I’m happy to shout from the rooftops that I love Alec Cizak’s work, and this latest masterpiece of hard-boiled noir is incontrovertible proof that he is at the top of his game.
We met the female protagonist, Chelsea Farmer, in the excellent Down on the Street, where you could be forgiven for thinking young Chelsea had had it pretty much as bad as it gets – used, abused, and exploited by every man in her life, and derided by other women. But, of course, life can always get worse – the best noir thrives on downfall and tragedy. Without giving anything away, by the time we meet Chelsea again in this novel, she’s tumbled down the tunnel from sexual exploitation to chronic drug addiction. Sadly this is so often the trajectory from what I’ve seen in my professional life. And Chelsea is hanging out with the bottom rung – anarchically violent robberies paying for all the drugs. She’s in her version of Hell.
But Chelsea’s got innate verve and courage hiding in the haze of opiates. She grabs for some higher rungs, or what the righteous types in society (namely the power Establishment) dictate as the ladder. The façades of modern society are laid bare by Cizak in his true manner: caustic, penetrating, and brutally honest, but with palpable empathy for the genuine human beings out there, as flawed as they (we) all are. It’s the “American Nightmare” in Cizak’s words. All the sacred cows of societal hypocrisy and the Establishment’s “respectable values” are rounded up, slaughtered, and then barbecued. How’s this for a great quote: “Surrounded by mansions, by people who’d landed in the good dimension, the one where they had enough useless shit around them to convince them their lives had meaning.” And as for the political zeitgeist, Cizak captures the crisis of western liberal democracy perfectly: “Every four years the same two parties ran miserable, rotten candidates, and people wasted their time going to the polls to pretend they had any say in who ran the country.” He’s talking about the USA, but, hell, sounds to me just like Australia as well. And, no doubt, most of our comparable countries. A tragedy in itself.
Cizak’s writing is the perfect weaving of story with social commentary, and he deserves a place amongst the great writers of socially incisive fiction. Aside from riotously entertaining storylines and richly drawn characters, Cizak’s work makes you read and think, then re-read and think a whole lot more. Not to mention the regular punches in the guts. I cannot recommend Breaking Glass highly enough. And when you’ve savoured it, go back for his other works. I’ve done that and read them all, for now. I’m just quietly willing Mr Cizak on with his next project – but I’m a patient man, especially when something is so worth the wait.
Bringing you hard-boiled and noir tales of crime and corruption. And various related opinions!