There Will Be Blood | African American Fiction (and More)

The three selections this month deal with blood—whether there’s actual blood flowing from vicious wounds, or the strong bond of family blood in a household determined to make it through controversy.Either way, these folks—like Lady Macbeth—are confronted with removing traces of blood.


OrangeReviewStar Desperate Times  | African American Fiction (and More)Goss, Shelia M. The Joneses. Strebor. (Zane Presents). Feb. 2014. 336p.
ISBN  thejones9781593095222. pap. $15;
ebk. ISBN 9781476744513. F
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive!  Pity the Joneses, an on-the-surface lovely family, but we learn each that member of the household holds alarming secrets. Royce, owner of a traditional African American funeral home in Shreveport, LA,  can’t figure out why his cash flow is tapped out. Wife Lexi—who drives a Jag with license plate BossLady—loves her shopping sprees. Daughters Charity and Hope are each sexing up the same guy, the devious Tyler Williams, who has his own issues with the Joneses. Son Lovie knows his way around an accounting spreadsheet, enough to laundry money for drug gangs. The quick-paced story piles on drama after drama and lies upon lies that we almost feel sorry for these folks. Nah! It’s more fun to tug on one little thread, reveal the juicy truth, and then watch the whole Jones clan fall apart. VERDICT  Essence best-selling author Goss (Delilah; Ruthless) has a great plot going on and loves twisting the knife between the ribs of  her flawed characters. Short chapters, gossip-sheet rich drama, and snappy dialog will have readers turning the pages at turbo speed.

Dickey, Eric Jerome. A Wanted Woman. Dutton. Apr. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780525954279.  dickey$26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698148659. F
Opening with a bloody shootout following the murder of a Trinidad politician, Dickey’s (Decadence) latest novel  opens with a wicked pace and doesn’t let up. A female killer known as MX-401, having dispatched the political target set by anonymous handlers known as The Barbarians, now wants to be paid. Not so fast. The Barbarians send her on a wild goose chase—or maybe a setup—to kill again. Soon, the sexy assassin finds herself on the run from members of a ruthless drug-running gang who vow revenge. MX-40 just happens to be a master of disguises and dialects, allowing her to hide in plain sight, but she also needs the help of a fellow girl killer called Nemesis. There’s a cinematic vibe here with James Bond fantastic escapes mixed with Game of Thrones Red Wedding–type gore as blood flows during gruesome torture scenes. VERDICT  Dickey’s name will surely sell this work, but readers may grow weary of overly repeated words such as “gunthas” and clunky phrasing like “terminate with extreme prejudice.”  Still, there’s something to be said for sexy female killers skilled with guns, knives, and various torture devices. Anticipate demand. [See Prepub Alert, 11/1/13.]

Naison, Mark, PhD & Melissa Castillo-Garsow. Pure Bronx. Augustus.  2013. 260p. ISBN  purebronix9781935883418. pap. $14.95;
ebk. ISBN 9781935883449.
Naison (African American studies, Fordham Univ.; White Boy: A Memoir) and Castillo-Garsow paint a grim picture of life—or more accurately, existence—in the South Bronx. Khalil runs drugs for his neighborhood to support his addicted mother, his younger brothers, and a sister who has two kids of her own. Khalil has a four-inch scar on his cheekbone and is determined to kill anyone who is a threat to his mini-empire.  His only joy comes from Rasheeda, a girl with a dynamite body who works the pole in a club, and performs in the VIP room, earning cash to pay her college tuition. The young lovers dream of escaping the poverty, violence, and helplessness of the Bronx and make a better life for their family. Tired of pushing product, Khalil concocts a plan to use Mr. Money Bags, a Wall Street executive who is smitten with Rasheeda’s talents. The why part of the question about getting out of the Bronx is simple, but the how proves to be much more complicated. VERDICT There’s a prevailing sense of doom in this novel that hits hard in a similar way to Sapphire’s Push. Some readers may grumble about unflatteringly stereotyped characters, but others may be enthused by the authentic setting, situations, and slang. Yet Khalil and Rasheeda rise from despair as hope emerges.

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