Here’s the back cover copy from my new novel, On the Shoulders of Giants, currently in production and due out this fall…
The last time Izzy James saw his mother’s trailer was through the rear window of a Dodge Aires driven by a social worker with the Florida Division of Children and Families. He was four years old. He spent the remainder of his childhood bouncing around the state foster care system. Always the outsider, introverted and awkward, he assumed he was exempt from things like friendship and love … until he met Scarlett McGhee.
Pharaoh Sinclair was born on a prison van. The illegitimate child of an unknown father and a crackhead mother. He grew up on the sidewalks of the Azalea Arms housing project, where gunshots and police sirens were as commonplace as the stench of the neighboring landfill. Molded by hustlers and pushers, with the dope game in his DNA, the lone soft spot in his concrete heart was reserved for his baby sister, Symphony. But could he protect her from the same streets that raised them?
From the sugar-white sand dunes of Pensacola Beach to the murderous Arthur G. Dozier reform school, from strip clubs to emergency rooms, from traphouses to courthouses to prison cells, On the Shoulders of Giants chronicles the intersecting journeys of a foster kid and a projects kid as they battle and stumble their way through adolescence into adulthood.
An exploration of race, part memoir, part coming-of-age, part thriller, part love story. This transcendent novel defies genre. A book within a book. More than a story, a living organism. A legacy. The only child of Ezra “Izzy” James.
Earlier this week, I sent a letter to President Obama, along with my first two novels, Consider the Dragonfly and With Arms Unbound. The letter I wrote to him to accompany those books is below. I wanted to share it with you…
Dear President Obama,
Hello. Although I know the odds of this ever reaching your desk are long, it is still an honor to be writing to you. Very cool. I’m an incarcerated author. I write under the pseudonym Malcolm Ivey. I’ve been in prison for almost 12 years of a 30-year Federal prison sentence. I robbed two gas stations with a gun I stole from a neighbor. I didn’t hurt anyone. I’ve never even fired a gun. My plan was to rob and get high until I was cornered and then turn the pistol on myself. I couldn’t even get that right. Embarrassing to admit that to a man who’s reached the level of success that you have, but in my defense I was an unconscious, strung-out, pitiful thing out there. As the saying goes, “I didn’t get arrested, I got rescued.”
I’ve been a drug abuser for most of my life, both in and outside of prison (you’d be amazed at how accessible drugs are in America’s gated communities). Eight years ago, with age 40 rapidly approaching and nothing to show for my life except a criminal record that dates back to the seventh grade, I got it in my head that writing a book would somehow validate me. I’m not sure about validation, but I know it saved my life. My first two novels are enclosed. I’m aware that your schedule is pretty jammed right now, but I’m hoping that you will have some downtime after January, once the fate and weight of the free world no longer rests on your shoulders. Consider the Dragonfly is the story of a bullied teen who finds himself in the school-to-prison pipeline. With Arms Unbound deals with domestic violence and the horrors of crystal meth. My third novel will be out this fall. It’s called On the Shoulders of Giants. If the title sounds familiar it’s because I lifted it from one of your speeches. I know the word “lifted” may imply theft, but this was more of a tribute to you than a return to my criminal past. You even make a cameo. This book focuses on race, the infamous Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, and the redemptive power of writing. I think it’s my best.
In a way, your historic run to the White House was a catalyst for many of the changes that I’ve made in my own life. In your acceptance speech at Grant Park you asked America, “When are we going to realize that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for?” Those words resonated with me, as I’m sure they did with many people around the world. Over the last eight years, I have evolved on this prison bunk as a writer and a man, just as you have evolved in the Oval Office as Commander in Chief. And although my contributions to humanity pale in comparison to what you’ve done for prisoners, the environment, the auto industry, the uninsured, the LGBT community, and future generations of Americans, I’m still doing everything I can from where I am. Just wanted you to know.
Thanks for the inspiration.