[A] riveting, violent caper
The Smack is much more than a crime novel. It is a novel about life itself. The secret to great writing isn't just to observe. It's to create a world that readers understand at least as well as they do their own. Richard Lange has accomplished this, and more. His sensitivity and pacing are reminiscent of Raymond Carver, Charles Willeford, and Jim Thompson.
If Elmore Leonard and Dennis Cooper collaborated on a novel, they might produce something as exciting, harrowing and emotionally powerful as The Smack. Call it a literary thriller or call it thrilling literature - Richard Lange is emerging as the master of a new kind of novel: One that delivers breathless, gripping action while anchored in the authentic troubles of the real world. The Smack arrives like a genuine miracle - that rare thriller that will jack your pulse even as it breaks your heart.
Lange is a master at writing about characters on the margins of society and humanizing outcasts and misfits, and he manages to capture the surreal culture of Los Angeles in all its contradictory glory.
Lange is an expert writer, his prose exact, his narrative tightly controlled...Petty may be a world-weary 40-year-old con man, but his character brings a fresh point of view to the world of noir L.A. Whatever he's selling, it's worth buying.
The Smack is an exercise in finely pitched writing, and the kind of noirish tale you relish even as you dread turning the page to get closer to its conclusion.
The Smack just might be Mr. Lange's best yet, and that's saying something. His Los Angeles tableau of concrete and graffiti and neon is as sharp as razor wire. The characters are authentic down to the bone, the dialogue pitch-perfect believable, the desperation palpable, the situation urgent, the story riveting. Simply put, The Smack wallops you upside the head with its bad-ass-ness.
In this breezy page-turner, Lange shows off his uncommon ability to combine toughness and tenderness.
It's hard to imagine Richard Lange wasn't, in some previous life, a hustler from Reno with a girlfriend named Tinafey he met on a professional date who goes to LA to steal a fortune from a one-legged soldier home from Afghanistan and a host of other terrifying individuals. The characters are real and satisfying, the relationships will warm your heart and break it at the same time. The Smack is convincing, hectic and terrific fun.
Lange is a writer of clean and easy prose, and he's strong at structuring a narrative that builds toward an ever tightening climax. The Smack adds up to one of the nicer surprises of the season
Like his protagonist, Dashiell Hammett Award winner Lange knows how to reel in his audience with a seductive story and plenty of misdirection. There's nothing criminal, however, about this rollicking, diamond-cut thriller shot through with elegance and heart.
The kind of book you'll want to savour
With all the dexterity of Thomas Perry, Lange walks the thin line between caper novel and blood-splattered noir, leading up to a rip-roaring finale. This fine piece of tragicomic crime fiction sets up like a stand-alone, but we'd sure like to see more.