from regular guest blogger Colm Redmond
The girl in the Welsh national dress appeared in front of me, blocking off the light.
I looked up warily. 'Hi.' At close quarters I could see her outfit was only a faint echo of Welsh national dress: a basque, fishnet tights, a shawl and a stovepipe hat sitting at a jaunty angle on a mass of black curls.
She held out her hand. 'I'm Bianca.'
It would have been ungracious not to shake her hand, but I knew that once shook, that arm would act like a drawbridge enabling her to gallop across and sack the citadel of my wallet whenever she pleased. I hesitated which made her wiggle her hand impatiently in front of my face, grinning. ...
'Myfanwy told me to look after you.'
My heart fluttered unaccountably. 'She did?'
observations: The scene takes place in a hostess club. The girl the detective is talking to is alluring, but she's the wrong one. This is all familiar hardboiled-detective-story territory, but as the title suggests, this one takes place in small-town Wales and all the stock characters are present but a little skewed.
This kind of flippant take on the world of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe is in itself quite familiar territory by now, but this one is better than most. Raymond Chandler, for example, has a colourful, wisecracking narrative style, but describes a world that is brutal, dangerous and usually at best pretty amoral. Some modern takes on the genre also go heavy on the jokes and the clever metaphors and the wacky supporting cast, but forget to bed them into a serious story. The symptoms of Chandler's style are there but not the real thing.
Malcolm Pryce, however, has written a proper story with real peril, that also has room for the fun and humour and characters with daft names like Calamity. And Druids, by the way; something I don't think Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett ever thought of including. There are a further five books about this private detective, Louie Knight, with similar punning titles, such as The Unbearable Lightness Of Being In Aberystwyth.
I'm going to level with you: I don't think the ladies in the main photo ever worked at Moulin Goch, Aberystwyth's - apparently, the whole of Wales's - "most notorious nightclub". But they maybe understood Welsh traditional costume better than Bianca did. She probably looked a lot more like this pic, which is of Miranda Kerr dressed up to host a Halloween party in NYC.