"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of The Big Reap, The Wrong Goodbye and Dead Harvest.

"Bagley's got the poet's eye, but that doesn't mean everything is prettier in his work. It means the ugly stuff is more vivid. More intense. Like a sudden switch from analog to HD. And that's a trait to very much admire in his work." --Anthony Neil Smith, author of Hogdoggin', Yellow Medicine, The Drummer and Psychosomatic.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Once You’ve Had Black…

Paying for It by Tony Black
Preface/Random House (July 2008)
ISBN 978-1-84809-020-0
£16.99 Cloth

Gus Dury used to be a hotshot investigative reporter. Now he’s a soon-to-be-divorced, unemployed drunk living in a cheap flat above an Edinburgh pub. Col, the owner of the pub, asks Gus for a favor. Col’s son Billy has been tortured and murdered in what the cops dismissed as a gang killing. Gus is reluctant, but he owes Col a favor. Before long, Gus is in deep shit, crossing paths with bent cops, human traffickers, a woman trying to work every angle and the sleazy politician who cost him his job and—as a result—his marriage. If he’s careful, Gus might just have a chance to regain a semblance of his old life. Then again, he might end up like Billy.

If you’ve read Tony Black’s short stories for e-zines like Spinetingler or Plots with Guns, you know his writing hits like a sharp jab to the gut. His Edinburgh is a darker place than Ian Rankin’s, and that’s saying something. In Black’s hands, the city is more like Ken Bruen’s Galway.

Nor is that the only similarity between Black and Bruen. Inevitably, readers will compare Gus Dury with Jack Taylor. Both men lost their job after decking a government official. Both take shelter in booze or drugs. Like Taylor, Dury is quick to use his fists and is just as likely to end up in the emergency room as a result. Both know the law has little to do with justice.

But Dury is no Jack Taylor clone, and Tony Black, though clearly influenced by Bruen, writes with his own strong voice. While Taylor’s life tends to spiral further downward with each novel, Dury might be able to pull himself up out of the tidal wave of misery. Or maybe not, since the title of the next book in this series is Gutted. Does that refer to a killer who disembowels his victims or is does it reflect the way Dury will feel by the end of the case? I like to see writers run their characters through the meat grinder, so I’m good either way. It's the whole that-which-does-not-kill-us-makes-for-damn-fine-entertainment thing.

Tony Black is the real noir deal and Paying for It is one hell of a debut.


Dawn on MDI said...

Hey there.

You just got a plug on Strange Maine. http://strangemaine.blogspot.com/ Look for increased traffic!

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Cool. Thanks for the heads-up.