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Black British Men: Who's Been Sleeping in Our Beds?

 

By Shaun Hutchinson

 

Patrick Augustus must have lived a full life. This chronicle of the exploits of Beres, Gussie, Johhny and Lynvall - the Babyfathers of the title – must have been born from either a fertile imagination or exciting experiences.

 

And that’s what this trilogy of novels does – captures the personalities and lives of black men through their dramas and those of their children, girlfriends and wives.  In the background of each novel lurks the constant threat of the Child Support Agency.  

 

Sprinting through a variety of misadventures we get the authors views on subjects ranging from male-female relationships, fatherhood, loyalty and infidelity to sex and celibacy – with loads more in between. 

 

This novel is clearly a vehicle for a writer with a lot to say but these subjects only get a cursory treatment – like a box being ticked by the novelist -  who appears to want to get things off his chest - or just to fill up space.

 

In all three novels attempts to explore the characters emotions are hampered with clumsy editing and overlong dialogue which appear to be the authors own musings on life with each plot, twist and turns telegraphed and predictably staged, and which often fall apart, without development or proper conclusion. 

 

Written mostly in a first person narrative, each character - in alternating chapters – navigates through their own complicated relationships and babymama dramas. With their lives described in conversational tone, each scene is long and detailed with little economy of prose.

 

Johnny Dollar the most sympathetically drawn and engaging character is the irrepressible core of the quartet and it is his complex love life which give the novel much of its genuine laugh-out-loud humour. 

 

In contrast, the three novels’ female characters are shallow in depth and readers have to wait patiently until the third instalment of the trilogy for a woman’s angle. 

 

Although the dialogue has a genuine, well observed feel, it is dated by the language and black street terms used. Irritatingly it’s also sprinkled with constant cultural references from contemporary black music and fashion trends to London landmarks.  

 

These are very English novels in content: bonking, boozing and holidays in Tenerife, being staples of late 1990s lifestyles. Maybe it was an over-ambitious project to condense so many viewpoints, issues, stories and concerns into one epic omnibus editon.

 

Much of Babyfather 2 and 3 appears to be the remainder of whatever was edited from BabyFather 1. But, it’s still not enough to prevent thinly portrayed characters, in an often slapstick farce, from doing more than touch the surface on any exploration of the Black Britsh male psyche.

 

Shaun Hutchinson is The New Black Magazine's art critic and London Editor. He can be reached at shaunhutchinson@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

The Complete BabyFather [Baby Father 1, 2 and 3 in a special signed limited edition] by Patrick Augustus

Published by The XPress.

 

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