Hardcase: Nothing special here

Hardcase by Dan SimmonsHardcase by Dan Simmons

Readers of Dan Simmons have been spoiled by his numerous great works: THE HYPERION CANTOSSong of Kali, and The Terror, for example, which sold well around the world and in many languages. Hardcase, unfortunately, finds Simmons returning to earth from the heights of this success. Hardcase is run-of-the-mill action — well told, but still average.

Before buying the book, I noted that many reviewers enjoyed Simmons’s delving into detective noir to tell the story of hardened private eye Joe Kurtz, who solves a mystery while trying to stay alive with killers on his trail. Having now read the book, I’m at a loss to see where the spirit of Raymond Chandler can be seen glowing in the text. Certainly some of the elements speak to the noir genre — Kurtz’s office below a porno shop, his moral position outside the law but fighting for justice, and the colorful thugs and assassins giving chase, to name a few. But sadly, the overall feel was more like Lethal Weapon than Chinatown. Hood gangsters, drugs and guns, and mafia princesses were in fact the plot devices that moved the storyline.

As Simmons is such a great stylist, it was a bit of a disappointment not to read of dark alleys and cigarette smoke, red lipstick and .44 magnums emerging from trenchcoats, the echoes crashing through the pouring rain. I expected something more artistic than the blasé action story I found. Simmons’s usual storytelling bravado and vivid descriptions are present, but it’s just not enough to deepen the story. If P.I. stories with smooth prose are your gig, by all means have a go. Otherwise, nothing special here.

FanLit thanks Jesse Hudson of Speculiction for this guest review. 

Publication Date: June 30, 2001. Sometimes revenge is best paid in cold steel. HARDCASE. Joe Kurtz has been wronged one too many times. So when he takes out the drug-dealing thug who killed his girlfriend, the ex-PI gets to cool his heels for 11 years in Attica. It’s there that he meets “Little Skag” Farino, the son of an aging Buffalo, New York, mob boss. In exchange for protecting the kid’s manhood against any unwanted jailhouse affection, Kurtz gets an audience with Little Skag’s father upon his release from prison. Semi-retired Don Byron Farino is still clinging to what dwindling power he holds on the New York organized crime scene. He enlists Kurtz’s help to track down the Family’s missing accountant–a man with too much knowledge of Family business to have on the loose. But someone doesn’t want the accountant found. As the story twists and turns and the body count rises, Kurtz no longer knows whom he can trust. Everyone seems to be after something, from the mob boss’s sultry yet dangerous daughter, to a hit man named The Dane, an albino killer who is good with a knife, and a dwarf who is armed to the teeth and hell-bent on revenge. Bestselling author Dan Simmons expertly builds the tension as he springs one surprise after another, all the while daring the reader to take a ride with Kurtz through the cold, windy streets of Buffalo where one wrong move could mean a belly-full of lead.

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JESSE HUDSON, one of our guest reviewers, reads in most fields. He lives in Poland where he works for a big corporation by day and escapes into reading by night. He posts a blog which acts as a healthy vent for not only his bibliophilia, but also his love of culture and travel: Speculiction.

View all posts by Jesse Hudson (guest)

2 comments

  1. Squid And Taco /

    I feel like the noir elements ARE present here, and in spades…

  2. Fair enough. But if you had to push the book one way or another, do you think it holds more in common with detective noir or straight-up action-drama? Kurtz himself, his on again, off again secretary, and his office below a porn shop are all certainly noir elements, I’m just not convinced they are more than wallpapering. I thought the action elements, which carry the weight of the novel, have more in common with Danny Glover and Mel Gibson than Sam Spade. There was a lack of that melancholy, dark and smoky mood that I associate with the genre. But, if that’s not your understanding of the genre, than I can understand how you might feel it’s a representative example.

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