NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of Harlem Shuffle continues his Harlem saga in a powerful and hugely-entertaining novel that summons 1970s New York in all its seedy glory.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Colson Whitehead continues his foray into crime fiction with this amazing follow-up to 2021’s Harlem Shuffle. (If you haven’t read the first one yet, don’t worry—though you’ll probably want to as soon as you finish this.) At the dawn of the 1970s, successful Harlem furniture store owner Ray Carney finds himself tempted back into his former gig moving stolen merchandise in order to get tickets to a sold-out Jackson 5 concert for his daughter. The street has changed since Ray’s day, though, with the Black Panthers and their revolution-minded offshoots drawing heat and crooked cops battling a new breed of honest officers within their departments. Whitehead’s immersive writing makes you feel like you’re in the center of the action, and the story is even looser, faster, and more darkly funny than the first one. Whitehead plans one more book to finish Ray’s tale, but we’d be happy to read many more installments.
Whitehead returns with a colorful if haphazard sequel to Harlem Shuffle involving an interconnected series of misguided capers. In 1971, Harlem furniture dealer Art Carney hits up corrupt cop and fixer Detective Munson for Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter. Munson, in possession of some stolen diamonds, reels Carney back into the fence work he'd recently retired from in exchange for the tickets. The night takes a turn for the worse when Munson forces Carney at gunpoint to help with more dangerous errands, including a stickup of a neighborhood gangster's poker game. The next and strongest section focuses on Pepper, Carney's occasional associate in crime, who is moonlighting as hired muscle on a 1973 Blaxploitation film production. When actor Lucinda Cole goes missing, Pepper visits her drug dealer, a dangerous gangster, and others, spilling a fair amount of blood on Lucinda's behalf. In the final act, Carney hires Pepper to find out who's setting tenement fires at the same time as redevelopment schemes transform the dilapidated neighborhood. Unfortunately, the momentum is throttled by copious references to events in the previous book, while an explosive climax feels rushed. Still, almost every page has at least one great line ("A man has a hierarchy of crime, of what is morally acceptable and what is not"). There's fun to be had, but it's not Whitehead's best.
Excellent read, I love the entertwine
of historical events and figures!!
Stories of the New York I grew up in…
Not to be missed!
The writing is unparalleled. A work of art. Highly recommended.