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Pipe Dream: A Novel

Pipe Dream: A Novel

4.9 10
by Solomon Jones

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The lawyer turned on the tape recorder, handed his client a cigarette, and lit it for him. Black drew hard, squinting as the smoke rushed into his lungs.
"Where do you want to start?"the lawyer said, lighting a cigarette of his own.
"I guess there’s only one place to start; at Broad and Erie."

Johnny Podres, a politician whose


The lawyer turned on the tape recorder, handed his client a cigarette, and lit it for him. Black drew hard, squinting as the smoke rushed into his lungs.
"Where do you want to start?"the lawyer said, lighting a cigarette of his own.
"I guess there’s only one place to start; at Broad and Erie."

Johnny Podres, a politician whose record against corruption had been propelling him straight to the mayor’s office, is found murdered in a North Philly crack house.

Enter Samuel Jackson, a.k.a. Black, a drug addict who knows better, a man embittered by the fact that he can’t seem to escape from his addiction to crack cocaine or, for that matter, from himself. Though he was once a family man with a wife and son, Black’s only concern these days is getting his next high, that is, until he stumbles across a friend and fellow addict, Leroy, and both become prime suspects in the Podres murder. Black and Leroy hook up with two female pipers: Clarisse, a registered nurse who is slowly losing to crack any semblance of a respectable life, and Pookie, who already has lost it. Soon the hunt is on for all four as they try to stay one step ahead of a police department under tremendous pressure to solve the case—because if a killer isn’t found soon, this could blow up into one of the biggest scandals in Philadelphia history.

Solomon Jones weaves a suspenseful story against the backdrop of corruption in the Philadelphia police department and centers it on a group of drug addicts who, in the process of fleeing the law, come to terms with their own addiction, leading to some devastating consequences.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An impressive debut, and a writer to watch."
Kirkus Reviews

"Strap yourself in for a fast-paced, multilayered ride that gets the details right and in the process puts a human face on crack addiction."
—Diane McKinney-Whetstone, author of Blues Dancing

"There’s a new Harlem Renaissance, this time from the City of Brotherly Love. Pipe Dream captures perfectly the sites and sounds of the city, thus Solomon Jones takes his place within this new literary movement."
—Omar Tyree, the Urban Griot and author of Just Say No!

"Pipe Dream is a phenomenal and honest tale of lives often overlooked and stories often untold. Jones reminds us that the surface-level truth often depends on who’s telling it, and the deeper truth comes only when we’re at peace with the lives we’ve led and the choices we’ve made."
—Brian Peterson, author of Move Over, Girl

Publishers Weekly
First-timer Jones travels deep into the drug-fueled underworld of a grim urban Philadelphia in this energetic novel, a neo-noir voyage into violence and injustice. When a popular Puerto Rican city councilman with a stellar anti-corruption record is shot dead in a Philly crack house in September 1992, a citywide manhunt begins. The targets of the hunt are four luckless crack addicts, innocent but doomed by association and reputation. The down-and-out addict and petty thief Leroy was on the scene, along with his sort-of girl, Pookie. Desperate, he turns to his sharper pal Black for help, who in turn involves Clarisse, a still-employed nurse who has only recently turned to crack. The cops pursue all four, looking to wrap the case up fast and easy (while concealing a secret plot of their own). Going back and forth between characters, hunters and hunted, Jones produces a mix like Dragnet meets Chester Himes, stamped by his own experience on the streets. The chase is compelling, but even more involving is the way Jones slowly reveals each character's story, presenting in convincing and heartbreaking detail how each was sucked into dead-end addiction. Clarisse and Black's romance and redemption is too neatly conceived, but this is a promising debut effort. Jones clearly has the stuff to become a major chronicler of the mean streets. Agent, Victoria Saunders. (July 31) Forecast: Jones's own story he escaped addiction to become a journalist and is currently a staff writer at the Philadelphia Weekly is as compelling as his strong first novel, and a seven-city author tour should bring the book to readers' attention. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This African American urban melodrama tells the story of four crack addicts who after being wrongly accused of murdering one of Philadelphia's leading politicians, a civic crusader against police corruption attempt to escape a seemingly guaranteed death at the hands of an overzealous police force. The tale is indirectly narrated by Samuel Everett "Black" Jackson, one of the addicts, who has finally broken his silence to his court-appointed lawyer just before his trial. While the novel offers a cautionary tale about crack addiction and contemporary police corruption, its plot is not very believable, its characters are depressingly clich d, and its narrative strategy is virtually impossible to explain: Jackson essentially narrates many events he did not witness and could not know about. In addition, the dialog often sounds as if it comes from a police scanner transcript, and minor characters are introduced and then discarded with aplomb. The writer missed an excellent opportunity to offer an in-depth view of contemporary black Philadelphia and its complex problems with drugs, police brutality, and economic marginalization. Recommended only for libraries with comprehensive African American contemporary fiction collections. Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A staff writer for Philadelphia Weekly debuts with a searing tale of betrayals, self-betrayals, wasted lives—and addiction. The place is Philadelphia, though the setting could be any big city. Everett Jackson (street name: Black), a young African-American awaiting trial for murder, tells the bulk of his story in one long flashback. Black's a "piper"—a crack-cocaine addict—as is his best friend Leroy. That is, they would be best friends if the all-controlling need for the hit didn't make romantic nonsense out of so humanly natural a concept. As usual, Black and Leroy are broke on this particular night. In order to score, they have to run some kind of scam, which, in its typical inefficiency, is what lands them in the wrong place at the wrong time—in a certain crack house where someone has just been murdered. It turns out to be a very important someone: the city councilman who heads the Police Civilian Review Board. He's been lured to his death because a couple of highly placed cops need to discredit him before he can blow the whistle on the corruption that's made them rich. The cops also need scapegoats, a role for which both Black and Leroy, friendless and powerless, seem tailor-made. An all-out manhunt ensues, leading the beset pipers to go underground. Expert at wriggling and squirming, they make it seem for a while as if they might escape—but they don't, and they can't. The thing about pipers is that way down deep they know they don't deserve to. Violence leads to bloodshed and, paradoxically, to isolated patches of something like nobility. In the end, Black's desperate battle against the system, and his own inner demons produces an unsought andaffecting redemption. Despite occasional descents into melodrama, Pipe Dream is the work of a talented newcomer passionate about his material. An impressive debut—and a writer to watch. Author tour

