Book Review: Hard-Boiled Brooklyn

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Editor: Reed Farrel Coleman

Publisher: Bleak House Books

The tales written for this collection are not, as editor Reed Farrel Coleman’s introduction rushes to clarify, the pulpy noir of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammet. Instead, the stories found here—many of which do have more than a glancing familiarity with the aforementioned masters—are about the things one has to do to survive the big, bad city—particularly this sprawling, densely populated borough. The best stories in the collection wreak havoc on readers’ expectations, particularly “House Envy” by Naomi Rand, in which a pregnant woman faced with a manipulative squatter in her brownstone proves that she’s a Brooklynite through and through. But it’s Gabriel Cohen’s low-key “Right is Right” that lingers in the mind. This is a pitch-perfect tale of a cynical cop grudgingly falling in love. It captures the helplessness of a one-sided love affair against a backdrop of snowflakes and lonely cups of coffee. Sometimes the stories are so staccato and bare bones that the plot is difficult to follow, but taken as a whole, the collection successfully conveys the grit and fear that’s inherent in city life. It takes a special kind of person to relish and thrive in it, and as Coleman points out, “You can crack our shells, but nothing runs out.” And that’s what living in Brooklyn is all about.

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