Incomparable World

S. I. Martin, Author George Braziller $22.5 (213p) ISBN 978-0-8076-1436-5
An engagingly slapstick but unfocused debut from a London journalist gains most of its interest from its setting: black London of the 1780s. Having fought for their freedom on the British side during the American Revolution, ex-slaves Buckram, Georgie George and William Supple are promised pensions but instead find dire poverty and misery on the West End. When the novel opens, hapless protagonist Buckram has just been released from jail, having been caught in one of Georgie's habitual bungled schemes. Back on the street, Buckram soon finds himself drawn into more shady business, distributing black pornography, another of hustler Georgie's ideas. ""His was an incomparable world,"" Martin writes of Georgie. ""His passion was in having the time of his life and no one could slight his desire""--perhaps the only sane reaction to a world in which he finds himself a victim everywhere. The kicker comes when Georgie involves all three men in the grandest caper of their lives: a scheme to swindle American slave-traders by posing to the consuls at the American embassy as African potentates. In awkward contrast to the madcap aspects of Buckram's tale, Martin draws pathos from the squalor of the poor man's London and the plights of exiles like Supple, who pines for his wife and children in America. With often anachronistic dialogue and attitudes, Martin's romping adventure story succeeds best as the late-20th-century dream of what it was like to be black in a time that turns out not to have been much different from ours. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
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