Myth and Memory
In conversation with Glenville
Too Beautiful To Die

Too Beautiful To Die

Volatile black ex-cop Blades Overstreet just wants to win estranged wife back. When the man who once saved his life prevails upon him to help a sultry soap opera star find her father, Blades gets caught in a web of secrets involving well-connected business -men and the FBI and throws his chance of getting his wife back in jeopardy.

Advance Praise for
Too Beautiful to Die

“More than just a mystery. Gives life and depth to Brooklyn, a voice to Caribbean rhythms and migration. Brings energy and vitality to the African-American mystery genre.”

—Eleanor Taylor Bland, author of Windy City Dying

“Glenville Lovell’s taut, action-filled mystery Too Beautiful To Die is one of those rare page-turners with emotional grip and lyrical range. The sharp dialogue and its darkly charismatic hero will be a treat to readers looking for something new from a fresh voice. Smart, vivid, and beautifully crafted, it will keep readers guessing until the end.”

—Tananarive Due, author of My Soul to Keep and The Living Blood

“Lovell has concocted a literate mystery that reminds the reader of the best of Cain, Hammett, Chandler and James Lee Burke, sleuthing rendered with wit, imagination and a Caribbean flair.”

—Black Issues Book Review

“...this is stylish entertainment, featuring a vulnerable protagonist with a volatile temper and a tortured personal life.”

































































































































































































































































© 2003 Glenville Lovell

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Song Of Night

Song of Night

Her name is Cyan. She is nicknamed "Night" because she is so dark. Her godmother accuses her of stealing money. The punish -ment meted out by her mother scars her for life. But instead of breaking her spirit this
only makes her more determined. Prepare to lose yourself in the intrigue and heartbreak of Cyan's attempt to live life on her terms.

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Fire In The Canes

Fire in the Canes

At the turn of the century in the sleepy West Indian village of Monkey Road, fifteen year-old Midra falls under the spell of reputed
shapeshifter Prince Johnson, the descendant of a runaway slave known as The African. In one night of passion, her life changes and so does everything else in the village.

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Too Beautiful To Die

About the Book

Blades Overstreet worked the dangerous New York streets as an undercover cop. During a buy-and-bust operation a white undercover fellow officer "accidentally" shot and nearly killed him. Blades' life was saved by a taxi driver who lifted him into his cab and sped him to the hospital. Fearing the racial outcry the police department tried to cover up the shooting and Blades resigned in anger, alienating his wife with his growing paranoia.

But Blades is trying to move on. He runs a record store in a Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn while he waits for the City to settle his lawsuit. But more than anything he wants to win his wife back. He is busy making preparations for her visit from LA when the man who saved his life prevails on him to help a beautiful soap opera star named Precious find her father.

Blades reluctantly agrees, but what he finds is the murdered body of an FBI agent, and a swirling vortex of lies and secrets, in the process stirring up the animosity of New York's mayor. Pursued by cops and feds alike, and with time running out his chance to win his wife back, Blades must find the killer, and unravel the mystery of Precious' relationship to a powerful politician before he himself takes the rap.

Compared by critics to the best of Cain, Hammett, Chandler and James Lee Burke, (what do they know), Too Beautiful To Die has an original wit, and beg-to-be-spoken dialogue so tight you can scoop it off the page. The writing will beguile you with its insights into American society and into the tortured hearts of lonely frightened immigrants striving to survive in the basin of urban humanity.

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Song of Night

About the Book

The heroine of this evocative novel is Cyan Cattlewash, nicknamed “Night” because she is so dark. Bottom Rock is her village, just five miles from Bridgetown the capital of Barbados. Her father is known as “Steel”; he is a fisherman who teaches his daughter to love the unspoiled beauty of their island. Her mother, a foreigner from neighboring St. Lucia, is scorned as an outsider by the villagers. The smart one in the family is her sister, on whom her mother’s ambitions are focused, but it is feisty Cyan who is her father’s favorite.

And then her father kills a man in a fit of jealous rage and Cyan’s tranquil life is changed forever.

Catapulted into early adulthood Night becomes pregnant by the only man she ever loved, and peddles her home-sewn dresses to tourists on the beach. Night’s friend Koko, an immigrant to Barbados from the U.S., is a local gallery owner who arranges for Night to give up her child for adoption to Amanda, her African-American friend. The meeting between Night and Amanda takes an unexpected turn, and Night’s life veers dangerously toward the violence that was such a part of her past.

