The Coldest Wynter Ever
A Lesson Learned; A Tale of Terror
I have always had a heart for – and spoken in defense of – the downtrodden; the victimized; the rejected and the despised. I have never turned my nose up at a homeless person, or looked down upon those less fortunate than myself. I think of myself as one of the “good guys” and good guys defend the weak and help those in need.
It is easy, however, to “speak out against”, or “speak up for”, however to act on behalf of is quite another thing entirely and not so easy at all.
I learned this nearly two decades ago, while discussing the plight of the homeless in Chicago. I was scolding a group of brothers for not being “grassroots” enough; for not speaking out against homelessness and for not working together to erect a shelter for homeless women and children.
One of my closest friends pulled me aside after my tirade and told me he liked what I said and agreed that we must take an active stance in helping the homeless. He then asked if I’d like to go see Pulp Fiction – his treat. With dark comedies – especially ones with professional assassins – at the top of my list of favorite types of movies, how could I refuse?
On the way to the movies, my friend, who insisted that he drive, said he had to make a quit stop. He then proceeded to head toward downtown Chicago – the opposite direction from the movie theater we frequented.
“Where are we headed?” I asked.
“I have to drop something off to some old friends of mine,” my friend replied.
We reached Wacker Drive, the famed “triple-decker” street. My friend veered off toward the road that led to Lower Wacker Drive and we continued our descent to Lower Lower Wacker Drive, which was even more famous…for being one of the largest homeless encampments in the world. The homeless preferred sleeping on Lower Lower Wacker Drive because they are sheltered from the weather and dozens of them could be found sleeping on loading docks and other out-of-the-way spots on any given night. In the mid-1990s, Chi-Town began forcibly removing these unfortunate people, tossing out their belongings and fencing off the places where they stayed.
In 1993, however, Lower Lower Wacker Drive was a sprawling metropolis of tents and cardboard boxes.
My friend – Jermaine is his name, in case you’re wondering – parked beside a loading dock, honked twice and then hopped out of his vehicle. I followed him to the trunk. Jermaine opened it, revealing his wife’s mink coat, two goose down coats, a pair of his ostrich-skin boots – chill, PETA, it wasn’t me – and a crate of bottled water.
Dozens of homeless people approached us, with warm smiles. Jermaine knew them all by name. He embraced them without hesitation.
I felt immense shame, because I realized that I was talking the talk – with a proverbial megaphone at that – but had never walked the walk.
Jermaine had walked it many times, though and had never said a word about it. He did not seek accolades; he did not seek support. He saw people in need and wanted to help them in the best way he could.
Jermaine handed out his donations to a man he called “The Mayor”, a short, thin, elderly Black man, who corrected me when I said the word “homeless” during my conversation with this brilliant man – “We aren’t homeless; we’re residenceless. This is home.”
The Mayor of Lower Lower Wacker Drive then decided who would receive which items. No one complained about his choices and all was peaceful. Jermaine and I said farewell to everyone, hopped back in his car and drove off. I turned to Jermaine and asked “So, when are we coming back?” “Pick a day,” he responded. “I visit and drop off stuff four or five days a week.”
Jermaine – always a cool brother – became a hundred times cooler, in my eyes.
My many chats with the Mayor of Lower Lower Wacker Drive over the next year or so inspired me to write a story with a “residenceless” person as the hero. Finally, I crafted Chicago Wynter, a tale of a homeless man’s battle against the deadly cold that takes the lives of so many homeless in Chicago each year.
I recently recorded an audio version of the story for GA Tech’s WREK radio station (91.1 FM), which will air on their Sci Fi Lab show. I now share that recording, with an accompanying slide show, with you. Give a listen and a look, enjoy and then, please, give me your feedback.
I have given homage to authors Nnedi Okorafor and Milton J. Davis by making them “actors” in this work. Why? Because they are artists whose work I admire greatly and, in the case of Milton Davis, he is also a great friend and teacher who I have had the honor – and pleasure – of working with on several projects.
We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 3 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, sit back and enjoy the finale (perhaps) of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 3
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
Z strolled down Abernathy Boulevard, past the old men hanging out in front of the West End Mall to ogle scantily clad girls as they passed by; past the men and women selling incense, fragrant oils and books on the Prison Industrial Complex or the Mayan Apocalypse. He strolled past them all, seen, but unnoticed, just as Norm had taught him to be.
Unnoticed, that is, except by one. One who remained unnoticed and unseen by all, stepping in and out of shadow as he traced Z’s every step.
Z stopped at the door of a three-story office building nestled between a swanky vegetarian restaurant and a natural hair salon. The sign on the door read ‘Carver Recording & Film Studios’.
Z stepped through the door, drawing his pistol from inside his Enyce vest. The pitol’s silencer reflected the light from the chandelier which hung over the security desk. He squeezed the trigger twice.
The first guard slumped in his chair. A torrent of blood rushed gushed from a hole in his neck. Within seconds, his starched, white uniform shirt was a deep burgundy.
The second guard collapsed to the floor as blood and tissue erupted from his back. A wisp of smoke rose from the hole in his black security officer’s shirt as he convulsed erratically. A moment later, he lay still.
Z sauntered to the elevator, pressed the button and waited.
The elevator door slid open. Z turned his back to the elevator, admiring his handiwork as he stepped into it. The elevator came to a smooth stop on the third floor. The door opened and Z stepped out of it into the hallway. The skylights that ran the length of the hallway’s ceiling bathed the corridor in the warmth and light of the noonday sun.
Z perused the numbers on the studio and office doors, stopping at ‘Studio 9’, from which emanated the din of southern gangster rap music, laughter and firm commands. Z recognized one of the commands belonging to the voice of Virginia Carver. He had found at least one of his targets.
