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Blacktop Wasteland: A Novel Kindle Edition
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New York Times Notable Book • NPR’s Best Books of 2020 • BookPage’s #1 Mystery and Suspense of 2020 • Sun Sentinel’s #1 Best Mystery of 2020 • Library Journal Best Crime Fiction for 2020 • Suspense Magazine Best of 2020 • The Guardian’s Best Crime & Thriller Novels of 2020 • BookRiot’s Best Books of 2020 • Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist • Chicago Public Library’s Best Books of 2020 • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2020 • Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 • CrimeReads The Best Novels of 2020
“A fast-paced, fresh take on noir that tears through the underbelly of Virginia.”
―New York Times
"One of the year's strongest novels. The noir story quickly accelerates and doesn’t lose speed until it careens to its finale. It’s a look at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives. Cosby invests Blacktop Wasteland with emotion while delivering a solid thriller."
“I loved Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby. The epigram tells you all you need to know about this fast-paced, bareknuckle thriller: 'Drive it like you stole it.'”
“Violence-tinged heists, muscle cars, and dead-end poverty in America generate the full-on action and evocative atmosphere in this beautifully wrought tale.”
“The year’s most celebrated crime novel, and with good reason. It’s a soaring, deeply felt, deeply propulsive tale written by an author coming into his full powers…Cosby writes beautifully of the sensations and memories that drive Bug through the night and down the empty roads toward his old life. Dread and excitement combine to create a unique sense of atmosphere, one that will keep readers pushing ahead toward a genuinely powerful conclusion.”
―CrimeReads The Best Novels of 2020
“Running through this turbocharged heist plot (think Richard Stark’s Parker novels) is a beautifully crafted and deeply poignant drama (think Walter Mosley’s Fearless Jones’ novels). This book is a stunner.”
―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2020
“The noir story brilliantly looks at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives.”
―Sun Sentinel, The Best Mystery Books of 2020, #1
“Cosby never misses a note in this high-energy read...A superb work of crime fiction, uncompromisingly noir but deeply human, too, much like Lou Berney's November Road (2018).”
―Booklist, starred review
“Blacktop Wasteland is an urgent, timely, pitch-perfect jolt of American noir. S. A. Cosby is a welcome, refreshing new voice in crime literature.”
―Dennis Lehane, bestselling author of Since We Fell and Mystic River
“Diamonds and fast cars, trailer park dreams and late night illegal street racing, S. A. Cosby reinvents the American crime novel. Black and white with bills unpaid and no exit in sight, his characters feel the pull of family and swagger with the melancholy ache of wanting to be someone. Blacktop Wasteland thrums and races―it’s an intoxicating thrill of a ride.”
―Walter Mosley, bestselling author of Trouble Is What I Do
“Sensationally good―new, fresh, real, authentic, twisty, with characters and dilemmas that will break your heart. More than recommended.”
―Lee Child, bestselling author of Blue Moon
“Cosby’s lightning-bright prose powers this magnificent tale of a heist gone wrong and a weary man’s attempts to free himself from his past.”
―Bookpage, Best Books of 2020: Mystery & Suspense, #1 pick
“For fans of: Bullitt, The Fast and the Furious and gritty Elmore Leonard-style noir…[Cosby] never lets up on the gas. The result is a high-octane, white-knuckle thriller that will have readers whipping through the pages at breakneck speed…Cosby’s tightfisted prose fuels this story with heart-pumping (and often brutal) action that begs to be adapted for the big screen but never loses its compassionate edge.”
“High-octane neo-noir thriller…The gritty, brutal narrative is complemented by the author’s sublime use of sensory description and regional imagery. In addition, the epic, jaw-dropping chase sequences that figure prominently are reason alone to read this pedal-to-the-metal but profoundly sorrowful novel. Cosby is definitely a writer to watch.”
"Beautifully wrought and worthy of envy...Call shotgun, and then buckle up. Blacktop Wasteland is a ride that will stick with you long after the engine has cooled."
"We're in Elmore Leonard land…Bug's got a conscience not typical of the thriller genre, but other than that, this novel recalls almost perfectly the classic heist thriller in the vein of Richard Stark's "Parker" novels. It'll go like hot cakes.”
―Library Journal, starred review
“Unforgettable…Cosby never takes his foot off the accelerator. He's a natural storyteller and a nimble writer. And Cosby works the magic performed by only the best noir scribes: somehow he gets readers to root for the protagonist as he commits a crime.”
―Shelf Awareness, starred review
“It’s fitting Blacktop Wasteland opens with a drag race. This is the literary equivalent of a muscle car―sleek, a little dangerous, and when it kicks into gear, you hold on for dear life. Lucky for you, Cosby is an expert wheelman.”
―Rob Hart, bestselling author of The Warehouse
“Every once in a while a writer comes along with an incredible voice. Think Elmore Leonard, or Chester Himes. With Blacktop Wasteland, add S. A. Cosby to that list.”
―Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Thirteen
“Powerful, gritty, and lyrical, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is the unflinching portrayal of a man who’s deeply aware he needs to make a better life for himself and his family, but can’t ― or won’t. This story is an emotional gut punch, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Beauregard while he’s ripping your heart out. Cosby is a mesmerizing new voice in crime fiction you won’t soon forget. This is literary noir at its finest.”
―Jennifer Hillier, award-winning author of Jar of Hearts and Little Secrets
“With Blacktop Wasteland, Anthony award-winning author S. A. Cosby cements his position as one of the leading crime fiction voices of his generation. The story crackles with a dynamically flawed main character, vivid description, unexpected reveals and dialogue so real you'd swear you were eavesdropping. I couldn't wait to finish yet never wanted the book to end at the same time. There's no doubt that Cosby is an authentic and much needed voice in today's crime fiction.”
―Kellye Garrett, Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author of The Detective by Day series
“This book shook me in the best way possible. Cosby’s gritty, powerhouse novel evokes some of the modern masters - Mosley, Pelecanos, and Lehane - with a tone and vibe that is wholly unique. Epic but also grounded and painfully relevant, Blacktop Wasteland is a crime novel for today, and S. A. Cosby is a writer we’ll be hearing from for quite some time. I loved this book.”
―Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Blackout and Miami Midnight
“Blacktop Wasteland is a guaranteed thriller-of-the-year with muscle and heart and characters who will linger long after the last page is read. S.A. Cosby writes with grit and grace. Do not miss this one.”
―Michael Koryta, bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
“There is a sweet spot in a vehicle, whether it’s a car or a book, a perfect point of harmony between torque and horsepower or character and plot―Blacktop Wasteland is that sweet spot. S. A. Cosby’s new novel reverberates with a throaty roar, pegging the needles with a welcomed strip of rubber laid down in a silk-scarf, lace-backed driving glove mystery world.”
―Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries
“Buckle up. S. A. Cosby is about to take you on a high-speed spin through the rural black south. Muscle cars, backroads racing, double crossing deals and that elusive big score. Red Hill County is my kind of place!”
―Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Revelators
“Blacktop Wasteland will let the world at large in on what the crime fiction underworld already knows: S. A. Cosby is a major, original talent. Searing, twisted and jaggedly human, this Southern noir heist novel leaves scars.”
―Jordan Harper, Edgar Award winning author of She Rides Shotgun
"A roaring, full-throttle thriller, crackling with tension and charm...Cosby immediately displays a talent for well-tuned action, raising our heart rates and filling our nostrils with odors of gun smoke and burned rubber. But the real draw here is his evocative depiction of rural Virginia and its denizens. Cosby's voice is distinctive, and he plays a sharp-tongued Virgil as we descend into the Hades of bucolic poverty."
―The New York Times Book Review
"A classic, character-driven heist tale that inhabits that world, but delivers heart-pounding entertainment."
- ASIN : B07WCYQZ4Y
- Publisher : Flatiron Books (July 14, 2020)
- Publication date : July 14, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 2123 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 305 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,450 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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BLACKTOP WASTELAND has been praised to the firmament and promoted to the farthest reaches of the universe, and while that's a lot for a novel to live up to, S.A. Cosby's crime novel deserves all of it and more. It not only affords a new angle on America from the 10,000-foot view as well as the 1-inch level, it is pure high-octane pleasure on every page, delivering familiar pleasures in fresh packaging. No need to unpack its smart authenticity about how the deck is stacked against blacks in America in 2020; that's been done better by better people, and the white man that I am can't come close to replicating, let alone improving, on their insights.
Inside, I'll take a different tack. I usually despise tropes in crime fiction, as they're often used in the service of paint-by-numbers plotting and cardboard characterizations to create a sense of commercially palatable comfort that's calculated to move units. But BLACKTOP WASTELAND is a different beast — it leans into its tropes with such sincerity and weight that they become features, not bugs. To be more specific:
— The Heist. There's not a lot here you couldn't find in, say, CHARLEY VARRICK. There's a team, and the team has a leader, a weak soldier, a more-clever-than-smart lieutenant that's holding back something unsettling about their motive, the girlfriend who can't be completely trusted, etc. Something always goes wrong; somebody always gets killed.
— One Last Job. The hero knows it's stupid to get pulled back into the life he's been trying to leave behind. But he needs the money, he feels forced into it by scary people, and whether or not he can admit it, he's addicted to the thrill of the planning and execution.
— Daddy Issues. The hero feels he has to live up to what his daddy is, or what his daddy expects of him, or what his daddy has decided he isn't capable of. He knows it's emotional stupid, but he's in the grip of it nonetheless.
— The Yappy Wife/Girlfriend. The women in male-centric crime novels are always on the sidelines, always nagging their man to do the safe but boring thing, always pummeling them with rage and tears, always threatening to leave and take the kids. They're always right, too. Except for ....
