The Whites : a novel

by Harry Brandt

Paper Book, 2015

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2015.

Description

"Back in the bad old days, when Billy Graves worked for an anti-crime unit in [the South Bronx] known as the Wild Geese, the NYPD branded him as a cowboy. Now forty, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch. Mostly, his team of detectives conducts a series of holding actions--and after years in police purgatory, Billy is content simply to do his job. But soon after he gets a [4:00] a.m. call about the fatal knifing of a [man] in [Penn Station], his investigation moves beyond the usual handoff to the day shift. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a [12-year-old boy], he finds himself drawn back to the [mid]-1990s when the Wild Geese were at their most wayward"--

Media reviews

Despite its occasional lumps, this novel is, at once, a gripping police procedural and an affecting study in character and fate.

User reviews

LibraryThing member maneekuhi
"The Whites" is excellent - great storytelling, very enjoyable reading. Gritty, with a very New York feel to it on every page. It's Price's ninth book; the first was published in 1974. Most of his books take place in the NY/NJ region. So, what's a 'white'? It seems every long time cop has one case that haunts him. For whatever reasons, the perp of some horrific, fatal crime has gotten off scot-free from justice. Maybe it's the shooting of three young girls, or chasing a scared immigrant kid into the path of an oncoming bus. These crimes and those responsible are never forgotten. The lead cops keep tabs on the killers (the Whites) on a regular basis, and they maintain contact with the victims' families. They are obsessed with their own White.

Billy Graves is the only member of his team of five who has remained on the force. But he stays in contact with the others and regularly meets with them to keep tabs - and to discuss their Whites. And then, one of the Whites is killed.....But it's not all about the Whites. We also get to know Billy's family, his nurse wife, the two school age boys, his dad, a former cop, now drifting in and out of dementia episodes. The descriptions of their daily struggles to make ends meet and keep a family together, and safe, is as fascinating as the tales of Billy's crime scenes on the midnight shift. Then there's the guy who accosts one of the boys after school, giving him a friendly pat on the back, but leaving a very red hand print on the back of the jacket, a message for Mom and Dad.

The plot and characters are excellent, the story is well paced. And the prose....Let me give you just one example - let me set the scene. Billy is talking to Yasmeen, one of his former cops, when she gets a call from her young daughter, crying about a little boy who is always pinching her. Yasmeen tells her daughter to put the offender, Jacob, on the phone right now: "Is this Jacob? This is Simone's mommy. Listen to me, you know that monster that lives under your bed? Your parents tell you he's not real, but they're lying to you. Not only is he real but he's a friend of mine, and if you lay one more hand on my daughter I will make sure he comes out from under there when you're asleep tonight and sucks your eyeballs right out of your head, you hear me? Yes? Good. Now give the phone back to Simone....Stop crying and give the phone back to Simone."

I am now a big Richard Price fan. Think I'll read "Clockers" next. Or maybe "Freedomland", or.......
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LibraryThing member mysterymax
I suspect that The Whites will be on the majority of awards lists this year. It is a powerful story of a group of NYPD detectives, criminals, trust, friendship and the lengths that a person will go to for those who deserve his loyalty.

Billy Graves is commander of the Night Watch squad; the officers that cover Manhattan's felony crimes between 1am and 8am. Twenty years before Billy was one of seven young cops assigned to anti-crime. Known as The Wild Geese (WG), they became like family to each other and now, twenty years later five of them remain. Billy is the only one still at work.

Each of them is burdened with their own case where a criminal had managed to get away with a particularly horrendous crime. These criminals were known as 'The Whites'. Now the Whites are turning up dead. At the same time someone has targeted Billy's family.

You can't read this book quickly or lightly. There are multiple, complex characters and you need to pay attention. But the effort is well-rewarded with a read that has completely drawn characters; you get to know them with all their flaws and all their demons, and you want them to come out all right in the end.

Price (Brandt) gives you the story of the WG, the Whites, the nightly cases of the Night Watch squad, the consuming rage of the stalker of Billy's family and the moral challenge that Billy must face all in one tightly woven story. You couldn't ask for a better read.
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LibraryThing member BillPilgrim
Price says that this book was intended to be a quickly written genre style book, a la Benjamin Black, but that he could not do that and it took him four years to finish. Still, it does not have the depth that you'll find in his prior books. And it does not address a major societal issue as the other books have.
But, I enjoyed the book a great deal. The characters feel real, and the dialogue is up to typical Price standards.… (more)
LibraryThing member CFBPete
The Whites tells the story of Billy Graves, the supervising detective of the Night Watch, the unit that investigates the felonies that occur in Manhattan between the hours of 1 am and 8 am. Billy has a lovely wife, who's a nurse, two sons and a house in the suburbs. Early in his career Billy was a member of the Wild Geese (WG) an anti crime unit working the South Bronx. The members of that team, and their families are still some of his closest friends.
Billys career was derailed when he shot and killed a drug crazed attacker, along with an innocent ten year old boy. He was accused of being "coked up" during the incident. After being assigned to the ID Squad, whose mission is to ID corpses, he works his way back up to the Night Watch.
The WG unit has long since broken up, its members having gone on to prvate pursuits. All remain more than friends, they're family who are there for each other through thick and thin. Billys wife suffers from depression, and WG member Yasmeen (also Billys former lover) took care of Billys sons while his wife Carmen was bed ridden.
Things are going relatively well for Billy until a man is brutally murdered nears the tracks in Penn Station. The dead a man is familiar to Billy. Hes a suspect in an unresolved murder case ( or a "White") worked by a member of his former unit. Soon more "Whites" show up missing, kidnapped or in one case found crippled from a bullet wound. Billy becomes suspects the attacks are tied to the WG. Billy is further burdened by the realization that somebody is targeting his family. One of his sons is accosted, his father is kidnapped, and his brother-in-law is beaten. Billy conflict is solving the Whites case while protecting his family.
Harry Brandt is the pen name of Richard Price, the author/screenwriter of Clockers, Freedomland, and Samaritan. Brandt/Price knows his setting, the seedy underbelly of New York. The relationships between police, criminals, and their victims is realistically depicted. He also captures the gallows humor involved with police work, i.e the homeless man who stabs two German tourists for giving him worthless Deutsche Marks instead of Euros. The Whites is a worthy addition to Brandt/Prices library. I'm not sure why a pen name was necessary. Sales? The Whites is an excellent story with vivid characters, a couple of tasty twists and a resolution that is poignant and thought provoking. If you crave good crime fiction combined with humor and realism don't hesitate to pick it up.
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LibraryThing member AnneWK
Confident writing takes the reader through the work of homicide detectives, some of whom cannot let go of old cases where they know who the killers are but have not been able to convict them, They call these murderers The Whites and this is a book about revenge. There is strong, edge of the seat, suspense when the main character realizes he and his family are being stalked… (more)
LibraryThing member Hagelstein
Sure, The Whites is a crime novel, but written by Richard Price (writing as Harry Brandt) it transcends the genre as they say and becomes a literary crime novel. It is entertaining, and highly so, but with meaning. Price is one of the best at creating characters that come alive, that are about as real as it gets in fiction. And the main characters are developed and filled out by the others that surround them, family, colleagues, friends, enemies. That interaction makes his novels so good.

His dialogue and description of cop life in New York City is priceless as always. A dumpy Bronx apartment lobby has “a gappy mosaic tile floor like a pissbum’s smile.”

In The Whites Billy Graves is a Sergeant on the NYPD Night Watch Team; a triage unit for felonies that are turned over to the day shift detectives. He’s good at what is basically a dead-end job. He was in a high-speed anti-crime unit in the 1990s, the Wild Geese. When nemeses of his old squad mates, and himself, start being murdered Billy looks into it. At the same time, someone from the past is stalking his family. Price weaves the two plots together with skill and it makes for an intensely readable story.
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LibraryThing member Tanya-dogearedcopy
Back in the '90s, there was a cadre of five rookie police officers who went out on their beats charged up on coke and ambition; but twenty years later they find themselves marginalized within the NYPD or out altogether. Billy Graves, an original member of The Wild Geese, now works the Night Watch, sidelined after having shot an innocent bystander in the pursuit of a felon. One night, a homicide comes to his attention: the victim is one of those "that got away," a perpetrator who evaded justice. Billy checks into it a bit and discovers uncomfortable connections between the victim and his past. The past becomes a monster that promises to drown out not only himself and his friends, but his family as well as they battle personal demons and real threats.

