My Bouchercon panels: Joe Nazel's Street Wars
Nazel also aimed satire at self-delusion among African Americans, mixing terror and humor, embodied in the crumbling Regal Arms hotel, almost a character in itself, where the protagonists run their security agency. "It was said," Nazel writes, that a black dentist built the hotel after being turned away from larger downtown Los Angeles hotels. But
"Aging street historians claimed to know the `real dirt.' The dentist, they said, had been passing for white in the East. He had built a sizeable and profitable practice in a well-to-do white community, and was doing quite well until his true colors were exposed. He, his white wife, and cocoa-brown, nappy-head, new-born son, were forced out of town, a few terrifying steps ahead of an angry lynch mob with perfect white teeth."I'm pretty sure Nazel would have read Chester Himes' Cotton Comes to Harlem. He calls his heroes Terrence Malcolm Slaughter and Fred "Dead-On-Arrival" Hollis (Hollis is the big eater), and those monikers look to me like affectionate, over-the-top nods to Himes' Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Like Himes' book, Street Wars has a sprawling cast chasing loot through a big-city black community, Like Himes, Nazel targets thieving preachers and self-proclaimed revolutionaries (though Nazel, whose book appeared years after Himes' 1965 novel, calls his revolutionaries "left over from the Sixties.").
An obituary for Nazel, who died in 2006, appeared under the headline "Joe Nazel, 62; L.A. Journalist, Biographer of Black Luminaries." I'm not sure if that's a tribute to the range of his interests, or a snub for his crime, horror, and adventure novels. For an idea of what Nazel got up to, read an appreciation by Emery Holmes II.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014