Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

‘Beauregard thought the night sky looked like a painting.’

Beauregard ‘Bug’ Montage has turned his life around.  Once a former getaway driver, he is now taking care of his family: his wife, his three children and his difficult mother, while earning a living in his own mechanical workshop.  But business is slow in North Carolina, bills are mounting and while he’s not yet desperate, he needs some money.

‘Progress had left this part of town behind.  It was abandoned just like the store.  A blacktop wasteland haunted by phantoms of the past.’

The story opens with a car race.  A setup. A race that Beauregard won, but he didn’t get to collect his winnings.  Money becomes tighter.  Meanwhile, his sons need things, his daughter needs money if she is to pursue an education, his mother is in a nursing home.

Beauregard is haunted by his past, by a father who disappeared, by associates who want to pull him back into a job.  Easy money they say.  Against his better judgment, trapped by his circumstances, Beauregard says yes.

‘You were never out of the Life completely.  You were always looking over your shoulder.’

Unsurprisingly, but sadly, things go wrong.  A situation gets out of control, attempts to fix it make matters worse.  And Beauregard’s carefully rebuilt life starts to fall to pieces.

‘You start down a road like this and before you know it, you can’t find your way back.’

I found this novel incredibly moving.  I wanted to reach into the pages and talk to Beauregard, remind him that he stood to lose far more than he could hope to gain.   I desperately wanted a different (better) outcome.

Strongly recommended to anyone who enjoys reading American crime novels.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith