Deacon King Kong
The New York Times bestseller "Cracking...Terrific...Deeply felt, beautifully written, and profoundly humane." -The New York Times Book Review cover"Hilarious...A rich and vivid multicultural history." -Time MagazineFrom James McBride, author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, one of the most anticipated novels of the year: a wise and witty tale 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 .38 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.

Deacon King Kong Details

TitleDeacon King Kong
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 3rd, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780735216723
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New York

Deacon King Kong Review

  • Elle Rudy
    January 1, 1970
    This took a lot longer for me to finish than I was anticipating. Its not particularly long or dense, but was just difficult to get back into once I put it down. The characters are charming, fleshed-out and full of life, but initially it was hard to connect with what they were doing. Honestly I was over halfway through Deacon King Kong wondering what it was even about. I mean, I knew what was happening, but I didnt understand what James McBride was trying to say. I had no idea where it was This took a lot longer for me to finish than I was anticipating. It’s not particularly long or dense, but was just difficult to get back into once I put it down. The characters are charming, fleshed-out and full of life, but initially it was hard to connect with what they were doing. Honestly I was over halfway through Deacon King Kong wondering what it was even about. I mean, I knew what was happening, but I didn’t understand what James McBride was trying to say. I had no idea where it was headed, even as pieces began to overlap and fall together. The seriousness of the catalyst and crime, Sportcoat shooting a 19-year-old drug dealer in broad daylight, was played against the absurdity of the life he’s leading. I didn’t know how I was supposed to react: should I be on the edge of my seat or should I be cackling at the hijinks of the Cause Houses’ residents? Was Sportcoat’s utter confusion at the crime he was being told he committed funny or sad? I think those questions ended up being indicative of the skill in James McBride’s writing. In places of poverty and where the only real ways to get ahead are on the wrong side of the law, you have to be able to find the bright spots or you’ll be drowned in the dark places. You can’t just live to survive.While I did feel kind of aimless in the first half, the back half was nearly impossible to tear myself away from. I kept hoping for not just an ending, but a resolution. Despite not seemingly having anything in common with a majority of the characters like I originally felt, I became engrossed in their lives. Deacon King Kong is one of those novels whose brilliance sneaks up on you. I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised by a book in a while, and I’ll be looking to pick up more by McBride going forward.*Thanks to Penguin Group - Riverhead & Netgalley for an advance copy!
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    McBride has brilliantly written a highly energetic story encompassing a multitude of characters that circle the Five Ends Baptist Church where his main character, Sportcoat, is a Deacon. Sportcoat is a character that Nora Zeale Hurston would have loved to have created. He is a hard-drinking, odd-job handyman that lost his wife two years ago (but continues to argue with her ghost almost continually), defied death multiple times, coached a youth baseball team and taught Sunday School.On one McBride has brilliantly written a highly energetic story encompassing a multitude of characters that circle the Five Ends Baptist Church where his main character, Sportcoat, is a Deacon. Sportcoat is a character that Nora Zeale Hurston would have loved to have created. He is a hard-drinking, odd-job handyman that lost his wife two years ago (but continues to argue with her ghost almost continually), defied death multiple times, coached a youth baseball team and taught Sunday School.On one fateful day in 1969, Sportcoat goes to the Cause Houses plaza (a fictionalized version of the Brooklyn housing project where McBride grew up); walks up to his onetime star pitcher that currently sells heroin, and shoots him. Deems Clemens is fast and ducked—so only his ear was shot off. Sixteen witnesses saw it all, and every one of them believe that Sportcoat is a ‘dead’ man. Once Sportcoat sobers up a bit, he refuses to believe that he would have done any such thing. What the shooting does do is set off a series of events—like falling dominoes—leading to mobsters of various ethnicities, a rare artifact stolen during WWII, a charming detective close to retirement, women gardeners entranced with moonflowers, and much more.This mystery/crime novel encompasses a community filled with memorable characters that you won’t soon forget. It also includes plenty of humor! [Poor Earl, the crime-bosses’ enforcer, is thwarted not once, but three times, by Rube Goldberg-like machinations.] Highly recommend this beautifully told story that reminds us of our humanity—flaws and all.
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    Deacon King Kong is a crime novel centering around life in the projects in the 1960's New York City. What makes this novel such a standout achievement is not so much the action or plot so much as the writing which tells a whole life story in one paragraph If not in each sentence. Often the characters are revealed in poetic street raps about how they earned their nicknames and what's going on. McBride is an author I'd never heard of before, but one worth checking out.Look, the lead character in Deacon King Kong is a crime novel centering around life in the projects in the 1960's New York City. What makes this novel such a standout achievement is not so much the action or plot so much as the writing which tells a whole life story in one paragraph If not in each sentence. Often the characters are revealed in poetic street raps about how they earned their nicknames and what's going on. McBride is an author I'd never heard of before, but one worth checking out.Look, the lead character in this novel is an old codger who works here and there as a handyman and part time church deacon. His nickname is sport coat and he's on a lifelong drunken binge on hooch his friend cooks up and affectionately calls King Kong. Sport coat is haunted by his dead wife's ghost who one night followed the lights off the pier. Sport coat doesn't always remember what's going on. He hangs out mornings by the flagpole where the old folks gather, which is claimed in the afternoons by the local drug dealer. One day he walks up to Deems and plugs him a good one. Other characters include an Italian mobster who runs deliveries out of a container in a storage yard and whose father had a soft spot for the church by the projects. All these multi-faceted characters are brought to life by this story. No ones a superhero, a star, a gunslinger in the old west.
