One of the more underrated aspects of the recent Netflix Luke Cage miniseries was the attention it paid to black literature. In particular, a conversation about author Donald Goines during one episode instantly sold me four of his books– and by instantly, I mean I literally opened the Amazon app on my phone and ordered the books in between scenes. Goines’ Kenyatta series– Crime Partners, Death List, Kenyatta’s Escape, and Kenyatta’s Last Hit, have been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of weeks now waiting for me to finish the Hamilton biography and get to them.
I read all four of them today and yesterday. It sounds like an accomplishment, but they’re not very long– only Last Hit tops 200 pages– and I’ve been off from work.
Imagine Conan, but written in the 1970s– dear God, there is nothing more 1970s than these books– and set in the ghettos of Detroit and Los Angeles instead of Cimmeria, and you actually have a pretty good idea of what these books are like. The prose is occasionally, to put it mildly, terrible– see the excerpt above– but the books have so much energy and passion to them that I couldn’t put any of them down. Goines’ literary career lasted something like five years and he released over a dozen books during that time before being found shot to death in his home. I hate to bring in a Hamilton reference again, but it’s appropriate: the man wrote like he was running out of time, and his Wikipedia entry speculates that he wrote to stave off heroin addiction. The Kenyatta series is frantically-paced in the best way; it’s as if Goines physically needed to get the story out of him as best he could and barely glanced at it before moving on to the next one.
Think about checking them out, is what I’m saying, even if the page above makes you cringe. Do it anyway.