Novel of the week: Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
The Pulitzer winner’s new novel is a pulpy neo-noir set in 1960s Harlem
Colson Whitehead is “simply incapable of writing a bad book”, said Ian Williams in The Guardian. Over 20 years, he has delivered both page-turners and weighty literary blockbusters – the two most recent of which, The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for interrogating the US’s racist past.
Whitehead’s new novel, Harlem Shuffle, sees him revert to a lighter style, said Johanna Thomas-Corr in The Sunday Times. A “pulpy neo-noir” set in the 1960s, it centres on Ray Carney, an ambitious furniture salesman who gets sucked into various criminal schemes. “It’s a red-blooded book full of powerful personalities”, which brings mid-century New York memorably to life.
I was less impressed, said Clive Davis in The Times. Billed as a “family saga masquerading as a crime novel”, Harlem Shuffle consists of “mundane slabs of prose that wander nowhere in particular”.
Whitehead is a veritable literary celebrity, the subject of many fawning magazine profiles – but on the evidence of this feeble effort, it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.
Fleet 336pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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