Jim Dandy

Irvin Faust, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $21 (297p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0062-2
When, in 1936, African American Harlem numbers-runner Hollis Cleveland double-crosses his wisecracking, cigar-chomping Jewish boss, he knows he's in trouble. So he assumes the alias of ``Jim Dandy'' (the name of a minstrel-show character he played as a boy in South Carolina) and absconds to Ethiopia to join the fight against Mussolini's invading troops. Faust's ( Willy Remembers ) first novel in 14 years is an engrossing, complex exploration of race relations, politics and the search for identity. Though a Canadian war correspondent dubs Hollis ``a sepia Lawrence of Arabia,'' and though Emperor Haile Selassie begs him to continue his brave exploits, Hollis feels a racial divide between himself and the Ethiopians, who maintain that they ``are not Negro.'' Faust has an unerring ear for dialogue and creates memorable characters, such as as African American pilot Maximilian Joseph, a former U.S. Army Air Corps general turned soldier of fortune who flies Hollis around Africa, and Sir Henry Armitage, a wealthy English protofascist crackpot who mistakes Hollis for an Ethiopian prince. Faust interpolates jazzy riffs on colonialism, race and history, and closes symbolically with Hollis, back in New York in 1938, deciding his next move even as heavyweight champ Joe Louis, the ``Brown Bomber,'' knocks out ``beetle-browed Hun'' Max Schmeling. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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