Created by Nelson George
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Professional bodyguard D HUNTER (no period after the “D,” please) is a tough, street-smart African-American cat with a penchant for wearing shades and black clothing. He’s alternately angry and cryptic, distrustful of authority but, of course, stone cold fucking cool; the strong, silent type; a “complicated man that nobody understands but his woman.”
In his debut, 2005’s The Accidental Hunter, Hunter, a hard-nosed “security specialist” with his own Manhattan agency, is hired by showbiz manager Ivy Greenwich to act as a go-between, delivering the ransom for her client, rap artist Night, to the Brooklyn motorcycle gang that snatched him. Hunter impresses Greenwich enough — and the kidnapping unnerves her enough — that she hires him to play bodyguard for Bridgette Haze, a lightweight blonde pop singer dying to gain some much-needed “street cred” by crashing the hip-hop world.
In the meantime Hunter has to deal with the rambunctious staff at D-Security, his complicated relationship with girlfriend Emily Anekwe, a Nigerian beauty, assorted family problems and his recent discovery that he’s HIV positive.
It’s that unexpected vulnerability — particularly in the homophobic world of hip-hop — that suddenly transforms Hunter into a much more interesting and sympathetic character, replacing what was essentially just another bad-ass dick stereotype with a character with some much-needed depth and humanity. Add to that the author’s willingness to poke into some serious political, cultural and social questions that predate the woke bandwagon, his ability to breathe life into the frantic lifestyle of the Big Apple’s all-night party people and the current state of the music industry that makes The Accidental Hunter stand out from most of the other Shaft wannabes that have popped up since the turn of the millenium.
Unfortunately, like several of those other pretenders to the throne (Austin Camacho’s disappointing Hannibal Jones‘ series comes to mind) The Accidental Hunter‘s narrative itself is riddled with self-conscious bursts of slang that don’t so much add authenticity as raise doubts about their authenticity. And no, it’s not the slang itself that’s the problem, but the clumsy and erratic way they’re injected into the prose — it feels forced, not real, as if, after writing the novel, George went back over it adding in slang to prove his own “street cred.”
Still, this was the first in a proposed series, and at the time I thought that George’s continuing willingness to do more than merely dish up reheated old blaxploitation tropes and actual raise some more current questions boded well for future entries. And in fact that’s what he’s done. The stilted nature of the first book has eased somewhat and he’s now playing to his strengths, relying less on recycled pulp fiction moves and more on the current music scene he knows so well.
The Plot Against Hip Hop (2011) finds D digging deep into the nastier parts of the music industry and hip-hop culture, while The Lost Treasures of R&B (2015) tackles the gentrification of Brooklyn, as well as questions of proprietary rights and black culture, as he hunts down a rare soul record. To Funk and Die in LA (2017) found D leaving NYC for Los Angeles to investigate the murder of his grandfather, and in The Darkest Hearts ( 2020), he’s moved full-time to the city of the Angels, having chucked his troubled past behind to become a talent manager.
Although he’s best known for his non-fiction writing about music (both Hip Hop America and The Death of Rhythm and Blues were nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards), Nelson George is also an Emmy-winning TV producer.
By the way, Hunter’s first name is actually “Dervin “. No wonder he prefers to be called “D.”
- “Part procedural murder mystery, part conspiracy-theory manifesto… like the PTSD fever dream of a renegade who’s done several tours of duty in the trenches . . . a combination of record-biz knowledge and ghetto fabulosity could have been written only by venerable music journalist Nelson George.”
— Time Out (New York) on The Plot Against Hip Hop
- “Written in the spirit of authors such as Walter Mosley and Donald Goines…The book blends music from the past with thug appeal of the present to appeal to young and old alike.”
— Baltimore Times on The Lost Treasures of R&B
- “D Hunter is as world weary, yet steadfast, as Philip Marlowe, Spenser, Dave Robicheaux, or Easy Rawlins.”
—Library Journal (starred review, Pick of the Month)
- The Accidental Hunter (2005) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Plot Against Hip Hop (2011) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Lost Treasures of R&B (2015) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- To Funk and Die in LA (2017) | Buy this book | Kindle it!