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Thumper Unveiled? Not Quite Yet 
by Leah Mullen

For as long as I've been writing about the publishing industry, interviewing authors, editors, publicity people and other folks that make the world of books go round, I'd say that speaking to Thumper of AALBC.com fame was the first time I had the opportunity to interview a colleague.

But before I go on, let's take care of one factual house keeping issue. Troy Johnson, founder of AALBC.com and Thumper, book reviewer and discussion board moderator are not one in the same as many have come to believe since the two started working together five years ago.

"People don't realize that Troy and I are two different people," Thumper said from his home in Indianapolis. He ended the sentence with a hearty laugh making it quite obvious that he's having fun with all of the intrigue that his anonymity has created.

Okay, so if Thumper isn't Troy Johnson who is this mysterious character who has become a sought after book reviewer as well as an authority on the still burgeoning Black book industry?

Thumper, who still wishes not to reveal his true identity is a clinical engineering technician for one of the largest hospitals in Indianapolis and in his spare time he reads two books a week "when the mood is good," he says.

The bibliophile admits that there are times when he takes a hiatus from reading and ironically it was one of his breaks that led Thumper into a solid relationship with one of the most popular websites devoted to Black books.

Here's the story.

Thumper said he encountered AALBC.com back in 1996 when he had purchased his first computer and was surfing the web. The fledgling website consisted of a few pages and a discussion board in those days. What captured his attention was a review dissing James Earl Hardy's B-Boy Blues. Thumper had a different opinion. "So I got bold and emailed Troy," he said.

Troy wrote back suggesting that Thumper add his opinion to the mix, and that's when Thumper began to consistently post his opinions. And the board was hopping since the mid nineties was the time when African American Interest titles were be published in numbers not seen in decades. Thumper said he regularly posted to the board until he got into one of his moods where he didn't want to look at another book. And since he wasn't reading, he didn't post.

Thumper with Author Reginald Hall
Pitching a Book to Thumper is Not Easy
Thumper with author Reginald Hall - Pitching a Book to Thumper is not easy.

At that point he hadn't given much thought as to who was reading his stuff until one day during his break he gets an email from Troy asking where he'd been. Apparently, the people who frequented the site missed him and wanted Thumper back. Troy even offered him his own space on the growing website: Thumper's Corner. Now over 200 reviews and hundreds of web pages later, AALBC.com and Thumper have blown up. Well as far as book publishing goes, the site is hot receiving over one million hits a month and Thumper is a popular fixture.

In the last few years AALBC.com has received a fair amount of media attention. The New York Times referred to AALBC.com as "the most successful online service that specializes in books for African Americans." And Black Issues Book Review called AALBC.com "a true smorgasbord for those who love African American Literature." And as the most visible personality Thumper has been quoted in such publications as Publisher's Weekly.

Still we don't have a birth name for Thumper, however we have some other developmental information that provides some insight on what motivates this online enigma.

"I grew up in what was then called the Riverside area," Thumper wrote in an email. "Back then it was a real nice neighborhood. We lived down the street from Bush Stadium (a baseball diamond that our regional baseball team played) and the CYO field. Now the neighborhood is riddled with empty houses and crack houses," he said.

Perhaps the biggest influence on Thumper was his mother who adored the work of Kathleen Woodwiss and Rosemary Rogers. As a matter of fact, Thumper says that Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline was the first novel he ever read in its entirety when he was a teenager learning things he said "no 13-year-old boy should know or come to think of it many things men should know, but don't!"

Thumper began reading back in the 1970's when Black commercial fiction didn't get published as often. "There was no Terry McMillan, Sandra Kitt or Anita Richmond Bunkley."

As for Thumper it would be fifteen years before he would discover Black books through the Internet. And now today as an expert following the growth of the market he reported that for the first quarter of 2002, 96 African-American interest books were scheduled to publish through the mainstream houses. This number doesn't even include the small independent houses and the self-published authors who are publishing now more than ever.

So there's a lot to write about and colleague-to-colleague I asked Thumper why there are so few of us who focus on writing about black books. "It's an industry that's seen as profitable, but as far as legitimacy and receiving the critical analysis it deserves it still hasn't gotten that," he said.

Also Thumper says that just because Black authors are being published more, that doesn't mean that the Black writer has just come into existence. "There have always been Black authors," he said. "They just weren't connected to an audience."

Now Thumper plans on taking his unique writing style to another level. If you look at the body of work he has created on AALBC, you'll notice that his reviews are different than those found in the New York Times. "Most of those reviews are by other writers and they get technical," he said. "And you never get a sense of who the person is who is writing and whether or not they liked the book." With Thumper, he leaves no doubt in your mind. In a recent review of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X by Rodnell P. Collins with A. Peter Bailey, Thumper stated that it was "about time someone from the family spoke or wrote about Malcolm X. It is imperative that the most accurate representation of the man is available considering that he will be the subject of much scholarship and admiration."

