Written by Paul D Brazill — Brit Grit author Paul D Brazill is one of those annoyingly productive writers who is able to effortlessly turn out entertaining, readable novels at regular intervals. His work is typically edgy, seedy and darkly enjoyable, and Last Year’s Man is no exception.
Tommy Bennett is employed to murder Gary Beachwell, AKA Beached Whale because of his stature. Years ago Beachwell was a music journalist and gave a bad review to a debut LP, because of which the lead singer committed suicide. The singer’s son has since come won the lottery win and wants retribution. The hit on Beachwell is successful, but in the aftermath Bennett kills a woman who was in the house and witnessed events. Bennett had a rule – no women, no children.
Once Bennett has been paid for the job he’s approached for more work by Magdalena Nowak, a psychiatrist. She wants him to take out the Baileys, a family network of crooks. Whe Magda first came to England from Poland her employment wasn’t so respectable; she worked for the Baileys as a stripper and now she’s being blackmailed. Bennett agrees, he’s never liked the Baileys, and takes them out with a bomb. In the process kills a copper too. He’s making too many mistakes so Bennett decides to give up the game, leave London and go back up north to Seatown, a run down dump of a place.
As soon as he’s back Bennett runs into several of his old mates and his daughter, Tamsin. Before long he is dragged back into his old ways. He’s asked to do one last job by local boss, Drella. But will Bennett go through with it, or will he take a different path?
Brazill’s writing is personified by pithy, sharp sentences and chapters, lots of humour and a dash of music as a backdrop. Even with the vast array of stories he produces they always feel bright and fresh. Last Year’s Man fits firmly into the novella category. It is a fast read but with plenty of action packed in. Brazill’s style is on the far side of brevity, so if you are looking for a book with more description and atmosphere it might not be for you. As always it is Brazill’s characters who sing loudest. Bennett is very interesting, a hitman who’s almost reached his limits – of energy and for killing. And he’s forced to escape back to where he came from. They say never forget your roots, but clearly Bennett wanted to do just that.
There are a bewildering number of characters for a novella, many with names beginning with B, and the background is lightly drawn. Bennett’s hometown is a grimy, run down seaside town, which, like many coastal locations, saw it’s best many years ago. Very few people seem to have escaped the clutches of the place. When Bennett returns it’s almost as if he never left.
This is a gritty noir tale, though Brazill’s sense of humour keeps the story from dropping into the depressing. It is action orientated, with Bennett bouncing from one dark moment to the next. All in all it’s a good, fun read from a master of flash fiction.
As well as being an author, Paul D Brazill is a great source of book recommendations and he wrote a feature for us about some of the best underground crime fiction out last year.
All Due Respect
CFL Rating: 4 Stars