58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional murder mystery with street credibility
Clockers is a murder mystery, complete with suspense and a twist ending, cloaked in an unconventional, raw street setting. The novel possesses more street-smarts than any other book I've read, fiction or not. The dialogue, internally (i.e., in the characters' own heads) and externally, was tough and vibrant, and employed street vernacular which rang credible without...
Published on May 29, 2001 by buddyhead
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters
This book held my interest, not so much for its plot than for its characters. You really get a sense of their lives, histories, and internal struggles. They are all flawed, but not completely and you are dawn to the flickers of goodness or vulnerability or aspiration or loyalty as they try to survive in the awful urban jungle in which they cannot escape.
Published 7 months ago by Stephen J. Cox
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unconventional murder mystery with street credibility,
Clockers is a murder mystery, complete with suspense and a twist ending, cloaked in an unconventional, raw street setting. The novel possesses more street-smarts than any other book I've read, fiction or not. The dialogue, internally (i.e., in the characters' own heads) and externally, was tough and vibrant, and employed street vernacular which rang credible without sounding clichéd. Many authors tell tales of drug dealers and ghetto crimes, but rare is the account from a drug-dealer's point of view. A troubled, intelligent, calculating drug-dealer, no less, who considers the repercussions of his every move.
All of Clockers' characters were realistically flawed, able to invoke both sympathy and disgust. Strike, the ulcer-stricken dealer, was in constant turmoil as he struggled between trying to earn enough from his illicit trade to get out of it, and attempting to help others avoid being dragged into the same web. Rocco, the homicide detective and delinquent family-man, had a love-hate relationship with his work, and sought a mission through which to justify his continued involvement in the force. Victor (Strike's brother) was an honest, hard working black man who had risen above the allure of the street life around him, but wrestled with his own demons and internal sense of justice. Everyone's paths met with the murder of a lesser character, at which point the cat and mouse game was afoot.
Lesser, but no less interesting plot lines abound: Strike's education of his would-be apprentice, Tyrone; Strike's efforts to free himself from an unhealthily dependent relationship with drug kingpin Rodney; and Rocco's schoolboy interest in being shadowed by a cocksure filmmaker with an interest in a police picture. Also fascinating and seemingly credible were the lessons in police and ghetto-civilian dealings: crooked cops being paid for protection; dealers ratting on one another to escape arrest; and unlikely, yet highly effective, working relationships between cops and dealers born from years of coexistence. Lastly, the issues broached by Clockers are current by today's standards, including AIDS, the questionable efficacy of drug busts, and the shiftlessness of ghetto kids who turn to pushing in the absence of concerned adults.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty And Great,
Richard Price has an ear for street dialogue and he knows how to give his characters depth and dimension. As much as I loved Price's "Freedomland", this book is an even greater accomplishment.
There are no one-dimensional characters here. Everyone is real. Strike, the clocker, deals drugs and damages the life of a young boy. Yet there is goodness, awareness and a glimmer of hope inside him. Sometimes we hate him, sometimes we pity him, sometimes we admire him. Rocco the homicide cop is equally vivid, a hero in some ways, a tragic figure in others. These are people we care about because they're so full and real. Even Rodney, Strike's boss, a badass dude for sure, dispenses some truths and solid advice when he's recruiting clockers in lockup.
As deep as the characterizations run, the book surprisingly evolves into a whodunit. By the time you realize this, you're so involved with the characters, you have a steep investment in how it all turns out. There were times I laughed out loud, there were times I cried, and there were times I had to put this book down and reflect on the poignant truths that reveal themselves to these people.
As a fan of crime fiction and police procedurals, this book stands apart from the genre. There is action, to be sure, but "Clockers" is a character study in a gritty environment, and you feel the threat and wear of imminent violence on every page. Yet you'll find some decency as well.
