You’ve done it. You’ve arrived at my website. Poke around. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting. Most of the fiction and non-fiction can be downloaded from their respective pages. The chocolate/cocoa blog is dormant and has been that way for the past two years. The mystery and writing blogs get updated when I feel up to it. Cheers.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

CoverThe first part of the book is the rawest, most physical description of childhood in present day Zimbabwe. It’s honesty is a sharp as a dagger. It’s much more visceral than Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions which recounts childhood during the era of white minority rule. Despite its in-your-face descriptions of poverty, it also captures childhood in ways few writers can. Garry Trudeau, in his introduction to a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon collection, pointed out that most writers who feature children, feature them as wise-cracking mini adults. NoViolet Bulawayo doesn’t do that. Darling, Bastard, Stina and their friends are real kids with the innocence and the latent brutality kids everywhere exhibit. If the book had just consisted of this part, I would have given it five stars.

The second part describes Darling’s journey and life in the US. Here the narrative falls into the well trodden pathways of other coming-to-the-US novels, the most recent example of which is Adichie’s Americanah. Initially, it works better than Adichie’s, which sounds more distant, cerebral. Much of it matches my own experience of coming to live in this strange country. But white guys with proper papers don’t face the same circumstances. The story switches from the adventures of Darling in a strange country to a more general mourning of the lost home in Zimbabwe. The pain of having left behind another world and not being able to go back because of a lack of proper papers is palpable in those pages. Unfortunately, the two pieces don’t mesh well, the latter interrupts the former’s narrative flow.

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

Devil coverIt’s been a long while since I read Devil in a Blue Dress. Since reading it sometime in the late 1990s, I’ve followed Easy Rawlins through all of Mosley’s sequels. I enjoyed getting to know him again in his first appearance on the mystery scene.

The plot is complex. Rawlins, newly unemployed in LA needs cash to pay his mortgage. He’s a homeowner, has joined the black middle class and wants to stay there. A bar owner friend introduces him to DeWitt Albright, a white man who’s looking for a white woman. Needing the money, but concerned about the setup, Easy is a reluctant detective. That reluctance increases as he finds out there’s way more to the story than finding a young woman. Albright isn’t who he claims to be. Acquaintances drop dead, leaving Easy as a suspect and exposing him to the racist LA detectives. It only with the help of his Houston friend Mouse that Easy escapes the trap set for him.

Race permeates this book as it does all of  Mosley’s mysteries. Easy is forced to walk the line that separates white from black LA and that line is a dangerous line. The police is an ever present threat and even so-called “friends of the negro” turn their back once they got what they wanted. The very core of this mystery is the ultimate indictment of race as a social classification. But you’ll have to read it to see why.

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Expats CoverThe title alone was intriguing enough. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in southern Africa and the term expat conjured up all kinds of images in my mind—characters from the Serbian road contractor to the Canadian water resources professor and everything in between. In Africa, expats stand out because, quite often, they are white, although the Chinese are giving everyone a run for their money (quite literally, actually).

This story, however, takes place in Luxembourg and the Paris. American expats stick out only because of their missing language skills and, possibly, because of their baseball caps. Skin color doesn’t enter the equation. Kate, Dexter and their two sons show up in Luxembourg on very short notice, because Dexter, a nerdy kind of network security expert who protects banks against hackers, has gotten a job there. Or so he says. Kate is rather surprised. One, because of the short notice, and, two, because she works for the CIA, something Dexter doesn’t know, and must be debriefed before they let her go. And so we’re off to the races.

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Legitimate Business Is Out!

LBCoversmJust found out that Legitimate Business is out already. It all went very fast. That’s e-books for you. Once the cover was settled, the rest was easy. At least that’s what I assume since I didn’t have to do anything.

It’s exciting to see my book at Amazon. I can’t say “in print” because it won’t be in print. But it will live on people’s e-book readers. And those who don’t like Kindles, keep in mind there are Kindle apps for the iPad and Android tablets. And there’s a Kindle Cloud Reader.

I hope you buy it and, even more, you like it. Let me know. I’m curious to get feedback.

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