DRUM by Kyle Onstott


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Drum is the name and Drum is the story of three generations of Negro slaves. Beginning in Africa in the late 1700's, proceeding to Cuba, then jumping to New Orleans in the 1820's and Alabama in the early 1840's, we follow three strong and handsome young men through sex- and fight-filled lives to sudden gory deaths. Each third of this long but fast-paced book is thus an almost independent novelette. The highlight of Part I is an affair with a white woman which costs Drum #1 his life and produces Drum #2, a champion fighter and bordello handyman; Drum #3 dies to save his ""massa"" during a slave uprising. This is an immensely readable novel, and a good one if one may use that adjective without moral connotations. Mr. Onstott writes with a ruthless skill quite uncomplicated by any real sense of moral obligation to either his subject matter or his readers, despite the fact that his sympathies are basically in the proper place. To put it bluntly, he knows very well that avid readership is most easily obtained by alternating passages of physical violence with equal amounts of starkly salacious sex. He exploits the legendary sexuality of the Negro with a gusto which would be best appreciated by the KKK. That his white characters are an even more brutalized lot does not diminish his irresponsibility in this regard; it merely enhances the afore-mentioned ruthlessness. An appropriate book for would-be decadents too illiterate to appreciate De Sade, this is a poor one indeed for readers who are sincerely interested in history, human beings, or reality.

Publisher: Dial