Fuel to the Flame | African American Fiction (and More)

Repetitive nastiness at times occurring in urban fiction may vex librarians and patrons, but this month’s selections could care less about that negativity.Instead these authors throw gas on urban fiction’s constantly smoldering fire of sex and violence. Brace yourself for decapitations, group sex, girl-on-girl knock-down, drag-out fights and of course stellar trash talking.Yep, all that viciousness is available at affordable prices.

Pick of the month

OrangeReviewStar Church Ladies, Preachers, Gangstas | African American Fiction (and More)Williams, Wendy. Hold Me in Contempt. Morrow. Apr. 2014. 324p. ISBN 9780062268419. wendywilliams2pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780062268433. F
Things are quickly falling apart for Kimberly Kind in both her professional and personal lives. Ex-fiancé Ronald has kicked her to curb in favor of Kim’s roommate—even after the trio enjoyed a three-way sexual romp. Slow recovery from a horrific car accident has Kim addicted to painkillers, leaving her work as a New York City assistant district attorney a sloppy mess.The depressed lawyer drowns her sorrows with Jameson whiskey in a bar aptly called Damaged Goods where she hooks up with King McDonnell. This dude is so sexy Kim rushes to “pull her skirt up and her panties down.” TV and radio host Williams (Ritz Harper Goes to Hollywood) has created a successful contemporary African American woman from Harlem who keeps a pair of Timbs in her closet in readiness for any brawl coming her way. The problem is she’s in love with King, who may run New York’s Irish mob. Now there’s a big-girl problem. VERDICT Williams’s writing flows with plenty of New York swagger and even though Kimberly is messed up, I found myself hoping she finds happiness. Advertised as a romance, this well-constructed story still has plenty of criminal maneuverings. A must-have for all libraries serving African American patrons.

K’wan. Black Lotus. Infamous: Akashic. May. 2014. 128p. ISBN 9781617752650. $19.95; pap. ISBN 9781617752667. $11.99; ebk. ISBN 9781617752865. f blacklotus
New York City narcotics detective James Wolf—a.k.a. Lone Wolf James—is confused why he’s suddenly transferred to homicide This antihero cop—part Rambo and part Dirty Harry—becomes dogged in his hunt for a serial killer who leaves a black flower on each victim’s dismembered corpse. Wolf takes no mess from anyone, especially his police superiors who aren’t divulging all of the case’s facts. Still, Wolf is vexed by the killer’s ability to go ghost after finishing his gory work. K’wan (Eviction Notice; Animal) moves away from his signature street stories and incorporates horror, a bit of CSI forensics, and a hint of paranormal in this thin novella. Wolf is a ruthless thug behind a badge but is loyal to certain folks, which may be his downfall. Plenty of bloody action fills the pages, and K’wan inserts more than a few nifty twists in his fast-moving tale. VERDICT The author has instant name recognition, and libraries housing an urban fiction section should not hesitate in purchasing anything he writes. Fans expecting another thug-in-the-street story will be pleasantly surprised at this rough police procedural. [Infamous Books is Akashic’s new urban fiction imprint, curated by Albert “Prodigy” Johnson of Mobb Deep—Ed.]

Miasha. Swing. Infamous: Akashic. May. 2014. 128p. ISBN 9781617752636. $19.95; pap. ISBN 9781617752643. $11.95;  ebk. 9781617752636. F
Swing can be used as a noun or verb, but the nuclear hot sex in Miasha’s latest erotic thriller has “swing” checking in as an action word. Let’s just say these folks aren’t stagnant. Four couples voice alternate replays of what’s happened in Puss and Boots, a swing club where adults have secret lives playing out repressed sexual fantasies. But wait, there’s more!  The author (Sistah; Til Death) avoids a ho-hum, formulated erotic tale by mixing in human failings like jealousy (Really? After multiple partners at a sex club?) extortion, abuse, and obsessive rage. Tension needles forward as video cameras, a private investigator, and a violent confrontation interrupt fun and games behind Puss and Boots’ doors. Oddly some characters don’t mind watching their partners have sex in public, but cybercreepin’ around on Facebook?  Now that’s true cheating. Verdict  Priceless chapter names like “Pain Ain’t Cheap” and “Love is Cursed by Monogamy” add spice to this read-in-one-sitting tale.  Miasha has a loyal following, and wise librarians will stock up and “swing” this one over to erotica fans.

Weber, Carl. Choir Director 2: Runaway Bride. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781455505210. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455505227. F runawaybride
There’s serious drama swirling around the First Jamacia Ministries in Queens, NY. Gospel sensation and choir director Aaron Mackie finds himself left alone at the altar when his bride-to-be Tia bolts away due to a dark event in her past. But all Aaron knows is that Tia sent a text demanding he stay out of her life. Both Aaron and Tia separately go off the deep end: Aaron soaking himself in alcohol and Tia plotting revenge on three shady men. Many voices offer different viewpoints in Weber’s (The Family Business, Big Girls Do Cry) well-constructed tale including Bishop T.K. Wilson, gold digger Desiree, and Aaron’s homeboy manager, Ross. Each supporting character has their own drama to sort out but stealing scenes is Jackson Young, a suave dude promising to make Aaron a superstar while he coaches the church’s First Lady how to French kiss like an actress. Humph! This playa might be the devil popping up to mess with people’s heads. Church drama, bloody revenge, and plenty of sneaking around has these folks about to forget they’re in the Lord’s house. VERDICT Weber serves up a fine mix of romance, soap opera drama, and riveting tension in a tale in which readers know about Tia’s issues but secondary character remain clueless and slowly get up to speed. This winning tale is a good fit for all fiction collections.

Whitaker, Tu-shonda. Rich Girl Problems. Dafina: Kensington. Jul. 2014. 264p. ISBN 9780758283757. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758283771. F
The members of a reality TV show, Millionaire Wives Club, aren’t exactly a tight-knit group. Yes, they are fabulously wealthy, but they also don’t forget their ghetto roots when the drama escalates in front of the cameras. Whitaker (The Ex Factor; Millionaire Wives Club) continues with another episode of the topsy-turvy lives of Chaunci Morgan, Jaise Asante, and Vera Bennett as well as their men. Plenty of backbiting remarks crowd the pages, but trash talk goes to another level when one of the girls describes a popular celebrity as “the most passed around blow-up doll in America.” Ouch! Arrogant Journee Dupree signs on as a fourth member of the cast, and with her nose in the air this newbie diva hisses, “When it comes to my food, my cigarettes, my child and my man, I don’t play.” Well, now! She should lower her chin and focus her attention on the two-timing men about to run a scam on her bank account. VERDICT At times Whitaker’s writing becomes tedious with similar situations repeated for each woman, but that said, she pulls out all the stops when the verbal insults become outright betrayal. As a bonus, the girl-on-girl slapping, clawing, and hair-pulling scenes are hot, hot, hot!  Book your ringside seat early!



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