Told in a poetic engaging manner, Song of Night is a contemporary tale of love and rage—and one woman’s tragic destiny. It captures the complex relationships and conflicts between the island natives and the American-born newcomers, between the old and the new. It mixes an exotic and perilous brew, which comes alive through the magical language of the people and their extraordinary landscape.

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Fire in the Canes

About the Book

Fire in the Canes is an epic tale about murder, betrayal, love and longing, a unique blend of the supernatural and history. It is the story of young lovers, parted forever after one magical night, and of a people overcoming the legacy of slavery and regaining pride in themselves and their ancestors.

Though slavery was abolished more than fifty years ago, not much has changed on this Caribbean island. The plantation still owns the land; all but a few people in the little tenantry village of Monkey Road work in the cane fields. They are not yet fully free. Then Peata, beautiful and sensuous, arrives in the village with her fifteen-year-old daughter Midra, and things begin to change.

Peata makes her living entertaining-giving parties for the village men. At these gatherings she falls under the spell of Prince Johnson, the descendant of a runaway slave-woodcarver known as the African. A reputed shapeshifter, Prince dares to defy the plantation.

But it is Midra who captivates Prince and it is Midra whom he transports to a hidden cave for a night of love and enchantment; it is Midra who looks through the eyeholes of the mask carved by The African to receive a revelation from the ancestral spirits. And it is these ancestors, and the discovery of the fire-charred bones, that lead the villagers to full freedom.

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Too Beautiful To Die

A look inside

“I feel so ashamed talking about this.” Her voice had the forced calmness of someone trying to hide her emotions.

She sat in the wing chair, long legs crossed; back erect. I kept my eyes
focused on her face. When I was a cop I had honed to perfection the skill of reading the eyes of a witness or a suspect, but was my attention to her eyes, which could light a candle, force of habit or the fact that she was so
damn beautiful?

“I don’t know who my father is,” she continued. “I don’t know his name or what he looks like. I never even saw a picture. I don’t even know if he’s alive. For years I’ve been trying to track him down without any luck. Last week out of nowhere I got a call from a man. He asked me how much was I willing to pay for information about my father. I asked him his name. He wouldn’t tell me, so I hung up. He called back and told me that for $50,000 he would tell me who my father was, and how to get in touch with him. He wouldn’t give me any details about how he knew I’d been searching for my father but the more he spoke the more I was taken in. There was something about his voice. He just seemed so sure. Like he knew things most people didn’t know. In the end I agreed to pay him.”

“That’s a lot of money,” I said. She glanced at Jimmy and then back to me.“The money is nothing to me. I can afford it. I’d pay twice that to find my father.”
“How many times have you spoken to this man?” I asked.
“Three or four.”
“Did you get his name?”
“He called himself Antonio.”
“It sounds like a hoax. A crazed fan,” I said.
“That’s why I need you.”

Right there I should’ve gotten up, thanked her for the beer and the brief respite from the heat and made my way back to my Brooklyn sauna before I got so comfortable in her company and this Town and Country living room that I’d agree to slay a lion. Instead, I sat there looking like a schoolboy watching his first striptease.

Precious got up and went back to the sculpture, her gold-embroidered slippers smacking the floor. She bent down and picked up a black leather briefcase.
“I have the money. And I know where to take it. I want you to go with

At least she didn’t say: I want you to take it. Give her credit for that. She might be an actress, but she was no prima donna.
“I think you should call the police,” I said.
“She don’t want to do that,” Jimmy said.
Precious stepped forward. “I don’t want any publicity. I was ready to go myself but Jimmy convinced me you would help.”
“You have to help her, Blades,” said Jimmy.
“You want my help, then take my advice,” I said.
“Is it asking too much for you to go with her, man?” Jimmy’s voice rose impatiently.

The actress completed her parade across the room and sat opposite me again leaning forward. I could feel her sharp eyes scaling my face.
“Please, I’m willing to pay you,” she said.
Jimmy stood guard near the hip of the couch, watching me wearily.I looked up at Jimmy.

“Why don’t you go with her?”
He snorted and then coughed, the wild rugged hack of someone with bronchial problems, his body shaking uncontrollably.
“You okay, man?” I stood up.
He clamped his hand over his mouth to try to control the coughing. After two or three more tremors he stopped and looked at me his eyes thin a glassine.
“You used to be a cop. You would know what to do if things aren’t
on the up and up.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do it,” I said and sat back down.
Precious looked at me surprised, almost stunned. Jimmy had obviously convinced her that I was in his hip pocket.

“Leave us alone for a minute, Precious,” Jimmy said.
Precious sighed softly and rubbed the back of her neck. She rose from the wing chair and left the room.

