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The Color of My Coffee
R P Heinz, author
Coffee, like life, can have a variety of shades and complexities, as young Steven Reilly is about to find out. He is a naïve teenager living in a white suburb of Los Angeles during the turbulent 1960’s with his mentally disturbed mother, and his cold, unfeeling father. His sheltered life abruptly changes when he buys a small business from his brother that soon becomes a gathering place for colorful characters from all walks of life. \tThe story focuses on the racial issues, cultural conflicts, and dangers, that transpire when Steven hires his soon to be best friend, Herb Jackson, an African-American man from the Deep South, to work for him at his car cleaning shop. Herb’s old friend “Speedy” Dave Desoto, and Andy Calhoun, a man straight out of the hills of West Virginia, also hire on, and soon become Steven’s second family. Jack, his peculiar friend from high school, and the evil bookie “The Roach,” add to the mix of odd, but fascinating, characters. Will Herb’s gambling addiction lead to his downfall, or will it lead to Steven’s? Only Herb can decide who lives, and who dies.
Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

TITLE INFORMATION

THE COLOR OF MY COFFEE

The Story of a White Boy and a Black Man

R.P. Heinz
AuthorHouse (192 pp.)
$26.98 hardcover, $13.99 paperback, $3.99 e-book ISBN: 978-1-5246-9614-6; June 14, 2017

BOOK REVIEW

In this debut novel, a white suburban teenager runs a car detailing service in 1960s California, finding among his employees a mentor in a charismatic, Southern black man.

Steven Reilly’s home life is a struggle—his mother is all but rendered inert by mental illness, while his taskmaster father demands that, despite his young age, he pay rent to continue living at home. Steven takes over a company his older brother started, cleaning cars for dealerships around smoggy Los Angeles. To help him run the business, he hires Herb Jackson, a middle-aged African-American from the Deep South, wise in the ways of the world and eager for a job. A strange relationship develops with Steven as employer and Herb as adviser, drawing the younger man out of his shell while introducing him to the other cultures of the eclectic characters who join the business. They range from the geriatric polish-expert Speedy Dave to the potbellied West Virginian Andrew Calhoun, who brings his entire Appalachian clan, from his two sons to his mother-in-law, to work when necessary. But Herb, while principled, is far from perfect, and his gambling problem will soon lead the members of the car wash’s patchwork family into conflict with the dangerous, ascot-wearing, slick-haired bookie called “The Roach.” Heinz’s tale is presented in the form of a memoir, with its colorful cast of characters based on equally outlandish individuals from the author’s past and many of its events pulled from his own experiences dealing with cars. Motor enthusiasts will find many classic vehicles to wax nostalgic over, while the conversations that happen within these autos among Steven, Herb, and the others, complete with tall tales about chasing “poosy,” are always entertaining. The book’s commitment to rendering all the dialects of the wildly different characters is surprisingly smooth though somewhat problematic: accents are only affected by players who are lower-class or unconventionally educated. Race is a hot topic, particularly as it concerns Steven’s evolving awareness of the concept. But it does feel slightly underdeveloped, as the novel itself admits that the civil rights movement is just starting to make waves on the West Coast at the time the story is set.

A coming-of-age tale that bridges cultural gaps with sincerity and laughs.

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