Something about today really compelled me to read this book. A couple of days ago, Obsidian Blue reviewed a different Victor LaValle book and in her final thoughts she mentioned that The Ballad of Black Tom was recommended. Even though in this bingo game I've already started Stinger (Square: Aliens), Dracula (Square: Vampire), and The Haunted Mesa (Square: Supernatural) in just the last couple of days, I ignored the Bingo call this morning, avoided making progress on those books that I've already started...and ignored the fact that Diverse Voices is no where near any sort of Bingo'ing strategy (see below), to read The Ballad of Black Tom.
I'm SO glad I did!
This little novella is strange - the tale a riff on Lovecraft source material - but it packs a punch. I enjoyed reading the story of Tommy Tester, with his sly, conman skills that he employs to patch together a living for he and his dying dad in 1924 Harlem.
“There were others who would have called him a scammer, a swindler, a con, but he never thought of himself this way. No good charlatan ever did.”
I really enjoyed this while I was reading it, I liked how each page built steadily to one strong, bass chord of dread in the end. I loved it more once I finished it - once I let my thoughts sort of marinate in the soulful conjure music of Tom and his blood stained guitar.
“Nobody ever thinks of himself as a villain, does he? Even monsters hold high opinions of themselves.”
This is heartbreaking and has it's terrifying moments, but it's somehow satisfying all the same. There's not much I find I really want to say about the journey because it seems like sharing any little piece of the story could somehow lessen the overall effect, but it was good. Really, really good. It deserves every award it's been bestowed.