Jimmy plunked himself down in front of me.
“You owe me, Blades,” Jimmy said quietly.
“I don’t want to do it, Jimmy.”

Perhaps my thinking was self-serving, but no matter what he said I was determined to stay firm. What did I know about this woman or the man she was going to meet? How did I know she was telling the truth? Until I got my settlement from the City I had planned to keep my nose clean.

Jimmy got up slowly and stood staring into my face, leaning his face closer to mine, baring his teeth showing red agitated gums. I don’t know if this was an attempt at a smile or meant to intimidate me, but it was only getting me pissed off. His eyes were morning gray, and underneath the surface tiny green lines raced back and forth like baby worms. He was so close I could’ve counted the creases at the corner of his eyes and the freckles on his face if I wanted to, but right now I was more apt to punch him and leave. There was still time to pick up my daydream where he’d interrupted it.

“This ain’t good, Blades.”
“Well, fuck, Jimmy, it’s all I got.”
“What the hell do you want, man? She offered to pay you.”

He slammed his open hand onto the wall behind my head. He seemed ready to jump out of his skin. If I didn’t know better I’d say Jimmy was jacked on drugs.
“Hey, you better slow your roll, cuz.” I stood up, more to prepare myself should he take a swing at me than anything else.
“And the fuck out my face like you wanna kiss me.”
“Where’s your fucking heart, man?”

He stood there glowering over me and just when I was about to push him away he stepped back and took a pack of Marlboro and a Zippo lighter from his shirt pocket. He struggled to light the cigarette. The fuel was low and the flame never flickered for more than a second.

“Are you fucking her?”
“Watch your manners, dude.”I started to laugh.
“You see, that’s your freaking problem.” He finally lit the cigarette and sat down, taking a deep drag with caved-in jaws.

“You don’t respect nothing. You think only about yourself. How could you ask me a question like that? Why I gotta be fucking her cause I
wanna help her?”

I didn’t know what to say. I looked at my friend’s face, all bone and sagging skin. His eyes were drawn tight. Somewhere in the mirror of his eyes there might’ve been a reflection of my soul, but I tried not to see it. But that didn’t keep the dogs of guilt at bay: How could you refuse this man who saved your life?

“Have you settled your lawsuit against the City?” he said.
I hunched over and said nothing.

“I know you got money coming from the City,” he continued. “Maybe you can buy a heart. Man, did I ask you for anything for saving your life?”
I straightened up and stared him dead in the eye. He flinched.
“What the hell you want from me, Jimmy? You want me to bleed for you because you saved my life?” I extended my hand.

“Go ahead. Cut me. But don’t ask me to get involved in shit I know nothing about.”
He blew a wad of smoke in my face.
“Let me tell you about her little girl.”
I felt the urge to have a cigarette but decided to fight it.
“She’s about three now,” he continued.
“She’s in a home.”
“What kinda home?” I asked.
“Don’t ever let Precious know I told you this, understand.”
I nodded.

“She needs around the clock care.”
“What’s this got to do with finding Precious’ father?”
“I’m trying to show you that even though she’s got money, she’s got problems like anybody else. She’s got her weaknesses. She got her strengths. She needs love. She needs help. Right now she needs you. You can’t begin understand how good she has been to me. I need you to do this for me, dude.”
“Where’d you two meet?”

“I was out of work, homeless, hanging around this soup kitchen trying to get a sandwich and she came in one day. Said she was doing research for her show. She asked if she could talk to me. I was very honest with her. Next week she came back, told me about a friend of hers who needed a chauffeur.”

“I was wondering what happened to you.”
“She’s a good woman, Blades. If you turn your back on her, you’re
turning your back on me. I mean it.”

His face was fixed in an intense scowl. He blew a ring of smoke as Precious returned in a new outfit.
“Listen, Jimmy,” she said, “If your friend doesn’t want to help me,
it’s okay. I understand.”

I turned to her. “Where do you have to deliver this money?”
“Brooklyn. Does this mean you’ll help?” she asked.

Back to Too Beautiful to Die



Song of Night

A look inside

Sitting alone under a clump of casaurina trees the woman had that cold-clear skin American blacks from the snow-bound regions seemed to have, the kind of complexion Bajans who'd lived for a long time in New York or Boston brought back home to show off along with the latest styles. Pale next to Cyan's deep, sweat-shined hue. Cyan made her as American right away. Resolutely, set down her heavy clothes-laden suitcase at the woman's feet noticing the woman's toes which looked like they'd spent too much time scrunched up in shoes a size too small.

The woman lowered her book before Cyan could read its title, her eyes questioning the intrusion. Cyan answered with learned brashness. "I have some nice bargains for you today, miss. All my clothes handmade of the best material. All tie-dye done by local artists. The finest you go get anywhere on the island. I personally guarantee it." For good measure she added a smile dipped in cane syrup to douse whatever impatience the woman might have left.

"Let's see what you have," invited the woman, with a smile of her own, not quite as practiced, but genuinely friendly. With some difficulty Cyan bent down to open the tattered briefcase Breeze had given her. The same Breeze who'd made love to her one night and then flown to Germany next morning with a fat blonde. He'd never written and so didn't know she was about to drop his child. She wouldn't have told him anyway. She did wish she'd been up to see him leave, to look at his back one last time, to see if he'd slinked away with his shoulders stooped like a beggar, or if he'd left her with his six-foot frame straight up like a man. That night the sweet sweaty lovemaking had tired her
out so much she'd fallen asleep right away, her head on his smooth chest, too exhausted to feel him slide from under her in the middle of the night or hear his motorbike spurt to life. Gone from her as silently as he'd come. Next morning she woke with a head cold and a knot in her stomach she'd been working to untie ever since.

The American eyed her distended belly and fingered her creations with interest.
"They're all quite lovely," the woman said, caressing a tie-dye dress.
She was a big woman, the American, about five-seven, with legs shaven to the edge of obsession. Some razor nicks were healing, many were quite fresh.

You from the States, ain't you?" Cyan said.
"Is it that easy to tell?"
"I meet a lot of Americans, I can usually tell them now. You enjoying our beautiful weather?"
"Yes, it's very nice."
"How long you here for?"
"I'm not sure yet. I only got here yesterday. Maybe a month, maybe longer. I don't really have a timetable. I expect to be here a little while, though."
Cyan stood up to stretch her back. Along with stiffness in her legs back spasms were the only problems she'd had with the pregnancy. Mostly at night after she'd been stooping and bending all day.

"Are you all right?" the woman asked.
"Yes, I fine. Nothing to worry about."
"You ought to sit down."
"No, it better if I stand up. If I sit down it go be shite to get me back up."
"Looks like it's almost time. . . the baby"
"Oh! Yes, and I can't wait to drop this child outta me, yuh hear."
"What's your name?"
"Night. That's a strange name. Is that your real name?
"No, but people started calling me Night from small 'cause I was so dark."
"Didn't you find that offensive?"
"You get used to things like that round here quick or your life become more of a hell than it gotta be. I used to it now. Actually I prefer that to my real name now. Night suit me. I like the night. Most beautiful part of the day. Nothing like starlight for walking on the beach."

"You mean moonlight."
"No, I mean starlight. Pitch black night 'cepting for the stars. That's the best time.
That's the time I like. "Where you staying?"
"With friends at a place called . . . I don't remember the name. It's near a racetrack. I think it's called Dayrells Road."
"Oh, yes, I know down there."

"My friend is American. She lives here though. She's a photographer and runs an art gallery," the American said, rising and dusting sand from her legs.
"Wait a minute. . . You don't mean. . .You don't mean Koko."
"Yes, I do. You know her? Good gracious me! It can't be possible. Are you by any chance. . . "

"Yes, I's Cyan. You must be Amanda. She say you wasn't coming 'til next week."
"My goodness! This is unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. God is forever working miracles. I was supposed to arrive next week, but I found out they didn't have the seat I reserved so I had to take an earlier flight. Now that we've met no reason why we can't continue this conversation at the house."

She clasped the sweating girl to her like they were long lost friends.

Back to Song of Night



Fire in the Canes

A look inside

At six that Friday morning the fowlcock sounded his trumpet only four times, and Mabel Fields nearly jumped out of her skin. She sprang from the bed, ran to the kitchen window, and pushed it open, her roving eyes searching the yard for the gold and black rooster that announced a fresh day to the village of Monkey Road. It stood in the middle of the yard, its black plume poised. But silent. Mabel waited. The hush continued. The fifth and sixth notes she waiting for did not come. She padded back to the bedroom where her husband, Darnlee, was still asleep.

“The cock only crow four this morning,” she said, shaking him.
He opened one eye for a second, rolled over onto his stomach, and went back to sleep. Getting up in the morning was never easy for Darnlee. But his wife had developed a strategy to get him out of bed in time for work whenever he threatened to sleep past six o’clock. She poked him hard in the tender spot between his ribs. This tactic had never failed her, and it worked again to perfection. He opened both eyes this time and bolted upright.
“The cock only crow four,” Mabel said again.
“Good for the cock,” he muttered.

