by E. Scrill
Street Ink Publications, $15, 200 pp.
The genre known as "urban fiction" — aka "street fiction" or "ghetto fiction" — gets little critical scrutiny. Only now are the genre's pioneers, such as Donald Goines, getting a more serious look. The gritty stories of pimps, drug dealers and hoods have struck a chord with mostly young, inner-city readers. What's more, they've become a growing business, with scores of books coming out each year, collectively selling millions of copies.
This entry, from Detroit scribe E. Scrill, was published a few years ago, but only recently came to our attention. Set in Detroit, the book abounds with local references, especially on the west side: the Fox Theatre, McNichols Road, Herman Gardens, Fairlane Mall, Dexter-Davison, Sinai-Grace Hospital, etc. Adding to the Detroit authenticity, Scrill's ear for dialogue is superb, as the characters' language — from slang to cusses — is spot-on, and often laugh-out-loud funny.
The tales centers on Mack, a drug dealer fresh out of stir who's back on the block, bumping around in his Denali and slinging again. He falls hard for Ray, an innocent 21-year-old with a "Coke bottle-shaped body." All this happens against the backdrop of a lethal virus called ZGP, which is striking people down left and right. Coincidentally, only Ray's father has the cure to the disease, a medicine that Mack is soon slinging like powder. His bid to help others and go legit takes him from hood to hero. It's intriguing that, in Drug Lords, the illegal drug dealer is out to do more good than the pill-pushing players of Big Pharma.
Though dubbed "street sci-fi" by Scrill, the scientific part of the story is small. The "street" aspects predominate, as they should, with well-worded scenes of violence and, of course, sex.
Ray gasped as Mack's adept fingers skated over her damp crotch, and then began down inside her undies, stopping to playfully dally in the soft patch of mingled hairs. She moaned his dick stiff as his skillful finger finally entered her. With one hand filled with a buoyant breast, and the other gently stoking her creamy, he went to work on her earlobe with his lips.
Though it has a few too many characters (sometimes it gets confusing), and loses momentum in the end, Scrill's book is nothing if not stimulating. Scrill also has a newer book out: Children of the Night (2010, Street Ink Publication, $13, 164 pp.), also at streetinkbooks.com.>