ONE OF CBC BOOKS' "17 WRITERS TO WATCH IN 2017"
PRAISE FOR IN THE CAGE
“The architecture of this first novel is faultlessly conceived; the construction of the storytelling is meticulously crafted. Hardcastle has an abiding sympathy for the neglected rural poor. The characters we love will break our hearts; the low-lifes we fear are no less indelibly rendered. There is an aura of foreboding―of tragic inevitability―to the collision course of their lives. And, speaking strictly as a former wrestler, the details are true.”―John Irving, The Cider House Rules
“Hardcastle is one of Canada's emerging literary fiction stars.”―CBC Books
“Written in taut, tough as nails prose, with a cinematic quality comparable to McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Hardcastle’s In The Cage, is, to say the least, a wild, unrelenting ride, filled with thugs and desperation and innocents and heartbreak. A damn fine book.”―Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff
“A potent and gripping novel that rigorously steers through rural poverty and mixed martial arts ... [the characters’] depth and richness flourish throughout Hardcastle’s captivating narrative.”―Waubgeshig Rice, author of Legacy
“Hardcastle's signature style [is] a kind of rural poetry ... closer in spirit to McCarthy than Hemingway.”―Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire
“Hardcastle’s descriptions possess an elegant choreography that is vivid, energetic, and well-paced ... In The Cage―like its protagonist, Daniel―is well structured, engaging, and hard to dislike.”―Shawn Syms, Foreword Reviews
“A masterful mashup between genres, matching the masculine violence of the cage match with country-tinged, Mamet-esque dialogue that elevates these characters into rich portraits of desperate people living for sheer survival. A crime novel with the pulse of a sports drama and the bitter toxicity of the best country noir.”―Kirkus Reviews
“There is focus and energy in Daniel's quiet rage ... rather than employ a commonplace, Tarantinoesque approach juxtaposing the violence with humour or camp, Hardcastle provides no adornments. His economical writing resembles dispatches from a war zone ...”―Stephen Knight, Quill & Quire
PRAISE FOR KEVIN HARDCASTLE
“There is a sure-handed display of craftsmanship in these eleven stories ... Everyone gets hurt, but everything makes sense, and the storytelling is so good―the language, a soothing balm for the pain.”―John Irving, The Cider House Rules
“[Debris] has its own strong voice ... smoothly connected by uncompromising settings and Hardcastle’s authentic, plainspoken country-noir voice, the 11 stories collected here will appeal to fans of gritty, back-country crime fiction, even those who typically shun short stories.”―Booklist
A mixed martial arts gladiator falls prey to local hoodlums when he and his family return home to rural Ontario. This debut novel by Canadian writer Hardcastle (Debris, 2016) is a scorched-earth crime story built out of brittle prose and barely suppressed violence. Our protagonist is Daniel, once a renowned cage fighter who has given up the sport due to injury and worries from his wife, Sarah, and young daughter, Madelyn. The first contemporary scene opens on the wreckage of Daniel's truck, stolen and trashed by a perturbed local. Daniel is something of a wreck himself, having returned to his hometown in shame and working odd jobs to get by. We soon learn that he's fallen in with an old friend of his father's named Clayton, a thug up to his ears in drugs, theft, and other crimes. Daniel is just providing muscle, but he finds his craving to fight runs deeper than he imagined. He starts training with Jasper, a trainer at a small gym. Asked if her husband is even fit to fight, Sarah says, "We won't know unless he actually fights….But, whatever he thinks, I don't believe he's the kind of man to just take this back up as a hobby." Finally, Daniel agrees to a competitive match in a local ballroom, with Clayton betting a significant sum on him to win. This is a masterful mashup between genres, matching the masculine violence of the cage match with country-tinged, Mamet-esque dialogue that elevates these characters into rich portraits of desperate people living for sheer survival. A crime novel with the pulse of a sports drama and the bitter toxicity of the best country noir.