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'Blacktop Wasteland': Excellent story of a good man driven to crime

S.A. Cosby makes a strong impression with his

S.A. Cosby makes a strong impression with his first novel "Blacktop Wasteland." Credit: Macmillan/TNS

BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron, 304 pp., $26.99)

"Blacktop Wasteland" introduces S.A. Cosby, a new talent who delivers one of the year's strongest novels.

Set in 2012, "Blacktop Wasteland" revolves around Beauregard "Bug" Montage, a Black father and husband who owns an auto shop in Shepherd's Corner, Virginia. He's worked hard to create a normal life with his wife, Kia, for their two sons and sends regular support checks for his teenage daughter from a previous relationship while trying to distance himself from his past.

Bug's skills as an expert driver made him highly sought by petty criminals and allowed him to skirt the law.

His business begins to fail when a body shop with lower prices opens in town. His cruel, terminally ill mother is about to be kicked out of her nursing home. His daughter is college bound and one son needs glasses. Bug feels he has no choice but to take a potentially lucrative job as a getaway driver in a jewelry heist.

As expected, the robbery goes horribly wrong. Bug and his partners escape, but the vicious owners of the jewelry store are after them. Not only is Bug in danger but so is his family.Cosby smoothly alternates Bug's domestic life with his criminal side in "Blacktop Wasteland." At his heart, the complicated Bug is a good man who will take unsavory actions. He wants more for his children.

The economically strapped area of Virginia with its decaying buildings and "desiccated husks" of deserted houses enhances "Blacktop Wasteland" as this setting becomes a metaphor for Bug's crumbling life. "A blacktop wasteland haunted by the phantoms of the past."

"Blacktop Wasteland" will easily make it to many best of the year lists.

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