Books

Indie author profile on @TheDGAllen . #TheBlackLedger

Indie author profile on @TheDGAllen . #TheBlackLedger

The goal of Arlene Miller Creative Writing is to recognize & support all forms of creative expression. To achieve this goal, this blog will profile actors, artists, authors and musicians with articles acknowledging their work.
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Why you should read The Black Ledger by D.G. Allen

There is something fundamentally exciting about a well-written crime thriller in its ability to transform the couch potato reader into a passionate detective. The carefully crafted clues become ours for the taking; uncovering the underlying mystery takes precedence. Once we successfully piece together the clues, we sit back to admire our handiwork: how perceptive of us that we were able to prowl around an author’s brain, sift through the suspense and solve the crime.

Yet, few crime thrillers will add racism as an element to the mystery. Racism is the proverbial elephant in the room. Maybe there is a justifiable fear in discussing race relationships for concern that innocent intent may be misconstrued as bias. So we allow the elephant to freely roam as we proceed with our daily lives.

D.G. Allen has attempted to tackle the elephant in his insightful, emotionally charged book The Black Ledger. I applaud Allen for courageously approaching a difficult and sensitive subject with compassion and thought. For Allen writing about racism was no easy feat: Allen’s central protagonist is a young white man named Ron Pickles who unknowingly finds himself embroiled in a murderous scheme when he takes a job as a ledger agent for Unified Insurance. Based on a true story, readers see Ron confront not only the violence of inner city Chicago in the 1980s but also racist attitudes of both black and white people. As if that isn’t enough to negotiate, Ron is the pawn in a duplicitous arrangement hatched by Unified Insurance.

There are some readers who might feel that the lives of the poverty stricken denizens of Chicago’s public housing (where the majority of its residents are black) is not Allen’s narrative to tell. How could he possibly understand the heartache of a community that he wasn’t born into? Such an argument is faulty at best; what it suggests is that only a writer belonging to the racial group of the characters for which he writes has the right to breathe life into those characters. Still, Allen walks a careful tightrope. Rather than assigning clear hero and villain roles to his characters, Allen layers them with complicated psyches. While some readers may feel that Allen plays into racial stereotypes, I would argue that he instead highlights the human frailties that we all share. A society that perpetuates fear, mistrust and suspicion creates its own war between people. Survival of the fittest becomes a reality not merely some Darwinian discussion reserved for academia.

The Black Ledger gives us a roster of intriguing characters and a very powerful plot. Painful language and profanity lace the dialogue and admittedly, that was one of the hardest aspects of reading the book for me. Having grown up in the environment for which Allen writes (only substituting the Chicago public housing for which The Black Ledger is based for Philadelphia public housing), I was privy to the extreme poverty and violence. But for my mother’s hard work and emphasis on securing higher education (thankfully I was fortunate to attend both college and law school on full academic scholarships), I could have easily suffered Sandra Wesley’s fate. Maybe the dichotomy of my upbringing (the inner city roots didn’t defeat my Ivy League successes) made me gravitate towards The Black Ledger.  At its best, this book is a study in psychology and sociology, with some history sprinkled in for good measure.

I highly recommend The Black Ledger for anyone who is willing to look inside of him or herself and to ask some difficult questions.

The elephant doesn’t leave the room just because it is ignored.

 

To buy D.G. Allen’s The Black Ledger:

Related:

Book Review: The Black Ledger by @TheDGAllen via @tdmiller820917

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