Barbadian Time Warp: 3rd Book from author is Hard-Boiled Caribbean: Blades Overstreet’s debut from pen of Glenville Lovell (*PG-13* MILD SPOILERS)

I have heard that Humphrey Bogart on receiving the Oscar for his role in African Queen said it is fairer to judge five actors doing the same film rather than judging five separate movies. Nevertheless, despite the advice of both Bogey and the Desiderata (which discourages such comparisons) – it is human nature to compare works if they are of a similar milieu.

This is happening with me at the moment – having not only read both Eric Jerome Dickey and Glenville Lovell, but having the privilege to interview them each on different occasions. Like EJD, Glenville has done many things, he is also a dancer and playwright – today The Bajan Reporter is looking at his third book, a detective novel.

So without any more ado, here’s my spin on Too Beautiful To Die (TBTD) – Blades Overstreet’s introduction to American/Caribbean detective fiction, this was published in 2003 by Putnam, another subsidiary of Penguin Books and also a supporter of Afro-American authors like Eric Jerome Dickey.

When Glenville‘s book opened four years ago, it was to much critical acclaim and fanfare – having personally read the book, my take on it is a bit different.

While this is my first read with Glenville, his style for this tale seems a bit like Robert Parker‘s Spenser and/or Raymond Chandler‘s Philip Marlowe – but it is a bit dryer than that, almost clinical.

The Caribbean references in TBTD are very accurate and pleasant to see, but a bit mundane as for readers on this side of the Diaspora it is a bit like coals in Newcastlerotis, calypso music, rum, Banks or Carib beer, the fact Barbadians helped build the Panama Canal, Jamaican Patties, sorrel & mauby as well as Eastern Parkway and the Labor Day Carnival.

There could have been more in-depth references like how many Caribbean politicians run banana republics once the votes favour them, thus without the perpetual coups as do their South American counterparts; the ousting of journalists from one island to another depending on the regime’s whim among other things which could have been mentioned like the nightlife of Gros Islet in St Lucia, getting shark&bake along the beaches of Mayaro in Trinidad, or trying the Bush Bar in Spring Garden in St. Michael, Barbados.

There was one sex-scene in all of TBTD, it was very brief and almost pasted in to ensure there were some kind of sales for this new variation of a genre. The story in the way it was constructed could have moved with or without it, for me it did not seem memorable.

The plot was a bit long in developing and sub-plots were even slower, the main twist I did not foresee and that was probably due to the time it took to develop the other nuances. They were not lethargical in accumulating, rather, the book’s layers were so intricate and detailed there was a lot of minutiae obscuring the main events.

Language was not as blunt as say EJD, and there was not as much to philosophically quote, but the hero was definitely a tortured soul and the villains were totally scum of the earth.

It seems this half-Caribbean soap opera actress was determined to learn who her father was, she sought out Blades based on advice of a mutual pal – in his probing and learning of the insides of Brooklyn’s Afro-Caribbean political community this eventually leads to the actress’ death!

This murder is pinned at Blades by the NYPD, who with the mayor, have a hard-on for Blades as he sued the force for what he saw as a racial incident involving potential corruption and his near-slaying.

It is now a race against time for Blades to persist in finding the identity of the actress’ father as this is the key to proving his innocence. In his probings, he discovers a high-tech dissemination of child pornography and collapses a whole network laid out more carefully than a house of cards.

There is a lot of history mentioned from the 60’s Civil Rights movement, Black Panthers, and white hate-mongering mixed into the stew, a very ambitious attempt at the get-go, but while Glenville seemed to fall short in some areas, nevertheless he touched the mark in others…

White cops see Blades as just another uppity n***a, whereas black cops think of him as a blanched piece of chocolate unsure if he wishes to be Caucasian or trying too hard to be black (his father is black and mother white – even members of his own family detest him for that). Being a mixed Caribbean personality myself I can understand the dichotomies he endures. I will still look for other works of Glenville to ensure I have a balanced view!

If TBTD does get to a movie or tv status, I tip my hat to Shemar Moore for the title role!

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