Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.
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
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Ike tried to remember a time when men with badges coming to his door early in the morning brought anything other than heartache and misery, but try as he might, nothing came to mind.
“He needed your love then. Not now that he’s in the ground”
“But time was a river made of quicksilver. It slipped through his grasp even as it enveloped him”
“A lack of movement inside the house had allowed a pall to settle over the entire structure. The air had a stale, spoiled scent. A thin layer of dust covered most of the exposed surfaces. Death had laid his cold hand on this place and stilled its heart”
“That was the thing about violence. When you went looking for it you definitely were going to find it. It just wouldn’t be at a time of your own choosing. It jumped up and splattered your nice new boots before you were really ready”
“Over the last few months death had carved a valley between them as deep as grief and as wide as heartbreak”
“He had the self-assurance of most mediocre men. They told themselves the world was their oyster but never realized their oyster had turned rancid a long time ago”
“When the people you love are gone, it’s the things they’ve touched that keep them alive in your mind”
“No, hate. Folks like to talk about revenge like it’s a righteous thing but it’s just hate in a nicer suit”
“A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance”
OMG! This amazing story stirred so many emotions, that I am still not sure which one floored me and brought me to my knees the most: The terrible sense of shame and injustice at the prejudice and racial inequality shown, not only by the two main protagonists, but by the vast majority of the small-minded rural community they inhabit: My hatred of the tone and content of the more than graphic language needed to get the point of the story across to a town of people quite happy to pretend they do not hear: My revulsion at the senseless acts of violence and killing needed to ‘out’ the real perpetrator, who caused so much grief and despair to protect their own status, career and position in society: Or the deep visceral outpouring of remorse and regret by two fathers, determined to see a wrong righted and a memory honoured, by whatever means at their disposal and regardless of the legality of their actions.
A true novel of our modern times, this is a well structured, deeply considered work of social commentary, which exposes the fractures and faults of the societal, cultural and behavioural mores of our alternative, multi-faceted lifestyles, only further compounded by an almost total lack of appetite shown by an apathetic police department, to pursue the case of a young gay, mixed race couple, pointlessly and brutally murdered, leaving a small child parentless.
It is very much the case that these two fathers, Ike and Buddy Lee, one black the other white, are architects of their own demise, in that both having been incarcerated and institutionalised over so many and such long periods of time during their lives, their means of meting out ‘justice’, is rarely pretty, sophisticated or well considered. They fly by the seat of their pants, as a general rule, on the premise that they need to “do unto others as they would do unto you” – but do it first and make it count, on the basis that the end will always justify the means – until now!
In many ways these two men are grieving for themselves, as much as for their dead, as when the young men were alive, both Ike and BL were strong deniers of their sons’ sexuality and racial bias. Relationships between the four men had been at their lowest ebb and strained to the limits. A few home truths, which surfaced following their deaths and at the time of their sparsely attended funerals, have altered, if not totally changed the fathers’ perspectives. So whilst they may never become firm friends, they decide to work together to uncover the truth behind the murders and bring down the perpetrators, or so they manage to convince themselves.
I was left pondering the true motive behind this sudden and unexpected call to action. Were Ike and BL genuinely seeking to avenge the death of their sons and heap revenge and retribution on the murderers? Did they need to assuage their own guilt regarding their attitude towards the love the two young men felt for one another when they were alive? Or was this just a convenient excuse to return to a way of life that both have tried to deny they still crave, but which they can now pursue with a renewed legitimacy, in the guise of their mission?
These two unlikely accomplices unleash a terrifying, knee-jerk chaos of such huge proportions, that it has grown a life of its own and now it can’t be stopped, even if they want it to be, as too many innocent lives are at stake and have indeed, already been sacrificed, as a result of their rash and ill considered actions. Ike says it is not for revenge but hate, as ‘revenge is just hate in a nicer suit’.
This multi-layered, intensely textured, gritty and darkly atmospheric storyline, has been conceived and written by an author with a uniquely unconventional, distinctive voice and intuitive style. Powerful and emotionally draining, it is told with total authority and complete confidence, by an assured and consummate exponent in the art of immersive storytelling. Whose skill in the imagery of words, with some excellent observational and descriptive narrative, together with some punchy and brutally honest dialogue, adds a real depth and range to this lugubrious storyline and offers a real sense of time and place.
Even that glimmer of hope and new beginnings, which begins to blossom when the dust has settled, is very fragile and will have to be carefully nurtured as it grows, although not everyone is going to be around to see it happen.
The characters are definitely very emotionally complex, and even though well defined and developed, I found them very difficult to connect with or become invested in, although they were so animated, that they became completely addictive and had me on the edge of my seat rooting for them, almost against my better judgement. The author has done an amazing job of giving the entire cast a strong believable voice, both collectively and individually, to direct and tell their story, with just a gentle guiding hand leading the way.
From the preface of the book, I note that Razorblade Tears has already been optioned for film. To say it would be a real travesty if either the original backers, or another major player in the movie industry, didn’t pick this one up and run with it, would not be too strong a reaction. The storyline is just begging for film script adaptation and a cast of major character actors to get to work on it, although there is nothing much about it I would fundamentally change, including that brilliant title!
A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the publisher and supplied by 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 5 out of 5 stars!