Book Review: After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men

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by Robert Fleming

Publication Date:
List Price: $14.00
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780452283329
Imprint: Plume
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
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Book Reviewed by Thumper

Honestly (as if there's any other way I can come), I wasn't going to read After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men, the latest anthology of AA literature that celebrates our black sensual, sexual selves. I grew stale on anthologies of the erotic, a couple of erotic anthologies ago. So I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to read After Hours. After much persuasion, I decided to cast a slight glance its way. I flipped the cover to the table of contents, read the list of authors and got excited. The authors are among the finest ever assembled in one book. Instantly After Hours became a must-read. This anthology consists of creative, intriguing stories written by some of the best writers breathing air today, and is without a doubt, one of the best books of the year.

I love anthologies. It's not a love that came easily or one that has been with me longer than a minute. I have read enough of them to establish my own criteria as to what constitutes a good anthology. A well-formed anthology should satisfy three principles: Introduce new and overlooked authors; Exhibit unpublished works by well-known authors; Finally, serve as a gathering place for brilliant literature. While the anthology is not new to AA literature, it is becoming increasingly popular, especially with the success of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, and Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction. Also a wider audience is reading AA erotic anthologies, such as Brown Sugar and Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica, anthologies are losing their old image as a stuffy academic tool. After Hours arrives on the scene and surpasses other recently published anthologies by containing the popular appeal of Brown Sugar and the literary quality of a required English Literature textbook.

After Hours hits the ground running and maintains its level of excellence from cover to cover. It includes Charles Johnson's Cultural Relativity, which had a surprising and humorous ending; Odell by John A. Williams, one of my favorite authors of all time; Arthur Flowers' (Another Good Loving Blues) Once Upon A Time, a tale that unfolds like a whispered melody sung with the rhythm of a beating heart; Alexs D. Pate's The Rumor, a haunting and poignant tale which placed me in the middle of an organized chaotic mind; and Jervey Tervalon (Dead Above Ground) sent me over-the-top with Twisted.

There are other stories and authors I would like to briefly mention. The Roses Are Beautiful, But The Thorns Are So Sharp, written by Kalamu Ya Salaam, is the third short story that I've read by the author. I am beyond impressed. I am ecstatic. Maybe, hopefully, Kalamu Ya Salaam will one day honor us with a novel or a short story collection of his own. If, or when, he does I plan on being there, napkin tied around my neck, a fork in one hand and a knife in the other, and possessing my most ravenous appetite.

Earlier I stated that a component of a worthwhile anthology was the introduction of authors I had not read before, After Hours does not fail me on this tip. Three authors: Cole Riley (If It Makes You Happy), Bobby Adams (Where Strangers Meet) and Eric E. Pete (Cayenne) are dripping with promise and potential. I loved their stories and the comfortable, easy style they embodied. Although I've heard of Gary Phillips and Brandon Massey before, I hadn't read any of their previous work. But after reading their stories (Wild Thang, and The Question, respectively) it is an error I soon hope to correct.

I am indebted to this collection for my first Clarence Major reading experience, with the inclusion of Anita, an excerpt of Major's novel All-Night Visitor. Within seconds of reading the first paragraph, my ears perked up. Not only did I ask myself, who is this man? I also posed the question, how did I go so long without reading ANYTHING written by him? Clarence Major has to be the best well-kept secret in literature today. I was so moved -- Anita struck such a cord -- that I immediately read Major's new book, Come By Here: My Mother's Life (which was AMAZING!!), upon finishing After Hours.

But, there's a small puffy gray cloud hovering about this anthology, (as the song said, into each life a little rain must fall). The following three tales left a few mud puddles in the otherwise picture-perfect After Hours. The Apostle Charles by Tracy Grant was too wordy and cumbersome; Home Alone by Curtis Bunn made me wish that the story would have left me alone; Wallbanging by Brian Egeston...uh...NO, this story couldn't fly if it had two sets of wings and a first class ticket on the Concord jet.

In summary, taking the good with the bad, After Hours is a remarkable collection. Brimming with stories that knocked me in the head and gut, it is beyond any assemblage of erotic stories written by AA male authors. After Hours is a compilation of old fashioned story telling told by the finest voices in print.

Authors in this anthology include:
Charles Johnson, Colin Channer, Cole Riley, Brian Peterson, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Tracy Grant, Earl Sewell, John A. Williams, Kenji Jasper, Eric E. Pete, Alexs D. Pate, Brian Egleston, Clarence Major, Curtis Bunn, Gary Phillips, Brandon Massey, Robert Scott Adams, Jervey Tervalon, Arthur Flowers.

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