Z raised his pistol before him. He then took half a step back from the door, inhaled deeply and then drove the heel of his foot toward the doorknob.
His heel crashed into the door, just below the knob. The door frame shattered and the door flew open. Z rushed in, squeezing off a volley of rounds from his pistol.
The Carver Twins’ bodyguards, Manny and Steve, threw their bodies in front of their bosses, as Z had hoped – he did not want to have to face these two killers and the twins – and were caught in a hail storm of searing lead. Round after round tore into their flesh, rending tissue, bone and vital organs. The big men fell, soiling the hardwood flooring with entrails and gore.
The rapper Point Blank dropped to his haunches in the recording booth, thrusting his head between his legs.
Virginia Carver darted forward, closing on Z with fearsome speed and ferocity. Her hands wrapped around his pistol, as she pushed her arms high above her head. A round exploded from the gun, lodging in the ceiling.
Z tried to pull the trigger again, but Virginia held the pistol’s slide firmly in place and the gun would not fire.
Virginia jerked the weapon downward.
Z’s index finger, caught in the trigger guard, made a sickening snap as it bent sideways at an impossible angle. Z dropped to his knees, releasing the pistol.
Virginia thrust her knee forward, driving the air out of Z’s lungs as the powerful knee strike collided with his solar plexus.
Z tried to crawl away, but a heavy, leather boot came crashing down on his left hand, crushing the small bones and pinning it to the floor.
Z screamed in agony as he looked up into Virgil’s smiling face.
“Where are you running to, boy?” Virgil snickered. “”Don’t you have some killing to do?”
“This is one of Sweet’s boys,” Virginia said.
The hammer of Z’s pistol clicked as Virginia cocked it. “We’re gonna send what’s left of your head to Sweet. The rest of you, I’m gonna keep on display in pickle jars in my pool-house.”
Virginia aimed the pistol at Z’s forehead. A loud boom rocked the studio.
Blood and brain splashed onto Z’s face.
A second boom. More blood and brain rained on the floor before the teen.
Z scurried across the floor, slipping in blood and bits of flesh.
The headless bodies of the twins collapsed onto the floor with dull thuds.
Z reached out toward his pistol. With shaky fingers, he snatched it off the floor and raised it toward the entrance. There was no one there.
“Put the gun down, Z.”
Z leapt to his feet, aiming his pistol toward the source of the rich, baritone voice. Standing before him was a tall, athletically built man holding a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun on his shoulder. Although Z had never seen him before, the man looked strangely familiar.
“Who the hell are you?” Z inquired. “How do you know my name?”
“You’re welcome,” the man replied.
“Thanks,” Z said, keeping his gun aimed at the man. “Now, who the hell are you?”
“My name’s Ezekiel,” the man answered. “Ezekiel Cross.”
“Bullshit!” Z shouted, struggling to ignore the intense pain gnawing at both hands.
“Naw, boy, that’s real shit,” the man said. “As real as the shock you’re gonna go into if we don’t get those hands taken care of.”
A wave of nausea washed over Z. The pistol fell from his shaky fingers and he collapsed against the mixing board. Ezekiel ran to Z and placed a powerful arm around the boy’s waist. “We have to get out of here. I’ll explain everything later.
Z nodded. Ezekiel sat Z in a chair and retrieved the boy’s gun. He tucked the weapon into the holster sewn into the interior of Z’s vest and then helped him to his feet. The duo crept out of the office and into the sunlit hallway.
“I can walk now,” Z said.
“You sure?” Ezekiel asked.
“Positive,” Z answered.
Ezekiel let him go. Z stood wide-legged, remaining still until he was sure that his balance would not fail him. He then sauntered down the hall toward the elevator with Ezekiel on his heels.
A low “ding” came from the elevator and the door slowly slid open.
Ezekiel raised his shotgun, holding it at the ready. Z took a few steps backward until he was standing a couple of feet behind Ezekiel.
An immaculately dressed, elderly man stepped off the elevator and stood before the elevator door, offering only his profile to Z and Ezekiel. The man was tall, but his spiky, grey afro made him appear even taller. His full, grey beard seemed to glow against his mahogany skin and his frame, though covered in a tailored grey suit, was obviously athletic, despite his age.
“Oh, no,” Ezekiel gasped.
“What? Who is that?” Z asked.
“He’s called Paradox,” Ezekiel whispered. When a time traveler changes history, Paradox comes and fixes it back.”
“Man…what? Paradox?” Z said, shaking his head.
“That’s Grandfather Paradox to you,” the elderly man said. “Always respect your elders, boy.”
“What do you want, old man?” Z inquired.
“You,” Paradox replied. He turned his head slowly toward Z, revealing a wide grin.
Fire erupted from the muzzle of Ezekiel’s shotgun.
Paradox was thrown onto his back as a sabot shotgun slug blew a chasm in his chest.
“Run!” Ezekiel shouted.
Z did not move. “Run? You just ghosted that old nigga!”
“Damn, I do not recall being this stupid!” Ezekiel spat. “Now, we’ve got to fight this thing.”
“Man, I appreciate you saving me and all,” Z said, approaching Paradox’s body. “But you are straight cray-cray, for real!”
“Cray-cray?” Ezekiel asked.
“That means you take crazy to a whole ‘nother level,” Z said. If you really believe you’re…”
The words grew heavy in Z’s throat as he watched Paradox sit up on his haunches. “The hell?” The teen gasped.
