Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hard Man

Allan Guthrie
Hard Man

Polygon, 2008

Baxter's family’s got troubles. 16-year-old daughter of Jacob Baxter May married 26-year-old sadist Wallace, cheated on him, became pregnant, and Wallace did not like all that. Jacob feares that Wallace now will use violence to his daughter. The father asks his two sons, Rog and Flash, "talk" with Wallace, so that he’d leave May alone. But a karate expert Wallace does not like to listen to other people's instructions, and the whole Baxter family this first time is left with minor injuries after a conversation with Wallace on the souls.

Jacob finds a solution. He wants to hire a local ex-con Pearce, who would "solve a problem" with Wallace and become a bodyguard for May. Pearce with his difficult character and financial problems ponders offer to earn a few thousand, but after weighing all the pros and cons, he refuses to eat the stranger’s shit. Baxter family has to persuade Pearce in more sophisticated ways. The action begins to accelerate, the plot flies like swirl.

Pearce has been a hero of another Allan Guthrie’s novel, «Two-Way Split». Pearce's past is full of violence: killed a drug dealer for his sister's death, served time, saw the robbers killed his mother, took revenge for the death of the mother, barely escaped punishment. Peirce never had friends, except his dog. As well as a permanent job, but «Pearce needed the money. Arsewipe. Maybe he should think about proper job. Only thing he'd done since he got out of prison was debt collecting. And that wasn't an option now Cooper was inside». But Pierce, who is just that «hard man» from the title, is not the only main character in the book. Guthrie slowly puts the pieces, revealing the characters of all Baxter’s family members. This is a hell of a family, so prepare for the parade of errors, unexpected twists and black humor.

With humor there is no problem, but with everything else ... The previous two Guthrie’s novels also were crowded with characters who are cruel, crazy and unpredictable. Favorite writer’s method was taking a large number of characters in one pile and see how they will deal with common problems. At the same time, Guthrie changed narrators in the process, but did not do it very often, staying with one character enough time to avoid flickering in the eyes from the narrator’s switching. Reading «Hard Man» the eyes will just dazzle. The author so often changes the angle of view, that in the end you just stop to closely monitor these cuts. You just get headache, and no fun.

The second half of the story is divided into two sub-plots and Pearce ends up on the sidelines. Somewhat unexpectedly to see how the main character of the book suddenly stops practically participate in the development of the plot. Guthrie in the first half of the book takes us inside the mind of Pearce, to just throw this character away without visible results.

In the novel, there are a few surprises, but their stock is running out quick, and the ending is already possible to predict in a few dozen pages before the end.

In the first two Guthrie’s books, we saw what he was capable of («Two-Way Split» was wonderful, «Kiss Her Goodbye» is a little worse). This is no good. The first half of the novel was promising, but then the novel turned sour. It is better to find his first two novels, this is not a must.

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