Renowned painter, art impresario, and cofounder of Def Poetry Jam, Danny Simmons captures the atmosphere of the 1980s art and nightclub scene in New York City's East Village in this accomplished debut novel.
Crow Shade is a quick-witted college drop-out blinded to his own worth by his drug habit. After stealing three paintings and a manuscript from an artist friend in order to scare up some drug money, Crow finds himself in an eccentric circle of people who open the door to what seems a golden opportunity: access to more drugs, sex, and money than he ever imagined.
With a facility that surprises even himself, Crow manages to convince a gallery owner that he's the artist, and the paintings are shown in an exhibit attended by such A-list art-world players and celebrities as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and even Joseph "Rev. Run DMC" Simmons -- the author's real-life sibling. As the stakes grow ever higher, all in the pursuit of a good time, Crow begins to worry whether this time he's finally dug himself a hole of deception deeper than he can overcome.
Written with an unerring ear for real-world conversational rhythms, Three Days as the Crow Flies keeps readers engaged, wondering if and when the impressive lies Crow Shade strings together -- not to mention the artist friend he robbed -- will ever catch up to him. Exuberant and ingeniously structured, the novel is funny, sexy, and pitch-perfect in its evocation of the textures and vernacular of the now-legendary New York art scene.
A painter, gallery owner, poet and debut novelist, Simmons gives us a not entirely convincing portrait of New York's East Village 1980s bohemian culture. The protagonist, Crow Shade, a black cocaine addict, steals three paintings and a book manuscript produced by a friend in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and attempts to sell them in the Village, passing them off as his own work. In the process he meets an assortment of unusual characters, ranging from bag ladies to Andy Warhol. He becomes particularly close to Candy, a gorgeous, streetwise Puerto Rican store clerk, who, we later discover, conveniently happens to have a master's degree in art history and appraisal. Another friend, Bones, appears to be a penniless hippie, but turns to his middle-class family when the going gets rough; he has art world connections, too. Crow's most important mentor is Melissa, a Louisiana conjure woman who is also an intellectual, artist and owner of an apartment building. When she meets him, Melissa has some doubts whether Crow is the artist and writer he claims to be. She challenges him to improvise some poetry, which he does instinctively and brilliantly, to his great surprise. Later, he manages to get the three stolen paintings into a well-attended art show. The gallery owner wants more canvases, so Crow intuitively paints three outstanding pieces guided by "forces." Crow's sudden discovery of his poetic and artistic gifts, Melissa's all-knowing and all-powerful persona and the plethora of idealized characters, coincidences and amazing revelations make this work difficult to take seriously, in spite of its colorful and entertaining depiction of the East Village in its glory days.