Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Smack” as Want to Read:
The Smack
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Smack

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  553 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Rowan Petty is a conman down on his luck. Tinafey is a hooker who's tired of the streets. Their paths cross one snowy night in Reno, and they hit it off.

An old friend of Petty's turns up with a rumor about a crew of American soldiers who smuggled two million dollars out of Afghanistan and have stashed the money in an apartment in Los Angeles. He thinks Petty's just the gu
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 18th 2017 by Mulholland Books (first published July 13th 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Smack, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Smack

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  553 ratings  ·  85 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Smack
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
"You can't cheat an honest man," Petty said.

"Oh, fuck that," Don said. "I can cheat anybody."

Lange's Sweet Nothing: Stories was one of the best books I read in 2015, so I was really looking forward to reading his new novel. And, yippee! -it's another great effort, so good that I hadn't even finished this one before I went online, and ordered the rest of the man's titles.

Con man Rowan Petty is bumming around Reno when he gets wind of a really big score - two million bucks sitting in a safe in L.
Working at a bookshop after college, I was expected to be able to recommend a book for any taste. The hardest sort of book for me to recommend to customers was anything in the thriller genre. Classic noir/pulp/detective novels were always a little too sanitized to capture my interest, and current thrillers that I've tried tend to suffer from cardboard characters and cliched dialogue.

I wish that I had known about Richard Lange when I was a bookseller, because without question, he would be my go-t
Ron S
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tautly written noir about a down on his luck grifter. Pitch perfect characters, believable situations, story and place all seeming painfully real. One of those read in a single sittings then look for everything else the guy wrote kind of books.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confidence Men, Flim Flam Artists, & Hustlers

Con men! Hustlers! Backstabbers! Scheme after scheme, hatched and unhatched in a Never-ending game to get that big score. It’s a tough life that has you drifting here and there, never trusting anyone, never wanting to get close, always looking over your shoulder.

From the casinos of the little town called Reno to the sun-drenched beaches and taco stands of Los Angeles, Petty thinks he finally has a lead on the score of a lifetime, but it all may be no
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
My starred review for this super-fun thriller was published online by Library Journal on July 6, 2017:

Professional con man Rowan Petty is at the end of his line: down to his last five grand in Reno, NV, calling rubes on Thanksgiving about a real estate scam for ten percent of the take. Not even a rendezvous with his favorite hooker Tinafey (“Like that white lady on TV, but all one word”) goes right. Then a blast from the past meets Petty with a rumor of a score that could mean early retirement,
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: noir, thriller
Mucho dineros
In over your head
Estranged daughter

Modern noir written in the strain of the masters like Jim Thompson and Raymond chandler.
Desperation intertwined, money intertwined, lives on the line, and just how it will all pan out has you unflinching reading on to the rumination on affairs.
A one or two sitting page burner, clear and crisp, well written dialogue, potent prose and scenes.
The main protagonist has a need, and eventually a real by
Ben Brackett
Jul 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is written for people who don't actually care about what they are reading.