The whole of the novel is packed with the power language of the police profession, and scenes are acutely described as to render them realistic. The set-up and conclusion are fast paced; the middle section only lagging owing to the number of scenes that underscore the book's theme (of the past being brought forward to bear on the present); but don't serve to drive the plot forward. The overall style of the novel is not nearly as elegant as Lush Life, and the meaning of the title could have probably been made more clear earlier in the book; but regardless, the cinematic appeal of the story is not to be denied.


n.b. There are a couple of editorial lapses in the advance reader's edition that hopefully will be remedied in the final release, e.g. Conversations have missing dialogue lines, and an unresolved fate regarding a minor character.
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LibraryThing member Brian710
I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of this book in exchange for a review. For me the first third of the book, introduction of characters and crime scene setup/history, went very smoothly. The middle of the book seemed to drag a bit. Perhaps it was that the author kept introducing more and more peripheral characters. The final section almost requires you to read it in one sitting. The story is intriguing - Billy accidentally killed a kid while working anti-crime, with a group known as the Wild Geese who have kept in touch. Now, after one dead-end posting after another he finds himself on Night Watch squad. When he is called out to a murder he finds that the victim brings back an unsolved case involving his old squad. On the back cover it says,"The electrifying DEBUT of a new master of American crime fiction." Even writing under a pseudonym, although both names are listed on the front cover, how can anyone possibly call this a debut when the author has already written EIGHT novels?… (more)
LibraryThing member lwhitmill
The Whites is crime story that delves into human mind and the nature of revenge. While entertaining it seemed to have difficulty holding a consistent story line and might leave you wondering about the characters from time to time. A god book for those that enjoy a mystery.
LibraryThing member frogprof
Took a while to get into, but I ended up loving this book. I really hope some decent producer gets it into his/her head to make an AMAZING movie out of it, or a long-running TV series ...
The plot centers around a group of cops who work the night shift on major crimes -- until they can fob off the cases onto the day-shift detectives. Each cop in the night group has a "white" who keeps that cop awake at night: a case in which the perp got away with murder [or some other vicious crime]. The "Wild Geese" (as the night-shift cops were called in their earlier days) keep track of where the "whites" are, and stay in touch with the victims' families, until karma starts finding the bad guys.
Billy Graves, who is the lead detective of the late-nighters, is also being stalked (along with his family), and the author (Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt -- I've got to track down some Price books now) takes his time linking the cases, but he gets there in the end. And the trip is well worth it.
Can't really say any more without spoiling, but READ THIS BOOK!
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LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
In a word, The Whites is boring. Billy Graves is on the midnight to 8 shift. He gets called to incidents, mostly brawls of some sort, and ultimately farms out the investigations to the morning crew. No, in the first 100 pages, not much happens.

The Whites refers to cases that haunt cops. In the case of Billy and 4 of his friends since the police academy, they are cases in which they knew the perp but couldn't prove it. Again, not much happened relative to these cases either in the first 100 pages.

