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Thieves' Paradise.

by Eric Jerome Dickey, Dutton, May 2002 $19.95, ISBN 0-525-94663-2

Change is inevitable. Contemporary pop fiction author Eric Jerome Dickey mines this simple idea in his seventh offering, Thieves' Paradise. This is a moderately cheery story about the highs and lows of a young brother named Dante who, among other things, tries to survive the mean streets of Los Angeles. While the scenario of a down-and-out brother trying to make it is an all too familiar one, Dickey puts a slightly different spin on the tale. Dante eventually hooks up with an old friend, a seedy hustler named Scamz.

As his name dearly and overtly implies, Scamz is a lowlife con artist who employs services of anyone--mostly women--with access to confidential financial information. For example, Scamz has several "employees" with low-level banking jobs who have access to credit card numbers and social security numbers, powerful ammunition for someone who knows how to surreptitiously defraud the system for financial gain. Jobless and broke, Dante asks his old partner and running buddy to find temporary work for him, which he does. In the meantime, Dante meets and falls in love with a waitress named Pam. A wannabe diva and single mom, Pam is a street-smart, sexy, sassy woman who matches wits with Dante--in and out of the bedroom. Dante eventually enlists Pam to work for Scamz.

In Thieves' Paradise, Dickey's writing has never been better. The book is filled with his trademark gritty, street slang, smoldering love scenes and vivid descriptions. He writes, "It was Pam. She made an entrance, sashayed in like she was the high priestess of the blues. People stopped shooting pool when she walked in. Men smiled; the ones who were wearing hats took them off or tipped them toward her. It was Fresh Meat factor. No one knew her. Every man wanted to."

Perhaps, the biggest difference between Thieves' Paradise and Dickey's other books, notably Milk in My Coffee and Liar's Game, is that Thieves' tends to focus more on one brother's struggle to make it. In Dickey's previous novels, most of the characters tend to be successful, affluent, well-educated African Americans--buppies who have struck it rich professionally, but struck out personally. In Thieves' Paradise, Dante's affair with Pam is pivotal to the story line, but it's the interaction between Dante, Scamz and the other shady characters that makes the story intriguing.

--Glenn Townes is a New Jersey-based journalist and frequent contributor to BIBR.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Townes, Glenn
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2002
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