INTERVIEW: Richard Price on THE NIGHT OF and More

Photo by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Photo by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Richard Price’s latest project is the HBO limited series The Night Of, on which he served as writer and executive producer. The series follows the arrest and trial of a 23-year-old New Yorker (Riz Ahmed) accused of murder, with John Turturro as the young man’s scruffy defense attorney. It’s aired two episodes so far and has been garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews. As usual, I’ll be waiting a while before writing and posting a full review of the show (though I’ll go ahead and say that I really like it), but I took the occasion of its debut to reach out to Price and see if he’d be interested in sitting down for an interview. He generously obliged, and we ended up meeting this past Saturday. We discussed The Night Of and other projects he’s currently got in the works, and I took the opportunity to geek out and ask a bunch of more esoteric questions about his earlier work and other aspects of his career.

Obviously, as the creator of a blog about Price’s work, I was thrilled to get the chance to meet with him and discuss that work, and I hope you find the resulting conversation as interesting as I did. Enjoy!
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CHILD 44 (Film, 2015)

imagesDirected by Daniel Espinosa

Screenplay by Richard Price, adapted from the novel by Tom Rob Smith

In my “Epilogue” post last year, I said that I didn’t want to keep reviewing Richard Price’s work contemporaneously as it was released because “I want to be able to enjoy it without having to hop online immediately afterwards to parse out how good of a job it’s doing holding up his legacy.” Part of my concern was that, since this is primarily a tribute site, I didn’t want to put myself in the position of potentially criticizing Price’s work while it was still competing for attention in the cultural marketplace. So, although I didn’t commit to or announce this policy, I figured I might review each new work a year after it had been released; at that point its critical and commercial fate would be more or less sealed, and I’d also have a broader perspective from which to make my evaluation.

As it turned out, the film Child 44, adapted for the screen by Price from the novel by Tom Rob Smith (and released exactly one year ago, on April 17, 2015), seemed to be exactly the sort of project my waiting period idea had anticipated: It opened to generally negative reviews, earning a mere 26% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even Price himself seemed to join in with its detractors in a tweet I can’t believe he never deleted:

So is it really that bad? I don’t think so, but unfortunately I wouldn’t really recommend it either. Continue reading

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THE WHITES (Novel, 2015) – Review

The WhitesMy original plan for Priced Out was that I would review everything Richard Price had written prior to the release of his new novel The Whites and then stop, rather than continuing to review his new stuff as it came out. I’m still not planning to post new reviews continuously, but it now seems silly not to do a full write-up of the book that this blog was always leading up to. I wrote a bit about the backstory of The Whites in the “Epilogue” post I put up the day it came out; here are my thoughts now that I’ve had the chance to actually read it. Continue reading

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THE WHITES (Novel, 2015)/Epilogue

“I’m a novelist. I’m a good novelist and I’ll get better. I’ve found my calling and if I have my way I’ll be turning out books for the next half-century, books that will blow people away.”

–Richard Price, 1976

The WhitesThe Whites, the new novel by Richard Price (“writing as Harry Brandt”) which is finally being released today, began as an attempt at slumming. Since 1992, Price has been putting out novels that focus on urban crime, some of which could reasonably be called murder mysteries. But he’s always considered his interest in that subject matter to be a reflection of his interest in the extremes of human behavior, as befits someone writing respectable literary fiction: “I don’t like crime books,” he’s said, “and I don’t ever want to see my stuff in the crime section. I don’t want to be genre-ized.”

At some point, however, he changed his mind: “I wanted to do a more orthodox urban thriller,” he now says, “and I talked to my agent [Lynn Nesbit] and said, ‘I’m so sick of writing screenplays for money.’ She said, ‘I could probably get you the money that you would get for a screenplay [under a pseudonym].'” And so it was announced in 2010 that Price would be writing a series of detective novels under a pen name (which at the time was supposed to be “Jay Morris,” a mix of his middle name and the first name of his poet grandfather, whom he’s cited as an inspiration). Continue reading

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Odds and Ends

American GangsterAs this blog has hopefully demonstrated by now, Richard Price’s body of work is pretty impressively extensive. He’s not a prolific novelist (when The Whites hits shelves on Tuesday it’ll be only the ninth novel he’s put out since he became a published author in 1974), but he’s kept busy between books by working on a wide variety of films and, to a lesser extent, TV shows. So far this blog has focused on his major works: Complete novels, feature films (along with a few notable shorts) and TV series. But as you’d expect, he’s also produced or contributed to an array of other projects which were not given their own individual posts here, for various reasons: Some were too small to merit extensive discussion, some were never made widely available, and some never officially acknowledged Price’s involvement. Before this blog ended I wanted to put together a roundup of such minor projects, and that’s what you’ll find below, presented chronologically. This is presumably an incomplete list, especially in terms of the short pieces Price has had printed in newspapers and magazines, but it represents pretty much everything I’ve come across over the course of my work on Priced Out. Continue reading

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NYC 22 (TV Series, 2012)

NYC 22Created by Richard Price

Four episodes written by Richard Price: “Pilot,” “Ransom,” “Self Cleaning Oven” and “Crossing the Rubicon”

Richard Price’s relationship with television has always been complicated, even before he worked in the medium himself. His writing style, especially early on in his career, was influenced by TV’s ADD immediacy: “My writing is a product of being a tube child,” he wrote in a 1976 Village Voice op-ed, “and is geared towards other tube children, at least stylistically.” But on the other hand, he’s always seemed to hold the form in low regard, from the narrator of 1978’s Ladies’ Man maintaining that “everything… on TV… [is] geared for mental defectives” to the protagonist of 2003’s Samaritan wrestling with whether or not to take a “dopey” TV writing gig. Price considers screenwriting “superficial” compared to writing novels, so it makes sense that he’d be even leerier of cinema’s traditionally dumber relation. Continue reading

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LUSH LIFE (Novel, 2008)

Lush LifeGentrification is a popular topic in American pop culture, but one that’s mainly addressed through cliched caricatures of skinny-jeaned, PBR-swilling hipsters displacing thuggish urban gangstas. So it’s to our benefit that Richard Price, who’s been taking urban America’s pulse since Clockers, has adopted gentrification as a major theme in his more recent work, starting more or less with this book. Lush Life is a novel about the murder of a young white aspiring actor and the resulting shockwaves sent out through the ethnically and economically diverse world of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and a lot of novelists–say, Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen–might use that premise as a jumping-off point for misanthropic satire, assembling an array of broadly sketched grotesques in the hopes of collaging together an of-the-moment portrait of the national zeitgeist. Richard Price doesn’t do that. He’s got points to make here, but his first priority always seems to be the authentic humanity of his characters. They’re flawed, certainly, but also complex and often self-aware. We’re made to enter their perspectives and view their imperfections from within rather than laughing at them from without. Continue reading

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