Paradox rose to its feet. It raised its head toward the ceiling and let loose a roar that sent a chill clawing its way up Z’s spine. The creature shifted…changed. Tendon, sinew and bone popped and crackled as they changed shape and function. The Grandfather Paradox was no longer a sophisticated, athletic elderly gentleman; it was now gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin was pulled tautly over its bones and its complexion was now the pallid, ash-gray of death. Strange runes and raised patterns traversed the creature’s flesh. Its eyes were pushed back deep into their sockets, what lips remained were tattered and bloody and the monster gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition; of death and destruction; of disease, sickness and shit.
Z whirled on his heels and took off. The Grandfather Paradox exploded forward, sprinting on all fours, hot on Z’s heels.
“Now, you run?” Ezekiel sighed.
Ezekiel squeezed the trigger of his shotgun.
The creature fell over on its side as its forearm was blown from its elbow.
Ezekiel squeezed the trigger once more. The shotgun roared.
Paradox’s head exploded, its oily, black ichor painting the walls and floor.
“Keep going,” Ezekiel shouted. “That thing will be back at us in a few minutes!”
Ezekiel and Z reached the main floor. They ran through the door and into the lobby, continuing on, sprinting past the corpses of the pair of security guards.
“My car is parked around the corner…to your left,” Ezekiel said.
The duo ran out of the building and onto Abernathy Boulevard. Almost in unison, they reduced their speed to a brisk walk, so as to not attract too much attention.
“Time travelers…old men turning into monsters…what the hell is really going on, shawty?” Z inquired.
“Welcome to my world, kid,” Z sighed. “Welcome to my world.”
We now continue the celebration of the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, with Part 2 of Redeemer: Glitch, the episodic short story based on the book. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, sit back once more and enjoy part two of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 2
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
Danny Sweet forced a smile as he sat across the table from Virginia and Virgil Carver – the notorious Carver Twins – the only threat and obstacle to Sweet’s total domination of rap and R&B music in the South and the Southeast.
Norm and Detective McGraw stood, menacingly, at Sweet’s back.
Z sat alone in an apartment across the street – one of Sweet’s safe-houses – monitoring the closed circuit cameras and microphones that he and Norm had planted in the restaurant the night before.
At the Carver Twins’ backs were two men who Z recognized as former Navy Seals, Manny and Steve. The duo had been securing the Twins since Old Man Carver was still alive and running the family business and the twins were in high school.
“My husband – God rest his soul – proposed to me here,” Virginia Carver said. “Ah, the memories!”
“And I banged my first piece of ass here,” Virgil snickered. “In the restroom. Ah, the memories!”
Virginia punched Virgil in the arm. Virgil winced from the pain. “Ow!” he screamed, rubbing his aching bicep.
“Please, forgive my brother,” Virginia said. “So, what exactly, did you want to discuss with us? It sounded urgent on the phone.”
Sweet then pointed the fork in the direction of the Carver Twins, shaking it as he spoke. “For ten years, we’ve been rivals…”
Sweet sucked a piece of fish from between his teeth and spat it into a napkin. “We first competed on these streets and now, in the music business. Congrats on signing Point Blank, by the way…he’s sure to win Best New Artist at the Hip-Hop Awards. Hell, he might even give my boy, Skinz, a run for his money for Best Album.”
“Thank you. We’ll see,” Virginia replied.
“Well, we’ve been bitter rivals,” Sweet continued. “But we’ve never broken the peace with each other. There has been no violence between our families and we’ve all grown because of that.”
Norm glanced at the young gangster.
Virginia shook her head.
“Look, Sweet,” Virgil began. “I’ve got a date with a certain supermodel talk-show host in a couple of hours, so, if you don’t mind…”
“Virgil!” Virginia shouted, as she placed a firm hand on her brother’s forearm.
“It’s okay, Virginia,” Sweet said, struggling to maintain his smile. “You’re right, Virgil, I’ll get straight to the point.”
Sweet took a deep breath. “Two nights ago, someone killed three of my best men. One of them was a Lieutenant. A reliable source describes the killer as some kind of Special Forces, ninja-type motherfucker. Me!”
Virgil shrugged his narrow shoulders. “So, what does that have to do with us?”
Virgil pounded his fist on the table. Plates jumped and a few forks fell to the floor. Virgil glared at Sweet, not once acknowledging Norm’s presence with his eyes. “I am Co-Boss of the Carver Family, Sweet! Since when do you allow your Captain to speak to a Boss at a sit-down?”
“Since when does a Co-Boss who rides the coattails of his sister – the real Boss of your family – disrespect the Boss of Bosses?” Sweet spat.
“The Boss of Bosses?” Virginia said, shaking her head. “You go too far, Sweet.”
Sweet took another bite of catfish and spoke as he chewed. “Look, we both know that there isn’t a Boss in the Southeast who will stand with you against me.
Sweet sprinkled hot sauce on his fish and took another bite. “But, if you have broken the peace, Virginia, the other Bosses will side with me against you. None of them like the idea of a female Boss, anyway. Me? I’m more progressive.”
Virginia scooted her chair away from the table and stood up. Virgil rose almost in unison with her.
Manny and Steve stood at the Carver Twins’ flanks.
“This sit-down is over, Sweet!” Virginia said.
“Goodbye, Sweet,” Virginia said, as she walked away from the table.
The Carver Family sauntered out of the restaurant.
“Fuckin’ wankers! Norm shouted.
“What do we do now, Sweet?” McGraw asked.
Sweetstared out of a large window, which ran from floor to ceiling in a wall near his table. The Carver Twins were hopping into their limousine.
“You should send Z’s crazy, little ass after them,” McGraw said.
“The Carvers are too dangerous,” Sweet said. “I can’t have my little experiment getting’ himself killed.”
