One at a time I am gonna try and inject some magic into somebody's literary world by citing an undervalued but fully-stocked novel. For the first one y0u'd better believe I am opening with an absolute bohemoth!
The book I am endorsing and suggesting is the mesmerising first novel by the Emerson College alumni, Ray Shell. It is the 1993 Flamingo-published Iced.
A book I first discovered in 1995 in the only bookshop we had in town. I read it in jaw-dropped awe. I had been recently reading Trainspotting and The Acid House by Irvine Welsh, and Complicity by Ian Banks. There were novels that had pretty intense subject matter but Iced was something else entirely.
Set between New York and Boston it is the story of Cornelius Jnr. A gifted young black man from a middle-class inner-city family. It shows through a stream of consciousness a narrative depicting the road to success and ruin, ultimately culminating in the destruction crack-cocaine visited on African-American young men in the eighties.
We learn through recollections the abhorrent events that both led to and accompanied his addiction. From a brilliant young mind destined for Harvard Law to his ultimate fear of becoming a "vampire-zombie." A slave to the pipe and the poison that destroyed countless lives during that decade.
One can clearly tell by the severity of the incidents that Mr Shell is not speaking from experience and this is often cited as a complaint regarding this novel. I find this ridiculous as he writes an earth-shattering cacophony of horrors, terrors, hopes, and heartache. Just because it is not from first-hand experience does not make it any less worthy. After all, did Bram Stoker spend time as a vampire? Did Thomas Harris have experience as a mass-murderer? It is, after all, in the fiction section. Since when did individual experience become a prerequisite of fictional novels?
Want to turn someone off the idea of doing drugs? Here is your tonic.
1993, Flamingo Publishing.