When a highly respected blogger raves about a novel, readers (and other reviewers) take notice. Such is the case with Ayo Onatade when it comes to Jake Lamar’s Viper’s Dream. Viper’s Dream was released earlier this year in the United Kingdom, where Onatade resides. Fortunately for U. S. readers, the novel is finally available here in the States this week—and it is every bit as good as expected.
Viper’s Dream traces the journey of Clyde “the Viper” Morton from a humble childhood in the South to notorious celebrity within Jazz Era New York City—not as the musician he dreamed of being, but as a major player within the rising drug culture. Clyde centers his enterprise on marijuana, recognizing early on the dangers inherent in heroin—but rather than allowing this to derail his trajectory, Clyde manages to make this integrity his calling card, and refuses to let anyone defy his wishes.
Along with this compelling fictional storyline, Viper’s Dream is populated with a veritable Who’s Who from the early jazz music scene. From greats like Charlie “Bird” Parker and Thelonious Monk to society patrons like Baroness Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter, Jake Lamar truly transports readers to the Harlem of yesteryear. When the line between fiction and reality is blurred so successfully, it is much easier for readers to allow the transfixing spell of literature to be cast.
The first thing readers will notice about Viper’s Dream is the quality of the writing. Jake Lamar’s wordsmanship and the vitality of his choices are beyond reproach. Following the syncopated rhythms of jazz and containing echoes of the rhythmic motifs and improvisational approach that are hallmarks of the beloved musical genre, the language used in Viper’s Dream sizzles from start to finish.
The narrative in Viper’s Dream is streamlined and sleek. In less than 200 pages, Jake Lamar tells a full and complete story—an urban Bildungsroman—giving details where necessary and simply glossing over areas that require less exploration. Hopefully, once the current writer’s strike is over, some entrepreneurial producer will see that Jake Lamar’s Viper’s Dream is perfectly positioned to serve as the founding document for an epic film adaptation. There is drama, melodrama, and several emotional reveals wrapped around an iconic storyline that begs to be seen. Readers learn very early in the novel that Clyde Morton killed three people adding another propulsive element to the forward momentum. Who did this man—a man with a high moral code—kill and why?
There is nothing cozy about Viper’s Dream. This is a gritty and ultra-realistic view of our history. Clyde Morton is coming-of-age in an Age when volatility reigns supreme. Mirroring his personal evolution is the changing climate within New York City itself. Even when the novel briefly takes up a new location—Paris, France—it does so by highlighting progress and ambition as the core rationale.
Jake Lamar is hardly a new name on the literary circuit, but Viper’s Dream is destined to be the calling card he lays before the crime fiction community henceforth. It says, “I am here and I will not be ignored.” Pick up Viper’s Dream by Jake Lamar so that you can be part of the conversation moving forward. You will not be sorry.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.