“Your experiment?” McGraw inquired.
“I’m creating the perfect killer,” Sweet replied.
“I thought Norm, here, was the perfect killer,” McGraw said, slapping Norm on his massive bicep with the back of his hand.
“Norm is almost perfect, but he was a barrister before I showed him his true calling,” Sweet said.
“That’s a bloody barista, fool! I was a barrister…an attorney.”
Sweet and McGraw laughed. Norm went back to devouring his bowl of kale.
“So, how are we handling the twins, Sweet?” McGraw asked.
“We’re gonna use an outsider,” Sweet answered.
“Anyone I know?” McGraw asked.
“Maybe,” Sweet replied. “Her name’s Lala.”
McGraw sat bolt upright in his chair. “Hold up…Lala is real? I thought she was just a friggin’ urban legend.”
“I heard she took out Preach, the Boss out of Cincinnati,” McGraw said. “And his gang, too, without ever firing a single shot. Man, I thought all that was bullshit, though.”
“No, that was really Lala,” Norm said. “She only uses silent weapons. Knives and crossbows and other Lord of the Rings-type shit. Sweet has used her a few times.”
“Yeah, she does good wet-work, but she’s fuckin’ expensive,” Sweet sighed. “And she’s crazy as a shithouse rat! I don’t like fuckin’ with her unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. You’ll finally get to meet her, McGraw; she should be here any minute.”
“Any minute?” McGraw gasped. “What the hell is she…psychic or something? How did she know you’d be giving her this contract?”
“Ever hear of speed-dial, wanker?” Norm asked.
“The second the sit-down went south, I hit Lala up with a text.”
A woman sauntered into the dining room, her Dolce and Gabbana mini dress caressing every curve of her sensuous form with each graceful step.
“Gentlemen,” the woman said. She then nodded in McGraw’s direction. “Pervert.”
“Speak of the devil,” Sweet said, taking the woman’s hand.
“And the devil appears,” Lala said. “So, who are we killin’, sugar?”
Sweet kissed the back of her hand and extended his arm toward a chair. Lala took a seat.
“The Carver Twins,” Sweet said.
“Okay,” Lala said. “Two-fifty…each.”
“Five hundred thousand dollars?” Sweet hissed. “Are you fuckin’ serious?”
“I’m the World Serious of seriousness, baby,” Lala replied. “These are two crime bosses we’re talkin’ about, not some mayor or fuckin’ police chief!”
“Two hundred each,” Sweet said.
“Two-twenty-five,” Lala responded.
“Done,” Sweet said.
McGraw exploded forward.
Sweet lit a stogie and took a few quick puffs.
“McGraw, what the bloody hell are you doin’?” Norm spat.
“I’m disappointed,” McGraw said. “The legendary Lala, huh? It was easy to get the ups on your sexy, little ass. I could have slit your throat and you’d have been dead before you knew who did you.”
“I’ll tell you what I do know, Perv,” Lala said. “After you slit my throat, I’d try to cauterize and sew up the wound. Hell, it’s worth a shot. I still might die, but not before you.”
“How’s that?” McGraw asked.
McGraw winced. He looked down toward the source of his pain. Lala held the tip of a knife at his inner thigh.
“Femoral artery laceration,” Lala said. “You’ll bleed out in eleven seconds. Still disappointed?”
McGraw sheathed his knife on his belt. “Not at all.”
Tammy slipped hers back in a hidden sheath on the outside of her clutch bag. She then slammed the back of her head into McGraw’s groin.
The detective collapsed onto his knees.
Tammy leapt from the chair and darted behind McGraw. She coiled her arms around his neck and squeezed.
McGraw’s eyes turned a bright pink as the constriction on his neck grew tighter.
“That’ll be another twenty thousand, or the pervert dies,” Lala demanded.
Sweet answered with a nod.
Lala released the choke.
“I swear to God, McGraw, if you weren’t so damned valuable, I’d kill you myself!” Sweet said.
“Alright gents,” Lala said, walking toward the door. She nodded toward McGraw, who was now resting on his knees. “Pervert…gotta get home, The Walking Dead marathon is coming on and I love me some T-Dog.”
Lala glided out of the dining room.
Z slipped his Sig Sauer nine millimeter pistol into the waistband of his jeans and then tossed the bottom of his t-shirt over it. “Sorry Lala,” he whispered as he shut the door to the apartment. “The Carvers are mine!”
Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!
And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.
To celebrate the release of my latest Urban Fantasy novel, Redeemer, I will share an episodic short story based on the book for the next three posts. Don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers – the story is an alternate timeline, told from the point of view of our hero’s younger, wilder, vengeful self.
So, grab a cup of chai tea, or your favorite brew, sit back and enjoy part one of Redeemer: Glitch!
REDEEMER: Glitch Part 1
Glitch: A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag
The din of raucous laughter echoed throughout the private dining room of Sayles’ Lobster Bar. “Sweet” Danny Sweet had just told one of his anecdotes, which were always entertaining and, usually, quite funny.
Sweet’s charisma and “favorite uncle” demeanor was in stark contrast to his brutality; his ruthlessness. Those same qualities made him one of the most powerful record industry moguls in the world and the most powerful criminal in the Southeastern United States.
Z loved Sweet. When his father was brutally murdered, it was Sweet who stepped in to give him and his mother support; it was Sweet who found the man responsible for his father’s death; and it was Sweet who gave him the opportunity – and the will – to kill that man.
