Uncle Janice, 2015
Twenty-four-year-old Janice Itwaru is an “uncle”—NYPD lingo for an undercover narcotics officer—and the heroine of the most exuberantand original cop novel in years.
A New York City cop who can last eighteen months in Narcotics, without getting killed or demoted first, will automatically get promoted to detective. Undercover narc Janice Itwaru is at month seventeen.
Ambitious, desperate for that promotion, she hits the sidewalks of Queens in her secondhand hoochie clothes, hoping to convince potential criminals—drug dealers, addicts, dummies, whomever—to commit a felony on her behalf. And things aren’t any easier back at the narco office, where she has to keep up with the bantering lies and inventively cruel pranks of her fellow uncles while coping with the ridiculous demands of her NYPD bosses.
With an ailing mother at home, her cover nearly blown, quota pressures from her superiors, and rumors circulating that Internal Affairs has her unit under surveillance, Janice is running terribly short on luck as her promotion deadline approaches. Now she has to decide which evil to confront: the absurd bureaucrats at One Police Plaza, or the violent drug dealers who may already be on to her identity.
Bursting with the glorious chaos of the New York City streets, Uncle Janice is both a deeply funny portrait of how undercover cops really talk and act, and a compelling story of their crazy, dangerous, and complicated lives.
Dogfight, A Love Story, 2010
Alfredo Batista has some worries. Okay, a lot of worries. His older brother, Jose—sorry, Tariq—is returning from a stretch in prison after an unsuccessful robbery, a burglary that Alfredo was supposed to be part of. So now everyone thinks Alfredo snitched on his brother, which may have something to do with the fact that Alfredo is now dating Tariq’s ex-girlfriend, Isabel, who is eight months pregnant. Tariq’s violent streak is probably #1 worry on Alfredo’s list.
Also, he needs to steal a pit bull. For the homecoming dogfight.
Burgess brings to life the rich and vivid milieu of his hometown native Queens in all its glorious variety. Here is the real New York, a place where Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, An glos, African Americans, and West Indians scrap and mingle and love. But the real star here is Burgess’s incredible ear for language—the voices of his characters leap off the page in riotous, spot-on dialogue. The outer boroughs have their own language, where a polite greeting is fraught with menace, and an insult can be the expression of the most tender love.
With a story as intricately plotted as a Shakespearean comedy—or revenge tragedy, for that matter—and an electrically colloquial prose style, Dogfight, a Love Story establishes Matt Burgess as an exuberant new voice in contemporary literature. The great Queens novel has arrived.