Created by Peter Corris
"Not for the first time I reflected that a hundred and twenty a day wasn't a good rate for getting dead, but there was no point in upping the fees. A thousand a day is still a poor deal."
-- Cliff Hardy
One of the more solid and stand-up private eye series to come out of the 1980's features Sydney, Australia P.I. CLIFF HARDY, a rare combination of modern concerns and good ol' pulpy kick ass action. Which makes it all the more tragic that he's barely known in North America.
Cliff's a tall bloke, pretty fair shape, with a nose that's been busted a few times. He's been at various times a boxer, a soldier (in Malaysia), a timber worker and an insurance investigator. He's a tough-minded guy, with a strong independant streak, one reason he didn't last in the insurance racket. He's been known to carry a Smith & Wesson .38, all nice and legal, and occasionally a Colt .45 that isn't, and he isn't a stranger to a bit of knocking about, either giving or receiving. Basically, he's a "cold bastard. Good at his job though." He's appeared in at close to almost forty novels, and several collections of short stories and Corris is still cranking them out. There was even that rarity of things: a good P.I. movie (despite what Corris thinks) made from one of them.
In many ways, Cliff's a throwback to an earlier, simpler time. Imagine a slightly shopworn Joe Mannix down under and you've got Cliff pegged.
He lives in the slightly seedy Glebe neighbourhood near the dog track and works out of an office with dirty windows on St. Peter's Lane in the slightly lmore upscale Darlinghurst area, next to Primo Tomasetti, Cliff's tattoo artist pal. Cliff was married once about "a lifetime ago," and for a while was involved in a rather weird little six months on/six months off relationship with Helen, a married woman. Later on, he discovers he has a daughter.
He likes tennis, beer and white wine, but detests tea. He is, however, rather partial to Ford Falcons. Just loves 'em. When his battered, rust-ridden but beloved 1964 model finally gave up the ghost in the late eighties, he replaced it with a used 1984 model, same colour, less miles, less rust. In many ways, Cliff is like his beloved Falcons. Nothing fancy, but solid and dependable, a few too many miles on the clock, maybe, but still able to get you there.
And the whole series is like that as well -- nothing flashy, but good reliable reads, well-written, with an appealling, down-to-earth hero, pulpy without being stoopid, and some very interesting settings and keen insights into Australian culture and human nature. Even as Cliff moves into his "mature years," he's a pleasure to read; as dependable and solid a series as there is out there, while Hardy, cranky and sharp-tongued as ever, deals with not just the usual bullshit but also the limitations of age. A wonderful contribution to the genre.
All of which helped make Cliff's one screen appearance to date, 1985's The Empty Beach, starring a then-unknown Bryan Brown, such a treat. It's an entertaining, enjoyable low-key Aussie film, with Brown playing a sardonic, battered Hardy on the trail of a missing millionaire, and features some great twists, an unusual ending and plenty of action. Hardy's creator, Peter Corris, lent his leather jacket to Brown for the film.
Australian author Peter Corris is a former academic and journalist who's been a full-time writer since 1982. He has published over fifty books of fiction and more than a dozen non-fiction titles. Corris writes about another Australian detective, one Richard Bowning, who plies his trade in the 1940's. Corris also writes about Australian Federal Security agent Ray "Creepy" Crawley and Luke Dunlop, an agent for the Witness Protection Agency in Australia.
For those of you who like their private eye fiction straight up, and aren't afraid to cross borders, you can't really go wrong with the Hardy books. It's a solid, entertaining and never disappointing series. Recommended hardily.
Sadly, Win, Lose or Draw (2017), the 42nd Cliff Hardy book (if you count the collections, will be the last, according to the author, citing health problerms.
-- Cliff tries to reassure his daughter, in Follow the Money
-- James Ellroy
-- The Bulletin
-- The Sydney Morning Herald
NOTE: The Playboy and Penthouse sources mentioned below are the Australian editions.
Eyes at Work in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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