The book: The second book in the Dickie Cornish mystery series, finds the Washington, D.C. street denizen turned unlicensed private investigator in a new pickle. He’s enlisted, at gunpoint, to track down the daughter of an ex-con. The subsequent investigation unravels quickly and Cornish ends up in the middle of a war within the police force. The plot includes many twists and turns that will keep readers' attention. Publishers Weekly likened Standalone (Three Rooms Press) to “a grittier version of Joe Ide’s Isaiah Quintable.”  

The author: Christopher Chambers ’82 earned his degrees from Princeton University and the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he was the first Black person in the Law Review. He served with the U.S. Justice Department, before leaving law practice in 2001 to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. He resides in Washington DC and is the author of the Angela Bevins series for Random House, the Darker Mask for McMillan, and the Rocket Crockett graphic novel. He is a fellow at the International Conflict Resolution Center general counsel to Soteryx Corporation/Stu. 


Chapter 11

We were on the news, among the five other shootings. Like, “early-morning gunplay in Northwest near Howard University.” Made the right-wing press, of course: “Wanton violence in the Nation’s Capital on the rise while liberals demand revenge on over-zealous protestors who entered the Capitol Building to be just to be heard.”  Wish I could choke out the crackers pushing these irons and lead in here with one hand, strangle the bammas pulling the trigger with the other.

Alas, I’m not ambidextrous . . .

. . . and I’m gazing out of what’s left of my window, down at the jakes canvassing the alley, Euclid and Fairmount Streets. Okay, maybe not at the uniforms, but at the head dick. That Uncle Tom, from the Colonial View. Bald asshole, and now I know a name: Woodman.

He’s clowning with other dicks. White dudes in Dockers and blazers. The brothers are wearing these warm-weather pimp linens and Panama hats and all of them are chewing on stogies . . . chuckling while the gentrifier neighborhood watch types are pacing, throwing fits.

Figgis sent him. How do I know? Because her text message is on my phone. Says it’s only a coinky-dink that he was there are the motel, watching it burn. He’s being considered for Commander, per the MPD website, with Linda all smiles. Funny, wonder what she’d say if I told her he was cursing her out when she revealed she was over at my spot, and he was to cut me loose? All’s not well in the Blue Boy Band, and the Queen of the Pig Poke might be too busy doing TV guest spots to smell it.

Now, I see one female dick acting like she’s on the job. A pleasant-looking and petite girl who might be like a lightskinned sister, though Stripe insists she’s Filipina.

She calls me away from the window with, “These slugs are ‘RIP’ rounds. ‘Rest in Peace’ on the street, but tech name is ‘Radically Invasive Projectile.’ Been around for years down south, Detroit, Chicago .  .  . but still a newby here in the D-M-V. Spent round through soft issue looks like a claw.” She holds her little fingers out like talons and damn if her nail art isn’t boss. “This causes them to splinter into darts, basically. Thus . . . the pattern on your wall . . . ”

“So you gonna dip someone, it better be into flesh. But they shot through a third-floor window—partially filled with an old Sears air conditioner . . . ”

She nods and says, “An amateur or sending message. Either way it’s a beef. Detective Woodman down there says you were at the Colonial View before the Feds burned it down. Anyone there got a problem with you?”

I shake my head, look to Stripe. He definitely ain’t buying something, and on this kind of madness I defer to his more contemporary street sense. 

Oh, and in comes Woodman. Masked up, suddenly, through not when the cigars were shared.

“Trouble Man!” he greets me again.

My affliction that embarrassed Daddy so damn much, answers back. “Nineteen Seventy-Two…starring Robert Hooks, dad of actor-director Kevin Hooks… Paul Winfield… directed by Ivan Dixon, who was more known to whitefolks for his role as ‘Kinch’ on Hogan’s Heroes. Soundtrack by Marvin Gaye.”

“Wow. A genre fan? That’s why you a P.I. wannabee?”

I shrug. “No. If I was doing what I thought I’d be doing when I was a kid, I’d either be a retired NFL player, or an active priest or teacher. Either way I wouldn’t be clocking a shot-up window and taking your shade … Detective.” 

Excerpted from Standalone by Christopher Chambers. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.


“Novels written from the perspective of homeless substance users don’t come along every day. When they do, it’s a good idea to pay attention, since they offer a window into the casual cruelty of our social economy, which much fiction eschews.” —Washington City Paper

“Gritty, raw, and lays bare the dirty consequences of political decisions on the lowest rungs of the population.” — Jay Wilburn, 10 Most Recommended Books this Month