Bronx-born writer Richard Price, famous for his gritty urban novels Clockers and Freedomland, as well screenplays like The Color of Money and award-winning episodes of The Wire, has now turned his eye for detail on the turbo-gentrifying Lower East Side. Lush Life, his first novel in five years, was described by Times critic Michiko Kakutani as “a visceral, heart-thumping portrait of New York City... no one writes better dialogue than Richard Price.”
The story concerns 35-year-old frustrated screenwriter-restaurant manager Eric Cash, who witnesses the murder of his bartending co-worker one late night on the Lower East Side; the circumstances echo the real-life murder of actress Nicole DuFresne. But the neighborhood itself is the Lush Life’s main character, and Price spent the past several years fully immersing himself in it. In an interview, Price explains his inspiration for the novel:
There are about five worlds down there, and they're oblivious of each other. Well, every once in a while these worlds collide, and when they do it is usually on a street corner at four in the morning. The kids from the projects know that the kids inland have money - put a gun in their face, you can usually score enough cash to buy some Chinese takeout. But the kid whose face you're putting the gun in thinks he's in a movie, he's got his load on, he does the wrong thing - and BOOM, headlines for five days. Then everybody goes back to normal.
Reporter Charles McGrath recently spent a fun afternoon strolling the LES with the author, who made a point of stopping by Schiller’s Liquor Bar, which is the model for the café Eric Cash manages in the book. Price is quick to note that Schiller’s is made to look like a remodeled pharmacy from the ‘20s, with furnishings recovered from old warehouses and installed to look timeless. Much like the neighborhood surrounding it, “it’s all a stage set, and now it’s, like, venerable.”