Point and Shoot by Duane Swierczynski

“Wait, wait, wait.” Hardie said. “Water evacuation? Knocked unconscious? What happened to all that shit about a gentle splashdown.”

It’s been over a year since I read part II of the Charlie Hardie trilogy by pulpmaster Duane Swierczynski. The first novel in the series Fun and Games is the story of middle-aged, washed up former police consultant Charlie Hardie who’s split from his wife. Hardie’s latest gig is housesitting; it may not sound like much–no pension, profit sharing or career expansion, but hey, with a heavy burden of guilt, all Hardie wants these days is the quiet life. He’s looking forward to his job housesitting for a Hollywood music producer, but all hell breaks loose when he steps inside the Hollywood Hills home and encounters a terrified bit part actress, Lane Madden who claims that The Accident People–a secret team who specialize in Hollywood whack jobs are outside of the home and about to murder her….

Part II Hell and Gone finds Hardie incarcerated in a secret underground prison compound, site 7734, owned and operated by The Accident People. For those under lock and key in the facility, it’s hell on earth with no parole, daily brutality and an on-going mind-fuck.

point and shootNow that brings me to Part III, and for this Hardie/Swierczynski fan, the book was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. With a trilogy, there’s always the concern that the action will flag, but no, Swierczynski, who creates micro worlds of paranoia and violence loaded with sophisticated, adrenalin-high, pulp-action, Point and Shoot brings the Hardie trilogy to a phenomenal conclusion. Fans of the earlier two books will not be disappointed, and if you haven’t read any of the Charlie Hardie books, you need to start at the beginning.

For those who have read Fun and Games and Hell and Gone, some old, familiar characters are back in action–including Hardie’s arch-enemy, Mann  “with Charlie Hardie blinking neon in her brain,” hot on his trail, and thirsting for revenge. Mann is one of The Accident People –Hollywood Star Whackers who then stage grubby “narratives” to support the death scenes they create.  The Accident People are just one arm of The Cabal–power brokers whose tentacles of control and manipulation extend far beyond Hollywood. Hardie is the only person to cross The Accident People, dig into the structure of The Cabal and still live to tell the tale. Part III: Point and Shoot finds Hardie trapped in a secret satellite, in orbit 500 miles above the earth. He has a food and water supply, a list of duties to perform along and an order to kill anyone who shows up–not that that seems to be a likely scenario. There’s no communication with the outside world, and Hardie has been told that he must ‘behave’ or that his estranged wife and son, back in Philadelphia will have “an accident.” Just in case Hardie gets any big ideas, and in order to keep Hardie focused, he receives a daily transmission from a hidden camera inside his family’s home. Hardie, who’s gained a reputation of being unkillable, sees no choice but to behave, and he plugs along stoically and stubbornly, but then one day, he receives a visitor….

That’s as much of the plot as I will reveal. To those new to the trilogy, you will discover Duane Swierczynski’s unique style which blends non-stop action with humour. After all, here’s Hardie, this geezer, an unlikely hero, no spring chicken, who keeps on truckin’ with stubborn tenacity. Hardie is a loner, a one man-show, and this is one of the facets of his personality that has kept him alive. Reading the books in the Hardie trilogy is a unique experience in a literary Die-Hard sort of way.  If you want action, if you want distraction, then Swierczynski is the author for you. Honestly, no-one does this sort of pulp action better. Please someone out there make films from these books; they’re begging for movie adaptation.

“Whoah. You okay, man?”

You twist your head around to see a bearded guy standing there with a notebook in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Even upside down you can tell he’s a hipster douchebag, central California version. The chunky glasses, the greasy hair, the tight unbuttoned shirt. He’s in dire need of a shower and a hug.

“I’m doing just great,” you say.

“Where did you come from?”

“Space.”

The hipster douchebag, probably a fucking poet or something, doesn’t quit know how to respond to that, so he focuses on the big dude lying facedown in the sand next to you. He crouches down next to you both.

“What about him? Is he okay? wait a minute…are you guys wearing spacesuits? I thought you were just fucking around with me there.”

Can’t get anything past this guy.

“Can I show you something?” you ask, reaching for an imaginary pocket, and the moment his eyes track down to you hand you nail him. It feels good to take out some aggression on someone who totally doesn’t deserve it. By the follow-up rabbit punch he’s already out cold on the sand. Leaving you with two unconscious bodies on the beach. Let’s hope hipster douchebag has car keys.

The best thing about the books of Swierczynski are that they may be works of the imagination but they are not that far-fetched that they seem impossible. We’ve probably all read a story in the paper that somehow doesn’t smell right. Duane Swierczynski writes pulp novels, but he does a great deal more than that; he mines the depths of the weirdest stories out there, and then with imagination and humour pushes the boundaries of fiction until the impossible, the conspiracy theories, the shadowy power-brokers, and our deepest fears and paranoias becomes strangely, and terrifyingly, possible.

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15 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Swierczynski Duane

15 responses to “Point and Shoot by Duane Swierczynski

  1. I was surprised while reading your commentary when you mentioned a secret prison and a space station. This sounds very different yet fun. I think that it is great when authors take chances like that and let their imaginations run free.

  2. One of the reasons I like this author so much. He takes something that is possible (we know Hollywood executives arranged for the clean up many ‘dirty secrets’ in the past) and then once you accept that, he expands it, so the next thing you know, the Hollywood Star Whackers are not the worst thing Charlie Hardie faces. This trilogy really is a lot of fun, but as I said, you absolutely have to start with number 1.

  3. Fun and Games is now on my Kindle. And while I’m here, I’d like to recommend Penance by Dan O’Shea, a brilliant cops’n’politics novel with a big heart, set in Chicago…

    • “My stories tend to be dark, but with overtones of redemption. If you’re one of those easily offended by rough language, violence or occassional bits of sex, move on. Fair warning.”
      Found that quote on the Amazon author page along with:

      “thirty years of writing about the tax code drove me to write about killing people.” I like his sense of humour.

      Thanks for the recommendation

  4. “Point and Shoot finds Hardie trapped in a secret satellite, in orbit 500 miles above the earth. He has a food and water supply, a list of duties to perform along and an order to kill anyone who shows up–not that that seems to be a likely scenario.”
    It’s a performance to have this kind of plot sound plausible.
    I’ll come to him with The Blonde. I have it in French.

    • Yes, but that’s the incredible thing about the trilogy. It starts with the Hollywood Star Whackers and history of early studio days tells us that studios had clean-up people for messes created by the stars. Just read about the “suicide” of Jean Harlow’s husband, Paul Bern. It’s a great example. So it begins with just a small stretch of imagination, and then gradually the author takes us into another realm which we accept as it’s done in stages.

      I knew you had The Blonde in the stack to be read.

  5. Love the cover … And that line, “in need of shower and a hug” made me laugh. In fact that writing is great. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get to read these, but reading your write up Guy was a treat!

    We were at the State Library of Victoria the other day and they had an exhibition on books and printing. I did enjoy the pulp fiction display, with all those covers. A big collection of Carter Browns.

  6. I’m not sure this would be for me but it sounds amusing and the quote is great. The “shower and a hug” made me laugh as well.

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