Cottonwood (2004) was a huge step forward for the burgeoning king of noir Scott Phillips, and his dark and gritty take on the western earned him starred reviews and praise from crime masters Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos. That novel featured the Kansas town beginning in 1872 when it was just a small community of run down farms, dusty roads, and two-bit crooks. Saloon owner and photographer Bill Ogden thought it could be more and allied with wealthy developer Marc Leval to capitalize on the advent of the railroad and the cattle trail that soon turned Cottonwood into a wild boomtown. But problems followed the money and soon Bill was confronting both the wicked family of serial killers known as the Bloody Benders as well as his one-time friend Marc, having fallen into an affair with his beautiful wife Maggie. Bill then turned up alone in San Francisco in 1890, having to face a past from which he could not run.But what happened to him in those missing years? What happened to Maggie, to Bill, and their escape from the murderous Bender family? Hop Alley answers all those questions as we return to the Wild West and discover Bill Ogden, now living as Bill Sadlaw, running a photo studio near the Chinese part of town know as Hop Alley in the frontier town of Denver in 1878. Left by Maggie, Bill enjoys an erotic affair with Priscilla, a fallen singer addicted to laudanum, who is also seeing his friend Ralph Banbury, the editor of the local Denver Bulletin (neither man minds sharing). Bill’s peaceful time away from Cottonwood turns anything but as he must confront the mysterious murder of his housekeeper’s brother-in-law, the increasing instability of Priscilla as both men try to ease out of her clutches, and an all out-riot across Hop Alley. And when the body count starts rising, Bill will soon start wishing he had never left Cottonwood at all. Hop Alley proves that no one does the Wild West like noir master Scott Phillips.
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Scott Phillips is the author of The Ice Harvest, The Walkaway, Cottonwood, and The Adjustment. He was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, and lived for many years in France.
Praise for Cottonwood "Wit and gusto... Scott Phillips doesn't really write crime stories. He writes about criminal behaviors--how they originate, how they transform character, how they become part of the cultural norm and, most incisively, how they flourish in certain environments." --The New York Times "Cottonwood is an adventurous, bawdy, and genre-bending epic. Scott Phillips cements his reputation as a fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move." --George Pelecanos "Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous, and important. Cottonwood is crime fiction at its best." --Michael Connelly "Frontier Guignol in post-Civil War Kansas and California of the 1870s and '80s... [this] droll first-person narrative combines amorality with a genuine, if laid-back, joie de vivre... The blazingly original Phillips writes with a deadpan humor and incisive irony. The story is shaggy, but its unique slant on the Old West is a major achievement." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Cottonwood's rise from frontier lawlessness to respectability sweeps along briskly, unpacking surprises at every turn...Phillips' vision adds up to an indelible portrait of a haunted town, as starkly delineated and unsparing as an antique tintype." --Entertainment Weekly "Western epic, black comedy, and soft porn are cleverly spliced in this genre-bending offering from Phillips (The Walkaway; The Ice Harvest), which relates the experiences of Bill Ogden, sometime farmer, sometime saloon-owner, sometime photographer in 1870s Kansas. Ogden, 27, is a self-taught Greek and Latin scholar and a sexual libertine capable of seducing almost any woman he encounters. Estranged from his wife, he never brags about his peccadilloes, although it seems that his devotion to oral sex sets him apart from rivals and makes him the heart's desire of the voracious women who seem to be everywhere on the frontier. The story, such as it is, centers on the arrival of Marc Leval and his lovely wife, Maggie, in the tiny farm community of Cottonwood. Marc capriciously selects Bill as a partner in his scheme to attract Texas drovers to a railhead, while Maggie plays a less-than-discreet game of spider and fly with Bill, the Kansas Casanova. In the meantime, an outlaw family embarks on a crime spree that eventually pits Bill against Marc and sends Bill and Maggie fleeing. Jumping ahead 20 years, Bill's story resumes in San Francisco, where he is making his way as a photographer and sexual athlete. He learns that Maggie, from whom he is long separated, has returned to Cottonwood, so he abandons his life in California and returns, bent on rekindling their love affair. Bill's salaciousness rivals Don Juan's and he is utterly devoid of scruples, but his deadpan humor and cunning indifference to life's vicissitudes keep him likable. Lively pacing and artful prose lend polish to Phillips's cheerfully grotesque chronicle of western antics." --Publishers Weekly "In the always interesting, often surprising online January Magazine, Bill Crider talks about the general lack of respect paid to mysteries set in the Old West. Crider... will probably be as delighted as I am with this third book from Scott Phillips, whose first two novels set in 20th century Kansas were bleakly comic affairs connected by a brilliant link of shared history. There's a similar link in Cottonwood, but you have to wait for the epilogue to fully appreciate it. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the pleasures of Phillips' unique and pungent prose, as well as his skill and daring in moving us through a landscape that at first glance might seem to have been well-covered.... However, it's not Phillips' thoughtful, exciting plotting but rather his amazing ear for the sad sounds behind the words of his people that make his novels so exceptional." --Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune "At first glance, Phillips' third effort seems like quite a departure from his previous noirish crime novels, but it quickly becomes apparent that the author's brand of sly humor and his skilled depictions of nasty human behavior translate well to the historical genre...Romance, intrigue, dueling pistols, and a Charles Willeford feel translated to the frontier--a little something for everyone." --Booklist "If, in his debut performance, a rookie ballplayer slams the first two pitches into the bleachers, some fans will insist he's the next Babe Ruth. ...Perhaps it's a good thing that Scott Phillips' game is crime fiction and not baseball. The Wichita native not only has hit the literary equivalent of three homers in a row with his first three novels, but each one has been a grand slam. In Cottonwood, Phillips has delivered a historical drama every bit as compelling as his acclaimed The Walkaway and The Ice Harvest. Those first two disquieting works took a sharp scalpel to the notion that denizens of the heartland are somehow less prone to violence, depravity and corruption than their brethren in the big cities. His many characters are imaginatively conceived, multi-dimensional and well worth knowing... Like the photographs Ogden takes of lynchings, scalped hunters, and slaughtered buffaloes on the prairie, Cottonwood opens our imaginations to a long-gone world that's far more intriguing and frightening than any we could have imagined." --Gary Dretzka, Chicago Sun-Times "In a book that is as much history as mystery, Scott Phillips' Cottonwood makes the dirt streets and rough life of the Kansas prairie come alive." --Kansas City Star Praise for Rake "With Rake, Scott Phillips proves himself the unparalleled master of the noir anti-hero. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know, his Crandall Taylor is the quintessential American huckster on the scene, and in Phillip's sly, deft hands we find ourselves sinking down eagerly with him, glorying in the beautiful muck." --Megan Abbott "Rake is full of vicarious pleasures for us to indulge in...from one of the most original practitioners of noir working today..a hilarious Hollywood satire, the fuck-journal of a mad man and an ingeniously twisty old-school noir along the lines of James M. Cain." --Spinetingler Magazine "Scott Phillips is an author whose books are always at the top of my reading pile. His smart prose and conscience-deprived anti-heroes turn crime fiction into social satire. His latest, Rake, further proves his talent for making noir funny...With Rake, Phillips has once again created a protagonist whose voice suits his writing style. You might dislike him, if he wasn't so cavalier and intelligent. While he gives us wild justification for his actions there exists a little hypocrisy in him, at least when he tells his tale. It's also hard to admit we'd behave differently if we could get away with it. One could say that Scott Phillips gives us a cold look at his characters, and the film business, but the narration and the protagonist's devil-may-care attitude give Rake a sleazy warmth. Rake is Scott Phillips at his most entertaining. His wonderfully amoral and hedonistic characters, with their scheming and trouble shooting, provide a subtle yet laughable loud look at how the US has exported its worst traits abroad." --Mystery People "The first scene in Rake is a fight. It's not surprising that a Scott Phillips book opens with violence; he's known for exploring the baser side of humanity with dark humor and noirish style...Rake makes no bones about its main character being a bad guy. But bad guys can make for good reads, and this one does." --The Wichita Eagle Praise for The Adjustment "This is Wayne's story, and what makes it memorable is his hulking presence, drifting through the world as hungry and blank-eyed as a shark . . . There's something compelling about that sort of rage, about its compression, its control . . . But what draws us to the book is Phillips' taut and vicious vision, so clean we cannot help but inhabit it, even when we find ourselves repelled." --The Los Angeles Times "Written in pitch-perfect noir form." --Library Journal "Sly and worthy . . . Crime fans, especially those who favor a vivid sense of place and time, will love it." --Booklist "The author's unapologetic depiction of a thoroughly bad egg will appeal to hard-boiled fans who don't need redeeming features to become engaged with a character." --Publishers Weekly "Wayne Ogden is a prince of a fellow, as long as you judge this bad-boy protagonist of Scott Phillips's caustic crime novel . . . according to his own perverse code of ethics." --New York Times Book Review "Phillips' novel is a brilliant work of noir, narrated in an Ogden deadpan that at times pokes the ghost of Raymond Chandler. Phillips' place of residence qualifies The Adjustment for this 'Best of St. Louis' honor, but regardless of where he chose to hang his hat, his book would rank among the best published this year." --The Riverfront Times, Best Book by a Local Author ..".as good, if not better, than The Ice Harvest . . . Like Jim Thompson with Lou Ford, Scott Phillips successfully manipulates the reader via Wayne Ogden. He forces you to stop on the side of the road, to look at the crash, and then to get out of your car to inspect every tiny details of this twisted wreckage of a man. The Adjustment is hardboiled, hardcore, and hard to put down." --crimefictionlover.com "Playing fast and loose with the dark side of the Greatest Generation, Scott Phillips once again creates a tight, funny noir that's rich in character, and makes the profane sacred." --from Indiebound's Next Great Reads selection "Like all Phillips novels, you never know where The Adjustment is going and the storytelling is nothing less than completely compelling... [this is] the best novel that I've read all year."- Spinetingler Magazine Praise for Scott Phillips "Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous and important . . . crime fiction at its best." --Michael Connelly "A fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move." -George Pelecanos "I simply can't wait to see what Scott Phillips will do next." -Richard Russo