The Ice Harvest

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“BITTERLY FUNNY . . . [A] SLEEK FIRST NOVEL . . . NOIR CRIME . . . HAS FOUND A STERLING NEW CHAMPION IN PHILLIPS.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A FUTURE HARD-BOILED CLASSIC–TIGHT, COLD, AND CACKLING WITH IRONY. On Christmas Eve [in Wichita], a mob lawyer is skipping ...
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New York U. S. A. 2000 Hardcover First Edition New in New dust jacket 978-0345440181. Marfree, acidfree Fine 1stEd in unclipped shiny dj-both Gift Qual; no names, not marked-in, ... underscored, clearance or discard. Mails from NYC usually within 12 hours.; 0.85 x 7.24 x 6.58 Inches; 217 pages; Knockout Noir, Jan 10, 2001By Ms. Nancy F. Jones (Milwaukee, WI USA)-I have to love a writer who can tell a great story in under 300 pages. And make no mistake, this is a great story. Mean, lowdown and dirty, with a cast of characters who have not one redeeming quality between them. It all takes place in Wichita on Christmas Eve in 1979. Charlie is a shady lawyer who, with his partner, Vic, has stolen enough money from their mob connected boss to leave town and start a new, better life. While Charlie waits to hook up with his partner, who has the money, and to catch his plane, he wanders aimlessly around town in a snowstorm, visiting the strip clubs owned by his boss, drinking too much, and visiting his angry ex-wife and Read more Show Less

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Tucson, AZ 2000 Hard cover First Edition Published October 2000 Signed by the Author. A beautiful copy in a Brodart Dust Jacket Cover and bound in quarter-morocco boards and ... encased in a Black slipcase. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 158 p. Audience: General/trade. This Deluxe Limited First Edition of The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips is limited to 225 copies bound in quarter-morocco and hand-made paper covered boards. Each copy is signed and numbered by the Author. This is copy no. 32 and is signed by the Author and housed in a black sliipcase. The True First Edition. The Perfect Copy for the serious Collector. Read more Show Less

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Ice Harvest

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Overview

“BITTERLY FUNNY . . . [A] SLEEK FIRST NOVEL . . . NOIR CRIME . . . HAS FOUND A STERLING NEW CHAMPION IN PHILLIPS.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A FUTURE HARD-BOILED CLASSIC–TIGHT, COLD, AND CACKLING WITH IRONY. On Christmas Eve [in Wichita], a mob lawyer is skipping town with the cash. But in this boozy, neo-noir world–James M. Cain meets George V. Higgins–the best-laid plans of bagmen turn brutal.”
–The Dallas Morning News

“OMINOUS, ACTION-PACKED. . . This is a confident, wry debut . . . [that] may remind readers of Fargo or Pulp Fiction.”
–Detroit Free Press

“I SIMPLY CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT SCOTT PHILLIPS WILL DO NEXT. [This] funny, tough first novel felt like it was written by an old pro, an Elmore Leonard we’ve never heard about who’s discovered a place where the criminals are really dumb, the low-lifes are oh-so-fun to watch and, if somebody just happens to get what he deserves, there’s no one to blame.”
–RICHARD RUSSO
Author of Straight Man

“A DARKLY COMIC, SOMETIMES BRUTAL PIECE OF NOIR FICTION.”
–The Denver Post

Finalist for the Hammett Prize

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
Wichita's Slick and Slimy
The setting may be seedy, but in The Ice Harvest, the debut novel from Scott Phillips, the writing is top-notch all the way through.

It's Christmas Eve, 1979, but Charlie Arglist lives in a world where Christmas, family, and presents all take a back seat to the schemes of the people who inhabit the underbelly of Wichita, Kansas. Tonight, however, if everything goes according to plan, Charlie's getting out of Wichita a rich man.

Charlie is an attorney, but he's the kind of lawyer who spends much less time in the courtroom than he does paying off cops and holding compromising photos of politicians over their heads. His business associates own strip clubs, and his friends, if you can call them that, are the people he knows from the bars he frequents. When he bumps into his ex-brother-in-law, who is so drunk that he needs a ride home to the Christmas celebration being given by Charlie's former parents-in-law, Charlie realizes he can't even remember the last time he saw his kids and wonders if he should even bother saying good-bye to them before he skips town.

