'Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked...'
To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably-priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his facade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger and bigger all the time.
See, cash is tight, especially with all those instalment plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace at the furniture store, Ray doesn't see the need to ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweller downtown who also doesn't ask questions.
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa - the 'Waldorf of Harlem' - and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do, after all. Now Ray has to cater to a new clientele, one made up of shady cops on the take, vicious minions of the local crime lord, and numerous other Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he starts to see the truth about who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
HARLEM SHUFFLE is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
Colson Whitehead is a multi-award winning and bestselling author whose works include The Nickel Boys, The Underground Railroad, The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt and a collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. He is one of only four novelists to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice and is a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. For The Underground Railroad, Whitehead won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a second time for The Nickel Boys, which also won the George Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and The Kirkus Prize. The Underground Railroad has been adapted as an Amazon Prime TV series, produced and directed by the Academy Award winning director Barry Jenkins, and will be broadcast in May 2021. He lives with his family in New York City.
Colson Whitehead's dazzling new thriller...In Harlem Shuffle, Whitehead flexes his literary muscles further, extending the boundaries and expectations of crime writing. The book is also a social drama interrogating the nature of prejudice and how an environment limits ambition. * Guardian, Book of the Day * Gloriously entertaining...a zingy social drama, that combines flights of high comedy with reflections on the nature of black self-help and black empowerment in America. A more purely enjoyable novel is unlikely to emerge this year * Evening Standard * Whitehead's latest book, Harlem Shuffle, finds its centre of gravity in Harlem, New York,transporting readers to the precipice of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a moment when Harlem uprisings were remaking the literal and political landscape.From here he crafts a brilliant crime novel that doubles as a meditation on the nature of black geography...It is Carney's effort to reconcile the straight and the crooked, the desire to strive for a homeon the river, and the pull of the criminal underbelly, that propels the book forward * Financial Times * Wildly entertaining...Whitehead also delivers a devastating, historically grounded indictment of the separate and unequal lives of Blacks and whites in mid-20th century New York. * Daily Mail * The plot he devised for Harlem Shuffle offered a new, high-geared narrative engine to play with, but it also gave him a way to explore ideas about the slippery nature of morality, power (and who holds it), and the social hierarchies of criminal subcultures * New York Times * A sizzling heist novel set in civil rights-era Harlem . . . It's a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead's loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone, which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce's Dublin. Don't be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * Whitehead adds another genre to an ever-diversifying portfolio with his first crime novel, and it's a corker... Whitehead delivers a portrait of Harlem in the early '60s, culminating with the Harlem Riot of 1964, that is brushed with lovingly etched detail and features a wonderful panoply of characters who spring to full-bodied life, blending joy, humor, and tragedy. A triumph on every level * Booklist, Starred Review *