Cliff Hardy

Created by Peter Corris

“Not for the first time I reflected that a hundred and twenty a day wasn’t a good rate for getting dead, but there was no point in upping the fees. A thousand a day is still a poor deal.”
Cliff Hardy

One of the great private eye series to come out of the 1980’s featured Sydney, Australia P.I. CLIFF HARDY, a rare combination of modern concerns and good ol’ pulpy kick ass action. Which makes it all the more tragic that he’s barely known in North America.

But Australia? Hoo-boy! There’s he’s often referred to as the “Godfather of Australian crime-writing.” As the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “At a time when the genre lacked a genuinely local presence, he employed the hard-boiled characteristics of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, but with Australian vernacular, characters and settings that proved irresistible.”

Cliff’s a tall bloke, pretty fair shape, with a nose that’s been busted a few times. He’s been at various times a boxer, a soldier (in Malaysia), a timber worker and an insurance investigator. He’s a tough-minded guy, with a strong independant streak, one reason he didn’t last in the insurance racket. He’s been known to carry a Smith & Wesson .38, all nice and legal, and occasionally a Colt .45 that isn’t, and he isn’t a stranger to a bit of knocking about, either giving or receiving. Basically, he’s a “cold bastard. Good at his job though.” He’s appeared in at close to almost forty novels, and several collections of short stories and Corris is still cranking them out. There was even that rarity of things: a good P.I. movie (despite what Corris later came to think of it) made from one of them.

In many ways, Cliff’s a throwback to an earlier, simpler time. Imagine a slightly shopworn Joe Mannix down under and you’ve got Cliff pegged.

He lives in the slightly seedy Glebe neighbourhood near the dog track and works out of an office with dirty windows on St. Peter’s Lane in the slightly lmore upscale Darlinghurst area, next to Primo Tomasetti, Cliff’s tattoo artist pal. Cliff was married once about “a lifetime ago,” and for a while was involved in a rather weird little six months on/six months off relationship with Helen, a married woman. Later on, he discovers he has a daughter.

He likes tennis, beer and white wine, but detests tea. He is, however, rather partial to Ford Falcons. Just loves ’em. When his battered, rust-ridden but beloved 1964 model finally gave up the ghost in the late eighties, he replaced it with a used 1984 model, same colour, less miles, less rust. In many ways, in fact, Cliff is like his beloved Falcons. Nothing fancy, but solid and dependable, a few too many miles on the clock, maybe, but still able to get you there.

And the whole long-running series is like that as well — nothing flashy, but good reliable reads, well-written, with an appealling, down-to-earth hero, pulpy without being stoopid, and some very interesting settings and keen insights into Australian culture and human nature. Even as Cliff moves into his “mature years,” he’s a pleasure to read; as dependable and solid a series as there is out there, while Hardy, cranky and sharp-tongued as ever, deals with not just the usual bullshit but also the limitations of age. A wonderful contribution to the genre.

All of which helped make Cliff’s one screen appearance to date, 1985’s The Empty Beach, starring a then-mostly unknown Bryan Brown, such a treat. It’s an entertaining, enjoyable low-key Aussie film, with Brown playing a sardonic, battered Hardy on the trail of a missing millionaire, and features some great twists, an unusual ending and plenty of action. There’s something sort of wistfully melancholy about the theme song, “The Empty Beach,” performed by New Zealand Marc Hunter, that just fits. And Hardy’s creator, Peter Corris, even lent his leather jacket to Brown for the film.

Australian author Corris is a former academic and journalist who’s been a full-time writer since 1982. He has published over fifty books of fiction and more than a dozen non-fiction titles. Corris writes about another Australian detective, one Richard Bowning, who plies his trade in the 1940’s. Corris also writes about Australian Federal Security agent Ray “Creepy” Crawleyand Luke Dunlop, an agent for the Witness Protection Agency in Australia.

For those of you who like their private eye fiction straight up, and aren’t afraid to cross borders, you can’t really go wrong with the Hardy books. It’s a solid, entertaining and never disappointing series. Recommended hardily.

Sadly, Win, Lose or Draw (2017), the 42nd Cliff Hardy book (if you count the collections, will be the last, according to the author, citing health problerms.


