cover image Shovel Ready

Shovel Ready

Adam Sternbergh. Crown, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-34899-7

A dirty bomb explosion in Times Square leaves New York City half-emptied, save for the rich and the poor, in Sternberg’s first novel, a low-rent Raymond Chandler noir told in the style of very late James Ellroy. A former sanitation worker who calls himself Spademan now makes a living as a hit man. When Spademan agrees to kill 18-year-old Grace Chastity “Persephone” Harrow for an unknown client, he seeks her out among the park-living poor. That Persephone’s father is famed evangelist T.K. Harrow, who is about to hold a revival service in Radio City Music Hall, is just one of the complications that leads Spademan into deep trouble—both virtual and real. Evidently inspired by 1980s cyberpunk and movies like Strange Days, Sternbergh, the New York Times Magazine’s culture editor, adds nothing new to a near-future scenario in which the narrator, despite his insistence on strict moral standards, is little better than the book’s bad guys. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams. (Jan.)