Friday, August 15, 2008

Neighborhood Crime

I have a guilty pleasure – cop shows. I love them all – Hill Street Blues, Law and Order, Homicide, NYPD Blue, even the dirty cops in The Shield. But my absolute favorite is The Wire, because of its wonderful actors and incredible writing. So when I began to hear interviews with Richard Price, one of the show's writers, I was immediately interested. And Price does a great interview. He sounds like one of his characters, with his New York accent, laconic style and street slang language. I've seen several of the movies for which he wrote the screenplays – my favorite is “Sea of Love” - but I'd never read any of his novels. I guess I always thought they might be a little too gritty for my tastes. But I decided to try his latest book – Lush Life.

I was hooked immediately. Yes, there are cops – Sergeant Matty Clark and his partner Detective Yolonda Bello. Also perps and vics and eyewits and the occasional innocent bystander. The action takes place on the Lower East Side and the geography is described so specifically you can find it on google maps. It's an area that combines housing projects and hipster hangouts. Clark is investigating a homicide that occurred when these two cultures collided. On one level it's the standard story of cops using old fashioned investigative procedures to solve a crime. But the story ripples out from the crime itself. Eric Cash, a restaurant manager with screenwriter aspirations, is a witness to the crime who becomes the cops' chief suspect when his account of his actions proves less than reliable. Price's description of Eric's interrogation helps you understand how innocent people sometimes end up confessing to crimes they didn't commit. The victim's father, Billy Marcus, seems to lurch in and out of scenes, careening from grief to anger to depression as he tries to make sense of his loss. Matty Clark, while dealing with the crime, the mourning family and the frustrations of police bureaucracy, also struggles with his own role as a father.

Price has a great ear for dialogue. You can open to almost any page and read sharp, raw and often very funny exchanges, all with perfect pitch. And his descriptions of various denizens of this Lower East Side neighborhood, from the Chinese immigrants to the hipster bartenders to the wannabe gangsters, are vivid and honest. So even if you don't share my love of cop stories, there's a lot you'll admire about Richard Price's terrific novel.

If you'd like to hear his Fresh Air interview click here and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Charlotte

    The Shield is my favorite, but I'll try the Wire. Lush Life sounds like something the library might have on CD's.