JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
Love and The Game
By Saleem Little
3 of 5 Stars
When Saleem Little wrote Love and The Game, he produced a novel that crosses genres in its appeal to raw human emotion. From urban fiction to historical fiction to thriller to romance to action and adventure, Love and The Game is a full literary experience. Little writes with an aptitude that surrounds the reader with the sounds, visions and spiritual connectivity of a New York City hustler’s lifestyle which toggles convincingly between the moral and the amoral.
Love and The Game is much, much more than a Scarface rags-to-riches knock-off in book form. Love and The Game digs deeper. This books puts you inside a drug dealer’s family and forces you to look at their world through their eyes. From that view, it’s not so easy to say “this is bad” or “that is good”.
“Therefore, to cope with the purging of morals from his system, James created a motto that helped him deal with the loss of certain morals… ‘Ain’t no wrong in tryna do right for mine.'” ~ page 22, Love and The Game.
There is a progression that lead Marquise “Mar” Jackson to lead the life that he leads, and Little digs deep into Mar’s family history to give it to you. After reading Love and The Game, you see the how Arthur G. Jackson inadvertently opened the door for his son James to get that life-changing taste of a hustler’s life as a teen. You see how immersion into that lifestyle progressed into the cold-hearted criminality that spanned almost three decades, transforming James into the person that Harlem dubbed “Broadway James”, a legend in his own time. You see how, in turn, James’ son Mar did not blindly insert himself into his dad’s lane but still ended up taking a similar path in life.
Mar is not your typical drug dealer, and he’s definitely not in it for typical reasons. Mar is in the game of drug dealing by blood, not gullible admiration. Like his father James that had a good run in the game before him, Mar was mentally forged for the drug trade and all of the horrors and trials that come with it. He analyzed his friends as they went from boys to junkies and/or dealers. He witnessed the women he desired as a boy become lifeless sex toys for anyone with money, drugs or both. Through it all, his goal was to maintain control and make enough money to get in and get out unscathed.
The rise to fortune is never easy, especially if ill-gotten. As Mar applies his energy to a trade that leads to many deaths, you get a better view of the complexity of his world. From his recollection of a murder dealt by the hands of his father while Mar was still a preteen, past the moment he partially avenged his father’s death and mother’s rape, Mar can hold a reader’s attention with a warm heart and a cold grip.
“Sometimes our internal fire goes out but is blown back into a flame by someone else, and each of us owes our deepest thanks to that person who has rekindled that fire within.” ~ Mar’s mother Josephine, page 167, Love and The Game.
Initially for the survival for his mother and little brother, Mar’s involvement in drugs slowly drowns him in all of the foibles that illicit activities eventually bring to light. Drug dealing eventually endangers the family he tried to protect. As he rises in rank, his best friend’s jealousy become unbearable. His love for his girlfriend is tested by his lust for drug runner. Life is simply complex with no signs of letting up.
Along for the treacherous ride is Lexi, Mar’s first and last love. Little give her a depth that makes her involvement in the Love and The Game easily counterbalance Mar’s adventures. Lexi’s love for Mar is singular, but she is far from a trophy girlfriend. This almost forgotten little girl from Flatbush unfolds an aspect of the game that is chilling, yet equally feminine. The direction that Little took this character caught me off guard, but I was definitely impressed and enlightened by the various stations in life Lexi was able to achieve. From poverty in the ghetto to suburban life and eventually European extravagance, Lexi fitted perfectly in the intricate plot twists that Little brings to this novel.
What did I like? I enjoyed the progression of the characters. I enjoyed the information and points-of-view shared by the main characters as well as the supporting characters. I could tell from the dialogue and plot twists that Saleem Little is well-read. I got hints of The Art of War, The 48 Laws of Power, The Millionaire Next Door readily from the world contained within the pages of Love and The Game.
“Don’t produce doubts that don’t exist.” ~ Fernando moments before being double-crossed by James, page 27, Love and The Game.
I liked how every action, reaction, person, place and things were related to each other. Nothing was wasted in telling a comprehensive story that blurs right and wrong.
What did I not like? At first, I wasn’t impressed by the book’s cover. After reading the book, I liked it a little better. By that, I mean that I understood the components better. I’m still like, “Bleh…”, when it comes to Love and The Games’ color scheme.
I did not like the back-to-back editing errors. I’m not petty, so I can navigate through most errors. But I can see how this can make a person put the book down in frustration. I was, however completely thrown off by the succession of one-to-two page chapters in the third quarter of the book. They made me stop and thumb back through them like, “What in the world?!”
A re-edit and a new and improved book cover would do Love and The Game the literary justice it deserves. Strong characters, interlocked plot twists and realism shine with this novel. Mar’s past, present and future can fuel the imagination if the editing hiccups don’t get in the way. Saleem Little is a great writer, destined to be a well-respected author if Love and The Game is indication of his potential.