Devil Barnett

Created by Teddy Hayes

DEVIL BARNETT isn’t really a P.I., at least initially, but he sure as hell acts like one. When we first meet him, in 1998’s Blood Red Blues, he’s an ex-CIA wet-ops agent (ie: assassin) who inherited his dad’s Harlem bar. According to the overblown press release I received, he’s “a modern day ronin, a highly skilled, highly trained street samurai who no longer fights for ‘the company’ but picks his own battles.”

Uh, huh…

Since, this “street samurai” has appeared in seven more breathlessly plotted novels full of head-shaking plot twists, but with a slow but definite improvement as the series progressed, which also had Devil actually becoming a private eye.

The early ones drew lots of misguided comparisons within the blurbiverse to Chester Himes (no doubt guided by the books’ early publicity), but except for the fact that both authors are African-American, and the books are set in Harlem, I don’t see it. Granted, Hayes does seem to have a way with creating memorable characters, but a far more apt comparison, if you want to play the race card (or even the overblown hype card), might be to Austin Camacho’s Hannibal Jones, another former government agent who’s moved back to the “hood.”

Although I must say that I find Hayes, a magazine publisher, playwright and music producer now living in London, despite the breathless plot summaries, is a better–or at least more careful–writer.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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