Gaverne Bennett

The Black Count

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Tom Reiss

The Black Count recounts one of the greatest stories hardly ever told that still reverberates through The Three Musketeers, The Count of Cristo, and Western literature. Tom Reiss's book tells the story of General Alexandre Dumas, father of the world-famous novelist Alexandre Dumas.

Born in 1762 to an aristocratic white father and freed black mother in the wealthy slave labour addicted French colony Saint Domingue, General Dumas became central to Haitian/French revolutions.

The Precariat

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Guy Standing

The government's £81 billion cuts have raised the stakes in the war against the welfare state. Can the organised working class, who fought for and still support the welfare state, save it?

For Guy Standing in his new book, The Precariat, this is not even the right question. For him the key division in the world is no longer that between the ruling class and the working class. A new class structure has emerged: an elite, a salariat, a weak working class and a dangerous new social class - the precariat.

Stride Toward Freedom

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Martin Luther King, Jr

Published for the first time in Britain, Martin Luther King's Stride Toward Freedom details the first mortal blow to segregation in the South: the 11-month Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-6.

King first shows you pre-boycott Alabama - how as the "cradle of the confederacy" it fought tenaciously in the Civil War for the freedom to enslave anyone with black skin. Even as late as 1954 only 2,000 out of 30,000 eligible African Americans could vote.

Getting Ghost

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Luke Bergmann, The New Press; £17.99

If Detroit is one of the beating hearts of the US then according to Luke Bergmann it is a bleeding, dying one - 75 percent of black males drop out of school and one in three people live in poverty. However, statistics do not speak for themselves. In Getting Ghost - the term refers to how people "float in and out of the drug trade" - Bergmann spends some time with two young African-American men, Dude Freeman and Rodney Phelps.

The Turnaround

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George Pelecanos, Orion, £12.99

The Turnaround shows how just 15 minutes of someone's life can dominate the next 35 years. The story begins in the racially charged atmosphere of 1972 Washington DC. Three white youths, Alex Pappas, Billy Cachoris and Peter Whitten, decide to drive into a rough black neighbourhood shouting racial epithets at its inhabitants. In their joyriding ecstasy they mistakenly drive into a dead end street to escape a group of teenagers who chase them. When their car is surrounded, one manages to run away, another is disfigured for life and the third is shot dead. This is the 15 minutes.

Interview: George Pelecanos: Telling the tales of two cities

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The Wire has been dubbed the greatest series on TV. George Pelecanos, one of the writers and producers of the show, talks to Gaverne Bennett.

In November all eyes will be on Washington DC as the world waits to see who is to occupy the White House.

However, if you want to know what is behind and beyond that shiny residence there is no better chronicler than George Pelecanos.

Born and raised in Washington DC, Pelecanos had his first novel published in 1992. Fourteen crime novels later, and with many of the episodes of The Wire to his credit, George Pelecanos is still going strong.

The Dirty South

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Alex Wheatle, Serpent's Tail, £9.99

Rare is the novel that can take known statistics - for example, 70 percent of African Caribbean boys are likely to leave school with less than five GCSEs - and show how these numbers are really played out in the lives of young black teenagers. Rarer still is the novel that can capture the lives of three generations by crystallising them through the life, thoughts, and feelings of their youngest generation.

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