MATTHEW HENSON AND THE ICE TEMPLE OF HARLEM is the first in a new exciting retro rollicking adventure series from 2021 Munsey Award-nominee Gary Phillips. This re-imagined pulp novel follows the Doc Savage-style adventures of the first black man to reach the North Pole —Matthew Henson.
The tail end of the Roaring 20s. Harlem. Hired by controversial spiritual leader Daddy Paradise to retrieve his adult daughter who has been kidnapped, adventurer Matthew Henson does just that. Then he must safeguard the two until the firebrand can deliver a momentous speech at a mass rally. Henson must employ all his survival skills to fulfill his task—skills that kept him whole in forbidden jungles, across Asia, and in sub-zero ice storms when he first reached the North Pole.
Henson’s charge brings him face-to-face with such illustrious characters as gangster Dutch Schultz, who's looking to muscle out numbers racket boss Queenie St. Clair, and famed inventor Nikola Tesla who is using his electrical acumen to surveil plutocrats. Henson’s pal Bessie Coleman, America’s first black aviatrix lends a hand as well. With a death ray zeroing in on him, he races against the clock to save lives, and keep a mysterious and powerful meteor fragment he brought back from the Arctic years ago out of the hands of monied evil-doers.
Set against the intellectual, artistic and political firmament that was the Harlem Renaissance, THE ICE TEMPLE OF HARLEM re-imagines explorer Matthew Henson in the style of Doc Savage and Indiana Jones. The one the Inuit adopted as their own and considered the best example of those from the distant South.
Launching a genre-mashing adventure series set in the 1920s, Phillips (The Movie Makers) drops a historical Black explorer who was part of Robert Peary's Arctic expeditions into a pulpy battle with ambitious gangsters and sinister cabalists. Matthew Henson was the first man to set foot on the North Pole, but his race kept him from getting the recognition he deserved. Now he's a freelance bodyguard protecting beautiful Destiny Stevenson from kidnappers hired by mobster Dutch Schultz. Schultz hopes to manipulate Destiny's father, charismatic Black religious leader Daddy Paradise, and seize control of the thriving Harlem numbers racket. He's also in cahoots with Fremont Davis, a financier and part of the mysterious Medusa Council. In its quest to rule the world, the Council seeks a mysterious meteorite that Henson brought back from one of his expeditions, hoping to use it to activate a death ray developed by Nikola Tesla. This breathless plot plays out in snappy scenes populated with flashy characters, though many won't get much play until future installments. The result is a tropey and diverting adventure, distinguished by its Jazz Age Harlem setting and unflinching depiction of 1920s race relations.