Next to Sweet sat the giant, “Nigerian Norm” – the man responsible for Sweet’s safety and for Z’s training. Norm, too, was a man of contrasts – massively muscled; brutish; a master of murder, mayhem and pain. But he was also a graduate of the prestigious Oxford Law school, well-traveled, fluent in five languages and one of the most formidable attorneys on the planet.
Norm was Z’s instructor in the ways of death and, in that role, as all the others he played, he had done exceptionally well. At fifteen years of age, Z was already an experienced and respected assassin-for-hire and was determined to one day be the absolute best.
Z thrust his fork into a mound of spaghetti gamberetto and then twirled it, wrapping the platinum utensil in a cocoon of pasta and shrimp. He shoved the pasta into his mouth, savoring the spicy-sweet flavor.
The smell of stale cigarettes and coffee assaulted Z’s nostrils. “McGraw,” he whispered.
Homicide Detective Terry McGraw sauntered into the dining room. His thick, brown fingers fumbled with the buttons of his tweed blazer as he approached the dining table. Behind him shuffled a stout, fireplug of a man, his plump belly jiggling with each step.
“McGraw, what’s the good word?” Sweet inquired.
“I’ve got good news, Sweet,” McGraw replied, reaching across the table to shake Sweet’s hand.
“Good,” Sweet said. His eyes shifted to the clammy-skinned, beer-bellied man beside McGraw and then back to the detective. “Who’s the J? And why is he at my table?”
“He witnessed the robbery-homicide at Frankie’s spot,” McGraw answered. “His name’s…”
“Chuck Alexander Etheridge,” the fireplug of a man said, extending his plump fingers toward Sweet. “But, everyone calls me ‘Shakespeare’.”
“Okay. Have a seat McGraw,” Sweet said, ignoring Shakespeare’s hand. “…Spear-Chucker.”
The corners of Shakespeare’s mouth curled into a weak smile. “That’s Shake…”
“Hey, Norm,” McGraw said, nodding toward the giant.
Hey, John Hop,” Norm said, leaning forward in his chair. “You had best brought some good Brad Pitt for this Buster Keaton.”
McGraw shook his head. “Damn, I’ve known you for, what? Eleven…twelve years? And I still can’t understand a friggin’ word when you talk that Cockney shit.”
“Well, if you cleaned the wax outta your sighs and had any eighteen in your loaf, understandin’ me would be lemon squeezy,” Norm said.
“It’s British Ebonics,” Sweet snickered. “You catch on after a while.”
Sweet turned his gaze toward Shakespeare. “So, what you got for me, Shake-n-Bake?”
“It’s…ahem…well, I was at Frankie’s spot when it happened,” Shakespeare replied. “It must have been around eleven, because I arrived at my regularly appointed time of ten-fifteen and had already taken my nightly dosage of opiate.”
“Opiate?” Sweet cut his eyes toward Detective McGraw.
“H,” McGraw answered.
“Oh,” Sweet said. “Go on, Salt-Shaker.”
Shakespeare leapt from the table and paced the floor. He hung his head and closed his eyes. “Frankie and his henchmen did not stand a chance. Their guns meant nothing in the face of that creature of wind and shadow.
“And why are you alive to tell the tale?” Z asked.
“He left all of the patrons alive,” Shakespeare answered.
“And just what did this bloke look like?” Norm inquired.
“He was tall, but not nearly as tall as you, or Detective McGraw,” Shakespeare replied. “He was, perhaps, five-eleven, or six feet. He was athletically built, with short, well-groomed hair and his skin was a smooth caramel…”
“Damn,” McGraw shouted, interrupting him. “Did you get the motherfucker’s phone number?”
“Absolutely not,” Shakespeare said, turning up his nose. “I am…
“You thinkin’ a sit-down?” Norm asked.
“Definitely,” Sweet replied.
Sweet raised his glass of cognac and extended it toward Shakespeare. “Good work, Shakespeare!”
A broad smile spread across Shakespeare’s face.
Sweet withdrew a money clip from the inner pocket of his sharkskin suit coat and thrust two crisp hundred dollar bills toward Shakespeare. “Here; there’s a lot more in it for you if your information leads to us catching this bastard. Now, order yourself some food; it’s on me.”
Sweet held up a golden brown french fry. “Hey, Norm, tell Shakespeare what you call these in England.”
“Chips,” Norm said.
“Freakin’ chips! Can you believe that?” Sweet asked. “A chip is a thinly sliced, flat piece of potato. Comes in different flavors, like plain – that’s my favorite – barbecue
; salt and vinegar – we call ‘em ‘salt and sour’ back home ; hot ; dill pickle – I don’t like them shits, though – anyway, that’s a friggin’ chip!”
Sweet snickered as he shook his head. “You English are some weird motherfuckers!”
“First of all, I’m Nigerian,” Norm began.
Sweet rolled his eyes. “Here we go…”
“Second of all, no brother would ever call himself ‘English’, he’d say he’s ‘British’, and third…”
“Hold that thought,” Sweet said, interrupting Norm. “I gotta take a piss.”
“You’re already takin’ the piss, aren’t ya’?” Norm replied.
“See…weird!” Sweet said.
Shakespeare smiled wider.
Sweet rose from his chair. Norm followed suit.
Sweet wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “What?”
“I want in on the sit-down, in case the Carvers get froggy,” Z replied.
“What the hell do you think me and Norm are gonna be doing there, little nigga?” Norm spat. “Playing with our dicks? It don’t get no better than me and Norm having Sweet’s back.”
“The Carvers have some tight security and I hear that the twins are pretty dangerous themselves,” Z said. “You can use my help.”
“You’re fifteen, Z,” McGraw sighed. “Leave this shit to the big boys.”
