Shawn Andre Cosby (S.A. Cosby) was born in Newport News, Virginia, on August 4, 1973. He writes “Southern noir” mystery fiction. His published works include My Darkest Prayer, All the Sinners Bleed, Blacktop Wasteland, and Razorblade Tears.
Razorblade Tears, Cosby’s most recent book, was number 10 on the New York Times bestseller list. Blacktop Wasteland, one of his earlier works, won several awards, including a Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2020.
In a recent chat with The New York Times, he talked about books and the one thing he wishes more writers would address. Enjoy the interview here:
What books are on your nightstand?
Right now, there are three: “The Passenger,” by Cormac McCarthy, “The Hunt,” by Kelly J. Ford, and “Blue Like Me,” by Aaron Philip Clark. All three are incredible in different ways. “The Hunt” is an inventive serial killer thriller. “Blue Like Me” is an in-depth mystery that examines what it’s like being a police officer and a person of color. And “The Passenger” is classic McCarthy: inventive, insightful, and sometimes surreal.
What’s the last great book you read?
“Everybody Knows,” by Jordan Harper. It’s an instant classic, a harrowing trip through the Day-Glo Technicolor Hades that is Los Angeles, and a thoughtful examination of the price of fame and power, and how some people will do anything to hold on to them. Jordan has a sparse but powerful style that feels clinical and musical at the same time.
Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
There are a few: “A Farewell to Arms,” by Ernest Hemingway, “The Stranger,” by Albert Camus, and “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison. I can’t say why I waited so long to read them, but I’m glad I’ve read them now at this time in my life. I think I understand them better than I would have at, say, 19. At 19, you think you’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof. These books resonate with me now after I’ve learned, through some rather brutal tutelage, how fragile the world truly is.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
Early morning, on my back deck, rereading the signed, weathered paperback of “Darkness, Take My Hand,” by Dennis Lehane.
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Not enough people have heard of two books set in the mid-1900s: “The Real Cool Killers,” by Chester Himes, and “Provinces of Night,” by William Gay. They’re very different — the former takes place in Harlem and the latter in rural Tennessee — but both are snapshots of a particular moment in American history by underrated masters.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
Walter Mosley, Dennis Lehane, John Irving, Jordan Harper, Jesmyn Ward, Kellye Garrett, Jennifer Hillier, Jericho Brown, Ashley C. Ford, Megan Giddings, Brandon Taylor, Eryk Pruitt, Walter Chaw and Sean Burns. They are all fantastic minds with unique perspectives about the world and the folks who live in it.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
How to tan deer hide and turn it into leather, which is as gross and disgusting as you think it is.
Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
The fear of success and how family members can instill that fear in you. There is this weight that comes with any type of success, and I know no one wants to hear from the lottery winner, but I truly think writers need to examine this and really dissect it. There is an existential malaise that can come with chasing your dreams — after you grab the brass ring, what do you do with it?
What makes for a good mystery?
A good question that only the protagonist can answer. Every mystery should ask that question, and every mystery writer should be prepared to answer it through the protagonist and the protagonist alone.
What’s the most terrifying book you ever read?
“Salem’s Lot,” by Stephen King, is still undefeated. For me, it’s pound for pound the most frightening book I’ve ever read. King has the innate ability to tap into the most visceral human fears, within the most mundane situations. The scene where the two truckers deliver the conspicuously large crate to the basement of the Marsten House still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
S.A Coby is our favourite author. Who is yours?