As Charlie moves through Wichita, trying to kill time before 2am, when he meets with Vic to finalize their quick getaway, planned for Christmas morning, it becomes clear that as vile as Charlie is, he's probably the most decent person he knows. Everybody he knows will gladly lie, cheat, and steal to get anything, preying on any weakness to take full advantage of people. Charlie is no saint, but his planned ticket out of town doesn't include hurting innocent people or murder. At least, that's not what he has planned. But as events spin out of his control, Charlie has to do whatever it takes to stay alive until Christmas morning.

It is a testament to Scott Phillips's writing and humorous irony that he has created a reprehensible protagonist you can't help but root for. The other characters who orbit Charlie range from worse to worst and definitely deserve whatever they get, but Phillips makes it fun to watch these people in action -- even if their actions are pretty odious. Phillips's easy style makes The Ice Harvest a quick and enjoyable read, but there are enough plot twists that the reader never has the upper hand. This sleazy, sexy novel is like a decadent sin -- the worse these characters behave, the more fun it is.

--Jennifer Jarett

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Everywhere you look, trashy people are doing trashy things in this darkly delicious debut comic thriller. Set in the middle of a Christmas Eve blizzard in 1979 Wichita, the novel opens with lawyer-turned-petty-mobster Charlie Arglist marking time before an important meeting with his shady partner, Vic Cavanaugh. After this meeting he plans to leave Wichita hurriedly with a load of cash and, presumably, the enmity of its rightful owner, Bill Gerard, the local head of a larger regional crime syndicate. Charlie and Vic run a string of strip bars around Wichita for Gerard, from which they have been skimming cash on the sly. But Charlie, who sets out to visit all the outposts in his "empire" one last time, lets a drunken spirit of Yuletide sentimentality (or maybe spite) trigger an unprecedented (and therefore highly visible) string of improvisations. He comps some of his dancers' shakedown money, causing a riot at a club; he unwisely lets his would-be girlfriend in on one of Gerard's blackmail scams. Then he and his ex-brother-in-law crash the Christmas gathering of their cumulative ex-family, setting off a whole new string of disasters. For Charlie there is only the imminent future of his escape with Gerard's money, and it isn't until he discovers a fresh corpse buried behind Vic's empty house that he realizes that his future isn't what it used to be. Newcomer Phillips's seedy characters are skillfully developed, particularly the semiremorseful Charlie. The frigid Midwestern setting is the perfect frame for Charlie's wretched situation; the time period emphasizes the low-level viciousness of Charlie's contemporaries, and Phillips wastes no time in piling up the bodies. Charlie's final confrontation with Gerard will likely leave readers nauseated with laughter--altogether not a bad way to debut in crime fiction. Agent, Nicole Aragi at Watkins-Loomis. Rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
This "pitch-perfect foray into pulp fiction" (LJ 9/15/00) debuts on audio, with the inimitable Grover Gardner. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One thing's for sure: This tale of a halfhearted embezzler struggling to escape from town (Wichita, Kansas) with his illgotten gains is not your average Christmas Eve story.
From the Publisher
?[A] funny, craftily malevolent first novel, an ice-pick-sharp crime story that sustains its film noir energy all the way to an outrageous whammy of an ending.?
?The New York Times

?[An] astonishing debut novel from a writer who manages to put a funny, modernist spin on a piece of our noir past: Jim Thompson frosted with a blast of Jonathan (Motherless Brooklyn) Lethem.?
?Chicago Tribune


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345440181
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.24 (w) x 6.58 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Phillips was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, and lived for many years in France. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California, where he is currently at work on his second novel.
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Read an Excerpt

At four-fifteen on a cold, dry Christmas Eve a nervous middle-aged man in
an expensive overcoat walked bare-headed into the Midtown Tap Room and
stood at the near end of the bar with his membership card in hand, waiting
for the afternoon barmaid to get off the phone. She was about forty, heavy
in a square way, with a shiny face and dishwater blond hair that looked
like she'd got shitfaced and decided to cut it herself. He knew she'd
noticed him coming in, but she was taking great pains to pretend she
couldn't see him. To do so she had to stand at a peculiar angle, leaning
her hip against the back bar and looking off toward the back door so that
she was facing neither the lawyer nor the mirror behind her.

