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Gary Phillips is an author I always love diving into. His understanding of genre fiction applied to his political beliefs present fiction with relevance that never overwhelms the story, though it stands out there bold and clear. His talent and range are on display in the collection, The Unvarnished Gary Phillips.

Gary dedicates the book to Rod Serling and there a number of si-fi and horror stories. "Demon Of The Track" is a fifties horror movie tribute with a black hot rod racer using his skill against a creature from the netherworld. As is his M.O., Phillips establishes his characters cleanly and clearly and puts the pedal to the metal in a tale William Castle would have loved to have told. In "I, Truck", he takes some cues from Asimov with an unemployed truck driver who hires out to be placed into the conscientiousness of driverless rigs for nefarious purposes.

Many of the stories reflect the writer's love of pulp and comic books. In "Thus Strikes The Black Pimpernel", he uses a swashbuckling vigilante to get justice in the Trump era. He uses gives real African American explorer the Indiana Jones treatment in "Matthew Henson and The Treasure Of The Queen Of Sheba" with the hero facing off with Italian fascists in 1930's Africa over a sacred idol. With "Phantasmo and The Vault Of Heaven", he takes and old comic book character who fell into public domain and gives him a seventies Marvel update. All of these stories as well as others in the collection demonstrate Gary's ability to use the broad strokes of this story telling style to express political thought without coming off as polemic.

You can also expect th crime fiction Gary Phillips is mainly known for. "Shadrock The Soul Shaker" mixes sin with R&B history." "The Darklight Gizmo Matter"delivers a seventies set private eye story with some twists on the genre. The longest and most involved story, "Tacos de Cazuuala con Smith & Wesson" meditates on killing, healing, and the possibility of a fine line between the two.

In the book's intro, Gary writes about both the fiction he read and the activism he practiced. This collection shows how both are entwined with him as a writer. The social awareness both fuels the writing and gives it perspective. It's parable, pulp style.


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