cover image Black Hornet

Black Hornet

James Sallis. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $18.95 (150pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0118-6

With two fine crime works in the tales of black operative Lew Griffin (Moth and The Long-Legged Fly), Sallis here delivers another: a prequel and a grim, utterly absorbing novel set in 1960s New Orleans. Griffin, a boozer, freelance investigator and occasional saint to the poor, reads a lot, hangs out with his tender lover, a whore named LaVerne, and views the radical black movement with an anesthetized detachment. He gets a crash course in radical anger when he meets a prominent white woman journalist, then watches as she is gunned down, the latest victim of a black shooter, a pro gunman bound for either hell or glory. He becomes a pal to a white cop whose brother is another of the recently slain. Although most of Lew's waking hours are spent close to drunk and absorbed in books that help him reflect upon the demons that dog him, he nevertheless reaches a resolution that seems a perfect tying up of loose circumstances. Sallis's New Orleans sparkles gaudily even in the passionate economy of his prose, marked by such arresting images as that of 12-string blues shot through with the amber from the dregs of a shot glass. (Oct.)