A young grifter steals an overcoat. As he discovers forty-thousand dollars in its inside pocket, the coat’s owners come after him. The action never stops as his pursuers seem to be both ahead and behind him at all times, killing and destroying everything in their wake to catch up with their money and the young thief.
Happy Hour is as breathless as writing can be.
Knighton’s debut novella is accompanied by a selection of short stories that can run with the best of American Noir literature. It’s cold out there, folks.
In addition to being one of our American heroes (a lieutenant in the Philly fire department), Tony Knighton is an author who should be garnering some attention soon. His fiction is dark and gritty and as dirty as the Philadelphia streets he writes about in his novella HAPPY HOUR and the other “Philadelphia Cruelties” included in this debut collection.
The title novella in the collection is a frantic urban chase story through a landscape filled with all the elements of a gritty, down and dirty noir classic. The characters range from the amoral protagonist and spiral downward in varying levels of lowlife till we find the tale scraping the bottom of society’s barrel, painting a cast of perfectly fucked-up characters on a dark and brutal canvas. The story wastes no time going from zero to light-speed as Knighton draws us in, his voice concise and sharp as a well honed razor blade:
“The big guy turned and looked as the door opened; more people came in, another well-dressed group of six or seven, all mostly young. They worked their way through the crowd toward the back room and it was apparent that they, like others in the bar were in the grip of that early Friday night expectancy. I remembered that feeling, that it was all out there in front of you— the evening, the weekend, your whole life.”
That voice combined with near perfect character development, and breathtaking, unapologetically violent action makes for an excellent classic sounding pulp-noir story with a heart that belongs to the darker side of fiction.
HAPPY HOUR all by itself makes this book an outstanding and worthy addition to the pulp universe. Add in all the other little shots to the heart and you have a collection of dark and brooding crime fiction befitting the shelf of any fan of dark fiction and pulp noir. From a serial killer that makes a poor and damning choice to an arsonist with a shocking secret, Knighton’s stories surprise and delight with their unflinching violence and gleefully twisted themes. HAPPY HOUR AND OTHER PHILADELPHIA CRUELTIES reads like a masterclass in American pulp-noir fiction, Knighton’s imagination and storytelling ability adding strange and unexpected twists and turns to every single story in the book.
If you’re a lover of happy endings you should probably stay away from noir in general, and you should stay away from this one for damn sure. Knighton writes bleak, brooding noir like a man possessed and you won’t find much glitter in the frozen, filthy backstreets of this Philadelphia thrill ride. If you like your fiction pulpy and dark, this is what you’re looking for. HAPPY HOUR AND OTHER PHILADELPHIA CRUELTIES is as pulpy as they come and black as a winter night in Philly. If you love noir and you haven’t read the work of Tony Knighton, do yourself a favor and remedy that soon.