McGraw turned his gaze toward Sweet. “Little nigga kills two or three motherfuckers and thinks he’s Dirty Harry, or some shit!”
Z pointed toward the silver police detective badge, encased in leather, hanging from McGraw’s neck. “Without that badge and gun, you’re just a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy with bad feet.”
Norm slapped the table with his fingertips. Plates rattled as silverware tap-danced against them. “Ezekiel…enough!”
“Yes, Sensei,” Z said, lowering his gaze.
“Bloody hell,” Norm shouted. “McGraw is your elder, Z. Apologize!”
“Yes, Sensei.” Z turned toward McGraw and pressed his palms together with his hands before his chest as if he was about to pray. “Detective McGraw, I apologize. I was wrong.”
McGraw smiled warmly. “It’s okay, Z. I accept your…”
“You are a really tall asshole who fights like a sissy,” Z said, cutting McGraw off. “But you don’t have bad feet.”
The room erupted in laughter.
McGraw thrust his middle finger toward Z.
“That’s better,” Norm said. “Gotta show the geezers their respect.”
“Y’all motherfuckers are crazy!” Sweet chuckled. “Look Z, this game’s political. If someone your age attends a sit-down, it’ll be taken as disrespect. I know your father – God rest his soul – gave you a soldier’s heart and Norm is teaching you to kill like a pro, but you gotta be patient.”
“The Carver Twins hired Greg Blake to merc my dad,” Zeke sighed.
“And they’ll pay for that,” Sweet said. “Just like Greg Blake did. You’ll have your revenge, little man; we just gotta be smart about it.”
“Yes, sir,” Z said.
Sweet pulled the brim of his homburg over his right eyebrow. “That’s my boy! Be right back, fellas; nature calls.”
Join us in a few days as we continue our thrilling tale with Redeemer: Glitch, Part 2!
And, as always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY? Urban Fiction’s Impact on Black Literacy!
My introduction to Urban Fiction in literature began with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which I read when I was eight or nine years old. A few years after going nuts over the film version, which released in 1972 and The Godfather II, which released in 1974.
My love for The Godfather, led me to seek out gangster films and books with Black people as the heroes, thus became a lifelong (not so) secret love affair with Blaxploitation films and Urban Literature. I could quote every line from Shaft, The Mack, Coffee, and my favorite, Gordon’s War and Donald Goines’ Cry Revenge had an honored place in the trunk that held my most prized comic books.
The youth have always loved Urban Fiction. And not just tweens and teens from the inner city. Teens in rural communities also crave these gritty, action-packed stories. Leading authority on Urban Fiction, Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, claims that 93 percent of libraries across the country – both urban and rural – carry Urban Fiction in their collections.
And it is bringing adults who normally do not read to the brick-and-mortar and online bookstores. According to Dr. Morris, writers such as Teri Woods, Miasha Coleman, K’wan and Shannon Holmes not only outsell such renowned authors as Alice Walker,Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and other authors of classic literature, but even more mainstream authors, such as Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) (Morris, V. J., Agosto, D.P., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Cottman, D.T.; 2006; Street Lit: Flying off teen fiction bookshelves in Philadelphia public libraries. Journal of Young Adult Library Service, 5(1): 16-23)
And the readers of Urban Fiction are loyal customers, quick to make a purchase and insatiable in their desire for more stories.
Even with its popularity, however, Urban Literature still has its detractors – mainly African-American writers of contemporary and speculative fiction.
While the authors of Urban Fiction may not possess a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, or may not have a clue what the Lumineferous Aether is, they do have a gripping story, interesting characters, a do-it-yourself attitude and extraordinary hustle and heart. And that is why Urban Fiction outsells every other genre of fiction on the shelf. So don’t hate; congratulate…and get your hustle up!
While many of us moisten at the thought of recognition from some mainstream publishing company, the authors of Urban Fiction are possessed by an entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to self-publish and sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their books at bus stops, barber shops, beauty salons and street festivals. They don’t seek out mainstream publishers; mainstream publishers seek them out.
And – more than any other genre – Urban Fiction inspires people to read and write.
“But Street Lit glorifies drug dealing, murder and misogyny,” you say. Some does. So does some science fiction; so does some horror; so does some fantasy, romance and even some of the classics.
However, there is Urban Fiction that gives the reader strong, independent and competent women, healthy, loving relationships, and characters with high moral standards.
Furthermore, reading Urban Fiction can evoke necessary discussion on issues that plague us all.
According to Vanessa Irvin Morris, author of The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature and owner of the website, streetliterature.com, in Philadelphia, a group of librarians worked with hundreds of teens to determine Urban Fiction’s impact on our youth. They found that the relationships between the men and women characters in the books spurred much discussion. The girls, for the most part, originally thought that the male characters “were good to their women” because “they bought them name brand stuff”, but as they analyzed the books, they came to understand that most of the relationships in them involved verbal abuse and domestic violence.
The most significant discovery for the librarians was that it was analyzing the books that brought about the teens’ awareness of abuse, which was not originally apparent to them. The students read the books and then came together to talk about what they had read and in doing so, developed a greater understanding of the dynamics of relationships and the tragedy of domestic violence.
It is interesting that we reject Street Lit for its presumed misogyny and abusive relationships – which we most certainly should – yet we ignore the misogyny in such classics as Catcher in the Rye, or the abusive relationship in the Twilight Saga. We must make a stand against the abuse of women wherever we find it. If writers truly want to see a change in Urban Fiction, shouldn’t we create that change by contributing our own works?
