CORNER BOY by Herbert A. Simmons
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Jake Adams grew up in the Negro section of a big midwestern city. There in the society of teenagers, amidst the hamburgers, jazz, hucklobucking and pool he lived it up. He was a leader --cool, and in the know -- who was everything his friends wished to be. Restricted by incipient Jimcrow his overwhelming ambition was relegated to the ""Organization"" -- an intricate political network of easy money and shady operations. The Dynaflow, the sharp wardrobe and plenty of ""bread"" attested to the success of his enterprise until one day the choice, originally fomented by society, gained its own momentum and headlines blared. He was accused of raping a white girl, murder, and possession of narcotics but escaped a severe sentence through the string-pulling of his racketeer return not to the exotic but too legal Armenta, not to college but ""to the harbor he had been exiled from"". This is a story not of ""the Negro Problem"" per se, but rather of an unanchored generation conducting a wild and undirected search for an identity impossible under the terms of their environment. The discrepancy between the myth of unlimited social mobility and the actual scope of possibility is often resolved into a confused and futile combination of thwarted aspirations, tragic retreats and tumultuous recoveries -- all anarchic, but involute in delivery. This protean theme is handled with a sensitive and perceptive pen-capturing also the vernacular and meaning of Jazz in this recognizable teen-age world. Given impetus by a Houghton Mifflin Fellowship we hope that the first novel will be followed by others of the same outstanding quality.

ISBN: 0393314650
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin