The Carrion Birds: A Novel

( 3 )


Set in a small town in the Southwest, a soulful work of literary noir rife with vengeance and contrition from a fresh voice in fiction—the author of the highly acclaimed The Terror of Living

Life hasn't worked out the way Ray Lamar planned. A widower who's made some tragic mistakes, he's got one good thing going for him: he's calm and efficient under pressure, usually with a gun in his hand. A useful skill to have when you're paid to hurt ...

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The Carrion Birds

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Set in a small town in the Southwest, a soulful work of literary noir rife with vengeance and contrition from a fresh voice in fiction—the author of the highly acclaimed The Terror of Living

Life hasn't worked out the way Ray Lamar planned. A widower who's made some tragic mistakes, he's got one good thing going for him: he's calm and efficient under pressure, usually with a gun in his hand. A useful skill to have when you're paid to hurt people who stand in your boss's way.

But Ray isn't sure he wants to be that man anymore. He wants to go home and see the son he hopes will recognize him. He wants to make a new life far from the violence of the last ten years, and he believes that one last job will take him there. A job that should be simple, easy, clean.

Ray knows there's no such thing as easy, and sure enough, the first day ends in a catastrophic mess. Now the runners who have always moved quietly through this desert town on the Mexican border want answers. And revenge. Short on time, with no one to trust but himself, Ray must come up with a plan, or else Coronado, New Mexico's lady sheriff will have a vicious bloodbath on her hands.

Set in a town once rich with oil, now forgotten and struggling, The Carrion Birds is filled with refreshingly realistic and vulnerable characters. With its masterfully orchestrated suspense and unexpected bursts of lyricism, this is a remarkably unsettling and indelible work in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, and Dennis Lehane.

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Editorial Reviews

Financial Times on The Terror of Living
“The defining quality of Urban Waite’s gripping existential thriller is an elegant sparseness, which inevitably recalls Cormac McCarthy.”
Publishers Weekly
Waite follows his acclaimed first novel, 2011’s The Terror of Living, with another searing western noir. Three people face terrifying moral choices as they each wish for what they can’t have: life as it was before their small border town of Coronado, N.Mex., was doomed by its dying oil economy and the arrival of a Mexican drug cartel. Ray Lamar, a Vietnam vet who still bears the emotional scars from the revenge killing of his wife and the maiming of his infant son 12 years earlier, is now an enforcer for a local crime lord. Ray’s life has been sliding out from under him, and all he wants is to go back home to Coronado—after one last job that goes insanely wrong. Ray’s cousin Tom—who lost his sheriff’s job at the time Ray lost his family—tries to help, but the odds are stacked against them both. Meanwhile, new sheriff Edna Kelly is trapped between loyalty to the law and her sympathy for Tom, her former boss. Edna’s professional and personal defeats, Tom’s anguish, and Ray’s brutal tragedy harshly indict the social and economic forces that are fatally choking so much of the American Southwest. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. (Apr.)
New York Times Book Review on The Terror of Living
“One fine specimen . . . with more artistry than would seem possible in a conventional thriller.”
Entertainment Weekly
The Carrion Birds is as muscular and laconic as anything by Cormac McCarthy, yet it crackles with humanity. A-”
Tom Franklin on The Terror of Living
“In the tradition of No Country for Old Men, Urban Waite has written a nail-biter that takes off from the get-go and never stops, a book chock full of memorable characters and kick-ass writing.”
Stephen King on The Terror of Living
“A hell of a good novel, relentlessly paced and beautifully narrated. There’s just no let-up. Waite’s style is tight and taut. . . . Strong narrative voice, auspicious debut. . . . Awfully glad I read this one.”
Daniel Woodrell
“A smart, swiftly-paced and bloody Western for our moment. Urban Waite is a writer who won’t let a reader wander away—he keeps you reading, and reading, and rewards all your attention with a powerhouse story and prose to match.”
Michael Koryta
“Opens with gentle beauty, calm before a bloody storm, before building intensity with swift, jarring, and confident storytelling power. . . . Readers—including this one—will certainly be following Urban Waite for years to come.”
New York Journal of Books
“A lean and mean, modern-day noir western filled with complex characters and situations . . . hauntingly dark and elegiac writing . . . a candidate for best crime book of 2013.”
Kirkus Reviews
Wild West noir from Waite (The Terror of Living, 2011), his second literary effort. But this isn't the Wild West of rustlers and cattle barons. It's southern New Mexico on the cusp of the second millennium, and the range war is between the Mexican drug cartel and the local drug kingpin, an ugly and blood-drenched fight that ranges across the desert and mountains and pumped-out oil fields along the border. Raymond Lamar, son of a Mexican cook and a hard-driving Anglo wildcatter, returned from Vietnam, worked the oil fields until the oil and the work dried up, and then signed on as a pistolero for Memo, a Las Cruces dealer controlling the border country. Times were hard, jobs scarce and the money good, but Ray's wife, Marianne, didn't approve. Dead soon thereafter from an apparent "accidental" car crash that left their son Billy brain-damaged, Marianne became a victim of the violence Ray brought home. Guilt-ridden, revenge-minded Ray believed the cartel responsible, and he pressured his cousin Tomás Herrera, the local sheriff, to confront the woman rumored to be the cartel's local chief. The woman was shot dead, Herrera lost his job, and Ray disappeared into the drug war's deadly jungle. Now promised big money by Memo and hoping to reconnect with his deaf-mute son, Ray agrees to one last job, wetwork that eventually leaves a trail of dead bodies along the borderland. Waite writes with grace and poignancy and keen comprehension of hard men in hard circumstances, especially in delineating Ray, Tomás and Dario, local cartel kingpin. While he doesn't fully explore the Hispanic-Anglo cultural clash muddying the flow of narcotics north, and female characters are somewhat tangential, Waite's narrative rages as a perfect torrent of violence flooding toward its inevitable conclusion. Fierce and lyrical.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062216892
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/26/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 701,501
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Urban Waite is the author of The Terror of Living, named one of Esquire's Ten Best Books of 2011. His short fiction has appeared in the Best of the West 2009 anthology, the Southern Review, and other journals. He has degrees from the University of Washington, Western Washington University, and Emerson College. He lives in Seattle with his wife.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    A starkly eloquent and soulful thriller in the noir tradition th

    A starkly eloquent and soulful thriller in the noir tradition that is sure to appeal to fans of Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell. The scenes of startling, cinematic violence—and there are many—are followed by unexpected bursts of lyricism and beauty, lending a certain poetic quality to the writing. I absolutely loved it and Urban Waite is most definitely a writer to watch!!!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2014


    Dull, dull, dull. Boring and repetitious. Most of the time one doesn't know know what's going on and why. The constant repetition of "times have changed" gets on your nerves, without being specific what did change. Took me a week to read hardly 190 pages without falling asleep.

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  • Posted February 4, 2014


    Sad tale of drugwars, cartels, crime, families torn apart, etc.

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