Here’s a thing I love as a reader: When you read a novel by a writer new to you, and it’s so good you immediately start another by the same author. That happened to me with S.A. Cosby. I finished Blacktop Wasteland and began Razorblade Tears that same night.

Here’s another thing I love as a reader: When a writer takes a trope dear to your heart and redefines it, does it so well that all other authors thereafter must acknowledge it. Again, that happened for me with S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland, the trope in this case being the criminal gone straight who gets pulled back in for one last job, for the sake of his family.

Cosby takes that premise and dips it in blood and engine oil. At one time Beauregard “Bug” Montage was the best wheelman in the south, having learned the trade from his father, and all-around bad man who ran out on his family, leaving behind his car and a gaping hole in his heart.

Now Bug is a mechanic and family man, but business is tough and money is tight. When a “can’t miss” jewelry store heist presents itself, he decides to get behind the wheel one more time. Needless to say, shit goes south, betrayals abound, and bullets fly.

Blacktop Wasteland is a white-knuckled ride filled with memorable set-pieces and even more memorable characters. Cosby orchestrates the violence like a virtuoso, with a staccato rhythm to his prose that moves the story along at breakneck speed. He has a special gift for describing motor vehicles with precision, from their inner workings to the thrill that comes from being the best at driving them at top speed, on the bleeding edge of control.

Bug is a father, a son, and a husband, and he examines all those relationships, the good and the bad, with heartbreaking honestly.

Cosby writes crime fiction with a style all his own. Blacktop Wasteland is a must-read, and a couple of chapters in, I’m confident that I’ll say the same thing about Razorblade Tears.

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