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Zero Cool (Hard Case Crime #41)

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  324 ratings  ·  43 reviews
American radiologist Peter Ross just wanted a vacation. But when he meets the beautiful Angela Locke on a Spanish beach, he soon finds himself caught in a murderous crossfire between rival gangs seeking a precious artifact.
Mass Market Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 1973 by Bantam Books (first published 1969)
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(showing 1-30 of 879)
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Dan Schwent
Peter Ross is an American radiologist in Spain for a conference when he's strong-armed into performing an autopsy on a dead gangster. Something is planted inside the corpse's chest cavity and three gangs are vying for it. Can Pete escape the gangs before he becomes another victim?

I have mixed feelings on this Hard Case by John Lange, aka Michael Critchon. On one hand, it has more twists and turns than any Hard Case in recent memory. The writing is crisp. I didn't really know what was going on un...more
Mark Hebwood
I didn't agonize over whether I was expressing myself; I didn't worry about art; I was writing under a pseudonym, at very high speed. And the usual concerns about the quality or originality of one's output were irrelevant since my explicit goal was to be entirely unoriginal - to write something so perfectly suited to the paperback market that my publishers would buy my work without hesitation. I was engaged in a high-pressure exercise where the goal was absolute unoriginality. [Michael Crichton,...more
originally posted at:

This is my fourth Hard Case Crime book and so far I have been enjoying them very much. I am very fond of SF/F genre but venturing in the crime books has been something that I was and still am looking forward to, since I read quite a lot of books, the HCC books amongst others keep things diverse. I read one book of Michael Crichton before, Drug of Choice, he wrote these books when he was still a medical student at Harvard medical schoo...more
Michael Crichton, posing as John Lange, novelizes a nonexistent Nicholas Cage movie.
John Lange=Michael Crichton and reading about young Dr. Ross had me thinking about ER half of the time... However, this book was originally published in 1969 (though the "video interviews" that bookend the story are no doubt new), so the two Dr. Ross's can't be related.

The characters in this are ridiculous: a professor, a count, and even a cowboy named "Tex". Yet it was fun pretty much the entire way through.

A note about the artwork: The girl on the beach (Angela), is reading the Hard Case Crim...more
Holger Haase
Before he struck it rich with novels, movies and TV series under his real name, Michael Crichton had published a range of thrillers under the nom-de-plume John Lange. The original editions of those are now commanding impressive sums on the second hand market, so it is good to see that these are now being reprinted by Hard Case Crime.

Love the cover of ZERO COOL! Look closely and you will see that the book the girl is reading is actually another John Lange reprint (GRAVE DESCEND).

This is a very fa...more
Craig Childs
What I like about the Hard Case Crime imprint is their penchant for uncovering novels with
unique histories. Take, for instance, NOBODY'S ANGEL, which was written by a Chicago cab driver and
for years sold only to his customers out of the back trunk of his cab. Or MEMORY, an unpublished early novel which, had it found a publisher, would have undoubtedly launched Donald Westlake's career in a wholly different direction. THE LAST QUARRY allowed Max Alan Collins to resume a popular pulp series that...more
Peter Ross is a radiologist on vacation in Spain, hoping to pick up girls and relax while “attending” a big medical conference. This is cut short when he agrees to do an autopsy, which he’s not qualified for, and discovers that the dead guy has… something… stuck inside him. Of course, everyone else wants that thing in the dead guy—the “artifact” macguffin—and want Ross, because they think he’s working for one of the other sides. Now he’s caught in a three-way crossfire, dodging rival gangs on hi...more
Once in a while, pulp fiction is just what I need. Zero Cool is a great 1960's, summer-of-love, incredibly cheesy storyline that's pure entertainment.

