Thursday, March 12, 2020

William Boyle on Rake by Scott Phillips

I met Scott Phillips at the first Noircon in Philadelphia in 2008. I’d read and seen The Ice Harvest at that point. Scott and I were on a panel together about Georges Simenon. Scott was exceedingly kind to me—I left Noircon with the rest of his books. I’ve remained a huge fan over the years, and I’m damn excited that he’s back with That Left Turn at Albuquerque.

Rake, published in 2013, is one of my favorite books of his. It’s black-hearted noir and an achievement of high comic art. In Phillips’s world, there’s a thin line between brutality and slapstick. He delivers a study in misanthropic madness, taking his cues from Charles Willeford and revealing that he too is master of examining the troubled minds of the soulless. 

Phillips has always concerned himself with the dark underside of things, a trait that drew me to his work in the first place. He’s interested in exposing characters as phonies, in uncovering what’s really going on under the surface, and Rake is no exception. Even though it’s ultimately a comic noir, it’s shot through with important commentary on celebrity and consequence. But one of Phillips’s greatest attributes is that he has no moral center; neither does he moralize. Rake is a neglected masterpiece, one of the great joys of noir fiction from this past decade, and it’s a book you should seek out immediately if you missed it.

Scott's latest novel, That Left Turn at Albuquerque is out now. Grab a copy at your favorite local bookstore through Indie Bound or from

Subterranean Books (they'll have signed editions)


William Boyle is the author of Gravesend, The Lonely Witness, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, and City of Margins (also released on March 3, Scott Phillips Day)

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