In his ambitious but rather didactic third novel, Dee (The Liberty Campaign) explores America's obsession with the cults of victimhood and fame in the aftermath of a race riot in New York City. Paul Soloway is a struggling writer who's been working on his first novel for 10 years when the acquittal of a white man who has shot a black child touches off a riot in Harlem. Paul ends up being abducted and held hostage by Victor Hartley, a normally respectable young black man brought to the boiling point by a long and random chain of circumstance. The novel opens as Paul, who has suffered severe physical injuries during his time as a hostage, is released from the hospital and into the ensuing media feeding frenzy. Eventually, he is persuaded to write a book about his experience in the riot, which is presented to the reader largely through excerpts from the work in progress. Meanwhile, his abductor becomes a hero in the black community and, with the help of a high-profile lawyer, starts his own media campaign. The gulf that separates Paul and Victor is only increased by their different attempts to make sense of their private experience in the public realm, leading to a climax that sacrifices credibility to make a polemical point. Dee is certainly a skilled writer, one who pays careful attention to both the internal and external details that give his characters' actions substance and weight. But while his portrayal of America's racial divide is acute and his characters well drawn, ultimately both Paul and Victor emerge as selfish and nave, and much of what they learn about the power of the media and the distortions of public image over the course of the novel seems distressingly obvious. Author tour. (Jan.)
In this new novel from Dee (The Liberty Campaign, LJ 6/15/93), a young, anonymous writer emerges from a race riot as a reluctant hero.