Ghetto-based crime novel that's caused a small sensation in London, where its desktop-computer publication and guerrilla-style distribution have met with impressive sales and reviews. Though Headley's debut—set within London's drug-dealing Jamaican community—is fast, tight, and pinpointedly authentic (Headley was born in Jamaica and lives in London), it probably won't make as big a splash here, where it falls within a tradition of underclass crime writing (Donald Goines, et al.) that England lacks and apparently marvels at. There's nothing new in the plot, which is at least as old as Scarface: D., an ambitious young Jamaican gangster, arrives in London with a kilo of cocaine inside his shirt. He turns half of it over to his contacts—members of the Jamaican ``Spicers'' gang—but runs off with the rest and sets himself up as crack kingpin. Soon D.'s living the high low-life: driving a Mercedes, wearing soft leather, partying at reggae concerts, sleeping around, smoking crack, talking jive in the lilting patois favored by all of Headley's characters—and waiting for the Spicers' revenge, which comes indirectly, via a bullet-wounding from Blue, a Spicer underling acting on his own. D. strikes back in the foulest way, raping Blue's girlfriend: a ruthless cutting-down of Blue follows. Meanwhile, legendary Jamaican gangster Tony Chin wants to muscle in on D.'s territory. When D. refuses, Chin turns him over to the cops.... End of story, though Headley apparently is writing a sequel. What's most bracing here is Headley's refusal to romanticize his characters even while empathizing with them all, from ``bad boy'' to housewife to Rastafarian. And his prose is as clean as his emotions, faltering only in a moralistic last page. An exciting debut, then, not without precedent but tough and sharp as nails.
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