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Book Review: Crack City by Renay Jackson

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Renay Jackson’s Crack City is not your typical “street drama” novel. It is an all-too-real “living just enough for the city” hood reality. Jackson’s display of true-to-life dialogue and down and dirty storyline brings you back to the city’s underbelly, where the have-nots struggle to survive in an attempt to achieve positions of power, money and prestige. The book intensifies the authenticity of the crack game and its life-altering effect on everyday lives.

Crack City takes place in the city of Richmond, dubbed “Richtown,” where a crack dream mentality takes refuge in its residents. Jackson’s characters jump off the page and do not waste any time dramatizing the effects of crack. I was especially touched by Lorraine, a hard-working, intelligent, and outspoken sister who was definitely going places. Unfortunately, her love for the pipe quickly sends her spiraling down a never-ending path of destruction.

As I turned each page in suspense, Lorraine’s life deteriorated right before me as she lost her home, job and marriage to the streets and to the harsh reality and power of crack. Jackson’s literary talent creates a certain unique quality and weakness within each character that gives Crack City its graphic, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening detail. It's an explicitness plainly evident from character Dirty Don’s rise and fall in the crack world to Andre’s need for respect and power in the streets – only to have it all come full circle.

Crack City offers to the ordinary man a raw and vivid tale of an unfamiliar world, and Jackson writes such strong, dramatic, and realistic dialogue that I found myself imagining I was sitting on the nearest building’s stoop or riding down the street in Richtown watching the drama unfold. I was truly impressed that Jackson did not attempt to glorify the drug game and that he wrote a saga based on the reality and gravity of the obsessive and addicting love affair some people have with crack cocaine.

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