Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: B » By the Balls: The Complete Collection

By the Balls: The Complete Collection

By: and

15th anniversary edition of the Bowling Alley Murder mystery.

$16.95 $12.71

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

Listed as a feature title on LitBridge.com.

“Readers who enjoy their hard-boiled detective fiction seasoned with self-referential humor will welcome this collection, which includes two new short stories by Pascoe and Fassbender, cofounders of the publisher UglyTown . . . The title work, a novel first published in 1998, is the highpoint, as a murder in a bowling alley claims the life of Gentleman Joe Biggs, the city’s leading bowler. Along the way to a crafty solution, the authors wink at the readers (‘It was Suzi who made a passing joke about this being a detective story, and as it goes in all good detective stories, it was now time to stake out the widow’s house to see what might develop’)—a light touch that leavens a grim fictional universe.”
Publishers Weekly (review)

By The Balls . . . not only launched a series of Ben Drake stories and novels but also put UglyTown on the map as a quirky but serious indie house focused on handsomely designed trade paperback editions and hardboiled crime fiction with a strong sense of place.”
Publishers Weekly (feature)

“With their tongues well placed in their pulpy cheeks, these stories could be read as fairly faithful homages to the classic mystery noirs of the 1930s (and ’40s, and ’50s) as well as wickedly playful satires . . . A definitive package of noir throwbacks that will tickle your fancy if you’re a fan of Hammet, Spillane and Chandler.”
Shelf Awareness

By the Balls is manna from heaven for aficionados of noir and lovers of the classics from older masters of the genre such as Hammett, Chandler, and Cain. The stories are fast with page-turning addictiveness, filled with gems of street-smart dialogue and characters to kill for. Numerous illustrations by Paul Pope adorn the inner pages, all of which are stark and beautifully rendered. And just when you think it can’t get any better, over 20 short essays by industry luminaries are thrown in for good measure. Noir collections don’t get much better than this.”
New York Journal of Books

By the Balls is classic hard-boiled detective fiction reminiscent of Mike Hammer, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Highly recommended.”
Midwest Book Review

“Their noir style narration throughout the collection pays homage to the crime fiction genre’s masters, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with crisp dialogue, a gritty tone, a story that grabs readers’ attentions, and a narrator with dry wit . . . this steam trunk of titillating tales is definitely worth checking out!”
Criminal Class Press

“Cram-full of dime-novel derring-do, By the Balls bears proudly its ligatures to the hard-boiled genre. Its spotty dialogue and drunken plotting; its dubious heroics and jaundiced idealism; its ‘romantic realism,’ in Ellery Queen’s phrase, and fantastically cold-blooded denouement—By the Balls has it all.”
APB Online

By the Balls is retro at its best, in both story and packaging—more please!”
—Joe Lansdale, author of Rumble Tumble

“Every cup of coffee, sleazy witness, and see-through negligee is critiqued in hard-bitten style by detective Benjamin Drake in this doubly amusing book, which works as both straight whodunit fiction and a winking satire of all things Hammettesque. Not to be missed by fans of the genre, fans of genre, or any genre of fans.”

By the Balls, written in a postmodern parodic and self-consciously funny fashion, contains these moments of metafictive brilliance that remind us of the parameters of the genre, and how we might understand those parameters in an age of disillusionment . . . By the Balls: The Complete Collection is worth reading for so many reasons—if not for the hardboiled crime fiction and all that the genre encompasses, then for the youthful punk rock idea that is at the heart of the text.”
The Philadelphia Review of Books

“A recommended pick for short story fans who enjoy the classic Hammett and Raymond Chandler genres. Detective Ben Drake loves small cigars and big fights—and women in trouble. His adventures and puzzling cases involve many instances of criminal angst in this riveting account, perfect for fans of hardboiled detective reading.”
The Midwest Bookwatch


Watch Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender talk collaboration as part of their Akashic Insider feature.

Read “Into Darker Night” by Jim Pascoe and “Game Night” by Tom Fassbender, both part of Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series.

Reintroducing hard-boiled detective Ben Draketo a whole new generation, By the Balls: The Complete Collection assembles all the early writing of Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender—including the bowling alley murder mystery that launched crime fiction house UglyTown—in a redesigned 15th anniversary edition. This deluxe package contains the two underground cult-classic novels By the Balls and Five Shots and a Funeral, along with two brand-new short stories, a new introduction, and over a dozen short essays by industry luminaries.

Perfect for fans of Hammett and Chandler, these tales follow the exploits of Ben Drake, a detective with a passion for small cigars and big fights, a love of Old Grand-Dad, and a weakness for women in trouble. North of Las Vegas in the fictional town of Testacy City, Drake sniffs out killers, thieves, kidnappers, cock fighters, double crossers, crooked cops, and numbers runners—all culminating in the bizarre murder of Gentleman Joe Biggs, a well-loved local bowling hero. As he continues to crack clues in the case, Drake is drawn deeper into a citywide criminal conspiracy.

Together, Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender cofounded UglyTown, the acclaimed independent crime fiction publishing company. They gave voice to then-newcomers Sean Doolittle, Victor Gischler, Curt Colbert, and Rodney Johnson as well as veterans Eddie Muller, Gary Phillips, and Nathan Walpow.

Read an interview with Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender at Criminal Class Press.

Read an interview with Jim Pascoe at The Union-Tribune San Diego.

Listen to an interview with Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender on Book Talk with Kory French.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Published: 4/2/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751592
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751714


JIM PASCOE is a writer, designer, and an Emmy Award-winning creative director. He is responsible for the packaging design of over 100 DVDs, including Mad Men, the 2010 Kubrick Collection, and Coraline, which won Best in Show at the Hollywood Reporter’s Key Art Awards. He has written comics and books featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kim Possible, and Hellboy. His graphic novel series Undertown was serialized in over fifty newspapers worldwide, and his recent crime fiction has appeared in Los Angeles Noir and Florida Heat Wave. He is the cofounder of UglyTown and coeditor of By the Balls: The Complete Collection.

More info »

TOM FASSBENDER is a writer, editor, and content strategist who has written, edited, and published both novels and comics. By day he manages the creative team at a Southern California financial institution. He fills the rest of his time by being a father, tending beehives, running long distances (preferably in the Angeles National Forest), and seeking new adventures in and around Los Angeles. He is a cofounder of UglyTown and coeditor of By the Balls: The Complete Collection.

More info »