Subterranean Press hardcover, May 2008
Black & White
Definitive edition trade paperback and ebook available from:
Excerpts appeared in:
Here's an HTML preview of the first chapter. You can also read another excerpt in Subterranean's online magazine. The complete novel is available as a free PDF download on the Fiction Liberation Front site.
Year's Best Lists
LA Times "2008 crime fiction favorites"
Durham Herald-Sun "Books selections from '08"
Quotes and Reviews
"Black & White, Lewis Shiner's long-awaited return to the novel, is social realism so urgent and committed as to be an act of witnessing. Like books by Richard Price and George Pelecanos, Shiner's is both a page-turner and an urban documentary with a big, fierce heart."
"Lewis Shiner's latest, Black & White, is killer. Strong characters, suspenseful situations, and tremendous insight. A novel that doesn't flinch from social issues, and is so gracefully written it makes you want to weep. Should not be missed. Lewis Shiner is the real deal, and this is his finest work."
—Joe R. Lansdale
"Set in Durham, N.C., Shiner's powerful and affecting sixth novel (after 1999's Say Goodbye) explores civil rights, race relations and 'progress' in that city over the past half century. In 2004, 35-year-old Michael Cooper accompanies his father, Robert, who's dying of lung cancer, and his mother, Ruth, from Texas to Durham, to honor his father's wishes and to find out more about his father's past. Michael learns about Hayti, a well-to-do black neighborhood that was demolished to make way for an expressway, uncovers an old murder and finds himself point-man in a race to prevent a much greater tragedy. Shiner weaves Michael's, Robert's and Ruth's stories into a stunning tapestry that captures the hopes, dreams, greed, bigotry, ambitions and betrayals that shaped their destinies and those of our country. While the crime plot builds to a conventional resolution, Michael's poignant discovery of his parents' roots and the splendid depiction of Durham's changing social fabric more than compensate."
"This is the first novel in nine years from Shiner, who has penned two of the best popular-music novels I've read (Glimpses and Say Goodbye). Black & White is a page-turner about a thirtysomething comics artist who returns to North Carolina in 2004 and hears a deathbed confession from his father that plunges him into the pastof a vital, successful black community outside of Durham that's razed for a freewayand an unexpected present.
"It's a masterful portrayal of a post-racial South fighting to be born, and a thoughtful meditation on how personal change effects social change and vice-versa.
"When the dynamite comes out and the race riot startsyou will be turning those pages."
—Ed Ward in Paste
"As Black & White draws to a close, and the fence-swinging array of viewpoints and time periods merge into a murky shade of contemporary gray, Michael is left wondering what's the use of revolutionary fervor when it effects little overall change. 'The only answer...,' he is told, 'is that you have to take sides and you have to show the world that you mean it. You do whatever you can, not because of what you hope to accomplish, but because to do anything else is ultimately ... not acceptable.' The same answer applies equally well to Shiner. The novel's mere existence is proof that Shiner means itand that readers ignore him at their peril."
—Sarah Weinman in The Los Angeles Times Book Review
Set in Raleigh-Durham, Shiner’s sixth novel tracks the identity crisis of talented comics illustrator Michael Cooper. Michael has come back to North Carolina to attend his dying father, Roger. After years of feeling shut out by his family, Michael finally learns the reason why when his father confides the long and dramatic tale of his conflicted relationship with his wife and her racist family and his passionate liaison with a voodoo priestess who lived in the black section of Durham dubbed Hayti, a thriving, prosperous community that was decimated when Roger’s company constructed a highway right through its center. When Michael connects with new members of an old black power group, he learns some hard lessons not only about his own heritage but also about racial conflicts that have yet to be resolved. Shiner’s book never fully escapes the pitfalls of a political novel more invested in its message than its characters, yet it shines a light on a little-known and shameful part of America’s urban-renewal history and does so with palpable anger.
—Joanne Wilkinson in Booklist
"On the surface, Black & White demonstrates the struggles of historical and contemporary racism, but at its core, the story revolves around a son coming to terms with the sins of his father. The always-talented Shiner has produced some of his finest work to date here. Beyond a brief, discursive foray into Ruth's story, he has created a near-perfect novelsteeped in important political and societal issues, neatly wrapped in the trimmings of a mystery story. With Black & White, Lewis Shiner ascends to a literary realm previously reserved for the likes of Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem."
—Rick Klaw in The Austin Chronicle
"There are secrets upon secrets in Black & White, sins upon sins, but they all revolve around a single, penetrating absence: Hayti, the African-American community gutted by the construction of the Durham Freeway 40 years ago.... A simple effort to retrieve a copy of his birth certificateof which there is mysteriously no recordleads Michael unexpectedly to his father's involvement in the murder of a civil rights activist found in a concrete overpass on N.C. 147.
"The corpse, of course, is more than just a single person's: This is Hayti's corpse, the murder still unsolved.
"...Secrets that could never be given voice are at last revealed: violence, sex, corruption and murder, sure, but also the simple, all-too-human cowardice that ruins lives. Black & White reveals itself through these flashback passages as a generational story that is by turns both Shakespearean and quintessentially Faulknerian."
—Gerry Canavan in The Independent Weekly
"I have worked in Durham for almost 20 years, and one does not live here that long without at least having a smattering of understanding about what urban renewal did to Hayti in the late 1960s and early 1970sand the emotions that those events still stir....
"If you lived through those times, or if you are a relative newcomer who over time has become interested in the history of Hayti, you owe it to yourself to read Lewis Shiner's new novel Black & White. Shiner, with exhaustive research, uses the story of Hayti and urban renewal as the setting for a compelling novel that is part detective story, part novel of psychological discovery, and, most important, a story about the complex relationships that African-Americans and white people share."
—Cliff Bellamy in The Durham Herald-Sun
"Working quietly on a string of brilliant books, Lew Shiner has proven himself as one of America's best novelists ... [Black & White] contains layers of mystery, not the least of which is Michael's secret origin, but it's not quite a mystery novel. Vodou is an important part of the plot, but it's not a supernatural novel. It's a book about race in America, but it's not a sociological novel. It's all of those at once, and a love story, and a family saga--in other words, it's simply a beautifully written novel, full of tension and action and genuine human emotion."
—Jeff Mariotte, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
"Black & White tells the story of Hayti and the horrors of its demise at the hands of very powerful folks indeed, about racism and rampant hypocracy, the soiled histories of a place and people that helped shape the present. It's an engaging, wholly realized tale that could have been lifted from yesterday's headlines."
—Andrew M. Andrews in True Review