Shadow of Light
James E. Cherry
Serpent’s Tail, Jun 2008
Forrest looks like a typical small Southern town; however, below the surface in the Tennessee town, racial tension waits for the incident to explode. One night after planning and casing a house where a respected black woman lives, white males burst in to rob it. They expected the elderly female “Big Mama” to be at church as she always is, but instead she was home. The leader of the invaders Ronny Mcalister" rapes her before shooting her.
Miraculously she lives and her livid grandson police detective Walter Robinson wants to know how close his peers are o catching the culprits. All local blacks decry the crime, but Walter’s nephew neighborhood druglord Cebo wants white blood to flow especially those who committed the obscenity. He informs the police that if the SOBs are not in custody within forty-eight hours a cop will die; another will die every forty-eight hours afterward until there are no police or the perps are caught. The town is a powder keg with only Walter able to keep the fuse from igniting, but he sympathizes with his nephew as this is his beloved grandma.
It does not take a lot of words to describe the town where blacks see no way out of poverty that engulfs communities. In some way James E. Cherry’s vivid description of a town without pity feels somewhat 1960s yet the author makes the case that poverty is the modern day de facto racism. Walter is a good person and cop as he tries to glide above the racial divide even as he understands how many whites look down at blacks; he vents his frustration on his wife. However this time he cannot ignore the incident nor does he truly want too. How he acts will determine whether this town burns down in a Forrest fire or not as James E. Cherry provides a strong thriller that plays out on two levels: town-wide and character poignancy.