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The Syndicate

Clarence Cooper, Jr.

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  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.25" x 8.00"
  • ISBN: 9781948596046
  • Publication Date: 2018-06-15
  • Molotov Editions

Availability: In stock

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Paperback$14.95

The Syndicate

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A lost crime classic from Clarence Cooper, Jr., a black crime writer from Detroit whose first novel, The Scene, was a literary sensation. Believed to be too raw, and possibly damaging to his literary career, The Syndicate was published under pseudonym in 1960, a hard-hitting, fast-paced story plunging into the psycho-sexual depths of a ruthless enforcer sent to retrieve syndicate money. Cooper’s subsequent work fell into pulp oblivion.

Cooper is a rare figure in crime fiction, a writer whose work--though always transgressive and fatalistic in its view--ranged from narrative-driven noir to more experimental forms, provoking comparison to writers as varied as Burroughs and Jim Thompson.

The Syndicate, in its relentless pacing and dark humor, simmers beneath its pulp veneer with questions about racial and sexual identity that give powerful, paradoxical animation to the character’s ruthless quest.

This is the first U. S. Publication under the author’s real name, with an afterward by Gary Phillips (The Obama Inheritance), including biographical material on Cooper, childhood friend of Malcolm X. Cooper struggled with heroin addiction most of his life, did much of his writing in jail and died on a New York street at the age of 44, alone and strung out, not far from his last known residence: the 23rd Street YMCA.


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Featured on Crimereads.com list of Most Anticipated Summer ‘Reads


Molotov Editions’ reissue of Cooper’s classic take of criminals and shake dancers, The Syndicate, is a wonderful first step in restoring the crime community’s knowledge of a long forgotten writer, and one of the premiere African American voices in the genreCrimeReads.com


Utterly fascinating . . . We find ourselves inside the mind of a brutal killer, who knows that there's something wrong with him . . . It's this mix of Sorrell's battles with his own inner demons and the external forces that makes this book unique in a big way . . . well worth the attention of any crime fiction reader that enjoys dark, deep, and gritty. Crime Segments,  Nancy Oakes,


Tough and unrelenting . . . A hard boiled barnburner.”   Unlawful Acts, David Nemeth


There aren’t many books that grab you from the first line and don’t let go. There are even fewer books that repulse you from the first line, making you want to throw the book away immediately. The Syndicate somehow manages to do both.  Crimefictionlover.com


Like James Baldwin, Cooper aimed to be far more than just a black writer who wrote for black readers – and he had the talent to do it . . . The Syndicate is an unusual, potent mix of brutal, fast-paced 1950s pulp noir seasoned with a dash of William Burroughs style surrealism and homoerotic undertones . . . Highly recommended. Internet Review of Books. Eric Peterson


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“One of the most underrated writers in America, a Richard Wright of the revolutionary era.” --William Barrow, Black World / Negro Digest


“The U. S. landscape as gangscape, littered with the twisted & damaged psyche of a game rigged to take out all its players. A perversely brilliant celebration of the long downhill slide." --Peter Maravelis, Editor San Francisco Noir 


“The man who should  have been the black William Burroughs.” --GQ


“Not even Nelson Algren’s Man with the Golden Arm burned with [this] ferocious actuality.” --New York Herald-Tribune 

Clarence Cooper, Jr.

Clarence Cooper Jr. published six books of crime fiction, all between 1960 and 1967. These had mostly to with the harder edges of life in black America: the underworld of the urban street, of drug addiction and violence.

Cooper was born in Detroit in 1934 and later lived in Chicago, after spending time in a Michigan reformatory. Sometime in the mid-1950s, while in his early twenties, he worked as an editor for The Chicago Messenger, a black newspaper, and began using heroin regularly at that time. His early work, drawing on autobiographical material, received a good deal of critical attention, but the mainstream acclaim was short-lived.

Cooper’s subsequent novels, though now well regarded, ended up in the slush pile at Regency House, where most were brought to print by editor Harlan Ellison in the early sixties.

Until now The Syndicate has not  been  published in the U.S. under Cooper’s real name, but only abroad, where--with its pulp overtones and renegade violence--it is regarded as a cult classic.

Cooper did much of his writing in jail, and never fully shook his drug addition. He stopped writing in the late sixties, drifted back into street life, and died in New York in 1978.