Bam! Bam! Bam!
It sounded like someone was knocking with a sledgehammer. I rolled over and cracked a bloodshot eye. I couldn’t see a figure through the window, but that wasn’t surprising. I could barely make out the lettering on the grimy glass:
I had blown my wad buying the glass and wound up being my own painter.
The window was as dirty as last week’s dishwater, but not filthy enough to block out the piercing morning light. The damned sun wasn’t up yet! And I’d been out till the second watch barhopping while I followed a guy who might lead me to a guy who might know where I could find a guy. All this led to was a pounding headache.
“Go away!” I growled. “Not available.”
Bam! Bam! Bam!
“Go to hell away!” I yelled. It left my head feeling like an egg that had just bounced off the edge of a frying pan. I wondered if I ought to feel the back to see if the yolk was leaking, but it seemed like too much work. I’d just go ahead and die.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
I have a little trouble with my temper, especially when I have a hangover. I was halfway to the door with two feet of lead-weighted truncheon before sense penetrated the scrambled yolk.
When they are that insistent, it’s somebody from up the hill with a summons to do work too sticky to lay on their own boys. Or it’s somebody from down the hill with the word that you’re stepping on the wrong toes.
In the latter case the truncheon might be useful.
I yanked the door open.
For a moment I didn’t see the woman. She barely came up to my chest. I eyeballed the three guys behind her. They were lugging enough steel to outfit their own army, but I wouldn’t have been shy about wading in. Two of them were about fifteen years old and the other was about a hundred and five.
“We’re invaded by dwarfs,” I moaned. None of them was taller than the woman.As you can see, Sweet Silver Blues has as much in common with hard-boiled detective fiction as it does with fantasy, so much so that its protagonist, Garrett (he has no other name) is in fact a private investigator after the fashion of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. The world that Garrett inhabits is still (largely) recognizable to fans of fantasy -- there are dwarfs and centaurs and and vampires -- but their presentation is nothing like Tolkien or Howard or any of their imitators. Instead, Garrett's world is basically 1930s but with magic taking the place of technology and fantasy beings and nations in place of more familiar ones. Like the real 1930s, it's also a world that's still recovering from a disastrous war in its recent past, one whose outcome still has repercussions for the present day.
One of those repercussions hits Garrett personally. The dwarfs who show up on his doorstep want to hire him to investigate the death of one of their kinsmen, Denny Tate. Denny, it turns out, served in the war alongside Garrett, so discovering the real cause of his death isn't just another job for the private eye. I say "real cause," because, though Denny supposedly died an accidental death, his family thinks otherwise -- especially once they discover the terms of his will. Denny, who was a shoemaker by trade, seemed to have a secret fortune in gold and silver and, rather than leave it to his family, as one might expect, he left it all to a woman none of the dwarfs had ever heard of and whom they presumed to have been an old flame. Of course, Garrett's heard of this woman, because she'd once been his girlfriend as well, which only makes the investigator even more suspicious about this case.
Like The Black Company, I knew of the existence of Sweet Silver Blues for years before I actually read it. For some reason, I just never came across a copy and so I missed out on the chance to enjoy what is a fun little tale cleverly told. As I said above, it's a lot more lighthearted than The Black Company, though it's still very cynical and world-weary at times, as befits its inspirations. I'm not completely convinced that its transposition of hard-boiled literary tropes to a fantasy setting works, though I'm also not sure that I care. Cook is a good writer, with a knack for creating interesting and compelling characters. The central story of Sweet Silver Blues is perhaps a little clichéd, particularly if you're familiar with the sources he'd drawing upon, but I don't think that necessarily weakens the novel or one's pleasure in reading it. This is one of those lean-back-and-enjoy-the-ride books and makes a nice change of pace from the pretension and self-seriousness that characterizes too much of modern fantasy.