RARA-AVIS: Women writing men

From: Larson, Craig ( Craig.Larson@trinidadstate.edu)
Date: 04 Sep 2002

I'd have to say that Kris Nelscott is doing an excellent job so far writing about a protagonist who is not just a man, but a black man in a very specific time period (the turbulent 60s). Nelscott is a pseudonym for the author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who is fairly well-known in science fiction and fantasy circles. Since my busy weekend, I've picked up and read most of the second book in this series, _Smoke- Filled Rooms_, which takes place in Chicago at the time of the Democratic convention in 1968.

Smokey and his charge Jimmy are still on the run from sinister forces in the government that want to silence Jimmy because of what he witnessed during the assassination of Martin Luther King, but for a relatively short time, they feel like they've found some sanctuary with an old friend of Smokey's. Smokey gets a job as a security guard at the downtown Hilton and begins to do some odd jobs, finding lost people in the neighborhood and such. But when a young boy from his building is found dead, apparently tortured, Smokey realizes that perhaps he and Jimmy aren't as safe as they thought.

I've still got about 80 pages to go, but this book has been just as riveting as the first. Smokey is a very believable and human protagonist. He's a lot like Easy Rawlins, though with more education and with less of the rough edges. It's hard for him to keep a low profile--at the Hilton, he solves a series of thefts and is written up in a local black newspaper. When he interacts with the police who are investigating the boy's death (which appears to be the third in a series), he can't keep his knowledge of police procedure a secret and continually surprises two detectives with his knowledge, further endangering himself and Jimmy. Highly recommended and I know I'll be looking forward to the third book in this series.

Craig Larson Trinidad, CO

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