After I broke the old rule and judged it by its cover, I wasn't expecting much from E. Lynn Harris' novel, Basketball Jones. Not only does the shirtless, headless cover boy seem to signal some sort of florid romance/jerk-off novel, but the dude looks more like a running back than the star forward he's supposed to represent.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself finishing the book in one sitting (if you count the eight hours of sleep in between). It's the story of AJ Richardson, an openly gay interior decorator, and his clandestine love affair with "down low brother" Dray Jones, an NBA star he tutored in college. When Dray picks up a wife to throw people off the scent of his secret homosexuality, things get pretty tricky. Blackmail, backstabbing, and heartbreak ensue.
Harris' rise is the stuff of rappers' dreams--nobody wanted his first novel, so he peddled copies out of the trunk of his car and at beauty shops and bookstores. Now he's a regular on The New York Times' bestseller list. Reading Basketball Jones (Doubleday, $22.95), I could see why: the prose is clean and engaging, the characters compelling, and the plot fast and twisted.
Jones will be reading from the book and signing copies tonight at Elliott Bay Book Co. (101 South Main St., 624-6600), 7:30 p.m. Wed. Feb. 18.