- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint (May 13, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1619023075
- ISBN-13: 978-1619023079
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,638,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hop Alley: A Novel Hardcover – Unabridged, May 13, 2014
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Bill Ogden, the raffish protagonist of Phillips’ quirky western Cottonwood (2004), returns. It’s circa 1880, and, using the name Bill Sadlaw, he’s now a photographer in Denver. But by any name, he’s still a rogue, and Hop Alley is a cracking-good picaresque novel. Much of Sadlaw’s roguery is driven by glandular imperatives. Maggie, his lover in Cottonwood, has been abandoned in the utopian community of Greeley; she’s been replaced by prickly Priscilla, the kept woman of a Denver newspaper editor. She welcomes Sadlaw’s visits because he supplies her laudanum habit. The titular Hop Alley is 1880s Denver’s Chinese ghetto, torched by anti-Chinese rioters, and where Sadlaw saves an elderly Chinese man from being lynched. But Sadlaw’s urges bring additional troubles. Priscilla shoots the newspaper editor, and Sadlaw is on the run, an accessory to murder. Phillips mixes real events, period turns of phrase, a noirish sensibility, and a cast of murderous women, madmen, drunks, grifters, and fools into a wildly entertaining, perhaps sui generis, slumgullion that might well be closer to reality than readers would imagine. --Thomas Gaughan
"Phillips has a way of writing a bon vivant of the Wild West with testosterone raging without it appearing macho or obnoxious or ego centric. [...] His writing is frank, vivid and hot, but the man is rarely the aggressor. The ladies drop their drawers or veils in an instant in his presence and this is great fun to read. Phillips description is lurid, colorful and powerful. He chooses just the right details and the right amount of details so as not to clutter his sentences which flow tripingly on your tongue. It is a joy to read Phillips." Huffington Post
"Phillips’s juicy vernacular is perfect for Bill’s louche narrative voice, and his easy, flowing style suits the loose morality and freewheeling spirit of a hotheaded young nation." New York Times Book Review
"Phillips has a nice touch in using nasty characters as first-person narrators... You can’t help thinking that there’s a third novel looming, this one set in that city by the bay. Let’s hope Phillips spares us from waiting another decade for this book." The St. Louis Post Dispatch
"Phillips mixes real events, period turns of phrase, a noirish sensibility, and a cast of murderous women, madmen, drunks, grifters, and fools into a wildly entertaining, perhaps sui generis, slumgullion that might well be closer to reality than readers would imagine." Booklist
"Phillips’s skillful use of real historical events will resonate with fans of George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman series." Publisher's Weekly Starred Review
"This is fun, propulsive reading for anyone who likes historicals with a touch of mystery." &mdashLibrary Journal
Praise for Cottonwood:
Wit and gusto... Scott Phillips doesn't really write crime stories. He writes about criminal behaviorshow they originate, how they transform character, how they become part of the cultural norm and, most incisively, how they flourish in certain environments." The New York Times
"Cottonwood is an adventurous, bawdy, and genre-bending epic. Scott Phillips cements his reputation as a fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move." George Pelecanos
"Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous, and important. Cottonwood is crime fiction at its best." Michael Connelly
"Frontier Guignol in post-Civil War Kansas and California of the 1870s and 80s... [this] droll first-person narrative combines amorality with a genuine, if laid-back, joie de vivre... The blazingly original Phillips writes with a deadpan humor and incisive irony. The story is shaggy, but its unique slant on the Old West is a major achievement." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Cottonwood’s rise from frontier lawlessness to respectability sweeps along briskly, unpacking surprises at every turn Phillips’ vision adds up to an indelible portrait of a haunted town, as starkly delineated and unsparing as an antique tintype.” Entertainment Weekly
