James McBride’s ‘Deacon King Kong’ Is a Rich Novel About the Places That Make Us Who We Are

On a September day in 1969, in the projects of Brooklyn, a drunken deacon named Sportcoat shoots the local drug dealer, Deems. The community–an ensemble of black, Puerto Rican, Italian and Irish characters, reflecting the diversity that has always made New York City distinct–reacts to the shooting with a combination of gossip, embellishment of details and reflection on what it means for their home. But Sportcoat’s actions also set into motion an underground network of mobsters and malcontents, along with cops and church folk, all trying to get to the bottom of how a washed-up deacon came to shoot a

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