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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,...
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,...
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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.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the cover CHAPTER ONE

    His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June. Ray Carney was having one of his run-around days—uptown, downtown, zipping across the city. Keeping the machine humming. First up was Radio Row, to unload the final three consoles, two RCAs and a Magnavox, and pick up the TV he left. He’d given up on the radios, hadn’t sold one in a year and a half no matter how much he marked them down and begged. Now they took up space in the basement that he needed for the new recliners coming in from Argent next week and whatever he picked up from the dead lady’s apartment that afternoon. The radios were top-of-the-line three years ago; now padded blankets hid their slick mahogany cabinets, fastened by leather straps to the truck bed. The pickup bounced in the unholy rut of the West Side Highway.

    Just that morning there was another article in the Tribune about the city tearing down the elevated highway. Narrow and indifferently cobblestoned, the road was a botch from the start. On the best days it was bumper-to-bumper, a bitter argument of honks and curses, and on rainy days the potholes were treacherous lagoons, one grim slosh. Last week a customer wandered into the store with his head wrapped like a mummy—beaned by a chunk of falling balustrade while walking under the damn thing. Said he was going to sue. Carney said, “You’re in your rights.” Around Twenty-Third Street the pickup’s wheels bit into a crater and he thought one of the RCAs was going to launch from the bed into the Hudson River. He was relieved when he was able to sneak off at Duane Street without incident.

    Carney’s man on Radio Row was halfway down Cortlandt, off Greenwich, right in the thick. He got a space outside Samuel’s Amazing Radio—repair all makes—and went to check that Aronowitz was in. Twice in the last year he’d come all the way down to find the shop shut in the middle of the day.

    A few years ago, walking past the crammed storefronts was like twirling a radio dial—this store blared jazz into the street out of horn loudspeakers, the next store German symphonies, then ragtime, and so on. S & S Electronics, Landy’s Top Notch, Steinway the Radio King. Now he was more likely to hear rock and roll, in a desperate lure of the teenage scene, and to find the windows crammed with television sets, the latest wonders from DuMont and Motorola and the rest. Consoles in blond hardwood, the sleek new portable lines, and three-in-one hi-fi combos with picture tube, tuner, and turntable in the same cabinet, smart. What hadn’t changed was Carney’s meandering sidewalk route around the massive bins and buckets of vacuum tubes, audio transformers, and condensers that drew in tinkerers from all over the tri-state. Any part you need, all makes, all models, reasonable prices.

    There was a hole in the air where the Ninth Avenue el used to run. That disappeared thing. His father had taken him here once or twice on one of his mysterious errands, when he was little. Carney still thought he heard the train sometimes, rumbling behind the music and haggling of the street.

    Aronowitz hunched over the glass counter, with a loupe screwed into his eye socket, poking one of his gizmos. “Mr. Carney.” He coughed.

    There weren’t many white men who called him mister. Downtown, anyway. The first time Carney came to the Row on business, the white clerks pretended not to see him, attending to hobbyists who came in after him. He cleared his throat, he gestured, and remained a black ghost, store after store, accumulating the standard humiliations,...

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.

    Dion Graham, from HBO’s The Wire, also narrates The First 48 on A&E. A multiple Audie Award–winning and critically acclaimed actor and narrator, he has performed on Broadway, off Broadway, internationally, in films, and in several hit television series.

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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Dion Graham's performance invites listeners into the world of New York in the early 1960s. As his voice captures the feel of the times, he skillfully brings listeners the coffee shops, storefronts, and conversations of the era. Whitehead's audiobook centers on Ray Carney, who operates a struggling furniture store but is unable to escape his background in crime. His cousin Freddy invites him to join a heist that ends up involving key power players in this "Black and white city." Graham embodies the audiobook's many characters vividly, hitting all of the rhythms and nuances of Whitehead's outstanding period novel. S.P.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine

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