A novel about the shooting deaths of four young adults seems like unlikely material for comedy, but this debut by a former reporter for the Newark, New Jersey Star-Ledger manages to wring as much humor from the plot as it does pathos.
The protagonist, Carter Ross, a journalist in crime-ridden Newark wants to snag a Page One, above-the-fold story by beating the Newark cops to the solution to the horrific shootings. The cops believe that the killings are related to a failed bar robbery, and attempt to strong-arm the press into printing it their way. For a while, their tactics work. Eventually, though, Carter begins to suspect a drug link. Helping him track down the truth are intern Tommy Hernandez, a gay man who constantly bemoans Carter's stodgy wardrobe; Tynesha, a stripper/prostitute who thinks Carter is cute; the Browns, gangstas who trick the reporter into getting high on a particularly potent type of marijuana; and the derelicts in a burned-out building who use him as a grocery delivery boy.
Parks' unique voice makes the most out of the frequently-befuddled reporter, an otherwise aimless man who loves Newark in spite of the ruin the city has become. In the end, it is Carter's extraordinary compassion that softens the edges of his dark humor. He is such a likeable character that we can't help but hope he has many more stories to cover--and even more oddball sources to pal around with.