Borderland Speakeasy #13

"Look down, or look hard"

by Oliver Ho

12 July 2010

It's the terror of knowing what the world is about: Andrew Vachss' writing approaches the crippling horror of real life tragedies. 

A teenage gang member tries to make his bones with a local crime kingpin through a sudden and brutal act of violence. “This is where it shows, the heart of a man,” the youth tells himself, just before pulling the trigger in the opening story of Hard Looks, a collection of stories by the legendary Andrew Vachss.

A prolific writer, Vachss might be best known for his series of novels centred around the character named Burke, a private detective whom the author describes as a “mercenary, a man-for-hire, a career criminal (and two-time felony loser).”

“[He is] the prototypical abused child: hyper-vigilant, distrustful, and, in Burke’s case, intensely bonded to his ‘family of choice,’ a collection of outlaws who had nothing in common but their membership in that vast tribe I called the ‘Children of the Secret.’ Burke became the antithesis of the ‘White Knight’ so beloved of detective fiction,” Vachss writes in an autobiographical essay on his website,

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