Author: Van Peebles, Melvin

In the 1960s, Judge Taylor drops out of college after serving in Vietnam to join the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and become its personal spy.

Booklist Review: The Black Panther movement began in Oakland, California, during the 1960s; it was an attempt by young urban African Americans to challenge the political status quo. All of the familiar names of the members are featured in this novel about the Panther movement: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver. The story includes such historical events as the Sacramento assembly protest against the Mulford Gun Control Bill and the wearing of "Free Huey" buttons as part of a demonstration for Newton's prison release, which helped to make the group legendary. The fictional character Judge, a Vietnam war veteran, college student, and Panther recruit turned double-agent, is the central focus of the novel. Judge's dangerous assignment is to act as an informer for the police while actually spying on local and federal police for the Panthers. Van Peebles intimates in his notes that "this story is fiction based on fact and artistic liberties have been taken." With that understood, readers can relax and enjoy an interesting and fast-paced work while becoming acquainted with a black political group respected and revered by most African Americans. ((Reviewed May 15, 1995)) -- Lillian Lewis

Publishers Weekly Review: Writer, director, actor and singer (he wrote, directed and starred in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song), Van Peebles has now written an engrossing novel about the early days of the Black Panther movement in '67 and '68. Although the novel's protagonist, Judge, is fictional, many of the other characters are not, including Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and Herbert Hoover. The movement is portrayed as fulfilling a community need. It did not, however, fulfill any government needs and was quickly targeted for infiltration by the FBI and by local police as well. Judge, who is assigned by Newton to work as a double agent, is a useful device. He enables Van Peebles to describe black aspirations, and also white fears as embodied by Brimmer, the Oakland police inspector ordered by the FBI to infiltrate and crush the Panthers. Brimmer has to struggle with his superiors, who believe the Panthers must be communists; with Judge; and with his own prejudices. Inserted to rough out the novel, fictional interviews on the movement's origins with witnesses, participants, supporters and critics offer insights into the origins of the Panthers' mainstream image. Van Peebles clearly had an eye on current events: In his telling, a culture of police brutality was the powder keg, and a hit-and-run similar to the accident that led to the recent Crown Heights riots in New York City was the spark that ignited the Panthers. And though he may not have intended it, Panther does remind readers of what society can lose if it returns to the days of Cointelpro. 50,000 first printing. (June)

Kirkus Reviews Filmmaker, composer, and financial analyst Van Peebles (Bold Money, 1986) relies more on movie-like fantasy than accuracy for his first novel -- a historical fiction about the Black Panthers' early years: soon to be released as a movie by the author's son, Marlo. This is truly the Hollywood version of Panther history -- characters are reduced to good guys and bad guys, their struggles into the stuff of action-adventure flicks; the imaginary, incendiary ending comes right from the brutish heroics of Bruce Willis or Eddie Murphy. In Van Peebles's fictional version, the Panthers began in Oakland as an earnest group of local activists protesting government indifference and police brutality. In a moment of lightbulb clarity, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale decide to arm themselves legally and confront the police wherever possible. It's the duo's macho willingness to face down the Man that purportedly wins them followers, from writer and ex-con Eldridge Cleaver to Judge, the Vietnam vet and Berkeley student whose radicalization is at the core of the novel. Overcoming his mother's fears, his own desire to make it in honkie society, and the local preacher's nonviolent strategies, Judge joins the ranks after he suspects the cops have killed his best friend. Because of his collegiate demeanor, he's soon enlisted to become a double agent by Huey himself, who knows the FBI has informers everywhere. When things collapse -- when Newton and Seale are both in jail, and when Cleaver goes underground -- the FBI and the Mob are free to begin their conspiracy to silence the ghetto by flooding the black neighborhoods with drugs. All the sleazy sides to Panther history -- their thuggery, their internal violence, the gangster end of Newton -- are either ignored or explained as reflexive responses to police oppression. A less-than-candid narrative, with fatuous dialogue and hokey dramatics, manages to turn an important and complex story into Hollywood schlock.
(Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1995)

ISBNs Associated with this Title:
1560250968 : Paperback
156025095X : Hardcover

• Novelist/EBSCO Publishing
• Baker & Taylor
• American Historical Fiction: An Annotated Guide to Novels for Adults and Young Adults, published by Oryx Press
• Booklist, published by the American Library Association
• Publishers Weekly, A Reed Elsevier Business Information Publication
• Copyright 2005, VNU Business Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved
• Added to NoveList: 20010101
• TID: 075607

Good cop, bad cop

Author: D'Amato, Barbara

An illegal raid on the Black Panthers in the '60s comes back to haunt the Chicago Police Department in the '90s.

