The Ballad of Black Tom

Tor.com. Feb. 2016. 160p. ISBN 9780765387868. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765386618. HORROR
Charles Thomas Tester is not a very good musician, but he can fake it well enough to make a rough living hustling on the streets of Prohibition-era New York. He takes a job at the home of Robert Suydam, a wealthy man from Red Hook, only to find Sudyam's occult ambitions involve opening a portal to other dimensions and summoning the Sleeping King to Earth.
VERDICT LaValle (The Devil in Silver) crafts a gem of a Lovecraftian novella, cleverly keeping his horrors just offstage. The real power of the story is Tom's experiences of prejudice as a black man living in early 20th-century Harlem, and how he overcomes and subverts that prejudice, taking on whatever role he has to in order to get by: he is "Charles" to his father, "Tommy" to his friends, and eventually "Black Tom"—one to be feared.
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