THE BOOKS

Reading has long been a passion of mine, starting with James Baldwin, J.D. Salinger, Ralph Ellison, Graham Greene and on and on.  These are the writers, especially Baldwin, who planted in my mind the notion that I, too, could write, and whom I strove, over the years, to emulate.  In the late 1960s, I studied writing with Marjorie Peters and Pierre Long at their workshop in Hyde Park. In the early 1970s, I studied fiction writing with Hoyt Fuller as a member of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writers’ Workshop. My first publication was a philosophical essay in Black World Magazine in October, 1973.  I hope you will read my works, and I hope you enjoy them.

The Last and Final King

"Are you the one?" is the question that drives Noel Bodie. The story begins with murder and mystery when a young Noel witnesses a plot by his mother and Grandmother to kill his abusive father. Noel’s life then begins to play out… he falls in love and marries a beautiful young woman named Ruby. Everything seems to be playing out perfectly for the young couple, until Noel enlists in the Air Force and is stationed in West Germany.  This is where things begin to go horribly wrong.  From the strange German landlord, whom he calls Mighty Red, because of her red hair and stocky appearance, to the mysterious stranger who is astonished by Noel’s mere presence and calls him “God,” his life is suddenly turned upside down. “Are you the one?”

Apparently there are those who believe he is indeed the one and they make themselves known to him in a very treacherous way.  Noel is thrown into chaos when his lovely wife suddenly changes seemingly overnight, transformed by the mysterious landlord's drugs and lies. There are militant groups who believe that he is the second coming of a great and very influential leader from era’s past. A King, Buddy King to be precise… a man that controlled a powerful following in Pre-WWII Germany.  A man who happened to be his uncle. He then learns— too late— of the two rival factions, one set on his return to power, the other plotting his death.  The first attempt upon his life comes from where he least expects it, and after a harrowing escape, Noel flees both factions. He escapes to Austria, and continues to travel, trying to unravel the mystery that has suddenly swallowed his life.


Noel wants no part of it.  He simply wants to lead a normal quiet life.  He returns to his home in Chicago IL and assumes a fake identity.  Again his new life seems to be working out fine.  He marries again, and settles down under the fake name of Al Pearsons.  But the past just won’t go away.  A string of bad luck makes him paranoid and suspicious of everyone.  Noel comes to realize just who he is, and with that realization he stops trying to fight the inevitable.  He knows it will only be a matter of time before his old enemies find him.  The conflicts that Noel finds living as Al Pearsons pushes him to this point.  Racial injustice, discrimination, bribed judges…and the paranoia already imbedded in his brain, lead him down a path of no return, and eventually to a very surprising and climactic ending.


Redmond is masterful at intrigue and suspense, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.  I’m looking for more from this talented author.

Reviewer: T.L. Gardner of  Flavah Reviewers

With the title's obvious allusion to T.H. White's 1958 fantasy novel about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Redmond immediately alerts readers that we will be going on a quest with this book's protagonist. However, the opening sentence ("Life is a fuck") lets us know that the landscape we'll be traversing leads through no ideal world where order and peace wait at the end. Rather, Redmond's sardonic narrator launches us into America's Vietnam era universe where every step is fraught with danger.


We find ourselves on labyrinthine terrain where our guide, the main character, recognizes "no right or wrong. . . no good or evil." This picaresque novel is divided into two books: The first is a kind of bildungsroman, reminiscent of Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain; the second is a descendant of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. That is not to say that Redmond's work is derivative.  It's much more complex than that.


As our protagonist struggles to navigate life's inherent snares, we are introduced to a plethora of extraordinary characters, beginning with the mysterious and wise Grandma Daughter, with whom the narrator shares a psychic bond influencing his journey throughout. On his Odyssey from Southside Chicago through Europe and Africa and back to the city of his birth, his encounters become more and more bizarre and scary. Each one is so skillfully rendered against the mundane events of our common experience that we are afraid to doubt their authenticity.  We all have had events that are, say, unusual. But in Redmond's hands they become incremental, and soon we realize that we're inhabiting a surreal world. How long before we grasp this as the actual environment of our lives in the United States?

