Deacon King Kong: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Awesome. Great read. Highly entertaining while also poignant. A view into first generation black northerners in NYC mid 20th century. Unforgettable characters. And a narrative thread that keeps interest up.

Chris Morrow

A memorable cast of characters with equally memorable names like Sportcoat, Sister Gee, Elephant, Four Pie Lady, and Sausage inhabit this Damon Runyonesque story of life in a Brooklyn housing project. A series of momentous events unfold after Sportcoat, in an alcoholic stupor, shoots the ear off a local drug dealer, a kid who used to be the star player on the baseball team he coached. McBride effortlessly spans the cavern between some of the most serious issues confronting urban America and humor that sometimes approaches a slapstick level. The new book by the author of The Good Lord Bird is infused with a zest for life that is exhilarating, suspenseful, and completely delightful.

Alden Graves


From James McBride, author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, one of the most anticipated novels of the year: a wise and witty tale about what happens to the witnesses of a shooting.

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range.

The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.

As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters--caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York--overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.

Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.

About the Author

James McBride is an accomplished musician and the author of the National Book Awardwinning novel The Good Lord Bird, the bestselling American classic The Color of Water, the novels Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, the story collection Five-Carat Soul, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a biography of James Brown. The recipient of a National Humanities Medal, McBride is also a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

Praise For…

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2020 by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, AARP, and more
“A darkly funny tale.” –The New York Times
“McBride’s hilarious dialogue and an attention to detail reveals a complex local history. Capturing humanity through satire and witticisms, McBride draws everyday heroes.” –Time

“McBride returns with an improbably hilarious tapestry of late '60s Brooklyn, and an eclectic group of individuals that bore witness to a fatal shooting.” –Entertainment Weekly

“With a Dickensian wealth of quirky characters, a sardonic but humane sense of humor reminiscent of Mark Twain, and cartoonish action scenes straight out of Pynchon, McBride creates a lived-in world where everybody knows everybody’s business. This generous, achingly funny novel will delight and move readers.” –Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Much is unpacked by the time the book reaches its lovely and heartfelt climax, as McBride shows what can happen when people set aside their differences. Highly recommended.” –Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence. An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.” –Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“While historical fiction fans will appreciate the richly detailed approach to Brooklyn’s grittiness, McBride's neighborhood saga ultimately sets a new standard for multidimensional fiction about people of color.” –Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735216723
ISBN-10: 073521672X
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Pages: 384
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