"A fresh and fierce new voice to crime fiction...Consider me a big fan."
— Don Winslow, New York Times bestselling author of The Cartel, The Force, and City on Fire
coming from Melville House 2.6.24
In the vein of Get Out and Razorblade Tears, a feast of noir fiction and probing social commentary that asks us to consider what would happen if reparations were finally charged and exacted.Nate Evers, a young black political activist, struggles with rage as his people are still being killed in the streets 62 years after Emmett Till. When his little cousin is murdered, Nate shuns the graffiti murals, candlelight vigils, and Twitter hashtags that are commonplace after these senseless deaths. Instead, he leads 3 grief-stricken friends on a mission of retribution, kidnapping the descendants of long-ago perpetrators of hate crimes, confronting the targets with their racist lineages, and forcing them to pay reparations to a community fund. For 3 of the group members, the results mean justice; for Nate – pure revenge.Not all targets go quietly into the night, though, and Nate and his friends' world spirals out of control when they confront the wrong man. Now the leader of a white supremacist group is hot on their tail as is a jaded lawman with some disturbingly racist views of his own.As the 4 vigilantes fight to thwart their ruthless pursuers, they’re forced to accept an age-old truth: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."Smoke Kings is a powerful and propulsive novel with a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters. Like Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay it explores decades of racial tensions through a fictional landscape where the line between justice and revenge is blurred.
“[A] powerful debut…propulsive narrative, lucid prose, breakneck pacing, and confident handling of controversial subject matter make him a writer to watch.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review“A bravura debut … A provocative, page-turning treatment of racism in America … rarely captured as powerfully or affectingly as it is here.” — Kirkus, STARRED Review“A compelling and exciting debut” — FirstClue“Jahmal Mayfield’s Smoke Kings brings a fresh and fierce new voice to crime fiction. Smoke Kings is a stunning book that takes the reader on an intense and harrowing journey that is truly unforgettable. Consider me a big fan.” — Don Winslow, New York Times Bestselling author of City on Fire“Fearless, soulful, and timely. Smoke Kings is a gripping revenge thriller and sly social commentary all rolled into one. Everyone needs to read this book!” — Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of The Second Life of Nick Mason“As tightly plotted as the best thriller, the true power of Smoke Kings lies in its pointed, nuanced rage. Rage at an America that steadfastly refuses to acknowledge – much less address – the brutal treatment of its earliest Black inhabitants, and how that refusal and its attendant violence echoes throughout the centuries to right now, today, this moment. With Mayfield’s fearless, incandescent prose, I was hooked from page one.” — Keith Rosson, author of Fever House“To say Smoke Kings is insightful and topical are understatements. To say this searing novel could have been written fifty years ago or twenty years from now says a lot about our country and the deft storytelling of Jahmal Mayfield.” — Gary Phillips, author of One-Shot Harry“Jahmal Mayfield roars to the top of the writer-to-watch list with this sizzling debut. Smoke Kings is straight fire. Every page simmers with an undercurrent of rage, each line a hard dose of smoldering truth. I can’t wait to see what Mayfield does next.” – Eli Cranor, Edgar Award Winning Novelist of Don’t Know Tough“With this searing debut, Jahmal Mayfield ups the ante on the vigilante novel. But beyond the heartbreak and righteous fury, SMOKE KINGS holds up a mirror to America’s soul — and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t flinch at what is reflected back. I can’t wait to read what Jahmal writes next.” — Duane Swierczynski, Edgar-nominated author of California Bear"What lifts Smoke Kings above its topical premise is Jahmal Mayfield’s command of contradiction in the hearts and minds of his characters. No one is as simple as they first might seem, providing for additional layers of both suspense and thematic complexity. His characters pursue their ambitions, confront their challenges, and suffer the consequences in unpredictable but eminently human ways, making this not just a thrilling read but a deeply rewarding one." —David Corbett, award-winning author of The Truth Against the World