Don't you love it when a $2 used bookstore find turns out to be a great novel? I do. I'm not sure what led me to pick up Dark As Night as I browsed during my lunch hour, but I'm glad I did. The first thing I noticed is that it is published by Uglytown. Any publisher who puts out Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler and The Distance by Eddie Muller is all right in my book.
The cover didn't do much for me - a dimly lit table setting - but the description sounded good so I went for it. What I found inside was a fast and violent romp through a seedy side of Philadelphia that even Duane Swierczynski would call dark.
The story weaves several different narratives together all swirling around the prison release of Vince who went up for a jewelry store robbery, from which the diamonds have never been recoverd. He claims he doesn't have them, the mobster who bankrolled the heist says he does, the cop who put him away wants them for a sort of retirement plan, his ex partner feels guilty for running when the cops showed up, and his straight laced chef brother is about to bite off more than he can chew.
Things lace together nicely, the pace is fast but never clipped and it takes several unexpected turns. My only complaint is some of the language (liberal use of the N word and other ethnic slurs) but it is all consistent with the characters so it's just my white man's guilt getting in the way and not really a fair criticism.
Conard was new to me and it was hard to find out much about him. This is his only published novel, though he has several nonfiction works. I certainly hope he is writing more fiction and we get to see it soon. In the meantime, if you can dig up your own copy of Dark As Night, I highly recommend it.
If you're a fan of tough, violent crime fiction like the above mentioned Gun Monkeys or more recently The Terror Of Living or The Professionals you will really like this.