The double Pulitzer winner turns to crime with a tale of 1960s New York gangsters, rendered with superbly observed, affectionate, page-turning brio

For more than 20 years Colson Whitehead has delivered novels notable for cultural satire, racial allegory, genre expansion and quirkiness: The Intuitionist, Sag Harbor, Zone One, The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer #1), The Nickel Boys (Pulitzer #2). In his eighth novel, Harlem Shuffle, Whitehead offers a literary crime saga that is as delicious as it is nutritious, a much lighter meal than his previous two novels, which emerge from the real-life atrocities of slavery and a brutal reform school in the American south. Whether in high literary form or entertaining, page-turner mode, the man is simply incapable of writing a bad book.

Set in the early 1960s, Harlem Shuffle is an extraordinary story about an ordinary man. Furniture salesman Ray Carney is a good guy gone wrong, like Walter White in Breaking Bad. He gets sucked into schemes and heists through his cousin Freddie, whom parents would call “a bad influence” (and Freddie himself has his own “bad influences”).

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