cover image Cadillac Orpheus

Cadillac Orpheus

Solon Timothy Woodward, . . Free Press, $25 (255pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-4930-7

A troika of African-American misfits—father, son and grandson—fuel Woodward's raw, eclectic first novel. Teo Toak, one of eight brothers, is a crooked deal maker in fictional Johnsonville, Fla. An unscrupulous bail bondsman by day, Teo moonlights as a slumlord while keeping close tabs on his errant embarrassment of a son, Feddy, a drifter who lives on one of his father's properties and dates Sharon, a white unlicensed day-care provider with a penchant for black men. Feddy's 22-year-old son, Jesmond, repossesses rental furniture with an iron fist and finds himself in a compromising situation with sexy Peaches Richmond, a wanton woman married to a malevolent military policeman nicknamed “Special Ed.” Joining them is Medgar Coots, Feddy's psychiatrist, anxious to make a shady cemetery land deal with Teo, and Bayonne, the local pastor's gay son who becomes implicated in the death of “Big Boy,” his 500-pound, HIV-positive partner. An act of God forces the whole sordid cast to sort out their own personal demons. As the plot sputters on, so do the crude vernacular and raw imagery, and Woodward, a Harvard and Mayo Clinic–trained physician, ultimately leans too heavily on shock tactics instead of solid storytelling and plot development. (Feb.)