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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    There were a lot of theories floating around the projects as to why old Sportcoat a wiry, laughing, brown-skinned man who had coughed, wheezed, hacked, guffawed, and drank his way through the Cause Houses for a good part of his seventy-one years shot the most ruthless drug dealer the projects had ever seen.In Brooklyn, New York in the late 1960s Cuffy Lambkin (commonly known as Sportcoat), a deacon of the Five Ends Baptist Church, shot 19 year old drug dealer Deems Clemens. Sportcoat had no “There were a lot of theories floating around the projects as to why old Sportcoat – a wiry, laughing, brown-skinned man who had coughed, wheezed, hacked, guffawed, and drank his way through the Cause Houses for a good part of his seventy-one years – shot the most ruthless drug dealer the projects had ever seen.”In Brooklyn, New York in the late 1960s Cuffy Lambkin (commonly known as Sportcoat), a deacon of the Five Ends Baptist Church, shot 19 year old drug dealer Deems Clemens. Sportcoat had no recollection of having done this, since he was usually at least a bit tipsy - his preferred drink was home made hooch called King Kong. Unfortunately for Sportcoat, there were many witnesses to the shooting. What follows is a story that is part mystery, part shaggy dog story that is often very funny and is always entirely wonderful. Many of the characters live in a Housing project called Cause Houses. The project is overseen by the Housing Authority honchos “...who did not like their afternoon naps disturbed with minor complaints about ants, toilets, murders, child molestation, rape, heatless apartments, and lead paint that shrunk children’s brains to the size of a full-grown pea in one of their Brooklyn locations, unless they wanted a new home sleeping on a bench at the Port Authority bus terminal.”There are cops and mobsters longing for love, a hidden object of great value, an impending drug war, two inept assassins, an unexplained cheese shipment and a collection of colorful characters. I loved the way the author intertwined the stories of the people whose lives centered around Five Ends and the local mobsters. When one of the mobsters visits 104 year old church lady Sister Paul, she tells him “I’ve been around the sun one hundred and four whole times, and nobody’s explained nothing to me. I read the book on not being explained to. That’s called being an old colored woman, sir.” Even Sportcoat’s dead wife Hettie plays a role. I also learned a new expression that I am sure I’ll find useful: “your cheese has slipped off your cracker”. I loved this book. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsJames McBride is an incredible storyteller.  His characters are always fully realized and he allows readers to learn everything about them through subtle but powerful development.  His upcoming release Deacon King Kong is a stunning look at African American and Latinx residents of the Cause Houses in south Brooklyn during the 1960s.Members of the Five Ends Baptist Church are concerned about their deacon, Sportcoat, after the death of his wife Hettie.  The old man has been an alcoholic 4.5 starsJames McBride is an incredible storyteller.  His characters are always fully realized and he allows readers to learn everything about them through subtle but powerful development.  His upcoming release Deacon King Kong is a stunning look at African American and Latinx residents of the Cause Houses in south Brooklyn during the 1960s.Members of the Five Ends Baptist Church are concerned about their deacon, Sportcoat, after the death of his wife Hettie.  The old man has been an alcoholic for years, nipping the homemade liquor called King Kong in the basement, but he's quickly spiraling.  Bad health has followed him his whole life, from South Carolina to New York, and yet the man continues to cheat death.Then comes the day that Sportcoat walks up to the flagpole where the young man called Deems is dealing drugs and shoots him with an old .38.  Death is sure to find Sportcoat now that the top drug dealer in the Cause has been shot.What follows is the incredible story of the people affected by the shooting: from the victim and the witnesses to the local police officers and the Italian mob.  All the characters eventually connect in surprising and clever ways to share a poignant and often hilarious tale of faith and change in the whirlwind of 1960s New York.The characters and their community are crystal clear in my mind and I didn't want their story to end.  If you're a fan of James McBride, literary fiction, or are just searching for an atmospheric story to get lost in, you'll want to pick up Deacon King Kong.Thanks to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for providing a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Deacon King Kong is scheduled for release on March 3, 2020.For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    Deacon King Kong is a crime novel centering around life in the projects in the 1960's New York City. What makes this novel such a standout achievement is not so much the action or plot so much as the writing which tells a whole life story in one paragraph If not in each sentence. Often the characters are revealed in poetic street raps about how they earned their nicknames and what's going on. McBride is an author I'd never heard of before, but one worth checking out.Look, the lead character in Deacon King Kong is a crime novel centering around life in the projects in the 1960's New York City. What makes this novel such a standout achievement is not so much the action or plot so much as the writing which tells a whole life story in one paragraph If not in each sentence. Often the characters are revealed in poetic street raps about how they earned their nicknames and what's going on. McBride is an author I'd never heard of before, but one worth checking out.Look, the lead character in this novel is an old codger who works here and there as a handyman and part time church deacon. His nickname is sport coat and he's on a lifelong drunken binge on hooch his friend cooks up and affectionately calls King Kong. Sport coat is haunted by his dead wife's ghost who one night followed the lights off the pier. Sport coat doesn't always remember what's going on. He hangs out mornings by the flagpole where the old folks gather, which is claimed in the afternoons by the local drug dealer. One day he walks up to Deems and plugs him a good one. Other characters include an Italian mobster who runs deliveries out of a container in a storage yard and whose father had a soft spot for the church by the projects. All these multi-faceted characters are brought to life by this story. No ones a superhero, a star, a gunslinger in the old west.
