By Caryl Phillips
(Vintage Books USA, Paperback, 9781400079841, 235pp.)
Publication Date: November 11, 2008
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From an acclaimed, award-winning novelist comes this brilliant hybrid of reportage, fiction, and historical fact: the stories of three black men whose tragic lives speak resoundingly to the problem of race in British society.
With his characteristic grace and forceful prose, Phillips describes the lives of three very different men: Francis Barber, “given” to the 18th-century writer Samuel Johnson, whose friendship with Johnson led to his wretched demise; Randolph Turpin, a boxing champion who ended his life in debt and decrepitude; and David Oluwale, a Nigerian stowaway who arrived in Leeds in 1949 and whose death at the hands of police twenty years later was a wake up call for the entire nation. As Phillips weaves together these three stories, he illuminates the complexities of race relations and social constraints with devastating results.