The only other drinker at that hour was a small, very slender young man in
a fully buttoned jean jacket who sat leaning with his elbow on the bar,
his cheek resting on the heel of his wrist with a cigarette between his
index and middle fingers, its ash end burning dangerously close to the tip
of his oily pompadour. His eyes were closed and his mouth open.

The lawyer unbuttoned his overcoat and stood there for a minute, listening
to the barmaid's phone conversation. She had just the start of a drinker's
rasp, and if he were just hearing her on the phone and not looking at her
he'd have thought it sounded sexy. She seemed to be having some kind of
roommate trouble involving a fender bender, a borrowed car, and no
insurance, and it didn't look as though she'd be noticing him anytime soon.

He couldn't remember ever seeing the Tap Room in daylight before, if the
failing gray light filtering through the grime on thefront windows
qualified as such. It was a deep, narrow old building with a battered
pressed-tin ceiling and a long oak bar. On the brick wall behind the
bandstand hung a huge black-faced clock with fluorescent purple numbers,
and running the length of the opposite wall was a row of red Naugahyde
booths. All of this was festooned with cheap plastic holly and mistletoe.
Around the walls seven feet or so from the floor ran a string of
multicolored Christmas lights, unplugged at the moment. This is my last
look at this place, he thought, mildly surprised at the idea. He hadn't
been out of town for more than two or three days at a time in fifteen
years.

A squeal from the barmaid interrupted his reverie. "Jesus Christ, Gary,
you set your hair on fire!" Young Gary looked up in cross-eyed
bewilderment at the hiss of the wet rag she was patting against his
smoldering forelock. He protested weakly and unintelligibly as she
snatched his cigarette away from him and ground it out in the ashtray,
then put the ashtray behind the bar. "It's obvious you can't be trusted
with these anymore," she said as she confiscated his cigarettes and
lighter. He started to say something in his own defense, but stopped and
closed his eyes again, resting his cheek back down on his hands. "You'll
get these back tomorrow," she said. "You want another drink?" Gary nodded
yes without opening his eyes.

Now she looked up at the newcomer, feigning surprise. "Oh, hi. Didn't see
you come in." She gave his membership card a perfunctory glance. "What can
I get you?"

"CC, water back." She turned without a word and busied herself making his
drink, following it with another for Gary. "Is Tommy in back?" the man
said as she set the drinks down.

"Nope. He'll be in tonight."

"Could you give him this for me?" He handed her an envelope.

"Sure," she said. She took the envelope from his hand and turned it over a
couple of times as though looking for a set of instructions.

"Tell him it's from Charlie Arglist."

"Charlie Arglist?" There was genuine surprise in her voice this time. She
lowered her head, cocking it to one side, giving him a close look.
"Charlie, is that you?"

"Yeah . . ." At that moment he was certain he'd never seen the woman
before in his life.

"Jesus, Charlie, it's me, Susie Tannenger. Wow, have you ever changed."
She stepped back to let him get a better look at her. The Susie Tannenger
he remembered was a lithe, pretty thing, at least six or eight years
younger than he was. He had handled a divorce for her about ten years
earlier, and in the course of the proceedings her husband,
a commercial pilot, had threatened several times to kill Charlie.

She came around the bar and gave him a hug, a hard one with a discreet
little pelvic bump thrown in. Her ex had had good reason to want to kill
him; he had taken out his fee in trade, at her suggestion, on his desktop.

"Isn't life funny? Are you still a lawyer? Hey, Gary, check it out—this is
the guy that did my first divorce!"

Gary looked up, focused for a split second, then grunted and returned to
his private ruminations.

"Charlie, this is my fiancÈ, Gary. Shit, I didn't even know you were still
in town; we gotta get together sometime."

"Yeah, we should do that." Charlie knocked back his drink and set a
five-dollar bill on the table. "Well, I got some Christmas shopping left
to do. Nice to see you again, Susie."

She swept up the bill and handed it back to him. "Your money's no good
here, Counselor. Merry Christmas!"

