HARDCASE - 2002
St. Martin's Minotaur
Dan Simmons has defied categories and carefully manufactured an astonishing, genre-bending
career over the last several years. I'm told he is masterful at SF, a
Stoker-winning horror author, and now has become a solid noir writer as well.
His newest creation, Joe Kurtz, is a hard case indeed. When we meet Joe, he has just
done eleven years in Attica for jamming someone's hand down a garbage
disposal and tossing his sorry ass over a balcony. Now he is back on the
street and needs a job. So he signs on with a Mob family, the Farino's,
to hunt down a missing tax accountant who may or may not be dead.
Within a matter of pages, Joe Kurtz has alienated some strangers and a couple of
grunts who work for the Farino's. Then he takes some funky digs, sets
up a phony dating service and hires a tough-as-nails old friend to be
his assistant and starts cheerfully lying to his parole officer.
And that's just act one.
This is the kind of hardboiled crime fiction that brings a smile to your face, sometimes
against your own better judgment. The women are hot and mean and untrustworthy.
Our hero is so tough he could pound his whiskers in with a hammer and
bite them off on the inside. The violent acts and double-crosses come
faster and faster as the story progresses.
By the time the Farino's catch on to what we have known for some time
- that Kurtz has a hidden agenda in working for them - a high-priced hit
man is winging in from Denmark and busily setting up a somewhat obvious
finish. Still, Simmons keeps the scenes hammering at you and you tend
to forgive him.
The dialogue is crisp and hostile and the book action-packed. HARDCASE is nowhere near a great book, in fact it is kind of a 'B' movie; but it's a good one. So it is worth your time, if only for escapism. I give it three Bookwyrms.
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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