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This Post is 'Straight Outta Compton' - an Editorial Review of "Black, White, and Gray All Over"



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Author of Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man's Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement


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Editorial Review:


We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” - Frank Kafka


We've all heard the phrase - “straight outta Compton” - words made famous by the movie depiction of the rise and fall of the gangsta rap group N.W.A. whose “reality raps” reflected the crime, gang violence, and police harassment within the area in southern Los Angeles County, California ruled by the notorious Blood and Crip gangs in the 1980s. But this book goes further in the history, back to the 60s and shows the rise of these gangs and their origins... and not only with the gangs, but the police force whose job was to bring peace and order to this violent area overtaken by these gangs. But to imagine this book as just a historical presentation of the crime of Compton is selling it short, as this is first and foremost the history of one cop's life in the midst of the chaos told by the author, himself. It is a stark historical autobiography - raw and visceral, and as real as a book can get. The next two quotes, written in the foreword by Ralph Pezzullo, speak to the heart of this story and what an incredible job Reynolds does in writing his own story:


One thing that comes across loud and clear is that it's damn hard being a police officer in today's United States. If you're a person with compassion, it's impossible to remain unaffected by the violence, the daily pressures, and the demonization of cops that started as a reaction to the abuses committed during the war on drugs.”


If you want the real and unvarnished perspective of a police officer, you've come to the right place. You'll learn what it's like to be a Black cop in this era of political correctness and Black Lives Matter. You'll come away with a better understanding of the pressures on families trying to raise their kids in communities like Compton. And you might come to the realization that the only way we'll ever make progress, individually and as citizens of this country, and heal the divisions, the violence, and the rift between the police and the public, is to understand and embrace the truth regardless of political affiliation, race, or ethnic background, so help us God.”


Yes, this novel reveals the immense corruption of society, and the horrors of a child growing up facing poverty, drugs, prostitution, murder, and greed, along with the corruption within the police departments and the government. For the author to have risen above such a bleak future, to fight against the realities of the gang wars and racial profiling, and then to splay his life in sheer honesty on the page is brilliant. Frederick Reynolds deserves a standing ovation, not just for a remarkable book, but for his remarkable life of survival.


To me, police work, like life, is not just black and white. They both abound in gray, fading in and out, morphing, ebbing, and flowing depending on the situation. I have met those deemed criminals and discovered their morals and ethics were far superior to those considered honest and law-abiding. In my eyes, life comes down to one caveat: Sometimes, doing the wrong thing for the right reason is the right thing to do.”


This book is not for the faint-hearted, and a reader needs to be aware of the trigger warnings of graphic violence and language; but, as a caveat, both play into the realness of this book. This was Reynold's reality, with no sugar-coating, and we are given a bird's eye view of this violent festering city straight from a witness who was, himself, straight outta Compton. All of the necessary elements are here for a first-rate novel: well-rounded characters, excellent storytelling and descriptive passages, and the character arc and transition showing Reynold's development from boyhood to retirement and how living in the midst of violence and corruption changed him as a person. And not only that, but how living as a Black man in the midst of racial injustice from the 1950s, 60s in Detroit, onward to the exploding chaos in 1980s Compton. Reynolds goes from one hot melting crucible to another as life takes him from one violent city to another, and yet, he survives to tell his tale and to pay homage to other police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. He reveals details which, at times, feel very dangerous as well as enlightening... such as the incidents of coming in close contact with serial psychopaths such as the Zodiac killer. As a reader, you will feel uncomfortable in the read, but this is the point, you MUST truly FEEL what Reynolds felt as he lived this reality. This is sheer brilliant literature full of the rawest emotion possible for a novel, and is an Academy Award winning movie just aching to be made.


I often felt like Sisyphus, pushing an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back time and time again.”

At times, the melancholy is suffocating, but I cry much easier now, finally understanding that the suppression of tears and emotion has absolutely nothing to do with masculinity.”


*****


Black, White, and Gray All Over” by Frederick Reynolds receives five stars by The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence.


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