Paul D. Brazill’s novella, A Case of Noir (Near to the Knuckle), is broken up into five short stories that mask as chapters, each focusing on Luke Case, a British freelance journalist drinking and fucking his way through Europe. Case doesn’t like to work or make good decision all of which makes for a great read.
In the first chapter, “Red Esperanto”, we meet Case in a prostitute’s apartment in Warsaw. Things get heated when on of Tatiana’s clients arrives and pounds at the door demanding to be let in. As Tatiana puts it, “Oh, he’s just a customer who has problems separating business from pleasure.” Case only knows pleasure.
Reading Brazill gave me the same sort of enjoyment I get when reading Jim Thompson, characters filling their desperation with alcohol, fornication, and crime. As with Thompson, Brazill knows that the human condition weak and is punctuated with violence and/or death.
I jolted awake, coated in cold, dank sweat. Daylight sliced through the gaps between the broken blinds. A tight band gripped my forehead and my pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the sparse, familiar looking room.
I adjusted to the wan light. I was on my bed. Naked. Back in the flat that I shared with Nathan. I tried to piece together what had happened.
At some point during the night I’d woken up, confused, with no recollection of getting there. Irena, naked, was smoking and gazing out of the bedroom window. The tip of her cigarette glowed bright red and then faded to black.
Lena, also naked, walked up to her, whispered something in her ear and then I dissolved back into sleep.
I stumbled out of the bed and into the bathroom. My wiry arms gripped the washbasin for support. I sighed deeply as I splashed cold water on my face.
When I walked back into the living room, Irena was standing naked in the doorway to Nathan’s bedroom. Bowie’s Station To Station played at a low volume.
She lazily nodded into the bedroom and said, “He’s dead.”
With A Case of Noir, Brazill has written book that is steeped in the cigarette smoke, dirty whiskey glasses, and cheap sex of dive bars. If you like your books with melancholy masked in the false joy of booze, sex, and beatings then Brazill’s A Case of Noir is exactly what you are looking for.