HARRY’S WORLD by Australian writer A. B. Patterson has been on my TBR list for a while now. I got on to it this past weekend and was pleased I did. If you’re a fan of hard-boiled classic noir, I think you will like this book.
PI Harry Kenmare is a prehistoric private detective in an unfriendly and infinitely unjust modern world. His life revolves around drinking, fine food, smoking, and fast women, preferably the ones he has to pay for, in cash. So what better CV for trawling through Sydney’s corrupt social and political elites, who cravenly chase power and wealth behind veneers of respectability.
In this collection of seedy episodes, Harry is a dinosaur on a mission of justice, looking to shatter the hypocritical facades. And the rules don’t always apply.
Join Harry in the jungle of 21st century Port Jackson, where little is as it seems and none of it is pretty. Except, of course, those gorgeous by the hour girls.
If you visit the website of Australian crime writer and former Western Australia Detective Sergeant A. B. Patterson, you will be greeted with this opening line: “As an author, I want to entertain you with vices aplenty, and a few virtues in the fray!” Patterson’s first Harry Kenmare novel certainly lives up to that billing, providing both vices and virtues aplenty as we follow Harry’s travels through the seedier side of Sydney, Australia.
Be forewarned PI Harry Kenmare is one of those protagonists you find you must warm up to as you learn more about the circumstances that fashioned him into the man he is. At the beginning of Harry’s story, it’s tempting to dismiss him out of hand as a boozy, cigarette smoking bloke with an insatiable appetite for the services of prostitutes. Yet, as you learn more about Harry’s past, you begin to understand his vices are the superficial bits. It’s only when you dig deeper into the character you discover the virtues Patterson promises.
In a review of HARRY’S WORLD, I read before purchasing the book, the reviewer revealed she struggled with what she described as “the stereotypical female portrayals and the tacky sexual urges of Harry.” That I think is a view we’ve come to expect from the politically correct “woke” generation in our #MeToo era. I think it also an unsophisticated and unfair assessment.
Clearly, Patterson’s aim, writing a book set squarely in a seedy, noir world was bang on target. Read any Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett classic, and you can find similar “stereotypical female portrayals and tacky sexual urges” because it is part and parcel of the hard-boiled, noir genre. Perhaps Patterson’s earthy-realism style that features graphic sex against a vivid, sordid urban background is a bit more in-your-face than some readers may be comfortable with. But a reader who swoons at wading through the grit, grime, and muck that defines a true hard-boiled, noir tale would probably be better served to stick to reading cozies.
Frankly, I rather enjoyed Patterson’s somewhat twisted, over-the-top, graphic style, and loved his crisp, authentic dialogue, titillating decadence and his bent for blending in rich, distinct characters in his effective quasi-historical way. Sure, there were parts of HARRY’S WORLD where I was surprised, shocked, and at times even a bit disgusted, but that is part of the charm. While very good, this book is probably not meant for the faint of heart.
Overall, I found HARRY’S WORLD has excellent atmospherics, mood, well-developed characters, noir sensibility, and even a good bit of humor thrown into the bargain to counterbalance the darker bits. The plotting is well-thought-out, sometimes surprising, but above all, always credible.
HARRY’S WORLD is anything but the “typical” detective story. It’s the story of a flawed hero doing his best to help rid the world of some of its purest evil. It’s gritty, sometimes rude, and dark in parts, but a thoroughly absorbing read. If you enjoy hard-boiled, noir, you will like this book.
Publication Date: July 30, 2015
Publicious Pty Ltd
Paperback: 338 pages
Genre: Hard-Boiled Mysteries/Private Investigator Mysteries
Visit A. B. Patterson’s website
A. B. Patterson is an Australian writer who knows first-hand about corruption, power, crime and sex. He was a Detective Sergeant in the WA Police, working in pedophilia and vice, and later was a Chief Investigator with the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Born in Sydney, he grew up in England and France, returning to Australia when eighteen and soon commencing his career in law enforcement, and other government agencies.
He now lives in Sydney and loves to holiday in France.
In 2015 he published his debut crime novel, “Harry’s World”. The sequel, “Harry’s Quest”, was published in 2018. He has also had short crime fiction published in the US, in “Switchblade” magazine.