Roger Smith

A split-second decision with no second chance. Get it wrong and you wake up dead.

On a blowtorch-hot night in Cape Town, American ex-model Roxy Palmer and her gunrunner husband, Joe, are carjacked, leaving Joe lying in a pool of blood. As the carjackers make their getaway, Roxy makes a choice that changes her life forever.

Disco and Godwynn, the ghetto gangbangers who sped away in Joe's convertible, will stop at nothing to track her down. Billy Afrika, a mixed-race ex-cop turned mercenary, won't let her out of his sight because Joe owed him a chunk of money. And hunting them all is Piper, a love-crazed psychopath determined to renew his vows with his jailhouse "wife," Disco.

Aescalating violence in the beautiful and brutal African seaport.


"Both horrific to read and impossible to put down." U.S. National Public Radio  

"The Cape Town setting recaptures all the blood and menace that time and nostalgia have effaced from Raymond Chandler’s mean streets – and redoubles them." Philadelphia Inquirer

"A top-notch thriller. Violent and funny." The Times

"Smith's writing is astonishing. Read this only if you don’t flinch." The Cleveland Plain


"An intoxicating book." Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)

"Smith’s merciless and precise voice is the equal of James Ellroy and David Peace." Bücher Magazine (Germany)

"The writing is hypnotic." Telerama (France)

"Superb. A shocking piece of modern noir." Les Echos (France)

"A fascinating ballet of death and violence. What an experience!" LA Presse (Canada)

"A stellar thriller. Bad choices, not bad luck, drive human depravity in this brutal fable."  Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"From the terrific first sentence, the reader is firmly hooked in this dark South African thriller of murder, drugs, corruption, and revenge. Highly recommended for those wanting their noir as hard-boiled as it gets." Library Journal (starred review)

"An intricate Robert Altman–like narrative that, when the pieces finally connect, forms a terrifying portrait of the Cape Flats." Kirkus Reviews

"Racial tension, gang warfare, prison life, and witchcraft – with a nod to cannibalism – will make this thriller a prime destination for readers who like to detour from crime-fiction’s beaten path." Booklist

"If you are a fan of George Pelecanos or Dennis Lehane, give Roger Smith a close look." BookPage

"Smith takes the multiple strands of his broken, tragic characters and weaves them into a complex, cinematic tapestry, which keeps you turning pages at a machine gun fire pace." Spinetingler Magazine

"A pitbull of a book full of incredible characters." WDR 2 (Germany)

"The most brutal book of the spring. A milestone in noir thrillers." German Radio

"Roger Smith is the shooting star of the crime scene." Radio Europe

"A gallop through hell." Frankfurter Rundschau (Germany)

"Shows what is going on in Cape Town behind the posh facade." Focus Magazine (Germany)

"If you think the mean streets of Pelecanos’ D.C. are tough, give Smith’s Cape Flats a gander." The Nerd of Noir

"The kind of novel other tough-guy crime stories hope to be when they grow up. Unputdownable." CrimeTime

"The find of 2010. A remarkable book that came from nowhere and left a huge impression. Read it!" CrimeSquad Top 10 Books of 2010

"The devastating effects of poverty, exploitation, gang and prison life are explored up close with a tone of compassion and moral outrage without ever slackening the pace of break-neck-speed thrillers." Barnes & Noble Mystery Blog

"If you like a thriller that rides like a rocket, if you like unsympathetic characters that get under your skin like a dirty needle, go get a copy of this book right now." The Drowning Machine

"One of the most violent books I've read in recent months, but also one of the most compulsively readable." International Noir Fiction

"Smith's Cape Town slums are as grim as any steampunk Victorian hellhole, and none of his characters - rich, poor, colored, white, or black - has anything better than a bleak present and an infernal past." Detectives Beyond Borders

"Wake Up Dead could wake up the dead. It barrels forward at the temperature of molten steel.The pages seem like they’re soaked red with blood." Three Guys One Book

Nominated for a Spinetinetingler Magazine Best Novel (New Voice) Award in the U.S. and the Krimi-Blitz Reader's Award in Germany for best crime novel of 2010.

One of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Times (South Africa) & CrimeSquad (UK) Best Books of 2010 and the German translation (Blutiges Erwachen) makes the KrimiWelt 10 Best.