However Thumper did have a criticism of Seventh Child, which of course he shared with a little humor. "One complaint I have concerning the book was its repetition of titles and Blood relations," he wrote. "I thought more than once, "Yeah, I know who Aunt Hilda is...for the 14th time."

So when are we going to find out the true identity of Thumper?" I asked and I received no definitive answer. However, Thumper did say that he'll be attending more book-oriented events like BookExpo America, which is going to be held this year [2002] in New York City.

Alas the mystery continues, but no matter. An unveiling is not all that important in the scheme of things. "The books are still the main thing for me," he said. "And communicating with other people who love to read."

Listen to an Interview of Thumper Interviewed by Delores Thornton on “A Round 2 It” - Radio Program April 2003

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Thumper has Written 217 Book Review(s) for AALBC.com
  1. 21 Nights by Prince Rogers Nelson
  2. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  3. A Conversation with the Mann by John Ridley
  4. A Death in Texas: A Story of Race, Murder and a Small Town’s Struggle for Redemption by Dina Temple-Raston
  5. A Family Tree, Taking Root by Doc Robertson
  6. A Feast of Peonies by Obi
  7. A House Is Not a Home: A B-Boy Blues Novel by James Earl Hardy
  8. A Man Most Worthy by Marcus Major
  9. A Person Of Interest by Ernest Hill
  10. A Phat Death: Or, The Last Days of Noir Soul (Nina Halligan) by Norman Kelley
  11. A Prayer for Deliverance: An Angela Bivens Thriller by Christopher Chambers
  12. A Walk Through Darkness: A Novel by David Anthony Durham
  13. A Woman’s Worth: A Novel (Strivers Row) by Tracy Price-Thompson
  14. Adam by Adam: The Autobiography of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. by Adam Clayton Powell
  15. After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men by Robert Fleming
  16. All I Need to Get By by Sophfronia Scott
  17. Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
  18. And on the Eighth Day She Rested: A Novel by J.D. Mason
  19. At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America by Philip Dray
  20. Baby Momma Drama by Carl Weber
  21. Be Careful What You Pray For by Kimberla Lawson Roby
  22. Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts Jr.
  23. Beulah Hill by William Heffernan
  24. Beyond Glory: Joe Louis Vs. Max Schmeling, And A World On The Brink by David Margolick
  25. Big Enough To Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery And Race (The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures) by George M. Fredrickson
  26. Bittersweet by Freddie Lee Johnson III
  27. Black & Ugly (Triple Crown Publications Presents) by T. Styles
  28. Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual African American Fiction by Andrew Helfer
  29. Black Prisoner of War: A Conscientious Objector’s Vietnam Memoir by James A. Daly and Lee Bergman
  30. Black Silk (A Collection Of African American Erotica) by Kim McLarin
  31. Black Water Rising: A Novel (Jay Porter Series) by Attica Locke
  32. Blessings: A Novel by Sheneska Jackson
  33. Blues From Down Deep by Gwynne Forster
  34. Blues in the Wind by Whitney J. Leblanc
  35. Bourbon Street by Leonce Gaiter
  36. Brown Glass Windows by Devorah Major
  37. Buffalo Gordon on The Plains by J. P. Sinclair Lewis
  38. Camilla’s Roses by Bernice L. McFadden
  39. Caught in a Rundown by Lisa Saxton
  40. Chocolate Sangria: A Novel (Strivers Row) by Tracy Price-Thompson
  41. Cinder by Albert French
  42. Color Of Justice: A Novel Of Suspense by Gary Hardwick
  43. Colored Sugar Water: A Spiritual Tale by Venise Berry
  44. Come By Here: My Mother’s Life by Clarence Major
  45. Cry Me A River by Ernest Hill
  46. Dad Interrupted: A Novel by Van Whitfield
  47. Dark Corner by Brandon Massey
  48. Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers by Brandon Massey
  49. Deja Vu (Zane Presents) by Suzetta Perkins
  50. Devil’s Dream: A Novel About Nathan Bedford Forrest by Madison Smartt Bell
  51. Distant Lover by Gloria Mallette
  52. Dive: A Novel by Lisa Teasley
  53. Drive Me Crazy by Eric Jerome Dickey
  54. Echoes of a Distant Summer by Guy Johnson
  55. Eden by Olympia Vernon
  56. Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales from the Gulf States by Zora Neale Hurston
  57. Every Woman’s Man by Rique Johnson
  58. Everything In Its Place by Evelyn Palfrey
  59. Fearless Jones by Walter Mosley
  60. Fever In The Blood by Robert Fleming
  61. Fifth Born: A Novel by Zelda Lockhart
  62. Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler
