A Letter to Librarians from S.A. Cosby

S.A. Cosby’s BLACKTOP WASTELAND is a gritty, voice-driven thriller about a former getaway driver who thought he had escaped the criminal life who is pulled back in by race, poverty, and his own former life of crime.

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive (but with a mostly black cast of characters), BLACKTOP WASTELAND is a searing, operatic story of sons living up (or down) to their fathers; of a heist gone sideways; of a man ground down by economic desperation; of fast cars and daring chases and identity and love.

Now, S.A. Cosby joins us to share a special message to librarians!

Dear Librarian,

Ever since I learned to read (my mother swears I was reading at four years old but I have my doubts. Mothers love their baby boys), libraries have been a beacon for me.

I grew dirt poor in rural Virginia so bookstores were a luxury my family couldn’t afford. But my town did have two outlets for broke, nerdy kids like me: a thrift store, and a great library. A safe haven where I could enter a multitude of worlds, educate myself on subjects my small-town school system didn’t feel comfortable discussing, and experience the magic of the written word. If I wanted the latest bestseller or a classic that wasn’t on my high school reading list, I went to my local library and the kind-hearted, book-loving superheroes who were on staff would guide me in the right directions. The first book I read by Raymond Chandler was borrowed from a library. My local librarian Mrs. Curtis steered me towards the great works of Cormac McCarthy and Phillip Roth. I had to replace the biography of Peter the Great because I re-read it so much in the two weeks I had it I tore the cover by accident.

The library was a bastion of hope and peace for me. Even today the concept of a library blows me away. You will literally give me all the books I can carry and all I have to do is promise to bring them back in two weeks?  As my granddaddy would say, that’s crazy as a bag of cats.

When I sat down to write BLACKTOP WASTELAND I initially wanted to write a story that explored the idea of poverty and violence from a perspective not usually seen in fiction: the rural African American perspective. I was inspired by the works of Flannery O’Connor, Jim Thompson, Ernest J. Gaines. Films like Hell or Highwater, Donnybrook and ATL. For the most part I think I succeeded. But something unintended also happened. I found a form of emotional catharsis.

There are parts of BLACKTOP that are inspired by vivid, visceral memories that still fill my dreams. Writing this book was like untying a twisted, weathered knot in my heart. Pain that I had held onto for far longer than I care to admit poured out of my fingers and found its way onto the page. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but I am immeasurably grateful for it. BLACKTOP WASTELAND is an elegy to the worst of who I am as a man and the millstones I carried around my heart as a boy.

I believe in toxic masculinity and the harmful patriarchal hegemony that it engenders. But I also believe in tragic masculinity. A self-flagellating mindset that diminishes men by inches even as we believe it is protecting us. Tragic masculinity injures us on the inside and leaves behind scars that are felt, not seen. BLACKTOP WASTELAND is about the hereditary disease that is poverty, but it’s also about the violent inheritance that damaged men pass on to their sons. Not just physical violence, but the emotional punishment that we give ourselves. 

It would be an honor to walk into a library and see my book on the shelf. Maybe with your help my words can give another inquisitive soul a few hours of adventure and a few things to think about.

Thank you so much,
S. A. Cosby

BLACKTOP WASTELAND by S.A. Cosby, ISBN 9781250252685, on sale 7/14/20

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