 

Questions of sex and race subliminally prompt the narrator on his journey to discover if he is indeed "The One." But unlike with Neo in the "Matrix" movie series, connotation of "The One" is ambiguous and associates itself with various circumstances throughout the novel until the term is concretized in the admonitions of a German Jewess who becomes associated in our minds with the protagonist's deceased grandmother. Issues of identity and history, both biographic and universal, are confronted in numerous sexual encounters with women of various ethnicities, lead our "hero" to explore the nature of woman as "the other" on multiple interesting planes.


Is fucking "what forgetting history is like?" This is the question we're confronted with in this fascinating lyrical novel's first paragraph. Although this type of probing tantalizingly leaves us with more queries than answers, The Last and Final King forces us to think in a work that is a fast read. In the penultimate chapter, the narrator is mindful of demonstrators with Placards lettered: "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE." Those are phrases worth contemplating whether or not we've met the leader who's supposed to resolve all the world's woes.

 

Reviewer: Warren Holmes, Chicago State University
 

You can run...


In The Last and Final King, the reader follows the life of Noel Bodie, a protagonist who believes his life is normal. He marries his high school sweetheart, Ruby. Uncertainty about his life's goals leads him to join the U.S. Air Force. Shortly after his first tour of duty, he gets order that he is being transferred to Germany.

 

In Germany, Noel's life begins to change drastically. His wife immediately relocates there with him. They are lucky in finding suitable housing at an affordable price, especially since Americans are usually charged outrageous rates since it's believed they can afford it. After settling into their
new apartment, Ruby begins to spend a lot of time with their landlord - Anna Muller a.k.a. Mighty Red. Unusual events begin to take place, but Noel doesn't realize that each has significance. That is, until he meets Lillian Doss, the woman who tells him of his striking resemblance to the past leader of an organization called Siene Kinder. He is told that he is believed to be the returned Messiah- the last and final king.  After a failed attempt
on his life (by his wife) Lillian also reveals that Mighty Red is the leader of the opposition that wants him killed and his wife's attempt on his life may have resulted from her being drugged.


Ordinarily one would think a man would jump at the opportunity to lead an entire people. It's comparable to one reaching their level of self-actualization. However, Noel isn't ecstatic about the possibility. Instead he chooses to flee Germany, goes into hiding, changes his identity and becomes Al Pearson - in hopes to stay alive. Does it work or does he learn that you can run but you can't hide? Will he eventually accept his reign as the new Messiah?


Author Redmond's writing is very poetic and flows nicely. The Last and Final King was an interesting read, but I'm still trying to figure out the significance of his elaboration on all the steamy sex scenes. Other than knowing the important role of the women he had sex with, I didn't feel the scenes were a necessity. Perhaps they were indicative of his being a king?
Regardless, I'd still recommend this book.

Reviewer:  The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

The Reward of the Fool

The Reward of the Fool is the sequel to The Last and Final King.  Set in Chicago during the 2000s, the main character-- now called Jay Sam Guy-- is a professional assassin who has arrived at a crossroads in his own life, questioning who he really is relative to the mean world around him, which happens to be populated with characters that turn out to be quirkier than he is.  All the characters here seem flawed, or deliciously evil. All the elements are here: murder, fights, hot sex, double crosses.  The Reward of the Fool is a thinking man's crime thriller.

Why to Kill a Billionaire

Why to Kill a Billionaire is the story of how Jay Sam Guy a.k.a. Noel Bodie a.k.a. Al Pearsons comes to learn about the hidden forces that are enslaving humanity, his relationship to those forces, and his struggle to prevent it from happening.  In the process, he learns that he is a lot more like a couple of his family members than he had ever realized, and the realization is both comforting and troubling.  From his point of view, America and the world will never be the same again.

Death to the Equestrians

The final volume of the Noel Bodie-Al Pearsons-Jay Sam Guy saga. The questions dogging him over the years are finally answered, and he puts into place the plan to save humanity.