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  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    4.5, rounded upI would like to thank GR giveaways and Riverhead Books for an advanced readers copy.James McBride has written an entertaining and very funny, witty novel with laugh-out-loud dialogue and even a touch of slapstick. However, while humorous, this is also a very serious and disturbing novel as McBride confronts issues of racism and the problems that often spring from public housing such as poor conditions, violence and drugs. A tricky balance, but one that McBride handles 4.5, rounded upI would like to thank GR giveaways and Riverhead Books for an advanced readers’ copy.James McBride has written an entertaining and very funny, witty novel with laugh-out-loud dialogue and even a touch of slapstick. However, while humorous, this is also a very serious and disturbing novel as McBride confronts issues of racism and the problems that often spring from public housing such as poor conditions, violence and drugs. A tricky balance, but one that McBride handles successfully, as he has in his previous work.Set in 1969 New York, a large cast of characters populate the book and give voice to the story: those living in public housing and its church members, police, drug dealers and those involved in Italian organized crime. McBride excels here, his characters come to life, some nearly jumping off the page. While the characters can often be comic in nature, McBride also writes scenes that are heartfelt and true, scenes of great poignancy. I must return to the dialogue in regards to the characters. The affectionate verbal sparring between the central character, Sportcoat, and his friend Hot Sausage, two elderly drunks, is simply priceless. The next time a friend is talking crazy nonsense, I hope I remember the expression Is your cheese done slid off your cracker?. I had never heard that one and it, along with many others, delighted me. As far as the narrative itself, this is where I could pick at things and I needed to step back for a few days before a final rating and review. McBride takes the reader on a wild ride. Unfortunately, at times, I thought it all a bit convoluted with a raise of an eyebrow at certain turns in the plot. While completely enjoying the ride, I had some mixed feelings on structure and whether the story worked completely. I had to stop and remind myself that this really is, in essence, a comedic novel and that what I was apt to criticize was generally in keeping with that basic concept. In the end, I decided that I had such a good time that I could ignore that need to pick at the plot details. Overall, this is an engaging novel that shouldn’t disappoint McBride fans.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Brooklyn 1969. A housing project with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Heroin is beginning its invasive inroads into the population. That's the setup. Populated with the most colorful, diverse cast imaginable, award winner James McBride has accomplished the difficult feat of making each character come alive, every set up believable and relatable. As their stories are revealed and intertwine, the rascals and heroes of these mean streets are presented with such heart and beauty, I was sorry when Brooklyn 1969. A housing project with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Heroin is beginning its invasive inroads into the population. That's the setup. Populated with the most colorful, diverse cast imaginable, award winner James McBride has accomplished the difficult feat of making each character come alive, every set up believable and relatable. As their stories are revealed and intertwine, the rascals and heroes of these mean streets are presented with such heart and beauty, I was sorry when it wrapped up. The writer who came to mind most clearly during the reading was Jimmy Breslin, who shares his insider's love of New York, his journalistic background, his talent for dialogue and beautifully wrought farce. Which is not to omit the larger implications behind the humor. Well done.
