Friday, December 11, 2009


by Richard Price // Picador

Cover photograph © Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

CLOCKERS by Richard Price


Rocco Klein is a Dempsy, NJ homicide detective six months from retirement in the opening pages of Clockers. Dempsy, NJ is a lost, desolate place, full of slums hemorrhaging drugs, specifically crack. Strike, the second main character, is the crack dealer. He overseas his host of minions—his clockers—but not without undue stress. His profession makes him nervous and he doubts whether it is truly for him. His boss, the drug kingpin Rodney Little, sees it another way. This sets the stage for the event that catapults Rocco Klein and Strike toward each other. A murder occurs outside a fast food restaurant. Instead of Strike stepping forward, his brother, Victor, admits guilt claiming he did it in self defense. Klein of course does not buy the confession and the pursuit of Strike and Rodney Little begins.

The story is told from the perspectives of both Rocco Klein and Strike, alternating chapters as the novel moves through the grime and grit of slummy NJ. Each character has a distinct view of the world they live in. On the whole, this lets Price create two different worlds within one, a layered city, with each layer utterly connected.

I’d have to say this book is geared toward a predominantly male audience.

The tone is desperate and violent. Every line spoken, every description suggests violence in one way or another. “The New York skyline had begun to bruise purple.”
The language is aggressive and direct. Everything is meant to cut someone else in some way, emotionally, physically. It’s a hard environment and Price paints the picture of Armageddon, the last days over Dempsy, NJ.

Compare this book to all the gritty cop dramas that were once good. NYPD Blue in its beginning days. The Wire (which Price writes for). It’s smart and fast paced. Homicide: A Year in the Killing Streets by David Simon

The language is what makes this book different. Price’s prose clips along. Every character is cunning or done for, and there is a clear line between both. The crack dealers he is portraying are smart, know the game, know the cops, know their clientele. The cops know the clockers, and watch the city and its dismal surroundings, like crooks themselves.

Notable imagery: Strike drinks vanilla Yoo-hoo to nurse and calm his ailing stomach.
Handcuffs. The slums, the endless maze of brick housing projects. The corners, parking lots and concrete yards where clockers know to set up shop. Police interrogation rooms. Crack viles. Beepers or pagers.

Early Sketches:

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