Reaching Discontent is the enormously entertaining first novel of Hagler, the pseudonym for a South African writer now living in Perth.
It is an action-packed crime novel from start to finish, with traces of Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan, Marvel Comics' Punisher series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, but with a massive dose of social conscience.
The main character is Iron, a former heavyweight boxing contender, now English teacher, who is trying to dampen a seething anger that has clouded his life ever since he could remember. He witnessed his mother killed at 10 by his father, a criminal and drug addict. And he has also killed, with his fists in the ring at 19 in a South African heavyweight championship fight.
Iron has been trying to do the right thing ever since. Now at school, seemingly older and wiser, he discovers a young student Riaz Chohan is dealing in drugs. He confronts the youngster and his fellow cronies, in a move that will change his life forever.
From the desolate and desperate streets of the Cape Flats' townships of Manenberg and Lavender Hill, to the plush houses of the rich and crooked gangsters living the high life in Wynberg and Constantia, Iron heads on a mission with his close friend Heed, a sleek fighting machine trained by MK and the Tuareg in the Libyan desert, on a mission to do the right thing.
The Minister is relentless and vicious, and Iron, to his consternation finds, yet again, within himself the same bloodlust that he so despises in his nemesis. He struggles to hold onto his convictions as a Muslim, and to look the other way by living the quiet life.
But it is impossible. It is as if he knows he will not be able to do so, that to fight the good fight, to strive for justice, to face up to evil, sacrifices will have to be made, to the extent of losing close life-long friends, and even the love of his life, the beautiful Mazida.
Hagler has an unerring eye for detail. The Cape Flats comes alive under his writing. If anyone visits Lavender Hill today, this is what they'll see.
"On our left the tenements of Lavender Hill, an area which bore the aroma of disaster and decay, of poverty and misery, the irony of its name lost on the battered populace. Another insult from the previous government ... a nightmare housing project of rundown flats, shoe-box sized council houses that proved an adequate breeding ground for recidivism. Beyond the flats, deeper in this Dark Continent the concrete houses gave way to Shanty Town, the self-styled hotbed of violence and depravity. Its name derived from buildings constructed from zinc sheets and wood, rather than the customary brick and cement houses common in South Africa."
"Concrete canals filled with debris sliced through the area, dirty water throwing sparkled striations into the fetid air. Often in the summer they ran dry, while in the winter months water meandered sluggishly through the garbage that invariably filled the ditches. I had never seen these canals in up market areas. They were part of the makeup of the slums, like facial tattoos that told the world this area had been raped by the council. "
Iron and Heed battle Real Americans, the Mongrels, Mossad agents and various assortment of the Minister's hoods.
The background is gritty, the action sometimes ultra-violent, as blood is spilt, limbs are shattered, lives are lost, leading to a riveting and intense climax.
This book does many things right and is an emerging, fresh new voice on the crime fiction scene.