A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.
Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.
The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.
Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.
Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.
After the success of Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby could have played it safe. He could have written another heist book that would have been fun and entertaining. He could have used the success to keep writing the same book, and we would have loved it. S.A. Cosby did not do this.
Razorblade Tears is the story of two dads, Ike, a ex-con who is running a very successful landscaping business and has a great marriage, and Buddy Lee, a hard drinking, single, trailer park redneck. Their sons are husbands, and when they are murdered, Ike and Buddy Lee reluctantly team up to figure out who killed them. In the process, they explore the grief and regrets of the way that they treated their sons as gay men. Ike and Buddy Lee both have a rocky relationship with their sons, and this adds to the mourning and regret they experience. Them finding out who killed them is something of a redemption song for the two men.
What makes Cosby’s telling of this story different from that of Blacktop Wasteland was that the motivation in Blacktop Wasteland is money whereas the motivation for Razorblade Tears is not only love and family but a search for understanding. And this is where Cosby changes the game. He knows that he is going to have a great deal of readers for the follow-up to his breakthrough novel so instead of playing it safe, he has two conversations that America is struggling to have: understanding between an older generation and the LGBT+ community and an understanding of race relations. When Buddy Lee and Ike start to go on this mission, Buddy Lee has a completely different outlook on Ike than at the end. Buddy Lee struggles with his “white privilege” when he is drinking all day in a trailer and Ike has a successful business. As the novel progresses, Buddy Lee learns that privilege is not the things he has but the color of his skin. The fact that Buddy Lee is written as a perfect character in this novel. He does not have much going for him, is unemployed, drinks and smokes his days away, and he thinks that white privilege does not exist because look at him versus Ike. The truths unfold in two ways: Buddy Lee learning about how race relations in this country affects Ike every day regardless of how successful he is, and how both of them learn about how the acceptance of their sons is really the biggest regret that they will face, so they face it together.
This might strike a few wrong cords for people, and this is fine. S.A. Cosby did not write this in a way that will make it comfortable for everyone to read. The characters are not refined. The language is rough. The action might be a little questionable at times, but sometimes the over the top fighting and violence is heightened due to the trials the two dads are going through. They want to get to the bottom of the story, so that maybe they can feel better about themselves, and this does cause them to lash out on people inexplicably at times. The truth is the men Razorblade Tears are motivated by grief and regret more than common sense.