This is maybe the laziest writing I have ever read. It's a genre book, where the author makes zero effort in any character development. Each situation is pre-ordained by a cookie cutter character, so how they act, their reactions, etc. are cliche and without any motivation being established prior. Lange seemed to feel needed no substance or building to anything. He takes the laziest short cuts to move the plot withou
Ross Cumming
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My son had just read this book and recommended it to me as he thought it would be too my liking.
Rowan Petty is a grifter and conman who is down on his luck and is scrabbling about trying to find his next score when an old partner tells him about a rumour that he heard about a group of soldiers who have been syphoning money from Afghanistan and stashing it in L.A. With nothing to lose Petty heads off to see if the rumour is true and if so, how can he grab a piece of the action. He takes Tinafey,
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Meh. It's OK. Basically The Smack is a caper book (not, IMHO, Noir), with Elmore Leonard like dialogue and plotting. Where it differs from Leonard is there appears to be genuine hearts in some of the characters, in particular con man (and main character) Rowan Petty, his girlfriend and former prostitute, "Tinafey," and Petty's daughter, Sam. You would think that would be a strength, but it isn't. When it came to characters, Leonard held back by design. You saw the hard surfaces, and the general ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked Angel Baby, Richard Lange's previous book. So when I saw he had a new one out, I was very happy to begin reading. This new one is as good, if not better, than his last, and I would give it 4.5 stars. For those readers who enjoy a well-written, fast-paced noir thriller (not so easy to find), try this one. There is a blurb on the back of the book that I would totally agree with by Gerald Petievich: " The Smack is much more than a crime novel. It is a novel about life itself. Lange's ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Richard Lange rarely disappoints but in this case I'm giving him 3.5 stars. THE SMACK, his fifth book and third novel, centers around Rowan Petty, a down and out con man who finds himself desperate for a big score. That's when an old friend tells him about a rumor surrounding a possible two million dollar payoff, ripe for the picking. As Petty begins to track down the legitimacy of the tale, he runs afoul of a psychotic soldier; an ungrateful nemesis and several other unwelcome folks from his pa ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir, read-2020
I feel like this should of worked more for me than it did. Good plot and characters but I just wasn’t a fan of the pacing.
Paul Vidich
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Smack, Richard Lange's new novel, is the story of Rowan Petty, a street smart, down-on-his-luck grifter, who is drawn into a swindle involving US currency stolen in Afghanistan by a Marine, and shipped to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles setting recalls the best of Raymond Chandler, updated to the present time. Lange's ear for dialogue is as pitch perfect as Elmore Leonard's. His characters, even his minor characters, are brilliantly painted with a deft touch. All this adds up to a bleakly optim ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very slick and entertaining caper of a book where professional con man Rowan Petty sets out to steal $2 million that has been smuggled out of Afghanistan and may be hidden in LA. Along the way he forms an odd, but somewhat heartwarming alliance with a hooker, runs afoul of a hitman or 2 looking for the same big score and reconnects with his long estranged daughter. Full of action and with quirky, yet compassionate characters, this was a full, fun read.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
(4)-Thanks to Mulholland Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy of "The Smack". I've enjoyed Richard Lange's books since his first release, "Dead Boys", a collection of short stories published in 2007. I've found his prior books to be riveting with brutally honest portrayals of people living on the fringes of society. I think that this is lighter (just a little) than much of the author's previous work, but the characters, a cast of low level grifters and con-artists, are well-drawn ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this to be a fast-paced, touching, action-filled crime caper and overall a great read.

It's a little noir, a little crime caper, a little family drama, and a lot of fun. This was the first book by Lange I have read, and it was a nice introduction to this author.

Rowan Petty is a down-on-his-luck antihero scammer. He's middle-aged and his best years seem to be behind him, when he is approached by an old colleague who offers him a scenario that may or may not be true: there is a cool 2 mill
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Richard Lange is one of the best crime writers in the business. Think of Don Winslow and Michael Connelly; then add Mr. Lange to the list. I just had the great privilege of reading an early copy of his newest effort, The Smack. I loved it. That is all that I can say. And that is all that needs to be said. Oh, one more thing; the book is available on July 18th. Do yourself a solid and buy it now so that you can start it the day it is available.
Rowan Petty is a con man looking for a big score. He
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
A decent if fairly simplistic con, excellent flow and readability, and tremendously likable protagonists make this a solidly entertaining read.

My one gripe was a plot point near the end that was crushingly sad and absolutely didn't need to be there, which I felt betrayed the spirit of the book and left me feeling a touch disappointed.
Don Gorman
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
(3 1/2). This was a slightly disjointed ending away from 4 stars. Lots of fun action, some of it scam, some of it street. A terrific protagonist, a tear jerker (of sorts) aspect to the plot and an unlikely love interest. This one turns and turns and turns. A real solid read.
David Bridges
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In my personal opinion, Richard Lange is to Los Angeles as George Pelecanos is to D.C. or Richard Price is to New York City. This is my first full novel by this author and I am not surprised I liked it as much as I did. I have read a ton of Lange's short stories. This novel does read like a longer version of his shorts. The Smack clocks in at a little over 350 pages but they truly fly by. I read the whole book in a couple of days because the writing just flows and the story keeps you engaged. 

John McKenna
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Smack
Mysterious Book Report No. 314
by John Dwaine McKenna

The mean streets of Los Angeles are the setting for a new kind of novel that combines action with the troubles of the real world. It’s about people on the hustle, people who swindle others out of their money . . . they’re called grifters. Grifters have no conscience, no guilt, they’re only interested in parting the suckers from their money. Have you ever gotten a telephone call about a free vacation, an inheritance from an unknown rela
Colin Brightwell
May 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Talk about perfect execution - the con, and the writing.

I’m no stranger to Richard Lange’s fiction - his collection DEAD BOYS smacks of brilliance, and his latest novel ROVERS was a delicious combination of horror and crime.

