author deftly raises the tension level in the final chapters, reaching a powerful, action-packed conclusion. Hopefully, there will be more books following Colt's tough cases.

Hardin's entertaining tale features very strong characterization and a carefully crafted, fast-moving plot. Pocket-47 is easily one of the year's best first crime novels.

—Ray Walsh, Lansing State Journal


Have you heard the news? Jacksonville is no longer the murder capital of Florida. Miami has finally claimed its rightful place. But don't unlock the bunker doors and start cavorting in the street yet, we're still a close No. 2 and could easily regain our crown.

In his debut crime novel, "Pocket 47," author Jude Hardin explores the evil that wallows in our city's sick underbelly. In doing so, Hardin has crafted a character who may be the best that has ever roamed our environs.

Nicholas Colt is a luckless former blues guitarist turned down-and-out private eye. He lives in an Airstream travel-trailer on a lake in the pine barrens near Hallows Cove on the river south of town. Once at the top of the charts in the music world, Colt was the lone survivor of a plane crash that took his family and his band. Laden with existential guilt, he lives his life by his own set of rules.

"Rule No. 3 from Nicholas Colt's Philosophy of Life: Love will break your heart, and lust will break your bank account. ... Rule No. 7: If you pull the trigger, it's always best if a bullet comes out. Rule No. 216: Things twenty years ago weren't all that [expletive deleted] great either."

His seemingly ordinary quest for a missing Stanton student leads to horrific murder, tough pimps, killer cops, crooked businessmen, slimy rich folks and fanatical religious sects (Our neighbors all).

The character is great, the ever-churning plot is believable and fast-paced and the locale ... well, Hardin takes some liberties with the geography (he seems fascinated with Green Cove Springs and Clay County).

But don't let the deficiencies distract, this is a worthy addition to the private eye pantheon. You will find yourself hoping Hardin has a series in the works.
Besides, he owes us a bunch more rules.
—Tim O'Connell, The Florida Times-Union


Nicholas Colt is a former blues guitarist-turned private investigator only half a step ahead of the repo man when he is hired by Leitha Ryan to find her sister Brittney, a 15-year-old runaway. Colt accepts the case, hoping for an easy few days of work for an actual paying client. Things quickly become complicated when Colt discovers the secret behind Brittney's disappearance, one which not only puts Brittney and Leitha in danger but also places Colt directly in the line of fire.

In this thoroughly enjoyable debut novel Jude Hardin has put a fresh spin on the typical hard-nosed detective novel. Hardin writes with a casual ease, skillfully spinning his tale with a nice pace that keeps the reader engaged. But it is through his character Nicholas Colt that Hardin hooks the reader and takes them along as Colt's personal and professional life collide. Colt is tough but Hardin infuses him with an underlying sense of hope, warmth and wry humor under the hard surface that pulls the reader in and keeps them engaged from start to finish and delighted to be along for the ride.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern
Portland Book Review