"A gutsy book that blazes trails, plotted at breakneck speed that won't let up." ~ Kirkus Book Review
"...5 out of 5 stars for this superb supernatural thriller. One Blood is a page-turning delight hard to put down." ~ The African-American Literature Book Club - The #1 Site for African-American Literature
"ONE BLOOD is a richly detailed, intricately woven tale rendered in lush, evocative prose. This memorable debut heralds Qwantu Amaru as a talent well worth watching." ~ Brandon Massey, award-winning author of DARK CORNER and COVENANT
For Every Action...
Lincoln Baker, born a ward of the state, has gone from orphan, to gang banger, to basketball superstar, to lifer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the space of eighteen years. During his prison term, he meets Panama X, a powerful and mysterious father figure who gives Lincoln a reason for living - he must assassinate Randy Lafitte, the sitting Governor of Louisiana.
There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction...
In order to force a pardon, Lincoln orchestrates the kidnapping of Karen Lafitte, Randy's only daughter. But Randy Lafitte is a man who built his fortune by resurrecting a family curse from slavery to kill his own father. A curse that may or may not have been responsible for his son Kristopher's death in the gang crossfire that sent Lincoln to prison for life. Randy will stop at nothing to save his daughter, even if it means admitting the curse is real. Even if it means committing greater atrocities.
Too bad for Anyone Stuck in the Middle.
Three days after Karen's kidnapping, an explosive cocktail of revenge, manipulation, serendipity, fate, truth, and redemption detonates throughout Louisiana. When the dust settles, the ending is as unexpected as it is illuminating. There are secrets sealed in our blood, you see. The best answers, as always, lie within.
Lincoln Baker twirled a homemade toothpick in his mouth, staring at the collage of newspaper and magazine cut-outs pasted all over his concrete home. The tattered remnants seemed to glow in the early daylight. Bold titles and stories worked in harmony—pieces of a jigsaw puzzle reflecting the man in front of them through a mirror of words. Lincoln had stopped reading the articles a long time ago. Now, he just looked at the headlines, captions, and pictures, allowing his mind to drift.
Crows just outside the block windows were engaged in an aerial clash over an insect. Finally, one crow cawed in victory and flew away with his prize. Lincoln’s heart soared with the avian soldier, wishing him well.
Lincoln took a sip of lukewarm water from a chipped styrofoam cup imprinted with the letters LSP—Louisiana State Penitentiary. The oldest article, now barely legible, was entitled “Louisiana’s Best Kept Secret.” Another clipping from Parade magazine touted 1992’s Parade High School All-Americans as the future of the NBA. Next to it was a ruffled cover of Sports Illustrated. It showed three young men standing under the golden arches of McDonalds, their smiles outshining the famous trademark. The headline read, “The Real Big Macs!”
But Lincoln barely saw these. His eyes always ended up on the headlines, “#1 Down the Drain: Angola Gets Top Draft Prospect,” and “Gang Warfare Responsible for Simmons Park Massacre.”
He touched the papers hanging on the wall. One article showed a picture of a smiling face, obviously a yearbook photo, posted next to a mug shot of the same face. Although the pictures were taken many years prior, Lincoln looked pretty much the same. He’d accumulated more tattoos on his fair skin since his incarceration, but by and large he was like a meat-filled refrigerator left off too long—same appearance on the outside, but utterly ruined within.
He stood up and approached the dented rusty piece of reflective glass—a joke of a mirror. Removing his sweatshirt, he applied shaving foam to his two-day stubble and took a slightly used bic razor to his face. As always, he contemplated taking the blade to his jugular, but it had been many years since he’d seriously considered suicide. Instead, after shaving, he examined the black skull with blood descending from both eyes inked on the muscled bulge of his right shoulder—the insignia of his gang, the Dirty Skulls.
Only two people in the world knew about the nasty scar beneath his first tattoo. The man who’d burned the five-year-old orphan in his charge with a soldering gun, and Lincoln. As he grew older, Lincoln covered many of his visible childhood scars this way. Fascinated with reptiles, especially snakes, he saw each tattoo as a piece of new skin. But the tattoo just below the skull that read R.I.P. K.L. #44 was a daily reminder that the deepest wounds could never be shed.
Lincoln thought about Kristopher Lafitte constantly. Even though he was ten years removed from the events that resulted in the death of his best friend, he couldn’t erase the guilt he felt for what he did and what he failed to do. The left side of the wallpaper reminded him of a time before the death and sadness. Back when the media depicted Lincoln as a basketball god.
