It's 2003, and after eight years downtown, Eric Cash is falling further and further behind in his plans to become an actor. Or a writer. Or a restaurateur. To become anything but what he is--the oldest employee at Café Berkmann. So if the new bartender pissed him off, who could blame him? Ike Marcus had confidence. He had hustle. Most of all, in a neighborhood where thirty is the new fifty, Ike was young. Then one evening a street kid from the "other" Lower East Side stepped up to them and pulled a gun. Ike's last words were "Not tonight, my man." At least, that's Eric's version.
Richard Price is a master of dialog and is able to incorporate both street and police vernacular with (what I trust is) uncanny precision. His portrayal of life and crime in New York City's Lower East Side is so in depth and descriptive that I was surprised to learn that he neither grew up in the neighborhood or worked as a police officer there.
Lush life is compulsively readable throughout the first half of the book and again at the end, unfortunately, it drags a bit in the middle.
Despite the somewhat unnecessary length of the novel and lull in narrative force in the middle of the novel, I highly recommend Lush Life and plan on reading more of Richard Price's work in the future.
Price reveals much with few words. In one exchange with a pot-smoking upstate policeman and the NYC cop that pulls him over, the smoker refers to it as
"A little somethin', somethin' for the drive."
"Somethin' somethin', huh?" Lugo hadn't heard that phrase in two years.
Moments like this are the gems spread throughout the story and are what make it sing.
the story's main protagonist is a hapless detective struggling against the politicos who run the department while his own broken marriage throws up a curveball. he sympathetically tries to hold down the grieving and broken father of the murder victim.
a good read that does not dissappoint.
Matty, the detective on the case, fights through the bureaucracy to solve a murder that many of his superiors want to forget. He is driven more to this case than most because he tries to help the father of the victim and because he may have blown the initial interrogation of Eric Cash, who was a witness/ almost victim.
Eric Cash is a aspiring actor, screenwriter who runs a popular café downtown. He, like many of the people in the city, is always looking for the golden ring. When he is initially accused of the crime, he shuts down and falls into a downhill slide that is partially to do with his own guilt of cowardly behavior.
Tristan – the 17year old neighborhood mugger wants to be a rap star and a well known street legend, partially because of his bad home life and partially because it gives him power, a power that the 22 caliber pistol in his pants invigorates.
Billy is the victim’s father, who can’t let his son’s death go; he gets too involved and sometimes makes Matty’s job harder, but his tenaciousness keeps the case alive.
There are more characters and storylines than this – Matty’s errant sons, his feelings for Billy’s wife, Eric’s relationship with his girlfriend and with the restaurant; it is a complex picture of the area, the case and the relationship that forms when an event like this happens. There is also a lot to learn in the novel – interesting details about detective work, managing a restaurant, and surviving on the street; all of which are conveyed in excellent detail by Price. I loved Clockers and also enjoyed The Samaritan, but this way my favorite from this author.
My husband definitely gave it 4 out of 5 stars. He said that the author certainly knows how to set a scene, the dialogue is spot on, and he can make you identify with the characters - even the ones you'd prefer not to identify with.
However, he found some problems with the pacing. I quote, "It's going along fine, and then, well, it's not." Apparently the great descriptions at some points will get in the way of the actual plot.
All in all, though, he would recommend it for fans of gritty street style novels.
Here is the distraught father of a murdered son:
‘“You know,” Marcus said, addressing the middle distance, “when they’re little, you love them, take pride in them, and when they grow up, you still do, but it’s bizarre when other people, new people, see him and think, ‘Well, here’s this young man, here’s this young adult who does such and such very well,’ and you’re witnessing this acceptance from others, this respect and seriousness, and you, I can’t help laughing, thinking, that’s, WHAT young man, that’s Ikey, you wouldn’t believe the dopey shit he did as a kid, but there he is getting respect, and it’s not like I don’t have it for him, me of all people, but I always feel like laughing, not put-him-in-his-place laughing, just ‘Aw, c’mon, that’s Ike …”’’ pg. 137
Here is the intense Yemeni clerk of the Sana’a 24/7 mini-mart:
‘“Sometimes your father does things you don’t understand, but a father doesn’t need to explain all his actions to you,” Nazir said. “You need to have faith and trust that behind every act is love. Then later you look back or you sit quietly and it becomes clear that these things which seemed harsh at the time saved you. You were just too much a child to understand, but now you are a man with health and prosperity and all you can say is thank you.”’ pg. 186
And our homicide detective who, when first informed of the murder, is coming off a midnight to four a.m. free-lance security gig at a night-club:
‘He could let them handle the investigation until his tour began at eight or jump in now; Matty deciding to jump because the bar was so close to the crime scene he could see the fluttering yellow tape from where he stood. What would be the point of going home for only a few hours’ sleep?
‘Besides, his sons had come down for a few days to stay with him and he didn’t particularly like them.
‘There were two: the one he always thought of as the Big One, a jerk of a small-town cop in upstate Lake George, where his ex-wife had moved after the divorce, and the younger one, whom he naturally thought of as the Other One, a mute teen who had still been in diapers when they broke up.
‘He was at best an indifferent parent but didn’t know what to do about it; and the boys themselves were pretty conditioned to think of him as a distant relative down in New York City, some guy obliged by blood to let them crash now and then.’ pp 37-38
About a man killed during a botched hold-up by two young punks and the time the NYPD out of lower Manhattan spends trying to track down the perpetrators.
The murder plot .. yeah, well, this ain't Clockers, but who cares? It's how Price gets there.
The story is told through dialogue, mostly the questioning of various witnesses to a brutal murder in the lower east side of Manhattan. Still, Samaritan remains my favourite Price novel.