Tuesday, September 03, 2013

THE HARD BOUNCE, Todd Robinson: Who Says Scandinavians Write Them Darker?

You don't have to live in a land where the midnight sun appears at one end of the year, and a full day of darkness at the other end, to write grim and gritty crime fiction. In fact, American writers and screenwriters have done it for decades -- think Andrew Vachss, and Psycho. But maybe the feast of Swedish, Danish, and Finnish translations has been so awesome that we've forgotten to check the local versions surfacing.

Now that THE HARD BOUNCE by (American) Todd Robinson is in print (thanks to Tyrus Books), that shouldn't be a problem.

Robinson's nickname in his editing role has been Big Daddy Thug, and he invented the label Thuglit -- fiction where the protagonist has grown up fighting for life and is way too familiar with the various forms of abuse. (Also see Thuglit.com, his publishing venture.) Has even inflicted quite a few of them, when angry. And since anger is a totally rational reaction to other people crashing through one's personal boundaries, thuglit folks tend to have anger issues ... well, no, actually, rage issues. Dave Zeltserman's crime novels, based in an eerie level of connection with the Whitey Bulger mentality, catch this tendency perfectly.

Todd Robinson provides another twist to this darkness in THE HARD BOUNCE with Boo Malone -- that's Boo as in Radley, not Caspar -- whose friendship with Junior, forged under attack at the vicious Saint Gabriel's Home for Boys, is his only obvious redeeming feature. But Robinson rolls Boo Malone over to show his soft spot: a desperate desire to find and save his long-lost little sister. When Boo and Junior agree to search for a missing girl, Cassandra, there's a tragic and poignant drive involved. No matter how violent they are, these two "thugs" have a fragment inside that's still a sobbing child, and the search for Cassandra activates that fragment.

Not that Boo makes it easy on anyone -- his first reaction to the woman trying to hire him is:
"Let me explain something to you, Kel. I don't know whether you've seen too many spy movies or just have a hard-on for old noir, but I don't work for phantoms and this cloak and dagger bullshit you're feeding me is going right up my a**. So you can cut the sh** and talk to me straight or you can go p*ss up a rope." I stood from the table, ready to walk. It was partly my sh**b*lls of an afternoon and another part poorly repressed class rage. Either way, it felt good to let her have it.
"Class rage"? Yes, Boo is smart and self-educated and literary. But you definitely don't want to cross him when he's having a bad day. (Sorry about the asterisks, but you know how it is.)

THE HARD BOUNCE takes a grim route into why crime is so ugly. But it also has a steady strand of human decency underneath, and the small triumphs along the way gleam like stars on a velvet sky. I ended up really, really liking this book. In fact, I'm even looking forward to the next one, from Big Daddy Thug. (Just don't bring those guys into my village, okay?)

Curious about the author? I like this interview; check it out.

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