For an exciting and totally involving journey into the inner city and the world of cops and dealers, it doesn't get any better than this.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning mastery of setting and character,
This was my first reading of Price. I'm a reader who likes literary genre fiction and generally, I think it is hard to come by. Price is a master writer who creates the most vivid worlds I have read since James Lee Burke, and in fact, really gets more gritty than Burke. I think most of what I would say has been very well covered in other reviews. The one thing I would mention is the absolutely beautiful opposite but parallel characters Price offers here. Strike and Rocco are both lost souls, just in different environs; they are both looking for a reason to believe, to hope, and in their worlds that's a lot to ask. I also enjoyed the way Price picked up the pace for the last one hundred pages. My only complaint (and it's a minor one): for me, the book was longer than it needed to be. 400 pages, great. 500, maybe. But by six hundred I had heard about Strike's stomach and Rocco's insecurity a bit too much. Good stuff.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, an excellent piece of Literature,
One the wittiest, darkest, most complex murder mystery since L.A. Confidential (The book a Classic masterpiece, the movie nothing more than good entertainment) Rocco and Strike are perfect players for Richard Prices character study of cops and dealers, the good and the bad, the black and white and the brown who all seem to be misunderstanding eachother rather than truly listening to eachother. Price was able to get me so into the charcters complex persona and agendas that when he uncovers the answer to the mystery I realized that I had become as blind as Rocco firy detective and Strikes mentally confused and conflicted drug dealer. The Clockers are as deadly as they are sad and as angry as they are full of it. (That doesn't include Rodney, Buddha Hat, or Errol Barnes, who all have an evil and dangerous aura that, unlike most hoods, truly is dangerous.) The film was surprisingly faithful to the novel and its message, although I was dissapointed that they took out such charcters as Buddha Hat and Futon and Peanut and Champ and didn't focus on Thumper at all and waited till the end to bring out the rage and fury of Andre until the end of the movie. The book, though, is a classic example of urban tension and decay and depression and hopelessness and the good people who are taken down because of it. But also how an act of mercy can bring hope to the most hopeless clocker and the most burnt out detective.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, mind blowing and extremely well researched,
This review is from: Clockers: A Novel (Paperback)
Richard Price first came up with the idea for Clockers whilst sat in a fast food restaurant in New York, during the waning years of what later became known as The Crack Epidemic. Whilst he observed overworked teenage kids sweating behind the counter for minimum wage inside, outside street dealers - in full view of the restaurant staff - made twenty times as much selling Crack.
This posed the seemingly obvious question: What stops the guys inside the restaurant from doing what the guys outside the restaurant are doing? With that question in mind Price set out to research and, ultimately write, one of the finest examinations of 20th century crime ever written.
Set against a modern day equivalent of Hogarth's Gin Lane, rife with crime, privation, and a new form of Mother's Ruin - Crack - Clockers is the story of murder, deceit, prejudice, corruption, and, ultimately, redemption.
While there are some minor inaccuracies concerning the actual drug, it's clear the rest of the book, including the black society in which it is set, was meticulously researched, for which the author should receive recognition - after all it isn't often non-black writers document Afro-America without relying heavily on conjecture.
Slightly dated now, this is still a brilliant, edifying, and educational novel. Top marks.
Oh, and the answer to that question: What stops the guys inside the restaurant from doing what the guys outside the restaurant are doing? Those guys inside have someone's heart to break and they know it - that's why they aren't doing it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Provocative, Chilling Portrait of Life In The Projects,
Ronald "Strike" Dunham, a product of the grim, gritty inner city projects, has recently been promoted to "clocker," a street corner crack dealer. He's a bright kid who dreams of cutting-out from his dead-end existence someday. At nineteen, Strike's world is all about economic survival on the streets. He runs drug crews for Rodney, his kingpin boss. Unfortunately, Strike is not able to slough off the hassles of the daily hustle. He is already a man of means with teenage employees who report to him, and more worldly cares than he can handle. He suffers from stomach ulcers and is constantly drinking vanilla Yoo-Hoos to soothe the almost constant pain. Then Rodney asks him to kill another clocker who is skimming money. He tells Strike that this hit will be the key to getting ahead in the organization.
Rocco Klein is a burnt-out, middle-aged homicide detective who drinks too much and has the home life from hell. He too dreams of a better future, while patrolling the rough New Jersey neighborhoods where drug killings are almost a daily occurrence. When yet another homicide occurs, a young man with two jobs, a clean record, and a family, confesses to shooting the street tough. Klein does not believe for a minute that twenty year-old Victor Dunham is guilty. However, he likes Victor's brother, Strike, for the job. He pressures Strike to either confess or to give up the real killer. The ulcers are about ready to perforate with the stress of Klein leaning on him, his homicidal boss threatening violence, his brother and family all on his case, and the possibility of a drug war over turf on the horizon. "Clockers" is an intense mystery and a provocative chronicle of life on the mean streets. Whodunnit and the motive is almost impossible to guess.
