Author: Thomas Mullen
Pub date: September 13, 2016
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Before reading this book I didn’t realize how insulting and degrading a word ‘boy’ can be. I’m so glad that I finished this book, because this is not an easy read. It is very much worth reading, but it is quite exhausting for a reader. Why? Mainly because the amount of racism and hypocrisy in this book is through the roof, and I was constantly angry at the characters, and I wanted to strangle them, which will lower me to their ways.
Darktown tells a story of four police officers – two white and two black working on the streets of ’48 Atlanta. The city just appointed its first African-American officers, just eight of them to work as a beat policeman in so-called Darktown, part of the city where only African-American live, not exactly by choice because they just couldn’t live anywhere else in the city, because white people will not tolerate that. There is one family in the story that crossed this invisible border between Darktown and the other site, and built their home in a predominantly white neighborhood and it is not ending so well for them. Those eight black policemen are near-powerless, they don’t have a squad car, they cannot arrest any white person, they cannot access the official police building and have to operate from some basement that someone is letting them use. They cannot carry out an investigation, and if they want to arrest someone (someone black of course, no power over white people…) they have to go to the phone box, and ask for a squad car to come and let the white policemen, the ‘proper’ police officers handle the suspects.
When a black woman who was last seen in a white man’s car is found dead in Darktown, and it looks like no white cop is interested in solving the crime, two black officers take it upon themselves to find out what happened. Boggs and Smith risk their jobs, and even their lives to find out who is the girl, and who is the guy that she was last seen with. They don’t have any help from the white officers, and it seems that the white cops are actively trying to cover up this crime. One white cop, in particular, is against the efforts of black officers – Dunlow.
That name brings me to the perfect example of the worst kind of people. I don’t think it is possible for me to express how much I hate Dunlow. He is the old-school white cop that cannot stand black people wearing the same uniform he is wearing. He is partnered with a younger, more progressive officer Rakestraw that is the only hope in this book that white people are not the worst. He is the single semi-positive white character in the story.
I had one problem while reading this book. All the characters are very diverse, each of them representing something completely different and quite frankly something stereotypical. Dunlow is old-school cop, so he has his typical archetypes of big belly and alcohol – too bad he is missing a Dunkin’ Donuts box (brand founded in 1950, so this must by why he is missing this symbol of old-school cop). Rakestraw is progressive, willing to think that African-Americans deserve much better than what they get and he maybe even willing to act against the current situation, so he is young and slim. All four main police officer characters don’t feel like real people, and more like the stereotypes that work just right in this type of the story.