My mother has always taught my siblings and me, by example, that if you have a problem with something, don’t complain, do your part to fix it. I like to grow a scraggly beard sometimes – I just do, okay? – and my mother hates it. She’ll say the same thing every time she sees my beard – “How much does a shave cost?” She will then proceed to reach into her purse, pull out the exact amount for the shave and hand me the money.
Now, she could easily say “You look like a hobo, son. A shave is only six dollars…go get one!” Instead, she pulls out her money – and pulling out the exact amount tells me she was prepared to act if I sported that hateful, unkempt beard – and hands it to me. No complaining; just action.
It’s her way…and it’s one of the many great things I love about her. Ironically, it is also the way of the authors of Urban Fiction. They are warriors; not worriers.
Urban Fiction has been called “the most appealing form of Black literature.” It appeals to youth and adults for many reasons. Why? How? Here are a few reasons readers gave in a recent study (Morris, V.J.;2010; Street Lit: Before you recommend it, you have to understand it. Agosto, D. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (eds.). IN Urban Teens in the Library: Research and Practice. (pp. 53-66). Chicago: American Library Association):
- Stories are fast-paced and action-packed, often with elements of romance.
- The style is straight forward and cinematic – like a movie in your head.
- The protagonists are usually anti-heroes.
- Readers relate to the story, setting and characters.
- While readers tend to be African-American women, ages 18 – 35, Urban Fiction also attracts more male readers than any other genre – many readers feel that if something can get men and boys to read, it is powerful indeed.
- There are many parallels between Urban Fiction and Hip-Hop.
Below are two reviews of my Urban Science Fiction novel, Redeemer, a mash-up of Urban Fiction and Science Fiction. Redeemer is a thrilling read and appeals to both science fiction and urban fiction readers alike for all the reasons cited above and more. But don’t just take my word for it; read on…
Ezekiel Cross is a cold blooded killer. He works for ‘Sweet’ Danny Sweet, owner of Sweet South Records, the second wealthiest music label in the country. For most of his life Ezekiel has been a killer, trained from a young age to enforce the whims of his boss. But Ezekiel is tired. He longs for the day that he can hang up his guns and live a normal life with his wife Mali. But the life of a killer is never his own. Ezekiel is called to do another hit, but instead of closing the deal he finds himself the target of a different kind of hit. He’s sent back into time and finds himself in a situation that could change his life forever…or end it.
Redeemer is the latest novel by Balogun Ojetade, author of the Steamfunk novel, Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, the Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon a Time in Afrika, and my Sword and Soul brother. I had the privilege to read Redeemer earlier this year in manuscript form and was immediately blown away. The book is filled with action, drama and humor as only Balogun can write, but with Redeemer he takes his penchant of mashing genres to another level. For months I’ve read different manuscripts attempting to mesh urban fiction and science fiction in an attempt to capture a piece of the urban fiction market. None of those I perused had of a much chance of success in my opinion. The authors either kept too much urban or too much science fiction or too little of both. After reading the last page of Redeemer I smiled and said to myself, ‘this is it right here.’ A story with a touch of science fiction, a dose of urban fiction and a wallop of great action and great character development. If there was any book that would combine the two genres, Redeemer is it.
Now I know a few of you are saying, ‘doesn’t this plot remind you of Looper?’ Well, let me clear that up as well. Balogun first shared Redeemer to me as a script almost two years ago. Unfortunately for me I didn’t read it. He passed it along to me again as a novel later and the rest is history. Even if you persist in that thought mode, I urge you to put those thoughts aside and read this book. It takes a different journey, one that is as much heartfelt as it is action packed. And it comes with an ending that will make you smile.
Now, that’s all I can reveal without spoiling all the fun. I give Redeemer 5 out of 5 stars. Balogun once again shows his skills as a writer that can take different genres and make them something fresh and new. You can purchase Redeemer here and here. You won’t be disappointed.
“Redeemer” – One of the best reads ever!
I teach drama and creative movement at a private school in Boston. I am also the sponsor of the Avid Readers Club at the school, which I enjoy because I have always loved to read and I have books that I love from EVERY genre.
Though I have literally (pun intended) read thousands of books in my lifetime – I average about a hundred a year – I have never written a review of one. Until now.
I just read the latest book, “Redeemer”, from Balogun Ojetade, one of my favorite authors.
Redeemer is unique in that it successfully combines the best of urban fiction with the best of science fiction into a story that is nothing short of incredible.
I intended to devote a couple of weeks to Redeemer – to read it between grading papers and doing laundry on my weekend afternoons. I ended up reading it in one sitting, with breaks to answer the call of nature, or to briefly hop on Facebook to tell folks how great Redeemer is.
Redeemer truly elevates urban fiction; not only because it is well-edited, original and does not degrade women – qualities sorely lacking in the genre – but because it is a heartfelt tale of fatherhood. Particularly how a father’s relationship with his son can have powerful consequences, for better or worse.
This gritty and exciting story is the tale of Ezekiel Cross, a hit-man who wants out of the game. He resigns from a life of organized crime and killing with the permission and blessings of his crime boss, “Sweet” Danny Sweet. Or so it seems.
Danny Sweet actually sets Ezekiel up and uses him in an experiment in time travel. Ezekiel is sent back thirty years in time. Initially distraught, he decides to change his fate by saving himself and his family from the events that led him to a lifetime of crime. Along the way, he meets some of the coolest, sexiest, deadliest and craziest characters to ever grace the pages of a book. Besides Ezekiel Cross, one of my favorite characters is Norm, a giant Black Cockney attorney and master assassin. Another is Lala, legendary contract killer and fashionista.
Redeemer is going to go down (or rise up) in history as the novel that finally got it right. That took two wildly popular, and sometimes opposing, genres of fiction and married them. And oh, what a matchmaker Balogun Ojetade is! With such masterful matchmaking skill, maybe he can hook me up with my future husband, Idris Elba! It’s in the cards, Idris. It’s in the cards.
