Travis Hunter
Striver’s Row / Villard / 256 pages
ISBN #: 0-375-50895-3



            Every facet of hero Jermaine Banks’ life is enshrouded in drama. As much as he tries to escape it and get his life together, he can’t. Drama, angst and negativity just seem to follow him in Trouble Man.

            For one thing, he is a born hustler and if there’s a way to get something done, he will figure it out. No matter if it’s not quite right, he’ll do it anyway if that’ll achieve the desired results.  He is determined to make it on his own terms and not turn out like the other male family members who have been in and out of jail throughout his life.

            From the ghetto, the product of a single mother and a deadbeat dad, Jermaine vows not to do the same thing to his son, Khalil—an impressionable youngster whom he feels deserves more than he ever had. And he does his best to deliver. It’s rough for a minute, but Jermaine does all he can for his offspring and lets Khalil know that he loves him. Being an absent father doesn’t even remotely enter Jermaine’s mind. He knows Khalil is worth his time, love and attention and he gives him plenty of each.

            Although Khalil’s ghettofabulous mother adopts a lifestyle not to Jermaine’s liking, at first, he calls her on it. They disagree about it, but he relents saying that Khalil is the most important part of the equation. However, he lets her know that he will be watching for her to slip up in any way.

            She is not the only woman in Jermaine’s life. He also has a love-hate, on again/off again relationship with Erin, a classy young woman who has high aspirations in life, perhaps so much so that it causes her not to truly understand him. They love each other, but something stands in their way preventing them from having a storybook type romantic relationship.

            It doesn’t help matters that Erin is pregnant with his child or that her father hates Jermaine because he thinks of him as nothing more than knucklehead hoodrat who’s not good enough for his little girl.

The one thing that keeps Jermaine going through all of his drama is his strong desire to be a good father to Khalil. Jermaine’s father abandoned his mother many years ago and he has no clue who he is—except for the fact that he sent a regular check to her.

                        Enter CJ, a young man who lives with his parents in a sprawling mansion in the same neighborhood as basketball superstar Allen Iverson. CJ, for all intents and purposes, is well loved, wants for nothing and has a lifestyle rivaled only by the top celebrities.

            CJ’s father hits his mother one night during a heated argument. He is livid that he would have the gall to lay a hand on his mother who has been the perfect wife and parent throughout the years. She makes the father leave and reveals to CJ that he has a sibling, which his dad had before their marriage.

            The climax of the story is riveting and compelling and Hunter unfolds the plot with the right amount of suspense and precision. Some of what is learned is foreshadowed from earlier events, but never is too much given away before it’s time.

            Trouble Man is an excellent read as all of the elements of writing are followed and done well. Hunter takes protagonist Jermaine Banks to a new level in this novel and fans that enjoyed him before can get to experience another dimension of his complex personality. The characterization is strong as is the colorful dialogue and urban plot. Those elements make Trouble Man a good read and one that is accessible to readers. There are situations and people in this book to which every reader will be able to relate. However, please be advised that this novel drips with testosterone and is very male. This is undoubtedly a male book to which men will be able to easily relate. However, this doesn’t mean that a female can’t learn and savor the fantastic story contained within its pages.

            Although the book starts off as being very male, like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, Hunter made every piece fit perfectly and everything gelled in the end.

            I’d advise readers who enjoy gritty, down home urban fiction to check out Trouble Man, this coming of age story about a young man who grows in so many ways and finally learns what it really means to be a man.

Nathasha Brooks-Harris is the author of Panache, and Emma award-winning contemporary romance novel.