A debut that as morality play strives to be more than the sum of its partsnamely, street gang violence, vile hoodlums, and a not-so-innocent gone terribly bad. Things could be worse for young Danny Palmera 1970s black Brooklyn youth weighed down by immense peer pressurebut he doesn't know it. He ignores the positive example and strength of his mother as he slips and slides into the nefarious world of street gangs. It's so easyeveryone around young Danny is caught up in the allure of guns, knives, and drugs. And the police are no better: Instead of protecting civilians from one another, they become players themselves in the rackets. Danny is strong-armed, figuratively and literally, when his pal Paul is killed by two rogue cops. But Danny has a mind of his own and, in a nod to old Jimmy Cagney movies like The Roaring Twenties, rises in the ranks to be a power-source himself. Along the way, he falls in with a young woman who has his child. Again Cagney-style, Danny shows no remorse right up to the bloody enda finale that involves a nice bit of cleverly wrought plotting. Throughout, though, Baker undermines his aptly ragged prose with inadvertent stumblings ('The crowd screamed as they gathered around, waxed in terror') and clichÇs. His close attention to character, however, makes for a worthwhile read, even if the inflammatory subject sometimes seems deliberately provocative. Updating crime dramas of the past is perhaps on Baker's mind, and at times he seems to be writing his own version of Boyz 'N the Hood, '70s style. The old precept advises writing what you know, and it may be unsurprising that the author is currently in an English prison. Experience, in this case, seems to have been both help and hindrance.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13030-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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