Well, what other name would you give paradise?
It’s not clear exactly how to react to a debut novel that’s purportedly meant for adults yet whose first page introduces journalist Cadillac Jackson getting off the train in Soul City (where he’s been sent by Chocolate City Magazine to cover the mayoral elections) and fully intending to check out the sights that include the world-famous 100-foot Afro pick and the “crazy” sermons delivered by Revren Lil’ Mo Love. Is this the start of a bad dream that our protagonist is going to wake up from? No, dear reader, music journalist Touré (stories: The Portable Promised Land, 2002) has his story and he runs with it, for better or for worse. True enough, Cadillac keeps his clear intention of probing into the city to see what’s going on with the mayoral election, but obviously that’s really just a stratagem allowing him to tour the length and the breadth of this slice of paradise: where the biscuits are made with droplets of heaven-sent butter, the music is everywhere and always the best (Ellington, Prince, Marley), and there’s a gorgeous Jimmy Choo–wearing femme fatale by the name of Mahogany Sunflower for Cadillac to fall in love with. There’s evil, too, of course, personified in places like the nearby thug paradise of Whatevaworld and in the figure of vile billionaire tycoon John Jiggaboo. The battle for the soul of Soul City is joined only somewhat late in this thinly imagined romp, which keeps its bouncy spirit even while failing utterly to function as a racial metaphor in the manner of a Colson Whitehead or Suzan-Lori Parks, though it seems to wish to.
Not half as imaginative as it may think, yet still fun in a grandly silly fashion.