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Deacon King Kong

by James McBride

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1127214,580 (4.24)95
"From James McBride, author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, comes a wise and witty novel about what happens to the witnesses of a shooting. In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .45 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself. As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters--caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York--overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion. Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us"--… (more)
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» See also 95 mentions

English (71)  French (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
This novel is old fashioned in a way, despite its focus on a very current issue -- relations between Black people and White people. The "old-fashionedness" is the way the novel is written and structured. Like Dickens or other 19th century writers, it is packed with people. fully realized characters who touch your heart. And like older novels, it is driven by plot, full of surprises, and includes at least two love stories. Also, the book is brilliantly written, full of vivid images and lovely prose. It got more and more engrossing as I read on, and by the time I finished I was sad to have finished. ( )
  annbury | Jun 16, 2022 |
I loved this crazy and delightful book about a drunk living in the NYC housing projects among likable drug dealers and an organized crime family.
This book was a delight. ( )
  AstridG | Apr 28, 2022 |
Almost fatally overlong, digressive, and rambling, this book was brought to my attention by other reviewers of Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle. But unlike Harlem Shuffle, which despite its faults, presents characters that come across as real, Deacon King Kong presents a whole bunch of stereotypes--most with hearts of gold beneath their various ethic exteriors. There are a lot of good scenes here, but there is no suspense. It's pretty clear early on exactly where the story is going. There are also more than a few loose ends not accounted for. There are a few funny scenes. Somehow, despite being a "feel good" book, it ends up seeming more than a bit hollow.

The audiobook was very well read, however. ( )
  datrappert | Apr 24, 2022 |
For more crime, pulp and horror reviews visit:
Wordpress: https://criminolly.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3516zdH-XqACeusCHCVk8w

‘Deacon King Kong’ is one of those books that I wanted to like a lot more than I did. It has a great deal going for it, particularly a great sense of place and a broad cast of fascinating and entertaining characters, but somehow it failed to grip me in a meaningful way and I found myself rushing through it.
The book takes place in New York in 1969 and starts with the shooting of a teenage drug dealer by an alcoholic local man known as Sportcoat. He’s the Deacon King Kong of the title, active in the church but also hopelessly addicted to King Kong, a homemade liquor that he swigs throughout the book. McBride takes that dramatic opening and zooms out to explore it’s impacts on the community the assailant and victim live in. It’s a rundown Brooklyn neighbourhood populated with African Americans, Latinx, Italians and Jews living cheek by jowl and surviving despite their poverty.
What works brilliantly about the book is McBride’s depiction of the area. It lives and breathes on the page, full of life and colour. The characters are great too, and the book is populated with a diverse range of memorable people going about their lives. Some of the events are shocking, some are amusing, but they all feel real.
And yet somehow the book didn’t work for me. There is a plot running through it about a search for a mysterious hidden treasure. McBride uses it to pull the various characters together but it never really sucked me in. The book definitely has a lot to admire about it, but I couldn’t help feeling it could have been better. I ended up finding it a bit too similar to other things (Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ being one) and that diminished its impact and grip on my attention. ( )
  whatmeworry | Apr 9, 2022 |
I listened to the book in audio, narrated by Dominic Hoffman. His voice was instrumental and had the right tone for the characters. Reading this book took me longer than I anticipated. I put the book down for awhile and it took me a period of time before I picked it back up. It’s not that the book was boring or a difficult read, it was intriguing and funny at times. I had several other books to finish reading, that I wanted to give this one my undivided attention. The characters are colorful and distinct. The names of some of the characters are endearing such as, Hot Sausage, Lightbulb, Pudgy Fingers, Soup, and Elephant. The book is very character driven, and my favorite character was Sister Gee, she was spunky and a no nonsense lady. The Irish, Puerto Rican’s and African American’s got along in the Cause and that was refreshing to read.

The novel is creatively written with a storyline that has mystery, drama, crime and romance. McBride demonstrates himself to be an awesome storyteller, he develops the characters. each with a back story; and connects them to one another in a sense of community pride and faith. There are many artistic symbolism that the author uses to express the state of mind of the characters, such as ants, Jesus's cheese, baseball, and the Christmas club money. All of these things and a few others define the story and the narrative (pokeweed, Jesus juice). The message that McBride intertwined in the story were outstanding showing a snapshot of the community, its diversity, social upheaval and change in Brooklyn, New York around 1969. Again, I love a book with history, and the author did not fail me on this. He referenced the Mayor John Lindsay (real mayor of New York from 1966-73) and Governor Nelson Rockefeller. There was a mention of the riot that broke out in Brownsville, New York after a police officer shot and killed an 11 year black boy. The Gorvino family is a stand in for the real life Gambino family, a notorious organized crime family.

I don't know why I. waited so long to read this novel. I gave it 4 stars. It was an enjoyable read and I have some of McBrides' previous novels that I need to blow the dust off and read, such as Song Yet Sung, The Good Lord Bird, Five-Carat Soul, and Kill 'em and Leave (non-fiction). ( )
  Onnaday | Feb 22, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
In a city where history is paved over and where the present landscape is defined by scaffolding bent toward an ever-developing future, this novel resists the usual nostalgia for a lost artists’ utopia. Instead, it animates a neighborhood scrimping by and revitalizes another nostalgic sore spot — that of community.
added by pbirch01 | editSeattle Times (Mar 25, 2020)
 
Beneath the characters and comedy is a story about how a community and its religious institutions can provide a center to keep things from falling apart completely.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James McBrideprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoffman, DominicNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For God's people--all of 'em
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Deacon Cuffy Lambkin of Five Ends Baptist Church became a walking dead man on a cloudy September afternoon in 1969. That’s the day the old deacon, known as Sportcoat to his friends, marched out to the plaza of the Causeway Housing project in South Brooklyn, stuck an ancient .45 Luger in the face of a nineteen-year-old drug dealer named Deems Clemens and pulled the trigger.
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"From James McBride, author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, comes a wise and witty novel about what happens to the witnesses of a shooting. In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .45 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself. As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters--caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York--overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion. Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us"--

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