As regular readers know, I’m a fan of Paul Brazill’s work. His snappy dialogue helps bring his characters to life, whilst his rich metaphors and descriptive powers imbue his tales with a wonderful sense of place and atmosphere. I’m particularly fond of his Luke Case tales (now collected into one volume entitled A Case of Noir). However, instead of reviewing the work as a whole, because I had been reviewing the short stories (which are available individually), I’m going to review the final story and then just do a round up of the work as a whole.
In this tale, Case is sent to Cambridge by his very shady publisher Pedro to be part of an assassination attempt on a writer of crime thrillers. He doesn’t ask why, because ignorance is bliss after all, but knows that it is definitely in his best interests to do as he is told. So he interviews the man with the intention of leading him to a place where the humourless French hitman Cyprien can do his job. Of course, it doesn’t quite turn out as planned…
The final part of the Case’s story also happens to be the funniest. Lots of nice little one liners and droll asides are woven nicely into the tale. And the final hit is a moment of sublime black comedy that marks the hitman out as more Clouseau than Carlos the Jackal. It is a very solid ending to the story and comes highly recommended. However, for those readers who haven’t read any of these tales yet, I highly recommend that you get the full Case of Noir. It is an excellent read from an author whose talent grows with every new work he writes.
Regular readers will know how much I enjoy the work of Paul D Brazill – a writer who seems to be on a one-man mission to make Brit Grit (and its various practitioners) known to the outside world. His writing (short work especially) is tight, controlled, inventive and his prose style just drips with atmosphere.
I’ve especially enjoyed the Luke Case tales (Red Esperanto, Death On A Hot Afternoon and The Kelly Affair). He’s a British hack with a nose for booze, women and trouble, nearly always combining the three to disastrous effect. He also has a drifter’s tendency to end up in different places when the going gets tough (which is always), meaning that each story plays out in a new European location. The previous stories were set in, chronologically, Warsaw, Madrid, and Granada. His latest, The Big Rain, is set in a rain-swept Toulouse and deals with the culmination of a story strand that was begun, and left open, in The Kelly Affair. I won’t bother to spoil the plot for those who haven’t read Kelly (or indeed the other tales), instead I’ll suggest that you buy all of them and read them in order. They’re well worth your time and money.
Like in the other stories, the elements and atmosphere rise off the page, so that you can almost smell the tear-gas and feel the rain on your skin and taste the booze at the back of your throat. Brazill is a neat prose-stylist, something that always appeals to a basic, meat-and-potatoes, word cruncher like myself (because it’s not something that I can pull off), but he also has the chops necessary to take a tight grip on the story early in the proceedings. He weaves together characters and strands introduced in the earlier books and crafts a fine tale that builds to a powerful resolution. The Big Rain, like the rest of the Case tales, comes highly recommended. Get it on yer Kindle, quick-smart!
This is the first part of Paul D Brazill’s Luke Case series of shorts. It is set on the bleak wintry streets of Warsaw. Our less than intrepid hero puts himself in extreme danger when he begins an affair with Jola, the wife of a local gangster.
If you’ve read Brazill before, you know what you’re going to get from the off: rich, evocative prose that paints a vivid picture, a seedy setting frequented by even seedier characters, and a good tale, well told. In fact, of the three Case tales this one has to be my favourite because of the nifty twist at the end that Brazill throws at the reader in such an offhand manner. He makes it look and read effortless, but it really isn’t.
If you have yet to read either Brazill or the Case tales – what the hell have you been doing? Stop reading this and go and buy them now. But in all seriousness, if you haven’t read him yet then start with Red Esperanto it is as good a place as any to get acquainted with Brazill’s world. Highly recommended.
The Kelly Affair follows the continuing story of Luke Case. After the events of Death On A Hot Afternoon everybody’s favourite boozy hack, Luke Case, is sent out to Granada to possibly ghost write the autobiography of a con man. The problem is that the ghosts of Luke’s past have returned to haunt him.
TKA is written in that inimitable Brazill prose, a rich mixture of metaphor, poetic description, and hardboiled terseness, but it is a different beast to the previous Case tales. This one is less self-contained, and the violent prologue and subtle cliff-hanger points to a widening story which makes the readers see that Case is most definitely not what he seems. Personally, I can’t wait to see where Brazill takes this. Highly recommended.
As regular readers will know I recently reviewed, and really enjoyed, Paul’s 13 Shot of Noir, which if you haven’t already bought it you should do so immediately. So another day another Brazill ebook. Does Death On A Hot Afternoon live up to the high standards set by 13 Shots? Well, see below and find out…
Luke Case is a middle-aged hack working for a Madrid magazine run by local who fancies himself as a patron of the city’s art scene. One afternoon, he is chatting with another hack, Nathan, who starts telling him in a roundabout way about a murder he committed many years before – one he’s been on the run from ever since. The whole afternoon gets boozier and when Case ends up drinking with Lena K, a young Torch singer who seems to have appeared from nowhere on the Madrid scene, he finds he might have the chance of enjoying a very nice evening with her and a friend! But the evening takes a turn for the worse and leaves Case wondering just who this Torch singer is and what it is that she wants.
As witnessed in 13 Shots, Brazill has an excellent writing style and a lovely turn of phrase and you can witness it here in spades:
People fired sharp looks at me like bullets from a machine gun.
Along with some clever dialogue:
“Well, a cliche to me is like a red rag to a bull. I avoid them like the plague.”
Case, for all his seediness, makes a great narrator and protagonist even if he seems to be attracted to trouble the way iron filings are attracted to magnets. The build-up is beautifully done and then – slam – the pay-off comes quickly and the rug has been pulled from beneath Case and the reader. It’s a lovely and controlled bit of storytelling. I’ve heard some folks complain that it’s not long enough. I can understand what they mean (great characters, not wanting it to end etc), but I thought it was the perfect length – in and out and no messing about.