Book Review: Image of Emeralds and Chocolate

July 12, 2012 

K. Murray Johnson’s first novel Image of Emeralds and Chocolate is a mixture of voodoo, vampires, and pure hokum. I’m not sure how much suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy a good vampire story, but then again I’m not into paranormal or any type of science fiction literature. I’m more of a realist and that’s how I like my fiction. That being said I approached Image of Emeralds in Chocolate with an open mind purely for its entertainment value. I admit my bias for realism shows. In the end I closed the book thoroughly entertained though a little frustrated. Vampire stories are all the rage these days and K. Murray Johnson is riding the wave with his gay slave turned abolitionist vampire tale.

This novel weaves together the stories of two men and their love for one another, one born into slavery and the other coming of age in modern times. They meet as students in a creative writing class and are assigned as writing partners who must share and critique the other’s work. The former slave Emanuel writes a series short stories while the younger Eric delves into poetry. Eric is a talented competitive musician, his life’s preoccupation, but his goals are thwarted by evil competition. This drama plays out over a semester and it is Emanuel who rids the evil and in so doing reveals his secret biography through a series of short stories.

It starts off slow but pressing through to the midway point the reader gets swept up in the story. It becomes an historical saga seen through the eyes of a vampire and therein lies the frustration. Suspension of disbelief is challenge enough but the lack of historical accuracy was a distraction that at times made it impossible. Some might consider it minor, but slaves didn’t clean bathrooms when the bathroom was more likely than not a privy. Nor did the plantation house have attached kitchens. Anyone who has ever toured an 18th Century plantation or homestead knows that kitchens were detached because they were prone to fires. Call me a stickler about historical accuracy but Johnson could have benefited from more conscientious research.

Gay vampire erotica is nothing new and K. Murray Johnson should be commended for paving the way for Black writers and readers interested in this genre. Images of Emeralds and Chocolate is an entertaining and interesting read but it lacks a certain fidelity which could have made it much better. The dialogue at times comes off as stilted and contrived and the story bogs down in places. Nevertheless the protagonist Emanuel the legendary vampire is a compelling and attractive creature with a certain appeal leaving readers saying “Ah man, bite me.” 4 Stars

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