Behind current blaxploitation pulp literature is - surprise! - the music biz

"He opted for a black viscose blend snap closure by Ermenegildo Zegna, and within five minutes was dressed and slipping into his Ferragamos. Next he pulled out a drawer with his watches: Cartiers, Patek Philippes, Boucherons, you name it. He opted for his platinum Vacheron Constantin Overseas. FinallyŠ." You get the idea. He owns a Cartier, he must be dope.

After 90 words, though, we readers still know nothing of how this character thinks, what this character speaks like, even what he feels about his possessions -- only what brands he prefers. This is either character development for the writerly challenged or one helluva sales pitch. Though Ro is an exceptional journalist, having written Have Gun Will Travel, the book on Death Row Records and its iconic bully of a president, Suge Knight, the writer cannot summon his astute, insightful eye here. Writing for the silver screen and Lord & Taylor shoppers will do that, though.

Snipes, according to press material, "joined forces with Gerald to insure the development of a new breed of black action novelists and to give Amen Ra Š a first look at a steady stream of film material." It seems that, based on Snipes's stated goal and the minuscule intellectual heft of Ro's work, the paperback form has now become nothing more than another film-development and advertising tool -- not something meant to engage, but something meant to distract. Just like MTV. Just like Blade.

E-mail Anthony Mariani at anthony.mariani@houstonpress.com.

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