Fiction Melvin Van Peebles Panther: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781560250968

Panther: A Novel

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9781560250968: Panther: A Novel

Writer, director, actor and singer (he wrote, directed and starred in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song), Van Peebles has now written an engrossing novel about the early days of the Black Panther movement in '67 and '68. Although the novel's protagonist, Judge, is fictional, many of the other characters are not, including Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and Herbert Hoover. The movement is portrayed as fulfilling a community need. It did not, however, fulfill any government needs and was quickly targeted for infiltration by the FBI and by local police as well. Judge, who is assigned by Newton to work as a double agent, is a useful device. He enables Van Peebles to describe black aspirations, and also white fears as embodied by Brimmer, the Oakland police inspector ordered by the FBI to infiltrate and crush the Panthers. Brimmer has to struggle with his superiors, who believe the Panthers must be communists; with Judge; and with his own prejudices. Inserted to rough out the novel, fictional interviews on the movement's origins with witnesses, participants, supporters and critics offer insights into the origins of the Panthers' mainstream image.

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From Booklist:

The Black Panther movement began in Oakland, California, during the 1960s; it was an attempt by young urban African Americans to challenge the political status quo. All of the familiar names of the members are featured in this novel about the Panther movement: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver. The story includes such historical events as the Sacramento assembly protest against the Mulford Gun Control Bill and the wearing of "Free Huey" buttons as part of a demonstration for Newton's prison release, which helped to make the group legendary. The fictional character Judge, a Vietnam war veteran, college student, and Panther recruit turned double-agent, is the central focus of the novel. Judge's dangerous assignment is to act as an informer for the police while actually spying on local and federal police for the Panthers. Van Peebles intimates in his notes that "this story is fiction based on fact and artistic liberties have been taken." With that understood, readers can relax and enjoy an interesting and fast-paced work while becoming acquainted with a black political group respected and revered by most African Americans. Lillian Lewis

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