Money can’t fix it and love can’t tame it. Push it down deep and it rots you from the inside out.
Blacktop Wasteland features a familiar crime noir trope: A man formally connected to a life of crime is trying to live an honest life and raise a family. When times get tough, he returns to what he knows he’s good at to turn a sizable profit, hoping this will be a one-and-done job. He might think he can leave the life but the life doesn’t want to let go.
We know this story, right?
But you don’t know this story.
Immediately upon starting this book, I recognized the telltale signs of a character-driven story for the sake of emotional investment.
I’m an emotional reader.
I approach my reads with my heart on my sleeve and a willingness to surrender it easily. This book made it clear, right away, I was signing up to have my feelings wrecked and I wasn’t angry about it. I was ready, eagerly anticipating the journey to destruction.
The first neon sign was the main protagonist, Beauregard “Bug” Montage. I like Bug. He’s street smart and savvy. He’s been with his wife since they were kids and now they have kids of their own; a dedicated family man with a solid work ethic but with this wise-ass, “take-no-shit” persona as a remnant from his previous lifestyle.
S.A. Cosby does an excellent job bringing the reader into Bug’s day-to-day schedule and pulling back the curtain on his personal life so that we can share in his intimate relationships with his mama, his wife, and kids and his extended family and friends.
There’s also some seriously developed backstory as Cosby deals with themes of generational addictions: fathers passing on their self-destructive behaviors to their sons and so on and so on.
Like all good crime noir dramas, the stage is set for conflict.
There’s no right or wrong here. There is only gray area as readers are forced to ask themselves, what would you do if you were forced to choose between a rock and a hard place? Thankfully, Bug is a complex, fully-fleshed out individual who makes some decisions that readers will choose to agree or disagree with; either way, you want Bug to be successful, which is a true sign of the author’s authenticity to the human condition.
The narrative goes from zero to sixty. It is exhilarating and nerve wracking.
Did the author deliver on the emotional wreckage I assumed was coming for me? Yes. Was it what I expected? No. This story is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, victories, and losses. It’s one of those crime dramas that leaves a lasting impact on your mood much like a Dennis Lehane or James Ellroy novel. I carried around a heaviness in my heart for quite some time after I turned the last page.
I recommend this book for those who are looking to read adrenaline-pumping heist stories, intense car chases (some of the best driving scenes since I watched the movie Drive), good guys that act like bad guys and bad guys with heart, Black authors telling their own stories and just a damn good story told by a damn good writer.