In the tragic prequel to Bad Men and Wicked Women (2018), Dickey resets the clock to 1996, when bill collector Ken Swift goes on his first date with destiny.
Her name is Adanech Abeylegesse Zenebework, but she calls herself Jimi Lee after Jimi Hendrix and Spike Lee. In this origin story, 18-year-old Jimi is staying with her privileged Ethiopian parents in Southern California as part of her gap year before she attends Harvard. Ken settles debts for a shady employer named San Bernardino, but he swears it’s only until he can finish his education at UCLA. Jimi says she’s 21 when she meets Ken at a club on the Sunset Strip, and although she looks down on African-American men—a topic they discuss in great detail—their one-night stand becomes an obsession that consumes them both. Together, they explore the diverse beauty of the greater Los Angeles area, from Leimert Park, the “Black Beverly Hills,” to the outer suburb of Diamond Bar. They enjoy the '90s as they watch movies on a VCR, dance the Cabbage Patch, and argue over the O.J. Simpson trial. Passionate and complex, Jimi and Ken spar over social issues and end up in bed as often as Black History Month and Valentine’s Day share the month of February—which is to say, all the time. Ultimately, their relationship takes a bad turn for more personal reasons—an unplanned pregnancy that derails Jimi’s plans to go to college and disappoints her controlling parents. Jimi is too young for motherhood and can’t quite handle the responsibility. Ken, meanwhile, proves that her assumptions about African-Americans were untrue: He marries Jimi, dotes on their baby, and works hard to support them both. But when a collection job turns dangerous, threatening their daughter’s safety, even love might not be enough to keep them together. Readers jumping into the series will have the pleasure of reading the stories in chronological order. Fans will enjoy the backstory, which ends right where the first book begins.
From wanton to wicked, the love-hate relationship between Dickey's characters burns with rapid-fire dialogue and plenty of steam.