Truncated to a logline, you might think “Razorblade Tears” is your standard revenge fantasy thriller about two bereaved fathers from a small town in Virginia who unite to hunt down the men who killed their sons.
But this is no “Death Wish” retread about middle-age pacifists turned apex predators by the murder of their loved ones. The two fathers at the centre of S.A. Cosby’s second novel, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, are morally complex and deeply flawed; ostensibly bad men whose lives have been pockmarked by violence and prison sentences. Their sons, happily married to each other, were shot execution-style outside an upmarket wine store on their anniversary, and the police aren’t anywhere close to solving it.
“Blacktop Wasteland” is a Greek tragedy, its characters performing actions long-inscribed in the books of their lives. It’s pitch perfect noir, as S.A. Cosby viciously and violently unspools the implacable fate of Beauregard Montage, getaway driver turned mechanic, who is unable to escape the world of criminality.
Beauregard needs cash: a lot more than he can make in illegal drag races in his classic duster. His repair shop in Red Hill County, Virginia is haemorrhaging; his cancer-stricken mother is about to be kicked out of palliative care; his daughter needs tuition; and his son needs braces. A big heist —last one, he swears, to himself and his wife — could make all his worries go away.
Or, as eventuates, lead to devastating consequences.
The Montagues have a family tradition of violence and bloodshed. Beauregard’s father was a wheelman too, until he disappeared, leaving a shattered family, and a young black kid scrounging for ways to fill the gaping hole left by an absent father. Beauregard wants that tradition to end: but the only way he can withdraw his family from that life is to throw himself into it. The shattered man holding his life together with trembling fingers (despite Beauregard’s outward swagger) is great noir fuel. You want Beauregard to claw his way out of trouble, but you despair at the choices he makes. “Blacktop Wasteland” has a simple narrative, textured with piercing insights into racial tensions, fatherhood, and the yearning for a better a life. It’s gritty, violent and action-packed; think “Fast and Furious” thrills meshed with the depth of Dennis Lehane’s great crime novels.
Format: Paperback / softback
Imprint: Headline Book Publishing
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Publish Date: 2-Jul-2020
Country of Publication: United Kingdom