Book review: ‘Lush Life’ |

Book review: ‘Lush Life’

Stephen Bedford
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily"Lush Life," by Richard Price.

Some may think it hard to proclaim a best novel of 2008 just a few scant weeks into the calendar, but, honestly, Richard Price doesn’t make it that difficult.

Behold Price’s “Lush Life,” a frontrunner for Best Book lists to be tallied eight months from now. Perhaps an overly strong opinion? Sure, but Price’s prose, mystery, layered characters and unrivaled dialogue provide the big guns to back up any boast.

Price paints a disturbing portrait of an edgy post Sept. 11 Manhattan, a veritable melting pot set to boil in this part-crime thriller, part-character study. Price follows three tipsy friends with stars in their eyes through the wee hours of the playground they call the Lower Eastside until an amateur stickup crew ignites a series of catastrophic events.

Charming Ike Marcus, an aspiring poet, is gunned down in the street while his best buddy, Steve Boulware, is incapacitated on the sidewalk from the night’s intoxication. Their third companion is Eric Cash, a wannabe screenwriter who depressingly is arriving at the conclusion that he’s destined to be a career waiter. And it just so happens that Eric harbors deep-seeded jealousy for his younger, more charismatic cohorts.

Detective Matty Clark starts working the seemingly standard street holdup fodder, until he routinely interviews Eric, whose story begins backing up more than a student driver. Innocent bystander Eric becomes prime suspect in the span of a few fumbled sentences.

Price flawlessly flips from tense murder mystery to compelling character analysis as the investigation begins, while unleashing his greatest literary gift ” dialogue ” to churn out the lavish story. Using lyrical, realistic conversation to illustrate and reveal the story’s players, Price asserts himself as perhaps the finest crime writer currently typing.

Echoing his novel “Clockers,” a modern-day classic you’ve probably never heard of, Price channels the speech patterns, patois and lexicon of the urban landscape. Drug dealers, detectives and yuppies are all written with an authenticity sadly lacking on a lot of bookshelves.

As Price navigates the corridors, alleyways and emotions of the investigation, you occasionally forget you’re reading. The flow is natural and the people are real as the pages sink in. Price’s writing has often been described as “cinematic,” but it’s the gritty dramas that could be deemed “Priceian.”

“Lush Life” would be the crown jewel for any talented writer unless if that writer also doubled as one of the creative forces behind HBO’s masterpiece “The Wire,” a hardly-watched, socially-important drama that received a vaunted Edgar award in 2007.

“The Wire” has sadly reached its conclusion (rent the DVDs people!) but has a silver-lining in that it frees up Price to conjure more fictional stories that feel all too real.

Stephen Bedford is the general manager of The Bookworm.

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