That's How I Roll by Andrew Vachss


"[A] highly compelling work of fiction by a master storyteller at the top of his game. ... [Phil] Gigante is capable of some amazing vocal gymnastics that at times will blow me away, but it's his ability to capture the edges of the characters that makes his performance here special."" —Bob Reiss, The Guilded Earlobe


"Born of a supremely abusive father and his own sister, Esau Till is trouble from day one—a self-taught explosives expert and hired killer for rival mobs who ends up on death row. He's also seriously smart, while younger brother Tory is a little slow. This book unfolds as Esau's effort to tell his life story in a bid to protect Tory after his own death. A lawyer who represents children exclusively, Vachss writes raw, eye-opening works that deserve our attention." —Library Journal


"One can count on Vachss being grim whether writing one of his Burke novels (Another Life, etc.) or a stand-alone like The Weight, but this first-person story, which narrator Esau Till makes clear is neither apology nor confession, is grimmer than most. From death row, Esau, who's crippled by spina bifida, recounts a horrific childhood of parental abuse. He finds purpose in protecting his strapping little brother, Tory-boy, whose only defect is being a little 'slow.' Esau later becomes a bomb maker and assassin, carving out a precariously balanced life plying his deadly trade for both of the two crime bosses who share his unnamed community. When the authorities finally catch up with him, Esau continues to plan to protect Tory-boy whether Esau is dead or alive by cleverly playing both sides of the law. Crafty, strong-willed Esau combines courtly manners, deadly paybacks, and ruthless singularity of purpose in this chilling tour de force." —Publishers Weekly


"Esau Till is writing his memoirs from death row, intending that they function as a document that will protect his younger brother, Tory-boy. And those who know him know that Esau's life and chosen profession have all been focused on Tory-boy's well-being. Their father was known to all in their rural town as Beast. Esau and Tory-boy's sister was also their mother. As a result, Esau suffers from spina bifida, and Tory-boy is mentally handicapped. Esau eventually became a contract killer for both local crime syndicates, with the endgame of securing Tory-boy's financial independence after Esau is gone.

"Vachss' readers are familiar with his ability to navigate the darkest aspects of society. Here he changes the setting from urban to rural, but in either locale, the lesson is the same. The damaged, the dispossessed, and the victims rarely have a safety net and must look to each other for help. Vachss' ubiquitous message is his most unsettling. When we don't reach out to victims, we lose the right to refer to ourselves as a 'civilized' society.

"HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: In his latest stand-alone, Vachss, master of hard-boiled fiction, delivers one of his grimmest novels yet." —Wes Lukowsky, Booklist


"For those who like their hard-boiled fiction really hard, X-rated (as we used to say) and for grown-ups only, then your main man is Andrew Vachss; and his new novel That's How I Roll is published by Pantheon in America in March. This is classic, gritty Vachss, who writes prose you can strike a match on, as he proved in his 18-book 'Burke' series which not only created its own dystopian universe of urban savagery, but also showed that Vachss has a crime-writing 'voice' as distinct—and as important—as those of James Ellroy, George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard. In That's How I Roll he gives that voice to Esau Till, a top line assassin for hire who sits on Death Row awaiting the lethal injection and writing his life story. But Esau's not providing a death-cell confession; he's intent on looking after his only family, his brother, even after he's gone." —Mike Ripley, Shots


"Okay—an admission. After Stephen King, Andrew Vachss is probably my favourite author. I grew up reading his legendary 'Burke' series and when the last novel in that sequence came out two years ago I got about as far as the last chapter and then put it down, unfinished. The reason? Well, I guess I just don't want to say goodbye to a character that was part of my life for over 20 years—yup, the Burke novels are truly that good and even though he's a fictional character, he meant too much to read about what happened to him. So I always approach new, non-Burke novels by Vachss with a certain degree of trepidation, but his latest, That's How I Roll, is a noir masterpiece. The product of an abusive, incestuous relationship, Esau Till is physically handicapped but an accomplished killer for hire. He's on death row and recounting how he got there and the lengths he will take to save his brother—the only person he has ever loved."—Ian O'Doherty, The (Irish) Independent


"Life is tough. It's tougher when you're on Death Row.

"In his newest whodunit, Vachss (The Weight, 2010, etc.) combines his trademark black humor with his longstanding concern for children and their well-being. The result is a strikingly original character named Esau Till, born with a 'spine thing' that has kept him from standing on his own for all the 40-plus years of his life. Esau has a genius IQ and a sharp sense of justice, if a vigilante one; no being bullied on the schoolyard or in life for him. Indeed, he has a skill that is very much in demand in the rough redneck quarters in which he moves—he makes a mean bomb. What keeps Esau motivated on this unforgiving planet is his younger brother Tory-boy, Lennie to his George, who is beyond simpleminded and is constantly in some mischief or another—dangerously involving the local neo-Nazi contingent at one point. Esau and Tory descend from a fellow known locally as the Beast, who made a sport of incest and murder until receiving his comeuppance, and they're not what you might call model citizens. Even though Esau does a fine job of clearing the streets of criminals, if often on behalf of other criminals, he's also worked his way through the catalog of civil offenses and felonies. For his trouble, we find Esau in the pen awaiting the final needle, telling his tale to pass the time. Vachss structures his novel as a sort of loose, episodic confessional that builds the story stone by stone, strewing the landscape with bodies ('Before he could open his mouth to ask a question, I shot him in the face') and dispensing folksy wisdom ('If a man walks into a liquor store after dark, it's either because he's got money...or because he doesn't'). The outlook is insistently bleak: Esau and Tory were born into suffering and will go out that way, too, sharing some of the wealth as they wander through the world.

"A smart, cynical glimpse into the human condition—and into lives no one should envy."—Kirkus


"That's How I Roll is about the dichotomies and incongruities within the human mind and within the context in which the story takes place. Honor, revenge, and mercy are often interwoven in the main character. Some supporting characters who appear colder than ice are also capable of displaying caring and compassion. The town that is chosen for the setting of the book is inhabited by people who, for the most part, are mercilessly distrustful not only of outsiders but also of each other. It is a barren environment that reeks of sadness and hopelessness. ... [B]oth chilling and realistic. Readers who enjoy an unusual mystery will be simultaneously entertained and horrified by That's How I Roll."—Laura Schultz, New York Journal of Books