Satan's Anvil and other stories

Satan's Anvil is a unique collection of short stories that are entertaining, thought-provoking, and chock full of social commentary.  While I enjoyed some stories more than others, each explored the lives and inner-workings of starkly different men and covered a myriad of experiences.

Notable stories include the title story, which covered the lives of former band mates that are now approaching their twilight years.  A series of events force them to reminisce about their respective pasts, which turn out to be full of lies, deceit and betrayal.  What they eventually uncover is that their lives have overlapped in more ways than they would prefer or even imagine. The resulting emotions lead to a dramatic and explosive ending.  In Slick's Lick we are presented with a former Black Panther who became a part of the organization for all the wrong reasons.  After leaving the Panthers he decides to attend college so that he can ultimately develop and execute his own brand of nation building.  Years later he is forced to ask himself if his current life is a reflection of the lofty goals he had in the past.  Finally in two connected stories, Willie's Dice and Falling Off the Wing, we follow Willie Cooper as he develops and executes what he considers a no-lose scheme for some fast money. But is money all that matters in life?

This is an eclectic mix of stories that provide fresh new perspectives on what it is to be an African-American man. I thoroughly enjoyed how the author set up scenarios that forced the characters into deep soul searching and self-reflection. My only fault with the collection is that some of the stories left me hanging. I would love to see some of them, particularly Willie Cooper's story further developed into full-length novels. Redmond's writing style is more cerebral than many of his contemporary counterparts and his work is a pleasant deviation from the norm.

Reviewed by Stacey Seay

of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

Redmond's Satan's Anvil is a collection of short stories told from the perspective of African-American males. The stones speak of the struggles black men have regarding themselves and their relationships. The book consists of seven very quick and interesting tales.

Satan's Anvil, the first in the collection of stories, centers on two lifelong friends engaged in a game of chess. Piano Man and Juke reminisce about their years as members of the same band.  Recalling old gigs and past loves, the conversation takes a more serious turn as Juke presses Piano Man for answers to several questions regarding long buried secrets. The situation escalates with tragic results as another member of the band, Kong, joins the conversation.


Little Red Robin Hood is a story about a man's struggle with discovering life's true meaning and his purpose. It is portrayed through a telephone conversation between Andrew, the main character, and his fiancée, Molly. His daughter has managed to intertwine the titles of Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood to come up with Little Red Robin Hood. And it is her interpretation of the story which has Andrew pondering the direction his life should go.


The Chinese Finger Trap is a thoroughly entertaining tale about a young man's quest to find the meaning of an insignia he notices several people wearing. Tshombe is a street vendor who sells wooden flutes. An encounter with an elderly white woman wearing a pendant prompts him to inquire about it. This begins his obsessive journey to discover its meaning. A chance meeting with a beautiful sister named Jesse leads him to the answer he seeks.


The next three stories in the collection contain two recurring characters, Willie and Mack. In Slick's Lick, Willie and Mack run into each other on the street. Mack calls Willie by the name Ubangi which he had adopted during his stint with the Black Panthers. Willie is a real estate agent and does some reflecting on the person that he was when he referred to himself as Ubangi.


In Willie's Dice, Willie is now an insurance salesman, but he approaches Mack with a new plan to make money. Mack refuses to participate in this new venture upon initial presentation. After learning that Willie has been very successful in his new endeavor, Mack wants in.


Falling Off The Wing is the final story of the adventures of Willie and Mack. Animosity has set in between the two old friends. Willie is struggling with not being satisfied with his success.  With feelings of dissatisfaction, Willie makes some major changes in his life.


Redmond is an excellent storyteller.  All of the stories in the collection were really good.  He touches on the thoughts and feelings his characters have being black males in our current society.

Reviewer:  Loose Leaves Book Review

A Feast of Peonies

Redmond is a writer of exceptional power and skill.  In this, his debut novel, he demonstrates both insight and finesse.