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  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    McBride always brings the fire, and this one is no exception. A host of quirky characters drives this neighborhood novel brilliantly told with vigorous prose that ties in neighborhood history. More to come..... Updated 10/20-James McBride is showing his love here for the black church, though some may find his treatment as lacking in love, as the Five Ends Baptist Church in the Cause House projects in Brooklyn, NY is the center of this novel of love and intrigue. Deacon Sportcoat is derisively McBride always brings the fire, and this one is no exception. A host of quirky characters drives this neighborhood novel brilliantly told with vigorous prose that ties in neighborhood history. More to come..... Updated 10/20-James McBride is showing his love here for the black church, though some may find his treatment as lacking in love, as the Five Ends Baptist Church in the Cause House projects in Brooklyn, NY is the center of this novel of love and intrigue. Deacon Sportcoat is derisively referred to as Deacon King Kong after the homemade hooch made by his friend, Rufus. Obviously being a frequent imbiber of the liquor had earned him this moniker. Sportcoat was never fond of the name, but that never stopped him from overindulging.With characters such as Hot Sausage, Sister Gee, Sister Bum Bum, Pudgy Fingers, and others, the zaniness of the goings-on is endearing to readers. The church is not perfect and neither is their favorite deacon, Sportcoat. "The fact is, unbeknownst to the residents of the Cause, the death of Cuffy Jasper Lambkin—which was Sportcoat’s real name—had been predicted long before he arrived at the Cause Houses. When he was slapped to life back in Possum Point, South Carolina, seventy-one years before, the midwife who delivered him watched in horror as a bird flew through an open window and fluttered over the baby’s head, then flew out again, a bad sign. She announced, “He’s gonna be an idiot,” handed him to his mother, and vanished, moving to Washington, DC, where she married a plumber and never delivered another baby again." Sportcoat cleaned the church two days per week but had other jobs around the Cause houses. When Sportcoat shoots the local drug dealer, everyone fears for Sportcoat's life. He remains unfazed. Sportcoat feels like he has established enough of a rapport with Deems Clemons (the local drug dealer) that should give him some latitude. How will this play out? There is a mini side plot going on in the novel, and though it adds some mystery I didn't think it was entirely necessary and serves as a minor irritant. McBride’s prose is keen and snappy keeping the action humming and doesn't allow the irritant to become a full out distraction. The way McBride allows this to unfold is gorgeous, heartening in its denouement. This was thoroughly enjoyable and sure to be an early 2020 favorite. Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for providing an advanced DRC. Book drops March 3, 2020
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  • Toni
    January 1, 1970
    James McBride is a master storyteller that will keep your interest until the very last word. This book, this novel, this saga takes place in 1969, in the hardest hit areas of New York, right before the economic downturn of the 1970's. No one feels this economic slump harder than the disenfranchised people of the outer boroughs of New York City. But this group has survived here for generations: the Irish, Italians, Jews and the "Negros" who move up from the South in the 1940's. They're forced to James McBride is a master storyteller that will keep your interest until the very last word. This book, this novel, this saga takes place in 1969, in the hardest hit areas of New York, right before the economic downturn of the 1970's. No one feels this economic slump harder than the disenfranchised people of the outer boroughs of New York City. But this group has survived here for generations: the Irish, Italians, Jews and the "Negros" who move up from the South in the 1940's. They're forced to 'coexist' until *Satan starts to really slip in during the mid-sixties. A powerful, honest, raw, funny, heartbreaking and beautiful story of some of those people.* Heroin
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  • Never Without a Book
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book.https://www.instagram.com/p/B9uoLR8gC...
  • Virginia
    January 1, 1970
    This book was fantastic! I'm a bit lost for words on how best to describe the story and give it the justice it deserves, but I'm going to try. This story is about New York in the 1960s as neighborhoods transition and its inhabitants wrestle with the identities thrown on them rather than bring who they are. It follows multiple perspectives of people who live in around a neighborhood called the Cause Houses. It's not the most glamorous neighborhood, but the people make do. They have their own This book was fantastic! I'm a bit lost for words on how best to describe the story and give it the justice it deserves, but I'm going to try. This story is about New York in the 1960s as neighborhoods transition and its inhabitants wrestle with the identities thrown on them rather than bring who they are. It follows multiple perspectives of people who live in around a neighborhood called the Cause Houses. It's not the most glamorous neighborhood, but the people make do. They have their own traditions, urban legends, and a fierce sense of loyalty to their fellow neighbor. The story kicks off when Sportcoat, a local drunk, who, in a blackout state, shoots a local drug dealer, Deems Clemans, who was once the kid everyone thought would make it to the major leagues in baseball. This sparks a series of events that all lead the people of this neighborhood to reconsider what they have as the status quo and how they'd like to keep it that way, or change it. The characters in this book are so well fleshed out. Each one has a role to play in the story from the bum in the corner to Sportcoat. They all pull at your emotions and turn this story into one you can almost see playing out in your backyard. It's a timeless tale of community and the people who make it run as well as the people who like to throw wrenches into things. My favorite character was The Elephant, an aging Italian smuggler who just wants a simple life. Crime is anything but simple though. I would recommend this to anyone who liked Let the Great World Spin or those who like literary fiction where the characters dictate how the story goes.
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  • Read In Colour
    January 1, 1970
    I'd highly recommend Deacon King Kong for readers who've enjoyed Tambourines to Glory by Langston Hughes or Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of the Gods.
