The Good and the Ghastly: A Novel

Scribner, 2011

“A great book that speaks broadly to what we want from a novel, and more specifically to what we should demand from emergent writers — reformulation, reinvention — something new about the world beyond them…. The conflict between a rising gangster and a vigilante mother who pursues him is open and epic in its curve. The prose, ringingly clear, sometimes maddeningly flat, is always well footed. As in his first novel, MVP, about a basketball star with a striking similarity to Kobe Bryant, Boice deals a somewhat slight, often sly variation on the world we live in now, so that even the money we spend on it may be a kind of ticket to a half hell we're reading about. It hasn't happened yet, but the book lives.”
—Tom Chiarella, Esquire

“Amped-up…. [The Good and the Ghastly] follows post-apocalyptic predecessors like Walter M. Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" in dramatizing man's genius for misconstruing history and compulsively repeating destructive mistakes. But mostly the book's thrills lie in the savage exploits of Junior and Josefina and in the promised collision of an unstoppable force with an immovable object.”
—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal


“Wicked…The kind of towering bildungsroman-cum-crime fiction carnival that is both entertaining and well-crafted… James Boice, quite the contrarian, has conjured a brutal, sharp diamond in the literary rough. The Good and the Ghastly feels fresh and urgent while culling themes as old as the Bible and as zeitgeist-y as The Sopranos: the neo-noir crime epic.... A pulpy piece of work that is contemporary and allusive. It's enough to satisfy readers in need of instant gratification as well as those less ravenous who prefer to sip and savor… At once, The Good and the Ghastly deserves the literary fiction crown and yet, it is also, in its own right, a piece of glorious trash. It is ugly and sensational, yet Boice is an evocative writer who knows what he's up to.”
—Ryan Lattanzio, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Boice…is a stylistic ventriloquist, combining biting satire and blistering scenes of violence with a fondness for rare words (“luciferous,” “rejectamenta”) and a rugged lyricism that makes his writing hard to classify and harder still to forget.”
—Drew Bratcher, Washingtonian


“I don’t know why [James Boice] doesn’t get more attention…. Junior is a great character. He’s despicable from a young age, seducing minors and busting heads. He believes he is destined for greatness and the shame he feels at his back-door status is palpable and the motivation for the swath of violence he unleashes…. The Good and the Ghastly is a detached view of a killer, with all his charms and warts, building an empire and chased Javert-like by feds and vigilantes. James Boice is as good as ever here…. He’s gritty and reflective, twistedly funny, and his sentences are as sharp as ever. A fearless, unrepentant book of a fearsome future….”
—Jason Chambers, Three Guys One Book
“The Good and the Ghastly couldn’t have been published at a more opportune time. Besides riding the wave of post-apocalyptic (or in this case, maybe more accurately post-post-apocalyptic) fascination…it’s also important that The Good and the Ghastly was released around the same time that Whitey Bulger was locked-up. … This novel is just as, if not more, necessary than any true-crime, shocker biography about Bulger. … The Good and the Ghastly isn’t only timely and interesting and necessary. It’s also brave.”
—Scott Beauchamp, Full Stop