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On the Shoulders of Giants

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.


My camp is 60 percent mentally ill. The spectrum ranges from violent psychopaths (dudes who rape and stab and make me grateful there’s such a thing as¬†maximum security) to zoned-out convalescents whose lives consist of drooling and taking thorazine.

The kid in the next bunk is neither. His name is Jimmy and he’s from the north side of Jacksonville. He spends his days autographing the faces of celebrities in OK magazines and babbling these outlandish stories to himself. “This is my Uncle Leroy from the Bahamas” (George Clooney). “This is the detective that busted me with 40 bricks” (Donald Trump).

It used to drive me crazy. The mental immersion required to write a book demands silence and space to think, not a running sink of psycho-dribble 24/7. But lately I’ve been embracing it as a kind of right-brain exercise to get the creative juices flowing. When I get stuck, I’ll drop my pen, look at him and say, “My father was a swordfighter in Lebanon.”

Jimmy: “Mine too. They fought naked aliens together in the war.”
Me: “Those must be the same aliens that kidnapped me and trained me in martial arts.”
Jimmy: “How do you think you got that scar on your head?”
And around and around we’ll go until I fall back into my novel-in-progress and he to his celebrity gossip rag. “This is my ex-wife” (Caitlyn Jenner).

But today, something different happened. When I asked him if his mom was a Russian bullfighter on ice, he shook his head and looked at me with clear eyes. “My momma killed herself when I was little. I saw her do it.”

Then he turned the page and resumed his elaborate babble. It could have just been more BS but it sure didn’t feel like it. If it is true, it’s unfathomable that any kid should go through that. There’s a reason why people withdraw inward and batten down the hatches. Nobody is born bad. We are each of us a tapestry of our life experiences, influences, and impressions. We are all grown children, some of us with heartbreaking backstories.

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