"Back in the bad old days, when Billy Graves worked for an anti-crime unit in Harlem 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 3:00 a.m. call about the fatal knifing of a drunk in a Third Avenue pub, 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 13-year-old girl, he finds himself drawn back to the late 1990s when the Wild Geese were at their most wayward. Before the case can be closed, it will severely test Billy's new sense of purpose and force him to accept that his troubled past isn't past at all. Richard Price, one of America's most gifted novelists, has always written brilliantly about cops, criminals, and New York City. Now, writing as Harry Brandt, he is poised to win a huge following among all those who hunger for first-rate crime fiction"--
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.......
But, I enjoyed the book a great deal. The characters feel real, and the dialogue is up to typical Price standards.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the same time, he’s agonizing over his father’s dementia, his troubled wife, and Curtis Taft, the triple murderer who managed to elude prosecution for the crime.
Each of his Wild Geese colleagues is similarly haunted, even in retirement. But a call to a fatal slashing in Penn Station brings the bad old days back with a vengeance and Billy soon finds himself enmeshed in new cases tied to old ones. The resulting investigations strain friendships forged in the early years of his police service and ultimately put him in a race to save his family.
This gritty police procedural is more than a look at the cases; it is a look into the lives of the men and women who repeatedly put their own safety at risk, at the precarious balancing act they regularly perform to keep the job from touching their home life. This can’t-put-it-down thriller is filled with non-stop action, intrigue, and heartfelt pathos.
The “whites” refers to murderous crimes Billy and his friends investigated while on the special squad where the perpetrators were known and certain to be guilty but had escaped justice. The cops (some were ex-cops by now) could never give up on trying to find a way to bring charges against these low-life criminals. Each of his close friends has his or her special “white” who they never were able to forget or leave behind.
Milton Ramos is a cop from another precinct. He is violent, a rogue cop who has his own special “white”. Before he joined the police Milton’s brother was killed by drug thugs. Milton and another brother caught the killers and tortured them to learn that a girl living in a nearby apartment wrongfully identified the brother as someone who had ripped off the rival dealers. The girl turned out to be Carmen, Billy’s wife.
Billy and his friends meet periodically for drinks where they persevere about their respective whites. They all have had occasional encounters with their whites and cannot let go their desire to nab them, even though the crimes occurred decades before.
Milton learns that it was Carmen who blew in his brother. He sets out to secretly harass the Graves family and is planning on ultimately taking his revenge on Carmen. The Yonkers Police Department (where Billy and Carmen make their home) sets up patrols to guard Billy and his family from the threats. In a dramatic scene Milton makes his move and is killed by the local police. Billy finds out the story about Carmen’s actions as a young girl. Her motivation was hatred over being romantically spurned by Milton’s brother resulting in impetuously naming him to the thugs seeking him.
This is a story of obsession and revenge. By the end, the “whites” have been dealt with, either killed or catastrophically injured. In a plot twist, the avenging cops worked out a deal to take care of each other’s whites. Billy finds this out and threatens to turn them in for their actions. He asks his sometime demented father for advice and is told that early in his career his father made a decision to turn a blind eye to misdeeds of a fellow cop when a larger justice was involved. He decides to let their actions go.
The story is about a close-knit former squad of detectives who each have a "white" in their history over whom they obsess. All but one of the cops is now retired, and the one remaining on the force has noticed that those particular "whites" are now disappearing and/or dying. He takes it upon himself to find out what's going on.
At the same time, his family is being threatened by a mysterious stalker. As it turns out, the stalker is himself a tortured soul seeking justice for a "white" of his own that has gotten away.
The novel charged to its inevitable climax--you can't really say that there was much a mystery here, but there was high-energy suspense--and once again I found that Richard Price had immersed me in his milieu.