‘Night’ Unfolds


I love great contemporary American urban storytellers. Witness my love for The Wire, police procedurals and the like. And about halfway through the first episode of HBO’s The Night Of, I had to stop and ponder the brilliance of novelist and the show’s co-creator/writer Richard Price.

I came to Price back in the late 1970s at the urging of a friend, who was also friends with Price (and sadly since deceased). Even though we were both avid music buffs working within the the business, our talks would range into such other passions as films and books. At one point he mentioned knowing Price. I said how I’d been wondering if I should read The Wanderers, his first novel, published in about young Italian-American gang members in the Bronx coming of age.

“You’ve got to read it,” he insisted. I did, and was duly impressed by his artful way at drawing tangible characters and vividly capturing the mise en scene. Since then I’ve read a number of his books, and now that I write this I also plan on getting one of the few I haven’t read on my next trip to the book store.

But novels are just some of what Price had written. I was pleased to see his writing credit on a number of episodes of the aforementioned The Wire (a show so good, so rich, and so well constructed I’ve watched it in full four times now. He’s also written screenplays for The Color of Money, Ransom, Sea of Love and the film adaptation by Spike Lee of his novel Clockers.

And, I discovered as I researched this column, was the creator of the short-lived CBS series NYC 22. Soon as I get off the computer I’ll have to search on my smart TV for that one.

Throughout all of his books I’ve read, Price has shown a keen knack for creating characters that feel real and human, dialogue that reads like it’s being said by actual people, and stories that have the ring of reality, with twists and turns that range from the mundane to the absurd.

Plus, as said above, he creates urban landscapes that brim with the energy, conflict and tragedy of today’s American cities. In short, his fiction is so damned good it could be reporting.

All of that finds gripping summation in The Night Of. Without giving too much away, it’s about a young Pakistani-American who goes out for a night on the town. And wakes up the next day to be accused of murder.

His choice to make his main character a Muslim – superbly played by British actor Riz Ahmed – plays quite interestingly, given current affairs. Kudos also go to John Turturro, whose portrayal of an eccentric bottom-feeding lawyer who gets caught up in the case may be this fine actor’s best work.

But of course Price gives the actors material that that has not just meat on its bones but blood coursing through its veins. With now three episodes seen as I write this, I marvel at the skillful plotting, the vividly-drawn characters that have the mark of true New Yorkers, and a story that’s not just resonant but haunting.

It’s as good as TV gets. In my book, The Night Of is not to be missed. And if it leads you to Price’s novels, all the better. He’s built a body of work that can sustain your entertainment needs for many, many hours, and offer the intellectual and emotional nutrition that makes that time spent most worthwhile.

Populist Picks

Book: Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles by Geoff Emerick – If you have an interest in what’s behind the timeless music of The Beatles, this memoir by the recording engineer who started with the band on Revolver and continued working with them throughout most of the rest of their career is a treasure trove on not only the Fab Four but also the art and craft of recording music. Plus it’s an engaging read that I happily consumed in little more than a day.

TV: Casual – I’m a big admirer of the films of Jason Reitman, who directs this original series on Hulu. It shows the same keen sense of modern life found in his movies in its tale of a brother and sister along with her daughter, who wind up living togeher.

CD: Totally Stripped by The Rolling Stones – The Stones have been all but dumping live recordings on the market lately, some of them not up to snuff. But on the 14 tracks here recorded at small venues in 1995, they live up to their title of the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. He edits www.bestclassicbands.com. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2016


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