Cosby, Winslow, Pruitt: Three Heavy-Hitting Thillers for Summer
It’s springtime in New York. The trees are budding, the weather is warming, and across the street from my apartment, someone decided to celebrate a football game by firing a gun in the air. A season of exuberance, in other words. I’m working on a heist novel set here in the 1960s, and while the writing has been fine, at some point I’ll need to take a little mental-health break and bike to the beach. Fortunately, I’ll have my choice of great crime novels to take along.
Right now, aside from Jordan Harper’s excellent “Everybody Knows,” my favorite crime novel of the year is S.A. Cosby’s “All the Sinners Bleed,” which will be released in the U.S. in June (with other countries to roll out in relatively short order). I was fortunate enough to read the book while it was still in manuscript form, and it’s probably the best thing Cosby has written so far.
If Cosby’s “Blacktop Wasteland” was a rural twist on the traditional heist story, and “Razorblade Tears” was the quintessential revenge tale, “All the Sinners Bleed” is his attempt at the serial killer novel. It reads like a Southern version of Thomas Harris’s classic “Red Dragon,” but thematically it’s also much larger, thanks to its focus on contemporary issues such as rural racism and school shootings.
Another rural noir, Eryk Pruitt’s “Something Bad Wrong” pulls off the neat trick of weaving together two parallel plots, one set in the 1970s and the other modern-day. As in “All the Sinners Bleed,” a Southern police department tries to solve a grisly set of murders; but while Cosby’s book takes a big swing at using the serial killer novel to explore the contemporary South, Pruitt’s book generates its power by focusing on more intimate concerns, such as the nature of memory and forgiveness.
Pruitt’s novel is also very loosely based on a nonfiction podcast, “The Long Dance,” about the so-called Valentine’s Day Murders that took place in Durham, North Carolina in 1971. If you’ve listened to the podcast, many of the book’s revelations come as no surprise, because they’re lightly fictionalized versions of what happened in real life; but unlike the podcast, the book offers a definitive solution and closure of a sort.
Up next is Don Winslow’s “City of Dreams,” the second in his trilogy of crime novels based on Greek myth. It’s prequel, “City on Fire,” was a contemporary riff on the Trojan War, with Irish and Italian gangs in Providence substituting for Greeks and Trojans; the sequel follows the survivors as they either try to consolidate their hold of the New England drug market or flee west for new lives.
Winslow isn’t shy about his allusions, and it should be clear to anyone who’s read classical literature that he’s using the epic poem “Aeneid” as inspiration here, with Los Angeles standing in for Italy. But Winslow isn’t pretentious, as anyone who’s read his previous 25 books can attest; he’s at his best when he’s funny, gritty, messy.
There are many other great books rolling out as the temperature climbs, of course. But if you’re looking for a new thriller for the beach—or anywhere else—you can’t beat any of the aforementioned three.
Nick Kolakowski is the author of „Maxine Unleashes Doomsday“ and „Boise Longpig Hunting Club“ as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. His noir fiction has appeared in Tough, ThugLit, Mystery Tribune, Plots With Guns, and various anthologies. His „Payback is Forever“ (Shotgun Honey 2022) is inspired clearly by the novels of Richard Stark. Our review here (in German). – See also his Hell of a Mess. A Love & Bullets Hookup.
Nick Kolakowski, geboren 1980, aufgewachsen in Washington. D.C., hat Geschichte in Chicago studiert. Er schreibt Romane, Kurzgeschichten, Lyrik und Essays, viele davon über Crime Fiction und verwandte Themen. Seine Texte erscheinen u. a. in der Washington Post, in Shotgun Honey, North American Review, The Evergreen Review, Rust & Months. Kolakowski lebt in New York City. Eine Besprechung des von Parker inspirierten „Payback is Forever“ in unseren Bloody Chops.
Bei Suhrkamp auf Deutsch: Love & Bullets.
His essays with us.
His column „Smoking Gun“ with us:
Weed-Based Crime Thrillers are Going Up in Smoke
‘The Last of Us’: Crime in the Post-Apocalypse
What Made “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out” So Popular?
Jordan Harper’s One-Two Punch of Crime Fiction Deserves a Wide Audience
‘True Detective’ Season 2: Was It Better Than We All Thought?
From ‘Touch of Evil’ to ‘True Detective,’ Long Shots are Crime Films’ Secret Weapon
Michael Mann, again: What Michael Mann Teaches Us About Enduring Crime Fiction
„Heat 2“ – How Do You Craft a Sequel to a Masterpiece?
4 Ways Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Novel Stands Out From the Film.
On „Heat“: Manhunter Takes Down Thief: How Michael Mann’s Early Career Led to ‘Heat’
The Most Honest Nihilism – on „The Way of the Gun“
No, Time to Die – The latest James Bond movie digs into the fatalism at the iconic spy’s core.
Cormac McCarthy’s Overlooked Masterpiece? – „The Councelor“
„Nightmare Alley“ – How Guillermo del Toro’s Film Alters a Masterpiece Noir Novel
David Cronenberg – The Carnal Crime of “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”
With Parker, Donald E. Westlake Pulled Off Crime Fiction’s Most Spectacular Magic Trick
Guy Ritchie’s Return to Crime Films is Worth Watching