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Richard Price has never pulled a punch in his life. Whether growing up as a streetwise punk in the Bronx, crafting grimy novels about escaping urban hell (The Wanderers, Bloodbrothers), or pissing on Hollywood’s glamorous facade as an Oscar-nominated (and, for three years, cocaine-addicted) screenwriter (Sea of Love, Kiss of Death, The Color of Money), the 49-year-old author has always hit fast and hard. He’s a restless literary pugilist, slamming his brutal observations into a lightning-quick cinematic style. His newest novel, Freedomland, is 546 pages you read like 20. He’s once again slumming in Dempsy, N.J., the same fictional landscape where he set his best-selling Clockers (which he adapted for the Spike Lee film). Here Price tells the tale of a white woman—from the blue-collar part of town—who claims she was carjacked by a black man—from the public-housing part of town. Price’s brutal twist? The woman’s young son was supposedly asleep in the back seat, and now his fate rests in the hands of the wanted man. Toss into the twisting plot a morally sound black detective, a morally suspect white reporter, a tsunami of racial tension, and a jackhammer critique of our society’s slipping grasp on civility, and Freedomland becomes another must-read from one of the meatiest fiction writers of our time. Richard Price reads from and signs copies of Freedomland at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, at Olsson’s, 1200 F St. NW. (202) 347-3686; and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at Borders, 5871 Crossroads Way, Baileys Crossroads. (703) 998-0404. Free. (Sean Daly)