— A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do. Yes, he should walk away. But he can't. Not when he's gotta provide. Not when his manhood is being challenged or taunted. Not when his Daddy Issues dominate him. Not when he has to do One Last Job because His Past WillNever Leave Him Be. But most of all, because he needs to feel like a Man.
Alone, these tropes are usually annoying. Together, they're all but unbearable, because usually the author doesn't unpack them — they just drop them flat on the page with little explanation in the expectation that the reader will find them instantly sympathetic and thus sublime company from page to page. These are almost everywhere in the contemporary suspense/thriller moment: My Sister Was Murdered Twenty Years Ago; My High School Secret Won't Stay Buried; My New Husband and Wife Is Keeping Something From Me; I've Been Cheated Upon and Need to Start Over in My Small Hometown; Why Is the Sexy New Au Pair Looking at Me With That Sly Insinuating Smile, etc.
But S.A. Cosby doubles down them these tropes with such utter pain and sincerity that they become utterly necessary and plausible. The circumstances that lead Beauregard "Bug" Montage to decide the financial gain from a jewelry-store holdup are laid out in patient detail that should resonate with anyone struggling to keep a family maintained or a business afloat. The circumstances are so pressing and the payoff so enticing that they not only lead Beauregard to look past the loose ends of the One Last Job that threaten to pull apart the fabric of the heist plan, but the loose characters on which he has to depend. We don't learn about these unreliables in passing; we get to see the irratuonal justifications of the unreliables in their own voices.
The Daddy Issues seem decorative until they are unpacked in a flashback scene that shows, completely convincingly, how Beauregard's formative years were torn apart by the need to live up to his Daddy's reputation and the knowledge that any credible future he has depends on shedding his patriarchal skin and going straight. You can't read that scene and not understand the good and bad angels sitting on Beauregard's shoulders and shouting into his ears every waking second of every day.
And The Yappy Wife/Girlfriend trope is redeemed in the final pages: when he most needs to firmly grasp the wheel of his future and decide whether to turn one direction or the other, Beauregard stops shining on his wife and pretending to pay attention to her, and for once actually listens, and finds defining wisdom in her words. It was a brave choice that redeemed the Man's Gotta Do trope.
Much of what is being said about BLACKTOP WASTELAND will, justifiably, focus on its window into Black America, its canny empathy with economic inequality, its spotlight on systemic unfairness. But I hope some see the novel for the superiority of its craft and the sincerity with which it's practiced. These things are what gives this wonderful novel the emotional burst that engages with the story like a supercharger engages with a car at high speed. BLACKTOP WASTELAND not only fires cleanly on all cylinders, it boils the road of its genre and leaves most other crime novels still trying to get off the starting line.
If you enjoy a good simile or metaphor, try these:
“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he was meant to be.”
“When he stepped off the porch, he could feel the sun beating down on him like he owed it money.”
“He was about as useful as a white crayon.”
“What’s your name? What your mama call you when she mad?”
“The old leather in the couch smelled like tobacco that had been soaked in oil.”
“His mother was one flat tire and a bad day away from a nervous breakdown.”
“Like The King said, ambition was just a dream with a V8 engine. He was gonna ride that V8 all the way to sand by the ton and water so clear you could see the mermaid coming up to give you a kiss.”
“Horace was grinning with a smile that made him look like a jack-o-lantern that had been carved by a Parkinson’s victim.”
Hold your horses boy. I’ll be there. G**d***mosquitoes be driving trucks down there.”
The book opens with a drag race that will have you smelling burnt rubber...and ends with “other faces joined them accompanied by the squeal of tires and the shriek of bullets. Wives he had made widows.”
If Black Wasteland had been targeted at women, it’d be labeled chick lit or a beach read. As it’s written, it should be read with a non-filtered Lucky Strike and a long-neck beer! Burp!
Top reviews from other countries
As the old adage has it, after this “one last job”, Bug is going straight. That the job goes sideways in a hurry is a given. From that point onwards, the author could have taken the book in any number of directions. He plumped for his foot to the floor with a nitrous oxide injection.
Car chases like you have never read the likes of, villains so nasty that you are happy for them to be around as they are so distinctive and well imagined you want to absorb their stench as it seeps off the pages. And Bug himself. A grenade searching for its pin. Explaining the bond between a father and his son is a futile task but damn if this author doesn’t nail it.
My book of the year and then some.
The story builds up quite slowly following the drag race, as Bug and the other characters are fleshed out. Although Beauregard is a bit of a thug at times (I nearly wrote "Bug is a thug"), Cosby does a great job of making him sympathetic by showing what he really wants to be, so the reader can root for him. Once things kick off, there are some great action scenes, some which are genuinely exciting. Cosby shows off a wide range of writing skills as the reader sees the many different facets of Beauregard's life (I nearly wrote "Bug's life").
Blacktop Wasteland is a dark and gritty novel that is not for the fainthearted due its multiple explosions of violence which are explicit without ever being gratuitous. The story features a great bunch of characters who cover a wide spectrum of humanity. If you like tough tales, this comes highly recommended