October 1, 2011

The Firecracker Fails to Explode

In Firecracker, Haywood’s second novel under the pseudonym Ray Shannon, the firecracker of the title is Clarice (Reece) Germaine. Like Ronnie in Maneater, Reece is a strong woman who refuses to become a victim.

Reece is a partner in a public relations firm in Los Angeles. Eight months before her current situation, she spent a week in Las Vegas having fun with Raygene Price, the star tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Raygene, feeling generous, gave her a $25,000 betting ticket.

Despite taking precautions, she became pregnant and is now eight months into her pregnancy. She agonizes over whether the ticket is really hers or whether it belongs to Raygene, and she should return it. Since Raygene won’t give her the amount of child support she believes she is entitled to, she decides she’ll use the ticket to bet on the Arizona Cardinals to beat the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl. If Arizona wins, she will be 1.25 million dollars richer.

Raygene has his own troubles. His money manager stole his money, and he is almost broke. His mother becomes his manager and refuses to give Reece the amount of child support she wants. But his troubles really begin when his boyhood friend, a “wanna be black,” white boy named Trip just released from prison, asks him for money to finance a drug deal. He refuses to believe Raygene doesn’t have any ready money, and threatens to ruin Raygene’s career with information about a boyhood indiscretion. Raygene decides the betting ticket is his way out of the situation. Reece refuses to give him the ticket, even when he tells her about Trip, thus setting up a confrontation between her and Trip.

The protagonist of the subplot is Aeneas Charles, a private detective whom Raygene’s agent, Stanley, hires to watch Raygene and keep him out of trouble at least until the new contract negotiations with the Cowboys are completed. Charles has a problem of which he is unaware. The woman who was his partner on the Newark, New Jersey police force is in Las Vegas. She has not forgotten that she lost her job due to his testimony. When she discovers Aeneas is in Las Vegas, she concocts a revenge plan.

The pregnant super woman is certainly an attention getter. The novel, for me, fails because of the uninteresting characters and an unnecessary subplot. Raygene is the stereotypical dumb jock whom I neither liked nor disliked. Trip the “wanna be black” white boy is interesting on first meeting but becomes rather predictable. EY, his Black bodyguard, has to be the dumbest bodyguard in all of crime fiction. Raygene’s Black bodyguard Brew gets religion after listening to an evangelist on the radio. The private detective subplot slows the pace and contributes nothing to the plot.

My purpose in this blog is to encourage readers of crime fiction to read novels by Black writers. Please don’t let my negative opinion prevent you from reading Firecracker. You may like the novel.

1 comment:

Kelly Robinson said...

I'm so happy to have found your blog. I read a lot of mystery fiction, but the only black author I have read much of is Chester Himes. I'm hoping to find more. I gravitate towards British mystery writers --wonder if there are any black mystery authors writing in England?