Anger simmers in Adam Smyer’s ‘loosely’ autobiographical ‘Knucklehead’


The main character in Adam Smyer’s debut novel is filled with rage. Rage about injustice. Rage about fellow passengers on a bus. Rage about traffic. Lots of rage about traffic.

But the El Cerrito author swears “Knucklehead” (Akashic Books, $15.95, 340 pages) is not a memoir. Sure, Marcus Hayes, the narrator, went to law school, as did Smyer. And, yeah, Marcus grew up in New York City and attended NYU, as did Smyer. Marcus, like Smyer, relocated to the Bay Area. Not a memoir?

Akashic Books

Smyer laughs. “Somebody once told me, ‘write what you know.’ So, the book is maybe extremely loosely based on things in my life.”

“Knucklehead” is already being lauded by reviewers as “refreshingly honest,” “uncategorizably original,” with “rip-roaring humor,” and, as James Baldwin Fellow novelist Mat Johnson says, its “exploration of rage is unflinching, brave and absolutely brilliant.”

Smyer’s already been compared to some of the great novels about the African-American experience, such as Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” which centered on a youth living in Chicago’s Southside in the 1930s, and James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” set in the same time period, featuring a 14-year-old boy in Harlem.

“Knucklehead” takes place in the 1980s and ’90s. It opens with Marcus on a 7 a.m. New York City bus filled with, as he describes it, sheep. Nobody wants to get involved with the privileged “frat boy in a suit” who’s pushing other passengers so he can get more room. Marcus is the only one who calls him on it. Frat boy invites him into an alley. Frat boy gets a baton in the neck, because Marcus’ anger is always on simmer, and you never know when you’ll encounter a weapon.

Soooo, if you write what you know…

Smyer laughs again. “It’s not a 300-page confession. That would just be stupid. I …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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