The book is written in the second person singular in a way that gives it more immediacy than the first person, and certainly more than the third.  It is set in present day Chicago.  The protagonist is a middle-aged black man, Ashanti Ra, who, because he is on the run from the law accused of a crime he did not commit, is forced to live with a young Puerto Rican gay man, Phillip a.k.a. Phyllis, whom he met at a Latin bar a couple of days earlier.  He was at the bar because he had just had an argument with his white girlfriend of several years.  She wanted to get married; he did not.


The story concerns Ashanti’s slow realization that, although he himself is not gay, he does care for Phyllis, and eventually accepts Phyllis as a lover.


The theme of the book is that things in life happen, often with no explanation or apparent reason, and the story is laced with philosophical and religious musings.


There is a subplot obliquely told in alternate chapters of Ashanti’s sexual abuse as a boy by an older male cousin.  Much of the protagonist’s childhood characterization is revealed in these chapters.


Redmond is one of the most important writers of our time.

In A Feast of Peonies, author Redmond created a memorable tale of sex, deceit, violence, and intrigue. As the reader, you were taken on a roller-coaster ride that was the life, loves and sexual escapades of one Ashanti Ra. Ashanti, an intelligent, successful man, found himself torn between two lovers, a female lawyer and a drag queen by the name of Phyllis, whom he woke next to one morning after a drunken one night stand. As Ashanti struggled with forbidden
desires and a jealous lover, the unthinkable occurred, making his life even more complicated.


Following a volatile tenants meeting in the condominium complex in which Ashanti resided, Earl, the much-hated president of the tenant's association, was found slumped over a desk in his office. Ashanti was discovered by a fellow tenant standing over the body. At the wrong place and at the wrong time, Ashanti became the prime suspect in a murder investigation. On the lam
and searching for the truth regarding what occurred that fateful night, Ashanti realized that few people could be trusted. Desperate to clear his name and uncover what really happened to Earl, Ashanti had to rely on instincts, wits and Phyllis to keep from ending up in a prison cell.

A Feast of Peonies was at times shocking and explicit. The plot took many different twists and turns that left me exhausted. There were characters that I believed could have been developed a bit more and the resolution to the "mystery" was somewhat unsatisfying. However, Redmond's unique style of writing drew me into the heart of the action. Unlike other contemporary writers, Redmond incorporated spiritual and philosophical ideology about life, relationships and good versus evil into his novel, giving insight into what possibly motivated some of the characters.  The author also presented a harsh look into how sexual child abuse affects a person years after the fact. All in all, the colorful characters and steamy scenes kept me turning the page. Redmond has written an interesting and unforgettable novel.

Reviewer: L. Raven James of the RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

Within the first four pages of A Feast of Peonies, the 165-page debut novel by Redmond; I was both intrigued, and mesmerized. This electrifying novel centers on a man whose whole world is turned upside down. I had very few issues with the book, and they did little to detract from the fast moving, hard hitting thrill I got from reading this novel.


Get this: Ashanti Ra-- wakes up lying in a strange bed after fighting with his white girlfriend, Jean Dobson, and spending the night drinking.  And I thought I was the only one who had mornings liked these. As his hangover begins to make its presence known, Ashanti discovers last night's sexual partner is not the woman he thought she was. Ashanti's one-night-stand is really a gay man who goes by the name of Phyllis. (I have never had this type of morning and
I hope I never will) It's downhill from there for Ashanti. The components of his once orderly world are suddenly in disarray: his relationship with Jean, his certainty about his sexuality, and painful childhood memories that won't stay in his past. But before Ashanti can deal with the ramifications of his latest sexual encounter, he is soon running from the police for a murder he did not commit.


Between you and me, A Feast of Peonies almost didn't get read. AALBC.com receives so many books for consideration to be reviewed that often I don't know which one to read next.  When A Feast of Peonies came in the mail and was sitting on my coffee table; my cousin-in-law Candace--with her nosy self--picked up the book and started reading it.  When her husband, my cousin Winky, told her it was time for them to leave, she kept reading the book. Finally, I told her to get up and get out of my house, as any good host would have done under thecircumstances.  She looked at me and said, "Oooh, you have got to read this book. A drunk man wakes up sleeping next to a drag queen." Naturally, I had to peruse a few pages to see for myself. I'm glad I did.

