When the news came it came out of nowhere, a straight up surprise. One of our very favourite (human) nature writers, Richard Price, has written another book and it’s out now. No hype. No tease. Not even his own name. Who better to ask to review it than the legendary Brian Case.
The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt
Bloomsbury, hardcover, 352 pages. £12.95
Review by Brian Case
Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt (who’s he kidding?), has produced another characteristically real, anguished vision of the New York crime scene. It’s a barely bearable Via Dolorosa by Bosch. How his cops endure night after night of unspeakable violence and not go home and kick the cat, is a mystery, but Price’s “Night Watch” remain tough, compassionate men who dote on their families and love their buddies. However, each of them has a testing point as far as bad guys evading justice are concerned – these are the ‘Whites’ of the title.
“No one asked for these crimes to set up house in their lives, no one asked for these murderers to constantly and arbitrarily lay siege to their psyches like bouts of malaria.”
The story begins with one of these killers mysteriously knifed in Penn station, dripping blood as he tries to hurdle the barrier, and “suddenly locking up in mid-air as if flash-frozen and dropping directly.” Comments a cop, watching the taped footage, “it’s not like it’s without entertainment value.” Price conveys the variations of decent Billy Graves’ Night Watch, in depth, and also presents one horrifyingly deranged cop, Milton Ramos, whose family has been massacred. For Ramos, clubs are trumps. “His sense of being normal was a tough sell in the mirror,” but he loves his daughter even as he plans to destroy Graves and his neurotic nurse wife. The novel is about obsession and closes about the mind like a vice, the writing is fast often funny despite the horrors, and amazingly compassionate. “I’m all about the God of the Jews,” declares a cop. Price isn’t.
ON THE SNAP: “Three decades of snapshots from the world of jazz, film and crime fiction” by Brian Case, is published by Caught by the River, in June.