As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat
Jaffe are still hanging in there, long-time friends, bandmates and
co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in
the sketchy yet freewheeling borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland.
Archy and his wife, Gwen, are expecting their first baby; Nat and
Aviva have a teenaged son, Julius. Cranky, flawed and loving each
otherwith all the fierceness we''ve come to expect of Chabon
characters, Archy and Nat have worked to construct lives and
livelihoods that have a groove, looking to connect across barriers
of race and class, and clinging to a sense of order and security
through their stubbornly old-school ways.
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fourth-richest black
man in America, announces plans to construct his latest Dogpile
megastore on a nearby neglected stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat
and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little
enterprise. What they don''t know is that Goode''s announcement
marks the climax of a decades-old secret history, encompassing a
forgotten crime of the Black Panther era, the tragedy of Archy''s
own deadbeat father - a long-faded Blaxploitation star - and the
perpetual shining failure of American optimism about race.