Debris, Kevin Hardcastle, 228 pgs, Biblioasis, biblioasis.com, $19.95
One cannot help but acknowledge Kevin Hardcastle’s appeal to the Wild West in his first collection of short stories — not necessarily of the Spaghetti-Eastwood variety, but certainly with an element of the running-and-gunning frontier narrative. While Debris follows an assorted cast of characters through their should-be normal lives in the rural west, it is punctuated by “distant reports of rifle-fire. High whine of small engines. coyotes whooping at each other in a nearby field.” In other words, Hardcastle’s version of the boondocks is anything but reassuring.
Debris pulls back the thin veneer of order at the surface of rural living, revealing the unfailingly violent and the guiltily satisfying. Drooling coyotes stalk the door-to-door salesman as he crosses the field between subdivisions; police hash out vendettas under the cover of rural isolation; the doting housewife, wary of drifters and trained with a hunting rifle, finds a bloated body in her swimming pool. Catastrophe lurks in the corner of every farmhouse, field, and pantry, creating back-allies in a setting usually idealized or entirely disregarded.
This is not to say that Debris lacks subtlety, for Hardcastle manages heart-pumping scenes without ever coming off as trite, and his characters are always firmly grounded in the familiar — a fact which makes the carnage lurking off-stage all the more unnerving. Debris offers a fresh perspective on a familiar genre, and can be recommended for this very reason. (Joel W. Vaughan)