Richard Price is the best crime writer working today. Perhaps that is because he isn’t really a crime writer. Price is a writer of the lives of ordinary, damaged people trying to make sense of a confused, violent, world. In his books, those people tend to be cops and robbers, and murders tend to feature prominently, but the murders, are just a way to move the characters through time and keep us reading.
The Whites was originally going to be a simple detective story about a group of cops obsessed with the crimes they couldn’t solve. Price was going to release it under a pen name. But that plan was squashed when it became clear that Price is only really capable of writing one kind of book – a brilliantly drawn story the lives of those whose work touches crime. Here, the work focuses more on the cops than the criminals. It’s an interesting time to read a book by a progressive writer which humanizes the police force. Price doesn’t cover up the some of the awful things some cops do, but he also gives you a sense of the emotional cost of the job to those who do it.
The Whites isn’t Clockers (Price’s masterpiece), the characters aren’t as perfectly drawn, nor is the plot as clean, but it’s still better than ninety percent of the crime fiction out there.