Blacktop Wasteland by S.A Cosby

I have to say this is not usually my sort of book. But if you like Lee Child who calls it “fresh, authentic, twisty” you will find it a step up from some American noir.

“Listen, when you’re a black man in America you live with the weight of people’s low expectations on your back every day,” says the main character Beauregard Montage. I didn’t really take to him or the plot in the early chapters. He runs a garage under threaten by a bigger business and has the weight of being an ex-con on both his shoulders and his finances.

But with a lot of emphasis on his wife Kia and his two sons, plus a daughter from another relationship I warmed to the big, tough but likeable Beauregard.  His life, like so many others is often grim and there is great description of an American town down at heel with its bars and guns and petty grim with people scrabbling for some scrap of success.

When Beauregard is approached to have ‘one more get away car driving stunt’ to help criminals Ronnie and Reggie (I know surely the author is having fun here with British readers!) will he abandon his rejection of doing bad things again and reminders of his past life growing up with his criminal father?

The plot takes a surprising turn later and exposes even more of Beauregard’s real love for trying to move on with his family to a decent life. This saves me often from the dominance of killings, detailed car chases and underground general nastiness which isn’t really my cup of tea,

The book also opens discussion on the growing concerns about lack of education for many, unemployment, police prejudice, cost of healthcare for the elderly and the worrying increase and subsequent deaths from painkiller (OxyContin) addiction. Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter this is the reality for many every day.

As a personal read it wasn’t one of my favourites, but I do think the author gave the central character such a lot of humanity I was engaged to read it through to the end. It’s always good to read something different and learning more about the real America is something we should perhaps all do these days. For book groups it may not be popular but with apologies for stereotyping I do think male readers will warm to the themes far more.

Published August 2020 by Headline Publishing Group an imprint of Hachette UK Company
ISBN  978-1-4722-737101   Hardback

Review by Philipa Coughlan