Crook ManifestoColson Whitehead
1971, New York City. Trash piles up on the streets, crime is at an all-time high, the city is going bankrupt, and a shooting war has broken out between the NYPD and the Black Liberation Army. Furniture store owner and ex-fence Ray Carney is trying to keep his head down, his business up and his life straight. But then he needs Jackson 5 tickets for his daughter May and he decides to hit up an old police contact, who wants favours in return. For Ray, staying out of the game gets a lot more complicated - and deadly.
1973. The old ways are being overthrown by the thriving counterculture, but Pepper, Carney's enduringly violent partner in crime, is a constant. In these difficult times, Pepper takes on a side gig doing security on a Blaxploitation shoot in Harlem, finding himself in a world of Hollywood stars and celebrity drug dealers, in addition to the usual cast of hustlers, mobsters and hit men. These adversaries underestimate the seasoned crook - to their regret.
1976. Harlem is burning, while the country gears up for the Bicentennial. Carney is trying to come up with a celebratory July 4th advertisement he can actually live with, while his wife Elizabeth is campaigning for her childhood friend, rising politician Alexander Oakes. When a fire seriously injures one of Carney's tenants, he enlists Pepper to look into who may be behind it, navigating a crumbling metropolis run by the shady, the violent and the utterly corrupt.
In scalpel-sharp prose and with unnerving clarity and wit, Colson Whitehead writes about a city that runs on cronyism, threats, ego, ambition, incompetence and even, sometimes, pride. Crook Manifesto is a kaleidoscopic portrait of Harlem, and a searching portrait of how families work in the face of chaos and hostility.