After his sentencing for the killings at Simmons Park, no one uttered a word about his bright future. Only words like gangbanger, juvenile delinquent, drug dealer, cop killer, and murderer were used to describe him now. The papers went from singing his praises to exposing his criminal past—starting with a convenience store robbery when he was eight. They described his upbringing, moving from the orphanage to foster home after foster home because no parents or blood relatives would claim him. They listed his many stints in juvenile detention centers. Their words damned him with the same question.
Lincoln had no answers for them. His adjudicators took his silence for guilt and condemned him to life behind bars. Infamy followed him from the streets into the cell, and Lincoln began to examine his life with the avid interest of a coroner probing a mutilated corpse for clues.
His morbid curiosity became so great he broke down the wall of silence between himself and Moses Mouton, the man who’d given him the only real break of his life. To the outside world, Moses was a civil rights activist and devoted preacher. To Lincoln, Moses was the father he never had. Ironically, Moses had spent twelve years locked up in this very prison.
* * * * *
Lincoln was looking at four years in juvenile detention for two counts of armed robbery when he learned a deal had been reached and he’d been sentenced to house arrest. Lincoln was sure the judge had made a mistake—how could he be on house arrest when he’d been living in the streets for the past two years?
The mystery was soon solved. The bailiff led him to a holding cell where a large, black man sat behind the table. He had the biggest hands Lincoln had ever seen and was reading a book called Native Son.
Lincoln thought it was some shit about Africa.
The man kept reading for a few moments, then lowered the book and looked at Lincoln like he’d just realized someone else was in the room.
“Good, you’re here. Have a seat, Son,” the man said.
“Who the fuck are you?” Lincoln replied, still standing.
The guard grabbed the tip of his billy club.
It’s okay, Hardy,” the man said to the guard. “Would you mind standing outside?” After the guard left the room, the man looked at Lincoln and said, “My name is Moses. Moses Mouton. I’m the reason you’re here and not headed for juvenile detention.”
“Yo’ name Moses? Like in the Bible Moses?”
“Exactly…I see you know the Bible.”
“Not really, Bruh, I saw that Charlton Heston movie. Whatcha mean you the reason I ain’t goin’ to juvie?”
“I told the judge I would make sure he never heard your name again in connection with gang activity. I’m here to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
“Whateva man, I don’t make no deals, already told the damn prosecutor that.”
“This isn’t a deal, Lincoln,” Moses replied. “This is your last chance.”
“Last chance for what, nigga? I’m a dead man. I walk outta here and the Skulls’ll think I ratted ‘em out. What kinda offer you got fo’ a dead man?”
“Please don’t use that n-word around me. In addition to protection from your gang, I’m offering you something that I never had. I was just like you, Son.”
“Let’s get one thing straight, Bruh, you ain’t nuthin’ like me,” Lincoln interrupted, getting up from his seat. “I don’t got time fo’ dis shit.”
“And that’s exactly what I used to say,” Moses said, standing up as well, the book gripped in his hand like a Bible. “I liked selling drugs, using drugs, and even robbing people. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t a minor when I got my last chance and they sent me up to Angola for twelve years. I was raised on these streets, just like you. My folks passed away when I was very young and my grandmother could never keep up with me—”
“Look man, what all this shit got to do wit’ me?”
“I’m trying to tell you why I want to help you, Lincoln. I’m trying to tell you why that white judge is entrusting you into my care. Listen carefully to me, Lincoln, because I’m only going to say this once.” Moses took a deep breath and sat back down.
Something in his eyes made Lincoln sit, too.
“Nobody has ever given a damn about you, Son. Nobody really gives a damn about any of our youth. You may not even give a damn about yourself, and that judge is more than willing to get one more thug off of the streets, so you’re helping him out with your attitude. Now I told myself after I got released from prison that I would not and could not let my black brothers and sisters keep disappearing down the garbage disposal. I have a responsibility to you, and you have a responsibility to God not to squander the opportunities He’s giving you to change your life. So here’s the deal: you are going to be living with me from now on, you are going to obey your house arrest, you are going to go back to high school, and you are going to make something of yourself. And if you don’t, that gang you run with will be the least of your troubles. I may be a man of the Lord, but I’ll kill you myself…”
Moses did not mince words.
The terms of Lincoln’s house arrest stated that he was only allowed to leave Moses’ house to attend high school. The Dirty Skulls’ rival gang, the Scorpions, took advantage of the opportunity, using Moses’ home for target practice on several occasions. Each time, Moses locked Lincoln in the bathroom until he calmed down; but one night Lincoln snuck out of his bedroom window, looking to settle the score.
