Now it's time for Raleigh-based graphic novelist and writer Lewis Shiner to get into the act with a novel, "Black and White," published this month by Subterranean Press.
The novel -- which is prominently featured at The Regulator on Ninth St., which will host a reading with Shiner next Friday, July 11 -- mixes modern-day and urban renewal-period Durham, telling a family's story intermingled with a fictionalized tale of race relations in the difficult South during the civil rights era. As the Los Angeles Times' Sarah Weinman writes in her book review this Sunday:
The novel's quiet start introduces Michael, an Austin, Texas-based fledgling comic book illustrator who, at age 35, thinks himself "too old . . . to spend this much time with his parents" even as his career and romantic prospects leave him with limited options. The terminal cancer diagnosis of Robert, his father, and Robert's insistence on spending his dying days in Durham, N.C., give Michael a new purpose and bring him back to his birthplace, where he will hear his dad's last confession: involvement in a murder four decades ago in the heart of the once-bustling black Durham neighborhood of Hayti, which has lain fallow ever since, after deeply embedded racial hatred brought it down in flames during a riot.
The admission opens a Pandora's box of twists that shred Michael's supposed origins to ribbons and are revealed in a mixture of lengthy flashbacks and multiple viewpoints growing seamlessly out of Shiner's narrative. The tiered structure presents, with startling emotional acuity, an array of characters and allows the reader to see them in their truthful, monstrous, sympathetic glory.
Although the N&O was a little more mixed in its praise for the novel in its own review, printed in Sunday's paper, the early buzz on the book ("Motherless Brooklyn" author Jonathan Lethem calls it "both a page-turner and an urban documentary with a big, fierce heart") coupled with its Bull City canvas make it natural summer reading for Durhamites looking to see a more-fictional perspective on our hometown.
If you've had a chance to read the just-released novel, post your thoughts here in the comments; I'll add my own once I've had a chance to pick up and digest the book myself.