Books by Ernest Hill

FAMILY TIES by Ernest Hill
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

"Quasi-gritty but nothing too surprising."
A novel that focuses primarily on African-American experiences, but Hill provides a universal—and didactic—moral point as he revisits characters from his previous fiction. Read full book review >
CRY ME A RIVER by Ernest Hill
Released: April 1, 2003

"It be rich bottom-folk dialogue amid the heavy weather. Readers will drag their hearts about like rocks."
Hill's beclouded third is something of a variation on his A Life for a Life (1998), in which a Louisiana lad, convicted of killing a grocery-store clerk, is put away and, during his six years as a prisoner, is befriended and regularly visited by the dead clerk's forgiving father. Read full book review >
A LIFE FOR A LIFE by Ernest Hill
Released: Aug. 1, 1998

Kitchen-sink realism among bottom-dogs in Louisiana gives the first half of Hill's second novel (Satisfied with Nothin—, 1996) an absorbing artistry. Hill gets off to a seemingly amateurish start of high melodrama that swiftly morphs into a hook that locks your eyes to the page. Ten-year-old Little Man was inadvertently seduced into taking crack by the sister of drug dealer Kojak, who now has Little Man bound to a chair and will kill him unless Little Man's brother, D—Ray Reid, 15, comes up with a hundred bucks to pay for Little Man's crack. D—Ray steals his mother's pistol, then a truck, and drives to a grocery store outside the black community, where he kills Stanley, the clerk. D—Ray feels the law closing in on him; he has a record, and his fingerprints are on the truck and in the grocery store. But before he goes into hiding, we—re treated to two choruses, one conducted in a barbershop as the customers await their haircuts (race relations are discussed at great length) and the other among three women in the Reid living room (where we learn that D—Ray's father is in prison for life, having killed a white man). The lad-on-the-run theme speeds along nicely, neatly handled. When he's captured and put on trial for killing Stanley, D—Ray comes up with some fanciful alibis but is nonetheless convicted of Murder One and put away. During his six years as a prisoner, D—Ray is visited regularly by Stanley's father, Mr. Henry Earl, who wants D—Ray to reform and take his dead son's place in the family. The sentimental ending aside, Hills's swift simplicity in the telling and his rich black dialogue will carry you along. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

Hill's odd first novel, previously self-published, can be read two ways: either as an advertisement for a Tony Brownstyle self- help black nationalism or as a cautionary tale on what happens when you see everything through the distorting lens of race. Something of a throwback to the angry realism of Richard Wright, Hill's straightforward, at times heavy-handed, narrative argues that rural, northeastern Louisiana in the '70s was just as racist and violent as during the Jim Crow era, which makes this story seem to exist in a time warp. Growing up in Pinesboro, Jamie Ray Griffin suffers from the forced integration of schools. At least in his all-black neighborhood no one resented his presence, or treated him with open contempt, as the students, teachers, and coaches do at his new school. While his best friend, Booger, invites the violence of his oppressors, Jamie keeps to himself, and begins to excel at football. Even so, remaining scornful of his mother's pie-in-the-sky religion, Jamie seethes with rage, waiting to leave his nightmarish town. His cousin, Eight Ball, is caned, castrated, and killed by local whites for secretly meeting with his white boss's daughter. Jamie does manage to escape on a football scholarship to a New Orleans college, but the racist teachers and coaches treat him as no more than a means to a conference championship. Railing against the ``white, racist educational system,'' Jamie ignores his studies and dreams of pro ball until a series of knee injuries hastens his decline: He ends up back in Pinesboro, chopping cotton. As subtle as a sledgehammer, Hill's polemical fiction, punctuated with lots of stilted speechmaking, is primarily addressed to black men—it's long on sociology and implied uplift, short on nuance or art. Read full book review >