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Hunting in Harlem

Hunting in Harlem

5.0 3
by Mat Johnson

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Gentrification-by any means necessary.

With the help of new employees Cedric, Bobby, and Horus-three ex-cons trying to forge a new life-Lester Baines's Horizon Realty is bringing Harlem back to its renaissance. Fate seems to be working in Lester's favor when Harlem's undesirable tenants begin to get clumsy and meet early deaths by accident. A deadbeat dad


Gentrification-by any means necessary.

With the help of new employees Cedric, Bobby, and Horus-three ex-cons trying to forge a new life-Lester Baines's Horizon Realty is bringing Harlem back to its renaissance. Fate seems to be working in Lester's favor when Harlem's undesirable tenants begin to get clumsy and meet early deaths by accident. A deadbeat dad electrocutes himself in the bathtub. A drug dealer takes flight from his fire escape. A pimp is shot dead by police when they mistake his wallet for a handgun. That's where Horizon steps in. Block by block, Lester and his crew clear out the rubble and the rabble, filling once dilapidated brownstones with black professionals handpicked for their shared vision of Harlem as a shining icon for the race.

Rumors of the Chupacabra, a mythical monster claiming the lives of Harlem's unfortunate, run rampant with Harlem's youth. But it isn't until an ambitious reporter begins to investigate the extraordinarily high accident rate in Harlem that Lester starts to get a little nervous about Horizon's future. For Lester, no cost is too high in protecting Horizon and his vision for restoration. The battle for gentrification and for the souls and very lives of the ex-cons plays out on the streets of Harlem and against a backdrop of beautiful Manhattan brownstones.
Mat Johnson has created vividly memorable characters and a story that stands out as one of the most controversial and explosive in years. As sure to ignite debate as it is to entertain, Hunting in Harlem is an old-fashioned page-turner with a fresh and brave voice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set against the historically rich geography of Harlem, Johnson's smart thriller offers fine writing, a sometimes wacky but compelling story, and an absorbing social history of "the most romanticized ghetto in the world." Three ex-cons are invited to join Horizon Realty's Second Chance Program by becoming interns at the real estate office: Cedric Snowden, who has served time for manslaughter; arsonist Bobby Finley; and tough thug Horus Manley. After a year learning the secrets of the real estate business, one member of this trio will be rewarded with a free historic brownstone to remodel on his own. In the meantime, their day-to-day job is to move desirable African-American tenants (read: professionals) into the apartments of various impoverished lowlifes who have recently met with untimely fatal accidents. Sexy local crime reporter Piper Goines helps Snowden see that these are not accidents--they're part of Horizon's secret plan for revitalizing Harlem. Johnson, who probed the advertising world in his first novel, Drop, uses offbeat characters, zany humor and historical information to examine the ethics of gentrification and the problems of poor urban neighborhoods. Think James Baldwin channeled through T. Coraghessan Boyle. Johnson salts the rich narrative with popular and intellectual references (Jackson Pollock, Waiting for Godot, Eliza Doolittle). The ending may seem ambiguous and over-the-top to some, but it is certainly thought provoking. (May) Forecast: Johnson's socially savvy voice makes him an appealing interview subject, and Bloomsbury is solidly behind this sophomore effort (with a seven-city author tour and urban radio promotion). Expect a bump up in recognition and sales. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three ex-cons get ensnared in a treacherous scheme to revitalize Harlem. Second-novelist Johnson (Drop, 2000) begins his likable, and often entertaining story, virtually a casual history of Harlem, as Starbucks, developers, and homebuyers encircle the neighborhood, sniffing bargain real estate and threatening to seal Harlem’s fate as "the most romanticized ghetto in the world." Johnson’s perceptive insights point up what black culture would lose in the transition, a fate that jars protagonist Cedric Snowden from his ennui. Just sprung from a sentence for the murder of his father (it was mostly an accident), Snowden and two other former big-house residents are enlisted by Horizon Reality in a program that promises to rebuild the neighborhood by cleaning out crime and opening up housing for the middle class. The reward: in a year, Horizon will deed the ex-cons a history-laden brownstone. Snowden’s work finds him disposing of the belongings of recently deceased apartment owners to get the premises in shape for new owners. He soon sniffs a pattern in what’s going on: all the apartments housed lowlifes (thieves, pimps, drug dealers) who died in violent accidents, spiking the accidental death rate in Harlem way beyond that of the rest of the city. Piper Goines, keen reporter for the New Holland Herald, also senses something suspicious and starts asking questions. Her investigation brings the somewhat rambling narrative into focus but also sends it along a rather conventional line that ends up begging credibility. No matter. Johnson makes a welcome raconteur for a late night: he’s sharply observant and funny, even witty at times. He can also be long-winded, and some of his sentences do bumpalong. Still, few will complain as long as the good lines keep coming. Fun more in the telling than in the tale. Author tour
From the Publisher

“The author's satirical instincts are razor sharp.” —New York Observer

“Johnson is eloquent in his prose and insightful in his commentary on contemporary urbanization and gentrification.” —New York Daily News

“This great thriller makes you consider what it takes to build a community.” —Honey magazine

“Mat Johnson's breathless thriller cuts to the heart of gentrification. Implausibly humorous, righteously terrifying, Johnson has written a cautionary tale for our time.” —Walter Mosley

“[Johnson's] satirical, loving, conflicted fiction consistently makes burgers of sacred cows.” —Philadelphia City Paper

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.66(h) x 1.39(d)

Meet the Author

Mat Johnson is the author of the novel Drop. He received his MFA from Columbia, where he studied under Michael Cunningham and Maureen Howard. He spent several years living in Harlem and now lives in his native Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.

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Hunting in Harlem 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A guy ran up to me on the train and asked me 'Is that Miles Davis?' He was talking about the cover of this book. What I thought he'd ask me was 'Why were you laughing so much?' The dry humor in this book was hysterical; some intellectual, some barbershop-poke-fun. I spent half of the book trying to play off laughing so loud and understanding why Mat Johnson had this slick grin on his handsome face. He is an outstanding writer and I was entertained. The plot was around three ex-cons who were sent on assignment to a real estate agency to better their lives. Johnson made stereotypes not only extremely hilarious people (i.e. Horus in the green suit), but extremely dull people seem like people I want to meet (i.e. Piper's brother-in-law). I was thoroughly impressed and will definitely be buying ALL of his books. By the way, his dialogue was realistic, a trait that most writers can't seem to acquire. He also knew how to tastefully plug in his favorite authors and give advice, something many rookies and some vets still don't know how to do!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Mystery Thriller about Horizon Realty, a fictional Harlem real estate company that plans to restore the land mark neighborhood. 'By any means necessary!' they kill the people who don't fit into their little plan. The book leaves you thinking about the current renovations taking place in Harlem now and sparks some issues about Gentrification,Black on Black crime, the pishing out of the poor who can't afford the new and improved prices. A nosy reporter who looks a little to hard at the 'accidents' that seem to keep happening. Three ex con's recruited to the Horizon Realty each trying to out do the other for the ' ultimate prise'. A failed novelist who can't get anyone to read his book, until his death. A thug who lives by any means necessary. And a regular guy who struggles with the good vs. evil of what Horizon is doing. This was a modern mystery that taps into the here and now, A thought provoking novel that will leave many questions running through your mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful characterization and page-turning plot. Mat Johnson's way with words makes the outrageous seem perfectly natural and the normal seem ridiculous. I enjoyed this book almost as much as his excellent first novel, 'Drop.'