Go Down Dead

Jacket by S.A. Summit.
To the right you can see my copy of Shane Stevens' Go Down Dead. It was originally published in 1966, but occasionally you'll see it listed as 1967 due to the month of release. The cover is very striking and the back jacket carries high praise from Hubert Selby, Jr., and John Howard Griffin.

It's also the source of the Stevens' Birthdate Debate. The lengthy about the author on the rear inside flap claims Shane Stevens is 28 years old. That would place his birthdate in 1938. Three years prior to the 1941 date later listed on what little biographic information was circulated.

The book follows King Henry, a 16 year old Harlem gang leader, as he tries to score enough cash to get his hands on a stick of dynamite for an upcoming showdown against a rival white gang. It's an engaging first novel,  but not quite up to par with Shane's later works.The major flaw with Go Down Dead is the first person narration. It's extremely difficult to follow. If you can make it through the first five pages without quiting, the language does take on a rhythm and a cadence you may come to enjoy and not even notice--but it's a chore. Regretably, the plot is very similiar to Warren Miller's 1959 novel, The Cool World.  Miller, another white author and now virtually unknown, crafted a far more successful look at the "black experience" in an America stratified by race and class.

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