The Essex Man: 10 SECONDS TO DEATH by Gary Phillips
(2013, Over The Edge Books)
This was sent to me a few weeks ago by Over The Edge Books for review. Over The Edge Books describes itself as “a voice for underground cultures in music, visual arts, and literature.” I’ve been meaning to check out this new “urban literature” which keeps popping up everywhere, just lack the time. Thankfully, Over The Edge has come to my rescue.
Gary Philips, the author of The Essex Man, is a writer who has published extensively in the mystery field. 10 Seconds to Death is an attempt to re-launch the men’s action novel. The 70’s were filled with Executioners, Death Merchants, Destroyers and even a Black Samurai. Phillips’ prose has much in common with the author of The Black Samurai series: direct and to the point.
The novel begins with a murder. The victim,described as a mean drunk, is the foster-father of Luke Warfield. Warfield is a Black American multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist. He heads Essex Ltd., which donates money to the impoverished areas of Los Angeles. The source of Warfield’s funds are silent, but it’s known he was a mercenary in many parts of the world. Warfield is forced to personally investigate the murder.
10 Seconds gives the reader a close-up of life on the mean streets of Los Angeles. There’s a particular woman Warfield has to visit to get information:
Her face was lined from years of boozing but there was an edgy attractiveness to her like an aging catalogue model who long ago lost her way. She had a squat glass of an amber liquid and ice before her.
The book is short, only 70 pages. But it’s filled with more sex and violence than novels tenfold the length. Author Gary Phillips knows how to pile on the action. This is definitely an homage to the spin rack novels of the 1970’s.
The best part of this book is the conclusion. Phillips manages to resolve things, see justice done and set up the action for the next one. There’s a powerful scene in LA during the Rodney King riots where the young Warfield is on the run from some thugs. His rescue at the hands of his future mentor explained a lot of his background.
I’m looking forward to the more books from Gary Phillips.