by Colson Whitehead
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Pub Date 18 Jul 2023 | Archive Date 25 Jul 2023
Doubleday Books, Doubleday
A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, BookPage
“Dazzling” –Walter Mosley, The New York Times Book Review.
It’s 1971. Trash piles up on the streets, crime is at an all-time high, the city is careening towards bankruptcy, and a shooting war has broken out between the NYPD and the Black Liberation Army. Amidst this collective nervous breakdown furniture store owner and ex-fence Ray Carney tries to keep his head down and his business thriving. His days moving stolen goods around the city are over. It’s strictly the straight-and-narrow for him — until he needs Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter May and he decides to hit up his old police contact Munson, fixer extraordinaire. But Munson has his own favors to ask of Carney and staying out of the game gets a lot more complicated – and deadly.
1973. The counter-culture has created a new generation, the old ways are being overthrown, but there is one constant, Pepper, Carney’s endearingly violent partner in crime. It’s getting harder to put together a reliable crew for hijackings, heists, and assorted felonies, so Pepper takes on a side gig doing security on a Blaxploitation shoot in Harlem. He finds himself in a freaky world of Hollywood stars, up-and-coming comedians, and celebrity drug dealers, in addition to the usual cast of hustlers, mobsters, and hit men. These adversaries underestimate the seasoned crook – to their regret.
1976. Harlem is burning, block by block, while the whole country is gearing up for Bicentennial celebrations. Carney is trying to come up with a July 4th ad he can live with. ("Two Hundred Years of Getting Away with It!"), while his wife Elizabeth is campaigning for her childhood friend, the former assistant D.A and rising politician Alexander Oakes. When a fire severely injures one of Carney’s tenants, he enlists Pepper to look into who may be behind it. Our crooked duo have to battle their way through a crumbling metropolis run by the shady, the violent, and the utterly corrupted.
CROOK MANIFESTO is a darkly funny tale of a city under siege, but also a sneakily searching portrait of the meaning of family. Colson Whitehead’s kaleidoscopic portrait of Harlem is sure to stand as one of the all-time great evocations of a place and a time.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 97 members
The latest book by Colson Whitehead, "Crook Manifesto", is a sequel to, " Harlem Shuffel". While many sequels seem to fall flat, this one actually soars! Mr. Whiteheads prose is a wonder to behold. He is just magic with his ability to turn what could be a banal phrase into something much more.
Many of the same characters are back and a few new ones are introduced. But, there are crooks and there are Crooks! Carney happens to be one of the former. Growing up with a father who was a mean Crook who cared little for outcomes or morality, Carney is a fence. He may be a crook (merely a sideline), but he is a man with a moral compass and a whole lot of heart. You can't help but root for him.
The situations faced in this novel are filled with suspense. They also give us a look into the history of NYC in the 60's and 70's, and the reasons why the politicians couldn't and didn't fix all the urban blight back then.
I loved this book and highly recommend it.