Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: "Clockers" by Richard Price

Clockers is the Richard Price novel that truly lives up to the reputation that he has garnered for himself, especially to those who find their way to his novels through his work on The Wire. All the talent and good qualities that have been used to describe him, from his entertaining dialogue, classic sense of storytelling and place and a real love for fictional characters he crafts exist, to their full capacity, in this novel. While I liked Freedomland quite a bit, I felt the story seemed too big and far-reaching for someone with the talents Price possesses. He seemed to sacrifice nuance and intimacy for commentary on current events and a cast of characters he didn’t quite have a grasp of. But here, that is not the case. Price tells a story that is almost to intimate that it literally crawls under your skin and tries to peck itself out. It keeps its main focus on the lives and details (warts and all) of two men who are on opposite sides of the law. Each has their own flaws and each will, at some point in the story have our sympathy as they try to navigate this world of the fictional town of Dempsey, New Jersey, which seems on the verge of swallowing itself whole. Throughout this journey these two men make, Price, who is a master storyteller, guides us through this living hell, as everyone, even the criminals and demons try to obtain what makes them happy. In alternating chapters we meet Strike, a low-level drug dealer, whose boss, Rodney, begins to make deals that are destructive, dangerous, and way over his head. On the other side, we meet Detective Rocco, whose eyeing retirement with a young wife and an infant daughter in tow with greater urgency as his job becomes more soul killing. These two have almost nothing in common in their personalities, which I give Price a lot of kudos for. He inhabits these two very different people with skill and artistry. The only thing that brings them together is the murder of another low-level dealer named Darryl Adams. Strike’s older brother, Victor, confesses to the murder, but Rocco seeing this case as a good way to close out his career as a cop, sees through his flimsy confession and thinks he is covering for his brother, who he thinks committed the murder. With that setup, Price tells a very enthralling story for the next 600 pages, recounting in detail Strike’s progressively worsening stress related health issues, which he nurses with Vanilla Yoo-Hoo since he doesn’t drink, and Rocco’s relationship with a famous actor who is shadowing him for a future role he is researching, which ends abrupt way that is sad in who quickly it ends. All the tension, murder and mayhem leads to an ending which is kind of expected, but still packs a punch with how deep it goes into the psyche of modern humanity. The dialogue comes off a bit fake, but damn is it good. All the good things said about Price have come true for me through this great, intense and passionate novel.
Rating: 5/5

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