Lush Life: A Novel

by Richard Price

Hardcover, 2008



Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008), Edition: 1, 464 pages


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.

Media reviews

Price is a builder, a drafter of vast blueprints, and though the Masonic keystone of his novel is a box-shaped N.Y.P.D. office, he stacks whole slabs of city on top of it and excavates colossal spaces beneath it. He doesn’t just present a slice of life, he piles life high and deep.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Brianna_H
Lush Life centers on the shooting death of a young man and the subsequent investigation. Price delves into the minds and lives of the police officers, witnesses, perpetrators, suspects, family members of the victim, and residents of the neighborhood.

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.
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LibraryThing member Hagelstein
In Lush Life, Richard Price creates a microcosm of New York City surrounding a murder and its investigation in the lower east side. The victim, unfortunately immortalized by his final ill-chosen words, "Not tonight, my man," is the linchpin of the novel. The actions and reactions of his family, friends and acquaintances, police, and the shooter, are the story. Price's realism and attention to detail, not to mention his command of the language of the street, the police, and the city itself bring the story to life. His ability to reveal his characters through both dialogue and exposition is unsurpassed.

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.
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LibraryThing member berthirsch
this a literary take on the police procedural that acurately captures the current scene on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As has been sited in several reviews it is richly layered with the various ethnic and economic classes that live there side by side. The young strivers, actors who are waiters and young professionals hanging out in chic bar-restaurants, the black and latino kids living in poverty in the city projects, the chinatown denizens and the jewish enclaves all populate the action.

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.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
I found this to be a very effective novel about life and crime in the lower East-Side of NYC. The writing was interesting in that the multi-sided events of the story of a mugging gone badly, are interwoven in sequential order, telling the tale from several story lines:
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.
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LibraryThing member jbushnell
I picked up this novel once I'd finished watching my way through "The Wire." I was missing the grit and complexity of the show, and so I thought I'd investigate a novel by one of the show's screenwriters. I wasn't disappointed: although it's set in New York and not Baltimore, this book has all the rich dialogue and complicated interplay between individuals and institutions that I'd gotten accustomed to. Price's prose is dense and often lovely.… (more)
LibraryThing member lonepalm
Good description & dialogue, some pacing issues: I am an avid reader of mysteries, paranormal and romance, with a little so-called serious fiction and non-fiction thrown in. I tried, but couldn't get into this book, so I handed it over to my husband. He very much enjoys some sci-fi, but also loved, for example, the book Homicide: Life on the Street. Lush Life seemed more in that vein.

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.
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LibraryThing member Mary_Overton
Lush Life is not a crime novel. It is a novel about crime and the innumerable ways people can be criminals. It is, in particular, a story of fathers and sons. Every character … major, minor, and incidental … is fully and compassionately drawn, often through his or her own words. The dialog shines.

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
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LibraryThing member Carl_Hayes
A solid novel, recommended. Cops, robbers and hipsters in the LES, NYC -- things get messy and, well, lushy. Price's prose can be a bit chewy sometimes, but the action moves along and the characters come off the page and cuff you now and then. I think Price should include a slang glossary so I know what the hell some of his characters are talking about.

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LibraryThing member FMRox
If I could give this book a 0 rating I would. I tried very hard to finish it and I couldn't. It's touted as a mystery but after reacing page 338/740 and still not seeing any mystery, I had to quit. I felt as if I was reading a really bad Law and Order episode that just went on and on and on. I'm not sure how this won all the awards?! I of course wouldn't recommend to anyone.

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.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
A little conventional in that whole Raymond Chandleresque mold, but pleasant reading. Plus that’s my old stomping grounds, and the familiar is always fun. Passing it on straight to the offspring, who I bet will love it.
LibraryThing member dbeveridge
Richard Price is a master of the American pathos. Although his perfect pitch for language and speech are his trademark, it's the underlying dreams, and aspirations, and folly, that he renders with great humor and utter precision. This book is a shining example of that rare talent.
LibraryThing member Periodista
Cops, restaurants, actors, waiters, restaurant entrepreneurs, after-hour clubs, illegal Fukienese migrants, legal Yemeni convenience store operators, Lower East Side tenement history, coke dealing, pot dealing, teenage criminals, good kids going bad, the whole messy melting pot, *how everybody talks* ... does anybody do a large swathe of New York any better? (Definitely not Tom Wolfe)

