Peter Corris wrote his first crime fiction novel featuring Private Detective Cliff Hardy way back in 1980. The Dying Trade was a birthday gift from a friend who was well aware of my disinterest in the crime genre, though insisted that I would enjoy Mr Hardy.
A further forty one stand alone Cliff Hardy books later Peter Corris has given writing away due to a medical condition. Although I haven’t read all of Hardy’s adventures I do seem to have aged alongside Cliff. An ex soldier and ex boxer with a penchant for most things that come out of a bottle, as well as attractive and articulate women, Cliff in later books reduced his alcohol intake and underwent a quadruple heart bypass operation.
The Big Score is a collection of eleven Cliff Hardy short stories which I found a good read for the daily train trip to work.
What’s the appeal for Cliff, you may ask? Cliff is a Sydneysider and all his books mention iconic hotels, streets and establishments across inner Sydney. If you have been reading Corris’ books over the last thirty years you would have shared with him the changes that have occurred in the metropolis: the gentrification of certain suburbs, the areas where freeways have been installed, and some of the beautiful inner city pubs that have been lost to progress.
Hardy is a knock about and represents what a previous generation would have deemed a “True Blue Aussie”: street smart, willing to take a risk, a working man with integrity. He mixes with lawyers, publicans, ex boxers, politicians and punters, as well as the Eastern suburbs set.
More interestingly, the author peppers his writing with cultural icons and current events to add to that feeling of familiarity.
The Big Score is no different as the short stories have Cliff solving petty crimes, investigating the murder of a drinking buddy, and a involvement in a nasty divorce case. There are references to Jack Dempsey and Rene Rivken, with one crime involving trees being poisoned to increase property values.
I will miss Cliff Hardy. He’s become a mate of sorts.