After cruising through the Scorpions’ hood for a couple of hours, he returned to Moses’ home to find the windows to his bedroom locked. With no other choice, Lincoln went around to the front door and boldly rang the doorbell. After a moment the door swung open.
Moses pulled Lincoln into the house by the front of his t-shirt and threw him down into a dining room chair. A rubber-gripped, silver-barreled .357 Magnum revolver lay on the kitchen table before him.
“Pick it up.”
Lincoln stared at the gun and back up at Moses.
“I said, pick the gun up.”
Lincoln reached for the weapon.
Moses grabbed his hand before he could grasp it. “When you pick it up, you either shoot me or shoot yourself, you hear?”
“I—,” Lincoln started.
“I don’t want to hear anything but you clicking back the safety and a gunshot. Make your choice.” He released Lincoln’s hand.
Lincoln reluctantly jerked the weapon up. He tried to speak, but nothing came. He held the weapon in front of him with shaking hands.
“You want to kill somebody so bad, pull the trigger.”
Lincoln’s senses were amplified. Moses’ Brut cologne was as omnipresent as the stench of his own fear. The ceiling fan in the living room was as loud as helicopter blades. Every pore on Moses’ livid face was apparent. Lincoln readjusted his grip.
“What are you waiting for? Pull the trigger, big man.” Moses’ words came in slow motion.
Suddenly Lincoln was nine years old again, with an older gang member holding his hand up while he pulled the trigger. The gun was so heavy in his tiny hand; the recoil almost knocked him over. In the distance, a kid not much older than himself lay twisted on the ground.
He blinked the memory away and slammed Moses’ gun down on the table. “Fuck you, man! I don’t gotta do nuthin’ you say!” Lincoln screamed.
Moses picked up the firearm and walked around to Lincoln’s side of the table. He pressed the barrel to Lincoln’s temple.
Moses’ lips brushed against his earlobe. “You’ve got a death wish, Son. I’ll be doing you and everyone in this town a favor by putting a bullet in your head right now. You think you’re invincible?”
Lincoln swallowed hard. “You ain’t gonna shoot”
He was interrupted by the unmistakable click of the trigger being squeezed. It took Lincoln five seconds to realize he wasn’t dead. He had collapsed.
Moses stood over him and whispered, “Boom. Lincoln Baker the gangbanger is dead.”
* * * * *
The jingle-jangle of prison alarms dispersed Lincoln’s memories.
It was 4:45 a.m. Most of the other inmates would be leaving their cells to work the eighteen thousand acres of farmland surrounding Angola. Before the Louisiana State Penitentiary became America’s largest and most violent maximum-security prison, it was a plantation. The slaves that worked the land back then were from Angola in Africa.
Lincoln found it ironic that the ancestors of the slaves who originally toiled this land were still trying to get free. The statistics claimed that nearly ninety percent of Angola’s five thousand inmates would die inside the prison walls. On day one, Lincoln vowed he would never die inside this cage.
Now, it was almost time to fulfill his prophecy. Nothing could take his hope away. He’d survived ten years of twenty-three hour lockdown and near total isolation and was done being a slave. Before sleep could claim him, Lincoln thought of the victorious crow and muttered, “It’s my time to fly the coop.”
Kirkus Book Review
A governor and his sordid past are at the heart of a tale of retribution in Amaru’s stunning debut novel.
When Karen Lafitte disappears, her father, Louisiana governor Randy Lafitte, is initially skeptical of the ensuing ransom note. The governor believes that he’s responsible for his father’s death years earlier, resulting in a curse that’s been passed down the Lafitte line. He’s particularly concerned that his daughter is now the same age as his son, Kristopher, who was 18 when he was killed. In fact, in addition to money, the ransom note demands the pardon of a lifer, Lincoln Baker, who was imprisoned for the murderer of Randy’s son. What follows is an elaborate pattern of revenge involving multiple parties, delving into the Lafitte family history and Randy’s dark road to an elected office. Amaru’s greatest achievement is a nonlinear story that still manages to be clean-cut and precise. The plot bounces readers from one time period to another—flashbacks sometimes occur during other flashbacks, and dream sequences meld into memories and back into real time. Despite this narrative style, the story is, surprisingly, never perplexing. Amaru skillfully manages this feat by presenting uncertainty—such as Lincoln’s relationship with a man named Amir—but immediately clarifying it with prior events, complete with a time stamp. Similarly, voodoo and many appearances of loa (spirits) are treated sincerely, not merely as wacky, otherworldly manifestations. The thorough examination of peoples’ pasts allows for sharp, distinct characters. This heightens the tension between characters engaged in high-pressure situations, of which the author has ample supply. For deep-rooted characters immersed in violence, the novel’s defining moment may be a wounded man reciting the Lord’s Prayer aloud while dodging bullets in a blistering gun battle.
