“Project Chick 2: What’s Done in the Dark,” released 3/12, is many things – infuriatingly melodramatic, clunkily-plotted, downright ratchet – but the one thing that it isn’t is boring. This book begins and ends on 10. It is the literary equivalent of Meek Mill shouting through subwoofer speakers, or TYPING IN ALL CAPS. And while it can be tiring for something crazy to always be popping off, it was nice to fully immerse oneself in a book as if you were a character, however ridiculously drawn you may be. This story delivered enough action and intrigue to keep me reading until the very last line.
Take, for instance, the opening line:
“Khalil ‘Lucky’ Foster sauntered out of the Star Bright strip club at 4:13 a.m. alone. A treacherous drug entrepreneur, Lucky had quickly risen to the upper ranks of Richmond’s underworld hierarchy.”
That sentence, in a nutshell, represents everything that is right and wrong with this book. The introduction of one of the main characters as a drug entrepreneur, as if the strip club is his office and he’s leaving after a long day’s work. The frustrating use of the verb ‘to have’ in the sentences (even though that *is* how some people talk). What struck me most, though, was the setting. As a native Richmonder I was surprised to see the Cap City in print, mostly because neither my hometown nor its inhabitants are that interesting in my opinion, but this book was determined to show me the seamy underbelly of Richmond that I never knew. I had always heard that Richmond was a big drug town but never really was exposed to what that meant, outside of Biggie’s “Cases in Virginia, Body in DC” lyric. Who knew he was actually serious? Turner sets the scene early on so you know exactly what you’re getting into and what types of people you are dealing with. This ain’t the Cosby Show.
Here’s the gist of the story: Tressa, a mother of twins, is living an idyllic life with her fiancé Indie in the suburb of Henrico County. The father (Lucky) of her 13 year-old twins is long dead and forgotten until they take up with Lucky’s old running partner, looking for a mentor to tell them about what their father was like. Little do Tressa’s sons know that the men who killed their dad were closer than they thought – their uncle Taj and Tressa’s fiancé. Ratchetness ensues as the twins try to kill Taj and Indie. A hood Hamlet, y’all.
Some parts of the story were pretty over the top. Double-crossing hairdressers! The mayor sleeping with his male assistant! Pregnancy! Pimp slaps on the basketball court! An engagement that lasted EIGHT YEARS! Also unbelievable was the fact that the twins were out shooting up people and seeking out vengeance for the death of their father (it would have made more sense if they were like 20). I was thisclose to saying ‘eff it’, but Turner kept me suspended in disbelief long enough to make it to the end. For me reading this book was like playing a first-person video game – it gave me the opportunity to live someone else’s wild life from the safety of my own home. Maybe that’s little voyeuristic, but it’s also so, so fun.
Let me be clear: I am not a Project Chick. The last piece of ‘urban fiction’ that I read seriously was “The Coldest Winter Ever” back in 8th grade. In fact, the term “bourgie” has been leveled against me more times than I’d care to admit. All of that to say, I am definitely not the target audience for this book, and I went into it fully expecting to roll my eyes at every other sentence. Instead I found that it was a fun, if unbelievable, romp, and I appreciated the author’s ability to speak to people that are rarely seen or heard in fiction. Nikki Turner clearly has fans that support her and buy enough books to keep her laced in the finest of furs (see below). And if her stories excite the folks she’s writing for, then I can’t knock the hustle.