Richard Price paints a provocative portrait of life in inner city America like no other. "Clockers" is set in the fictional town of Dempsey, NJ, a bleak, claustrophobic ghetto where escape is almost impossible, and black-on-black crime is prevalent. He depicts the details of everyday existence for dealers, customers and cops, clearly, believably, with street language that rings true. The dialogue is vivid and gives his characters even more depth and realism. I have never met a fictional character with the pathos and poignancy of Strike, an extraordinarily complex figure who is impossible to pigeonhole.
Price uses two central protagonists, polar opposites, who are forced to interact throughout the novel. The author discussed the use of these central figures in an interview: "I wanted to create a situation where people are the products of their sides and because of a crisis are thrown into each other. And they are forced to empathize well beyond the point where they thought they would be, and then they get tripped up by what they absorb. The journey becomes the destination." "Clockers" was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. This is a superb novel which I highly recommend.
Richard Price is the author of six novels and numerous screenplays, including The Color of Money, Sea of Love, and Ransom. In 1999, he received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Richard Price vs. Elmore Leonard,
This review is from: Clockers: A Novel (Paperback)
When I read Richard Price I find myself mentally comparing his fiction with that of Elmore Leonard. Price works on a somewhat bigger scale and perhaps is more "serious" about his fiction; in contrast, Leonard seems to be aiming more for entertainment. Leonard certainly is more prone to structure his narrative around the joke or witticism. For edginess, Leonard relies a little more on sex and violence, Price more on drugs. Leonard's settings tend towards the glitzy, Price's more towards the squalid. But both depict the seamier sides of contemporary urban America in compelling ways and both are masters of dialogue. Last year, when I read Price's latest novel "Lush Life", I concluded that I liked it better than I liked any of Leonard's novels. So it was interesting to go back and read CLOCKERS, which many regard as Price's best work. (I had started it shortly after it was released in 1992, but due to demands of work never finished it then.)
CLOCKERS is set across the Hudson from New York City, in the fictitious city of Dempsey (seemingly a composite of Jersey City and Newark). The stories of CLOCKERS, for the most part, are the stories of drug use in and around the housing projects. Most of the dozens of characters in the novel fall into two groups: the dealers (and users) vis-a-vis the cops. The principal representatives of the two groups are the two protagonists: Strike, a 19-year-old black youth who sees drug dealing, or clocking (selling bottles of powdered coke at $10 a pop), as "his best shot at having a life, like going into the army or working for UPS"; and Rocco Klein, a 43-year-old Homicide Detective, approaching twenty years service and the temptation to embark on a new career, but at the same time hooked on the absurdities, the adrenalin rushes, and the unusual moral dilemmas of his job. The story is narrated in chapters that alternate back and forth between the perspectives of Strike and Rocco (and thus alternate between the drug dealer and the cop, black and white, nominally bad and nominally good).
There is a third main character, Strike's brother Victor, who does not belong to either group. Victor is a straight-arrow young man, who still lives with his mother in the projects together with a dull and unappreciative wife and two small children and who works two full-time jobs trying to accumulate the stake necessary to move his family out of the projects. The overarching "mystery" of the novel is whether Victor really could have been the one to gun down Darryl Adams, who sold cocaine by weight out of a fried fish restaurant named Ahab's (and is there any symbolism in that name?).
CLOCKERS is a decent read. The overall picture of North Jersey and the "cycle of s**t" is captivating, much like the series "The Wire" (which was influenced by the novel and for which Price was one of the writers). There are many memorable vignettes and characters (who are sketched with understanding and empathy rather than being cardboard stereotypes), and there is much dazzling, spot on dialogue. But there also are weaknesses. For example, the exposition often is rather conventional and is laden with extraneous detail; there is too much explicit moralizing, which occasionally is insultingly heavy-handed; and the motivations for several of the key acts or decisions of the three main characters are not fully persuasive. To an extent these weaknesses are more apparent when CLOCKERS is read after having read "Lush Life," which is a more accomplished and mature novel, with a markedly pared down narrative style and dialogue that is even more brilliantly rendered (as good as dialogue gets in contemporary American fiction).
So I return to my comparision between Price and Leonard. I still think that "Lush Life" is better than any of Leonard's novels, but the best of Leonard is better than CLOCKERS.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Crime and Punishment," ca. 1992.,
I first stumbled onto Richard Price with a fifty-cent used copy of "Ladies' Man." It was engaging and fun, kind of like an unusually smart episode of Seinfeld with an NC-17 rating. It convinced me to give "Blood Brothers" a try and after that, forget it. I went forward to "Samaritan," back to "The Wanderers," and tracked down copies of his screenplays in between. I couldn't read enough of this guy.
