Monday, March 7, 2016

#12: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVelle

In 1920s New York, a Harlem street hustler/street musician is asked to play a gig at a mysterious old house, leading him down a path of madness and murder in Victor LaVelle's The Ballad of Black Tom.

LaVelle's jumping-off point for his novel is H.P. Lovecraft's The Horror at Red Hook, which when seen through contemporary eyes is rife with racism and general xenophobia.  LaVelle flips the story from the eyes of a white policeman to that of the black characters, with compelling results.

But LaVelle's novel is more than just a clever exercise; it is distinctly creepy and frightening in its own right.  The most chilling moment for me came when Tom decides he would rather have the vast indifference of cosmic gods than the close attention of white cops on Earth, an interesting take on Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.

I would recommend going back and reading Lovecraft's story after as I did, as a study in contrast, but The Ballad of Black Tom is a solid horror story for fans either way.

I bought this for my beloved Kindle and read it quickly.

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