jeremy's Reviews > The Vulture

The Vulture by Gil Scott-Heron
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's review
Feb 01, 10

bookshelves: fiction
Read in January, 2010

poet, pianist, songwriter, and protorapper, gil scott-heron is also the author of two novels (and a rumored third to be released in 2011). the first, the vulture, was published in 1970 (when scott-heron was 21), the same year his debut album and first book of poetry were released, both titled small talk at 125th and lenox. set almost entirely in the chelsea neighborhood of manhattan, the vulture is a compelling murder mystery comprised of street poetry and sociopolitical observation. taking place between the summers of 1968 and 1969, the story is told from the perspectives of four main characters, each with a motive for the killing of young john lee. scott-heron’s gifted prose could make even the most banal story intriguing, and his ability to convey a convincing portrait of urban strife in late ‘60s new york is uncanny. gil scott-heron’s talents are many, and the vulture is a rhythmic, passionate, and smart sampling of his skill.

the vulture

standing in the ruins of another black man’s life.
or flying through the valley separating day and night.
‘i am death,’ cried the vulture. ‘for the people of the light.’

charon brought his raft from the sea that sails on souls,
and saw the scavenger departing, taking warm hears to the cold.
he knew the ghetto was a haven for the meanest creature ever known.

in a wilderness of heartbreak and a desert of despair,
evil’s clarion of justice shrieks a cry of naked terror.
taking babies from their mamas and leaving grief beyond compare.

so if you see the vulture coming, flying circles in your mind.
remember there is no escaping, for he will follow close behind.
only promise me a battle; battle for your soul and mine.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by oriana (new)

oriana Thanks, Jeremy! I love his music; I had no idea he'd written books too.

jeremy it's somewhat surprising that his writing is as good as his music, as few artists seem to excel at both. i had the good fortune of seeing him live at s.o.b.'s in 2002, and it was quite the performance. i assume he'll be touring in support of the new album, catch him if you can.

message 3: by oriana (new)

oriana thanks for the tip! I'll keep an eye out.

message 4: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Hey Jeremy,

I have googled to the end of the earth but there is so little written on this book. I just finished it and am absolutely baffled by the killer. Could you shed any light? Am I just incredibly dull?


message 5: by jeremy (last edited Jul 13, 2010 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

jeremy hey phoebe,

which part has you baffled? the story was written so as to maintain the suspense of whom the killer would turn out to be. each of the men had their own motives, yet by the end it was clear that only one of them had done it.

message 6: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Oh I know and he did it so well that I am still not sure who the killer was! The final page threw me.

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