A Feast of Peonies is a fast moving, totally absorbing novel that I could not put down!  Author Redmond took a few chances with the storyline, which included sex scenes that had me pacing the floor as I read them. Redmond stepped out on a limb stylistically as well, using the second person voice for the narrative. For such a small book, A Feast of Peonies packs one hell of a wallop.


One man's confusion is another man's enjoyment, and I enjoyed the devil out of Ashanti's turmoil. Ashanti is a helluva character. Redmond made Ashanti multi dimensional by exploring his childhood to show the events that shaped the man Ashanti became. Strangely enough, I did not form an emotional attachment with Ashanti. I didn't even throw a sympathetic notion in his direction. But, I liked watching Ashanti fall into one mess after the other.


After the initial shock of the first few pages wore off, it took me a minute to get used to second person narrative voice. The majority of fiction today is usually told in the first or third person.  I had never read a book or short story, which used the second person narrative, although I've always wondered what the second person narrative was.  Redmond took a chance putting the novel in this form and it paid off handsomely. Once I got started, I didn't want to be interrupted. The story had an in-your-face, lyrical style which was subtle in its power and unfolded like a movie playing in my head.


As much as I loved A Feast of Peonies, I had a few problems with it.  The primary one being that there were certain episodes and characters that could have been fleshed out more.  For example, for the last half of the book, Ashanti is on the run from police detectives who want to pin a murder on him that needless to say -- he did not commit. I would have liked to have seen Redmond fill out this subplot by letting me in on the lead detective's motive for chasing Ashanti and the steps he took to track him. The lead detective becomes more than a minor character since he is the one Ashanti is running away from. It would have been nice to know more about him.


I did not understand Ashanti's attraction to Jean at all.  What drew these two together?  What was going through Jean's mind?  I want answers to these questions since Jean has a large and intricate role in Ashanti's fate.  I am not asking for a lot of elaboration, just a few insightful words.


There is a fine line between knowing too much and not knowing enough. While there were areas in A Feast of Peonies about which I would have liked to have had more information, I did not need to know everything.  Redmond's stinginess with some of the details enhanced the story.  For instance, Redmond did not go into why Ashanti was attracted to Phyllis even after he knew Phyllis was a man.  I did not mind it.  I doubt if Ashanti even knew himself.  Redmond, wisely, did not try to analyze Ashanti's sexuality.  It would have destroyed the poignancy and entertainment value of the book.


The structure of the novel needs minor rearrangement.  Each of the subplots received equal billing; therefore, the novel has no one main plot.  It would have even been better if Ashanti being on the lam was the stem of the novel, with the storylines featuring Phyllis, Jean, and his childhood past serving as its branches.  A Feast of Peonies works, but shifting the spotlight on one specific plot thread would have made an already strong story even stronger.

 

I still love A Feast of Peonies.  The novel is smart, at times sexy, and has depth and multifaceted characters, and yet moves like a house on fire.  I am eager to see what Redmond has up his sleeve for his next novel.

 

Reviewer:  Thumper
 

Self-Absorbed II

Black and white fine art photographs of the photographer/author nude in various poses interspersed with full color still lifes.

Self-Absorbed II

Black and white fine art photographs of the photographer/author nude in various poses interspersed with full color still lifes.

Self-Absorbed

If someone had told me a year before the publication of this book
that I would be creating a collection of nude photographs of myself, I
would have laughed in their face. That was then.

This project began as an attempt to learn nude photography. I
wanted to create images of women. I love black-and-white stills of
women. So I took a couple of classes, read a couple of books. The
problem was that I didn’t want to get a model, and not know what to
do when I got her. I began with my wife. The problem with that was
that I could see poses in my head, but I couldn’t figure out how to
explain those poses to her. I decided to do the poses myself while she
watched. That worked some. But ultimately, I began to photograph
myself in the pose rather than having to translate what was in my head
to my wife. That’s when I discovered that I liked it! I liked
photographing myself with no clothes on. Working on this project has
been a complete joy. So here it is, the book that I would have scoffed
at making a year ago.

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