For one thing, the strengths in a Denis Gray novel---engaging eye for home-spun detail, authentic historical settings, authoritative you-are-there reportage, intriguing one-two punch of dialogue and explication, a wide range of African-American characters---are even stronger in his latest outing, Black Bloods. Like that evocative cover art by Charles Lilly, Gray's got the Nineteen Twenties in Manhattan roaring wild in high life and low with complex characters holding secrets that will undo the best of their schemes. Two more things happen and I offer these as words of praise and warning: At page one, prepare to read it to the end; his plot turns are diabolical, and the result is a book I could not afford to put down---the last 25 pages are the fastest.
For all of its narrative brilliance, however, the story is not merely about a confidence game; the story itself is a confidence game, inseperable from our own American history. The result is an experience that awakens a moral urgency and collapses opposites like Wall Street and Strivers' Row, love and hate, white and black, top and bottom, pass and fail. Gray offers us a marvellous insight into how twisted race is in our heritage, but in his parable style he reveals a way to see it, as Joni Mitchell put it, "from both sides now."
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