Watts, 1956. Time for another 15 rounds of unsought violence for bookseller Paris Minton and his friend Fearless Jones.
Surrounded by men—and quite a few women—who think they’re tough, Paris (Fear Itself, 2003, etc.) considers himself a coward. He’s been afraid of the dark ever since the April Fool’s night when he spent five hours locked in a crawl space beneath his bookstore with the cooling corpse of his lover Jessa Brown’s ex-boyfriend Tiny Bobchek, shot through the head. Burying Tiny in a shallow grave with the help of Fearless and legendary killer and storyteller Van Cleave takes the heat off Paris but doesn’t rescue him from the danger brought by another visitor: Paris’s cousin Ulysses S. Grant IV, more aptly known as Useless. Realizing that the apple of his Aunt Three Hearts’ eye has graduated from theft to large-scale blackmail, Paris reluctantly enlists the help of Fearless and a dozen more questionable allies in tracking down the head blackmailers before the mounting pile of casualties includes him. It’s an unlikely task for Paris, who claims to be always afraid, and Fearless, who may be incapable of doing long division.
Luckily, the clouds obscuring the labyrinthine plot frequently lift to reveal the clarity of Paris’s wisdom, as when he observes that kindly Fearless constantly fights only because “we were poor and we were black and so we either fought or we lost ground.”