New York Times Notable Book • NPR’s Best Books of 2020 • BookPage’s #1 Mystery and Suspense of 2020 • Sun Sentinel’s #1 Best Mystery of 2020 • Library Journal Best Crime Fiction for 2020 • Suspense Magazine Best of 2020 • The Guardian’s Best Crime & Thriller Novels of 2020 • BookRiot’s Best Books of 2020 • Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist • Chicago Public Library’s Best Books of 2020 • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2020 • Booklist Editors’ Choice 2020 • CrimeReads The Best Novels of 2020
“A fast-paced, fresh take on noir that tears through the underbelly of Virginia.”
New York Times
"One of the year's strongest novels. The noir story quickly accelerates and doesn’t lose speed until it careens to its finale. It’s a look at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives. Cosby invests Blacktop Wasteland with emotion while delivering a solid thriller."
“I loved Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Cosby. The epigram tells you all you need to know about this fast-paced, bareknuckle thriller: 'Drive it like you stole it.'”
“Violence-tinged heists, muscle cars, and dead-end poverty in America generate the full-on action and evocative atmosphere in this beautifully wrought tale.”
“The year’s most celebrated crime novel, and with good reason. It’s a soaring, deeply felt, deeply propulsive tale written by an author coming into his full powers…Cosby writes beautifully of the sensations and memories that drive Bug through the night and down the empty roads toward his old life. Dread and excitement combine to create a unique sense of atmosphere, one that will keep readers pushing ahead toward a genuinely powerful conclusion.”
CrimeReads The Best Novels of 2020
“Running through this turbocharged heist plot (think Richard Stark’s Parker novels) is a beautifully crafted and deeply poignant drama (think Walter Mosley’s Fearless Jones’ novels). This book is a stunner.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2020
“The noir story brilliantly looks at race, responsibility, parenthood and identity via pin-perfect characters with realistic motives.”
Sun Sentinel, The Best Mystery Books of 2020, #1
“Cosby never misses a note in this high-energy read...A superb work of crime fiction, uncompromisingly noir but deeply human, too, much like Lou Berney's November Road (2018).”
Booklist, starred review
“Blacktop Wasteland is an urgent, timely, pitch-perfect jolt of American noir. S. A. Cosby is a welcome, refreshing new voice in crime literature.”
Dennis Lehane, bestselling author of Since We Fell and Mystic River
“Diamonds and fast cars, trailer park dreams and late night illegal street racing, S. A. Cosby reinvents the American crime novel. Black and white with bills unpaid and no exit in sight, his characters feel the pull of family and swagger with the melancholy ache of wanting to be someone. Blacktop Wasteland thrums and racesit’s an intoxicating thrill of a ride.”
Walter Mosley, bestselling author of Trouble Is What I Do
“Sensationally goodnew, fresh, real, authentic, twisty, with characters and dilemmas that will break your heart. More than recommended.”
Lee Child, bestselling author of Blue Moon
“Cosby’s lightning-bright prose powers this magnificent tale of a heist gone wrong and a weary man’s attempts to free himself from his past.”
Bookpage, Best Books of 2020: Mystery & Suspense, #1 pick
“A blistering heist novel with a huge heart, and I barely breathed for the last hundred pages.”
Ruth Ware, bestselling author of One by One
“For fans of: Bullitt, The Fast and the Furious and gritty Elmore Leonard-style noir…[Cosby] never lets up on the gas. The result is a high-octane, white-knuckle thriller that will have readers whipping through the pages at breakneck speed…Cosby’s tightfisted prose fuels this story with heart-pumping (and often brutal) action that begs to be adapted for the big screen but never loses its compassionate edge.”
“High-octane neo-noir thriller…The gritty, brutal narrative is complemented by the author’s sublime use of sensory description and regional imagery. In addition, the epic, jaw-dropping chase sequences that figure prominently are reason alone to read this pedal-to-the-metal but profoundly sorrowful novel. Cosby is definitely a writer to watch.”
"Beautifully wrought and worthy of envy...Call shotgun, and then buckle up. Blacktop Wasteland is a ride that will stick with you long after the engine has cooled."
"We're in Elmore Leonard land…Bug's got a conscience not typical of the thriller genre, but other than that, this novel recalls almost perfectly the classic heist thriller in the vein of Richard Stark's "Parker" novels. It'll go like hot cakes.”
Library Journal, starred review
“Unforgettable…Cosby never takes his foot off the accelerator. He's a natural storyteller and a nimble writer. And Cosby works the magic performed by only the best noir scribes: somehow he gets readers to root for the protagonist as he commits a crime.”
Shelf Awareness, starred review
“It’s fitting Blacktop Wasteland opens with a drag race. This is the literary equivalent of a muscle carsleek, a little dangerous, and when it kicks into gear, you hold on for dear life. Lucky for you, Cosby is an expert wheelman.”
Rob Hart, bestselling author of The Warehouse
“Every once in a while a writer comes along with an incredible voice. Think Elmore Leonard, or Chester Himes. With Blacktop Wasteland, add S. A. Cosby to that list.”
