PERSONAL: Born in Wichita, KS; married; children: a daughter.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as a translator and English teacher in Paris France, a bookseller, and a feature film screenwriter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Silver Medal for Best First Fiction, California Book Award, for The Ice Harvest.
The Ice Harvest, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2000.
The Walkaway, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Cottonwood, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author, with David Maisel, of the screenplay for the film Crosscut, 1996.
ADAPTATIONS: The Ice Harvest was adapted for film, Focus Features, 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Scott Phillips has received widespread recognition for his thrilling and funny debut crime novel The Ice Harvest. The story focuses on a seedy lawyer and mobster named Charlie Arglist who plans to take off on Christmas Eve 1979 with money belonging to a Wichita, Kansas, crime syndicate leader named Bill Gerard. Arglist has been stealing money from Gerard as part of his work for him running "stripper" bars along with Arglist's partner, Vic Cavenaugh. As the night progresses, Arglist becomes caught up in an inebriated yuletide spirit that leads him to a series of mishaps and the realization that he is already running for his a life as the dead bodies began to proliferate. "Newcomer Phillips's seedy characters are skillfully developed, particularly the semiremorseful Charlie," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Bob Lunn, writing in the Library Journal, called the novel a "pitch-perfect foray into pulp fiction, witty and bitter."
In his next book, The Walkaway, Phillips once again sets his noir thriller in Wichita and features Gunther Fahnstiel, a retired cop who made a brief appearance in The Ice Harvest. Living in a retirement home, the confused Fahnstiel, who is losing his memory, suddenly has a flash of lucidity and takes off in search of the money Arglist stole in The Ice Harvest. Soon on Fahnstiel's trail are his wife, an ex-lover, a former colleague, and his son, all with agendas of their own. "The expansive story … couldn't be more different from the chilly anecdote to which it serves as both prequel and sequel," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who went on to refer to the novel and its predecessor as "a pair of tours de force." Lunn, once again writing in the Library Journal, commented, "When it comes to present-day practitioners of noir, Phillips is one of the best." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "pens a story full of blood and bad attitude."
Phillips takes a new course in his novel Cottonwood, which is set in frontier Kansas and San Francisco in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The story focuses on Bill Ogden over a period of nearly twenty years. Bill, who knows both Greek and Latin, is a seducer of women and becomes involved in a scheme to bring cattle drovers to the area while cavorting with Maggie, the wife of his partner, Marc Leval. Eventually a local gang called the "Bloody Benders" interferes with their plans and the two partners have a falling out. After Marc and Maggie leave town, Bill ends up years later in San Francisco working as a photographer, only to head back to Cottonwood, Kansas, when he learns that Maggie has returned. Writing in Booklist, Carrie Bissey commented that the novel features the author's "brand of sly humor and his skilled depictions of nasty human behavior." In a review in Entertainment Weekly, Ben Spier noted that the novel is "as starkly delineated and unsparing as an antique tintype." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote, "Lively pacing and artful prose lend polish to Phillips's cheerfully grotesque chronicle of western antics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Carrie Bissey, review of Cottonwood, p. 826.
Entertainment Weekly, February 6, 2004, Ben Spier, review of Cottonwood, p. 155.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2002, review of The Walkaway, p. 834; December 1, 2003, review of Cottonwood, p. 1378; December 15, 2004, review of Cottonwood, p. S4.
Library Journal, September 15, 2000, Bob Lunn, review of The Ice Harvest, p. 114; August, 2002, Bob Lunn, review of The Walkaway, p. 145.
New York Times, November 6, 2000, Janet Maslin, review of The Ice Harvest, p. E8; July 29, 2002, Janet Maslin, review of The Walkaway, p. B7.
New York Times Book Review, August 18, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Walkaway, p. 14; February 22, 2004, Marilyn Stasio, review of Cottonwood, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, review of The Ice Harvest, p. 45; April 15, 2002, review of The Walkaway, p. 38; December 15, 2003, review of Cottonwood, p. 52.
Times Literary Supplement, June 14, 2002, Benjamin Markovits, review of The Walkaway, p. 21.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 26, 2000, review of The Ice Harvest, p. 2.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 19, 2004), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Ice Harvest.
Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (January 19, 2005), information on author's work in relation to movies.
Mystery Ink, http://www.mysteryinkonline.com/ (September 19, 2004), review of The Ice Harvest.
Noir Originals, http://www.allanguthrie.co.uk/ (April 14, 2003), James Lincoln Warren, interview with Phillips.
Scott Phillips Home Page, http://www.scottphillipsauthor.com (September 19, 2004).