Viper’s Dream – Jake Lamar
A hard-boiled crime novel set in the jazz world of Harlem between 1936 and 1961, Viper’s Dream combines elements of the epic Godfather films and the detective novels of Chester Himes to tell the story of one of the most respected and feared Black gangsters in America. At the centre of Viper’s Dream is a turbulent love story. And the climax bears an element of Greek tragedy.
For the better part of 20 years, Clyde ‘The Viper’ Morton has been in love with Yolanda ‘Yo-Yo’ DeVray, a singer of immense talent but a woman consumed by demons. By turns ambitious and self-destructive, conniving and naive, Yo-Yo is a classic femme fatale. She is a bright star in a constellation of compelling characters including the chauffeur-turned-gangster Peewee Robinson, the Jewish kingpin Abraham ‘Mr. O’ Orlinsky, the heroin dealer West Indian Charlie, the corrupt cop Red Carney, the wife-beating singer Pretty Paul Baxter, the pimp Buttercup Jones and the brutal enforcer Randall Country Johnson. But Viper’s Dream has a fast-paced vibe all its own, a story charged with suspense, intrigue and plot twists and spiced with violence and humour. It is also steeped in music.
The Viper’s story is intertwined with the history of jazz over a quarter century.