GumShoe Blues is Brit Grit and self-proclaimed “screwball noir” author Paul D. Brazill’s latest novelette, completed with a few short stories shedding light on some of the characters and events. The result is dark, witty, farcical and thoroughly entertaining.
The story follows its detective anti-hero Peter Ord on his numerous missions. “Ordy”, as the unsavoury characters he rubs shoulders with call him, is a former English teacher, freshly divorced and above all, a piss-head. When he finds himself with no money and the rent to pay urgently so as not to finish cooked in a pizza oven like the previous late-paying tenant, he takes on a new job as a private detective.
His missions take him from bar to bar and hangover to hangover, from surprise to surprise. His choices are not always top tier but he somehow falls back on his feet, though not always elegantly and more often than not with some scraps and a hangover:
“Shit!” I said. I pushed him backwards into the window of Berny The Bolt’s DVD Rentals Shop, which cracked as he crashed into it. “You twat,” he said, as he charged towards me, red faced. He barged me towards an alley at the back of the off license. Gasping for breath, I hurtled into a pile of stuffed and overflowing black bin bags that spilled across the alley. I felt as if I’d been in this situation before.
Ordy’s adventures are dark and hilarious, and they come at a quick pace, with strong visuals and a killer soundtrack. If this book was a movie, it’d be Lock, stock and two smoking barrels meets Pulp Fiction with a hint of Man Bites Dog.
Their dramatic intensity is stifled by the ridiculousness of some of the bad guys or the burlesque nature of the situations, making it a quirky tragicomic read.
“Carole Anders, my old English teacher […] sported a brown eye-patch as the result of a drunken brawl with one of the sixth formers she taught. I’d seen it reported in the local paper.”
“In my wildest dreams I’d never have thought that the best sounds to use to contact the dead would be a techno version of Eye Of The Tiger. “
“It was rumoured that he went to bed with a teddy bear and a machete. One thing the Kruger Twins did share, though, was a violent temper”
The characters surrounding Ordy are all as off-kilter as another and provide a highly entertaining range of society screw-ups and washed-out Z-type celebrities. Like the clubs and hotels the protagonist visits, their past is far more glorious than their present and there is a hint of nostalgia in their musings of the 1970s, their longing for their brighter past which gives them an interesting depth.
“I tell you, son. Never get old. You don’t know what it’s like. You know, when I close my eyes,” Ernie said, shifting his stained pillow.
Written as a first-person retelling of events, the style gives the protagonist the opportunity for many hilarious side bars, similes and punchy one-liners, and the placid matter-of-factness with which he utters the funniest and most unexpected of statements makes the central character likeable in his booze-infused wisdom.
I slowly sipped the beer can’s warm, flat contents until I started to get a glow on, like one of the kids in the old Ready-Brek adverts. Booze: central heating for piss- heads.
There were sweat patches under the arms of his raincoat. Quite an accomplishment, that.
Angie’s smile was like the froth on a cappuccino. It softened and took the edge off the darkness and bitterness beneath it.
Reverend Abbott’s frankly barmy sermons were as infamous as his acid flashbacks. It was clear where he was going, though.
Though his life isn’t exactly what he’d like it to be with mobsters and a bitter ex-wife cramping his style, he waddles through it with much confidence, taking pride in the job he didn’t choose and seizing the opportunities it provides, leading to the unexpected and greatly executed finale.
A thoroughly enjoyable read. Brazill’s vivid imagery doubled with his noir-yet-comical style make it impossible to put down.
Gumshoe Blues is published by Close to the Bone Publishing and is available here.
Paul D. Brazill
Paul D. Brazill’s books include Small Time Crimes, Guns Of Brixton, The Last Laugh, A Case Of Noir, Big City Blues and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, Polish, German and Slovene. He has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime.
Reviewed by Barbara F. Jones
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