Books by Jake Lamar

Jake Lamar is the author of the acclaimed memoir Bourgeois Blues and four novels: The Last Integrationist (translated into French as Nous avions un rêve) Close to the Bone, If Six Were Nine (translated into French as Le Caméléon Noir) and, most recently,

Released: June 5, 2006

"Lamar (Rendezvous Eighteenth, 2003, etc.) writes of Paris with charm and authority, but his storytelling tends to waver."
Hugger-muggery and some heavy breathing among the African American ex-pats in Paris's lively 18th Arrondissement. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 24, 2003

"Lamar (If 6 Were 9, 2001, etc.) breathes life into his Paris, but not into his Candide-like protagonist. And his plot's a muddle."
Love, perversion, and murder among the African-American ex-pats in today's Paris. Read full book review >
IF 6 WERE 9 by Jake Lamar
Released: Jan. 23, 2001

"Lamar (Closer to the Bone, 1999, etc.) does the social satire deftly, the whodunit a bit clumsily. But the real strength here lies in his often feckless, always candid, deeply unheroic hero, hollow yet irresistibly human."
Even before his 34th birthday, Professor Clay Robinette is a happily married, safely tenured black professor at a better-than-average university. So, of course, it's at this point that his comfortable, carefully ordered world goes drastically topsy-turvy—that 6 becomes 9, as it were. The fateful call that rouses Clay past midnight is from Reggie Brogus, once a famous black radical, now an infamous black conservative who sounds panicked, in desperate need of a friend. In a weak moment, Clay makes the mistake of agreeing to be one. On a couch in Reggie's office at the Afrikamerica department lies a strangled white student. A frame, swears Reggie. The federal government wants to discredit and silence him because he knows where the bodies are buried. But as Clay looks more closely at this particular body, he recognizes his illicit lover and realizes he's about to become the prime suspect in her slaying. But who else had reason to kill pretty Jenny Wolfsheim? The militant black student who's been stalking her? Government spooks, in the interests of the conspiracy Reggie Brogus claims is directed at him? Or is Brogus bogus, lying to hide his own culpability? Clay had better find out fast before those pointing fingers become a mailed fist. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 3, 1999

iece places five men—Hal Hardaway, Walker Dupree, Jojo, Dr. Emmett Mercy, and Charlie Beers—at Dr. Mercy's Black Pride seminar. Each is having trouble with his partner, and finding out who to love becomes the major thrust of their search for identity, sexuality appearing to be the defining feature of identity. Hardaway is a "buppie" executive with an African- American corporation who struggles in his relationship with Corky Winterset, his white girlfriend. Walker is a graphic artist who lives in the ongoing twilight of drifting ambition, occasional light drug use, and irresponsibility that dismays his black girlfriend Sadie. Dr. Mercy is also an ambitious, self-absorbed egoist who aspires to climb through white society by dispensing "official" black views on current events. As in a lot of fiction featuring multiple couples, none of the original pairings here is right, and the plot shuffles the pairs into their proper arrangements. Lamar's use of cultural signposts (the O.J. trial; Marion Barry's travails, etc.)—helps him trace the various, often conflicting, views of his characters. But this is a weak substitute for the actual creation of character, and by confining the struggle for identity to the question of finding sexual rightness, the author is forced to leave many other societal aspects of racial identity (e.g., economic disparities) out of consideration. Lamar's conclusion seems to be that everyone is an individual, itself something of a clichÇ. What remains, then, is the search for satisfying sexual relationships, and, in exploring this, the author takes few risks—and offers few insights. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

First-time novelist Lamar (the memoir Bourgeois Blues, 1991) expertly lays down a dystopian view of America's future, particularly in matters of race. Melvin Hutchinson rides high at the center of the story's swirl of social critique, intrigue, and Beltway farce. Known to his right-wing supporters as ``Hang 'Em High Hutch,'' the African- American US Attorney General is on the verge of being named vice president. While the country debates whether the comatose sitting VP, Vin Ewell, should have his plug pulled, Hutch roams the corridors of power, easing his anxieties with shots of Jack Daniels, waiting for the call from President Troy McCracken. The Attorney General's reputation rests on his staunch pro-death-penalty judicial philosophy, and on his boot-camp approach to rehabilitating delinquent youth. Playing right into this hyper-Republican fantasy is Mavis Temple, host of TV's Mavis! show, a black media goddess who wants to televise public executions, broadcast live from—where else?—Texas, under the aegis of a new program called Elimination. Lamar weaves several subplots, all of which hinge on issues of race and paranoia, into the story of Hutch's rise toward power. The beefiest of these involves Emma Person, Hutch's photographer niece, who begins the book living with Mavis Temple's producer and ends up involved with a firebrand black nationalist. Some readers may find it difficult to swallow a flip in Hutch's character late in the story, as well as the author's take on the Bell Curve eugenics debate, but neither really drags down this relentless tale. Like rats caught in a maze that narrows to a single point, Lamar's characters collide in a shocking end as justice struggles to overcome a vast, lethal conspiracy. A compelling, controversial political thriller, part A Clockwork Orange, part The Manchurian Candidate. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Growing up in the black middle class and attending Harvard, Lamar, a former associate editor at Time, had a foot in two worlds and feared he ``was terminally ambivalent.'' That ambivalence, as evident in this captivating memoir, seems rooted in Lamar's relationship with his domineering, abusive father. It's 1988 and Lamar, who hasn't heard from his father in five years, receives a phone call from an investigator looking into his father's business dealings. Jake, Sr., who became one of the highest ranking black officials in New York government during the Lindsay years, was determined that his son attend Harvard and become a lawyer. (When the acceptance letter arrived, Lamar's father ``whooped triumphantly. `We did it! We got into Harvard!' '') A workaholic and philanderer who would disappear for days at a time, Lamar, Sr., was also insanely jealous of his wife, bullying and smacking her around in front of the children: she eventually left their Bronx home and was hospitalized for depression. Experiencing hard times and bankruptcy, the elder Lamar saddled his son with a $25,000 debt to Harvard (his other children were left to fend for themselves), didn't attend the 1983 graduation, and refused to return his son's calls—whether out of jealousy or anger over his son's career choice is unclear. His progressively deteriorating personality led his son to feel that ``Every success I achieved was a measure of revenge.'' When the two briefly reunited in 1988, the father, though proud of seeing his son's name in Time, asked not one question about his life, job, or well-being. Crediting his father for his drive and determination despite the damage done, Lamar notes that ``He did the best he could.'' Painful and illuminating, and a far more perceptive look at the black bourgeois experience than Stephen L. Carter's Reflections Of An Affirmative Action Baby (p. 902). Read full book review >