7.7

Alex Wheatle

The Dirty South [Serpent's Tail]

Books Reviews Alex Wheatle
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Alex Wheatle

The other New South

While the term generally describes the Southern outposts of American hip-hop, “Dirty South” also seems to fit the South London streets of Dennis Huggins, the protagonist of Alex Wheatle’s sixth novel.

Dennis is a shotta, or drug dealer, partnered with his best friend Noel, whose vibrant dialogue shows unyielding allegiance to his friend and the Brixton streets. Along the way, Dennis falls for Akeisha, but both love and friendship complicate life, as do race, class and religion.

Dennis has studied his family’s Jamaican past, but love causes him to contemplate his South London future. Hindsight and history cannot tell him what waits around the next corner.

As Dennis sees posters of Marvin Gaye and Mary J. Blige on his girlfriend’s wall, the author shows classic soul and new soul sharing space. It’s a skillful turn by Wheatle, also a DJ, as he mixes young voices with familiar themes.