Many fans of urban literature don’t read science fiction because they don’t see themselves in those stories and many science fiction fans don’t read urban fiction because they believe urban fiction to be poorly written, poorly edited and full of cliché. Neither side has done enough research. Great books can be found in both genres.
Redeemer is such a book and is the best mash-up of both genres. EVER.
I won’t reveal anymore. You’ll have to read the book. You’ll be glad you did.
The author would like to thank the reviewers of the novel, Redeemer and a special thanks goes out to Dr. Vanessa Irvin Morris, who provided the bulk of the research for this article.
I think of Redeemer as a sci-fi gangster epic. Some say I have created “the perfect bridge” between urban fiction and science fiction and call it “Urban Science Fiction”. And some simply call it Science Fiction.
I dunno. You tell me what it is after you read it.
Think American Gangster or Goodfellas meets The Time Machine.
Here is an excerpt:
His movement was swift…silent.
He found himself thanking God again – this time, for Chagga Mutwa, patriarch of the Tokoloshe guild of assassins and expert in the arts of invisibility and quiescence.
Ezekiel had spent two years of harsh training, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, under the tutelage of the sapient old master.
In those two years, he had learned much.
Ezekiel tested the front door. The steel entryway creaked open. No surprise. Engineers’ Row – or, ‘The Twilight Zone’, as the youth called it – was patrolled and protected by fearsome and efficient Nano-Drones.
Swarming an intruder by the thousands, these nearly microscopic, cybernetic organisms invaded a victim’s body through his orifices. The minuscule drones would then connect to the victim’s nervous system and shut the intruder down, rendering him comatose until the arrival of the police.
Of course, when your boss is Danny Sweet – owner of the company that created the Drones – the little terrors presented no problem at all.
Ezekiel crept into the warehouse. Through the dim light, he could see rows of crates, filled with wires, computer parts, electronic gadgets, rods, gears and motors of various sizes. The hangar-sized warehouse reeked with the smell of copper and axle grease.
Suddenly, voices came – low and in a staccato rhythm. Ezekiel crouched low and tilted his head toward the sound, as if to bring his right ear closer to it. No, not voices, Ezekiel realized. A voice. A woman’s voice…rapping a tune from his early childhood.
His father would play the song and talk about the rapper performing it as if the man was a god. “Biggie is a genius!” His father would proclaim. “The mad scientist of hip-hop!”
The name of the song came to Ezekiel – ‘Warning’.
The assassin moved across the warehouse in a quick, zigzagging shuffle.
The woman’s voice grew louder.
“…I got the Calico with the black talons loaded in the clip.”
The voice was coming from a small office at the rear of the warehouse. Ezekiel rushed toward the office door, aimed his pistol and snatched the door wide open.
He rolled into the room, quickly popping up to a kneeling position, with his pistol at the ready.
The room, however, was empty, save a large plasma television in the corner of the room. On top of the television sat what appeared to be a gold watch.
Suddenly, the door slammed shut. Ezekiel whirled around to face it.
The low click that followed told him that the door had locked.
Ezekiel aimed his pistol at the doorknob.
The television came to life with a soft hum. “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.”
Once Upon A Time In Afrika is Sword & Soul.
Here is an excerpt:
Tayewo sailed through the air, thrashing like a mackerel on the floor of a fisherman’s boat. He landed on a row of large, wooden bata drums – his buttocks, elbows and the back of his head pounding out a thunderous tune before he slid to the floor. Tayewo grunted as his ebony-toned back smacked the cold marble.
Ṣeeke smiled. It was the first time she had thrown someone with a wheel kick and she had executed it perfectly. “Mistress Oyabakin would be proud,” she thought.
Ṣeeke’s smile faded as she found herself hoisted into the air by her brother, Kehinde, who had trapped her in a powerful bear-hug from behind.
Though identical in size and appearance to Tayewo, Kehinde was nearly twice as strong and knew how to use his strength to do damage.
Ṣeeke hooked her left foot around Kehinde’s left ankle and then reached behind her, pressing her palm into the middle of Kehinde’s back.
Try as he might, Kehinde could not throw his sister, who seemed to be stuck to him like palm oil to white cloth.
Suddenly, Ṣeeke bent forward, grabbing Kehinde’s right ankle with both hands. She continued her forward momentum, rolling over into a seated position, which sent Kehinde careening over Ṣeeke and onto his back, beside his sister, with his right leg trapped between both of hers.
Ṣeeke held Kehinde’s foot tightly to her chest as she propelled herself backward, until she lay beside her brother. She then thrust her pelvis upward, against Kehinde’s knee, as she arched her back and expanded her chest.
Kehinde screamed in agony as his knee hyper-extended and the ligaments stretched to their limits.
“Release him Ṣeeke! Now!”
Ṣeeke immediately recognized the bellowing, baritone voice. “Yes, Baba.”
Ṣeeke released her grip on her brother’s ankle.
Kehinde rolled onto his side, massaging his aching knee.
“Is Kehinde’s knee dislocated?” The Alaafin asked.
“No, father,” Ṣeeke said, as she sprang to her feet. “He should be fine in a day or two.”
“How does the knee feel?” The Alaafin asked Kehinde.
“It hurts when I do this, Baba,” Kehinde replied, extending and then bending his knee in a stiff, choppy rhythm.
“Then, don’t do that,” the Alaafin said.
After you read these novels, please, give me feedback and honest critique. I want your experience, when reading my books, to be nothing short of Blacknificent!