Hunting in Harlem
By Mat Johnson
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781582342726, 300pp.)
Publication Date: May 1, 2003
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Gentrification-by any means necessary.
With the help of new employees Cedric, Bobby, and Horus-three ex-cons trying to forge a new life-Lester Baines's Horizon Realty is bringing Harlem back to its renaissance. Fate seems to be working in Lester's favor when Harlem's undesirable tenants begin to get clumsy and meet early deaths by accident. A deadbeat dad electrocutes himself in the bathtub. A drug dealer takes flight from his fire escape. A pimp is shot dead by police when they mistake his wallet for a handgun. That's where Horizon steps in. Block by block, Lester and his crew clear out the rubble and the rabble, filling once dilapidated brownstones with black professionals handpicked for their shared vision of Harlem as a shining icon for the race.
Rumors of the Chupacabra, a mythical monster claiming the lives of Harlem's unfortunate, run rampant with Harlem's youth. But it isn't until an ambitious reporter begins to investigate the extraordinarily high accident rate in Harlem that Lester starts to get a little nervous about Horizon's future. For Lester, no cost is too high in protecting Horizon and his vision for restoration. The battle for gentrification and for the souls and very lives of the ex-cons plays out on the streets of Harlem and against a backdrop of beautiful Manhattan brownstones.
Mat Johnson has created vividly memorable characters and a story that stands out as one of the most controversial and explosive in years. As sure to ignite debate as it is to entertain, Hunting in Harlem is an old-fashioned page-turner with a fresh and brave voice.
Mat Johnson is the author of the novel Drop. He received his MFA from Columbia, where he studied under Michael Cunningham and Maureen Howard. He spent several years living in Harlem and now lives in his native Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.