What is Hardboiled? I certainly didn’t have a clue before I started reading this book but then I am notoriously bad at the whole sub-genre classification lark. Luckily for me this anthology starts with a truly excellent introduction by Ron Scheer. I now not only understand what hardboiled is, but why the name is so appropriate. Like an Armadillo it is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside (blame the old Dime bar adverts for that one). Even if you don’t want to read the stories it is worth buying this book purely to read the introduction.
I was surprised by the subtlety of the emotional depth displayed in these stories. What looked heartless and uncaring turned out in many cases to be just a front. There isn’t a bad story in this anthology and I enjoyed them all for different reasons. My personal favourite was Black-Eyed Susan by Thomas Pluck. You know that things can’t be as simple as they seem, but exactly what is going to happen is not revealed until the very end. It is a great set-up and even a morality tale (if you consider not messing with my family or I mess with you to be a moral).
I do have one criticism of this book though. It should have more stories in it. I got to the end and wanted more, lots more. Luckily for me I believe there is another one of these anthologies out soon. I’ll certainly be looking out for it.
If you like short fiction in a pared down and hard hitting format then this is the book for you.