  • Ella
    January 1, 1970
    Right. James McBride is one of my all time favorite authors, but this...this is a terrific read! Humor, pathos, heart, love, community, cheese, church gossip, statue of liberty and surrounding waters, NYC, cheese, white lightning, defying death, police v fire depts, cheese, the ladies that really run the community (you know the ones I mean.) There's just so much here. It's not a perfect book. I honestly forgot that it was historical fiction more than once. So perhaps I was too enmeshed in the Right. James McBride is one of my all time favorite authors, but this...this is a terrific read! Humor, pathos, heart, love, community, cheese, church gossip, statue of liberty and surrounding waters, NYC, cheese, white lightning, defying death, police v fire depts, cheese, the ladies that really run the community (you know the ones I mean.) There's just so much here. It's not a perfect book. I honestly forgot that it was historical fiction more than once. So perhaps I was too enmeshed in the lives of the characters to notice things I should have been carefully annotating, but I couldn't stop reading to care. I do wish I'd seen a bit more of the women more fully. But really, I don't care. This was a tremendous read. It's a really smart balancing act that allows me to laugh through tears, and Deacon King Kong achieved it more than once.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Yup, that's the new James McBride, pub date March 2020! :-)
  • Andy Weston
    January 1, 1970
    There is a significant dose of comedy in McBride's new novel, more of the slapstick, in you face, style, rather than it being dry or subtle. Its the aspect that works least well. The humour mainly derives from the small congregation of Five Ends Baptist Church, which operates out of a cinderblock building by the Brooklyn waterfront. The real entertainment though comes from the motlley collection of characters, and the 'whydunnit' plot. A 71 year old alcoholic Deacon shoots the 19 year old drug There is a significant dose of comedy in McBride's new novel, more of the slapstick, in you face, style, rather than it being dry or subtle. Its the aspect that works least well. The humour mainly derives from the small congregation of Five Ends Baptist Church, which operates out of a cinderblock building by the Brooklyn waterfront. The real entertainment though comes from the motlley collection of characters, and the 'whydunnit' plot. A 71 year old alcoholic Deacon shoots the 19 year old drug dealer Deems Clemens outside the housing projects where they live. Though the set-up, and the nicknames of many of the cast (Bum-Bum, Lightbulb, Soup, Sportcoat, Hot Sausage and Elephant), may sound gritty and Wire-esque, it absolutely isn't, its interactions are much more affectionate. Overall I enjoyed reading it, though its too long. It works as an observation of a Brooklyn project as drugs, their addiction and associated violence, began their grip, and also on race and religion in the Five Ends Church. But on a historical level, and set in 1969, there seem notable omissions; there are no veterans around, nor a mention of Vietnam, or of Luther King. As with The Good Lord Bird, I don't think McBride is concerned with that, whether we like it or not - it certainly didn't affect my experience.
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  • Autumn
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed my time with the cast of characters in this yarn. I support everything this book is doing. Sportcoat is the kind of hero I can really get down with -- a kindhearted old drunk who is underestimated by almost everyone who knows him. On the other hand, I figured out the Macguffin WAY EARLY and found the whole thing a little bit repetitive -- the same things kept happening to the same folks. The language and dialogue was great, tho. Recommended for anybody who's OK with a gentle I really enjoyed my time with the cast of characters in this yarn. I support everything this book is doing. Sportcoat is the kind of hero I can really get down with -- a kindhearted old drunk who is underestimated by almost everyone who knows him. On the other hand, I figured out the Macguffin WAY EARLY and found the whole thing a little bit repetitive -- the same things kept happening to the same folks. The language and dialogue was great, tho. Recommended for anybody who's OK with a gentle shaggy dog story about some memorable church folks.Also, I'd like a whole book about Soup Lopez.
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  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    James McBride is showing his love here for the black church, though some may find his treatment as lacking in love, as the Five Ends Baptist Church in the Cause House projects in Brooklyn, NY is the center of this novel of love and intrigue. Deacon Sportcoat is derisively referred to as Deacon King Kong after the homemade hooch made by his friend, Rufus. Obviously being a frequent imbiber of the liquor had earned him this moniker. Sportcoat was never fond of the name, but that never stopped him James McBride is showing his love here for the black church, though some may find his treatment as lacking in love, as the Five Ends Baptist Church in the Cause House projects in Brooklyn, NY is the center of this novel of love and intrigue. Deacon Sportcoat is derisively referred to as Deacon King Kong after the homemade hooch made by his friend, Rufus. Obviously being a frequent imbiber of the liquor had earned him this moniker. Sportcoat was never fond of the name, but that never stopped him from overindulging.With characters such as Hot Sausage, Sister Gee, Sister Bum Bum, Pudgy Fingers, and others, the zaniness of the goings-on is endearing to readers. The church is not perfect and neither is their favorite deacon, Sportcoat. "The fact is, unbeknownst to the residents of the Cause, the death of Cuffy Jasper Lambkin—which was Sportcoat’s real name—had been predicted long before he arrived at the Cause Houses. When he was slapped to life back in Possum Point, South Carolina, seventy-one years before, the midwife who delivered him watched in horror as a bird flew through an open window and fluttered over the baby’s head, then flew out again, a bad sign. She announced, “He’s gonna be an idiot,” handed him to his mother, and vanished, moving to Washington, DC, where she married a plumber and never delivered another baby again." Sportcoat cleaned the church two days per week but had other jobs around the Cause houses. When Sportcoat shoots the local drug dealer, everyone fears for Sportcoat's life. He remains unfazed. Sportcoat feels like he has established enough of a rapport with Deems Clemons (the local drug dealer) that should give him some latitude. How will this play out? There is a mini side plot going on in the novel, and though it adds some mystery I didn't think it was entirely necessary and serves as a minor irritant. McBride’s prose is keen and snappy keeping the action humming and doesn't allow the irritant to become a full out distraction. The way McBride allows this to unfold is gorgeous, heartening in its denouement. This was thoroughly enjoyable and sure to be an early 2020 favorite. Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for providing an advanced DRC. Book drops March 3, 2020.
