I just finished reading Peter Corris’s final Cliff Hardy novel and I am sad. Corris died almost exactly three years ago and I’d been holding off reading his last book, knowing that there would be no more.
Going into hospital, facing a pretty rugged diagnosis a few weeks back, however, I figured the time had come to crack the spine on Win, Lose or Draw.
It’s classic Hardy, of course. Corris wrote over forty full length novels drawn from the case files of his famous PI and I’m pretty sure I read all of them. I remember picking up an early short story collection, The Big Drop in the mid-80s and going from that straight to The Cliff Hardy Omnibus, which bundled three of his novels.
I’d already binged most of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe stories, and it was a wonder to find that archetypal character reborn under the harsh, flat light of the antipodean sun.
I spoke to Pete a couple of times on the phone over the years, always for professional reasons, and I’m both glad and sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet him in person and reveal myself as a hopelessly gushy fanboy.
But I was and remain so.
It was striking, reading that last novel while I’m been listening to Stephen King’s noir epic, Billy Summers. You can see both men consciously picking up the tools of the hard boiled trade and bringing them to the page with the skill of master craftsmen.
Win, Lose or Draw revisits themes Hardy has investigated before. A missing child. A ruptured family. Corrupt police. Predatory criminals. It’s denser in some ways than many of his books, more intensely plotted, but a somber, sometimes tragic air lays over much of it and I wonder if Corris knew it would be Cliff’s last case.
I was a little dusty when I read the last lines.
I wish there could be more. These stories have been part of my life since my very early twenties. Part of me wants to sit down and write a new one, just for myself. But I won’t of course. I’ve got more than forty perfectly good Cliff Hardy adventures to revisit whenever I feel the need.