“Loaded” by Ken Bruen. London Noir, edited by Cathi Unsworth. Akashic Press. 2006.
Didn’t run across any new stories I liked this week so I went digging through older books in my collection I hadn’t read yet. Found this older Akashic noir book.
Here’s a doctorate dissertation waiting for somebody to write it: the classic noir story is an example of the hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell.
Specifically, it starts with what Campbell calls the Call to Adventure, in which an average joe runs into something extraordinary. Little girl meets talking frog. Man opens bottle, finds genie.
In the classic noir story the hero (or at least protagonist, cause noir characters ain’t generally heroic) meets a stunningly beautiful woman. From this encounter all his trouble springs.
Leroy is a smart, high-level, drug dealer. The beautiful enticement is an Irish woman named Kelly: “A woman in her late twenties, dressed in late Goth style, lots of black makeup, clothes, attitude… Her face wasn’t pretty, not even close, but it has an energy…”
Leroy is too smart to use his own dope but pretty soon he is hooked on Kelly. This being noir, things are going to end badly for somebody, maybe everybody.
This material could produce a tired, generic story, but it doesn’t because Bruen is a very good writer. He gives Leroy an attitude that keeps us reading. Here are his first words: “Blame the Irish. I always do.” Of course, Bruen is as Irish as Kelly, so who’s side is he on?
Leroy keeps his snotty attitude up right through the bitter end of the story. It’s a good read.