Two brilliant novellas, one volume. Tied together by a common theme, but very different in their execution. Fast and exciting reads. A great debut from this exciting new imprint.
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Let’s get the really nerdy bit out of the way first. This book is gorgeous. The two covers are great, the concept of two books in one volume, printed back to back in a ‘flip the book over’ style harks back to a golden age of noir. Then there’s the one thing I’ve not really noticed being talked about, the format size of the book. I warned you, this is really nerdy. Its been printed in what is loosely referred to as the American Mass Market Paperback format. Smaller than the paperbacks you typically see on shelves these days, but the same size that the books which provided the inspiration would have been printed in. Now that’s some serious attention to detail.
Our two stories have plans gone awry as a commonality that ties them together. Bang Bang You’re Dead is a gritty tale of a man struggling to re-adjust into society after a release from prison and getting sucked back into a world of drugs and violence. Worst Laid Plans follows an opportunistic crime and a series of misunderstandings that cause things to get worse and worse for all involved. Whilst this theme for failed plans does run through both stories, Nick Quantrill’s tale has a gritty Norther Noir feel, being set on estates in Hull. A sense of hopelessness driven by poverty, tinged with anger at the neglect of these deprived areas infuses the story with a desperate urgency. This in stark contrast to the spoilt rich kids in a borrowed Mercedes that feature in Aidan Thorn’s story, a misadventure packed with poor decisions and misunderstandings that rapidly escalates in a style reminiscent of the great Donald E Westlake (Somebody Owes Me Money, The Comedy is Finished).
Each novella has its own distinct style and voice, testament to the skills of Nick and Aidan. Putting two stories with quite different approaches to noir together allows them each to shine, you certainly wouldn’t confuse the two. Both stories have satisfying endings for long suffering characters, even if neither tale plays out quite how the protagonists would have wanted. And as always with a good crime story they are put through the ringer to get there. As an opening release, a statement of intent, a rallying cry that the novella form is here to stay and has something to say, Bang Bang You’re Dead / Worst Laid Plans delivers. A heady combination of social conscience and dark comedy, this book showcases two immensely talented writers whilst also serving to demonstrate in one compact volume just how varied modern noir is. Essential reading for the discerning noir fan.