Books by Kelvin Christopher James

AUGMENTS OF CHANGE by Kelvin Christopher James
Released: July 15, 2016

"Digressions abound and ultimately overwhelm James' ambitious but unfocused story."
Set mostly in the not-too-distant future, James' (People and Peppers: A Romance, 2015, etc.) novel follows a sprawling cast of characters as they cope with (and sometimes profit from) environmental degradation, the privatization of the U.S. government, and a deadly illness. Read full book review >
FLING WITH A DEMON LOVER by Kelvin Christopher James
Released: June 1, 1996

In a disappointing second novel, Trinidadian-born writer James (Secrets, 1993, etc.) explores erotic obsessions on a Greek isle—a place where the present and past converge for a reprise of a number of other tales, ancient and modern, with Hellenic settings. When a friend offers Sassela, an African-American teacher in Harlem, an all-expenses-paid vacation on the island of Mineros, Sassela happily accepts. The weather at home is awful, and her live-in lover, Harry, is a drag—so much so that she's attracted to Ciam Turrin, a 20ish Caribbean native and college student who recently rescued her car from the snow. Nearly 40, Sassela feels that her life is going nowhere, so why not live a little? And to round things off, it seems that Ciam is also headed to Mineros with a college soccer team, which he immediately abandons upon landing to take Sassela to his hut by the sea. Mineros is blessed with an extraordinarily balmy climate for January in the Mediterranean, and Sassela seems remarkably able to forget her teaching and course work, but then this is a fable, a reworking of old myths updated to showcase the erotic experiences of a beautiful and independent woman. The couple have lots of graphically described sex, but there's something wrong with the island. The men are either elderly or children, and ancient crones warn of harm to Ciam. Then a young girl, Fifina, leans out of a window to stroke Ciam's face as he and Sassela walk by. Fifina, Sassela learns, is a Lamia, a demon in the form of a woman who drains young men of their ``life juice,'' and is now taking a distinct interest in Ciam. Some tantalizing moments that recall James's gift for lyricism and atmosphere, but not enough to give his tale the edge and snap it needs to make it a modern horror tale of eros and evil on the lam. ($50,000 ad/promo; author tour) Read full book review >
SECRETS by Kelvin Christopher James
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A first novel from Trinidadian-born James (the story collection Jumping Ship, 1992) that turns the coming-of-age of a young Caribbean woman into a disturbing fable—one that movingly evokes the loss of innocence in a lush tropical demi-paradise. James again displays his lyrical gifts in a story that makes the island setting as palpable a presence as his protagonist, young Uxann. Uxann, innocent and dutiful, lives with her father, Seyeh, on a small farm outside the local village. Her mother went off with another man, and now Seyeh carefully protects Uxann from worldly influence. Uxann, a diligent and accomplished student at the local convent, delights in studying, taking care of the farm animals, and keeping house for her beloved father. But it is inevitable—her classmates are already falling in love, getting pregnant, and having to drop-out—that Uxann's innocence cannot endure. In a series of sometimes less-than-credible twists and turns of plot, Uxann painfully and then tragically is expelled from Eden into a horrifying world where old secrets are revealed and new disasters wreak havoc. Her father arranges for her school-friend Keah to help with the housework to earn money against a debt her family owes; Uxann's initial reservations are overcome by her pleasure in having company in the house. But sexually experienced Keah, the designated serpent in the story, soon seduces Uxann's father; Uxann finds out, and in despair gets drunk, which leads to her being unknowingly— and unconvincingly—impregnated by her equally drunk father. A son is born, and Uxann, noting the resemblance to her father, is driven to madness and murder. ``The natural order,'' the routine of the farm, will be her only comfort. A stunning tragedy of carefully calibrated horror and pulsating sensuality that is more a tropical murder of the innocents that a conventional rites-of-passage novel. Read full book review >
JUMPING SHIP by Kelvin Christopher James
Released: April 1, 1992

Fourteen stories in an uneven debut by a Trinidad-born Harlem resident: macho-flavored, visceral material too often undercut by verbal and structural convolutions. James does fine work when he brings together a bit of Trinidadian speech and the playful inventiveness of black English to tell a straightforward story about the varied worlds he knows: a ``country-wild and Caribbeano'' sailor follows the friend he believes more worldly to opportunity in New York; a teenager rises in the drug world through his willingness to betray and execute a one-time buddy; a gang of kids plans to mug the moneyed white folks in a park while their leader's ``word whip'' reminds them to be ``Proficient Tacticians,'' not a ``Perverse Gang''; a Trinidadian takes his American-raised son on a roots-home visit where the growing bond between father and son is threatened by the embittered grandmother. ``Open Conflict,'' initially impenetrable, gives inadequate payoff for its difficulty. But throughout the collection, the language too often overreaches, more self-conscious and amateurish than original: a bag-lady scavenging trash shoves her hand ``unhesitating into each newfound crater of risk''; a mango-lover ``In furthering this theory of its excellence...researched [it] devotedly by gourmandizing every sample he could find''; an erection is ``the fleshed temptation''; one narrator finds ``My sympathy quickly diffused, unmasking the rudeness of his intrusion'' when a stranger takes a helping of peanuts. James may go the distance once he settles down. Read full book review >