cover image It's Like Candy

It's Like Candy

Erick S. Gray, . . St. Martin's Griffin, $14.95 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34997-4

Sex, violence and crime dominate Gray's fifth novel, a wild trip through Jamaica, Queens, that reads not unlike a novelization of a Jay-Z album. Eric, a smalltime hustler who sells marijuana and promotes underground parties, is content with his low-key life until he meets River, a stunner who captures his heart and libido. River, it turns out, is a hustler in her own right, and sets up Eric for her two male partners to assault and rob, but even the $35,000 take can't blunt the feelings River has for her mark. Meanwhile, River's younger sister, Starr, a 16-year-old prostitute hospitalized after a run-in with a violent john, wants out of the life. Eric's cousin Russell, paroled after seven years in prison, is hell-bent on retaking the Queens neighborhoods he once ran. Though Gray's not the sharpest stylist, he keeps the story moving, and as the narratives converge, he pours on the luridness. The characters are thin, but the atmosphere is frighteningly seductive. Street lit fans will definitely want to take a look. (Mar.)