“Deacon King Kong is a quintessential New York story. Set in the Brooklyn projects in 1969, a perpetually inebriated deacon called Sportcoat aims a gun at the neighborhood’s main drug dealer in the public plaza and pulls the trigger. Incredibly well-constructed and hilarious at times, McBride’s story entwines a number of storylines that are kickstarted by this central event. The local Italian gangster, the veteran cop, the meddling churchgoers, and the drug pushers all have their own agendas, hopes, and dreams that are affected. And though Sportcoat doesn’t remember his actions and is always under the influence of gut-rot moonshine, I couldn’t help but root for him as I was reading this. His delightful ineptitude and absence of clarity made this book impossible for me to put down. If you’ve never read McBride before, this is a great introduction.”
— Stuart McCommon, Novel., Memphis, TN
Oprah's Book Club Pick
A New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Novel
From the author of the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.
About the Author
James McBride is an accomplished musician and the author of the National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird,the bestselling American classic The Color of Water, the novels Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna,the story collection Five-Carat Soul,and Kill ’Em and Leave,a biography of James Brown. The recipient of a National Humanities Medal, McBride is also a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
Praise for DEACON KING KONG:
“Deacon King Kong is deeply felt, beautifully written and profoundly humane; McBride’s ability to inhabit his characters’ foibled, all-too-human interiority helps transform a fine book into a great one.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A hilarious, pitch-perfect comedy set in the Brooklyn projects of the late 1960s. This alone may qualify it as one of the year’s best novels. However, McBride . . . has constructed a story with a deeper meaning for those who choose to read beyond the plot, one that makes the work funnier, sweeter, and more profound.” —The Washington Post
“The sheer volume of invention in Deacon King Kong—on the level of both character . . . and language—commands awe. . . . And the sentences! The prose radiates a kind of chain-reaction energy.” —The New Yorker
“Readers of The Good Lord Bird will recognize shades of McBride’s hilarious dialogue and an attention to detail that reveal a complex local history. Capturing humanity through satire and witticisms, McBride draws everyday heroes . . . a rich and vivid multicultural history.” —Time
“With many plot twists and spellbinding scenes, Deacon King Kong becomes a partly comic but deeply poignant rumination on race and love. . . . The narrative flows seamlessly from buoyant and comical black jive to somber, pitch-perfect descriptions of the histories and hard lives of those doing the talking.” —Associated Press
“McBride returns with an improbably hilarious tapestry of late ’60s Brooklyn, and an eclectic group of individuals that bore witness to a fatal shooting.” —Entertainment Weekly