return to the MAIN pageGo BACK PRINT this page
The Official Website of Andrew Vachss

Trojan Horses
That's How I Roll
by Andrew Vachss

That's How I Roll by Andrew Vachss

Pantheon, March 20, 2012 (hardcover)
Pantheon, March 20, 2012 (ebook and Kindle)
Dreamscape, March 20, 2012 (audiobook)
    Listen to a sample
Vintage, January 22, 2013 (trade paperback)

That's How I Roll by Andrew Vachss

Vintage/Black Lizard trade-paperback edition, January 22, 2013
Click here to order a copy online


Around here, even dying can be hard. Horribly hard. Only death itself comes easy. By easy, I mean frequent. Death happens so often that people regard it pretty much the same as the never-ending rain.

When life itself is hard, you have to be hard to live. Even a bitch will cull one of her own pups if she doesn't think he's going to be tough enough—she knows she's only got but so much milk, and there's none to waste.

Survival isn't some skill we learned—it's in all our genes. Nobody needed to be told to step aside when they saw the Beast coming. But not everyone stepped fast enough.

There's rock slides. Floods, too. Those are natural phenomena. You live here, you expect them. But just because a man's found under tons of rock, or floating in the river, doesn't mean his death was due to natural causes.

Folks drink a lot. Wives get beaten something fierce. Some of those wives can shoot pretty good. And some of their husbands never think it can happen to them, even when they're sleeping off a drunk.

There's supposed to be good and bad in everyone. Probably is. But here, it's the bad in you that's more often the most useful.

Like the difference between climate and weather. Most folks around here don't view a killing as good or bad—just something that happens, like a flood or a fire.

That's why a whole lot of bodies never get viewed at all.

For a man like me, this is a good part of the country to do my work. I take pride in the quality of my work, but I never deceive myself that every death at my hands is justified, never mind righteous or noble.

I never saw myself as ... much of anything, really. Just a crippled, cornered rat, trying to protect my little brother with whatever I can.

•    •    •

"Reading Andrew Vachss is similar to listening to Ray Wylie Hubbard fused with Nick Cave. It's brutal, grindhouse and poetic. Laying an atmosphere of the down trodden, harmed and misshapen. ... Vachss is a writer to admire, one that does not shun from showing a world with all of its ugly flaws. Think of Hubert Selby Jr. on steroids, then throw in a fifty pound sledge, a machete, some brick walls and a muscle car for good measure." —Frank Bill, LitReactor

"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

"Reading Andrew Vachss is similar to listening to Ray Wylie Hubbard fused with Nick Cave. It's brutal, grindhouse and poetic. Laying an atmosphere of the down trodden, harmed and misshapen. He writes about characters who some like to pretend do not exist. Their actions are sometimes hard to digest, but they're plausible. ... His newest, That's How I Roll, tells the story of Esau Till, a cripple who sits recounting his confessional to the page after the accidental killing of a Fed. He scribes all the wrongs that have beckoned him since being born into this squalor of existence. Wrongs that end up shaping him into a high IQed explosives expert and later a contract killer. ...Vachss is a writer to admire, one that does not shun from showing a world with all of its ugly flaws. Think of Hubert Selby Jr. on steroids, then throw in a fifty pound sledge, a machete, some brick walls and a muscle car for good measure."—Frank Bill, LitReactor


Search The Zero || Site Map || Technical Help || Linkage || Contact The Zero || Main Page

The Zero © 1996 - Andrew Vachss. All rights reserved.

How to Cite Articles and Other Material from The Zero
The URL for this page is: