Add one part 70s revenger thriller with two parts 80s buddy cop actioneer. Wet it all down with the in-your-face turmoil of the 2020s. Shake that bad boy all up to get Razorblade Tears, a drink saltier than a margarita on Cabo and more masculine than ice cold PBR on draft.
Razorblade Tears is more than a hard-boiled follow up to S.A. Cosby’s celebrated Blacktop Wasteland. This is Cosby’s declaration. A statement that the racial divide in America is as wide as ever and a plea for this gap to close before everyone is swallowed within. Cosby gets intimate in showing a hurt world through Black eyes while trying to understand what is possible through white. Screaming that life is rough. Believing love can be stronger than all colors. And he does it through the tears, the fists, the rage, and strong backs of Ike and Buddy Lee – stubborn ex-cons who share the bond of fatherhood.
Ike “Riot” Randolph. One-time Black God enforcer. Now married and a successful small-business owner. Buddy Lee Jenkins. A redneck slacker whose life has been divided by the gray of prison and the silver of his single-wide. When their sons are brutally murdered, Ike and Buddy Lee decide to make amends. You see, each son was loved. But each son was also rejected.
You ready for the kicker? Cause here it comes.
Ike’s son, Isiah? Buddy Lee’s Derek? They were married to each other. In doing so became the shame of their fathers. For Ike and Buddy Lee, theirs is a world where Black is black and White is white. Nothing else matters. Right? They don’t understand the pride of the modern world where love has no gender. What they do know is how to fight.
When the police investigation stalls, Ike and Buddy Lee decide to go all Southern Noir and they fight.
They also learn as their quest of justice, or at least revenge, leads to truth. Truth that their love for their sons should not dictate who they slept with. Ike comes to understand there is a lot of gray between those tonal extremes. Buddy Lee realizes that Ike’s plight, a Black ex-con living in the South, comes with neon badges of danger that is as foreign to his white prejudiced upbringing as a that of a college education. And, naturally, they discover the real reason for the murder of their sons.
Ike’s dialogue tends to get repetitive yet it is Cosby who evidently wants such sentiments accepted. Exaltations that Black Lives Matter are continuously voiced yet unless watered those airings will become as parched as the restless desert. Cosby plays gardener to those seeds and masterfully wraps that thesis in gleaming chrome, ebony knuckles, and tears so sharp they’ll cut ya.
Cosby writes with a pulpy style relishing the contemporary while honoring the genre. The hard edges of Chandler and Cain are chased down with Lehane’s refinement while everything is smoothed over with some Mosley style. And any of the action that might have taken a backseat in Blacktop Wasteland is now behind the driver’s seat with the windshield shattered and the tachometer redder than Frank’s hot sauce.
As with Bug Montage in Blacktop Wasteland, Ike and Buddy Lee strive to be better men. To make amends for the future. To settle up with their karma of the past. Cosby’s heart bleeds on the page and every drop deserves to be caught. For out of that blood comes change and something even fiercer – redemption.
Let’s hear it for Flatiron Books who sent me the free preview. And believe it, I will be purchasing additional copies for gifts.