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The Ice Harvest: A Novel Paperback – October 30, 2001
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Scott Phillips' sketch of a crooked lawyer on the lam is amusingly ironic: though there's violence aplenty in the novel--including a morbidly comic finger-breaking scene starring Spencer, a philosophical bouncer at the Sweet Cage, one of the strip clubs Charlie oversees for Bill Gerard--this is Waiting for Godot rather than Goodfellas. Phillips masterfully sets up the reader's expectations for action and adventure, dropping cryptic hints about Charlie's past, present, and future, then gleefully keeps Charlie in a holding pattern, circling from one strip club to another, from bars to massage parlors to his former in-laws' house.
But when the world isn't scripted by Beckett, all waiting games must come to an end. Charlie's gamble--it would be cheating to tell you more than that it involves a little cocaine, a beautiful woman of indeterminate origin, a Christmas package full of cash, and an embarrassing photograph--pays off, and he heads out of town. How far does he get? Well, that's another story--and another opportunity for Phillips to show off the mordant humor that may brand him as the Cohen brothers' literary heir apparent. In his hands, Kansas doesn't seem far at all from Fargo. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Like many others I first became aware of this novel because of the John Cusack-Billy Bob Thornton movie version. Screenwriters Robert Benton and Richard Russo came up with some memorably witty dialogue and fleshed out some of the characters like Thornton's Vic, Oliver Platt as Charlie's drunken buddy, and Randy Quaid's scary gangster. But uncertain and meandering direction caused the tension to slacken. Worse, rather than the book's swift decent into hell, the filmmakers imply that Charlie's ordeal has finally made a man out of him, which is a serious misreading of the novel. And they tacked on a ridiculous "happy" ending instead of Phillips' bitter surprise coda.
So stick with the novel. The blurbs on the hardcover edition compare it to James Crumley, Jim Thompson, and James M. Cain. High praise indeed, but "The Ice Harvest" certainly earns it.
It's a very slight work, both in terms of length and plot. Clocking in at barely 200 pages, it tells the tale of a mob lawyer about to hit the road after scamming a large amount of money. The story is old but the way Phillips tells it is fresh and new. He doesn't insult the reader by spelling everything out up front; he lets the story unfold leisurely as the lawyer, preparing to leave, makes his way around town on a bitter cold Christmas Eve. What I found refreshing is that Phillips doesn't spell out every character in terms of who he or she is; he lets you discover it. People pop up, their relationship to the lawyer is unclear, names are tossed out and the reader isn't sure who they are, but at the end it all makes perfect sense. In other words, Phillips is an author who has respect for the intelligence of his audience. His writing is crisp and the atmosphere he creates is vivid. You feel like you know the characters and their milieu; everything seems real.
As in most noir fiction, no one is what you would call an upstanding citizen but Phillips makes you care about all of them. And the final denouement, which I have to admit I didn't see coming, left me smiling; it felt just right. It is so refreshing, after having recently read a James Patterson novel, to find an author who cares about such things as plot, characterization, and atmosphere. This is an excellent piece of work, highly recommended.
The first part of the book has an authentically Jack Webbian feel for low-rent lowlife, taking us on an amusing tour of the skanky, pathetic underworld of a place like Wichita, where only a few regulars manage to keep the hot spots from closing up by 8:00 (though there's some hope of business picking up once church gets out). You're just about thinking that you've seen enough of that when Phillips drops the ax with a loud, wet thud, and then it's a breathless ride to grisly disaster for everyone Charlie Arglist meets. Christmas Eve proves to be a wonderfully mordant backdrop for the mayhem this book perpetrates, the one night that a sleepy place like Wichita is even more somnescent, and by the time that Charlie is disturbing a small child by rifling a Christmas tree in the wee hours of the morning, you know you've found the noir Christmas fable to serve as the antidote to all the Grinch-mania and commercial cheer that's about to descend on us. Ho ho ho, indeed.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Maybe it's just me but I found 'Ice Harvest', both the book and movie, confusing and difficult to follow, although basically the book is OK. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Andrea M Hebert
Saw the movie first and it is really good. The book is wonderful.Published 6 months ago by k popkos
Gritty, real characters. Quick moving plot that kept me involved and wanting to know who does what next during the entire read.Published on January 20, 2014 by Howard Levinson
In a grimy Wichita bar with a nodding-off drunk and a determinedly oblivious barmaid. Where else could you possibly want to be on Christmas Eve? Read morePublished on May 2, 2012 by jonathan briggs
The author tries to shock you with a lot of disgusting language and characters, but he simply bores you with a terrible plot that follows a drunken drug pusher through multiple... Read morePublished on March 2, 2012 by J. Christensen
The Ice Harvest is a rare gem - a contemporary mystery that captures the magic of 1950s noir. The novel concerns Charlie Arglist, an alcoholic Wichita, Kansas, attorney who has... Read morePublished on September 18, 2011 by stoic
The book settles early into a nice, readable pace. Details paid out a bit at a time. The weather and mood are foreboding, growing steadily darker towards dawn. Read morePublished on August 8, 2011 by Christopher Pimental
I sat down to read this before a nap, and next thing I know I'd finished it. It's a short book, but really, Phillips is one of those rare writers who draws you in without you even... Read morePublished on November 2, 2010 by Jimmy Callaway
When I read all the reviews on the book jacket, saying this novel was a great innovation in the noir genre and equaled the works of James M. Read morePublished on July 2, 2010 by M. Drudzinski