The Ambidextrist (2002)

“Peter Rock takes a strip of blighted Philadelphia waterfront and, with compassion untouched by sentimentality, turns it into a mythic arena of human weakness, unlikely friendship and deadly challenge. The Ambidextrist is a compelling, fully realized work of fiction.”
–Ken Kalfus

“Peter Rock’s fiction is mesmerizing and unsettling, elegant and fierce and always relevant. In his skillful hands the American wasteland of The Ambidextrist becomes a place of harrowing beauty, where frivolous games grow relentlessly dangerous and send characters stumbling toward violence.”
–Joanna Scott

This provocative novel follows Scott, a lonely drifter who earns money as a medical test subject and finds shelter in abandoned buildings on the riverfront. He first befriends Ray, a mysterious homeless man whose tenderness can't hide his unsavory tastes; next, he sets four adolescent boys on a series of increasingly dangerous dares. As these relationships develop and tangle, Scott gains insight into various lives and proves he can outlast any bad first impression. With gripping, restrained prose, The Ambidextrist finds beauty and compassion amid the gravel, dirt, and shadowed figures along Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.