The Criminal Element


Fans of novelist Richard Price have waited five years, since 2003’s Samaritan, for a new book to draw them back into the rough and tumble of urban American street life. The wait ended last year when Price, acclaimed for grittily realistic doorstoppers like Clockers and Freedomland, released his latest, Lush Life (available in paperback come March).

Lush Life trolls the streets of New York’s Fifth Precinct, where bartender Eric Cash dreams of becoming a screenwriter, but ends up instead a suspect in the murder of a thug from the projects. “There isn’t a page of Lush Life that doesn’t offer something to smile at or savor,” writes Richard B. Woodward on

Richard Price

A native New Yorker, Price draws absorbing, morally conflicted characters into tales of urban corruption, a topic too often plagued with two-dimensional and wholly forgettable personalities on the page. In The New York Review of Books, novelist Michael Chabon describes Price’s skill at creating characters as “Tolstoyan.”

The complex cops and criminals of the Price’s novels work wonders onscreen as well. Spike Lee translated Clockers to film in 1995, but Price’s perhaps best-known cinematic moonlighting can be seen in his more recent co-writing credits on HBO’s engrossing Baltimore crime series The Wire. (Anyone lucky enough to have immersed herself into at least one season probably shares a fruitless longing for more of Jimmy McNulty, Stringer Bell and Lester Freamon.)

Price ventures to Texas’ own urban jungle-Houston-March 9 as part of Inprint’s 2008/2009 Margaret Root Browning series of speakers. He’ll be reading at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through

-Karie Meltzer