The Ice Harvest: A Novel by Scott PhillipsThe Ice Harvest: A Novel by Scott Phillips

The Ice Harvest: A Novel

byScott Phillips

Paperback | October 30, 2001

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–The New York Times Book Review

“A FUTURE HARD-BOILED CLASSIC–TIGHT, COLD, AND CACKLING WITH IRONY. On Christmas Eve [in Wichita], a mob lawyer is skipping town with the cash. But in this boozy, neo-noir world–James M. Cain meets George V. Higgins–the best-laid plans of bagmen turn brutal.”
–The Dallas Morning News

“OMINOUS, ACTION-PACKED. . . This is a confident, wry debut . . . [that] may remind readers of Fargo or Pulp Fiction.”
–Detroit Free Press

“I SIMPLY CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT SCOTT PHILLIPS WILL DO NEXT. [This] funny, tough first novel felt like it was written by an old pro, an Elmore Leonard we’ve never heard about who’s discovered a place where the criminals are really dumb, the low-lifes are oh-so-fun to watch and, if somebody just happens to get what he deserves, there’s no one to blame.”
Author of Straight Man

–The Denver Post

Finalist for the Hammett Prize
Scott Phillips was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, and lived for many years in France. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California, where he is currently at work on his second novel.
Title:The Ice Harvest: A NovelFormat:PaperbackPublished:October 30, 2001Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345440196

