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Author Making Strides – Seen Up North - Sunday 19, October-2003
by Tony Best

Imagine a New York City police detective who has strong Bajan roots quitting the force in anger at the height of his career.

His decision can be traced to a mix of disgust, frustration and his own personality. He abruptly hands in his shield after an undercover buy-and-bust drug deal went sour and he ended up being shot and almost killed by a white racist colleague on the force.

To make matters worse, the Police Department investigated the incident, cleared the shooter and labelled the incident an accident, all because the top brass didn’t want blaring newspaper headlines about racism within its ranks.

In the process of the upheaval in his life, the cop loses his wife, Anais, who decides she can't take his paranoia, so she packs her bag and leave.

Sounds like a real-life drama?

Actually, the story is at the core of a new novel, Too Beautiful To Die, written by Glenville Lovell, a Barbadian who is making a name for himself in literary circles in New York. It’s his third work of fiction, coming after Fire In The Canes and Songs Of Night and the reaction to it from critics has been upbeat and more than just encouraging.

“Sleuthing rendered with wit, imagination and a Caribbean flair,” was the way Robert Fleming, author of the African-American Writer’s Handbook and the Wisdom Of Elders, put it in a published review

Tananarive Due, author of My Soul To Keep and the Living Blood, put it differently.

“Glenville Lovell’s taut, action-filled mystery Too Beautiful To Die is one of those rare page turners, with emotional grip and lyrical range,” she wrote.

That favourable response mirrors the critics’ feelings about his first two books.

“Impressive . . . Lovell . . . has a sharp eye for the extraordinary tropical landscape and the eccentricities of his characters,” stated the New York Times Book Review about Fire In The Canes.

The Washington Post Book Review weighed in a somewhat similar fashion in its look at Song Of Night.

The Bajan author, stated the paper, “has crafted a novel of style as well as substance, building with exquisite process to a shattering conclusion.”

Too Beautiful To Die introduces readers to a character, Blades Overstreet, the former cop who could become popular in succeeding novels as he provides justice for the poor and the weak. The plot centres on Blades’ campaign to do the right thing while winning back his wife, with whom he is still in love.

It’s not difficult to understand his desire for Anais. As Blades tells it, she was “one of those women who not only turned heads, she confuses the mind.”

Her bright shiny skin, bewitching smiles that “could easily strip a man of his dignity,” and the “grandness of her beauty” would leave a lasting impression on any male of the species. He admits there was reason for her sudden departure from New York for California because “I wallowed in revenge-induced stupor” after the shooting incident.

Vicious gang

The story telling in the novel is done through the mind and words of Blades’ who was drawn back into detective work, this time as highly-paid private investigator hired by Precious, an attractive day-time soap-opera television star who wants him to find her missing father.

Incidentally, Blades is drawn to the US$50 000 assignment by a white taxi-driver who saved his life after he was shot by putting him in his cab and taking him to the hospital.

Along the way, Blades tells us about a Congressman, pimps, at least one loyal friend and a man bent on getting back at him for helping to put him behind bars. Not only that, his thirst for revenge is also his HIV infection that was caused by a vicious gang rape in prison.

The mystery, set in the Caribbean immigrant community, is filled with twists and turns, sex, acts of violence, murder, false accusations, anger paranoia and good old detective work. It’s the stuff which makes for good reading by lovers of this literary genre. What also makes the book fun to read is the rich language, which Lovell uses in a first person narrative that draws on his own experience as a Caribbean immigrant.

West Indians in general and Barbadians in particularly would find the book interesting because it opens a window on many aspects of West Indian life.

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