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With gimlet-eyed cool and razor-sharp wit, these spare, stylish stories from a master of modern crime fiction assemble a world of gangsters and con men, of do-gooders breaking bad and those caught in the crossfire. The uncle of an FBI agent spends his life as sheriff in different cities, living too close to the violent acts of men; a cocktail waitress moves through several desert towns trying to escape the unexplainable loss of an adopted daughter; a drug dealer with a penchant for karaoke meets a talkative lawyer and a silent clown in a Palm Springs bar.
Witty, brutal, and fast-paced, these stories expand upon the saga of Chicago hitman-turned-Vegas-rabbi Sal Cupertine--first introduced in Gangsterland and continued in Gangster Nation--while revealing how the line between good and bad is often a mirage.
"These are stories Elmore Leonard would love—not just because the razor-sharp Goldberg wastes no words in cutting to the heart of his stories, but also because he highlights the humanity and inner lives of even his most bent characters . . . A thoroughly enjoyable collection by a bona fide original." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"By turn surreal, tragic, and darkly funny, the 12 stories in this exquisite collection from Goldberg hold up a mirror to the unique landscape of Southern California’s Inland Empire . . . With a cast of low-rent mobsters, drifters, and hardscrabble working stiffs, Goldberg does a brilliant job of revealing the underbelly of the area, past and present. These spare slices of literary noir are the work of a master storyteller." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The wild west is alive in The Low Desert, a collection of stories as brutal and compelling as the landscape itself." —Brad Meltzer
"Like Mario Puzo, Goldberg understands that the way to write about organized crime is to write about the people who live in that world. Yes, they are criminals, but most of them aren't villains. A sterling collection that showcases the author’s gifts as a storyteller." —Booklist
“Tod Goldberg is a terrific writer, and The Low Desert is a smart, surprising page turner.” —Don Winslow
“The Low Desert is a powerhouse. Each story is finely crafted and flawlessly executed—gripping, surprising, and satisfying. Goldberg finds humanity in what others overlook, beauty in what many ignore. He seamlessly marries violence and grace to understand both the root and the aftermath of crime. And in doing so he tells a damn fine tale over and again.” —Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women
“The Low Desert blew me away. It’s an astonishingly rich collection of stories—harrowing and hopeful, gritty and funny, elegiac and electrifying, and always, always, deeply human. Tod Goldberg has written a book that’s impossible to put down and impossible to forget.” —Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of November Road and The Long and Faraway Gone
"Tod Goldberg's stories are full of humor, pathos, and sharp knife-twists of plot and insight. Featuring best laid plans that have gone horribly awry, and heartbreakingly authentic characters broken by violence, longing, and hope, The Low Desert packs a heady, emotional wallop. More of this, please." —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Little Sleep
"There is something inherently violent about living in the California desert, about the imposition of human will—swimming pools and lush green lawns, air-conditioned palaces, and rolling golf courses—on an inhospitable, rust red, hard-as-stone landscape that otherwise seems indifferent to your suffering—be it from the punishing heat or the grifters and gangsters who’ve been drawn to the desert for generations. Tod Goldberg understands this and has written a collection of stories that are keenly observed, wryly funny, and heart-wrenching in equal measure. If wisdom can be gleaned from taking a sharp look at the human impulse toward violence, then Tod Goldberg is one of this nation’s sagest storytellers." —Attica Locke, author of Heaven, My Home