In early October, author Richard R. Becker’s novel, Third Wheel, broke into the top 100 Thriller and Suspense Literary Fiction books on Amazon, positioning his debut among prominent authors: Joyce Carol Oates, Tana French, Ruth Ware, and C.J. Box. It remained there for several days and will likely be again as the book attracts more attention.
Having a best-selling book isn’t new to Becker. His debut collection of short stories, 50 States, broke into the top 100 literary fiction short story collections last year. It remained there for three consecutive months as it won several literary awards.
The story that made Third Wheel a success
Third Wheel is a coming-of-age thriller set in 1982 Las Vegas. It follows young teen Brady Wilks as he navigates a fractured family, improbable romance, troubled friendships, dangerous liaisons with the Mob, and a drug deal with a Mexican drug cartel.
This isn’t the Las Vegas most people see in their mind’s eye, with neon lights and glamorous casinos. Those things exist in Brady’s world, but they are confined to the skyline miles away.
Most of the action in Third Wheel takes place in the dusty suburbs and desert surrounding Las Vegas. Brady lives on what was once considered the outskirts of town, where residential communities and undeveloped land create a checkerboard-like pattern as the suburbs drift into the untamed sagebrush and yucca plants.
He is only 14 years old but feels and acts older than his age. He tries to come across as a tough delinquent, but it becomes clear that this is an adopted identity, not one that comes naturally to him. Brady would rather live with his grandparents, play Dungeons & Dragons, draw fantasy pictures, listen to music, and act like a typical teenager. He doesn’t have those kinds of friends.
It’s easy to get sucked into a darker world
Because of an adversarial relationship with his mother, Brady overemphasizes his friendship with an older teenager who lives next door. Mick is a 16-year-old junior who has attracted a neighborhood friend group of 16- to 18-year-old teens and young adults.
Their pastimes typically include drinking games and minor drug use until a new teen introduces them to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. The same teen brings the prospect of joining a Mexican cartel heroin pipeline into Las Vegas.
Brady goes along with the group’s decisions, fearing the loss of their friendships. But as the story develops, it becomes clear that the choices being made are putting Brady and the lives of those he cares most about at risk.
Third Wheel balances grit with coming-of-age innocence
While it’s easy for reviewers to focus on the action or psychological abuse doled out by Brady’s mother, there is another side to Third Wheel that feels awkward and authentic. Early in the book, Brady meets an 18-year-old girl who recently graduated high school.
There is an immediate chemistry between them, but it becomes increasingly complicated as she first suspects that Brady is more than two years younger than her. Still, this relationship and the friendship he has with his best friend ease some of the tension that Becker creates.
Where to find Third Wheel digital, print, and audio formats
Third Wheel by Richard R. Becker is a best-selling debut novel that has already won its first award — a finalist award by the World Book Awards. Although often described as a coming-of-age thriller, it is an adult book best described as literary fiction with an edge. Third Wheel is available from Amazon and everywhere books are sold.
Find Third Wheel here: http://www.copywriteink.com/third-wheel-by-richard-r.-becker.html
Third Wheel by Richard R. Becker was also released as an audiobook narrated by Brian Callanan. Callanan is a six-time Emmy-winning journalist and voice actor. The audiobook is available from Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
Find Third Wheel on Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/B0CJH3K87N