From Hard-Core Street Lit to Gentle Romance | African American Fiction (and More)

This month’s selections range from hard-core street lit and a PI-type mystery to a more gentle romance. Just as varied are these novels’ settings. Not settling for the same old same old inner-city backdrop, authors have picked more exotic locations, from the dazzling lights of Vegas to the Caribbean island of Haiti.

Pick of the Month

Kim K. Rise of an American Gangstress. Part 2. Melodrama Pub. Oct. 2013. 244p. ISBN 9781620780220 pap. $14.99. F 
With her lover, Nasir, Fancy Lane is poised to take over the drug empire of her mother, Belen, who is doing time in federal prison. Fancy has a connection to a dangerous Columbian cartel headed by Jesus, who happens to be her biological father. Chock full of nasty torture scenes and bloody shootouts, this street tale will have readers zooming through this novel in which everyone looks over their shoulder for snitches. Nasir likes his sex, and details of his conquests will pique interest of erotic fans. All the allure of street lit is here: sex, drugs, more sex, torture, and executions. Whew! Talk about hanging on to your hat.
In this follow-up to her 2012 title, Kim K. (Sheisty Chicks) demonstrates her writing chops with her clever, gasp-inducing plot twists. Mystery lovers will enjoy deciphering who is really pulling the strings, but the story’s strength is its hard-hitting loyalty to the streets. One of urban fiction best tales for 2013.

Anthony, Flo. Deadly Stuff Players. Strebor: S. & S. (Zane Presents). Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781593095079. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN  9781476730684. F
Hollywood gossip maven Valerie Rollins finds herself deep in a murder investigation and calls on her private investigator partner, NFL Hall of Famer Rome Nyland, to help out. Andrea, the estranged wife of billionaire Victor Dumas, has been killed in a drug deal that broke bad. Why would a billionaire’s wife hang out with street thugs? One suspect, former ballplayer Royale Jones, was looking for a fast score and preyed on Andrea’s addictions. But did he clean out millions from Andrea’s bank account?  Shady real estate deals, horse-racing skullduggery and  Black Hollywood celebrities with walk-on cameos have this novel clipping along at a frantic pace.
There’s some sexy juiciness to Anthony’s debut, but she devotes too many pages to lengthy lists of designer clothes, sophisticated dinner menu items, and descriptions of dazzling hotel rooms.The potentially interesting mystery ends up taking a back seat to these excessive details about the fabulously rich. The Zane imprimatur may spark casual interest.

Hickman, Trice. Looking for Trouble.  Dafina: Kensington.Nov. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780758287236. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758287250. F 
Nedine, SC, is a gentle place where folks are looking for love in Hickman’s (Unexpected Interruptions) epic romance that covers multiple decades. When Wall Street banker John Small brings his girlfriend Madeline home to meet his parents, the visit doesn’t go well. His 90-year-old grandmother Allene has the gift of prophesy and sees into Madeline’s true personality. Allene uses her powers to disrupt the couple’s relationship, and soon Madeline shows her nastiness, going straight from sugar to venom. An alternating contemporary storyline has Alexandria, John’s granddaughter, struggling with her own shaky relationship with boyfriend PJ while Grandma Allene sends ghostly messages to her. Could it be that true love for all these folks is right around the corner? VERDICT I found the large cast a bit difficult to hold together in my mind, and other readers may get lost between the alternating times and romances. Still with its strong theme of finding true love with the help of family and friends, Hickman’s sweeping and slightly paranormal romance will attract fans of complicated soap operas.  

Rozé. Body Snatchers 2. H4L. 2013. 270p. ISBN 9780989528207. pap. $15. F
In Rozé’s second tale (after 2011’s Body Snatchers) about the ruthless eponymous gang of Haitian kidnappers/assassins, its co-leader, David, is held prisoner at West Point but the Body Snatchers believe he’s dead. David’s twin brother, Jerry, and his crew flee the United States to regroup in Haiti. While the guys chill in the Caribbean, their sister gang, the Pretty Posse, takes over their unfinished work. These women are ruthless killers also specializing in kidnapping and torture. Using their sexual allure, they kidnap the governor of New York and rapper Casey-K, who calls his captors “fake-a#@ Charlie’s Angels.” Multiple shoot outs and cold-blooded murders have these two sets of anti-heroes scrambling to stay one step ahead of the law.
This title is not listed with traditional vendors, but like many self-published works it’s available on Amazon. Obtaining copies may be worth the extra hassle for libraries. Despite some juvenile phrasing and eye-rolling coincidences, the crackling battle scenes will draw fans enthused by stories with high body counts.

Turner, Nikki. The Glamorous Life 2: All that Glitters Isn’t Gold. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250001443. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250038852. F 
Turner (A Hustler’s Wife), one of street lit’s pioneer authors, shows readers what it’s like growing up in poverty and disenfranchised as a teenager. Every day 15-year-old Calliope Conley has to deal with her off-the-wall crazy mother Shelly in their Miami home. Calliope turns a stone mask to Shelly’s verbal taunting and focuses on protecting her younger brother, Compton. Between rounds of abuse, Shelly abandons her meager mothering skills by focusing on spending her man’s money and making sure he’s sexually satisfied. Meanwhile Calliope worries that Compton will cave and join the street drug game. After years of being repeatedly used by adults pretending to care for her, Calliope finally relies on her own dancing talents to reinvent herself as a stripper named Cinnamon. Compton isn’t as fortunate and walks a dangerous line.
There’s a definite rushed feel to Turner’s work, with some loose ends left dangling and a chopped ending that promises a future volume. Still, Turner’s at her best in when depicting street violence, and her name will generate interest.

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