So obviously I wanted to read more of one of the best crime writers in the game. THE SMACK could have easily fallen into cliches of a con-man and a once in a lifetime heist - the Big One, they call it. The one that gets you enough cash to quit the life. You know the trope. S
Elizabeth Laborde
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just read several other critiques of this novel, and I'm left scratching my head. It's so hard to read a book that I found very well executed on so many levels then read a series of readers rate the book with a 'meh' or label it 'lazy'. No doubt, Lange's voice may be for everyone. He's distinctive and particular. But dang, I was blown away by the quality of his writing. His imagery is so carefully selected, so deftly sifted and distilled I found it humbling to read something just that damn goo ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'd previously read some of Lange's short stories about down-and-out no hopers working dead-end jobs in and around LA, and thought that his style might work better in a novel, and so I picked this up. It's a very well-executed crime story about a middle-aged grifter down to his last $5,000 when he hears a tall tale from an old family friend about a $2 million score.

Readers who require a "likable" protagonist are unlikely to enjoy Rowan Petty, who has a kind of personal code he follows, but is a
Woody Chandler
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish that this site allowed for fractions of stars as I would have rated it as 4.25 or 4.5, but I did not want to round up & give it a full-on 5. 8=(

I liked the premise & the characters a lot & I hope that they return in future novels. As the dust cover mentioned, it is rare that a book about a career grifter can also offer a measure of poignancy. The plot revolves around not only the aforementioned grifter, but also a courtesan with whom he embarks on a cross-country adventure involving U.S.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rowan Petty is the kind of lowlife you can't help but enjoy following. He cons, he swindles, he doesn't talk to his daughter. When an opportunity arises to go to LA and steal two million dollars, he jumps at the chance. Do things go according to plan? Absolutely not.

There are elements of heist and noir here, but other parts are so absurd that you can't help but go along for the ride. (The African-American prostitute named Tinafey is a delight, and her character arc was unexpectedly rich.) We swi
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
this is my first read of a book by Richard Lange and I loved it. I think after a couple so so books, this was just what I needed. The plot and main character engaged me right from the beginning. The writing was so good that every conversation felt real, not contrived or in place just to move the plot but how real people would talk. Main character is con man Rowan Petty and while not a great guy as he separates rubes from their money for his livelihood, you do end up rooting for him. We have seen ...more
Billy Joel Osment
A modern LA masterpiece

I've read Angel Baby and several of Lange's short stories before, they were pretty good (the stories especially), but this is on another level.

He takes a lot of crime fiction archetypes and turns them on their head. The plot moves fast, slows down into a character study at times with entertaining detours, then goes wherever you least expect it. His dialogue rings true, so do the characters behind the words.

With this book he is making a claim for greatness alongside Don Win
Nov 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Decent enough caper/noir. Rowan Perry is a down on his luck con man. One of his mentors, who is worse of than he is, asks him to check out a potential con that may be worth $2.3 million. Apparently, a group of grunts in Afghanistan have been siphoning off money for army supplies and sending them to the states. This turns out to be true and Perry and his girlfriend Tinafey get over their head pretty quickly. Turns out one of the Army guys is killing everyone involved to keep the loot for himself. ...more
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a good read with an easy plot and easy characters. It moves at a good pace and definitely lives up to 4 stars. The author did a good job with making the plot concise and not needlessly wordy. The characters are well developed and easy to attach to. I enjoyed this book, but yet I did not feel as drawn to it as I would have liked. I have been super busy with other ARC books and reviews as well as an exhaustive bible study, but if a book really grabs me, I find every available moment to div ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Killing Hills
  • A Man Named Doll (Happy Doll #1)
  • Heaven's a Lie
  • Suburban Dicks (Suburban Dicks, #1)
  • Bloody January
  • Don't Know Tough
  • Five Decembers
  • Northern Heist
  • Country Dark
  • The Enemy Next Door
  • The Broken Sword (Forever King, #2)
  • The Forever King (Forever King, #1)
  • The Goshawk
  • Apples Never Fall
  • The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu
  • Moonlight Mile (Kenzie & Gennaro,#6)
  • Nine
  • Savages (Savages #2)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Author of Rovers, The Smack, Sweet Nothing, Angel Baby, This Wicked World, and Dead Boys.

News & Interviews

The book gods, in their infinite kindness, have built second chances into the very structure of the modern distribution business. If you miss...
2 likes · 0 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“He’d recently turned forty, and this fact caromed inside his head when he stared at the cigarette burn on his room’s garish polyester bedspread, ate a dollar hot dog for dinner, washed his underwear in the sink, and got hung up on by widows from Des Moines.” 0 likes
“The fewer corpses in the street, the better, Petty decided. He hooked Hug under the arms, and Carrie took his feet. They half carried, half dragged him to the Range Rover and wrestled him into the backseat.” 0 likes
More quotes…