Book Review: Blacktop Wasteland

What do you imagine when you hear the word “noir”? You probably picture a black-and-white movie filled with rain, smoke, whiskey, and overcoats. You might hear a gravelly-voiced narrator with a penchant for stark similes. It’s urban. It’s gritty. And, if we look at many of the iconic examples to date, it’s white. 

Blacktop Wasteland is a modern, rural, southern, unapologetically black noir mystery, and I’m here for it. 

Content Warning: This is crime fiction. The characters commit crimes. Consider yourself warned of violence, drug use, sexual content, and strong language. 

The Basics:

Title: Blacktop Wasteland
Author: S.A. Cosby
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Suspense, Noir
Published: Flatiron, 2020

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

Beauregard is a reformed thief  who lives a relatively happy domestic life with his wife and three kids in a small rural Virginia county. His auto-repair shop has struggled since a new franchise car shop moved across town. One expense after another piles up, driving Bug back into The Life. He drives a getaway car for a job that promises to erase all of his financial woes. What should be a fast, clean, and relatively easy score goes horribly wrong, placing Bug and his family squarely in the sights of the type of people nobody wants to piss off. Each increasingly desperate situation pushes Bug to compromise himself further as he fights to protect his family from the danger he brings to their front porch. 

Depending on how you slice it, there are at least three innovative heists, four tire-shredding car chases, and more twists than a bag of churros. Blacktop Wasteland is a gritty thriller which shows its characters no mercy from first to last. 

Photo by @felipepelaquim – on

Why You Will Love This Book: 

Beauregard is the quintessential tragic hero. Cosby strikes a balance that must have been exceptionally difficult: even as we are (usually) convinced that Bug makes the best choice he can given his extraordinary circumstances, we know each turn drives him one mile closer to a tragedy of his own making. I believe his choices, and I understand them, even as the knot in my stomach on his behalf tightens. 

S.A. Cosby has brought the iconic voice of noir into the modern age. He loves dropping the perfect, evocative metaphor and pulls no punches with his authentic, honest prose. It’s a cocktail of sadness, thrills, rage, and joy. I can unequivocally say I was blown away. Blacktop Wasteland weaves drama, suspense, and action seamlessly into an absolute banger of a novel. 

Where Can You Learn More?

S.A. Cosby is a pretty good follow on Twitter, so find @blacklionking73 there if you’re on The Socials. Check out this interview over on Crime Reads.

Happy reading, folks… but not too happy, if you pick this one up. It really is a gut-punch.

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