Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties is a collection of short crime fiction by author Tony Knighton, with the title story being the first and longest, verging almost towards novella length.
This could just be a personal preference, but I struggled to get through the collection. I found the writing to be dry, and there was barely a likeable character to be found in the whole lot. It’s a sparse style, which might fit better with fans of noir, but for the most part, the stories read as a list of events that happened, rather than an actual story.
This is especially true of the title story, which felt like the same thing happening, again and again, in slightly different locations. Not to mention the women in this collection are so flat, with so little agency it really did feel like I’d gone back to the height of noir.
There was one story that really stood out – one that slipped more into sci-fi, set in a world where oxygen is a precious commodity, and rain must be avoided. It’s the one story where we actually root for the main character, and with the focus on him and his son, it was hard not to get attached.
For the most part, however, the stark style and flat characters really didn’t gel with me. I like characters I can root for, in some way, characters I can actually connect with, even if they’re not the best of people.
This book didn’t hit that note for me, but I can definitely see how others might enjoy this style and sense of bleakness.