"Thanks, Susie. Same to you." He went to the door. It was getting dark
outside, and Susie hadn't yet turned the overhead lights on. From that
distance, in that dim, smoky light, he almost recognized her. "And a happy
New Year to you both," he said as he pushed the door open and stepped out
onto the ice.

When the door closed Susie sighed and looked over at Gary, whose head had
migrated down to the bar and who had started to snore. "There goes the
second most inconsiderate lay I ever had," she said.



Who gives a shit if I say good-bye to Tommy or not anyway? Charlie
thought. He was warm and dry behind the wheel of the company car, a
brand-new black 1980 Lincoln Continental, the finest car he had ever
driven. He was headed west with no particular destination in mind. It was
dark and overcast, one of those days where it was impossible to tell
whether the sun was still up or not, but as yet it hadn't started to snow.
He passed the Hardee's across the street from Grove High, watched the kids
hanging around in the parking lot the way he had when he was in school,
back when it had been a Sandy's. His kids wouldn't go to Grove, close as
they lived to it; they'd be assigned to one of the newer and presumably
nicer schools farther east. Good for them; fuck all this nostalgia crap.
He pulled a flask from the inside pocket of his overcoat and took a long
drink. Now might be a good time to stop by the Sweet Cage; the afternoon
shift would be ending, and there were a couple of the daytime dancers he
wanted to see one last time. It was a little after four-thirty, and he had
nine and a half hours to kill.



Charlie had both hands resting on top of the wheel, trying to screw the
cap back on the flask, when he caught sight of a police cruiser just
behind him to the left, gaining slowly. He quickly gripped the steering
wheel with his left hand and lowered the flask in his right, spilling a
little bourbon on his pant leg.

"Ah, shit . . ." He looked down at the stain, just to the right of his
crotch. "Looks like I pissed my fucking pants." He looked up as he felt
the car swerve, catching it at the last possible moment and swinging back
into the right-hand lane. The black and white pulled up alongside him and
Charlie looked calmly over. The cop on the right rolled his window down
and Charlie did the same.

"Road sure is icy, Counselor," the cop shouted, his face pinched against
the cold wind.

"Sure is, Officer." He tried to remember the cop's name.

"You're doing forty in a school zone, you know."

"Shit. Sorry." Charlie let his foot up off the gas, and the cops slowed
down with him.

"Never know who's gonna clock you around here, Mr. Arglist."

"Thanks. That's one I owe you."

"Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, guys." He held up the flask and drank them a short toast
and they accelerated away, laughing and waving. That was a lucky fucking
break, he thought. He switched on the AM radio and rolled the tuner knob
between thumb and forefinger until he found an adenoidal police reporter
giving quick but detailed accounts of a fistfight in a tavern, a foiled
daylight burglary, and a rash of car thefts at a local shopping mall. He
closed his report with a message from the chief of police admonishing
shoppers to lock their cars and take their keys. He was followed by an
equally adenoidal country singer's bland, stringy rendition of "The First
NoÎl." Charlie took another sip and wondered who the hell burgled in the
daytime, on Christmas Eve yet.


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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Dark look at the world

    It is an icy, freezing Christmas Eve in Kansas with most people staying indoors to keep warm with their families. Charlie Arglist is all alone having been divorced by his now remarried wife and estranged from his children. Charlie ran a marginally successful law practice until he joined Bill Gerard and Vic Cavanaugh, the local mobsters. Vic and Charlie have financially stripped their clients and tomorrow plan to leave the country. <P> Charlie is spending his last hours in town making the rounds of his favorite spots, strip bars, massage parlors, and the XXX movie theaters that represent his failed past. He looks forward to his bright future, but to stay alive he soon finds himself killing the people he thought were his buddies. <P>Readers who enjoy a gothic noir will like THE ICE HARVEST, a novel that looks at the underbelly of a small town on the Great Plains. The book takes place on Christmas Eve underlying the bleakness and hopelessness of the Charlies of the world who dominate the ever-darkening story line. Scott Phillips cleverly deals out information one card at a time so that the antihero¿s tale is not fully revealed until the ironic ending that will surprise the audience. Although this is Mr. Phillips¿ debut novel, it appears he has a long career ahead of him. <P>Harriet Klausner

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