The murder plot .. yeah, well, this ain't Clockers, but who cares? It's how Price gets there.
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LibraryThing member msf59
Yes, this is a crime novel and the principal murder is shattering but it’s also just one ingredient in a tragic stew of cops, thugs, and other walking wounded. The chief investigators find themselves hopelessly entangled in the lives of the victimized. A theme this author likes to explore. Price colors his characters with rich detail and creates dialogue that sings like urban poetry. He is one of the best novelists working today and I highly recommended it!… (more)
LibraryThing member dale-in-queens
I heard a great interview with Richard Price on the radio when this book first come out. I was prepared to love it. Perhaps because I had to read it in little bits, I just couldn't ever enjoy it. I read the whole book, but I never cared a bit about any of the characters. I kept noticing the writing (which is beautiful and technically superior), but I don't read books just to notice how great a craftsman the author is. The premise was quite interesting and it does capture the Lower East Side, but this just wasn't too interesting, ultimately.… (more)
LibraryThing member livebug
Author Richard Price wrote a whole bunch of episodes of The Wire, which I just finished all five seasons of, and his latest book "Lush Life" absolutely filled the void for the time I was reading it. All kind of criminal-cop dialogue and urban decay and the general awesomeness that The Wire delivered so consistently. He's written seven or eight other books, of which I have only heard of "Freedomland" and "Clockers", so I hope those live up to my sky-high expectations. No pressure or anything.… (more)
LibraryThing member mamashepp
There is nothing fancy or fussy about the prose in Lush Life. But Price paints an incomparable picture of a part of New York City where the wealthy, the wanna-be's, and the city's poor co-mingle. The conversations are extremely well written and Price's flawed characters feel like real people, not characters in a book.
LibraryThing member bfister
A 4MA discussion book. The minute I picked it up, I thought 'ahhhh.....' The dialogue feels so real to me, and I love the way Price writes. The initial pages spent with the absurd Quality of Life Task Force (four plain clothes cops, who in their thirties are the 'oldest white men on the Lower East Side,' whose job it is to harass people who might be doing something illegal) just took me right into it. Like Lawrence Block there's a nice sense of the variety of humanity you meet in some neighborhoods of the city, and some of his affection for the city. Like Jim Fusilli, there's a lot of detail that gives people a real sense of the place and arouses lots of nostalgia for those who know those blocks of the city. But Richard Price is more involved in the different characters' perspectives than either Block or Fusilli is. The Scudder and Terry Orr books are first person, and that person's journey is very much where the center of gravity is. In LUSH LIFE the point of view shifts quite a bit, so we see that section of the lower east side from the POV of a kid who lives in the projects, a failed restaurateur/bartender, and cops. It's much more psychological than Block, much more sociological than Fusilli. All in all, a less feverishly realized novel than FREEDOMLAND which remains my favorite of Price's books) but it's still as real and as in-depth as it gets.… (more)
LibraryThing member jepeters333
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 restauranteur. To become anything but what he is - the oldest employee at Cafe 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.… (more)
LibraryThing member kelawrence
When I first starting reading this book, I thought - oh, no . . . too many characters and scenarios in the first 40 pages. But between pages 50 and 75 things started to smooth out and I wound up liking this book a lot. I'm glad I stuck with it. I really got into the characters a lot more than I thought I would. Based on this book, I would pick up another title by this author.… (more)
LibraryThing member Narboink
I randomly selected this book from Powell's in Portland, Oregon. It had all the appearances of being a popular, interesting, relatively fast-past diversion... unfortunately, it turned out to be a frivolous, boring, ultimately pointless waste of time. In other words, it is a typical police procedural. The story takes place in the the lower east side of Manhattan (which is apparently the center of the universe), and revolves around the meaningless murder of a meaningless character. Chapter after chapter unfolds in tandem with the dawning recognition that there is nothing - absolutely nothing - worth caring about in this stupid, idiotic story. You're welcome.… (more)
LibraryThing member chorn369
A young artist living and working as a waiter in the lower East side of New York City is shot dead in a botched mugging after a night of drinking with two others from the restaurant where he works. Police mistakenly first suspect one of the drinking buddies; the murder--and the police's errant attention on the colleague--set in motion a series of turmoils around the victim's relatives and colleagues in one of the fastest-changing neighborhoods in Manhattan. The Lower East Side has always been a locus to new immigrants. At the turn of the century, Italians, Jews, and Chinese built and lived in the area's first tenements; in the 1960s public housing for African Americans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans was built along the East River. In the late 1990s artists and digital entrepreneurs began moving in, along with Chinese from Fijian province, creating yet more distinct subcultures that seldom interacted one another, unless forced to. Price exquisitely paints a riveting police procedural, against the backdrop of a neighborhood under going seismic change.… (more)
LibraryThing member saracuse9
A police procedural more than a murder mystery, Lush Life paints a portrait of everyone involved in a murder on the Lower East Side. Richard Price worked on HBO's The Wire and as a fan of the show, I could see its influence over this book. From the banter between the detectives to life in the projects, and everywhere in between, Lush Life examined the effect that a murder had on the community and peoples' reactions to it. The reader knows who the killer is before the police do, but it's reading about how the police figure it out is the most interesting aspect of this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrianFrank
First fiction I've read in years - not much to compare it to but if I read it all the way through, that must be worth something. I picked this one up after watching all 5 seasons of The Wire in quick succession; I found myself looking for another multi-perspective crime story. But the crime story is just a frame in which to paint pictures of Manhattan's vibrant Lower East Side -- a setting rich with mismatched cultural interactions -- and for examining the creatively ambitious psychography of Generation Y.… (more)
LibraryThing member bhowell
Lush Life is a great read. I enjoyed it thoroughly and burned through it in a day and a half. It is a carefully crafted story but more of a police procedural than earlier books by Mr Price.
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member kylenapoli
Price absorbs you right into his "Lush Life" universe, no shock of entry, no sense of disorientation. You ride alongside each of his flawed characters, the setting confined and instantly familiar, like the inside of a snow globe.




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