If you are unfamiliar with the prolific Paul D. Brazill, he writes sparingly and with wit, both of which are displayed in his latest book, “Last Year’s Man” (All Due Respect Books). Tommy Bennett, a retired hitman, fresh off a botched job of sorts in London heads back hometown, somewhere in North East England. Visiting home was never in Bennett’s wheelhouse. Whether caused by work or family issues, he stayed away.
Brazill’s creates a world on the edge of society and Bennett fits nicely in even though he’s trying to retire. Brazill knows when he’s in a trope and instead of hiding from it, he embraces it. At one point, Bennet humorously muses, “Like Danny Glover in ‘Lethal Weapon’, I was getting too old for this shit.”
Music, TV, and books play a large part in Brazill’s writing. Rather than odd and misplaced references found in many books, they are a realistic layer in the lives of his characters. The book opens with Bennett on a job and Roxy Music’s album “For Your Pleasure” plays. None of these pop culture references are contrived; they are as natural as the last song you listened to or the last TV show you watched. Not many writers can drop Jamie Olivier, Peter Gabriel, and Gabriel García Márquez on the same page. Brazill can. Even the title of the book is a song title from Leonard Cohen’s “Songs of Love and Hate” (1971).
The rain falls down on last year’s man,
An hour has gone by
And he has not moved his hand.
But everything will happen if he only gives the word
As ghosts chase Bennett through the streets of Seatown, there is the inevitable “one last job” for him, but Brazill’s focus is on how Bennett adjust to his new life rather than on the hooks of crime will always be in him. “Last Year’s Man” is a one-sitting book, so grab a pint or two or maybe some whiskey, sit back and enjoy.