The Whites is the electrifying debut of a new master of American crime fiction, Harry Brandt--the pen name of novelist Richard Price.
Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-'90s, when Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an anticrime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a 10-year-old boy while stopping an angel-dusted berserker in the street. Branded as a cowboy by his higher-ups, for the next 18 years Billy endured one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early 40s, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant on the Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all nighttime felonies from Wall Street to Harlem.
Night Watch usually acts as a setup crew for the day shift, but when Billy is called to a 4:00 a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, his investigation of the crime moves beyond the usual handoff. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a 12-year-old boy--a brutal case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese--the bad old days are back in Billy's life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family.
Richard Price, one of America's most gifted novelists, has always written brilliantly about cops, criminals, and New York City. Now, writing as Harry Brandt, he is poised to win a huge following among all those who hunger for first-rate crime fiction.
"...Fliakos meticulously delivers each voice with full, rich characterizations. It's no surprise that he continues to win awards for his narrations." (AudioFile)
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You think you can write?
Richard Price sets the high water mark in genre
I bought this novel INSTANTLY as soon as I saw it. I began listening within a couple hours. Even then I didn’t know just how much I wanted a novel like this. There are so few that hit a sweet spot like this one does. Escapist but also authentic. Unsentimental about humanity’s ugliness but revealed with the grace of poetry. Grown ups playing cops and robbers all in a way if feels new.
I won’t talk much about the story itself since you probably read the synopsis already.
First, I love Richard Price. I know his collaborations with Spike Lee and John McNaughton (not to mention his contributions to Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire) as much as from the couple other novels of his that I read. But it was his movies that drew me to him. Clockers especially. I never read the novel version. If there is a big difference, let’s say The Whites: A Novel represents the Spike Lee Clockers version of Richard Price, particularly as this novel would go nicely as a companion piece to Clockers given the latter has elements from 1990s NYC.
The Whites feels like a pilot of a TV series in some ways. I didn’t understand the “Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt” thing, which seems bizarre to me, until I started thinking maybe that’s Prices way of saying this *is* a pilot for him. The start of a series of novels pulpier than his usual and churned out with the regularity of John D. MacDonald and Lee Child. I would love that. Maybe Harry Brandt is Price’s way of telling his fans not to expect Freedomland (thankfully).
Don’t misunderstand, The Whites is a smart, well written and considered story. But it is pulp. It’s kind of like a great, more action oriented episode of The Wire. If you know the Wire, then that’s probably as good a way to explain the flavor of this thing as there is. Except this one isn’t about “reporting” and probably won’t resonate with you as a deeply personal level.
It’s not just a procedural story. it has poetry. Homicide detectives are Richard Price’s poets and the job, the city, are their muse. Justice for victims of cases that haunt them might save their souls or damn then. They’re past the point of knowing the difference or caring for the worst off of them.
Like I said, I think this novel is a “pilot.” I think this story will go on. I hope to see the Wild Geese again. Maybe a visit from characters we saw in Clockers. I’d love that.
I love noirish stories. Frankly though there are only two guys who get it absolutely right time and again. Dennis Lehane. And Richard Price.
- Bradley P. Valentine "Ears picking up the slack so my eyes can work."