S.A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland got a lot of attention from horror readers. I took note, of course, but when I heard about its plot I shelved it into the back burner of my brain. Blacktop Wasteland deals with a getaway driver going back into the life for one last score. That sort of heist/caper story isn't my favorite.

Then I heard about Cosby's next book, Razorblade Tears. This one sounded much more like the emotionally complicated suspense novel I prefer. Two gay men are murdered and their fathers try to seek revenge. A black ex-con and a white redneck have to reconcile their feelings toward each other, as well as their very mixed attitudes toward their sons' sexual preference.

I got Razorblade Tears and loved it. I waited a month or two, then grabbed Blacktop Wasteland.

My initial suspicions were correct. Blacktop Wasteland is indeed a formulaic story. It's about as original as the hoary cliche of a deceitful dame working over a disheveled dick in a typical private eye yarn.

Where Blacktop Wasteland succeeds is in the vivid characters Cosby creates, as well as the rich dialogue. The conversations in this novel are as authentic as anything I've seen since I was reading Elmore Leonard in the mid nineteen eighties.

Blacktop Wasteland is filled with roaring action, but I found the human elements to be much more satisfying. The plot mostly went where I expected it to go, but the raw emotion in the writing is what makes the novel so memorable.

Cosby lays on the metaphors a little too thick here and there, but Blacktop Wasteland mostly works. It's a streamlined suspense vehicle that may have a knock or two, but it goes the distance with speed and reliability.

I liked Razorblade Tears a lot more than Blacktop Wasteland, and that's okay. It shows growth from this still-new author. I'm excited to see where he takes his readers in the future.

Written by Mark Sieber

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