I remember liking Lush Life and I took this book out. It doesn't compare. With so many books to read, if a book doesn't catch you in the first 100 pages, move on. So I am.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Great book. He writes really well and it was an interesting complex story which is also a crime story.
LibraryThing member Ronrose1
Not your every day police procedural. It does start off with a familiar premise. Suspects of major crimes are being murdered or is it eliminated? The NYPD detectives have a name for perpetrators whom they are certain committed murder or other major crimes, but for various reasons the NYPD cannot get enough evidence on to make an arrest that will stick. These people are known among the detectives as the Whites. Seemingly untouchable, they flaunt their deeds in front of the police knowing there is no evidence of their crimes. Often the detectives, such as Detective Billy Grimes in particular, are haunted by the the knowledge they know or recognize these men, but are powerless to do anything about them. Inexplicably, some of the worst perps are showing up dead or vanishing altogether. Some eliminated by violent acts, while others seemingly by accident. Det. Grimes starts to believe he sees a pattern in the deaths. A pattern that may lead lead to killers closer to home than he would like to think. Add on top of this the fact someone is targeting his family. One of his young sons has been approached at school by a stranger carrying a gun. Grime’s father, a former cop who is plagued by dementia, has been picked up outside Billy’s home and driven across town where he was left in a neighborhood he used to patrol as a street cop. Billy’s wife is subject to drastic fits of depression. His fellow cops are reluctant to help him because of the questions Billy is asking among the force concerning the missing perps. Grimes does’t know whom to trust. Who will help him? Will his old buddies still protect his family even though he suspects they may be involved in the disappearances of the Whites? This book is loaded with suspense. This book provided for review by Henry Holt & Co.… (more)
LibraryThing member velopunk
A very good book about a group of NYPD detectives who back in the day were known as the Wild Geese. One of them, Billy Graves, accidentally shot a ten-year-old while stopping a PCP influenced perp. It was declared a justified shooting but Graves got shunted off to dead-end assignments. He is currently on the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift on something called the Manhattan Night Watch. He is called to the stabbing of a man at Penn Station. The dead man is a suspect in a murder from back in the Wild Geese days. Other perps who skated back in the 1990s are also turning up dead or missing. Billy suspects his old Wild Geese friends as he looks into the deaths and disappearances. A NYPD detective with a long simmering grudge against Billy's wife is meanwhile targeting the Graves family. His kids are approached as they are leaving school by a man who leaves a red handprint on one of their jackets. His senile father is picked up and dropped off in Harlem, where he used to be a cop. All the threads come together in a very readable book.… (more)
LibraryThing member froxgirl
Not sure who Harry Brandt is (or why) but Richard Price is one of my top 3 writers. And "The Whites" is only the second book I reread the minute I finished it (first was Lonesome Dove - so it's in fine company). For those of you who hate stories with no redeeming characters - this has ONLY likeable ones, even the most of the "actors" (criminals) are at least a bit sympathetic. Except for the "whites" - the ones who got away guilty. Four of the five detectives of the Manhattan and Bronx WG (Wild Geese) are retired. Billy Graves soldiers on, living with his second wife and two sons (who mostly whale on each other) and his retired cop father, who's in and out of dementia, in Yonkers. Billy is on Night Watch, the overnight shift.

As the story opens on St. Patrick's Day, one of the "whites" is found exsanguinated on a subway platform in Penn Station, possibly the worst crime scene ever to keep uncontaminated. Billy's wife Carmen, who has a vast secret, is getting more distracted. Enter detective Milton Ramos, whose brother's murder lead to a chain of family losses.

If you can put this down without reading it all the way through, for the dialogue (Price was a writer on The Wire, as well as the author eight great novels, including Lush Life ) as much as for the outstanding plot, you are making a gigantic mistake.

Richard Price writes sentences like this: "Billy wondered whether maybe Bannion's murder had him deeply crashing, like a post partum Ahab if the author had allowed him to kill the whale and go home to his family."

Take the day off. It's worth it.
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LibraryThing member ozzer
“The Whites” is Price’s homage to Herman Melville. The title recalls the whale; most of the minor characters suffer from Ahab-like obsessions; and even the name of the protagonist evokes Billy Budd. Melville used the color white to represent innocence, especially in the natural world. Price turns that on its head by using it to represent people who have escaped punishment for their crimes. In an interview he observed that the cops’ single-minded pursuit of their failed criminal conquests reminded him of “Moby-Dick.” Also naming his protagonist Billy (Graves) brings to mind Melville’s Billy Budd, who was punished for a crime where his guilt was clear, but his motives were indeed suspect. He was dutiful but naïve and, interestingly, wore white clothing. Billy Graves also is clearly good and quite competent, persevering especially as multiple adversities accumulate. His Budd-like quality of willingness to sacrifice for his friends and family are evident as well. Not unlike the Melville character, he becomes trapped by the circumstances that surround him and is forced to make moral choices.

Melville’s principal themes also are evident in “The Whites”: revenge, obsession, and justice versus forgiveness. Milton Ramos evokes the revenge theme that was so prominent in “Moby Dick”. He recognizes Billy’s wife at the hospital where she works and proceeds to stalk her family in a quest for vengeance for something she innocently did to his family as a child. Many of the main characters are ex-cops who are obsessed by their own failures to bring certain criminals to justice. They pursue these people much like Ahab followed the whale. The theme of justice versus forgiveness can be seen in the cops who have an ambiguous relationship with lay people and especially in the moral dilemma that Billy faces when he learns the truth about several related crimes he is investigating.