  • “Don’t tell me I’m too old for shotguns. I was too old for shotguns twenty years ago. We’re all too old for shotguns.”
    — Cliff tries to reassure his daughter, in Follow the Money


  • “A true original Corris’s portrayals of Australian crime stand out uniquely – forceful, hard-driven, compassionate.”
    — James Ellroy
  • “Our best tough guy is Peter Corris… What distinguishes a good Cliff Hardy is a mix of interest in the Sydney dirt being dished, strong focus, palpable visuals and grudging empathy with the battered, warped but crazily ethical Hardy take on life and people.
    — The Bulletin
  • “Corris is one of our great storytellers.”
    — The Sydney Morning Herald
  • “If Corris does not quite have the comedic chops of a Robert B. Parker or a Robert Crais, he more than compensates by restoring the dramatic tension of a hero who is truly a lone knight, who can be hurt, even killed, and who has no one he can really trust. This is good stuff, in a classic vein.† Read him. Grade: A.”
    The Brothers Judd: Private Eye Reviews
  • The Empty Beach was the breakthrough book in Peter Corris’ Cliff Hardy series. It’s set in Sydney in the early eighties, specifically around Bondi Beach… half paradise and half a city of broken dreams. Harsh sunlight and unforgiving heat lend the novel an almost claustrophobic edge. There’s no escape from the light. As the novel progresses the underbelly of Bondi… what lurks in the long shadows of the Australian sun starts to emerge and the dream of a beach paradise turns very sour.   This book was one of the touchstones of a new kind of Australian crime writing. Books and writers became less in awe of America and forged a kind of fiction that operated in a unique Australian space. The Empty Beach may not be the best Australian noir, or even Corris’ best book but it has a quality few others have. It remakes a place, Bondi, in an author’s imagination and permanently changed how we think about it.”
    — Alan Parks (August 2021, CrimeReads)



NOTE: The Playboy and Penthouse sources mentioned below are the Australian editions.

  • “Blood Is Thicker” (November 1980, Playboy; also 1984, Heroin Annie; aka “The Fraticide Caper”)
  • “The Luck of Clem Carter” (December 1980, National Times; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Silverman” (National Times; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Mother’s Boy” (January 1981, National Times; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Marriages Are Made in Heaven” (January 1982, Penthouse; also 1984, 1984, Heroin Annie; aka “The Negative Caper”)
  • “Heroin Annie” (June 1981, Playboy; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Escort To An Easy Death” (June 1982, Penthouse; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “California Dreamland” (1983, Playboy; also 1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Stockyards at Jerilderie” (1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “Man’s Best Friend” (1984, Heroin Annie)
  • “The Big Drop” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “P.I. Blues” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “The Arms of the Law” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “Tearaway” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “What Would You Do?” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “The Mongrol” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “The Mae West Scam” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “Rhythm Track” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “The Big Pinch” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “Maltese Falcon” (1985, The Big Drop)
  • “Cloudburst” (Penthouse; also 1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “High Integrity” (Penthouse; also 1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “The Deserter” (Penthouse; also 1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “Byron Kelly’s Big Mistake” (Sydney Morning Herald: Good Weekend; also 1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “Norman Mailer’s Christmas” (Sydney Morning Herald; also 1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “Man in the Shadows” (1988, Man in the Shadows)
  • “Burn” (December 1988, Bulletin; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “The House of Ruby” (October 1991 Mean Streets; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Cadigal Country”(1991, Homeland; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Lost and Found” (1991, SPAN 31; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “The Big Lie” (1991, More Crimes for a Summer Christmas; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Ghost Writer” (1992, A Ghost at the Opera House; also 1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Eye Doctor” (1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Airwaves”(1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Kill Me Someone” (1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “Almost Wedded Bliss” (1993, Burn and Other Stories)
  • “The Hearing” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Copper”(1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “The Brothers” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Lucky Jim” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Forget Me If You Can” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Close Enough” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Archie’s Last Case” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Gone Fishing” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Cross My Hearts” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Christmas Visit” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Meeting at Mascot” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “TV” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “Treasure Trove” (1997, Forget Me If You Can)
  • “A Gift Horse” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Death Threat” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Whatever it Takes” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “The Pearl” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Solomon’s Solutions” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Cocktails for Two” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Black Andy” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Globilisation” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Christmas Shopping” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Insider” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Chop Chop” (2004, Taking Care of Business)
  • “Ram Raid” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Copper Nails” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “D-i-v-o-r-c-e” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Crime Writing” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Blackmail” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Last Will and Testament” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Break Point” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Worst Case Scenario” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Bookworm” (2007, The Big Score)
  • “Patriotism” (2007, The Big Score)



  • THE EMPTY BEACH | Buy this video
    (1985, Jethro Films)
    85 minutes
    Based on the novel by Peter Corris
    Screenplay by Keith Dewhurst, based on the novel by Peter Corris
    Director: Chris Thomson
    Producer: Timothy Read and John Edwards
    Associate producer: Bryan Brown
    Executive Producer: Bob Weis
    Title Song: “The Empty Beach” written by Don Walker, performed by Marc Hunter
    Starring Bryan Brown as CLIFF HARDY
    Also starring Anna Maria Monticelli, John Wood, Nick Tate, Ray Barrett, Belinda Giblin, Peter Collingwood, Kerry Mack, Joss McWilliam, Sally Cooper, Rhys McConnochie, Steve Rackman, Robert Alexander, Bob Barrett, Christopher Lewis


  • The Greenwich Apartments. (ABC Audio, Nd., read by Peter Corris)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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