5.0 out of 5 stars The slums of Dempsey, N.J.
Ray Mitchell grew up in the housing projects of Dempsey, N.J., went to LA to become a successful TV writer, and now returned to Dempsey with enough money to allow himself a few quirks. Mainly, re wants to reconnect with his 13-year old daughter Ruby.
Nerese Ammons, a black detective within months of retirement, knows Ray from childhood and remembers him as being on her...
Published on Oct 13 2003 by lvkleydorff
3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling dialogue, Interesting Characters, So-So Plot
I have to give Richard Price credit for creating realistic characters with dialogue that crackles and feels painfully real coming from this group of broken people. However by the time I finished I was left wanting more. The mystery surrounding who beat one time television writer and now teacher Ray Mitchell to death left me a bit cold. And when the person is revealed I...
Published on April 23 2004 by Brett Benner
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3.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling dialogue, Interesting Characters, So-So Plot,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)I have to give Richard Price credit for creating realistic characters with dialogue that crackles and feels painfully real coming from this group of broken people. However by the time I finished I was left wanting more. The mystery surrounding who beat one time television writer and now teacher Ray Mitchell to death left me a bit cold. And when the person is revealed I can't even say I was surprised, but worse I didn't really care. I loved the book at the start and was expecting to tap into something I'd be telling eveyone to go out and buy. Again I thought the writing was great, I just didn't completely connect with this group of people, and so ultimately didn't connect with the book.
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and unbelievable plot,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)I hoped this book would be interesting and enjoyable, but I soon noticed a quite annoying device: the author found it necessary to end declarative sentences with a question mark, as if there was an unsaid "you know?" Yes, I know people often speak that way in conversation, but I would have enjoyed the dialogue a lot more if correct punctuation had been used.
Also the victim was brain-damaged due to a blow to the head and suffered a number of other injuries, his doctors kept entering the room to give various neurological tests---yet he was able to speak quite lucidly, and a great length, to the police officer, who seemed to have unlimited access to this patient in intensive care.
The young teenaged daughter's portrayal, through Dad's eyes, was not in the least believable: uncommunicative, yet precocious; budding woman, yet childlike; you get the picture. And what father in his right mind would take her to a high-crime housing project at night, sit her down in a deserted playground amid mounds of snow, and start telling her stories of his youth?
Maybe these observations are petty? Others might disagree with me? It may have been a better book with more editing? I'll try some of the author's other books, but I was definitely not impressed with this one---after reading about half of it, I gave up and didn't really care who attacked him.
4.0 out of 5 stars A view of a world not often seen...,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)A great book? No. Parts are compelling. Price writes with a great ear for dialogue and an uncanny ability to portray life in the inner-city. The story is solid and has some interesting twists. It is about men finding themselves and some women too. Ray is hard character to love as you sometimes want to shake some sense in to him. The ending is a bit pat and cliched, but still a well written look at a world most of us never see.
4.0 out of 5 stars add this to the Men's Lit class,
By A Customer
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)I discovered Price after seeing the movie based on "The Wanderers".
In the 70's I told folks that if I ever taught a Men's Lit class Price would be one of the featured authors. Few people write about men and the relationships between males better than Price. With his newest book he heads back to the neighborhood, revisiting the same male landscapes he did in "Bloodbrothers" "Ladies Man" and "The Breaks" Price writes honestly about being a guy, having friends, and the pressure and expectations placed on males in society. I enjoy the way his characters "tell stories" about their lives, families and how they grew up. The oral tradition of sharing tales about that place you call home is universal(for guys anyway) and Price is a master. Hey, it's a great mystery too. Read it and then check out his earlier books. "Ladies Man" is a great book about friendship.
3.0 out of 5 stars A surprising disappointment,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)Price's earlier strong work made the appearance of "Samaritan" the occasion of some anticipation, but for me the novel failed to deliver the expected punch.
The premise is sound: a product of the New Jersey projects with a checkered past unexpectedly achieves success as a writer in LA, but returns to his old haunts, mostly to try to reconnect with is daughter, from whom he has been physically separated since his divorce.
The novel, however, pivots on a vicious attack on the writer, Nick, who refuses to reveal the nature of the assault to a black female detective --nicknamed Tweetie -- who, remarkably, lived in the projects at the same time. In fact, Nick witnessed, and even participated in, a humiliation of a young Tweetie.
Well, Ok, quite a coincidence, but maybe we're still willing to go along, except that Price introduces yet another character from Nick's past in a chance meeting that ultimately leads to the attack that Tweetie winds up investigating.