    more
  • Melanie Brinkman
    January 1, 1970
    Could a gunshot heal as many holes as it makes?In September 1969, an old Deacon known as Sportcoat comes into the courtyard of the Cause House project in South Brooklyn, pulls a .45 and shoots the local drug dealer at point blank range, in front of everybody. The community is set abuzz. Everyone scrambles in the aftermath of violence to find out the reasons and avoid the consequences that it yields.A huge thank you to Riverhead books and James McBride for my ARC giveaway win. All opinions are my Could a gunshot heal as many holes as it makes?In September 1969, an old Deacon known as Sportcoat comes into the courtyard of the Cause House project in South Brooklyn, pulls a .45 and shoots the local drug dealer at point blank range, in front of everybody. The community is set abuzz. Everyone scrambles in the aftermath of violence to find out the reasons and avoid the consequences that it yields.A huge thank you to Riverhead books and James McBride for my ARC giveaway win. All opinions are my own.A story of rumors, humor, and heart. A tale of reasons that are never completely good, nor entirely bad.Trigger warning for death of a spouse, shooting, mention of drug use, mob business, mutilation, over-sexualization, sexism, domestic tension, adultery, graphic depiction of an animal death, theft, smoking, fighting, alcoholism, grief, mention of pedophilia, racial slurs, homophobic slurs, violence, mention of rape, and abuse.Sometimes forgetful and unfazed by things that should have had him down for the count, Sportcoat was so much more than an eccentric old man. An adamant lover of the drink that inspired his moniker, Deacon King Kong, passion for his church/community was overflowing. His banter his best friend, Hot Sausage, was comic, but his talks with his wife, Hettie, pulled at my heart. While you may want to pity him, he certainly does not need it. Church members, police, drug runners, and even an Italian mobster, are just a few of the people you run acrost in these pages. This beautiful cast of supporting characters (full of POC) will have you cackling and crying as they sit around the flag pole and run around New York City, telling and letting you experience their stories. I adored the unexpected friendships, love, and connectedness of it all. My favorites were Soup, The Elephant, Sister Gee, Potts, and Hot Sausage. It took a few chapters to remember who was who, but they all ended up nestled inside my heart.Have you ever read a book where it feels like you've been living there your whole life? Through witty, thoughtful conversations, community history and gossip, a plethora of characters with lovingly crafted backstories, and snappy, well-placed action, I felt like I'd grown up in and knew every pulse of the Cause House project. James McBride proves himself a masterful storyteller as his words flow like water, cleverly releasing secrets and connections at the exact right time. In these pages, he shows his great understanding of humanity, the love and hate we have for each other, and how we touch each other's lives in ways we don't even know. Mixing humor with poignancy, he also tackled racism, drugs, violence, and all their effects. A story of community, the things we're willing to do to keep our heads above the water (even if it's not by the most lawful of ways), and our need and ability to connect to others, Deacon King Kong was beautiful. After reading this, I simply must read more of James McBride's work.
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  • Bruce Katz
    January 1, 1970
    I'm going to cheat on this one and recommend that people interested in this book read Junot Diaz's review in the 29 February NY Times. I thought it was exactly right on all points (and much better written than anything I might have written). Feel free to skip what I'm about to say. Your time will be much better spent reading "Deacon King Kong.""Deacon" has the texture of folk lore and fable mixed with the unexpected rhythms of jazz and the noisy streets of late 1960s Brooklyn, a community late I'm going to cheat on this one and recommend that people interested in this book read Junot Diaz's review in the 29 February NY Times. I thought it was exactly right on all points (and much better written than anything I might have written). Feel free to skip what I'm about to say. Your time will be much better spent reading "Deacon King Kong.""Deacon" has the texture of folk lore and fable mixed with the unexpected rhythms of jazz and the noisy streets of late 1960s Brooklyn, a community late in the transition from merely poor to drug-ridden and ravaged. The language soars, and the characters... damn, they're wonderful! Hot Sausage, Sister Gee, Soup, Bunch Moon, Miss Izi, Bum-Bum, Joaquin whose "whose good looks were squeezed into a head that resembled a ski jump in that the back of his head was flat as a pancake, and the top of his head sloped downward like a ski slope, thus his childhood nickname, 'Salto,' or 'jump' in Spanish." -- not to mention the Irish cop, the Italian gangster and his mom the gardener, the Governor. And Jesus's Cheese. And the yearly parade of ants. (You'll figure it out. Just writing this makes me want to read the book again.)There are mysteries and twists, turns, murder plots, missing treasure, broad comic strokes and set-pieces, promises broken... or not so much broken as abandoned because life had different plans for the promise-maker.Deacon King Kong himself was born Cuffy Jasper Lambkin (aka Sportscoat), deacon in his church and frequent imbiber in a home-distilled liquor called King Kong. From the very beginning, his was a life touched by, um, challenge: The fact is, unbeknownst to the residents of the Cause, the death of Cuffy Jasper Lambkin -- which was Sportcoat's real name -- had been predicted long before he arrived at the Cause Houses. When he was slapped to life back in Possum Point, South Carolina, seventy-one years before, the midwife who delivered him watched in horror as a bird