"Western epic, black comedy, and soft porn are cleverly spliced in this genre-bending offering from Phillips (The Walkaway; The Ice Harvest), which relates the experiences of Bill Ogden, sometime farmer, sometime saloon-owner, sometime photographer in 1870s Kansas. Ogden, 27, is a self-taught Greek and Latin scholar and a sexual libertine capable of seducing almost any woman he encounters. Estranged from his wife, he never brags about his peccadilloes, although it seems that his devotion to oral sex sets him apart from rivals and makes him the heart's desire of the voracious women who seem to be everywhere on the frontier. The story, such as it is, centers on the arrival of Marc Leval and his lovely wife, Maggie, in the tiny farm community of Cottonwood. Marc capriciously selects Bill as a partner in his scheme to attract Texas drovers to a railhead, while Maggie plays a less-than-discreet game of spider and fly with Bill, the Kansas Casanova. In the meantime, an outlaw family embarks on a crime spree that eventually pits Bill against Marc and sends Bill and Maggie fleeing. Jumping ahead 20 years, Bill's story resumes in San Francisco, where he is making his way as a photographer and sexual athlete. He learns that Maggie, from whom he is long separated, has returned to Cottonwood, so he abandons his life in California and returns, bent on rekindling their love affair. Bill's salaciousness rivals Don Juan's and he is utterly devoid of scruples, but his deadpan humor and cunning indifference to life's vicissitudes keep him likable. Lively pacing and artful prose lend polish to Phillips's cheerfully grotesque chronicle of western antics." Publishers Weekly
"In the always interesting, often surprising online January Magazine, Bill Crider talks about the general lack of respect paid to mysteries set in the Old West. Crider... will probably be as delighted as I am with this third book from Scott Phillips, whose first two novels set in 20th century Kansas were bleakly comic affairs connected by a brilliant link of shared history. There's a similar link in Cottonwood, but you have to wait for the epilogue to fully appreciate it. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the pleasures of Phillips' unique and pungent prose, as well as his skill and daring in moving us through a landscape that at first glance might seem to have been well-covered.... However, it's not Phillips' thoughtful, exciting plotting but rather his amazing ear for the sad sounds behind the words of his people that make his novels so exceptional." Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune
"At first glance, Phillips' third effort seems like quite a departure from his previous noirish crime novels, but it quickly becomes apparent that the author's brand of sly humor and his skilled depictions of nasty human behavior translate well to the historical genre...Romance, intrigue, dueling pistols, and a Charles Willeford feel translated to the frontier--a little something for everyone.” Booklist
"If, in his debut performance, a rookie ballplayer slams the first two pitches into the bleachers, some fans will insist he's the next Babe Ruth. ...Perhaps it's a good thing that Scott Phillips' game is crime fiction and not baseball. The Wichita native not only has hit the literary equivalent of three homers in a row with his first three novels, but each one has been a grand slam. In Cottonwood, Phillips has delivered a historical drama every bit as compelling as his acclaimed The Walkaway and The Ice Harvest. Those first two disquieting works took a sharp scalpel to the notion that denizens of the heartland are somehow less prone to violence, depravity and corruption than their brethren in the big cities. His many characters are imaginatively conceived, multi-dimensional and well worth knowing... Like the photographs Ogden takes of lynchings, scalped hunters, and slaughtered buffaloes on the prairie, Cottonwood opens our imaginations to a long-gone world that's far more intriguing and frightening than any we could have imagined.” Gary Dretzka, Chicago Sun-Times
"In a book that is as much history as mystery, Scott Phillips' Cottonwood makes the dirt streets and rough life of the Kansas prairie come alive.” Kansas City Star
Praise for Rake
"With Rake, Scott Phillips proves himself the unparalleled master of the noir anti-hero. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know, his Crandall Taylor is the quintessential American huckster on the scene, and in Phillip’s sly, deft hands we find ourselves sinking down eagerly with him, glorying in the beautiful muck." Megan Abbott
"Rake is full of vicarious pleasures for us to indulge in...from one of the most original practitioners of noir working today..a hilarious Hollywood satire, the fuck-journal of a mad man and an ingeniously twisty old-school noir along the lines of James M. Cain.” Spinetingler Magazine
Scott Phillips is an author whose books are always at the top of my reading pile. His smart prose and conscience-deprived anti-heroes turn crime fiction into social satire. His latest, Rake, further proves his talent for making noir funny With Rake, Phillips has once again created a protagonist whose voice suits his writing style. You might dislike him, if he wasn’t so cavalier and intelligent. While he gives us wild justification for his actions there exists a little hypocrisy in him, at least when he tells his tale. It’s also hard to admit we’d behave differently if we could get away with it. One could say that Scott Phillips gives us a cold look at his characters, and the film business, but the narration and the protagonist’s devil-may-care attitude give Rake a sleazy warmth. Rake is Scott Phillips at his most entertaining. His wonderfully amoral and hedonistic characters, with their scheming and trouble shooting, provide a subtle yet laughable loud look at how the US has exported its worst traits abroad.” Mystery People
