One of the problems about being a relatively successful author—and even a more visible journalist—is the accumulation of friends and fans, many of them published writers with books in search of blurbs, forewords, and most importantly reviews.
In each instance, if you value your integrity and are not willing to brush them off with a “too busy” response, there’s a book to read, to evaluate, and to see if you’ve got the time and energy to meet the author’s request.
The time factor is the most critical element because if you’re a busy writer you are usually saddled with assignments and deadlines up to your elbow. But, as we know so well, the authors wouldn’t be coming to you anyway if weren’t you someone who can deliver the goods for them.
Okay, so what’s to be done?
Giving each book a brief review is the only way to handle the increasing number of requests piling up day by day. While most of them will be glad just to get a mention, some will complain that they warrant more space and deeper consideration. That may be true, but direct that concern to my editors because even this collective review may not make it to press.
Horace Campbell’s “Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya” (Monthly Review Press, 2013) certainly requires its own space and a lengthy, thoroughgoing assessment, something akin to his own research and conclusions. Central to the mission of this professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University is the disclosure of the disinformation that was widely circulated to cover up the execution of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
You don’t have to agree with the ideas of Colonel Gaddafi, Professor Campbell writes “but there is one core idea—that African freedom—that must be highlighted. From the work of Kwame Nkrumah to the stewardship of Nelson Mandela, there has been one overriding principle: Africans must dictate the pace and rate of the unification and freedom of Africa.”
And the murder of Gaddafi, as well as the intervention of the United States in the Libya conflict in 2011, Campbell contends “will go down in history as a colossal failure of NATO and one that spurred the pace of the unity of Africa.” If the calamitous events in Libya have not kick-started unity in Africa it certainly has destabilized the nation that was relatively together despite what many believe was Gaddafi’s despotic rule.
Dr. Grant Harper Reid’s “Rhythm for Sale” (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012) is a story miles from Africa but no less compelling as he deftly chronicles his grandfather’s influence on the nation’s entertainment industry. Most readers will be discovering Leonard Harper for the first time but during the storied Harlem Renaissance he was in the vortex, if not the ringmaster in the vaudeville, burlesque, chitlin’ circuit of the day.
Tracing Harper’s productions, particularly his association with the fabled Connie’s Inn and the Apollo Theater, is to experience not only the history of these famous venues but to journey on much of Harlem’s legendary past. Harper was seemingly everywhere after setting aside his dancing shoes and managing spectacles that Reid has meticulously listed, especially a veritable daily record of evenings at the Apollo from 1935 to 1936.
I first learned of Harper during my interviews with Reid’s grandmother, the late Fannie Pennington, and Reid very tactfully handles the relationship between these two remarkable relatives.
It is with a similar tact and instruction that publicist, promoter extraordinaire Charlotte V.M. Ottley delivers important guidance in her book “Surviving Success: Changes, Challenges & Choices” (Classic Publishing, 2012). It was not until Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s recent Fifth Annual Teer Awards ceremony, in which Ottley was an awardee that she was back in Harlem from her present home and office in East St. Louis. The book and other salutations were indicative that she has been as busy as ever, and if anyone knows anything about success—how to get there and how to keep it—it’s Ms. Ottley.
Her own successes can be simply emulated without reading the book but from page to page, chapter to chapter, she spells out the rules and regulations to follow if you want to make a success of your unique self. After defining success, pointing out some of the obstacles and how to transcend them, she moves the reader gradually into the often complicated cycle of success. And what you learn, among other lessons, is that “success is a continuing cycle,” and that’s just one of the several “Ottley-isms” she dispenses along the way.
Taken together, Campbell provides up-to-date international advice; Reid recounts some valuable Harlem history and the significance of his family in this odyssey; and Ottley makes plain the path to success. Each is a book worth having and deserving far more than this poor reviewer can provide.
That removes three from the book tree looming over my desk.