The New Novel

Praise for A Better Goodbye

This visceral, gritty noir takes place on the seedy fringes of modern Hollywood. Nick Pafko, who was a boxer until he killed an opponent and derailed his promising career, needs a job. Jenny Yee, a clever Korean college student with a penchant for reading Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry, works a lucrative day job in the massage trade. Scott Crandall, a sleazy middle-aged actor still trolling for his first big break, is also a pimp whose stable of working ladies demand protection from a recent violent crime wave. Then there’s Onus DuPree Jr., a psycho ex-jock and ex-con, who has befriended Scott and wants to join the excitement of DuPree’s criminal enterprises. Meanwhile, Scott hires Nick as his security muscle and Jenny as a masseuse; she quickly becomes his biggest draw. To stir the potboiler, Nick and DuPree hate each other from the outset, especially after Nick and Jenny become lovers. Despite the slow buildup and scant use of humor, the dialogue is razor sharp, and the characters well developed—the good-hearted Nick is easy to root for. A robbery triggers a grisly showdown as this thriller hurtles toward its nail-biting conclusion. – Publishers Weekly


A Better Goodbye is a peek at the grit beneath the glitter of the Southern California myth. For ever winner in L.A., there are a thousand losers, and this book tells a few of their stories, the ones you don’t see on Entertainment Tonight. When the destinies of a haunted boxer, an ambitious hooker, a failed actor, and a cold-blooded criminal collide head-on at a high-end massage parlor, nobody walks away unscathed. And neither will you. — Richard Lange, author of Angel Baby and Sweet Nothing


A brilliant rendering of the dark side of L.A. We meet Nick, a battered but soulful ex-boxer haunted by his past; Jenny, a smart and sensitive Korean masseuse who is saving money to finish college at UCLA; her sleazy, comic boss Scott, a washed-up actor; and DuPree, a stone killer who is looking to score big. It is John Schulian’s brilliance as a writer that brings all these characters vibrantly alive. I cared and worried about them as they headed toward an inevitable showdown. Every writer I know loves Schulian’s journalism and now he’s proved he can pull off the same magic as a novelist. If you dig Elmore Leonard, you’re really going to dig A Better Goodbye. — Robert Ward, author of Red Baker and Renegades


After a long and notable career as a sportswriter and television writer-producer, John Schulian has penned A Better Goodbye, a first novel that delivers a wallop, and not just because a protagonist is an ex-boxer who once killed a man in the ring. Goodbye is a searing examination of lost souls, wrong turns, and forgotten dreams. It’s a collision between the haves and have-nots, the has-beens, the wannabes, and the never-will-bes. Set in the sex trade that straddles the worlds of entertainment and crime, the novel is L.A. noir at its most keenly observed. Think Michael Connelly meets Elmore Leonard for a Metro ride from Universal City to Compton. Settle back, enjoy the view and listen to the sizzling dialogue. In Schulian’s world, nearly everyone has an angle in the hopelessly misnamed City of Angels. A confident, well-paced debut that will make you yearn for Schulian’s next novel. — Paul Levine, author of Bum Rap