flew through an open window and fluttered over the baby's head, then flew out again, a bad sign. She announced, "He's gonna be an idiot," handed him to his mother, and vanished, moving to Washington, DC, where she married a plumber and never delivered another baby again.Young Cuffy's childhood went downhill from there. I'll leave it here so readers can have the pleasure of hearing the boy's splendid sorrows themselves -- save to give a special nod (or shake of the head) to his stepmother, who often recommended he go play at Sassafras Mountain, two hundred fifty-eight miles distant, and jump off the top naked.I loved the simple humanity of the characters. The long, energetic, love-filled conversations Sportscoat has with his dead wife, Hettie: I ain't talking to Hettie's ghost. It's a nag that's bothering me, Sausage. What I'm talking to is a nag. A nag ain't no ghost. It's a mojo. The longing Officer Potts unexpectedly finds himself feeling for Sister Gee, who longs herself to fill the emptiness in her life. And that the gangster known as The Elephant (who refuses to get into the drug running that's destroying communities and lives) feels for the "country girl" he hasn't met yet. The hope the characters find in their religion, and the release they find in their drink.A motif that runs through the lives of all the main characters -- the wish held deeply in their souls that they could live a different life from the one they had. So much tenderness and love.And a clear-eyed vision of the harsh realities of poverty and race in New York. Just a taste: Life in the Cause would lurch forward as it always did. You worked, slaved, fought off the rats, the mice, the roaches, the ants, the Housing Authority, the cops, the muggers, and now the drug dealers. You live a life of disappointment and suffering, of too-hot summers and too-cold winters, surviving in apartments with crummy stoves that didn't work and windows that didn't open and toilets that didn't flush and lead paint that flecked off the walls and poisoned your children, living in awful, dreary apartments built to house Italians who came to America to work the docks, which had emptied of boats, ships, tankers, dreams, money, and opportunity the moment the colored and the Latinos arrived. And still New York blamed you for all its problems. And who can you blame? You were the one who chose to live here, in this hard town with its hard people, the financial capital of the world, land of opportunity for the white man and a tundra of spent dreams and empty promises for anyone else stupid enough to believe the hype.And lest I leave my reader with the wrong impression, "Deacon King Kong" is anything but dark. The darkness is there, along with the violence and pain and deprivation that everyone knows is coming with the drug trade. But "Deacon"'s spirit is filled with light and love, humor (lots of humor!) and affirmation. Every once in a while there's a glimmer of hope. Just a blip on the horizon, a whack on the nose of the giant that set him back on his heels or to the canvas, something that said, "Guess what, you so-and-so, I am God's child. And I. Am. Still. Here."Read it. Days after you're done, the book will still be with you. (less)updated Mar 02, 2020 05:25PM
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  • Jo
    January 1, 1970
    Oh my, what a fabulous book. James McBride is an exquisite writer!
  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    *Goodreads Giveaway*Tens across the board. I can't talk enough about how much I enjoyed this novel. James McBride is master storyteller, the characters are alive and hilarious. The plot is tight and the reveals pay off.
  • Beverlee
    January 1, 1970
    Ive read that Deacon King King is a crime novel which is understandable if one is recalling the plot. There is a crime or a few committed, for good reason according to the character. Its been said that life has a way of getting your attention and this is what I think Deacon King Kong is all about. Set in late 1969 New York City, the Civil Rights Movement and Great Migration are memories pushed to lifes periphery. Heroin has intruded the Cause Houses, its impact largely felt by the younger I’ve read that Deacon King King is a crime novel which is understandable if one is recalling the plot. There is a crime or a few committed, for good reason according to the character. It’s been said that life has a way of getting your attention and this is what I think Deacon King Kong is all about. Set in late 1969 New York City, the Civil Rights Movement and Great Migration are memories pushed to life’s periphery. Heroin has intruded the Cause Houses, its impact largely felt by the younger residents. The Cause Houses is a tenement with a history of appearing to separate African Americans and Puerto Rican from Italians, but it’s revealed just how connected the people are to one another. Sportcoat (Deacon) doesn’t shoot Deems to hurt him, but to save his life. His excessive drinking is a shield for past pain and a way he holds on to his deceased wife Hettie, for he “sees and talks” with her when he drinks. Side note-Sportcoat has a love for King Kong, a home brew made by his friend. Sportcoat is also a deacon of Five Ends Church, thus the title and nickname. Elefante gets involved with Sportcoat & Five Ends Church though his whole life has been designed to avoid relationships. A not so chance meeting with an old friend of his father’s will fulfill a long held wish to be loved. What looks like a routine questioning from a police officer to a witness grows into something more. A recurring theme throughout Deacon King Kong is how relationships for better or worse shape who we become. As long as we live there’s an opportunity to: enjoy our time with loved onesget out of relationships that aren’t beneficial correct past mistakes help other people avoid the same mistakes you made. It’s never too late to live a life of your choosing, not necessarily one that is easy, but one that brings happiness & a sense of fulfillment.
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  • Suziey
    January 1, 1970
    Ah, this is one of those books that you can read hundreds of times and still find something new.This book revolves around the Cause Houses (aka Projects) in late-1960s New York. Our protagonist is Deacon King Kong a drunk widower who one day shoots the local drug dealer in front of many witnesses. But it is so much more.There is a lot to explore in this book. Racial relations, poverty, family, love, hustle and drive, etc. A lot to unpack, yet the story does a wonderful job of weaving it all Ah, this is one of those books that you can read hundreds of times and still find something new.This book revolves around the Cause Houses (aka Projects) in late-1960s New York. Our protagonist is Deacon King Kong a drunk widower who one day shoots the local drug dealer in front of many witnesses. But it is so much more.There is a lot to explore in this book. Racial relations, poverty, family, love, hustle and drive, etc. A lot to unpack, yet the story does a wonderful job of weaving it all together without it being preachy. It's incredibly resonant of our current societal woes even though the setting is in the past. The characters are rich and diverse. They're all mostly referred to by their nicknames which made me chuckle. I grew up in the projects and some of these characters reminded me of people from my old neighborhood. I was "the daughter of the Guatemalan lady with the purple car". Seriously. Anyway, I can't wait to reread this novel.* I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway*
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  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    This book was something else and in such a good way. It was recommended to me by a librarian and I'm so glad I read it. I probably would not have picked it up otherwise, but it was really so good. The story is so much about the characters centering around this housing complex in Brooklyn and surrounding areas as well as others drawn into these complicated lives, and really even more about the chain of events, namely the development of relationships, that follows the shooting which begins the This book was something else and in such a good way. It was recommended to me by a librarian and I'm so glad I read it. I probably would not have picked it up otherwise, but it was really so good. The story is so much about the characters centering around this housing complex in Brooklyn and surrounding areas as well as others drawn into these complicated lives, and really even more about the chain of events, namely the development of relationships, that follows the shooting which begins the story. It was a really fun ride to watch this all happen. A love story, really, in unexpected ways. I highly recommend this novel!
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This is such a great book. It reminded me a lot of 'A Confederacy of Dunces,' with all the events unraveling due to a single character and event, but it was so much smarter and more interesting. It contained mystery, love, drugs, gangs, twisting narratives, and redemption. I enjoyed the whole ride throughout this book. It took me a little while to get into it and get use to all of the names, but once I was in it, I was hooked. I thought this was a beautifully written book; it contained so many This is such a great book. It reminded me a lot of 'A Confederacy of Dunces,' with all the events unraveling due to a single character and event, but it was so much smarter and more interesting. It contained mystery, love, drugs, gangs, twisting narratives, and redemption. I enjoyed the whole ride throughout this book. It took me a little while to get into it and get use to all of the names, but once I was in it, I was hooked. I thought this was a beautifully written book; it contained so many great characters.
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  • Jenn
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVE this novel. It should win the National Book Award and this year's Pulitzer Prize. It's that good. It reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces in the best possible way. It was just what I needed right now. There were so many places where I laughed out loud. THANK YOU, James McBride!
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  • Aaron S
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars.
  • Maureen
    January 1, 1970
    I do believe I just finished one of my all time favorite books. I loved every minute spent with Sportcoat and his community - the heroes and the villains. A good old fashioned yarn shot through with truth, spirit, and humor. I LOVED it!
  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Another gorgeous James McBride novel, one of the few modern novelists I can name who's able to combine realism with optimism without hitting a single false or overly literary note. In "Deacon King Kong," Mr. McBride dabbles in several genres . . . crime, post-modernism, historical fiction, even a little bit of magic realism . . . but never settles on one, in part because he likes to showcase his versatility, in part because the real point of the book is to spend time with his characters, all of Another gorgeous James McBride novel, one of the few modern novelists I can name who's able to combine realism with optimism without hitting a single false or overly literary note. In "Deacon King Kong," Mr. McBride dabbles in several genres . . . crime, post-modernism, historical fiction, even a little bit of magic realism . . . but never settles on one, in part because he likes to showcase his versatility, in part because the real point of the book is to spend time with his characters, all of whom are wonderfully terrible and terribly wonderful at the same time. The eponymous Deacon, known most of the time as "Sportcoat," is an old, happy-go-lucky alcoholic who spends the novel proving that the Lord does, indeed, look after drunks and children. Joining him on the journey through a decaying Brooklyn in the last year of the 1960's are a nervous young drug dealer, a "Mister Rogers"-loving giant, a softhearted second-generation gangster, and several other lost souls. Some of the pop culture references seem a little incongruous, like saying the lousy local salsa band "aren't the O'Jays," a band that didn't really hit its stride until the early 70's, but I assume the man who wrote a definitive biography of James Brown knows the history of popular music, so maybe the calendrical confusion is intended to fit the book's theme of uncertainty and unreliable memory. Anyway, another classic.
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