Harry Kenmare, P.I. At Your Service: Book Review

If a young lady goes missing and foul play is expected, Aussie Private Detective Harry Kenmare can find her. He will almost certainly try to sleep with her too.

The ’40s Phillip Marlowe-style image on the cover of this collection of short stories from author A.B. Patterson doesn’t accurately convey the wild atmosphere he creates — the plots themselves, when quickly summarized, seem like standard P.I. fare: Harry Kenmare used to be a cop, now he’s a hard-drinking private eye with a fondness for the ladies. Usually, Harry’s already half in the bag when a good-looking broad saunters in with a mission, often one that involves political corruption. Plot-wise, we’ve been here before.

What’s truly special is the way Patterson weaves in a grimy modern-day Australia full of colorful Aussie dialogue as well as copious and often hilarious amounts of sex. Harry’s all about consent, but other than that, pretty much anything goes. This stuff makes most American fiction look puritanical by comparison because, next to A.B. Patterson, it is. His lack of prudishness is a breath of fresh air. One story that involved Harry getting peed on by some outlaw bikers in the opening scene was a particular jaw-dropper. As author Alec Cizak says, A.B. Patterson reads like Henry Miller if he wrote crime fiction.

The Aussie dialect also makes these stories feel fresh. When Harry is turned on by a woman, he starts “barring up.” Outlaw bikers are “bikies.” When Harry refers to the presence of a panda in a bar scene, I racked my brain trying to figure out what “panda” must have been slang for. I came to realize that I was overthinking it — there was an actual panda in the bar because, well, this is Australia. If the unfamiliar dialect seems daunting, an Aussie slang glossary is provided in the back.

These stories, some of which first appeared in indie crime mags like Switchblade, are wild, thrilling, and hilarious. (Full disclosure: I’m also a Switchblade contributor — that’s how I came across Patterson’s work.) I’ve barely scratched the surface of how much fun you’ll find in Patterson’s stories, and I cannot wait to see whatever he puts out next.

Author. Crime, sci-fi and westerns. Switchblade. Broadswords and Blasters. Soul Of Lincoln Heights. Ohio-born Angeleno.

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