Fall into a Historical Heist

Colson Whitehead’s latest novel, Harlem Shuffle, probably is already on your to-read list but if it isn’t, place that hold now! This literary blend of historical and crime fiction tells the story of Ray Carney, the son a small-time crook. Carney is proud not be like his Dad and also proud to own a furniture store in Harlem in the early 1960s. Sometimes, though, Carney is forced to accept questionable merchandise for resale just to get ahead and rationalizes that he is a cog in the machine. In order to help his cousin Freddie get out of a jam with some crooks who steal the wrong jewelry from the wrong bad guy, Carney agrees to play the role of “fence.” When things go bad with the heist, however, Carney gets his hands very dirty and the lines between crooked and straight begin to blur.

The magic of Harlem Shuffle, which among other things is about the divide between black and white America, is its humor, attention to characters’ backstory and its heart, all hidden behind a slow-building sense that one wrong move could unravel Carney’s life. This love letter to 1960s New York will have you rooting for even some of the not-so-good-guys, as they each just try to live out the American Dream.

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