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    IF 6 WERE 9 by Jake Lamar


    Crown Publishers, 2001

    A late night phone call plunges African American college professor Clay Robinette into a world of murder, conspiracy, and kaleidoscopic changes in the Ohio world he calls home. A colleague and former black millitant has found the body of a white female college student in his office. Calling on Clay for a favor, Reggie Brogus knows he's been set up. He plans to go underground while Clay uses his reporter's instincts to find the real killer.

    Clay has problems of his own. The body is that of a student with whom he had pursued a brief affair. He is in danger of becoming involved himself. While he doesn't want to believe Brogus is the killer, who else could it be? Clay embarks on a half-hearted investigation doing as much to incriminate someone--anyone--as to discover the true killer.

    In addition to the police, a secret FBI group is also looking for Brogus, not because they believe him guilty but because he is blackmailing them with evidence that will prove the government involvement with Martin Luther King's assasination. For the FBI, the goal is Brogus dead, regardless of who they have to harm or who might be the actual killer.

    Jake Lamar writes convincingly of the generation of Black Americans who grew up in the shadow of the radical movement of the 1960s. Brogus was a millitant hero who turned to conservative values: should he be valued for his earlier stand or scorned for his sell-out? Clay has a discerning eye for the reality behind people's fronts. His descriptions of the dead woman's memorial service, with each of the participants gaining vicarious thrills from their closeness to adventure while simultaneously professing profound shock and grief is especially telling. His characterization of the cautious co-existance between blacks and whites on campus also rang true. In contrast, Lamar's narrative technique of jumping between flashback and even deeper flashback proved distancing. From a story perspective, the entire ending sequence could have been eliminated.

    Two Stars

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