  63. Four Guys and Trouble by Marcus Major
  64. Fourplay: …the Dance of Sensuality by Brenda L. Thomas
  65. Free and Other Stories by Anika Nailah
  66. Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn And Made America A Democracy by Bruce Watson
  67. From the Streets to the Sheets: Urban Erotic Quickies (Noire: Urban Erotic Quickies) by Noire
  68. Gabriel’s Story by David Anthony Durham
  69. Gather Together In My Name by Maya Angelou
  70. Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent by Richard Bruce Nugent
  71. Getting to the Good Part by Lolita Files
  72. Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden
  73. God Don't Like Ugly by Mary Monroe
  74. Going Down South: A Novel by Bonnie J. Glover
  75. Gonna Lay Down My Burdens by Mary Monroe
  76. Granddaddy’s Dirt by Brian Egeston
  77. Harlem Redux: A Novel by Persia Walker
  78. Havoc After Dark: Tales of Terror by Robert Fleming
  79. High Waters by Suzon Tropez
  80. Holly by Albert French
  81. Hot Johnny (And The Women Who Loved Him) by Sandra Jackson-Opoku
  82. Hunting in Harlem by Mat Johnson
  83. I Know Who Holds Tomorrow: A Novel by Francis Ray
  84. I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage
  85. I’m Telling: A Novel by Karen E. Quinones Miller
  86. Ida Mae by Delores Thornton
  87. In My Father’s House: A Novel by E. Lynn Harris
  88. In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line by George Hutchinson
  89. In The Falling Snow by Caryl Phillips
  90. Inner City Miracle by Greg Mathis
  91. It’s A Thin Line by Kimberla Lawson Roby
  92. Jesus Boy by Preston L. Allen
  93. John Oliver Killens: A Life Of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
  94. Just Too Good to Be True: A Novel by E. Lynn Harris
  95. Known To Evil (Leonid Mcgill, Book 2) by Walter Mosley
  96. Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen
  97. Lay This Body Down: The 1921 Murders of Eleven Plantation Slaves by Gregory A. Freeman
  98. Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
  99. Leaving: A Novel by Richard Dry
  100. Let The Lion Eat Straw by Ellease Southerland
  101. Lion’s Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America by Steven Barnes
  102. Logic by Olympia Vernon
  103. Lookin’ For Luv by Carl Weber
  104. Love by Toni Morrison
  105. Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Triptych (Modern Library Classics) by Marie Vieux-Chauvet
  106. Loving Donovan by Bernice L. McFadden
  107. Low Road: The Life and Legacy of Donald Goines by Eddie B. Allen
  108. Mama Dearest by E. Lynn Harris
  109. Married Men by Carl Weber
  110. Memoir: Delaware County Prison by Reginald L. Hall
  111. Men We Cherish by Brooke Stephens
  112. Minion: A Vampire Huntress Legend by Leslie Esdaile Banks
  113. Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride
  114. Mojo: Conjure Stories by Nalo Hopkinson
  115. Moon by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  116. More Like Wrestling: A Novel by Danyel Smith
  117. Moses And The Monster And Miss Anne by Carole C. Marks
  118. Nate by P. Lewis
  119. Naughty or Nice by Eric Jerome Dickey
  120. Negro With A Hat: The Rise And Fall Of Marcus Garvey by Colin Grant
  121. Never Been A Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked The Civil Rights Movement by Harper Barnes
  122. One Day I Saw a Black King: A Novel by J.D. Mason
  123. One Foot in Love: A Novel by Bil Wright
  124. Oreo (Northeastern Library Of Black Literature) by Fran Ross
  125. Paradise Interrupted (Carole Ann Gibson Mysteries) by Penny Mickelbury
  126. Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale Of Love And Deception Across The Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss
  127. Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
  128. Player Haters by Carl Weber
  129. Playing With Destiny by Phillip Thomas Duck
  130. Powder Necklace: A Novel (Wsp Readers Club) by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
  131. Promises to Keep: A Novel (Strivers Row) by Gloria Mallette
  132. Reconsidering The Souls Of Black Folk: Thoughts On The Groundbreaking Classic Work Of W.e.b. Dubois by Stanley Crouch and Playtehll Benjamin
  133. Red Light Special: A Novel by Risque
  134. Resurrecting Midnight by Eric Jerome Dickey
  135. Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy by James S. Hirsch
  136. Rising by Darnella Ford
  137. Rockin’ Around That Christmas Tree: A Holiday Novel by Donna Hill and Francis Ray
  138. Safe From The Neighbors by Steve Yarbrough
  139. Sap Rising by Christine Lincoln
  140. Sapphire’s Grave by Hilda Gurley Highgate
  141. Sassy by Gloria Mallette
  142. Satisfy My Soul by Colin Channer
  143. Scottsboro: A Novel by Ellen Feldman
