Review - GUN CONTROL, Peter Corris
The 40th book in the Cliff Hardy series, GUN CONTROL takes on a very current issue in the style that we've all come to expect from Peter Corris. It's worth taking a moment to consider that 40 book history. When Cliff Hardy first made an appearance on the Australian landscape (THE DYING TRADE, 1982), Crime Fiction had been working prolifically in the pulp fiction days (Carter Brown etc) for a very long time. Hardy, as a hard-boiled, quietly spoken, high action, take no crap from anybody type PI might have felt like a rather American "type". But Hardy was then, and has always been very Australian.
Of course, Cliff's also been a bit "suspiciously Sydney" for those of us in the outlying wilderness, but for many the first glimpse of the strength of these books would have been when Bryan Brown starred in the 1985 movie THE EMPTY BEACH (and personally I've never really been able to get Brown out of my mind when I'm reading one of these books). Fans of these books have always been acutely aware that we "don't think about age", after all Hardy is a super-hero type despite serving in the Army during the Malayan Emergency which would make him <cough> 80 <cough> something or <cough> other.
The beauty of the non-aging, always tough, never quite with his act together Hardy is that whenever he tackles a current day issue, it works. He combines a sense of world-weariness with a strong desire for righting wrongs, of fairness and decency that is attractively old-fashioned, exactly what you'd expect from Cliff Hardy. As is that slight suspicion that it doesn't matter what life chucks his way, been there, done it. Unsurprised and certainly unimpressed. And even though this reader was raised a Holden girl through and through, there's this thing that the man has for aging Fords. Of course he drives an aging Ford. Of course it's still going. Of course Hardy's still going.
In GUN CONTROL he's deep in the world of illicit guns, dodgy motorcycle gangs and corrupt cops. Subject matter straight from the front page of the papers - in Sydney and other major cities in Australia. Hardy uses his ability to prod sleeping monsters, and poke his nose in where it's most definitely not wanted to great effect, whilst simultaneously pairing up with a very unlikely bikie-boss and a very determined policewoman. The idea of bikie's cornering dodgy blokes on bridges in Sydney parks, and then promptly getting into a game of chase and throw with his dog was a particularly delightful moment.
As always with these books, Corris takes Hardy to the crux of the problem, puts him in some jeopardy, moves some baddies around on the board, and drags Hardy, sometimes slightly bruised, out the other end in a manner beautifully economical with words, never lacking atmosphere. Of course there's also no pretence that we're looking for a reason or an explanation for the ills of the world. Rather it's a window on a lifestyle, a glimpse into a way of being, not as most of us would ever know it. GUN CONTROL's another gem of a book in this series and when it comes to your lone wolf PI, there's nobody quite like Cliff Hardy. No matter how old he is.
Is Sydney gun city? It certainly seems so when Cliff Hardy is hired by entrepreneur and one-time pistol-shooting champion Timothy Greenhall to investigate the violent death of his troubled son. Soon Hardy is pitched into a world of crooked cops - former members of the Gun Control Unit - outlaw bikies and honest police trying to quietly clean the stables.
Two more murders raise the stakes and relationships are stretched to breaking point. Hardy hooks up with a determined policewoman and forms an unlikely alliance with a charismatic bikie chief.
Uncovering the tangled conspiracy behind the murders takes Hardy to the Blue Mountains and Camden, to plush legal chambers and a confrontation in an inner-west park - all against the roar of 750cc engines.