Steve Cavanagh, bestselling author of Thirteen
“Powerful, gritty, and lyrical, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is the unflinching portrayal of a man who’s deeply aware he needs to make a better life for himself and his family, but can’t or won’t. This story is an emotional gut punch, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Beauregard while he’s ripping your heart out. Cosby is a mesmerizing new voice in crime fiction you won’t soon forget. This is literary noir at its finest.”
Jennifer Hillier, award-winning author of Jar of Hearts and Little Secrets
“With Blacktop Wasteland, Anthony award-winning author S. A. Cosby cements his position as one of the leading crime fiction voices of his generation. The story crackles with a dynamically flawed main character, vivid description, unexpected reveals and dialogue so real you'd swear you were eavesdropping. I couldn't wait to finish yet never wanted the book to end at the same time. There's no doubt that Cosby is an authentic and much needed voice in today's crime fiction.”
Kellye Garrett, Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty award-winning author of The Detective by Day series
“This book shook me in the best way possible. Cosby’s gritty, powerhouse novel evokes some of the modern masters - Mosley, Pelecanos, and Lehane - with a tone and vibe that is wholly unique. Epic but also grounded and painfully relevant, Blacktop Wasteland is a crime novel for today, and S. A. Cosby is a writer we’ll be hearing from for quite some time. I loved this book.”
Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Blackout and Miami Midnight
“Blacktop Wasteland is a guaranteed thriller-of-the-year with muscle and heart and characters who will linger long after the last page is read. S.A. Cosby writes with grit and grace. Do not miss this one.”
Michael Koryta, bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
“There is a sweet spot in a vehicle, whether it’s a car or a book, a perfect point of harmony between torque and horsepower or character and plotBlacktop Wasteland is that sweet spot. S. A. Cosby’s new novel reverberates with a throaty roar, pegging the needles with a welcomed strip of rubber laid down in a silk-scarf, lace-backed driving glove mystery world.”
Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries
“Buckle up. S. A. Cosby is about to take you on a high-speed spin through the rural black south. Muscle cars, backroads racing, double crossing deals and that elusive big score. Red Hill County is my kind of place!”
Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Revelators
“Blacktop Wasteland will let the world at large in on what the crime fiction underworld already knows: S. A. Cosby is a major, original talent. Searing, twisted and jaggedly human, this Southern noir heist novel leaves scars.”
Jordan Harper, Edgar Award winning author of She Rides Shotgun
"A roaring, full-throttle thriller, crackling with tension and charm...Cosby immediately displays a talent for well-tuned action, raising our heart rates and filling our nostrils with odors of gun smoke and burned rubber. But the real draw here is his evocative depiction of rural Virginia and its denizens. Cosby's voice is distinctive, and he plays a sharp-tongued Virgil as we descend into the Hades of bucolic poverty."
The New York Times Book Review
"A classic, character-driven heist tale that inhabits that world, but delivers heart-pounding entertainment."
Beauregard "Bug" Montage was the best wheelman in town, but after his last score, he quit the business and bought an auto repair shop. He's married with three children, and he promised his wife that their children's daddy was going to be around for the long haul—no prison, no tombstone. Then another auto shop opens up. Bug's Black, the other guy's white, and Bug is losing money hand over fist. The bills don't stop, though: the kids' glasses and dental work, college tuition for his oldest, 30 big ones by the end of the month or they'll boot his mother out of her nursing home. Enter Ronnie Sessions, fresh out of prison and looking for a score. Bug doesn't want to play, but if this job comes off, his share will be 70 to 80 large. From this point on, we're in Elmore Leonard land: Ronnie's crew screws up, the robbery goes south, and a truly scary guy appears out of nowhere to pressure them into another heist, after which he plans to retire them permanently. VERDICT Bug's got a conscience not typical of the thriller genre, but other than that, this debut novel recalls almost perfectly the classic heist thriller in the vein of Richard Stark's "Parker" novels. It'll go like hot cakes.—David Keymer, Cleveland
A gifted getaway driver desperately wants to go straight, but he’s towing around a lot of baggage.
Beauregard Montage is a good mechanic in a bad fix. A son needs braces. His daughter needs tuition. His cancer-stricken mom’s nursing home is demanding a lot of cash, fast. But his repair shop is about to go belly up. He needs money—and a lot more than he can make in illegal drag races in his classic Duster, because everybody in Red Hill County, Virginia, knows he’s the fastest driver around. Is it any wonder he’s thinking of returning to his criminal past for one more job that will solve all his problems—and feed his need for thrills to boot? The stage is eventually set for a big-dollar diamond heist—but the story’s not that simple. This is also a novel about the struggles of being an African American man with an absent father who’s “a ghost without a grave.” The Montages have a family tradition for violence that Beauregard doesn’t want to pass down. It’s a true curse, he feels. “Money can’t fix it and love can’t tame it. Push it down deep and it rots you from the inside out. Give in to it and you end up doing five years in some hellhole.” Beauregard’s anguish makes him a sympathetic lead. But the supporting cast isn't nearly as compelling, and some turns of phrase (“Pockets of rust covered the hood like some oxidizing eczema,” “Even after all these years, she still captivated the savage that lived between his legs”) are as painful as anything anybody suffers in the bloody climax.
The at-times action-packed ride can’t hide the fact that this one doesn't fire on all cylinders.