The Paths That Lie Ahead
Part One: Money, Power, and Betrayal
by Melvin T. Luster Jr. Trafford Publishing

"Damn don't you think that that's backwards hustling homie? Shit that's all that I can afford right now. So what, you wanting to make some real money, I ask? Shit, hell yeah."

Luster talks the talk in this novel about a young black man's descent into, and later ascent out of, the drug world. An abundant, almost screenplay-like use of street language lends great authenticity. It's the language of young adult readers. And in-between the dialogue, the first-person account of scholar-turned-drug dealer Milton Lusser is coarse and edgy, as a twenty-something in his situation would tell it. Milton graduates from high school in Tennessee with great promise, with a full scholarship to a college in Alaska. But he soon veers off course. Lured by easy money, he begins dealing weed. Later, back in Tennessee, the business flourishes and he sinks into a heady lifestyle of nightclubs, women and indulgence. Then everything falls apart. Ultimately, he finds a new, healthier road. The book is short, just 130 pages, and Luster keeps the story focused and clipping along. The characters and plot are relatively thin, but that, in fact, works well here. A longer novel, which Luster appears to have the skill to write, would have required more dimension. But in this short form just letting Milton live works. Until the final pages, when there's a bit of reflection, moment-to-moment is about all there is. And precisely because of that, the book succeeds. Too much introspection would have felt false. Life, at this age and in Milton's situation, is about the here and now, not the why or how or what comes next. Milton is real. Luster nails that. Young adult readers will appreciate the authenticity.

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