He closed his eyes but Mabel jabbed him, this time harder. So hard, in fact, it made him squeal.This particular fowlcock, a gift from their next-door neighbor, Small Paul, would always crow three times, then after a minute’s pause it would crow three more times, for a total of six. Six times at six o’ clock. That was its ritual. Only once before had it deviated in all the years she had owned it: it had crowed four times, and at midday her mother had collapsed and died. So now she felt the least her husband could do was wake up and reassure her that he was all right.

She jabbed him again.
“Get up, Darnlee. Get up, man! Get up!”
Darnlee sucked his teeth and opened his eyes, trying to focus. He pulled himself up from the newly filled grass bed, which made a rustling noise, and scratched his head.

“What time it is?” he asked, hoping it was no later than five o’ clock, which would give him time for some early morning fooling around with his wife or, failing that, at least another hour of sleep before he had to leave for work.
Mabel was her most passionate early in the morning, and from the look of things the fowlcock had already stirred her up. He smiled. After fifteen years together, waking up to Mabel in the morning was still the best part of his life.
“It’s six o’ clock,” Mabel said.
“Six? You sure?”
“Of course I sure. That’s why I wake you. The cock only crow four, and that ain’t right.”
“The cock got a right to crow how much he want. He’s a man, ain’t he? Maybe he vex ’cause he got to get up to crow for people like you and me who can’t afford a clock.”

Darnlee laughed and tried to pull Mabel onto the bed. She slapped his hands away. She was not in the mood for fooling around.Darnlee opened the bedroom window and spat his disappointment onto the leaves of the olive tree, barely missing a baby monkey who seemed to have been eavesdropping on the windowsill outside. It jumped to the ground and scrambled up the coconut tree.

“I don’t like it, Darnlee,” came Mabel’s voice. You listenin’ to me?
“Maybe you miss the first two,” he said irritably. He stuck his head through the window.

“I ain’t miss none. He only crow four. I hear every one,” Mabel said.
“You mean to tell me you ain’t got nothing better to do than study that fowlcock this blessed morning? Look, go make me a cup of cocoa-tea, let me get outta here, if you can’t find nothing better to do!”

“It’s a sign, Darnlee. You remember what happen the last time this happen?”
“You want to watch signs? Go right ahead. But while you watching signs, make sure you don’t forget to put sugar
in me tea.”

With that, he dismissed her with a loud sucking of his teeth and took his khaki trousers from the foot of the bed.

Darnlee was a lean muscular man, and quite tall. He wore a thick beard that hid a scar on his lower jaw—the result of a butchering accident. His small tired-looking eyes were set underneath a proud and prominent forehead, a feature he had passed on to his only child, Brandon, who was asleep in the next room.
Monday through Friday he worked at the plantation. On weekends he teamed up with Malcolm Barnes as the roving butchers of Monkey Road, slaughtering anything from turkeys to cows, killing the animals on the spot and transforming the house of the owner into an abattoir for the day. Darnlee bragged that he was the strongest and most fearless butcher to ever walk the streets of Monkey Road. To back up his claim he would tell the story of the five-hundred-pound bull he had wrestled to the ground by the horns single-handedly while simultaneously plunging a sixteen-inch blade through its neck and into its heart. Later, after the animal had died, when its innards were taken out, the heart displayed one precise six-inch slit. Darnlee would then issue an open challenge to any man in the village to duplicate this feat. No one ever took up the challenge. But then no one except Darnlee and his partner knew if that story wasn’t just that—a story.

Darnlee thrust his right leg into the trousers. Why was she bothering him about a fowlcock, he thought angrily as he thrust his left leg through. Especially since she didn’t want to fool around. He didn’t know a blasted thing about lazy fowlcocks who didn’t crow right. And he resented being brought into her superstitions. So what if the same thing had happened when her mother died? That didn’t prove anything.

“Something bad go happen,” Mabel was saying.
“You know I right. Something bad go happen.”
“I thought you gone to make my tea, woman.”
Mabel stood her ground.

Darnlee buttoned his fly and slipped a knotted piece
of string around his waist. He looked around for his khaki shirt.
“All this time you here confusing me with this foolishness, we coulda been doin’ something worthwhile, ya know,” he chided, making one last effort to pull her into his arms. Mabel slipped from his grasp and went to make the cocoa.

Back to Fire in the Canes


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