Hello world, meet Andre Williams, man of letters. If you’ve already met “Mr. Rhythm” in his better-known persona as purveyor of greasy R&B to the world, said knowledge shall deepen your deep-frying sensation at his debut between covers. If not, you need not worry. Williams moves along the printed page as “crazy” and “crude” (two of his calling cards) as he sings, shouts, and moans. He’s taking you hostage. Bring a beverage of choice and some wipes for the grease.
Prose heavy-hitter Nick Tosches, author of A Book Which May Become A Major Motion Picture, weighs in with an introduction. That too, while mighty fine, proves less than stringently necessary. Okay, I laughed at the part where Tosches compares his bad false teeth to Mr. Rhythm’s own. It all goes down smoky and burns a little after your next breath; one can ask nothing more from an introduction. But then comes the main event.
Main event! That is to say one 73-page novella titled “Sweets,” one short story, “I Wanna Know Why” (twenty pages, two paragraph breaks, one double-spaced, one single-spaced), and some “song-poems” at the end for good weight. Sweets loses most of her family on page 1, acquiesces to prostitution on page 8, becomes a drug lord by page 24, sets up a lab in a funeral home by page 29, nearly gets killed by page 43. And I haven’t even mentioned she’s pregnant with twins by a dead man for two-thirds of the action. At least.
Whereas Tosches invokes Robert Deane Pharr and Dr. Horse (no, I never heard of them either) in praise of “Sweets,” I proclaim Williams’ true philosophical antecedent as Hadrurus arizonensis, the giant desert hairy scorpion. Like the beast, this book is hairy, hot, and thrives after the sun sets. Pages fly by without adjectives. Action plunges into time like a riptide through breaking waves. In terms of style (not philosophy), I proclaim Williams a follower of the Lascaux cave paintings. He wastes nothing. Every line, word, and letter perform a function.