Re: RARA-AVIS: books w/CDs

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 21 Sep 2000

I found a copy of Ronin Ro's Street Sweeper (sans CD) in a used bookstore yesterday. Since there was no info (and none of the ads the NYTimes article mentions), I'm guessing it was a reviewer's copy.

I'm about a third of the way through and I must say it's pretty bad. So far, it's a very generic hit man story.

I can't quite tell if Ro's writing is just stilted or if he is trying to write simply for a younger audience. Instead, it comes off as simplistic, not simple. Let's just say he's no Jess Mowry, who writes realistic stories about the inner city for young adults.

And those who hate use of brand names in books will despise Street Sweeper. The prologue, Chapter Zero, is a walk through the lead character's apartment, listing the brand of every piece of furniture, CD, suit, safe and, finally, guns. I'm on record as liking that in Pelecanos, thinking it can be very useful as an indicator of character. Here it feels like nothing more than product placement and/or namedropping, especially since Ro does not do the same for any other character. If he really believed products gave insight into character, Ro would be consistent. We know the brand of every article of clothing worn by Jerome Usher, but the clothes of everyone else are described generically. It seems overdone on Usher, underdone on everyone else. It seems like he linked his own favored brands to his hero, but didn't want to bother figuring out the brands other might favor. It just feels sloppy.

Now, I'll keep reading it, hoping it will get better, but I don't have high hopes. There may be more hope for the series, though, since Gary Phillips and Joel Rose are both on deck with books.


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