The Ice Harvest

Phillips, Scott

Published by Ballantine, 2000
ISBN 10: 0345440188 / ISBN 13: 9780345440181
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First Printing of the First Edition. Author's first book. Signed by Scott Phillips. Edgar Nominee for Best First Novel. Book and dust jacket in fine condition. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Loaded guns, ladies of the night, broken neon, broken dreams. Here is a world that is immediately recognizable--through a shot glass at three A.M. This is life with rough edges, in a novel that gives you the straight goods--point blank-- one cold, snowbound Christmas Eve in Kansas. One single night, defined in shadings of black and white, when everything changes. . . .

For most, the city is closing up. For a few outsiders, this night, Christmas Eve 1979, is just beginning. Charlie Arglist is a lawyer saying goodbye to Wichita by revisiting the landscape of his used up life: the cold stare of his angry ex-wife, the empty strip clubs and bars where loneliness turns a profit, the frozen glare of ex-lovers and cops long snuggled in his deep pockets. Club owner Renata, an elegant dish in a smoky dive, dreams of financial prosperity and holds a single frame of a stolen film that could help her achieve them. And there's Vic. He's got a reputation, a bad temper, and a secret worth half a million dollars. Not to mention a knack for bringing people together . . . for the last time. Before the night is over, the decisions they face and the choices they make will irrevocably alter the course of their lives--if they can live long enough to see Christmas Day sunrise.

Review: For all that it involves organized crime, naked women, grumpy bouncers, a serious snowstorm, and a hero with a profound drinking pattern, The Ice Harvest is a quiet little book--noir-ish, certainly, but never to excess. As the novel traces Charlie Arglist's trail around his small Kansas hometown on Christmas Eve, 1979, the lawyer's literal footprints are clear enough, given the whopper of a blizzard that's descended, but his metaphorical path is far less obvious. He's killing time before leaving town, but where is he going? And why?

Scott Phillips' sketch of a crooked lawyer on the lam is amusingly ironic: though there's violence aplenty in the novel--including a morbidly comic finger-breaking scene starring Spencer, a philosophical bouncer at the Sweet Cage, one of the strip clubs Charlie oversees for Bill Gerard--this is Waiting for Godot rather than Goodfellas. Phillips masterfully sets up the reader's expectations for action and adventure, dropping cryptic hints about Charlie's past, present, and future, then gleefully keeps Charlie in a holding pattern, circling from one strip club to another, from bars to massage parlors to his former in-laws' house.

But when the world isn't scripted by Beckett, all waiting games must come to an end. Charlie's gamble--it would be cheating to tell you more than that it involves a little cocaine, a beautiful woman of indeterminate origin, a Christmas package full of cash, and an embarrassing photograph--pays off, and he heads out of town. How far does he get? Well, that's another story--and another opportunity for Phillips to show off the mordant humor that may brand him as the Cohen brothers' literary heir apparent. In his hands, Kansas doesn't seem far at all from Fargo. --Kelly Flynn

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Ice Harvest
Publisher: Ballantine
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition

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