Book Title: The Hard Goodbye
Author: Chris Miller
Publisher: Death’s Head Press
Page Count: 146
Buy Link: Here
As is often the case for readers of books or consumers of storytelling media at large, they have to work out the likeability of the characters in order to figure out who to root for. This isn’t exactly how crime noir works in the pantheon of literature that it has staked out for itself and this is especially difficult to expect for the main players in The Hard Goodbye, written by Chris Miller and released by Texas indie upstart and dark fiction publisher, Death’s Head Press in early 2019—Miller had previously worked with the publisher on the horror anthology And Hell Followed with his short story Behind Blue Eyes. As devious and unscrupulous character traits are to be had by all characters, except for the women (this is a common trait of most noir as well, so don’t be too hard on Chris here—woman are walking angelic breasts in these types of genre stories), it can be difficult to manage for the reader who isn’t seasoned by the genre in all its grimy and hard-edged glory. However, these and many more irredeemable qualities are the very reason to pick up this book written by the man from Winnsboro, Texas.
The main crutch of the story follows four friends—or, should I say three friends and one dirty cop—who have had a decent run with small criminal jobs that land them decent-sized rewards with minimal risk. The only problem is that they have to split everything evenly and that they all have terrible spending habits, so after a while, the itch for another job starts to fester. Jimmy is hopped up on drugs. Larry has gone in hiding with his family, or is missing. And John bought a brand new Subaru WRX. While Tony, the odd man out, has an idea. Once the crooked cop discovers from his source that an insurmountable stash of cash is hiding away in a vacant house, due to the owner of it being sent to jail recently after participating in a random bar fight, the others jump at the chance to finally nab that mythical and always dreamed about last job kind of money. This is where things start to become problematic for our characters and a sickeningly perverse spectacle for the reader. If the first chapter doesn’t warn you of what kind of book you’re reading, you’re probably already comfortable inside the minds of villains and other such nefarious people.
With each chapter being written as a POV of another character, the reader is able to put themselves in the head of all the main characters, which allows a level of discernment for who really is the good guy here and if you have to pick one, it’s probably John Savage, but with a name like that, you’re likely to have a few skeletons in your closet as well, differing from the others. Every character is twisted, some are more so than others, and even more than a few have delusions of grandeur, yet they all blend together to fit the world that Chris Miller has created in The Hard Goodbye as a crunchy smoothie-concoction of lies, blood, nudity, North Texas, and irresponsible partnerships that will surely be a guilty pleasure for the most just of us, while those who have already dived into suspenseful works like Black Wings Has My Angel, Blood on the Moon, or Take a Murder, Darling will revel in the twisted display of penmanship and unfiltered destruction of humanity at full display here. And I haven’t even mentioned the reoccurring influence of the monkey.
While the plotted surprises are few and far between due to the nature of the genre, the real oomph of the book comes from the irresistible urge to see bad men go through even worse experiences, ceremoniously ending their lives in atrocious fashion due to their own mistakes and chances taken. And for that, what Chris has written is a deepening lesson in karma that we should all dutifully process as gospel.
As one Goodreads review stated succinctly, “The only thing I like as much as this book is bacon. And believe me, I love me some bacon.” Clearly, what we love and what causes us harm are often one in the same.
About the reviewer:
Tristan Drue Rogers is a writer living in Texas. He has been featured in Open Journal of Arts & Letters, Ink & Sword Magazine, and the Herald-Banner, while his novel Brothers of Blood is available anywhere books are sold. He is a submission reader for Black Rose Writing and a Site Contributor for Genre Urban Arts.