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The Smack: Gritty and gripping LA noir Paperback – 12 July 2018
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Lange is an expert writer, his prose exact, his narrative tightly controlled...Petty may be a world-weary 40-year-old con man, but his character brings a fresh point of view to the world of noir L.A. Whatever he's selling, it's worth buying., LA Times
Lange is a writer of clean and easy prose, and he's strong at structuring a narrative that builds toward an ever tightening climax. The Smack adds up to one of the nicer surprises of the season, Toronto Star
Lange's morality tales are not that far removed from the classic stories of O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant. With a distinctive style, Lange makes his downbeat tales of the underclass quirkily entertaining., Kirkus
Richard Lange's stories are a revelation. He writes of the disaffections and bewilderments of ordinary lives with as keen an anger and searing lyricism as anybody out there today. He is Raymond Carver reborn in a hard cityscape. Read him and be amazed. -- T.C. Boyle
[A] riveting, violent caper, Wall Street Journal
The kind of book you'll want to savour, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
With all the dexterity of Thomas Perry, Lange walks the thin line between caper novel and blood-splattered noir, leading up to a rip-roaring finale. This fine piece of tragicomic crime fiction sets up like a stand-alone, but we'd sure like to see more., Booklist
If Elmore Leonard and Dennis Cooper collaborated on a novel, they might produce something as exciting, harrowing and emotionally powerful as The Smack. Call it a literary thriller or call it thrilling literature - Richard Lange is emerging as the master of a new kind of novel: One that delivers breathless, gripping action while anchored in the authentic troubles of the real world. The Smack arrives like a genuine miracle - that rare thriller that will jack your pulse even as it breaks your heart. -- Adam Sternbergh, author of Shovel Ready
A natural-born storyteller -- Ron Rash
What makes this collection a wonderful read is it's only marginally akin to anything else. Swift, gut wrenching, and sometimes cleverly disarming fiction by a master -- Joe R. Lansdale
In this breezy page-turner, Lange shows off his uncommon ability to combine toughness and tenderness., Kirkus
Like his protagonist, Dashiell Hammett Award winner Lange knows how to reel in his audience with a seductive story and plenty of misdirection. There's nothing criminal, however, about this rollicking, diamond-cut thriller shot through with elegance and heart., Library Journal, starred review
The man just keeps getting better. The stories in Sweet Nothing traffic in the vagaries of the human heart, those wants and needs that push us down dark paths. His vision is steely-eyed, yet you sense that Lange loves his characters - even the worst of them - and that compassion sharpens your own emotional investment. -- Craig Davidson
Lange is a master at writing about characters on the margins of society and humanizing outcasts and misfits, and he manages to capture the surreal culture of Los Angeles in all its contradictory glory., Publishers Weekly
The Smack just might be Mr. Lange's best yet, and that's saying something. His Los Angeles tableau of concrete and graffiti and neon is as sharp as razor wire. The characters are authentic down to the bone, the dialogue pitch-perfect believable, the desperation palpable, the situation urgent, the story riveting. Simply put, The Smack wallops you upside the head with its bad-ass-ness. -- Tom Cooper, author of The Marauders
It's hard to imagine Richard Lange wasn't, in some previous life, a hustler from Reno with a girlfriend named Tinafey he met on a professional date who goes to LA to steal a fortune from a one-legged soldier home from Afghanistan and a host of other terrifying individuals. The characters are real and satisfying, the relationships will warm your heart and break it at the same time. The Smack is convincing, hectic and terrific fun. -- Joe Ide, author of IQ
The Smack is much more than a crime novel. It is a novel about life itself. The secret to great writing isn't just to observe. It's to create a world that readers understand at least as well as they do their own. Richard Lange has accomplished this, and more. His sensitivity and pacing are reminiscent of Raymond Carver, Charles Willeford, and Jim Thompson. -- Gerald Petievich, author of To Live and Die in L.A. and The Sentinel
The Smack is an exercise in finely pitched writing, and the kind of noirish tale you relish even as you dread turning the page to get closer to its conclusion., Crimetime
- Publisher : Mulholland Books; 1st edition (12 July 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1444790064
- ISBN-13 : 978-1444790061
- Dimensions : 18.8 x 2.2 x 20.2 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 625,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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With similar themes to his two previous novels,The Smack is an entertaining read where the pace never slows,as desperate people do desperate things for money.
My favourite line,
' Don't write a cheque with your mouth that your ass can't cash.'
pretty much sets the tone of the whole thing.
The main protagonist Rowan Petty would have worked better for me if he had a darker edge to him........
but I ain't cashin' a cheque.
He takes a lot of crime fiction archetypes and turns them on their head. The plot moves fast, slows down into a character study at times with entertaining detours, then goes wherever you least expect it. His dialogue rings true, so do the characters behind the words.
With this book he is making a claim for greatness alongside Don Winslow, Kem Nunn, Newton Thornburg and others who have done the Californian crime genre at its best. I was planning on savouring this one but ended up tearing through it over the weekend instead.
Rowan Petty, when we meet him, is not having what one could call a lucky streak. Indeed, while he's sourly commenting on the washed-up family friend who wants to meet with him, it's not hard to see that Petty resents him for fear that he'll become this man: a laughing-stock, a bad-luck totem who's constantly begging for scraps. So his first instinct, of course, is to laugh off this supposed dream job - a bunch of money smuggled back by Army soldiers defrauding the government over in the Middle East. But the more he sniffs around, the better the deal sounds, and the more his old conman instincts want to kick in. And all that is before a pair of women enter into his life - one new, one old - that give him a reason and a motivation to get out of the game.
All of this could be old-hat, easily. But in Lange's hands, The Smack comes to live, turning Petty from an archetype (or a cliche, if you're feeling less generous) and into something richer - someone we really care about. There's no reason that we should get invested in a relationship between a con man and a prostitute who's named herself after Tina Fey, but somehow, it works, giving us a bond between two people who've given up on ever finding a connection to someone that's not about money. It's fraught stuff, one that treads on complicated emotional dynamics, but it comes together beautifully, making me genuinely concerned as to whether these two people can make this unlikely connection work.
That's more important than the story itself, in terms of making The Smack work, but that story is no slouch either. With corrupt soldiers, a slew of cons ranging from small to large, and a lived-in sense of what the underworld looks like, The Smack's story is a gripping tale of double-crosses, theft, deception, and some very dangerous men willing to do anything for that money - pure noir tropes, sure, but done with style and grace, and a sense of stakes that's hard to match. Writing a complicated set of heists and cons is one thing; making me genuinely concerned not just that the cons will work, but that these people will come out emotionally okay on the other end - that's far more impressive, and the thing that really made The Smack so great for me.
The foundation of the storyline sits squarely in the Afghan war--a grim reminder of how much that conflict has cost the country is lives, treasure and political judgement. There is little sympathy for the characters who are wounded in various ways by the war experience and other travails of life. The anti-hero/protagonist (an aging grifter who's lost his edge) could not be further away from the concept of war hero. The whole novel rests on the pursuit of ill-gotten gains by some dubious (at best) and truly evil (at worst) folks.
"The Smack" is certainly well written, but it could have been a better novel with a bit more redemption for some of its characters built in.