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S. A. Cosby Explores Human Terrain of the South in ‘Razorblade Tears’

S. A. Cosby stands on a gravel street in a red shirt and jeans
S. A. Cosby photo by Sam Sauter Photography. Cosby will join Megan Abbott and Eli Cranor in a panel discussion with Ace Atkins on Friday, March 31, at the Lafayette County courthouse on the Oxford Square. Friday evening, join us at Ajax Diner for a one-night revival of Bill Boyle’s “Noir at the Bar,” featuring readings from Cosby, Abbott, Cranor, Atkins, and Tyler Keith. Live music from Teardrop City to follow the readings.

Ike and Buddy Lee have their sons’ deaths in common—and the child their sons left behind— and as far as Ike is concerned, nothing else. Ike is a successful Black business owner still married  to his son’s mother. Buddy Lee, a lost white man, drinks too much, is a bit of a jokester, and  more easily mixes with rough motorcycle renegades than the high-end society type his ex-wife  married. Standing in the graveyard where their sons are being laid to rest, they also unknowingly  share more. They are both ex-cons and they each bear a gut-wrenching shame: they lost their  boys years ago when they rejected them for loving each other. And now they can think of only  one way to make amends.

book jacket of Razerblade Tears S. A. Cosby’s new novel, Razorblade Tears (Flatiron Books) follows the phenomenal reception to Blacktop Wasteland, a novel that reinvents and reclaims the  Southern Noir narrative. Winner of the 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery, the  novel is nominated for an Anthony Award, a Macavity and is on the short list for the Crime Writers Association (UK)’s Gold Dagger. Praised by authors ranging from Stephen King, Walter  Mosley, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Kellye Garrett, Jennifer Hillier and many more, Cosby’s  novel appeared on over 22 of “Best of 2020” lists. NPR reviewer Gabino Iglesias wrote: “This  book is a cry about race that starts somewhere in Appalachia and echoes across the country.  There are guns here, sure, but the strongest hits come from melancholy and the constant ache for  a better life.” Paula Woods in The Los Angeles Times called Blacktop Wasteland “groundbreaking,” while The New York Times described Cosby’s narrative voice as “he plays a  sharp-tongued Virgil as we descend into the Hades of bucolic poverty.” 

While Cosby’s earlier novel started with the high-octane roar of a street race, Razorblade Tears begins with a policeman’s knock. Though Ike’s past is well behind him, he has an  instinctive reaction to the sight of two policeman on his doorstep. The news is life-altering: the  horrific murder of his journalist son Isiah and his husband Derek. When time goes by and the  case is closed unsolved, Ike starts to reconsider the plan Buddy Lee floated after the funeral.  What if the two ex-cons pair up and find answers their way? They are past the point where they  can be forgiven for their lack of grace and acceptance of who the young men were in life, but  perhaps they can find a redemption of sorts in tracking down those who killed them. The risks  are high: prison, death, and an unleashing of the hard, violent men each had vowed not to be  again.  

Cosby’s understanding of the lives of his characters runs as deep to the bone as it did in Blacktop Wasteland. With the pairing of these two men, Cosby explores the human terrain of his South,  its sorrowful legacy and its inexorable pull on those, Black and white, who call it home. Through  his crackling dialogue as well as with penetrating and deeply affecting insights into the interior  lives of men, Cosby has his two protagonists build an uneasy path between their adjacent but  different worlds. Urgent in pace, the weight of what has been lost pushes Ike and Buddy Lee to  burn their way through the small town and its environs, the scenes of retribution choreographed  with a brutal grace and recognition of the price of violence. 

Razorblade Tears is superb. No doubt, S. A. Cosby is not only the future of crime fiction but of any fiction where the words are strong, the characters are strong and the story has a resonance that cuts right to the heart of the most important questions of our times.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A tour de force – poignant, action-packed, and profound.” ―Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

About the Author: Shawn A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia, now residing in Gloucester, Virginia. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. His short story “The Grass Beneath My Feet” won the Anthony award for best short story in 2019. He is also the author of My Darkest Prayer and Brotherhood of the Blade. His writing is influenced by his experience as a bouncer, construction worker, retail manager and for six hours a mascot for a major fast food chain inside the world’s hottest costume. When he isn’t crafting tales of murder and mayhem he assists the dedicated staff at J. K. Redmond Funeral home as a mortician’s assistant. He is an avid hiker and is also known as one hell of a chess player.