Blacktop Wasteland, by S. A. Cosby.
This is a story-and-a-half! I haven’t read anything as raw, explosive and hugely exciting since last year’s collection of stories by the great Don Winslow. Well, Don now has a worthy rival for the king of Crime Noir, assuming that ‘Blacktop Wasteland’s’ debut is eventually followed by a successor of the same dazzling quality. Fingers crossed.
In Virginia, black former Wheelman for various crims Beauregard Montage is feeling overwhelmed: overwhelmed by debt as he tries to stay away from his former associates where the big, easy money is so that he can look after his beloved wife and children legitimately. He and his cousin Kelvin have started a repair shop because Beauregard’s talent for car mechanics is legendary (not to mention his driving skills – he has saved so many colleague’s black asses in his disappeared Daddy’s old getaway car that he’s the Go-To man for those considering any kind of heist) but he can’t compete with a new garage that has opened in town and is undercutting him on everything. Add to that his poisonous old Mama’s bills for her nursing home and Beauregard feels like he’s drowning. His wife Kia wants him to sell his father’s car which is still worth a lot of money, but it’s all that Beauregard has left of his Daddy – nope, can’t do it.
Instead he takes up an offer from white-trash piece-of-shit (No exaggeration!) Ronnie Sessions to be the Wheelman and strategist for a jewellery heist in a mall not too far away, despite the fact that he did another job with Ronnie and it all turned bad, with everyone lucky to escape from the law – and he never got paid. Ronnie owes him bigtime, and Beauregard is desperate enough to give him another chance. With the proviso that Ronnie and his mouth-breather brother Reggie will be doomed if they fail him.
And they do. In the robbery an innocent man is killed, and it soon becomes abundantly clear that the jewellery store was a front for other, bigger criminal activities – and those bigger crims are now coming for the little ones. Beauregard has hurled himself straight out of the frying pan and into a huge fire, a fire which threatens not only him, but all his loved ones.
There are no happy endings in this stunning book, and beneath the bloodshed and violence is Beauregard’s own halting explanation of his divided nature: ‘ ‘It’s a curse, is what it is. Money can’t fix it and love can’t tame it. Push it down deep and it rots you from the inside out. Give in to it and you end up doing five years in some hellhole. Violence is a Montage family tradition.’ ‘ Well said, Beauregard. SIX STARS!