Reviewed by Russel D McLean
One can argue about what noir is until the cows come home, but for me the most basic elements have been ordinary people making extraordinarily bad decisions. Setting seems to matter to some, but for me, the idea of a Western Noir is something that seems perfectly natural given the tough lives of those who lived on the frontiers.
Shannon’s short, sharp and engaging tale, LUCKY, marries both western and noir conventions convincingly, although if you’re well enough read in one of these genres, you’ll see the sleight of hand a mile off. Luckily, atmosphere and voice go a long way with the kind of noir Shannon’s trying for here, and he’s got both in spades. There’s a natural rhythm to the story that feels contemporary to the setting, and that strange mix of casual and formal dialogue that I tend to associate with western stories isn’t overused and help ground the characters in their particular noir world.
Without giving too much away, we find ourselves riding with Joe Case, a man on the run from three very justifiably angry men. Tired, nervous as hell and with a twitchy trigger finger, Case comes across a young woman who’s been attacked and decides that while he might not be able to help her, he can at least offer some comfort.
Naturally things go wrong, and fast. This is a noir story, after all. However, as I’ve already mentioned, LUCKY doesn’t necessarily offer anything new or unique other than its well-realised setting, which prevent it from becoming cliché. There are also intriguing questions about one character’s motivations left unanswered as the story wraps rather too suddenly.
That said, LUCKY is well-written, and a diverting marriage of western and noir – being as it is a snapshot of one man making an extraordinarily bad decision – which comes at the reader with a strong voice and a real sense of time and place.