“Like rats to cheese, folks in Koontown are drawn to yellow police tape. It’s utterly irresistible. ESPN, BET, not even sex can break the hold that thin, plastic strip has on them. And they come. I don’t understand it. I grew up in the suburbs. But I’d seen it all throughout my police career, and tonight is no different.” So narrates the embattled heroine Genevieve “Jon Vee” Noir in “Chaptah Tu” of Bill Campbell’s satirical novel, Koontown Killing Kaper.
Not since Mat Johnson’s “Hunting In Harlem” has a book from this genre, grabbed me from the very beginning and carried me to the very end at such a rapid pace.
Rappers, purveyors of urban literature, and TV producers are being found murdered in gruesome fashion. Word on the streets of the besieged city of Koontown is that vampire crack babies are the perpetrators. Former international supermodel-turned cop-turned private detective, Genevieve “Jon Vee” Noir is hired by rap impresario Hustle Beamon, to find out who’s killing off his business partners and top selling rap artists. Together with her former Koontown Police Department partner Detective Willie O. O’Ree, Jon Vee navigates the dark, dank underbelly of Koontown; coming up against pimps, dubious record executives, secret sororities, disreputable politicians, and government conspiracies to get to the bottom of the savage murders plaguing the city lest the crimes threaten the already fragile détente between Koontown residents and a nearby gentrified neighborhood of Toomer Way.
In scathing and often explicit commentary about Black urban pathology, Bill Campbell leaves no stone unturned in his fourth book. From the controversial cover to its title, language, and plot devices; Campbell presents a raw illustration of today’s cult-of-personality and its sanctimoniousness, and the dirty business of city politics.
Born into a color-struck legacy complete with “good hair”, deliberately light-skinned, lithe, and affluent private detective Jon Vee, tries to reconcile her own self-loathing as she flaunts the privilege her light skin has afforded her, along with her family’s seemingly willful miscegenation; with trying to understand the lives of the poverty stricken and exploited denizens of the city she’s trying to help.
Hopelessly out of touch with the realities and street codes of the inner-city, Genevieve is tireless in her quest to help restore order to the city of Koontown, which is on the verge of becoming a dystopian wasteland for greedy “White settlers” to come and pluck real estate from the ashes at a bargain price, and for Black elitists to rebuild in the image they deem acceptable for the good of the race. The tall protagonist does this while assuaging her own lineage.
Bill Campbell interweaves elements of sci-fi horror with noted facts about America’s history of ills against people of color as well as, present day politics, and the continued marginalization of poor folk who reside in the inner-city amid chaos and violence. [I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the similarities between Hustle Beamon and hip-hop business magnate, Russell Simmons, who himself has been labeled a hypocrite and accused of being a poverty pimp.]
Thirty-year-old harried grandmothers, a talking vagina that sings Negro spirituals, the effects of social engineering, slain straight-A students, a busy city morgue overseen by a shady medical examiner and that runs like an industrial factory with machines performing the autopsies, the concept of “Niggerdom” ascribed to poor Black people by the Black elite, the posturing of hardcore rap artists [from sheltered backgrounds], intra-racial bigotry … Campbell lays it all out on the table, splayed open like the bodies in the city morgue. Also impressive is the book’s accompanying soundtrack [a novel idea… pun intended], which features catchy J Dilla-esque beats, executive produced by Triple Threat.
“Television news constantly feeds us reports of black criminality, black underachievement, and black addiction. Our entertainment industry gives us a steady diet of black depravity, shoveling pimps and hustlers and playas and thugs down our throats. We can watch them on our televisions, in our movies; listen to them on our radios, iPods, and smart phones; we can read about them on our Kindles and Nooks and even—heaven forbid—actual books and thrill to their tales of violence, greed, and penicillin-resistant promiscuity.”
Campbell wrote in a January missive about what prompted him to write Koontown Killing Kaper.
The book’s bold and explicit approach to deconstructing some of the issues that Black America is often fraught with, may not be for everyone; but for anybody else not opposed to in-your-face satire that upends rap culture, wishy-washy church rhetoric, and politics; it’s definitely a tour de force worth reading and mulling over.