Review of The Whites by Richard Price Writing as Harry Brandt
Either you adore Richard Price, or you’ve never heard of him. I don’t know anyone who’s read any of his nine novels that isn’t a big fan. His new book, The Whites, does not disappoint. It’s gritty New York City, it’s cops, it’s bad guys, it’s good guys meeting untimely deaths, it’s bad guys meeting gruesome deaths, it’s moral dilemmas, it’s broken hearts—it’s everything I love about Richard Price’s writing and more. Except that The Whites was written by Harry Brandt, the pen name Price took when he decided to write something different from his usual fare. When he ended up writing in the same vein after all, he realized the pen name was a mistake. He says he’ll never do that again.
And if you’re wondering if this book is about race because of the title, you can erase that thought from your brain immediately. Instead picture Moby Dick, the great white whale that destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg, and then Ahab’s subsequent quest to get revenge. Apparently, every cop has a white.
In his NYT book review of The Whites, Michael Connelly said he read that Price “was asked why he devoted so much of his considerable literary talent to crime fiction. He responded by saying that when you circle around a murder long enough you get to know a city.” Connelly then went on to say, “With that answer, I believed that Price had crystalized what many writers knew and attempted to practice. That is, he considered the crime novel something more than a puzzle and an entertainment; he saw it as societal reflection, documentation and investigation.” Yes to that.
Price, the master of dialogue, once again proves he is the reigning king, and once you’ve experienced a book driven by dialogue, there’s no turning back. Then there’s the multi-layering of details describing locations, characters, crimes, and motives that make the story ring so true you may begin to imagine you grew up in the Bronx, became a cop, and then died a sad little death with the lot of them. It’s not just a crime story, it’s a study of human nature. It’s also a gripping police procedural with deep, sorrowful relationships falling across its pages. Richard Price, Harry Brandt, whatever…The Whites is a fantastic read.
Henry Holt, 2015
Richard Price is the author of The Wanderers, Bloodbrothers, Ladies’ Man, The Breaks, Clockers, Freedomland, Samaritan, and Lush Life. He’s written for the HBO series The Wire, and numerous screenplays including The Color of Money, which was nominated for an Oscar, Mad Dog and Glory, and Shaft. His book Clockers was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was made into a film directed by Spike Lee.
P.S. I had time to kill while waiting for Price’s reading to begin so I hit the rare book room at Powell’s. I found myself standing next to him, and so struck up a conversation. Delightful. His reading was one of the top events I’ve ever attended. His dark, irreverent humor regarding the movie and TV business had folks crying they were laughing so hard. I highly recommend catching him while he’s on tour. Oh, and never say you’re a big fan when you meet Richard Price. Apparently, his brain immediately conjures up a vision of a big fan, as in the kind that keeps you cool. That’s what he told the audience at Powell’s, with his arms waving through the air—about 30 minutes after I told him that I was a big fan.