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Blacktop Wasteland
by S.A. Cosby
Review

My thanks go out to the lovely Claire, representing Flatiron Books, for inviting me to review this book.

An extra thank you also, to the lovely NetGalley team, for their seamless download procedures.

BLACKTOP WASTELAND

Cover image of the book 'Blacktop Wasteland' by author S.A. Cosby

“A searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime”

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets.

When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Cover image of the book 'Blacktop Wasteland' by author S.A. Cosby

S.A. COSBY

Im age of author S.A. CosbyShawn A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia, who majored in English at Christopher Newport University and now resides in Gloucester, Virginia.

His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. His short story The Grass Beneath My Feet won the Anthony award for best short story in 2019. He is also the author of My Darkest Prayer and Brotherhood of the Blade.

His writing is influenced by his experiences as a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager and for six hours a mascot for a major fast food chain inside the world’s hottest costume.

When Shawn isn’t crafting tales of murder and mayhem, he assists the dedicated staff at J.K. Redmond Funeral home, as a mortician’s assistant.

He is an avid hiker and is also known as one hell of a chess player.

Follow Shawn on Twitter

Connect with Shawn on Facebook

Cover image of the book 'Blacktop Wasteland' by author S.A. Cosby

OPENING LINE

“Beauregard thought the night sky looked like a painting.”

Cover image of the book 'Blacktop Wasteland' by author S.A. Cosby

MEMORABLE LINES

“A choir of crickets and whippoorwills tried in vain to be heard. Beauregard closed his eyes and strained his ears. He could hear them but just barely. They were screaming for love. He thought a lot of people spent a large part of their life doing the same thing.”

.

“A mistake is a lesson, unless you make the same mistake twice.”

.

“Ella Montage was not an easy woman to love but seeing the reality of her fragility pierced him in places that were soft and frightened. It was like someone had shot him in the stomach then shoved their thumb in the hole.”

.

“The thing about loving someone was that they knew all your pressure points. They knew all the spots that were open and raw. You let them into your heart and they cased the place. They knew what made you feel weak and what ticked you off.”

.

“When it comes down to it, don’t nobody care about you the way you care about yourself. Don’t ever let nobody make you do for them something they wouldn’t do for you.”

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“I’m your Daddy and it’s my job to protect you. Even if that means protecting you from yourself.”

.

“It was messy. Murder was always messy. If it had to be done, you had to expect to get dirty and clean up as best you could.”

.

“Jesus it’s a f**ked up world ain’t it, Bug?” – “The world’s fine Ronnie. it’s us that’s f**ked up!”

Cover image of the book 'Blacktop Wasteland' by author S.A. Cosby

REVIEW

“It’s a crime that history repeats itself”

I have only featured a small fraction of the many excellent and compellingly observational, quotable and meaningful lines, with which this book is satisfyingly replete, although none of which are included without great thought and placement, in direct correlation with the story.

This book pushed all the buttons and hit all the hot spots for so many reasons, although after reading a couple of the earlier reviews, I feel that the storyline took me on a completely unique and individual journey, which may not have been the same as so many others, or indeed that which the author had in mind for me to take.

There are, under varying circumstances, three or four defining markers, which for me make a complete and satisfying read – A decisive and scene setting opening, which this high octane beginning definitely was – A well constructed strong storyline, which this unequivocally had without any argument – A definitive and conclusive ending, which was much more difficult to achieve with this particular storyline, but which was dealt with in the best possible way given the circumstances and offered quite a satisfying outcome, but no ‘happy ever afters’, if that’s what you are looking for! –  Oh! and you can’t be dead! which Beau manages, but only by the skin of his teeth, and leaving a trail of bodies and destruction in his wake!

This is a multi-layered, multi-genre, multi-generational story, which encompasses so many historical, cultural, economic and societal issues, that it is difficult to define them individually. Better perhaps to treat them as an overall study in human behaviour, cultural mores, and social history and commentary. It is masterfully written from the heart, with total authority, compelling confidence and raw passion, which sets the author up as a consummate exponent in the art of storytelling and skilled in the imagery of words, affording an added dimension to the depth and range of the reading experience for me.

