Book review: Up Jumped the Devil by Blair S. Walker

Up Jumped the Devil
Blair S. Walker
Amazon Encore, 1997.

Darryl Billups is a crime reporter for the Baltimore Herald. The paper is run by the white establishment but the Black reporters form an unofficial support group, sending each other emails of solidarity or sharing sarcastic looks each time one of them is victimised. Despite the (justifiable, in most cases) chip on his shoulder, Darryl is married to the job, like many journalists, and likes nothing better than to be out on the road, covering a crime and interviewing witnesses and police. He’s shocked one day to receive a strange phone call warning him that the NAACP (US National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) building in the town is going to be blown up by terrorists. Frustratingly, he can’t find out any details from the caller, and though he informs the managing editor at the paper and his police contact, nobody is interested.

Darryl’s story alternates with that of the so-called terrorists, a few “white supremacists” who are in fact a couple of disaffected army veterans and a waste-disposal operative. These losers are furious at equal-opportunity programmes that, as they see it, do white people out of promotions and jobs. The plot covers their frustrations and actions in the lead up to their grand plan – sometimes in quite shocking fashion.

The first part of the novel is stronger than the second, which gets derailed into a romance between Darryl and a domestic assistant from the hospital who has had a row with her boyfriend. Several themes are picked up and dropped, for example there is a murder which given its nature would have caused a huge reaction, but nothing happens. Most frustratingly the newspaper in-fighting and jousting for position is gradually given less prominence in favour of the thriller and romance plots.

Despite a slightly raw feel to the prose, which I think would have been improved by better editing, this novel has a fast-moving (if very lightweight) plot and an engaging lead in Darryl, who is very real in his feelings about not only racist attitudes to Black people like himself, but in the stereotypes and attitudes that many Black people have to each other. My favourite parts of the book by far were the scenes set in the Baltimore Herald office, as Darryl fights to get his byline on the front page and to keep his job despite the racism and “greasy pole climbers” all around him.

I obtained this book free of charge from the Amazon Vine programme. It is first in a series of (so far) three novels, all of which are available cheaply (£1.99 in UK) in Kindle format.

Apart from the Amazon entry where there are several, I can’t find any reviews of this novel on the internet, so if you’d like to find out more I suggest you visit Kirkus Book Reviews. The author does not seem to have a website so here’s his Amazon profile.