Wednesday, January 18, 2023

4. Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

I read Cosby's second book, Razorblade Tears, last year and given his success, knew I would run across a copy of his first book eventually.  I found the paperback in a free shelf in Berkeley.  I loved the first one, where Cosby manages to make a hardcore yet work hard-boiled crime book.  Really impressive.  Blacktop Wasteland was equally enjoyable, though more straightforward as a crime novel.  It still gets innovation credit for being from a modern African-American perspective (though I know there is a significant literary community of Black crime writers who are read mainly by other Black people; so maybe I should qualify Cosby's innovation as having succeeded in poking into the mainstream, white reading crime-reading public).  

The story here is about Beauregard "Bug"  Montage, a father and husband in Virginia who runs a struggling garage with financial pressure all around him.  He wants to be legit, but his past in the Life becomes his only option.  He is also a really good driver and has a bad ass souped up duster.  Against his better judgement, he takes on an escape job for a diamond heist at a local jewelry store.  Of course, shit goes pear-shaped (why would a strip mall jewelry store be holding millions in uncut diamonds?) and Bug has to bring all his skills to save himself and his family.  

At first, I was questioning my enjoyment of these kinds of books.  I was so sympathetic with Bug and stressed about how it was going to go bad for him, that I couldn't really enjoy the heist.  One of Cosby's skills, though, is developing the American criminal milieu in the globalist era.  Once the heist goes down, we start to see all the machinations behind the jewelry store and get a bunch of scary higher-level bad guys up to all kinds of shenanigans.  This is fun.  Furthermore, like a getaway car, the story keeps accelerating.  I stayed up way past my bed time finishing the book. 

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