Only the Wicked by Gary Phillips

Only the Wicked by Gary Phillips

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Ivan Monk chases a mystery deep into America’s shameful past

Half a century ago, Old Man Spears was a hero of the ballpark. In an age when baseball was segregated, he played in the Negro Leagues, providing hope for a generation of oppressed African Americans. Decades after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line, Spears is an old man in a barbershop straining to hear the game on the radio. An offhanded comment about a former teammate, Kennesaw Riles, shocks private eye Ivan Monk, who has deeply buried memories of a ball-playing relative by that name. But before he can pick the old man’s brain, Spears drops dead. A few days later, Kennesaw Riles follows suit.

To understand the pair of deaths, Monk digs into the history of his family and his country. He follows the mystery to Mississippi blues country, where he’s forced to confront a brand of hatred that he thought had died with Jim Crow.


“[A] gripping tale starring a genuinely charismatic hero.” —Booklist

“Phillips creates a harrowing, deft portrayal of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, capturing its people, its mood and its language with a skill so keen that he verges on slight of hand.” —Wendy Hornsby, creator of the Maggie MacGowan series

“In the tradition of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, Ivan Monk takes on a corrupt world . . . He makes us feel that the war he’s wagering is for our own salvation.” —Walter Mosley, creator of the Easy Rawlins series

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