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Monday 3 February 2020

‘The Hard Stuff’ by David Gordon

Published by Head of Zeus,
12 December 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-83893310-4 (HB)

I feel I shouldn't really approve of crime novels in which the protagonists are the criminals and they're sure to get past the cops and come out on top, but when they're as much fun as this one, ethics get pushed aside and I just enjoy the ride.

And what a rollercoaster ride it is. In the first few pages, before the main story even gets going, a bridge gets blown up, a militia gang gets its comeuppance and the FBI arrive too late to do anything about it. Our Hero, a club bouncer and gangland fixer called Joe, who used to work undercover for the government in a previous life, is at the centre of it all despite his heroin habit. And since he is determined to kick the habit, you have to admire him from the outset.

And kick it he does, just in time to take on his biggest job yet for his gangland compadres: stealing a small fortune in diamonds to pay for a consignment of drugs, and making sure the guys who are selling don't get a chance to muscle in on the territory.

The result is a colourful, high-octane adventure, with a plot with more twists than a Twirl bar and a list of good bad guys and bad bad guys, larger than life and straight from Central Casting (all except Joe and his unlikely romantic interest Agent Donna of the FBI), each with his or her improbable quirk; I especially liked Yelena the mad Russian with her arsenal of weapons, and Juno the ace IT nerd who likes playing with traffic lights. But they're none the worse for this broad brushstroke approach; it could even be a deliberate technique on the part of the author, since the overall effect is to make the book read like a movie: think The Godfather meets The Italian Job.

It's set in New York, but maybe not quite as we more innocent souls know it; there are some frankly unbelievable (except somehow I did) locations, and I think we'd better gloss over the relationship between the gangland bosses and the construction industry. There's also one of the best car chases since, yes, you guessed, The Italian Job.

Lots of blood is spilt as you might expect, and a few of those twists aren't quite what you'd expect in latter-day Mafia territory. Our Hero Joe even has some traits more usually associated with law upholders rather than law breakers. In fact, I quite look forward to meeting him again in future books. Though I don't quite approve of myself for saying that...
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

David Gordon was born in New York City. He attended Sarah Lawrence College and holds an MA in English and Comparative Literature and an MFA in Writing, both from Columbia University, and has worked in film, fashion, publishing, and pornography. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, Purple, and Fence among other publications.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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