Strivers and crooks

Colson Whitehead’s uneven crime caper
by
October 2021, no. 436
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Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Fleet, $32.99 pb, 318 pp

Strivers and crooks

Colson Whitehead’s uneven crime caper
by
October 2021, no. 436
American author Colson Whitehead (photograph by Russell Hart/Alamy)
American author Colson Whitehead (photograph by Russell Hart/Alamy)

Readers of Colson Whitehead’s two recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019) – both historical literary novels focused on the Underground Railroad and the Jim Crow era, respectively – may be surprised by his eighth book, Harlem Shuffle, a crime novel written in the swaggering voice of a Quentin Tarantino character. Whitehead has always drawn on elements of genre fiction. His début, The Intuitionist (1999), borrows from sci-fi and speculative fiction to tell the story of Lila Mae Watson, America’s first Black female elevator inspector. Zone One (2011), an unexpected marriage of literary and post-apocalyptic zombie fiction, asks now-familiar questions about human perseverance and survival. Humour features strongly in these works, as do Whitehead’s deftness and apparent joy in making philosophical forays into genre fiction. Compared to the sweeping and more sombre nature of his most recent books, Harlem Shuffle is lighter fare.

Mindy Gill reviews 'Harlem Shuffle' by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle

by Colson Whitehead

Fleet, $32.99 pb, 318 pp

Buy this book

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