However, Clockers remains Price's grand achievement to date. It's a crime novel of unusual depth that bears more in common with Dostoevsky than Elmore Leonard. Some reviewers have said Clockers fails as a mystery. I'll be the first to agree: as a genre mystery, Clockers does fail. But it's not a genre mystery. It's a map of the landscape, both urban and personal. It's a novel of morals and it's a tragedy. Price follows the drug-dealing Strike and detective Klein as their stories head inevitably towards collision. Both men are working to do the right thing, but are put directly at odds by forces out of their control. This is tragic to the capital T. Price accomplishes many astonishing feats here, not the least of which include making the world of Demsey real enough to touch and developing deep sympathy and understanding for both Strike and Klein without ever trading his gritty style for schmaltz. Price has incredible powers of observation, his eye for character and ear for dialogue, doubtless honed by his time working in housing project administration.
I absolutely disagree with the reviewer who claims that Price falls short of Lethem, Gibson, and Leonard. Perhaps, if you evaluate a book solely by slickness and cleverness, he doesn't measure up, but Clockers has more heart than Jake LaMotta and Price has an eye for detail that would put the Splendid Splinterer himself to shame. Don't get me wrong: I really loved Motherless Brooklyn, Out of Sight, and Virtual Light, but those books are empty in comparison.
Finally, I think Spike Lee's film adaptation was deeply flawed and does not do the novel justice, primarily because there's too much in Clockers to fit into a feature film. This problem was only exacerbated by the fact that Lee fragmented the film by bringing in his own soapbox issues (violence in video games, the need for strong parental figures) to crowd out more important plot elements. Even if you didn't like the movie, give the book a chance. And then go watch "Sea of Love," a Price screenplay that was done well.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the Kindle version!,
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This review is from: Clockers: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
The other reviews have captured the feel of this novel rather well so I primarily want to give a word of warning to those people looking to purchase the book for their Kindle. The e-book is riddled with typos and odd characters, the most egregious being the word 'dockers' used instead of 'clockers', which occurs multiple times. The middle of the book seems to be the worst-effected portion. Since I have read the book in the past, this was not a deal-breaker but I can see where it could be distracting for readers new to the novel. For those of you still wanting to know about the book, if you like gritty murder-mysteries with authentic street flavor, look no further.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Price's Masterpiece,
Richard Price started his literary career off strong with his first novel, THE WANDERERS. After that, though, he hit a slump, releasing the pedestrian BLOOD BROTHERS and LADIES MAN, neither of which lived up to the standard Price had set for himself. (In fairness, I have not read Price's fourth novel, THE BREAKS). After turning his attention to screenwriting, Price returned to novels and gave us CLOCKERS. It is not only Price's best work (of those I have read), but an example of just how good the American novel can truly be. It is a spectacular literary achievement that draws its readers into its pages and makes them gasp for breath while swimming through the muck of urban decay found within.
CLOCKERS is an example of what Tom Wolfe refers to as the realistic novel. Although the story is not true, it accurately portrays a subculture of American life in realistic and gripping detail, allowing the reader to vicariously experience that environment through a fictionalized work.
The book revolves around two characters. Strike is a mid-level drug dealer in the slums of New Jersey just outside of New York City. Rocco is a homicide detective investigating a murder in the area. When Strike's brother confesses to the crime, Rocco does not buy it. The brother has never been in any trouble with the law before and the murder does not fit his personality. Suspicion falls on Strike himself instead, with his brother merely acting as the fall guy. It takes away nothing from the dynamic of the book that, although we do not know if the brother is guilty, the reader learns at the murder scene itself that Strike definitely is not.
CLOCKERS switches perspective between Strike and Rocco chapter by chapter, with the reader anticipating the inevitable collision between the two. Despite its length, the book maintains the level of tension necessary to keep the reader's attention. The characters are portrayed in their respective environments and social structures with a stunning degree of realism, allowing the reader to truly empathize with them.
As with many of Price's works, loose ends do not necessarily get resolved. Endings are not all happy. CLOCKERS is no exception to this and, although Strike may be innocent of the crime, his world nonetheless collapses around him. CLOCKERS' world may not be one in which we wish to live, but it is a place we will not forget after experiencing it in these pages.
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Clockers: A Novel by Richard Price