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The life of a charismatic black preacher/pimp reflected through the memories of various women; strong individual passages in this first novel, but they never coalesce into a compelling whole. Daddy Poole is a hundred years old and dying in his Newark home. There is little present action; instead the novel weaves erratically through the preacher's past to portray the awesome power he exercised through his church, attracting thousands of followers, amassing millions of dollars. His mother Mozelle (""one of the biggest whorehouse queens on the East Coast"") has shown him the way: ""Religion is a fortune in these Northern cities."" Daddy's ""holy magic show"" had been a front for prostitution and numbers games, a fact which leaves at least two of his women unfazed. Martha, his teen-aged daughter and already a mother, a grown woman in every sense and the dominant voice here, was seduced by Daddy at age 11; and yet ""if I had to stand him taking sex off my half made body to get his love and his truth, I would stand it again a million times."" And for Sister Sarah, his main queen for nine years, any shortcomings were ""the strong selfish God in him."" The strong dissenting voice belongs to Peanut, the former prostitute who had tricked for Daddy and advises Martha: ""leave him for the Devil to rip his soul out and drag him down time eternal."" Yet even when Peanut reveals how Daddy, in his fury at not getting a man-child from his last woman, had had Martha's mother killed, Martha remains unmoved. She sacrifices a chicken to save Daddy; her magic fails, Daddy dies, and Martha heals her spirit in a wild dervish dance. Charlatan, prophet, or a mix of the two? No synthesis of Daddy Poole emerges from this mass of ill-shaped material; the reader is left with a disorienting cacophony of voices.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1986
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow