Victor Lavalle has created a very dark horror story in “The Ballad of Black Tom” that uses the daily horror of being a black person in the 1920's as the backdrop for a birth of a new horror on the world. In “The Ballad of Black Tom”, Charles Thomas Tester journeys into a dark and dangerous world that exist in the physical and magical worlds. As you read this book, you will be gripped by the constant closeness of danger the central character faces as the story unfolds. This novella moves fast and keeps you engaged every minute.
How did I find “The Ballad of Black Tom” by Victor Lavalle?
I started reading Victor Lavalle's graphic novel series “Destroyer”. More about this graphic book series later. I will say that its creativity and innovative story inspired me to see what else Victor Lavalle has produced. Then found “The Ballad of Black Tom”.
Immediately, i was drawn in by the cover. Seeing the lone man walking with his guitar case down an alley sparked my initial interest. Then I read the back cover and I knew this was a book I wanted to add to my “To Be Read” list. I am discovering the world of horror stories created by black authors and this has been a great reading journey.
Why do I like thisbook?
First this story has a great amount of suspense that keeps the story moving along and maintains your interest. Victor Lavalle is a good wordsmith. His descriptions paint such a real picture of the dark world in this story. The dialog and interaction of the characters in the story made me feel the uneasiness that the central character faced.
I also like the way Victor Lavalle uses Harlem in the 1920's as a backdrop for his story. As you read the story, you will get a vivid picture of Harlem and New York during this time period. Make note of the names he drops in this story. These are real people in history like Willie “The Lion” Smith. This technique makes the narrative have greater credibility.
I mentioned earlier that Lavalle tells this horror story of magical things and beings against a backdrop of the day by day horror black people lived every day in the 1920s. Black life was very hard. So hard that thousands of black people fled the south where terrorist attacks against them were common. When you look at the writings of Ida B. Wells and hear the accounts of lynchings that occurred, you can realize that the life of a black people was not valued and there was always a constant threat hanging in the air. So, people fled north and west but found a new type of horror. While the signs that clearly stated an area was for “White Only” did not exist, it was clearly understood where you could and could not go and be safe. There was still the constant threat that any white person could cause you trouble if they felt you were in the wrong part of town. So, this is the world that the central character Charles Thomas Tester navigates.
I love the way Lavalle blends the tensions of Tester's day to day life to survive with the suspense that comes from delivering one magical item to one very strange lady. The feeling the central character, Charles Tester, feels as he falls into a world that is very foreign to his normal world. A new magical world where he has even less security and is at greater risk from the whims of the people/creatures that inhabit it. A world where guns and badges are the least of you worries.
More about Victor Lavalle's Destroyer series?
In Destroyer, Lavelle moves the Frankenstein theme to the near future. A world of advanced science and really tech. In this six book graphic series, Lavalle's “Dr. Frankenstein” is a black female scientist, Dr. Baker. This is a really good story. You have so much going on, but everything ties together perfectly. There is the return of Frankenstein's monster who is truly a destroyer. There is “The Lab” and its leader. Are they trying to protect the world or is there another motivation? Finally, we have the story of a family that is torn apart by incidents beyond their control even when they are masters of some of the greatest tech out there.
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One of NPR's Best Books of 2016, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award for Novella of the Year, and a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker AwardsPeople move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them...More info →
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