16 Aug 2022



From shootouts and robberies to riding in cars with pimps and prostitutes, Frederick Reynolds' early manhood experiences in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s foretold a future on the wrong side of the prison bars. Frederick grew up a creative and sensitive child but found himself lured down the same path as many Black youth in that era. No one would have guessed he would have a future as a cop in one of the most dangerous cities in America in the 1980s---Compton, California. From recruit to detective, Frederick experienced a successful career marked by commendations and awards. The traumatic and highly demanding nature of the work, however, took its toll on both his family and personal life---something Frederick was able to conquer but only after years of distress and regret. ... Back Cover Blurb

The day started off like any other one. ... First Sentence, Prologue

Sergeant Kenneth Roller was a young White cop, bone-thin with a bushy mustache. He was the kind of guy who probably dressed up as the town marshal every Halloween when he was a kid and as Woody from Toy Story as an adult. He spoke police jargon and used radio and penal codes to describe people, places, and things, even during general conversation. He wasn't well liked because everyone thought he was too much of a cop.  ... Memorable moment, Page 292/3

As a Brit whose knowledge of US cops is almost entirely informed by tv series and the odd time a 'rogue' cop makes the news here in the UK, I was all too keen to receive this, a no-holds barred, first hand account of racism, corruption and gang land violence from the horse's mouth.

An engrossing account of a retired law enforcement officer who for over thirty years policed the streets of Compton, California; a city that apparently once had a murder rate ten times the national average, a city that the author calls an 'abattoir', Black, White And Gray All Over is the compelling account not only of the author's time as a law enforcement officer but that of his traumatic childhood and mis-spent youth before he joined the police force in the mid nineteen-eighties.

His fellow officers, largely neither 'good' cops nor 'bad' cops but somewhere in between, beautifully depicted, his sorrow at losing friends and colleagues, incredibly moving, his fear for his own fear, positively palatable, the price he paid; the toll on his family and personal life, telling, I can't say this was always an easy read, in fact at times it was anything but, however ...

From his difficult, dangerous childhood by way of his teenage years running with the 'wrong crowd to a commendation-filled career; this extremely frank and telling memoir of a Black Man's Odyssey In {both} Life And Law Enforcement has given me a greater insight into the life of a young black man growing up in  1960's America, of what it was to have been a police officer; the pain and trauma, the witnessing of his fellow officers {and indeed family, friends and fellow citizens}; their lives lost to drugs and gang violence, of what it was to be frustrated by government corruption over the years. 

Well written, the imagery strong, the language graphic and, at times, necessarily coarse, the depictions anything but sugar coated; gritty vivid and yet for all of that often poignant and, yes, even humorous {I admit to crying tears of both of sorrow and laughter}. Perhaps what struck me most though was, the author having been both the 'bad' guy and the 'good' guy, the guy to have been highly commandeered in his professional life whilst his personal was falling to pieces, how well balanced it was.


Kelly said...

Given the current political, racial, and social climate, I'm afraid this just doesn't appeal to me right now. I'm glad you enjoyed it (if that's the right way to describe a book like this).

nightwingsraven said...

Frederick Douglas Reynolds'story sounds
truly compelling, deeply poignant, brutally
honest and graphic. I have added it to my list.
And thank you for your excellent review.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Great feature and review, Felicity!

This probably isn't one for me though, partially because I rarely tend to read memoirs or semi-memoirs, but mostly because I am so disillusioned with the state of policing in our own country, that reading about it from the 'other side of the pond', is only going to depress me even more.

I think that if we had the same blase attitude to gun and race culture over here, our outcomes would probably be equally as dramatic as they are in the US. What we see and read about our own 'boys in blue' probably only touches the tip of the iceberg and the inherent levels of corruption at all levels of authority within the force, would no doubt astound most of the population.

Luckily, as you so succinctly phrased it, most officers are "largely neither 'good' cops nor 'bad' cops but somewhere in between"

Nice objective post! :)

Sophia Rose said...

When I'm in the right frame of mind, I think this would be an interesting read and I appreciate your thoughts on how it hit you emotionally.