There are many characters in this book (probably too many) and keeping track of them can be a challenge. His ex-colleagues, known as the “wild geese” are interesting and diverse, but all essentially represent the same themes—obsession and justice. Some were realized better than others. Redman Brown who runs his father’s funeral parlor in Harlem is an interesting creation as is John Pavlicek who made a fortune fixing up former crack houses. However, Yasmeen Assaf-Doyle and Jimmy Whelan were lesser creations. It seems that Mr. Price might have been more successful by focusing on fewer obsessed ex-cops.

The writing is Price at his best. His hallmark is dialogue that exquisitely evokes big city cop-talk and the slang of the street. Also he perfectly captures the detective’s life both on the job and how it impacts his personal life. Not unlike his other novels, the mood of this novel is of necessity quite dark. Price is a master at evoking the darkness that is routine in police work and how cops battle to maintain their humanity in the face of it.

Despite its obvious strengths, this is not a perfect novel. It features so many characters and names that keeping track is a challenge. Also, the plot is quite complex weaving through multiple storylines, making it a slower read than the usual novel in the detective genre.
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LibraryThing member schmootc
This is the well-written story of a New York City Night Watch commander and his colleagues from a unit that previously worked together, the Wild Geese. Each of them has a white whale of sorts that s/he has chased for his/her entire career. (The book also contains a B plot about a detective who is out for revenge. I am generally not fond of the alternating chapter approach wherein readers occasionally get the point of view of a different character, though these chapters were generally short and didn't bother me too much.) The writing was snappy and the plot moved along well, I just wish the resolution was a little less obvious.… (more)
LibraryThing member Doondeck
Complicated story in the beginning with lots of characters but all comes together in the end. A real nail biter at the end. Price really knows this genre.
LibraryThing member johntgriffin
The Whites,’ by Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt. This novel written about a police detective and his friends and enemies in New York City is a gritty well written story of the human condition that most of us may never see. If this novel truly reflects the life that is lead by our "brothers in blue" then I really feel for them.
The title was confusing to me as I read the book and even after an explanation was given, it still did not make sense to me but to put a name to a situtation is better than having no name at all.
I hope this book does well for it was well written and I continue to think about the officer and his life within this story.
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LibraryThing member gmmartz
Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt (not sure why, but I digress....), has added another excellent, gritty urban novel to his catalog.

Without going into details on the actual plot, it's a police story about a small group of NY cops who share a past that haunts them all but are off doing different things now. The 'Whites' in the title refers to the 'white whales' that every policeman has in his or her past, criminals who somehow beat the rap. In Price's novel, the whites are being 'disappeared' and the mystery is about who's causing the disappearing and why. Adding greatly to the tension is yet another cop from outside the group who's likewise trying to gain closure on an issue from his past that intersects with the investigation into the 'whites'.

I think this is a great story with really well developed characters. Price is wonderful with dialogue and in painting the NYC milieu and the routines of the police for his readers. He's also adept at placing 'good' characters in positions where they need to make very tough moral choices. Everything about 'The Whites' seems extremely real to me and, whether writing under the Brandt name or his own, I hope Price continues in this direction with future stories.
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LibraryThing member Pmaurer
Couldn't get into this one. Main characters tone way too macho. Stopped in tape one.
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Richard Price is simply a great writer. His subject matter is usually the "mean" streets of New York with the focus on police. Although I do not watch TV dramas I enjoy this genre in novel form(Kate Atkinson). Price is so much more than a writer who does a who dunit. His ear for dialogue is incredible and this makes for a great read. He also deals in areas that I never see in my day to day life but know exist.This book works more as a character study than a straight crime plot. Price is one my favorite writers, I recommend everything that he writes. He did do scripts for "The Wire" and wrote the novels Clockers and Freedomland that were made into movies. I strongly recommend this novel. One of my few 5 star ratings.… (more)
LibraryThing member dynum
The Whites is the first Richard Price book I have read. It was really enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone who likes crime books. Well written and a well developed story. I really liked it but I would not go as far as to say it is one of my favorites. It did make me wonder about his other books and I will go back and read some of his other works. If you do end up reading this I don't think you will be dissapointed.… (more)
LibraryThing member sogamonk
Excellent urban crime story. Had never read Richard Price before, but i will read his books now.
Totally enjoyed it
LibraryThing member flourgirl49
This is a really good story about New York detectives solving crimes, keeping secrets, being true to your moral self (or not), agonizing over all of the above - gritty and realistic. I hope it's the first in a series. Recommended.

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