New York: Forge, copyright 1998, 301 p.

Booklist Review: During the turbulent 1960s, Chicago was rocked first by the riots at the Democratic convention and next by a headline-grabbing Black Panther shoot-out and subsequent cover-up. D'Amato, author of the Cat Marsala novels, has created a mesmerizing story based on these events. In 1969, Nicholas Bertolucci was a rookie cop assigned to raid a Panther hideout. Three innocent victims died in the shootout, but the story was quickly hushed up. Years later, Nick has become Chicago's police superintendent, and his older brother, Aldo, a down-on-his-luck cop and a perpetual screwup, is filled with hate for his successful brother. When Aldo discovers a terrible secret from the past that could topple Nick and leave the CPD in tatters, the reader is left to watch in horror as the juggernaut rolls inexorably toward an explosive climax. Suze Figueroa, the star of D'Amato's, plays a secondary role here. A page-turner of a procedural that will leave readers limp but satisfied. ((Reviewed December 15, 1997)) -- Emily Melton

Publishers Weekly Review: An authoritative, engrossing mix of politics, police work and family jealousy, D'Amato's second Chicago-based novel (after the well-received takes an intriguing spin on the notorious 1969 Chicago police raid on the Black Panthers, which killed Fred Hampton. Nick Bertolucci, who was part of the assault team, is now Chicago's superintendent of police; his brother Aldo (the bad cop of the title) is a troubled patrolman who hates Nick with a passion. After the death of their father, a superintendent who was implicated in the cover-up that followed the Hampton killing, Aldo finds evidence that links Nick to one of the deaths in that assault--evidence that could taint the police department and end Nick's career. As Aldo quickly sets about doing his brother in, D'Amato spices this blackmail plot with a gritty portrayal of day-to-day police activity, complete with vividly realized supporting characters and realistic moral dilemmas. The rivalry between noble Nick and detestable Aldo seems a little schematic at times, and the rushed ending falls well below D'Amato's previous performance. But her standards are high, as this gripping, streetwise novel clearly proves. (Mar.)

Kirkus Reviews A generation after his bullying cop father forced him to blaze away at the Black Panthers, Supt. Nick Bertolucci has to come to terms with what went on in the Panthers' house. What went on, as all the world knows, was a massacre of the its inhabitants, massaged by the police and the press to look like a gun battle--a real-life 1969 scandal that provides D'Amato with her novel's point of departure. Bertolucci's tyrannical father, superintendent of Chicago's police, forced his son to take part in the pre-dawn raid, and kept secret evidence that Nick unknowingly shot and killed 18-year-old Shana Boyd. Now that his hated old man is dead and Nick's long since followed in his footsteps as superintendent, he should be sitting pretty. But his brother Aldo, who reacted to his father's taunts and abuse by becoming the worst cop in Chicago, has gotten hold of the evidence and, figuring he has nothing to lose himself, plans to use it to ruin Nick. Instead of confronting Nick directly, Aldo puts pressure on Nick's top deputy, Gus Gimball, to pull the plug on his boss, knowing that Gus won't risk the kind of publicity that might swing the upcoming mayoral election the wrong way and deprive the department of badly needed funding. D'Amato lays out this plot with impressive economy, but doesn't provide any counterpoint--there's nothing else going on except expertly sketched backgrounds (Chicago cops eating undercover Japanese, telling offensive jokes, responding to domestic violence calls, playing schoolboy pranks), and Suze Figueroa, the detective who's held over from Killer. App (1996), doesn't have much to do--leaving it pretty obvious how the rivalry between Nick and Aldo will play out. Readers seeking an equally trenchant portrait of Chicago lawmen coupled with a denser, meatier plot need look no further than D'Amato's last Cat Marsala mystery (Hard Bargain, 1997), which has everything this novel does and more.
(Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1998)