Shotgun Blast from the Past: DADDY COOL by Donald Goines

Daddy Cool by Donald Goines

I’d heard about Donald Goines and his novel Daddy Cool for years without picking it up. As much as I hate to admit, it probably had something to do with the bad cover art. I finally relented a few months ago after reading Ken Bruen’s hip Books To Die For essay on the novel. Not only is Ken a great crime writer, he knows his crime fiction.

The title character of Daddy Cool is a hit man with a specialty in knives. His livelihood has awarded him the middle class dream. He owns a house in the working class suburbs, a pool hall in the ghetto, and has a good wife. His children consist of two wanna-be gangster stepsons and his daughter Janet who is the light of his life.

That light goes dark when Janet falls for Ronald, a young pimp. Knowing the street life and how Ronald works, Daddy Cool tries to intervene in the affair. It only makes Janet run to the boy faster. These domestic travails start affecting his work, especially on a job in LA.

Things get worse when dark fate intervenes. The stepsons become involved in a robbery of one of Daddy Cool’s employers where a teenage girl is raped. To make things right Cool has to kill the two. It sets in motion a gutter Greek tragedy with one sharp, sorrowful, and violent ending.

Goines, a heroin addict and sometime criminal, brings his Detroit streets to life with little judgment and a lot of authenticity. You understand why so many rap artist pay homage to him. His tight plotting and terse prose depict an urban jungle of cracked concrete where a circle of death is played, destroying both community and family. Violence is expected and humanity is a luxury, yet Goines seems to find it where he can. You can hear a Curtis Mayfield score playing in the background while reading this.

Thanks again, Ken.

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