cover image Seduced


Nelson George. Putnam Publishing Group, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14169-0

African American pop music may have no more eloquent champion than George (Urban Romance, 1994), but in this ambitious attempt to fictionalize two decades worth of hip music history, the author's extensive knowledge of the field crowds his storytelling. In the mid-1960s in the St. Alban's area of Queens, N.Y., Derek Harper, an aspiring songwriter, meets local legend Edgecombe Lennox, a flashy record promoter who encourages the young man's ambitions. After high school, several failed romances and some college, Derek joins Lennox and his newest singing protege on a revealing and difficult promotional tour. Back in New York, still unable to earn a living as a songwriter, Derek takes a job as road manager for a cross-country rap tour. Jumping ship in L.A., he starts writing jingles that feed his wallet but not his soul. A more serious song, ""Black Sex,"" that Derek records on his own prompts Lennox to position the tunesmith as a break-out star, but an unexpected crisis turns Derek's life in a surprising direction. Derek is a well-textured and appealing hero, but George's female characters are generally one-dimensional, sexual objects or untrustworthy schemers. The author's laborious trek through the music of the streets, with extensive insider references, seems driven by a personal agenda, moreover, and it's also overly detailed; likely, this novel will hold the interest only of those who care passionately about bop, rap and hip hop. Author tour. (Apr.)