The first scene in Rake is a fight. It’s not surprising that a Scott Phillips book opens with violence; he’s known for exploring the baser side of humanity with dark humor and noirish style Rake makes no bones about its main character being a bad guy. But bad guys can make for good reads, and this one does.” The Wichita Eagle
Praise for The Adjustment
"This is Wayne's story, and what makes it memorable is his hulking presence, drifting through the world as hungry and blank-eyed as a shark . . . There's something compelling about that sort of rage, about its compression, its control . . . But what draws us to the book is Phillips' taut and vicious vision, so clean we cannot help but inhabit it, even when we find ourselves repelled." The Los Angeles Times
"Written in pitch-perfect noir form." Library Journal
"Sly and worthy . . . Crime fans, especially those who favor a vivid sense of place and time, will love it." Booklist
"The author's unapologetic depiction of a thoroughly bad egg will appeal to hard-boiled fans who don't need redeeming features to become engaged with a character." Publishers Weekly
"Wayne Ogden is a prince of a fellow, as long as you judge this bad-boy protagonist of Scott Phillips’s caustic crime novel . . . according to his own perverse code of ethics." New York Times Book Review
"Phillips' novel is a brilliant work of noir, narrated in an Ogden deadpan that at times pokes the ghost of Raymond Chandler. Phillips' place of residence qualifies The Adjustment for this 'Best of St. Louis' honor, but regardless of where he chose to hang his hat, his book would rank among the best published this year." The Riverfront Times, Best Book by a Local Author
as good, if not better, than The Ice Harvest . . . Like Jim Thompson with Lou Ford, Scott Phillips successfully manipulates the reader via Wayne Ogden. He forces you to stop on the side of the road, to look at the crash, and then to get out of your car to inspect every tiny details of this twisted wreckage of a man. The Adjustment is hardboiled, hardcore, and hard to put down.” crimefictionlover.com
"Playing fast and loose with the dark side of the Greatest Generation, Scott Phillips once again creates a tight, funny noir that's rich in character, and makes the profane sacred." from Indiebound's Next Great Reads selection
Like all Phillips novels, you never know where The Adjustment is going and the storytelling is nothing less than completely compelling... [this is] the best novel that I’ve read all year.” Spinetingler Magazine
Praise for Scott Phillips
Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous and important . . . crime fiction at its best.” Michael Connelly
A fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move.” -George Pelecanos
I simply can't wait to see what Scott Phillips will do next.” -Richard Russo
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I feel about this book the way the critic Steven Whitty felt about the film "The Assassination of Jesse James," when he said it was a "...portrait of our world, as seen in a distant mirror." I've read plenty of Western sub-genre fiction, from the weird Westerns pioneered by Robert E. Howard, to the "acid Westerns" that have their ultimate expression in McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," but Phillips seems to have staked out an entirely new territory as his own, the "noir Western." And like the best writers in either the Western or noir genres, he is in rare form when describing scenes that involve sex and violence. His sharp sense of humor is also critical to making the whole thing gel.
The book is the sequel to "Cottonwood," and the open ending gives us the possibility of another novel in the series featuring the intrepid and ambivalent narrator, still on the run from the law and hopefully to return soon.
Who edited this collection of outtakes from a story that's wandering about out there somewhere?
How can talent disappear so abruptly?
Hop Alley takes place in the 1870s and features Bill Ogden, now using the name Bill Sadlaw. Bill is an interesting character whose moral compass is a bit askew. His exploits were vividly described in Cottonwood. But that novel notably left a 17 year gap in Bill's life unaddressed. Hop Alley helps the reader understand some of what took place during those unaccounted for years.
Set in Nebraska and Colorado, Hop Alley is narrated by Mr. Sadlaw himself. He now works exclusively as a photographer (evidently a burgeoning field at that time) and is an avid reader of the classics. The West depicted in this genuinely funny book is full of depravity of all kinds as various characters struggle for survival in a largely lawless environment.
Scott Phillips's ability to tell interesting stories while transcending time is once again evident in Hop Alley. Highly recommended.