This fictional narrative follows a man raised in a Washington D.C. housing project who, from a young age, falls into a world of thievery, drugs, scamming and random sexual exploits.
The book opens in 1958 with the birth of Alexander, the 11th of 13 children, whose story is told in the first person. The first few pages describe his difficult home life with four resident heroin addicts who regularly steal from family members for drug money.
Alexander’s own life of crime starts as a teen while he’s doing odd jobs for a con woman. He and a friend steal from her to score nice clothes and shoes. After joining the army at age 17, he starts loan sharking and selling drugs and, once discharged, gets involved with a shooting that lands him in jail. There, he continues making money illicitly.
Eventually, he tries to make a respectable living, but becomes a killer for hire on the side and soon gets hooked on drugs. In the final pages, Alexander laments why kids get in trouble today and hopes the book will motivate them to build a better life.
While the story covers a lot of ground, it reads more like a memoir than a novel. Poorly constructed and flimsy, it contains minimal dialogue and characters that are flatly drawn and fail to engage. There are no subplots or teasers and no dramatic tension to keep readers turning pages. The overall writing style is pedestrian, lacking creative flair. The book also is marred by word misuse, for example: “isle” for “aisle” and “poultry” for “paltry.”
In sum, although there is a germ of an idea here, it isn’t developed strongly enough to spark interest in this novel.
Also available as an ebook.