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Review: The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

By Gabino Iglesias

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Todd Robinson is an author and the creator and chief editor of the multiaward-winning crime fiction magazine Thuglit. This means his writing has to be outstanding or he’s going to have to put up with a lot of shit from frustrated writers who were rejected by the magazine. Thankfully, Robinson has been cranking out great short fiction for a while. What’s that? Yes, novels are a different story, but don’t worry about that: The Hard Bounce is so good, I’ll consider Robinson a superb author even if he never writes another word.

Boo Malone is a tough man who’s lead a hard life. He lost everything he loved when he was sent to St. Gabriel's Home for Boys, but a few things were also gained in the process. While refusing to talk at first and after receiving continuous punishment from other boys in the home, Boo learned how to fight, how to survive, and picked up a best friend for life, Junior. Now that they’re adults, Boo and Junior work together providing security for The Cellar, a Boston nightclub, and doing the same for other businesses through their own company, 4DC. The two friends are used to dealing with unsavory characters and plenty of violence, but the new gig they’re offered is unlike any other job they’ve ever had. Cassandra is a rich girl who ran away from home and seems to be hiding among the plethora of street kids that call Boston home. She’s also the daughter of a very important man. Boo and Junior take the case and soon learn Cassie is being sexually exploited by a lowlife. Unfortunately, that’s not the end. The deeper they dig, the darker and more treacherous the case gets. Boo is determined to get some justice for Cassie, but she’s not his long-lost younger sister and the everything they think they know might just be as wrong as the snuff films they have to watch as part of the investigation.

There are many things that make The Hard Bounce a must-read, but I won’t bore you to death with a 4,000 word review. Instead, I’ll give you the three most powerful reasons why you need to get your hands on this right now:

1. Boo and Junior, who bring to the table a lot of scars, serious muscle, a combined weight of 470 pounds, a lot of ink, and two of the biggest hearts in contemporary fiction, are two of the most entertaining, funny, and likeable antiheroes in contemporary fiction. Even when they're doing bad things, they do them for the right reasons, and there's not much the reader can do except get behind their every move. Also, their continuous arguments, jokes, and insults make The Hard Bounce one of the very few books that can make a jaded reviewer like me laugh out loud. If you’re looking for gallows humor and a narrative that will make you smile after making you cringe twice and want to kick someone’s teeth in, look no further.

2. Robinson is a hell of a writer. His prose brings the story to life and then caries it at 120mph for 300 pages without taking a single breath. In my book, noir has the capacity to be the most entertaining genre, and this book is proof of that. Writing that can make you feel something, anything, is writing that needs to be taken seriously and Robinson pulls that off here more than once.

3. The two elements above come together to create the third: outstanding dialogue. Whenever a crime novel contains great dialogue, a comparison to Elmore Leonard is mandatory. Screw that: Robinson’s dialogue is slightly better. Deal with it.

With so many talentless writers insisting on unleashing unwanted trilogies and series upon the literary world, one can only hope that Robinson makes Boo and Junior the kind of character’s that we can always expect more from, a duo that can join the ranks of Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard and keep us devouring their adventures and banter for years to come.

The Hard Bounce is gritty noir done right. Robinson didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but this novels shows a talented author who knows what he’s doing at the top of his game. When you can read about abuse, death, drugs, blood, child pornography, and lost innocence and still crack a smile and believe in dishing out street justice, something’s being done right, and there’s plenty of whatever that is in The Hard Bounce.