Samuel L. Jackson’s final scene in Pulp Fiction features his character, Jules, confronting a lowlife thief; a junkie who is as crazy as he is nervous. Jules is a hardened contract killer who could easily take out the dude and get back to chowing down on his eggs before his coffee got cold. His wallet? Leather proof of such bad-assery. Instead, Jules is attempting to turn his life around. He is struggling to getting out The Life and get on with life. He is through with the tyranny of evil and wishes to shepherd the weak. He’s trying real hard yet knows this fight is a futile one.
Author S.A. Cosby introduces Beauregard “Bug” Montage. A husband. A father. A mechanic. And the best wheel man in the South. As with Jules, Beauregard seeks to exit The Life. He’s an adult. He has responsibilities. But man, The Life is a mainlined drug for which there is no cure and with zero chance of turning away.
Blacktop Wasteland is crime fiction noir that guns away at The Life like a muscle car with an open throttle on an endless highway.
Blacktop Wasteland is about dealing with those carefree ramifications. How Beauregard, a fatherless black man, looks to break the criminal cycle in order to better care for his children. About the difficulties in making that choice. About how tempting, how foolishly easy, being in The Life looks. And Cosby creates one helluva a deep character.
Beauregard is a man who loves his life, but the weight of constant bills and an aggravating mother dying in a nursing home does not present an adrenaline kick that driving at 110 with flashing red-and-blues on your tail offers. As the responsibilities of life pile up, Beauregard turns back to The Life for that One Final Job. The Job that will help him provide for his family. The Job that ultimately, because of course it does, will have disastrous ramifications.
Hired as a getaway driver for an in-and-out diamond store heist, Beauregard ends up taking the wheels behind the entire op unaware of the betrayal planned for him – the cost of working with a cowardly and superstitious lot – and the risks to his family. Beauregard must deal with the beast within when all he wants to do is drive. Cosby masterfully expresses the joy Beauregard feels when in the driver’s seat. That joy is what makes any life worthwhile. For a heist-oriented crime novel it is the chase that is fun.
There should have been more of that joy.
Blacktop Wasteland has Beauregard Montage behind the wheel racing from cops, the hillbilly mafia, and, unfortunately, his family. Cosby is aces in setting up the man within only to tear him down. In building character blocks ready for the wrecking ball. Cosby has Beauregard constantly struggling with a pre-determined destiny.
But Bug? He is trying hard to be the shepherd.
Aces to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for making Blacktop Wasteland available. Definitely looking forward to reading more from Cosby.