, Richard Price returns to the gritty terrain he first explored in Clockers
. This time, the fictional (but all too convincing) urban eyesore of Dempsy, New Jersey, is convulsed by a high-profile carjacking. A single mom named Brenda Martin insists that a man stopped her car, yanked her from behind the wheel, and drove off with the vehicle--and her young son. Behind these horrific facts looms another: the victim is white and the perpetrator is black. Immediately the racial calculus of American life comes to bear on the crime, which becomes a focus for long-smoldering animosities. As a three-ring circus of media, cops, and gawkers converges on the crime scene, Dempsy and the adjoining white community of Gannon seem primed for an explosion. Price passes the narrative baton back and forth between Lorenzo Council, an ambitious black detective, and Jesse Haus, a no-less-ambitious reporter for the local paper. Lorenzo's street-smart, agitated voice is the more convincing of the two. Jesse, with her frantic compulsion to squeeze local color from the crisis, never quite attains three dimensions--although her outsider's relationship to her material suggests some faint, fascinating echo of the author's. In any case, Price allows the story to proceed at an irresistible slow burn. His ear for dialogue is as sharp as ever, and nobody casts a colder or more accurate eye on our fin-de-siècle urban existence.
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in the same blasted New Jersey ghetto as his much-admired Clockers (1992), Price's first novel since that bestseller is less a sequel than a monumental complement played in minor key, a re-visitation by an author who's older, sadder, wiser. The story flows from an event drawn from headlines: Brenda Martin, a white woman, staggers bleeding into a hospital to claim that her car has been hijacked by a black man?with her four-year-old son in the backseat. The jacking allegedly occurred in the park that divides the largely black city of Dempsey from the white-dominated city of Gannon. In response, Gannon cops seal off and invade D-Town, inflaming racial tensions and attracting an army of media. As in Clockers, Price again scans urban life through two protagonists, one black, one white?here, black Dempsey cop Lorenzo Council and white local reporter Jesse Haus. As both draw close to grief-crazed Brenda, one question propels the narrative: Is she telling the truth? The answer and its violent aftermath are equally inevitable, as Price snares the surface and the substance of America caught in a slow-motion riot of racial rage. His language is street-fresh, his dialogue as if eavesdropped; his characters are soulful, flawed, dead real. Price's experience as a screenwriter (The Color of Money, etc.) shows in the predictable dramatic arc of his tale, but the novel is no less powerful for its popular bent. Within its structural confines, the story line veers in unexpected directions, with each detour bringing readers closer to Price's ultimate vision?that our nation's hope lies not in social movements but in the flame of humaneness that flickers in each of us, cop and criminal, black and white. 125,000 first printing; $175,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB alternates; first serial to the New Yorker; film rights to Scott Rudin/Paramount for $2 million; simultaneous BDD audio; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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