The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle follows Charles Thomas Tester in Jazz Age New York as he unknowingly opens a door to a deeper realm of magic that might swallow him whole if he can't manage to escape it (Available February 16, 2016).
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.
Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.
A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?
PEOPLE WHO MOVE TO NEW YORK always make the same mistake. They can’t see the place. This is true of Manhattan, but even the outer boroughs, too, be it Flushing Meadows in Queens or Red Hook in Brooklyn. They come looking for magic, whether evil or good, and nothing will convince them it isn’t here. This wasn’t all bad, though. Some New Yorkers had learned how to make a living from this error in thinking. Charles Thomas Tester for one.
The morning of most importance began with a trip from Charles’s apartment in Harlem. He’d been hired to make a delivery to a house out in Queens. He shared the crib in Harlem with his ailing father, Otis, a man who’d been dying ever since his wife of twenty-one years expired. They’d had one child, Charles Thomas, and even though he was twenty and exactly the age for independence, he played the role of dutiful son. Charles worked to support his dying dad. He hustled to provide food and shelter and a little extra to lay on a number from time to time. God knows he didn’t make any more than that.
A little after 8:00 a.m., he left the apartment in his gray flannel suit; the slacks were cuffed but scuffed and the sleeves conspicuously short. Fine fabric, but frayed. This gave Charles a certain look. Like a gentleman without a gentleman’s bank account. He picked the brown leather brogues with nicked toes. Then the seal-brown trooper hat instead of the fedora. The trooper hat’s brim showed its age and wear, and this was good for his hustle, too. Last, he took the guitar case, essential to complete the look. He left the guitar itself at home with his bedridden father. Inside he carried only a yellow book, not much larger than a pack of cards.