Monday’s Public Life of Sherlock Holmes over at Black Gate is about Glen Cook’s fine fantasy hard boiled private eye series. Thought I’d give a sample of it, as he opens the first book with some typical hard boiled prose. But it’s just to give you a taste, as he does not parody the genre: he builds on it. Read on..
Bam! Bam! Bam!
It sounded like someone was knocking with a sledgehammer. I rolled over and cracked a bloodshot eye. I couldn’t see a figure through the window, but that wasn’t surprising. I could barely make out the lettering on the grimy glass:
I had blown my wad buying the glass and wound up being my own painter.
The window was as dirty as last week’s dishwater, but not filthy enough to block out the piercing morning light. The damned sun wasn’t up yet! And I’d been out till the second watch barhopping while I followed a guy who might lead me to a guy who might know where I could find a guy. All this led to was a pounding headache.
“Go away!” I growled. “Not available.”
Bam! Bam! Bam!
“Go to hell away!” I yelled. It left my head feeling like an egg that had just bounced off the edge of a frying pan. I wondered if I ought to feel the back to see if the yolk was leaking, but it seemed like too much work. I’d just go ahead and die.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
I have a little trouble with my temper, especially when I have a hangover. I was halfway to the door with two feet of lead-weighted truncheon before sense penetrated the scrambled yolk.
When they are that insistent, it’s somebody from up the hill with a summons to do work too sticky to lay on their own boys. Or it’s somebody down the hill with the word that you’re stepping on the wrong toes.
In the latter case the truncheon might be useful.
I yanked the door open.
For a moment, I didn’t see the woman. She barely came up to my chest. I eyeballed the three guys behind her. They were lugging enough steel to outfit their own army, but I wouldn’t have been shy about wading in. Two of them were about fifteen years old and the other was about a hundred and five.
“We’re invaded by dwarfs,” I moaned. None of them was taller than the woman.
“Are you Garrett?” She looked disappointed in what she saw.
“No. Two doors down. Good-bye.” Slam! Two doors down was a night-working ratman who made a hobby of getting on my nerves. I figured it was his turn in the barrel.
I stumbled toward bed with the vague suspicion that I had seen those people before.
AND THAT was the start of Sweet Silver Blues, the first Garrett, PI book from Glen Cook. The series is over a dozen tales long now and going strong. While this excerpt is a bit over the top, it’s a rather extreme example. He starts most of the books with a more hard boiled sample, which is toned down for the remainder of the story. I think it’s just a mood-setting device.
The Garrett, PI books are an excellent fusion of hard boiled, light fantasy and Rex Stout’s Nero wolfe books. Glen Cook has done an almost impossibly good job of bringing them all together into fun, authentic private eye books.
If you enjoy those Black Mask era private eye stories; or your fantasy more Terry Pratchett than Steven Erickson (or Robert E. Howard), you’re going to like Garrett. And if you know your Nero Wolfe, that’s pure bonus.