Richard Price is Right

4 Feb

Richard Price circa 1997 [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Richard Price circa 1997 [photo: Robert Birnbaum]


Way back when, when I discovered Richard Price’s first novel, The Wanderers (later made into a movie of the same name), I had no idea that years later I would have read all his novels, each a worthy benchmark of his prodigious talent to chronicle real life (Or as the dust jacket of The Whites asserts , “…vividly etched portrayals of urban America”)  in New York City’s mean streets (Freedomland might as well have been set in NYC). His eighth novel Lush Life centered on the story of Eric Cash, a would-be writer and actor was a somewhat more interior narrative.

Now comes The Whites (Henry Holt), whose Melvillian allusion is no throwaway gesture,with a group of NYPD police friends calling themselves the Wild Geese; sharing past and present travails (no spoilers to be found here) especially one detective Billy Graves.Once again Price exhibits a vest knowledge of street level minutiae including the tricks of the undertaker trade (the use of super glue). Additionally, Price is, as always adept, with his descriptive talents—I doubt anyone has ever described a house looking like “pterodactyl’s birdcage.

Price has also done some film work (Sea of Love, Clockers the forthcomingChild 44)) and participated in the nonpareil HBO series, The Wireand seried he produced called NYC22.

Here’s a snippet from my 2003 chat with Richard Price

Robert Birnbaum: Anything to say about Random House having Mark Winegardner continue the Godfather saga?

Richard Price: I couldn’t care less one way or another. I’m worried about my books.

RB: (laughs)

RP: They had that lady write that sequel to Gone with the Wind a couple of years ago. Everything is so cheesy now.

RB: So when you pass away in fifty years, will you mind if someone continues to write under your name?

RP: Well, if I’ve passed away, I doubt I’ll give a crap one way or another.

RB: You’ve been quoted as saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough write screenplays.” Are you still writing for movies?

RP: In fact, I’m late with one right now.

RB: Because you are on this tour talking about Samaritan?

RP: Yeah, but it’s how I make my money. Otherwise I couldn’t afford to write books.

RB: (laughs)

RP: Really.

RB: That’s terrible.

RP: Yeah, if I were living by myself in Kansas, I probably wouldn’t need to write screenplays. But I live in New York with a wife and two kids.

The Whites by Richard Price as Harry Brandt

The Whites by Richard Price as Harry Brandt

Here is Price talking about his friendship with David Simon and working on the Wire

Currently reading Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg (FSG)

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