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The Ballad of Black Tom

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


One of NPR's Best Books of 2016, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award for Novella of the Year, and a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

"LaValle's novella of sorcery and skullduggery in Jazz Age New York is a magnificent example of what weird fiction can and should do."
— Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

"[LaValle] reinvents outmoded literary conventions, particularly the ghettos of genre and ethnicity that long divided serious literature from popular fiction."
— Praise for The Devil in Silver from Elizabeth Hand, author of Radiant Days

“LaValle cleverly subverts Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos by imbuing a black man with the power to summon the Old Ones, and creates genuine chills with his evocation of the monstrous Sleeping King, an echo of Lovecraft’s Dagon… [The Ballad of Black Tom] has a satisfying slingshot ending.” – Elizabeth Hand for Fantasy & ScienceFiction

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 21, 2015 – Shirley Jackson Award winner LaValle (The Devil in Silver) cleverly retcons H.P. Lovecraft's infamous story "The Horror at Red Hook," retelling it with a new protagonist (the titular Charles Thomas Tester, a splendidly Lovecraftian name) and a literary veneer that recalls Chester Himes. Tester, a con artist in 1924 Harlem with a minor awareness of the occult, occasionally masquerades as a street musician, playing the guitar (poorly) while pulling his hustles. When he's approached by the eccentric Robert Suydam to play at a party, he knows something's awry, but the money's too good to pass up. Before his gig, he encounters a pair of detectives; one is Lovecraft's original protagonist, Malone, and they both seem to know more about Suydam and Tester than would be expected. Once Tester goes to his gig, Malone takes over as the lead character, and LaValle ably conveys both the horrors he encounters and a reconciliation with the original text. The story adeptly addresses social and racial issues that were central to urban life at the dawn of the 20th century, with obvious resonances and parallels in the present. Those familiar with Lovecraft's (weaker) story might get a little more from this novella, but it stands well on its own.

Customer Reviews

A Very Different Cthulhu Mythos Novella

"The Ballad of Black Tom" is a very surprising story. It is first a retelling of the events of H. P. Lovecraft's story "The Horror at Red Hook." It is also a story about race and racism set in 1920's New York. It is also the story of the descent of a young African American man, Charles Thomas Tester, from a hustler who deals in forbidden books, to becoming the right hand man of a delver in ancient lore. He eventually becomes the titular Black Tom, who learns to walk Outside, and seeks to bring back the Great Old Ones, because what they offer seems like a better deal than what he has known all his life.

This story turns the unfortunate racism present in H. P. Lovecraft's original story completely around. It offers a decidedly different perspective on the Mythos, and unexpected insights into our conflicted protagonist. It is very refreshing take on Lovecraftian lore!

Great fantasy!

Heard an interview with the author and was sold on the main character. The book exceeded my expectations. It's refreshing to read fantasy not aimed at tweens or an extended series. This a solid story from start to finish.

The Ballad of Black Tom
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  • $3.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fantasy
  • Published: Feb 16, 2016
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 152 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings