I just finished reading The Black Men Who Struck Oil, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
“Do you see what you and Peter are doing to your own people Anthony? Do you? That stuff is the worst thing to happen to black folks in America since slavery. The weak fall victim to the addiction, while the strong wind up getting locked up or shooting each other dead over it. Everybody loses, Anthony.”
Written by Jay Rell, The Black Men Who Struck Oil follows a group of Black men immersed in a world of crime in New York City. With a variety of connections to the streets and each other, these men have to decide which direction they’ll continue to go in life. Their ultimate goal is to achieve power, wealth, and respect.
I tried my best to enjoy this book, but I’d be lying if I said I did. Highlighting African American history, culture, and social/political issues were the saving graces that kept me reading. That and the fact that I don’t like wasting money.
To start, there were too many characters to follow. Having a group of men with different character arcs wouldn’t have been a problem if there had been one main storyline, but that wasn’t the case. Each character was attached to a subplot and flashback sequences that helped develop them, but it didn’t tie them together in a story. Halfway through reading, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be more invested in or if there was going to be a mission that connected all of them, so I just picked a character to follow. This is something that I shouldn’t have to do as the reader.
Another issue for me was the contradicting messages. Rell was very open with his political views throughout the book, which I didn’t mind because I agreed with them. But taking such strong stances on Black American politics and then romanticizing the underworld (mafia culture) was counterproductive to the overall tone. If this was supposed to be a crime fiction with a moral compass, then there needed to be a storyline that provided structure, a consistent message, and a central character. Which this book didn’t.
I may reread it to see if I misinterpreted some things, but it won’t be anytime soon.
Until Next Time…