Too much authorial meddling for me, but Price can write well, so I might be willing to go along. However, he compounds problems by insisting that his main character is an inveterate storyteller. And oh, how this character tells stories. In fact, that's about all he does, in endless forays into the past that seem merely to serve as an excuse for Price to wax eloquently through his characters. Well, other readers might have enjoyed the liberties Price takes, but for this reader, a series of speeches by the characters and long narrative expositions of what happened years ago is a prescription for a stagnant narrative, no matter now masterful the writer.
In fact, I give three stars only on the strength of the prose. Unlike novels I best admire, which gain strength as they progress, "Samaritan" tired as it reached the finish line, leaving me both exhausted and relieved that the ordeal was over.
5.0 out of 5 stars The slums of Dempsey, N.J.,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)Ray Mitchell grew up in the housing projects of Dempsey, N.J., went to LA to become a successful TV writer, and now returned to Dempsey with enough money to allow himself a few quirks. Mainly, re wants to reconnect with his 13-year old daughter Ruby.
Nerese Ammons, a black detective within months of retirement, knows Ray from childhood and remembers him as being on her side when the other school children gave her grief.
Ray wants to do good so that people will love him. But he does not know how to do it without coming across like the Salvation Army. He gets lied to, he gets ripped off, he just simply cannot connect because he forgot about the slums and no longer speaks their language.
And then Ray is brutally beaten up. Nerese takes over the investigation, because she owes him from way back. But Ray won't tell her who did it. and she has to detect the hard way.
By now this book should be a mystery. But it refuses to. It is the story of the people living in the project, their hopes and aspirations. They will not make it out of that slum, and they know it. But still they keep trying. They act like mafia godfathers hoping the image will put them on a higher level. The children visit prison and the criminals become superman. Yet at all times they have a clear understanding of their surroundings and the psychological facts of their diminished lives.
The author gives us an uncanny picture of people and locations but presents them almost like a stream of conscience. While it is fun to dig deeper here or there, the main attraction is in the swimming on the surface and let it all parade by.
4.0 out of 5 stars The motives of a do-gooder,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)I read The Wanderers, Richard Price's first novel, when I was a teenager and have read every one of his subsequent (seven including the present one) books. Although I've liked some better than others, they've all kept me thoroughly entertained and intrigued with the gritty street life Price so expertly evokes. Samaritan, like his last two novels, takes place in Dempsey, the fictional but believable small New Jersey city only a tunnel ride away from Manhattan. Samaritan is a combination mystery and psychological study. The title refers to Ray Mitchell, a man in his forties who abandons a writing career in Los Angeles to return to his hometown of Dempsey to teach. Ray is at loose ends. A recovering drug addict, he is estranged from his ex-wife and Ruby, his teenaged daughter and has no concrete plans for the future. He hopes that by returning to the home of his youth and helping some young people he will find direction. It is his need to help and be appreciated that is his downfall. For Ray is not the kind of "samaritan" who only gives help when it is truly needed; he is the kind who desperately needs to feel appreciated and will do practically anything to meet this need. The story is told partly in the present, after Ray has been assaulted and nearly killed, and partly in flashback as the events leading up to the assault are revealed. A childhood neighbor of Ray's, Nerese Ammons, is the policewoman who tries to figure out who attacked Ray and why. The problem is, Ray won't tell her and she (and the reader) cannot understand why. Nerese, a black woman who is about to retire from the police force, has problems of her own; she is a single mother with a family that includes criminals and drug abusers. In describing all this, I realize that a lot of it may sound familiar, even cliched (e.g. the cop about to retire), but Price has an unusual talent for transforming such material into a compelling story. His knack for dialogue, especially that of the city streets, is unsurpassed. Some popular writers write dialogue that sounds like writing; with Price, you can always *hear* the words and inflections. Samaritan is also helped by several interesting supporting characters, such as Salim, a troubled youth who Ray may be harming more than helping, and Tom Potenza, an ex-addict who counsels people around the projects. Race is a major factor throughout the novel, especially the question of what motivates a white man like Ray in his quest to "save" people who are mostly black. If Samaritan were presented as some kind of lesson in ethics or race relations, it would be simplistic and heavy-handed, but it isn't really that. Ray is a complex character whose motives are not entirely noble, but he is not a mere hypocrite. The novel explores the fine line that divides helping people for genuine as opposed to selfish reasons. Samaritan, like its main character, has its flaws and it's not my favorite Richard Price novel, but it is still an enjoyable and thought provoking tale.
3.0 out of 5 stars Samaritan?,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)Ya' know, if it were me I'd just say who did it and be done with it already. Then if it were me there'd be no story. This is why we have people like Richard Price to engage people like me in a story like this.