This story was an intensely intuitive, atmospheric mix of plot and character driven elements, each fluidly fuelled by the other. As a hard-hitting, action packed, gritty thriller, with a strong narrative and dialogue, this one effortlessly hit the spot full throttle, grabbed me by the throat and never let go until the last baddie was scuppered and wasn’t going to be coming back for more any time soon. A gripping story, rich in detail, of cross and double-cross, non violent crime turned into a blood bath, taking Beau along with events, as he would have me believe, against his will, but with him all too easily reverting to flashbacks of his former lifestyle, with some of the breath-taking, ‘need for speed’ car chases he took me on. This motley team of would be thieves, have convinced themselves that money will solve all their ills, magically change their lifestyles, better their life chances and buy them out of the dire situations in which they find themselves. However none of them are able to function at a basic level and realise all too late and at a terrible personal cost, that money alone can’t work miracles.

I became completely invested in the sprawling cast of multi-faceted, diverse and complex characters, who were easy, yet not always comfortable to connect with. Even though they were well drawn and defined, none of them were particularly engaging, as the school of life had taught them all the hard lesson of self protectionism, whilst cruel and often brutal family histories, together with harsh and destructive upbringings, had left them feeling worthless, forgotten and searching for a sense of belonging, although most would probably never have admitted it.

Beau isn’t a stupid person by any means, although he has convinced himself that he is a direct reflection of his fathers influence and legacy, despite his best efforts to change his ways. Even with the demon on his shoulder egging him on, I was quite surprised by the level of violence which Beau was prepared to adopt in order to protect his family, although to witness his inner turmoil, was quite heart-wrenching at times, as he was almost having to try and deny the true bond of love he felt for his father, despite knowing that he would never have been a good or stable role model and that he had been quite prepared to run out on his family and abandon them to their fate, whilst accepting that he is a product of that man and the sins of the father are often visited on the children. In Beau’s own children, without imminent intervention, it is so easy to see the next generation forming in exactly the same way, so it is now up to him to turn things around, set the ground rules and sow the seeds of a better future for them as a family. He should never forget his father and the undoubted good times they shared, but he needs to shake that demon off and carve a new and different path for the Montage family.

For me personally, although race and ethnicity were an obvious focus of the entire piece, they weren’t the most outstanding features of the work. It was more a nuanced examination of the effects of poverty and deprivation, on a small rural community of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, in a landscape which time forgot, or even worse, simply chose not to remember!

As well as being a first rate crime thriller of course!

This is a book not to be missed and a storyline which begs being adapted as a screenplay and optioned for film.

Im age of author S.A. Cosby

A Kindle download of this book, was kindly gifted to me for review, by Flatiron Books and NetGalley

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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4 comments
  • Thanks for introducing me to Blacktop Wasteland. I had heard of the author and the book, but wasn’t sure if it was for me. Based on your review, I think I would enjoy this book and I will put it on my wishlist.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I am always a bit worried when people are prepared to invest time and often money, off the back of my recommendation! Reviews are really quite subjective, as what one person really enjoys and recommends someone else might find totally not to their taste, and vice versa!

      The book is definitely gritty, the writing raw and powerful, the language often colourful and the violence totally indiscreet – but I really enjoyed the messaging behind the narrative and dialogue and the sheer intensity of the storyline!

      I hope you enjoy it too and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • I remember from some of your earlier features of this novel how much it seems to have going on. I think you stated it perfectly here with the term “multi-genre”. The writing really does draw in the reader and I’d probably enjoy it. I’m glad it worked well for you!

    • Hi Kelly,

      As you say, there are just so many individual strands to this story, but taken as a whole, they paint a sad and troubling picture, which offers up a shameful reflection of today’s society!

      I really became invested with the characters and their plight, but mostly with the powerful and heartfelt narrative. Author Shawn Cosby really gave it his all! 🙂

Written by Yvonne
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