ISBN - 13:9780345440198


Read from the Book

At four-fifteen on a cold, dry Christmas Eve a nervousmiddle-aged man in an expensive overcoat walkedbare-headed into the Midtown Tap Room and stood at thenear end of the bar with his membership card in hand,waiting for the afternoon barmaid to get off the phone.She was about forty, heavy in a square way, with a shinyface and dishwater blond hair that looked like she'd gotshitfaced and decided to cut it herself. He knew she'dnoticed him coming in, but she was taking great pains topretend she couldn't see him. To do so she had to standat a peculiar angle, leaning her hip against the back barand looking off toward the back door so that she wasfacing neither the lawyer nor the mirror behind her. lawyer nor themirror behind her. neither the lawyer nor themirror behind her.The only other drinker at that hour was a small, veryslender young man in a fully buttoned jean jacket who satleaning with his elbow on the bar, his cheek resting on theheel of his wrist with a cigarette between his index andmiddle fingers, its ash end burning dangerously close to thetip of his oily pompadour. His eyes were closed and hismouth open.The lawyer unbuttoned his overcoat and stood there fora minute, listening to the barmaid's phone conversation.She had just the start of a drinker's rasp, and if he were justhearing her on the phone and not looking at her he'd havethought it sounded sexy. She seemed to be having somekind of roommate trouble involving a fender bender, a borrowedcar, and no insurance, and it didn't look as thoughshe'd be noticing him anytime soon.He couldn't remember ever seeing the Tap Room indaylight before, if the failing gray light filtering through thegrime on the front windows qualified as such. It was a deep,narrow old building with a battered pressed-tin ceiling anda long oak bar. On the brick wall behind the bandstandhung a huge black-faced clock with fluorescent purple numbers,and running the length of the opposite wall was a rowof red Naugahyde booths. All of this was festooned withcheap plastic holly and mistletoe. Around the walls sevenfeet or so from the floor ran a string of multicolored Christmaslights, unplugged at the moment. This is my last lookat this place, he thought, mildly surprised at the idea. Hehadn't been out of town for more than two or three days ata time in fifteen years.A squeal from the barmaid interrupted his reverie. "JesusChrist, Gary, you set your hair on fire!" Young Garylooked up in cross-eyed bewilderment at the hiss of the wetrag she was patting against his smoldering forelock. He protestedweakly and unintelligibly as she snatched his cigaretteaway from him and ground it out in the ashtray, thenput the ashtray behind the bar. "It's obvious you can't betrusted with these anymore," she said as she confiscated hiscigarettes and lighter. He started to say something in hisown defense, but stopped and closed his eyes again, restinghis cheek back down on his hands. "You'll get these backtomorrow," she said. "You want another drink?" Gary noddedyes without opening his eyes.Now she looked up at the newcomer, feigning surprise."Oh, hi. Didn't see you come in." She gave his membershipcard a perfunctory glance. "What can I get you?""CC, water back." She turned without a word and busiedherself making his drink, following it with another forGary. "Is Tommy in back?" the man said as she set thedrinks down."Nope. He'll be in tonight.""Could you give him this for me?" He handed her anenvelope."Sure," she said. She took the envelope from his handand turned it over a couple of times as though looking for aset of instructions."Tell him it's from Charlie Arglist.""Charlie Arglist?" There was genuine surprise in hervoice this time. She lowered her head, cocking it to oneside, giving him a close look. "Charlie, is that you?""Yeah . . ." At that moment he was certain he'd neverseen the woman before in his life."Jesus, Charlie, it's me, Susie Tannenger. Wow, haveyou ever changed." She stepped back to let him get a betterlook at her. The Susie Tannenger he remembered was alithe, pretty thing, at least six or eight years younger thanhe was. He had handled a divorce for her about ten yearsearlier, and in the course of the proceedings her husband,a commercial pilot, had threatened several times to killCharlie.She came around the bar and gave him a hug, a hardone with a discreet little pelvic bump thrown in. Her exhad had good reason to want to kill him; he had taken outhis fee in trade, at her suggestion, on his desktop."Isn't life funny? Are you still a lawyer? Hey, Gary,check it out--this is the guy that did my first divorce!"Gary looked up, focused for a split second, then gruntedand returned to his private ruminations."Charlie, this is my fiance, Gary. Shit, I didn't even knowyou were still in town; we gotta get together sometime.""Yeah, we should do that." Charlie knocked back hisdrink and set a five-dollar bill on the table. "Well, I gotsome Christmas shopping left to do. Nice to see you again,Susie."She swept up the bill and handed it back to him. "Yourmoney's no good here, Counselor. Merry Christmas!""Thanks, Susie. Same to you." He went to the door. Itwas getting dark outside, and Susie hadn't yet turned theoverhead lights on. From that distance, in that dim, smokylight, he almost recognized her. "And a happy New Year toyou both," he said as he pushed the door open and steppedout onto the ice.When the door closed Susie sighed and looked over atGary, whose head had migrated down to the bar and whohad started to snore. "There goes the second most inconsideratelay I ever had," she said.Who gives a shit if I say good-bye to Tommy or not anyway?Charlie thought. He was warm and dry behind the wheel ofthe company car, a brand-new black 1980 Lincoln Continental,the finest car he had ever driven. He was headedwest with no particular destination in mind. It was dark andovercast, one of those days where it was impossible to tellwhether the sun was still up or not, but as yet it hadn'tstarted to snow. He passed the Hardee's across the streetfrom Grove High, watched the kids hanging around in theparking lot the way he had when he was in school, backwhen it had been a Sandy's. His kids wouldn't go to Grove,close as they lived to it; they'd be assigned to one of thenewer and presumably nicer schools farther east. Good forthem; fuck all this nostalgia crap. He pulled a flask from theinside pocket of his overcoat and took a long drink. Nowmight be a good time to stop by the Sweet Cage; the afternoonshift would be ending, and there were a couple of thedaytime dancers he wanted to see one last time. It was a littleafter four-thirty, and he had nine and a half hours to kill.Charlie had both hands resting on top of the wheel, tryingto screw the cap back on the flask, when he caught sight ofa police cruiser just behind him to the left, gaining slowly.He quickly gripped the steering wheel with his left handand lowered the flask in his right, spilling a little bourbonon his pant leg."Ah, shit . . ." He looked down at the stain, just to theright of his crotch. "Looks like I pissed my fucking pants."He looked up as he felt the car swerve, catching it at thelast possible moment and swinging back into the right-handlane. The black and white pulled up alongside himand Charlie looked calmly over. The cop on the right rolledhis window down and Charlie did the same."Road sure is icy, Counselor," the cop shouted, his facepinched against the cold wind."Sure is, Officer." He tried to remember the cop's name."You're doing forty in a school zone, you know.""Shit. Sorry." Charlie let his foot up off the gas, and thecops slowed down with him."Never know who's gonna clock you around here, Mr.Arglist.""Thanks. That's one I owe you.""Merry Christmas.""Merry Christmas, guys." He held up the flask and drankthem a short toast and they accelerated away, laughing andwaving. That was a lucky fucking break, he thought. Heswitched on the AM radio and rolled the tuner knob betweenthumb and forefinger until he found an adenoidalpolice reporter giving quick but detailed accounts of a fist fightin a tavern, a foiled daylight burglary, and a rash of carthefts at a local shopping mall. He closed his report with amessage from the chief of police admonishing shoppers tolock their cars and take their keys. He was followed by anequally adenoidal country singer's bland, stringy renditionof "The First Noel." Charlie took another sip and wonderedwho the hell burgled in the daytime, on Christmas Eve yet.

Editorial Reviews

?[A] funny, craftily malevolent first novel, an ice-pick-sharp crime story that sustains its film noir energy all the way to an outrageous whammy of an ending.?
?The New York Times

?[An] astonishing debut novel from a writer who manages to put a funny, modernist spin on a piece of our noir past: Jim Thompson frosted with a blast of Jonathan (Motherless Brooklyn) Lethem.?
?Chicago Tribune