Casanegra by Blair Underwood

Man…it’s a difficult task attempting to locate black book news on the internet. Have I mentioned that before? I search high and low for something that I hope my viewers will find interesting. Occasionally I come across a few really good links, but mainly…it’s like looking for the latest fashions and name brands at Goodwill.

I’ve read a couple–okay, one book by Tanarive Due (it was pretty good too), but I haven’t read anything by her husband Steven Barnes. So when I first heard about the book that they co-wrote with Blair Underwood, I was momentarily impressed. When I read the summary for the book, my interest quickly wained:

Actor Underwood (Sex and the City, etc.) teams up with accomplished authors Due and Barnes to produce a seamlessly entertaining novel. Tennyson Hardwick—semisuccessful actor, ex-gigolo and incipient sleuth—has the mixed fortune to reconnect with rap superstar Afrodite, a former client, for a night of more than just sex. The next day, she’s found dead in a plastic bag with a split skull, and he’s a suspect. To clear his name, Hardwick draws on all of his considerable assets: good looks and charm, a $2.5 million house inherited from a devoted client, martial arts skills (Barnes’s stock in trade) and connections on both sides of the law. The authors have mixed up a cocktail of exotic elements—the sex for pay industry, the grind and glitz of Hollywood and the rap biz, a smart leavening of black film history—and topped it with a double shot of brutal murder. Handsome Ten Hardwick has not only a great backstory but a very promising future.

Regardless of the uncontrollable eye roll that occured after reading that, the fact is this book is getting some pretty good reviews on Amazon (if that means anything to you). Upon visiting, I found a video clip of the authors discussing their recent project.

Although I still don’t feel like this book will make it to the top of my must read list, here’s an excerpt for the rest of you to help make the decision for yourself.

Chapter One

Here’s what you need to know: I hate lines. That’s the only reason I stopped by Roscoe’s that day. I would explain this to the guys from Robbery-Homicide, not that LAPD ever believes a word I say. But it’s the truth.

Any other day, if I had swung by Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles on Gower and Sunset, there would have been customers waiting in the plastic chairs lining the sidewalk, hoping for a table inside, out of the sun’s reach. Me, I would have driven straight by. I love Roscoe’s, but what did I just say? I hate lines. Lines are an occupational hazard for actors looking for work, so I seriously hate lines on my days off. Maybe it was because it was ten-forty-five on a Monday morning — too late for breakfast and too early for lunch — but the sidewalk outside Roscoe’s was empty, so I pulled over to grab some food.

Chance. Happenstance. Karma. Whatever you call it, I walked in by accident.

As anybody in this town knows, some people give off a magnetic field. A few lucky ones have it naturally; and some, like me, have worked on it over time. A certain walk, the right clothes, a strategic combination of aloofness and familiarity. When I walk into a room, strangers’ eyes fix on me like a calculus problem they can’t solve: I know you from somewhere. You must be somebody, what’s-his-name on TV, or Whozit, from that movie that just came out. Being noticed has always been an important part of my work — hell, half the people in L.A. moved here hoping to refine the art of being noticed, with no cost too high. By now, it’s second nature. Customers looked up from their plates and lowered their voices when I walked into Roscoe’s.

Later, half a dozen people would describe me down to the shoes I was wearing: white suede Bruno Magli loafers. Bone-colored light ribbed sweater. White linen pants. Gucci shades. Any cop knows that if you ask six people for a description, you get six different stories. Not this time. One seventy-six-year-old grandmother at a table in the back had the nerve to tell the cops, “I don’t think he was wearing anything under those tight white pants.” I’m not lying. And she was right. They noticed me, down to religious preference.

But as I walked through the door of Roscoe’s, I tripped over someone else’s magnetic field. The air in that place was crackling, electrified. It made the hair on my neck and arms stand up. Remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when those two small-timers tried to hold up a diner, not knowing the customers included Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, stone-cold killers there for a quick breakfast after blowing away three dumb-ass kids? Well, either somebody was about to hold up Roscoe’s at gunpoint, or someone close to royalty was eating there. Had to be one or the other. (Read more…)

Check out the USA Today article. Happy reading ya’ll!


5 thoughts on “Casanegra by Blair Underwood

  1. I thought I was the only one having a hard time finding information and news on the internet about African-American writers and upcoming books. I know the information is out there, but why is it so hard to find?

    By the by, I agree with your assessment of the Blair Underwood title. I am curious to know though – how do you clear yourself of murder with a really expensive house?


  2. Ok, J.S., glad to see that we’re in the same boat with finding black literary news. It’s also good to know somebody is feeling me on my Casanegra opinions.


  3. I am glad that I stumbled on your website tonight. Can’t reconstruct for the life of me how I got here, but I’m sure glad I found my way.

    I’m glad to find this website because I read waaaay too much historical fiction and fantasy novels, and far too little fiction/literature by black authors. I used to read everything i could get my hands on by black authors, but that was back when James Alan McPherson and Ernest Gaines and Gayle Jones and Paule Marshall were big names in black fiction. (You know how long ago that was!!)

    I look forward to adding your site to my favorites so I can keep up with the good stuff that’s being written and not the “ghetto” stuff.

    In the meantime, thanks for this piece on on Casanegra. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me– when I first heard of the book— why Barnes and Due would be “co-writing” a book with Blair Underwood. Unless, of course the movie deal had fallen through (Underwood bought the movie rights some years ago to Due’s MY SOUL TO KEEP and nothing has come of the movie at all). Is CASANEGRA compensation for that failed deal?, I’ve wondered. None of the reviews CASANEGRA has persuaded me yet to buy the book, even though I love Due’s writings.

    I pretty much stick to matters of black women and faith on my blog, but from time to time I do write about some of my favorite writers and books:


  4. nappiejean, I never would have considered this book as compensation for the failed movie deal. Now that you mention it…I’m a believer. I’m sorry to always be such a hater, but this book is just not something that will make it to my personal library. I barely read the excerpt. *yawn*


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