I sincerely don't understand the thing with white-guilt. I'm black. As I'm reading this novel I'm opening myself to understand. I find myself getting involved with the characters and seeing how "accurate" the black ones are. However, I'm not surprised because I've also read CLOCKERS and I remember how impressed I was with the depiction of a young black character. Visions of LAW & ORDER are popping up in my head. I enjoy this TV drama. I'm hoping with all hope that this will be more than just an episode of this show. I'm half-hoping that Ray and Nerese will find a way to have a love relationship. I'm pleased and a little skeptical when Price approaches the subject but disappointed when he abandons the idea. I'm still hoping to understand white-guilt or understand if this is even about that.
When I'm all excited and all engrossed with Ray Mitchell the crime victim, Detective Nerese Ammons, Ray's daughter Ruby, Carla the 'round-the-way girl from Ray's childhood, Danielle the girlfriend and everybody and the old neighborhood and even Ruby's collection of the old neighborhood stories and Ray's TV writing career and everything, and I'm wondering what could possibly be the conclusion of this crime. I'm a little let down when the conclusion appears to be someone's little explained need to seek approval. I just need more reason why.
4.0 out of 5 stars Slayer,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)Half detecive story, half good old fashioned storytelling, Richard Price's latest brilliance is anything but a (near) murder mystery. When Ray Mitchell, an ex-high school teacher, is found beaten nearly to death in his apartment, it is up to childhood friend and veteran cop Nerese Ammons to not only find the assailant, but also to get Ray to tell her what happened. What makes this book so appealing is not simply the complex plot and suspense that comes with a typical detective story, but the way in which Price develops every chracter with care and craftiness. Additionally, Ray's decision not to reveal his attacker or press chargers present a further problem for Ammons, who, along with the reader, must slowly piece together the puzzle bit by bit, chapter by chapter. Price jumps back and forth between the aftermath of the assault and the days leading up to it, providing two intricate stories within one.
Samaritan is so embedded with numerous, important life issues that the reader may forget the main purpose of Ammons's mission. The upmost generosity Ray exhibits serves to further increase the pity felt for him when he is nearly beaten to death. Price explores what happens when Ray places himself secondary to everybody else, from his daughter Ruby to his secret lover, Danielle. Ray is so caught up in the drama of his giving and teaching that he neglects himself and understands all to little about those who surround him. The fact that he is so afraid of the truth in refusing to name his attacker, despite the potential murder, adds a special twist to this already vast and expanded novel.
More surprising than the mystery about Ray's assault is the wonderful stories Ray tells while dipping in and out of consciousness in the hospital. These ramblings can take one way back to the days on a grandfather's lap listening to old war stories and how things were way back when. The fact that Ray mentions these past experiences add to the bond he and Ammons share, and provides a nice break from the continual serach to find the guilty party. Price has nearly mastered this storytelling technique, with the minor exception that, at times, the reminiscing gets a bit tedious and boring. The intriguing combination of the stories and the assualt mystery was a risky endeavour, yet Price has done a great job in interweaving the two seamlessly and calmly. Equally as descriptive are the characters, as not a single person in the novel is overlooked or under-developed. Most are designed to add an angle in Ray's ever-growing return to normalcy, although some serve little or no purpose. Price does a nice job in using language suitable to the respective character, as Ray's students talk like cocky kids and his mentor like an old man. The diction is created to suit the individual, and adds a nice realitic touch to the novel. For the most part, all the characters are intricately crafted and all help to compliment Ray in one way or another.
With that in mind, it is no wonder that Samaritan is a successful novel. The language at times is a bit mature, and some of the topics tackled are definately not suited for children, including some very detailed sex scenes. Yet for those at the high school level and above, this book is a good read. The seldom dull moments and the time it takes for the story to really get moving prevent this novel from receiving its highest score. Yet, one cannot argue with what Price produces, a mixture of great proportions that serve not only to entertain but to teach valueable lessons as well. Ray is the nice guy in all of us, and his story is not simply depressing but shows what can happen when we get caught up in the pleasing of others instead of the care for ourselves.
4.0 out of 5 stars Samaritan,
This review is from: Samaritan (Hardcover)Samaritan by Richard Price is a novel that engages the reader through suspense, mystery, and sympathy for anyone who has experienced the emptiness of giving kindness and receiving no gratitude in return. At the beginning of the novel Ray Mitchell, a lonely schoolteacher, is in the hospital after being attacked, which leads to questions about his past. These questions are answered one by one as Nerese Ammons, the detective investigating his case, uncovers them. This gives the reader a clearer idea of Mitchell's story, which is trying to reach out to the people around him any way he can including his daughter Ruby. In the end Mitchell and the reader both receive the gratification that comes with gaining compassion in return for a life of giving it.
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Samaritan by Richard Price (Hardcover - Jan 7 2003)
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