A gutsy book that blazes trails, plotted at breakneck speed that won’t let up.
Reader's Favorite Review
Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite
It is 2002 and Randy Lafitte is the twice-elected governor of Louisiana. As nice as he would like his life portrayed, it is anything but under the surface, for he is a racist, hateful, and not above calling for help from those who live on the edge of society. The Lafitte family is an old Louisiana family that is haunted by a ghost story dated back in history to Melinda Lafitte and her lover Isaac and the huge old oak tree fronting the Lafitte estate. There are those who feel the curse brought on Lafitte's son Kristopher's death, for Kristopher is killed accidentally by his best friend, African-American Lincoln Baker. Lincoln's father figure, Moses, and his adopted brother, Brandon Mouton, try to protect Randy's daughter, Karen, and prevent violence while Moses' childhood friend Malcolm Wright, or Panama X, promotes black supremacy and is against "the system in this country made for the black man to fail." And Jhonnette Deveaux, daughter of the voodoo queen that Randy Lafitte sought out years before, works her healing powers as Randy's men and Panama X's forces converge violently on the local hospital. Will burning the old oak tree, Melinda Weeps, on Lafitte property end the violence as Louisiana black men fight against the racist powers that hold them back? Read and decide for yourself.
"One Blood" is brilliantly written and edited as author Amaru testifies to all the many people who helped him create this powerful novel. The suspense of whether Lincoln, Brandon, Karen and the other major characters will survive will engross the reader to the very last page of this story. The plot line switches back and forth between 2002 and the 1990's, and this only adds to the story's complexities.
The subplot of Moses, Malcolm and Walter Simmons' friendship adds to the storyline. Moses goes to jail while Malcolm and Walter get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Lincoln Baker's life as an abandoned child taken in by Moses is another effective part of this good story. This book should be read by all and given a place of honor in modern fiction.
Indie Reader Review
In this intricate tale of intrigue and family drama, it seems like every time you think you've figured the whole story out, there is more! Not only is One Blood an amazing narrative, told from the perspectives of various characters stretching from slavery to present day, but it builds upon these characters with plot twists aplenty. Amaru mentions that this book was a twelve year project, and that the world changed greatly in between. However, the story seems to have gotten better and better.
The Lafitte family is cursed. Governor Randy Lafitte is at the center of the story, where he undermines his family from the time he turns eighteen. Resurrecting an ancient curse that trails back to his ancestor, Luc Lafitte, Randy is responsible for the death of his father, and as the story goes on, we discover that is just the beginning of his murderous tendencies. Lafitte's son, Kristopher is killed at eighteen, and now his daughter Karen, eighteen as well, is kidnapped. Can the curse be responsible for all this?
Said curse begins after an affair between Luc Lafitte's daughter Melinda, and a slave on their plantation, Isaac. As Isaac is tortured and hanged, Melinda kills herself and their unborn child by plunging to her death from the roof of the Lafitte home. This leads to continual disaster for Luc's family, and for all the Lafittes to come. Because the Lafittes have a background as Klan members, there is additional taboo to the fact that Melinda is carrying on with a black man. Through the years, prejudices do not die, and the rifts between father and son repeat again and again.
Meanwhile, Juanita is married to Walter Simmons, the first black governor of a town in Louisiana. Walter is framed, murdered, and later becomes the namesake of a playground where a terrible tragedy takes place: Simmons Park. Not only is there a gang battle where Kristopher Lafitte is killed, but here begins the story of Lincoln Baker. Convicted for the murders of Kris (his best friend) and others; including cops and rival gang members, Link doesn't expect to be freed from jail ever again. When Randy Lafitte grants him a pardon suddenly, things begin to heat up.
In addition to these characters whose lives hang in the balance consistently, there is Panama X, a General of the Black Mob. Panama X harnesses Vodun power to control spirits, inhabit others' bodies for periods of time, and cast spells and curses at will. Voodoo is seen as a natural and realistic religion; unlike the taboo freak-show it is often made out to be in the media: a refreshing change indeed.
The intrigue of One Blood is an ongoing impulse to keep turning pages in disbelief at all the detail and turnaround that occurs in the plot. Amaru succeeds in satisfying the reader's craving for more action, more magic, and more blood. Though the book is a hefty 488 pages, I was not left bored or sleepy at any point. The tale just rolls on its own into the realm of the unknown and keeps coming back with revelations of lineage, rivalry and revenge.
This is one horror tale that is obviously the result of meticulous drafting and editing, as well as an awesome debut novel from a master of the craft.