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Strivers Row Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt

"Good night, Everett," Clarisse said, trying to hide her paranoia behind a stern mask that was meant to tell Black he was no longer welcome in her home.

But as she began to close the door, she took on a look that seemed to depict a struggle between two separate people-the one who was a principled, respectable professional young woman and the one who was smoking the pipe.

"I'll give you a bundle," Black said, reading her expression and taking a chance that the crack fiend would win the struggle.

The door stopped in mid-swing.

"A bundle?" she said.

He nodded.

Meet the Author

Solomon Jones is currently a staff writer for Philadelphia Weekly and has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, and The Philadelphia Tribune. He received a B.A. in Journalism from Temple University and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife. This is his first novel.

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Pipe Dream 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Jones did such fantastic writing with Pipe Dreams, I had to reread the book. I read Pipe Dreams many years ago with the book club I participated in. From the beginning of the book, I was captured by the characters and the plot. I have recommended this book to many people, and will be purchaing other books by Mr. Solomon in the future. Keep up the fantastic writing!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a riveting story about police corruption intersecting with the lives of four people caught up (all at different levels) in the web of crack addiction. It shows how easy it can be for the public to assume the worst. This could have easily been written as a strictly racial bias lament, but Solomon Jones demonstrates a good understanding of human nature, mixing his black, white, and Hispanic characters with both good qualities and bad, strengths and flaws. This novel did not sugar-coat addiction, nor did it offer any promise that doing the right thing to expose corruption will always bring with it just rewards. However, Jones managed to offer a hopeful ending, which is the most anyone can ask for in this life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Drugs, power and control is what theses pipers are all fighting for. When it comes down to murder and the police Leroy is the first to run from the trouble. This compelling novel takes place in a dark dreary neighborhood in Philly. It¿s amazing how you see the mind of a crack addict at work fighting for love and drugs at the same time. Clarisse is stuck in the middle of all the drugs and drama when she regrettably opens the door for these troubled pipers. The search began for the four troubled pipers running through the streets and stealing cars and clothes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this novel Jones showed that the police aren't always what people make them out to be...he let you see that just bc drug addicts are down on their luck not ALL would do anything for a hit!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pipe Dream was such an interesting novel. It had every element a book should have: mystery, romance, crime and truth. I related so much to the story being a recovering addict myself. I wish there were more authors out there like Solomon Jones.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent! It was refreshing to see the underdogs, not only plea for those to believe in their innocence, but really be innocent. The switch in the stereotypes were magnificent and more relistic than people want to believe. The author was able to accurately show a part of the world that does really exist, emphasizing the disparate treatment of human beings without letting racial tension over ride the story. The dialogue involving the police scenes were very accurate. Could not put this book down until I was done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never read a suspense/mystery before this, but this book is un-believ-able. I've never read anything like this. It goes up there among the best. You have to be open-minded to be able to understand all the characters. It is amazing and this cat Solomon Jones has earned a fan for life!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm usually relieved when I get books from the library because they're not worth buying. But this one was worth ALL the money I didn't spend and the money I will be using to purchase ALL of this author's books. Solomon Jones is excellent at his craft. Being an aspiring writer, I NEED to read good novels to make me want to write. This is a definite ten. It deals with the life of three crackheads who get accused of murder and kidnapping but who are innocent. It goes into their past lives before drugs, love, manipulation, behind-the-scenes look at police, and a story that unravels smoothly. I was impressed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Congratulations Solomon!!! This book is a masterpiece. I could not put it down and read it in one day. It was amazing how you gave 'pipers' a face and drew us into their world. We often look down on the struggling drug addict and never take a chance to get to know them or consider that they most often, were once like us. They had families and children and homes and careers. I personally have experienced loving several people addicted to crack cocaine. Your book was so true to life. Although it is a fiction, I felt as if you were telling the life story of people close to me. Thank God one person in particular has since been to recovery and is living a wonderful life now, because of his faith in God and a few people who would not give up on him. I pray that God will continue to bless you and your wife and new baby. Please don't stop writing, I'm anxiously waiting for the next book. I thank God he saved you from the streets of Philadelphia and the bondage of crack cocaine addiction.