I don’t do a lot of reviews on this blog, but this reminds me that I really should do more.
I just finished reading Blacktop Wasteland by Shawn Cosby. I received a free electronic copy provided by the publisher (Flatiron Books) and this is my honest review.
I’ve known Shawn for only a short while. I first met him at a local “Noir At The Bar” event where we were both sharing readings for the crowd. I told my wife at the time I thought he was the best writer there. Now that I’ve finally read Blacktop Wasteland, I’m happy to report that my first impression was right on the money.
To say I liked Blacktop Wasteland would be an understatement. I loved it. The book is crime fiction and it is a gritty and realistic example of that genre. I write mostly mysteries. These two genres are cousins, and they both give the reader a peek at similar issues, but each uses a different focus. My experience with mysteries provided a good backdrop for enjoying this story because so many aspects of it were sub-mysteries of their own.
Cosby waltzes around plot structures in both standard and unique ways, the way Fred Astaire could dance an amazing solo, but then pull a mop into the mix and make you think the mop was dancing just as well as he was. Cosby makes effective use of flashbacks as well, and they weave in and out of the story the way Beauregard weaves in and out of the mess he has made for himself.
I am wary to share too many details because I in no way want to spoil this story for you, but in short, Beau has done his best to put a criminal past behind him and forge a family life on the straight and narrow. But the universal truth “life is hard” rears its ugly head and he figures just one more “job” might provide the easy money he needs to right his ship for clear sailing.
Then another more pertinent universal truth pops up: there is no such thing as “easy money.” It’s a deep well and Cosby effectively plumbs the depths of that well just until you think it can’t go any deeper, but you have to keep feeding the line because neither he nor Beau has reached the bottom yet.
Blacktop Wasteland is fast-paced and the plot employs a sinister intricacy that slides into your brain the way your feet can slide into a comfortable pair of old slippers. But don’t get too relaxed … you will need to strap on your reading comprehension hat real tight because even the tiniest of details may pop up to surprise you later. Cosby zinged me in this way several times and even made me laugh out loud more than once.
Be warned, the book is about lowlife individuals who lurk on the dark edges of society, so there is a bit a language, but I thought he used a measured amount that fit the dialogue. It’s a crime thriller so there’s violence too. If you are turned off by either of these I’d have to say, everything fits the story and this story is well worth reading on so many other levels. At the least, you should revel in experiencing this breakout novel of a gifted writer.
As a writer myself, I want to hate Shawn because I don’t need this kind of competition, but I can’t hate him, not at all, simply because I love his insight and skill so much. Look for Blacktop Wasteland in mid-July. If you can catch him reading at a bookstore or a local “Noir At The Bar” — catch him there, his readings are not to be missed. I’ll finish by just saying: WOW! Just WOW! A well-deserved Five Stars!
I’m sure it will be sold all over the place but an Amazon link is easiest right now … put this on your TBR list. Blacktop Wasteland.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. His most recent novel, THE HAG RIDER, is available at Amazon. Be on the lookout for his mystery thriller PENUMBRA, coming in August.