Is there any better way to start a new ongoing review series of short stories than with Ken Bruen? Sure, some folks’ll say I should have started with Hammett, Chandler, or any of the Golden Age guys. They're all good and I’ll get there. But I wanted to start off with a bang. Bruen it was.
I’ve been a fan of Bruen since his first novel, The Guards, kicked the crap out of me. Bruen’s writing style is unique among modern noir authors, easily digested but hard as hell to imitate. If Irish folks are supposed to speak with a lilt, then Bruen’s prose barks with brogue.
“Nora B” is a nice introduction to the Bruen style of prose and his type of character. Short, choppy sentences—or incomplete sentences but complete thoughts—rapidly get you into the head of the narrator, a cop somewhere in America, probably New York or Boston. The narrator’s partner, Richy, has fallen for Nora, a waitress at a bar they frequent. And in direct contrast to other authors who might use flowing phrases to describe a woman’s beauty, the narrators just gives you his gut reaction, usually with a lot of F-bombs. But it’s charming, in a way.
The action progresses how you might expect but Bruen does not sacrifice character either. The narrator has depth and he is changed in the mere span of ten pages. Everyone knows how I like endings and this one is fantastic. In fact, it’ll leave you breathless with a bunch of images you’d rather not have in your head. But isn’t that what short fiction is supposed to do, let the reader finish the story? Bruen does just that.
"Nora B" by Ken Bruen, published in A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir, edited by Megan Abbott, published by Busted Flush Press.