  144. Seed by Mustafa Mutabaruka
  145. Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X by Rodnell P. Collins and A. Peter Bailey
  146. Shackling Water by Adam Mansbach
  147. Shades of Jade: A Novel (Strivers Row) by Gloria Mallette
  148. Silent Conspiracy by Lee E. Meadows
  149. Sittin’ In The Front Pew: A Novel (Strivers Row) by Parry Brown
  150. Six Days in January by William Fredrick Cooper
  151. Sleep Don’t Come Easy by J.D. Mason and Victor McGlothin
  152. Somebody’s Knocking at My Door: A Novel by Francis Ray
  153. Southland by Nina Revoyr
  154. Stagolee Shot Billy by Cecil Brown
  155. Street Judge by Greg Mathis
  156. Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South by Trudier Harris
  157. Sweetsmoke by David Fuller
  158. Sympathy for the Devil: An Angela Bivens Thriller by Christopher Chambers
  159. The Ancestors by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks (Leslie Esdaile Banks)
  160. The Apostles: A Novel by Y. Blak Moore
  161. The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, And An Unlikely Road To Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  162. The Black Sleuth (Northeastern Library of Black Literature) by John Edward Bruce
  163. The Blackbird Papers: A Novel by Ian Smith
  164. The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James
  165. The Bridge: A Novel by Solomon Jones
  166. The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings by James Baldwin and Randall Kenan
  167. The Drift by John Ridley
  168. The Ecstatic by Victor Lavalle
  169. The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
  170. The Ex Chronicles: A Novel by Carol Taylor
  171. The Fall of Rome: A Novel by Martha Southgate
  172. The Future Has a Past by J. California Cooper
  173. The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
  174. The God Who Begat a Jackal by Nega Mezlekia
  175. The Good House: A Novel by Tananarive Due
  176. The Hatwearer’s Lesson by Yolanda Joe
  177. The High Price of a Good Man: A Novel by Debra Phillips
  178. The Honey Well by Gloria Mallette
  179. The Interesting Narrative Of The Life Of Olaudah Equiano: Written By Himself (Bedford Series In History & Culture) by Olaudah Equiano
  180. The Justus Girls by Slim Lambright
  181. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  182. The Last King: A Maceo Redfield Novel (Strivers Row) by Nichelle D. Tramble
  183. The Lion’s Brood: The Story of Hannibal by Rafael Scott
  184. The Long Fall by Walter Mosley
  185. The Middle Sister: A Novel by Bonnie J. Glover
  186. The Other Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey
  187. The Portable Promised Land: Stories by Touré
  188. The Reckoning by Randall Robinson
  189. The Right Mistake: The Further Philosophical Investigations of Socrates Fortlow by Walter Mosley
  190. The Secrets Of Newberry by Victor McGlothin
  191. The Skull Cage Key: A Novel by Michel Marriott
  192. The Upper Room (A Mama Ruby Novel) by Mary Monroe
  193. The Womanizers by Dwayne S. Joseph
  194. The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker by Alice Walker
  195. They Tell Me Of A Home: A Novel by Daniel Black
  196. Thieves’ Paradise: A Novel by Eric Jerome Dickey
  197. This Bitter Earth by Bernice L. McFadden
  198. This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party by David Hilliard and Lewis Cole
  199. Too Beautiful for Words by Monique W. Morris
  200. Too Beautiful to Die (Blades Overstreet Mystery) by Glenville Lovell
  201. Total Eclipse Of The Heart by Zane
  202. Triangular Road: A Memoir by Paule Marshall
  203. Triple Take: A Novel by Y. Blak Moore
  204. Unzipped: An Urban Erotic Tale by Noire
  205. Vanishing Rooms: A Novel by Melvin Dixon
  206. Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde
  207. Violet Of A Deeper Blue by Rick Malone
  208. Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute To E. Lynn Harris by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy and Stanley Bennett Clay
  209. Water Street by Crystal Wilkinson
  210. Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  211. What A Woman’s Gotta Do by Evelyn Coleman
  212. When All Hell Breaks Loose: A Novel by camika c. spencer
  213. Whippins Switches & Peach Cobbler by Brian Egeston
  214. White Coat Fever: A Novel by Roland S. Jefferson
  215. Who Does She Think She Is?: A Novel by Benilde Little
  216. Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd
  217. Zulu Heart: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America by Steven Barnes
Thumper Has Written 1 Article(s) for AALBC.com
Thumper Has Conducted 2 Interview(s) for AALBC.com

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