The protagonist is a radiologist in his twenties just finishing his residency and heading off for a month-long vacation among liquor and loose women on the beaches of Spain. But, almost the minute he arrives, he is sucked into some kind of weird spy v. spy conspiracy searching for a lost artifact, a la The Maltese Falcon. If it weren't for the che...more
Another early Crichton published under his John Lange pseudonym. As usual, it's vaguely entertaining and yet utterly implausible. He starts with a decent noir framework but then piles on a ridiculous number of plot twists that leave me wanting something simpler. The prologue and epilogue may have been added by him when Hard Case reissued this in 2006.
Michael Critchton while in Med school wrote a number of Pulp Thrillers that were very good, rating should be 3.5 stars. A medical student goes to a conference in Europe by the sea and gets caught up in all sorts of intrigue with Femme Fatales. Fun read, perfect for the beach
Phil Wrighthouse Wrighthouse
Written by Michael Chricton under his eon name before he got super famous. It's a pulpy yarn that starts off amazingly but just sort of fizzles out at the end. It also gets so convoluted that, while that can be thrilling, it can also get too complicated to care.
Jeff J.
A fun read, written by Michael Crichton under the pseudonym John Lange. An innocent American gets swept up in intrigue while vacationing in Europe, much like the plot of a Hitchcock movie.
Aug 01, 2011 Robert rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fan of 60s spy novels a& pulp adventure
Recommended to Robert by: Dollar store find
Shelves: hard-case-crime
I will add my voice to a few others that have commented that this book is fun, fast read that ultimately is as breezy as those long ago 60s summers that it portrays. An early Michael Crichton novel, written under his John Lange pseudonym, it is pure pulp adventure. It has more than a touch of Ian Fleming's James Bond to it, as well as a healthly dose of prime Alfred Hitchcock characterization in the protagonist, Dr. Peter Ross. And once the novel started with the twists and turns, even the girl...more
First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this hard-edged novel. But it was written in 1969 and baby it shows. The plot is tight and keeps you guessing, but the touchstones are all solid sixties and date the book perhaps more than they should. As I read, I kept on wondering: "which of the books I love today are going to seem as dated in forty years?" But this is some fun escapism and if you enjoy dime-store detective novels, you'll most likely enjoy it. I think that some of our more r...more
It's pretty clear how Lange came up with his plot- he got drunk one night watching the Maltese Falcon, then tried to figure out how to shoehorn Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre into a book of his own. Zero Cool has Zero Luck at matching, or even approaching, Bogey and Hammet's style. It lurches from scene to scene with little finesse, and less sense. (Particularly in the case of one near-Bondian villain, The Professor, who speaks in psuedo-mathematical garble like a poser geek tr...more
enjoyable, but pretty trashy and inconsistent. read "the venom business" instead.
Overall a pretty fun, quick read. I liked the oddball characters, the quick narration and the dialogue was solid enough for an early effort of fiction. The parallels to Maltese Falcon cannot be denied, the plot has flaws and the characters are thinly developed. That said I read this on a flight and it's a really good book for that kind of reading need. Would rat it slightly higher than a three if I could, but falls a bit short of four stars for the reasons mentioned.
Jan 18, 2014 Chris marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Pretty fun little novel, though not especially original or unpredictable. The ending particularly is a little bit of an eye-roller, but most of the book pulls you through all right. The main character, a persistently victemized persona, does come off as pretty dumb throughout. I like that he still insists on wanting to do his part in the conference he is supposed to attend despite the ridculous events that tangle him up. Anyway, good fun.
I wasn't aware that was an early Michael Crichton novel. I am a fan of the Hard Case Crime series which is usually good but this one of the clunkers. It is, as one reviewer also noted, a pretty bad imitation of The Maltese Falcon with stock villians even Warner Brothers would have blushed at using. You can see elements of later Chrichton novels here which I imagine is the only reason it was republished.
Scott Marley
debating whether to toss this in the trash or back on the bookshelf - read Venom Business instead, unless you like to sigh in dismay or roll your eyes while reading
I am hoping that they re-release these now that Mr. Crichton has died. There is a specialty hard case crime publisher that has released two. The others are still out of print and even used they are prohibitively expensive. I love them. It's the best of Crichton without the science or politics. They're just good fast stories.
Zero Cool moves at a nice pace from plot point to plot point, with plenty of twists and turns, and never fails to entertain. At no point, however, did I really care about any of the characters or what happened to them.
It wasn't until I was midway through this book that I remembered I had read it before... then the plot came rushing back to me. As always with this author, solid plot, well written, and entertaining.
Another awesome book!
Interesting early work by Michael Crichton. Very different than the author's later work. Nice action piece that reads like a '60 or '70s espionage/international thriller film.
Jeremiah Murphy
Michael Crichton before he was Michael Crichton! I liked this book, full of interesting turns with bits of math and history lessons thrown in amongst the gunplay and doublecross.
Chris Yorgason
Actually a pretty entertaining story. I have always liked Crichton, but I was not sure what to expect from one of his earlier "pen name" novels.
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John Lange is a pseudonym of author Michael Crichton. His pen name was selected as reference to his above-average height of 6' 9"(2.06 meters). Lange means "tall one" in German, Danish and Dutch.
More about John Lange...
Binary (Hard Case Crime MC8) Grave Descend (Hard Case Crime #26) Easy Go (Hard Case Crime MC3) Drug of Choice (Hard Case Crime MC6) Scratch One (Hard Case Crime MC2)

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