A feared cage fighter in Mixed Martial Arts, Daniel is closing in on greatness—until an injury derails his career. Out of work in his country hometown, Daniel slips into the underworld, moonlighting as muscle for a childhood-friend-turned-mid-level-gangster. While his wife works nights and his twelve-year-old daughter gets into scraps of her own, Daniel tries to escape and build a nobler life for his family—but he sinks deeper into a violent, unpredictable world, soon sparking a conflict that can only be settled in blood.
Written with equal parts tenderness and horror, In the Cage weaves together a grittily masterful tale of violence, family, and resilience as Kevin Hardcastle penetrates what it means to survive in the rural underclass.
Kevin Hardcastle’s stories have appeared in Shenandoah, The Walrus, The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, EVENT, PRISM International, and Joyland. His work has been anthologized in Best Canadian Stories, and twice in The Journey Prize Stories. His debut collection of short stories Debris (Biblioasis, 2015) won the 2016 Trillium Book Award. Hardcastle lives in Toronto.
Praise for In the Cage
“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
“Violent and taut.”—Mark Medley, The Globe and Mail
“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
“Hardcastle works in a noirish, folkloric mode that draws on Cormac McCarthy, Alistair MacLeod and Breaking Bad ... [his] sentences are clean and hard, but the combinations are complex and deliberately crafted. Imagine the slow wrapping of a fist, knuckle by knuckle, and you get a sense of how Hardcastle tightens his narrative with a precision physics that's grim, hypnotic, sometimes heartbreaking, always humane.”—The Globe & Mail
“There is focus and energy in Daniel's quiet rage ... rather than employ a commonplace, Tarantinoesque approach juxtaposing the violence with humour or camp, Handcastle provides no adornments. His economical writing resembles dispatches from a war zone...”—Stephen Knight, Quill & Quire
“[an] impressive debut novel ... he successfully relocates the rolling, Biblical sentences pioneered by Hemingway, Faulkner and McCarthy to his small-town Ontario milieu, and the dialogue is as punchy as Elmore Leonard’s ... Hardcastle is a writer to watch.”—Toronto Star
“Hardcastle's laconic, sometimes stoic prose will likely always get attributed to rural tough guy brooding, but he doesn't write romanticized brawling bumpkins. Rather, his cast is composed of smart, hardworking, devoted people whose intelligence, ethic, and honour are both defined by and in spite of their surroundings.”—Andrew Hood, Bookshelf Blog
“...beautifully written, at times harrowing, and often heartbreaking...”—Open Book
Praise for Kevin Hardcastle
“There is a sure-handed display of craftsmanship in [Debris], and a panoply of human miseries for Kevin Hardcastle’s characters to contend with ... People make dire decisions; violence is commonplace but indelibly described. Hardcastle does darkness well; heartbreaking endings come naturally to him. Everyone gets hurt, but everything makes sense, and the storytelling is so good—the language, a soothing balm for the pain.”—John Irving, author of The Cider House Rules
“[Debris] has flesh and bone, soul and brain. It’s a rare, rock-solid first book by ... a dexterous writer with unflinching vision. This book’s gift is in constructing a museum of hard lives, letting us circle them like excavated marble statues, taking us close enough to see all their mutilation, power, and rough beauty.”—Alix Hawley, National Post
“Unflinching ... Debris is impressive for any writer, especially for a first collection ... Hardcastle comes close to a masterpiece.”—The Winnipeg Free Press
“[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
“Each story is a fully realized world—as rich as it is bleak, the characters powerfully and carefully drawn ... Debris is a collection to savour.”—Quill & Quire, starred review
“Debris carves straight to a reader’s gut, and more importantly to their heart. Kevin Hardcastle knows the characters who populate his stories intimately—their troubles, their fears, whatever’s ticking deep at their cores. This collection thrums with subtle power and grit, but also a well-earned measure of hope.”—Craig Davidson, author of Rust and Bone