Smyer, allowing Hayes to tell his own story, accomplishes something that Ralph Ellison was unable to achieve with his unnamed protagonist in Invisible Man and that Richard Wright did not quite pull off with Bigger Thomas in Native Son...Funny, astute, multidimensional Hayes, by opining on his own experience, resists being read as a stereotype...Knucklehead would not be out of place on a shelf of books by Ellison, Wright, Dreiser, Fitzgerald, Updike, and other writers who have tried to capture what it means to live in America.
–The Literary Chick
Like Smyer, the book has a wicked sense of humor, even as it gives the reader a tour of the dystopian Clinton years. Comparisons to James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston are well earned, yet there are also strains of Anthony Burgess and Hubert Selby Jr. in Smyer's prose.
This funny, rambling story about a Black attorney in the '80s and '90s is a Salinger-esque take on racism and masculinity. Author Adam Smyer's voice is sardonic, smart and memorable as he narrates the journey of feisty Marcus, who moves to California and finds love...for a while.
–Ozy, included in a California-themed weekend roundup
[Knucklehead] was one of those books that stayed with me days, weeks after I read it.
–Everything Went Black with Mike Hill
It's a remarkable book. You should go in open-eyed and open-minded and see what happens.
–Lark Benobi (blog)
From page one, Knucklehead is a literary punch in the face. Adam Smyer's exploration of rage is unflinching, brave, and absolutely brilliant. There's so much energy in this debut you could put it in your tank and drive on it.
–Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day
Adam Smyer is an incendiary new voice who announces himself with the force of a Category 5 hurricane. With refreshing honesty and rip-roaring, wipe-the-tears-from-your-eyes humor, Knucklehead prefigures our deranged times through the prism of the 1990s, forever debunking the illusory promise of that era by turning the mirror to our collective failures and deficiencies. A staggering, unforgettable debut.
–Arthur Nersesian, author of The Fuck-Up
Adam Smyer's Knucklehead is so smart, so wildly, uncategorizably original, such a flat-out revelation from page to page, you almost forget how savagely funny and fearless the author actually is. His prose calls to mind everyone from Fred Exley and Céline to Paul Beatty, Tao Lin, and a legion of other say-the-unsayable chroniclers of their own–and society's–demons. Knucklehead is the kind of book you don't just admire, it's the kind that makes you want to buy in bulk and jam into the hands of loved ones and strangers as you scream in their faces, 'Read this or remain clueless!' In a feat of fierce literary magic, the author's 1990s Bay Area and NYC peel back the curtain on our own Trump-stained era, exposing, in loving detail, the fine line between salvation and self-destruction that defines the times. No one who reads Knucklehead will ever think the same about relationships, about family, about race, class, or the business of remaining sane–and human–in the world of crazy-making, soul-defiling choices we now inhabit. I straight-up loved this book.￼
–Jerry Stahl, author of Happy Mutant Baby Pills
Decades from now, Adam Smyer's Knucklehead will be discussed in the same way we talk about the great works of Wright, Baldwin, and Hurston. He invites the reader to view a remote corner of rage and somehow does it with a ruthless sense of humor worthy of Jonathan Swift.
–James Tracy, coauthor of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power
Reading Knucklehead, I found my eyes going unaccountably wet. Hats off to Mr. Smyer for writing the only book about being black today that I could stomach to read.
–Eugene S. Robinson, author of Fight