A New York probation officer locks horns with a brutal drug dealer in this “gripping” Edgar Award winner from a New York Times–bestselling author (Library Journal).
As a probation officer in a city plagued by drugs, murders, and corruption, Steven Baum supervises marginal criminals—not dangerous enough for prison, but too damaged to go totally free. He watches them, keeps them in line, and once in a long while, helps one improve his life. The job is a vicious grind, but Steven is good at it, and he is about to be rewarded with a transfer to active duty. But first he has to deal with Darryl King. A small-time dealer with big aspirations, Darryl is the kind of thug who makes probation officers want to quit. Although the boy terrifies him, Steven holds out hope for helping him turn his life around. What he doesn’t know is that Darryl is a cop-killer—and his troubles have only just begun. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Peter Blauner including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
Blauner, an editor at New York magazine, comes achingly close to pulling off a gripping first novel. The two protagonists--young probation officer Steve Baum, fighting (sometimes successfully) New York City's bureaucracy on behalf of his clients, and 18-year-old crackhead Darryl King, a compassionless drug dealer--are on a collision course. Baum struggles with his Auschwitz survivor father (who disapproves of Baum's job and hoards food), his new girlfriend (half-white, half-black, dauntingly upper-middle-class) and the numbing justice system. King struggles with his mother (an ex-heroin addict), drug-world rivals, his probation for car theft and the possible revelation of a murder he's committed. New York seems almost totally bleak, its underclass wretchedness horrifying Baum but barely fazing King. The final confrontation, with Baum held hostage in a housing project, ends explosively. Despite vivid glimpses of the city in extremis and some ironic moments (King's mother says modern drug users ``have it too easy''), the novel's effect is undermined by Baum's whining and off-putting first-person, present-tense narration.