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Harlem Shuffle
Cover of Harlem Shuffle
Harlem Shuffle
A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, this gloriously entertaining novel is  “fast-paced, keen-eyed and very funny ... about race, power and the history of Harlem all disguised as a thrill-ride crime novel" (San Francisco Chronicle).

"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home. 
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time. 
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either. 
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the "Waldorf of Harlem"—and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes. 
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs? 
Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. 
But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, this gloriously entertaining novel is  “fast-paced, keen-eyed and very funny ... about race, power and the history of Harlem all disguised as a thrill-ride crime novel" (San Francisco Chronicle).

"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home. 
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time. 
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either. 
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the "Waldorf of Harlem"—and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes. 
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs? 
Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. 
But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, which in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. He lives in New York City.
    Colson Whitehead is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@ penguinrandomhouse.com or visitwww.prhspeakers.com.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 10, 2021
    Two-time Pulitzer winner Whitehead (The Nickel Boys) returns with a sizzling heist novel set in civil rights–era Harlem. It’s 1959 and Ray Carney has built an “unlikely kingdom” selling used furniture. A husband, a father, and the son of a man who once worked as muscle for a local crime boss, Carney is “only slightly bent when it to being crooked.” But when his cousin Freddie—whose stolen goods Carney occasionally fences through his furniture store—decides to rob the historic Hotel Theresa, a lethal cast of underworld figures enter Carney’s life, among them the mobster Chink Montague, “known for his facility with a straight razor”; WWII veteran Pepper; and the murderous, purple-suited Miami Joe, Whitehead’s answer to No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh. These and other characters force Carney to decide just how bent he wants to be. It’s a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead’s loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone—“that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete”—which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce’s Dublin. Don’t be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi, Inc.

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2021
    Whitehead adds another genre to an ever-diversifying portfolio with his first crime novel, and it's a corker. Ray Carney owns a furniture store in Harlem. When the novel begins in 1959, he's selling mostly used furniture, struggling to escape the legacy of his criminal father. ""Living taught you,"" Ray believes, ""that you didn't have to live the way you'd been taught."" Almost. Ray's ne'er-do-well cousin, Freddie, who's been luring Ray into hot water since childhood (""I didn't mean to get you in trouble,"" is Freddie's constant refrain) regularly brings Ray the odd piece of jewelry, provenance unknown, which Ray peddles to a dealer downtown, building a stake to invest in his business. ""There was a natural flow of goods in and out and through people's lives . . . a churn of property, and Ray facilitated that churn."" It works until Freddie suggests Ray as a fence for a jewel heist at the Hotel Theresa (""the Waldorf of Harlem""), and suddenly the churn produces a potentially disastrous backwash. Following Ray as his business grows and he delicately balances the crooked and straight sides of his life, Whitehead delivers a portrait of Harlem in the early '60s, culminating with the Harlem Riot of 1964, that is brushed with lovingly etched detail and features a wonderful panoply of characters who spring to full-bodied life, blending joy, humor, and tragedy. A triumph on every level.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Twice a Pulitzer winner, Whitehead seems destined for more honors with his first crime novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2021
    After winning back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes for his previous two books, Whitehead lets fly with a typically crafty change-up: a crime novel set in mid-20th-century Harlem. The twin triumphs of The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019) may have led Whitehead's fans to believe he would lean even harder on social justice themes in his next novel. But by now, it should be clear that this most eclectic of contemporary masters never repeats himself, and his new novel is as audacious, ingenious, and spellbinding as any of his previous period pieces. Its unlikely and appealing protagonist is Ray Carney, who, when the story begins in 1959, is expecting a second child with his wife, Elizabeth, while selling used furniture and appliances on Harlem's storied, ever bustling 125th Street. Ray's difficult childhood as a hoodlum's son forced to all but raise himself makes him an exemplar of the self-made man to everybody but his upper-middle-class in-laws, aghast that their daughter and grandchildren live in a small apartment within earshot of the subway tracks. Try as he might, however, Ray can't quite wrest free of his criminal roots. To help make ends meet as he struggles to grow his business, Ray takes covert trips downtown to sell lost or stolen jewelry, some of it coming through the dubious means of Ray's ne'er-do-well cousin, Freddie, who's been getting Ray into hot messes since they were kids. Freddie's now involved in a scheme to rob the Hotel Theresa, the fabled "Waldorf of Harlem," and he wants his cousin to fence whatever he and his unsavory, volatile cohorts take in. This caper, which goes wrong in several perilous ways, is only the first in a series of strenuous tests of character and resources Ray endures from the back end of the 1950s to the Harlem riots of 1964. Throughout, readers will be captivated by a Dickensian array of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from itchy-fingered gangsters to working-class women with a low threshold for male folly. What's even more impressive is Whitehead's densely layered, intricately woven rendering of New York City in the Kennedy era, a time filled with both the bright promise of greater economic opportunity and looming despair due to the growing heroin plague. It's a city in which, as one character observes, "everybody's kicking back or kicking up. Unless you're on top." As one of Whitehead's characters might say of their creator, When you're hot, you're hot.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from August 1, 2021

    Two-time Pulitzer winner Whitehead (The Underground Railroad; The Nickel Boys) has fun and shows off his literary dexterity with this rollicking crime novel set in 1960s Harlem. Ray Carney, a self-made Black man, sells new and used furniture at affordable prices (with generous payment plans) in a store that bears his name on historic 125th Street. He's caught between his haughty in-laws who are unhappy that their daughter lives in a dingy apartment near the train, and his wayward cousin Freddie, the devil on Ray's shoulder since they were kids. The "slightly bent" storekeeper sometimes fences stolen jewelry too. Ray gets talked into a lucrative heist with seedy coconspirators, which leads to more dangerous capers, until he is forced to balance his loyalty to his business and his family with his loyalty to Freddie. As a writer, Whitehead is in full command, seamlessly populating his story with lovingly recounted period details. The stakes here aren't as high, or the subject matter as heavy, as in his two recent masterworks, but Whitehead's mystery explores the intersections of Black class mobility, civil unrest, and New York City in an entertaining way. VERDICT Another can't-miss from the versatile Whitehead, for readers who loved James McBride's Deacon King Kong.--Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel
Colson Whitehead
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