To his customers and neighbours on 125th street, Ray Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa - the 'Waldorf of Harlem' - and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
Colson Whitehead's dazzling new thriller...In Harlem Shuffle, Whitehead flexes his literary muscles further, extending the boundaries and expectations of crime writing. The book is also a social drama interrogating the nature of prejudice and how an environment limits ambition. Guardian, Book of the Day
Colson Whitehead is a multi-award winning and bestselling author whose works include The Nickel Boys, The Underground Railroad, The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt and a collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. He is one of only four novelists to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice and is a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. For The Underground Railroad, Whitehead won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Fiction, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a second time for The Nickel Boys, which also won the George Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and The Kirkus Prize. The Underground Railroad has been adapted as an Amazon Prime TV series, produced and directed by the Academy Award winning director Barry Jenkins, and was broadcast in 2021. He lives with his family in New York City.